Monticello rejected world-renowned winemaker and father of Virginia wine Gabriele Rausse

The father of Virginia wine is unemployed.

Gabriele Rausse, respected by the commonwealth and around the world for his dedication and contributions to the growing wine industry rooted in Central Virginia, began work at Monticello, the UNESCO World Heritage Site and former state of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, in 1995 .Prior to his dismissal, he served as director of the museum’s gardens and grounds, overseeing vegetable gardens, orchards, groves and vineyards that mimic some of those planted in the third who is president.

Gabriele Rausse, director of gardens and grounds, led a tour of Monticello’s gardens for a delegation from Poggio a Caiano, Italy, Charlottesville’s sister city.


However, the nonprofit that owns and operates Jefferson’s mountaintop home and the world-famous winemaker have parted ways.

The Thomas Jefferson Foundation of Monticello said the move was due to a reorganization of its viticultural and agricultural operations over the past few years. During that process, Rausse’s position was eliminated.

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“We are deeply grateful for Gabriele Rausse’s many years at Monticello and his groundbreaking contributions to wine in the Commonwealth of Virginia,” a foundation spokesperson told The Daily Progress in a prepared statement.

But that statement is all the foundation is willing to provide. It did not respond to several questions from The Daily Progress, including whether it will hire someone to replace Rausse, whether he was terminated or whether he signed a nondisclosure agreement — the latter of which was confirmed by Rausse himself.

Gabriele Rausse

Winemaker Gabriele Rausse began working at Monticello in 1995.


“Per policy, I cannot comment further on personnel matters,” communications director Jennifer Lyon said in an email.

The move caught much of the local wine industry off guard.

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“Actually, I didn’t hear that information, and so I can’t contribute anything except to reiterate my respect and gratitude for the lifetime of work that Gabriele poured into the Monticello American Viticultural Area,” George Hodson, general manager of Veritas Vineyards and Winery and vice-chair of the Virginia Wine Board, told the Daily Progress in an email.

The general consensus is that without Rausse, Virginia’s wine country would never have blossomed into the giant it has become: a $2 billion industry that pumps out nearly 2 million gallons of wine each year, most of that centered on the Monticello region. A section on Monticello’s own website describes Rausse as “a legendary viticulturist who played an important role in the successful commercial cultivation of wine in Virginia in the late twentieth century, and the realization of Thomas Jefferson’s dream.” that can make good wine from Monticello-grown grapes. .”


Monticello, the home of Founding Father Thomas Jefferson, is now managed by the nonprofit group the Thomas Jefferson Foundation.


A native of Vicenza, Italy, Rausse came to the US in the 1970s after a friend asked him to help him plant European vitis vinifera grapes, which have long produced some of the world’s most famous wines. He started at Barboursville Vineyards and then went to Jefferson Vineyards. There he first met Stephen Barnard.

“He is clearly a legend responsible for the modern wine industry in Virginia,” Barnard, president of Monticello Wine Trail, winemaker at Mountain and Vine Vineyard and Winery and former winemaker at Keswick Vineyards, told The Daily Progress. “Basically, he had an impact on the development of the entire industry through the 1980s and ’90s and proved that you can grow grape varieties and make quality wine in Virginia, which had never been done before. “

Lacking hands, Virginia's wine country turned to the machines

“He’s important to all of us and where we are today,” Barnard said.

He had not heard of Rausse’s removal from Monticello when contacted by The Daily Progress but described the father of Virginia wine as very attractive.

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Gabriele Rausse, director of gardens and grounds, leads a tour of Monticello’s gardens for a delegation from Poggio a Caiano, Italy, Charlottesville’s sister city, on Wednesday, June 28, 2017.


“He’s a great soul with a lot of stories and a lot of history and loves to encourage and help everyone in the industry continue what he started,” Barnard said. “He’s helped a lot of people and he’s put the industry ahead of his own ambitions for sure.”

He noted that Rausse, who will soon turn 78, still has his own winemaking operations: Gabriele Rausse Winery. Rausse has a lot to offer and a big role in the industry, Barnard said.

Virginia wine country is growing.  The local labor pool is not.

Rausse did not say much about his split from Monticello when contacted, telling The Daily Progress that he signed a nondisclosure agreement.

“All I could do was sing the song ‘Silencio,'” Rausse said. “That’s what I use when they ask me things I can’t answer.”

The Gabriele Rausse Winery

Gabriele Rausse Winery south of Charlottesville in Albemarle County was founded by the Italian winemaker in 1997.


He was referring to “Il Silencio,” a 1965 number by Italian jazz trumpeter Nini Rosso that became a top hit across Europe. The three-minute song includes just three lines of lyrics:

I see you in my dreams.

Good night to you who are far away.”

Jason Armesto (717) 599-8470

[email protected]

@rmest0 on Twitter

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