VVA Officer and Board Ballots Are In The Mail


Please keep an eye on the post for your 2017-2018 VVA Ballots. Below you will find bios for the nominees. The following positions are be filled at the 2017 Winter Technical Meeting: President, Secretary, Treasurer and At Large Board Member (2). Written ballots are to be completed and returned by the end of January.



Nate Walsh has worked in Virginia wine since 2004, working for wineries and vineyards in Central Virginia, Northern Virginia, and the Shenandoah Valley.  Currently, he is the winegrower for Walsh Family Wines and W2 Winegrowing.  He has been a board member of the Virginia Wineries Association and the Loudoun Wineries Association.

He believes that the Virginia is at an exciting point of vineyard establishment and management, and that by focusing on promoting growth, education, and communication within Virginia vineyards and wineries, the VVA can continue to push the industry forward.

Chris Pearmund has been involved in all aspects of the Virginia wine industry since 1984.  Known as a leader and innovator in vineyard and winery design/operations,  Chris is also a former wine retailer, Sommelier, importer, and distributor whose decades of experience have made him one of the most highly sought after experts and professional educators in the industry.

Pearmund Cellars is home to Meriwether Vineyard, established 1976, regarded as Virginia’s oldest operational vineyard. Pearmund Cellars places wine education in front of ancillary aspects of other winery tourism activities.


Ben Margulies has worked with many of you professionally and would like your support for the position of VVA secretary for the 2016 season.

My experience as volunteer Education committee chair as well as an officer for my Co-operative housing organization would prepare me for the responsibilities of recording and facilitating the VVA’s regular meeting.

I have been involved in viticulture and winemaking since 2005, when I first learned pruning and canopy management at one of the University of Maryland research stations. I’ve studied enology at UC Davis from 2007-2009, and worked at small, medium and large vineyards at several locations in Virginia between 2009 and the present including Leogrande, Blenheim Vineyards, Democracy Vineyards, and currently am at Horton Vineyards.

I believe that the VVA should focus its strength on providing professional networking meetings, forums, and events for grape growers, wine professionals, and those researching the problems specific to this crop in our region.  The objective of our organization should be to connect people with resources to grow the right grapes for the right sites and to be processed into the best possible wine. We are an all-volunteer organization, geographically spread out, representing members with hectic schedules during the growing season. With all this in mind, our main event should continue to be the winter meeting.

My interest in vineyard management would be to address questions of the three “E”s of sustainability:  to create an Economically viable business, to safeguard the natural resources of our Environment, and work for Equity- protecting the safety and interests of our workforce. There are many different models for a Virginia vineyard, but a grower must regularly accomplish high crop yields or grow a crop of exceptional quality to justify a high price. The VVA should provide the information to its membership to go for both quality and quantity.


Jessi Gatewood A decade ago I left science and academics to pursue a passion for viticulture and winemaking. I began my vineyard training under Gabriele Rausse, a great man, mentor and one of the founding fathers of the Virginia wine industry. Since that time I have worked in both vineyards and wineries. Much like European viticultural philosophy, my belief is that vineyard and winery are not mutually exclusive, rather the management/ cultivation of the vineyard is key to success in the winery and ultimately the bottle.  As a winemaker , I realize that one simply cannot make great wine without great grapes., and I strive to find a balance between the vineyard and winery. In the same vein, my approach to a well- managed vineyard is one that balances tried and true vineyard practices with evolving and more sustainable practices.

My vision for the VVA is one of growth and greater visibility in the VA wine community. I would love for our association to provide greater support to education, not just for our growers and winemakers, but to also expose to a new generation  from diverse backgrounds, to the rewards and opportunities involved in grape growing in Virginia. In addition, I would like to strengthen our commitment to supporting and expanding research in Virginia viticulture, and to developing more sustainable agricultural practices. Finally, I hope to continue the VVA’s goals of improving the relationships between winemakers and grape growers ,working towards our common goal to promote Virginia grapes and wine

Robert Poertner I grew up in Wisconsin and several months after graduation high school I joined the U.S. Navy. I became a Hospital Corpsman and after a tour of duty in Puerto Rico I transferred to Coronado, California to go thru Underwater Demolition/SEAL training. Upon graduation I transferred to Little Creek, Virginia. After a tour of duty there, I left the Navy and started college at Valparaiso University eventually graduating from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. I worked as an auditor for the largest hotel in Wisconsin before rejoining the Navy and eventually retiring in July 2000. The following year I started a vineyard in the northwest part of Franklin County. A year later I began to work for the City of Norfolk, holding several jobs, and then getting promoted to a city inspector position. I retired from the City of Norfolk and moved to Roanoke to be closer to the vineyard. Earlier this year I took a job as an auditor in a large factory. I have two beautiful and bright daughters, who use to help me in the vineyard, but got smart and moved away.

I have no real earth shaking direction/vision for the VVA. I would like to see it continue to be a source where the vineyard owners can stay up to date on the best products to use in the vineyard. Also, the vineyard owner that does not have a winery can connect with a winery owner and between the two produce a high quality grape to make a great Virginia wine.

I have very little experience in the vineyard except for the fact that I hand dug every hole that each pole and root stock went into. I do all the winter pruning, shoot thinning, leaf pulling, spraying, grass cutting, fertilizing, and picking.


Skip Causey My wife and I started researching vineyards and wineries over 20 years ago.  We both enrolled in the first vineyard workforce classes at Piedmont Valley Community College over 10 years ago.  I was in the first set of “graduates” for this and know they have expanded these courses greatly over the years.  We have suggested many new comers to take these courses and have supported this program from the beginning.  Our initial thought was to buy a couple hundred acres near the mountains and start a vineyard and see where it took us.  We later decided to stay somewhat closer to our home in Stafford Virginia and start both a winery and a vineyard.  We then bought our current property in 2005, planted in 2006/2007 and opened up for business in 2007.

At 13 acres total with only 4.5 acres planted on site but producing over 7,000 cases, we obviously source our grapes from other vineyards.  Through these years we have worked with vineyards near us, up in Loudoun County, along the Shenandoah, all around the Charlottesville area, Southern Virginia, the Northern Neck, the Eastern Shore, and yes, from California when needed.  We have learned what different qualities each of these areas bring to the grapes and the wines.  We recognize that some areas and better than others for growing wine grapes but appreciate what all these regions can bring to the wines.  We have made many award winning wines from vineyards outside the “prime” areas.  The one common thread to these vineyards that produce great wine grapes is the passion and care that the vineyard owners and managers bring to their business.

My experience with vineyards is more on the management side.  I must depend on the guidance and knowledge of these vineyard owners and consultants throughout the state.  When Potomac Point first started, the vineyard grape supply was in a good balance, enough to go around for the 100+ wineries but not too much that quality suffered. The great recession caused there to be a glut of quality grapes to hit the market.  During those years the wineries could be very choosy, the process were in control, and there was plenty of grapes to feed the next batch of 100+ wineries that opened up in that time frame.  While the industry in Virginia was growing even in the depth of the Great Recession, most vineyard owners as well as winery owners, both new and old, did not feel the need to expand their vineyards.  This came to a head in 2010 and the wine grape shortage has grown into the number one issue affecting both the Vineyard Association and Winery Association in Virginia.  This shortage has driven up the prices of wine grapes and also (in my opinion) lowered the overall quality of Virginia grapes since it has created a “Take it or leave it” mentality.

Again, my biggest focus is on the business side of vineyard management.  How can we help vineyards grow better quality wine grapes?  How can we help these vineyards expand their acreage?  How can we help new vineyards get started?  We need to continue the training classes from community colleges and vineyard/wineries from different parts of the state.  What financial assistance can we give or get for these vineyard owners?  What types of collaborative ventures can we develop to help to share the risk of farming wine grapes?  Many farmers would like to get into the business but do not own or cannot afford the land to start it up.  What type of land/lease programs could be developed and supported by the association and/or the state.

I understand that my future growth in the wine industry will be directly tied to the growth and strength of the Virginia Vineyard business.  I am very interested in working with this group to develop better ways to help this industry thrive and grow.

Ed Cowdrey has a vision for the VVA: to expand its membership, to continue and enhance its mission, and to identify and implement new services for its members.  Potential enhancements include a means to source and hire skilled vineyard labor and a means to establish a real time market price for Virginia grown grapes.

Ed has owned his vineyard, Castle Glen Estates Farm and Winery, for 9 years and has done every task there is to be done in the vineyard.  I have also trained other vineyard managers and workers in the skills and practices it takes to be successful.

Ed’s vineyard management interest lies in the success of our winery and the better of VA Wine as a whole. “Great starts in the vineyard.”

Carrington King graduated in 2002 with a degree in Horticulture Production from the University of Maryland.  While at Maryland I was able to design much of my course work my last two years and work with Dr. Joe Fiola in the research vineyard in Hagerstown.  In the summers I worked in our vineyard (est 1998) and interned with Chris Hill.  Upon graduation I began as the vineyard manager at our family’s vineyard in Crozet.  I then managed all aspects of vineyard management and installation, and in the last 19 years have grown our operation from an 8 acre vineyard to our current vineyards that total just under 50 acres.

My vision for the VVA is to advocate and promote the use of Virginia grapes in the production of Virginia wine and to enhance communication between growers and wineries. I believe with growers well informed on best practices and in-demand varieties, the issue of outside fruit/juice used in VA wines will one day be a memory.

Jessee Ring has been growing wine grapes in Virginia for ten years, although still quite small (2 – 1/2 acres – mostly Riesling with some Pinot Noir) at JBR Vineyards. Jessee also operates a licensed Virginia Farm Winery.

He stated “I planted the first wine grape vineyard in Giles County (in Southwest Virginia right next to the West Virginia border). I still do all of the vineyard management and much of the vineyard work myself. I have been coming to VVA meetings for years and have found them extremely valuable.

Many vineyards in Virginia are relatively small. I see VVA continuing its primary role as a viticulture technical group, but also focusing on small vineyard management issues such as how to “scale up”, mechanization, labor supply and training, raising capital, and others.

My vision for the Virginia grape industry is for us to produce the best gapes we possibly can while maintaining Virginia’s unique character, thus allowing wineries to produce the best Virginia wine they possibly can.”

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2 Responses to VVA Officer and Board Ballots Are In The Mail

  1. Melanie Natoli says:

    I never received my ballot in the mail. Is voting closed? Is there a way we can do elections besides through the mail?

    • Tracy says:

      Hi Melanie,
      Elections have closed.
      I did not get your ballot returned by the post office.
      I’ll email you the address we have on file so you can confirm.

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