Shenandoah Vineyards was founded in 1976 by Jim and Emma and Randel, two visionaries who saw the viticultural potential of the Shenandoah Valley. Located in Edinburg, between Winchester and Harrisonburg on land that has been in Emma’s family since the mid-1800s, Jim and Emma planted their first 5000 vines in 1976 and have won numerous awards since. Emma continued to operate this second oldest Virginia winery until the Fall of 2018 when she sold it to Michael Shaps, one of Virginia's most highly regarded winemakers.
Michael’s relationship with former owner and founder Emma Randel began in 2010 when Emma hired Michael as a winemaking consultant. At this time Michael recognized the viticultural potential of the limestone soils and drier growing conditions. With the growth of Michael’s contract winemaking business and the need to expand production, it was an easy decision to pursue the purchase of Shenandoah. Michael’s custom winemaking clients already include some located a short distance from Shenandoah, allowing growth in this wine region while freeing up production space at Wineworks in Charlottesville.
Michael believes the Shenandoah Valley has the state’s best grape growing potential and has thus far been under the radar. “Shenandoah is the driest county in Virginia and one of the driest East of the Mississippi river with ideal soil composition and optimal elevation” notes Michael. He is excited about the vineyard potential and the opportunity to revitalize the vineyards with varieties that grow especially well in the valley— including Alsatian varietals like riesling, pinot gris, pinot blanc.
Located two miles off Interstate 81 in Edinburg, Shenandoah Vineyards is ideally located for visitors. The tasting room and winery are housed in a Civil War era barn on a bucolic farm setting. The tasting room is currently open Wednesday-Sunday 10 am to 5 pm with plans to open daily in the new year. TC Goble, the tasting room manager of over 15 years, is currently pouring Michael Shaps’ wines in anticipation of new Shenandoah wines, which will become available in the next month or two.
Michael Shaps Wineworks is Virginia’s largest contract winemaking operation, with a total production reaching 30,000 cases per year with over a dozen clients. Michael also owns a winery in Burgundy, France (www.maisonshaps.com) and imports them to the United States, where they are sold throughout Virginia and in the two tasting rooms at Michael Shaps Wineworks.
It is a matter of contention whether the barn survived the Civil War or was built or rebuilt soon after the war. Most structures in the valley were burned during General Sheridan's Valley Campaign to destroy confederate supply lines.
The barn's cellar once housed farm animals but is now our barrel room — carved out of the hillside, and supported by a foundation of local limestone rock. The tasting room exists where hay bales were once stored — the original, rough-hewn beams holding up the high rafters above.
The first plantings, 5000 vines of various French Hybrid varieties, were suited to the local climate and soil at the dawn of eastern US viticulture. After gaining experience with the hybrids, the more temperamental viniferous varieties were planted. The original vines can be seen growing and thriving behind the winery.
Wine made from grapes grown in the valley has pronounced characteristics. The fruit quality is influenced by the unique climate and soil of the Shenandoah Valley. During the growing season, warm days and cool nights promote ripening while maintaining fruit flavor and bouquet. Shenandoah is the driest county east of the Mississippi, and Valley breezes help dry and encourage healthy foliage.
Limestone and sandstone have eroded from mountain onto the vineyard, forming a hilly terrain with good air and water drainage. Roots grow deep and fruit grows sweet. With a little help from the winemaker, these local qualities contribute a regional distinctiveness that is acclaimed by lovers of Virginia wine.
Currently the vineyard consists of 15 acres on rolling hills, gently sloping toward the Massanutten Mountains. Several varieties of grapes grow in the vineyard including Riesling, Vidal, Seyval, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Chambourcin, and Traminette.