The Pioneers

Daughter of the Stars — Breadbasket of the Confederacy—Shenandoah is the original Valley of Virginia!  Located in the heart of the Shenandoah County wine region, Shenandoah Vineyards is ripe with the history of the South and  Virginia wine!

Thomas Jefferson was the first Virginia winemaker, but his wine producing experiments were ill-fated.   Two centuries later, Shenandoah Vineyards became the fifth Virginia winery to be established in modern times.   Founders Jim and Emma Randel planted their first vines in 1976,  and thus became true pioneers of the Virginia wine industry.   Emma continues to operate this second oldest Virginia winery, with nearly 260 wineries now existing in the state.

A sprightly octogenarian who will not yield to time,  Emma is often seen working in the sales room or at wine industry events.  She is sometimes referred to as the Grand Dame of the Virginia Wine Industry, with has hundreds of medals to her credit, including several prestigious Virginia Governor's Cup Golds.

Many of our vines date back to the original stock planted by the Randel family — their children, cousins, and friends — during school breaks and summer vacations, and are nearly forty years old.  Emma lives in the original log house where in 1895 her mother was born, and the winery is nestled within the barn.  The farm has existed on site since the 1700's. Truly, there is history all around to taste and experience!

The Winery

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. Standing in the tasting room, Emma's children can still recall the herbal smell and dusty vision of the remnants of generations' farming activities.

The Vineyard

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.

The Visit

A tour of the winery will show you how the grapes are grown, harvested, and processed. You can see how wine is coaxed from the grape into the bottle. And once bottled, we invite you to sample a taste of Shenandoah! Come enjoy the beautiful Virginia countryside in the heart of Virginia's historic Shenandoah Valley! Come Taste the History of Virginia Wine!

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