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Our Story

Rappahannock Cellars Front Lawn. 2015

In the Beginning
Nearly 25 years ago, my wife and I embarked on a simple journey …we wanted to raise our family where we could be connected with the land (and each other) on a farm. Our yearning to achieve this goal, reinforced by Marialisa’s 100 year-old family farming and fruit packing background, led us to Saratoga Vineyards (formerly “Congress Springs Vineyards,” now “Savannah Channel Vineyards,”) in the Santa Cruz Mountains of California. We “cut our wine making teeth” so to speak, in that vineyard. It was populated by 90 year-old Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Zinfandel vines, and situated 1300 feet above the beautiful Santa Clara Valley with views to San Francisco (only 30 miles north.) We crafted those varietals into wine in a 100 year old redwood winery, cellar, and tasting room. We learned to love our family wine business and the tending of the vineyard; but most of all, we loved having our kids alongside us in such a magnificent venture.

Rappahannock Cellars Tasting RoomVirginia Wine
With that picture painted, one might wonder “why Virginia?” The answer once again was “our children.” Our desire to raise them on the farm was only out-weighed by our need to have them raised in a wholesome, family-friendly community. What we found in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia had it all; a burgeoning wine industry, a great community, and regional beauty that rivals the Santa Cruz Mountains. Virginia happens to be uniquely situated in the mid-Atlantic region, capable of producing the highest quality wine grapes; but no region is better than what we found here in the Virginia Piedmont, situated at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. With that said, we handed over the reins of our California venture to the Ballard family, and in 1998 we found the Glenway Farm in Rappahannock County.

Most wineries brag about being family owned and run, but not many can brag about their young children (ages 9 to 14 at the time,) working joyfully on their hands and knees, planting our original 15 acres of Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Viognier, and Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyard has been tended in the past by my six oldest children; it is currently tended by three in the middle; and it awaits the youngest three, who can’t wait to give it a try. And yes, if you’re counting, that is twelve kids! The oldest of them are off in college, graduate schools, and starting their careers and families, while a few (Allan, Kelly, & Teresa) have now returned after graduation to lead our distillery, hospitality and wine club efforts.

Delmare Family Winter 2015
The Delmare Family - Winter, 2015

We came to Virginia with west coast experience that few others possessed here, but quickly realized the uniqueness of the Mid-Atlantic growing environment. Virginia has taught us plenty, and we hope we’ve given back a little too. Our 85+ acre farm now consists of 30 acres of vineyard, including new varietals such as Merlot, Petit Verdot, Norton, and others. With over 20 years of Virginia grape growing experience, we now are removing grapes and replanting vines more suitable to the specific micro-environment of each individual vineyard block. We’ve been blessed with a wonderful vineyard site with sandy-loam soils (which grapes love,) and characteristics which help to deter frost, winter injury, and disease. Our vineyards supply about half of the grapes necessary for our boutique 15,000 case production, and so we have found other high quality vineyards to lease. In that process, we’ve nurtured long term relationships with like-minded growers…they are those that share our passion, and settle only for the best. Theo Smith oversees all our vineyard operations and consults with our grower partners to assure that he, as winemaker, only receives the highest quality grapes to craft into some of Virginia’s (and dare we say the world’s) highest quality wines.

'Right Bank' Styled Meritage © Stan Murzyn PhotographyFamily Matters
It’s humbling for me to look back over the past 25 years of our family’s wine experience and see the fruits of our labor. Our Virginia winery began producing wine 20 years ago, where we have strived to create not just good wine, but fantastic wine. Our style is largely “old world” (Virginia fruit style is very similar to Bordeaux,) and we believe great wines are made in the vineyard. Vintage-to-Vintage variation is a struggle in Virginia, but it also tends to define the personality of Virginia wine. We in Virginia believe that this variation, coupled with the challenges of grape growing in the mid-Atlantic, forces us to be some of the best viticulturists and wine makers in the world. We have no choice but to be the best…and we believe we are. Rappahannock Cellars has arguably one of the best, if not the best, wine making teams in Virginia; please see our team member bio’s and learn more about our unique background for more information.

In closing, I want to tell you that in our tasting room, you will find enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and friendly, members of our staff and family. We want to share with you our passion for our life, our farm, and the wines for which we are very proud. Your families are welcome, and we welcome you to our family; we invite you to a visit, for we are confident that your visit will be the beginning of a long and cherished relationship.


John Delmare

John Delmare – Owner, Rappahannock Cellars

Rappahannock Cellars, 2019 Promotional Video