By Ryan Cornell
Like most farmers, Jeff White isn't too fond of surprises. But one such surprise has placed him at the top of Virginia's viticulturists.
White, owner and winemaker of Glen Manor Vineyards in Browntown, was recognized as the 2013 Grape Grower of the Year by the Virginia Vineyards Association.
He received the distinction on Friday while attending the association's annual winter technical meeting in Charlottesville.
White said he was "quite surprised" to receive the award.
"I saw these individuals receiving it, always thinking to myself that I'm not somebody who's going to win this award," he said. "It goes to those who have really given themselves to the industry."
According to a statement from the Virginia Vineyards Association, it has awarded a grape grower each year since 2005 who is an active member of the association and has at least seven years managing or operating a commercial vineyard of at least five acres.
The grape grower also must be an active participant in the Virginia viticulture community with a history of service to the industry, and must be well respected by his or her peers, it states.
"Jeff met and exceeded the criteria for this award," VVA President Tom Kelly said in a statement. "He has always gone the extra mile in promoting wine grape growing and the Virginia wine industry."
The 14½-acre Glen Manor vineyard is located along a steep mountainside on Browntown Road and grows varieties of Sauvignon Blanc, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot.
The vineyard's 2009 Hodder Hill Meritage blend won the 2012 Governor's Cup and its 2010 Hodder Hill Meritage was one of 20 wines awarded a gold medal at last year's cup.
A former financial analyst, White planted his first vines in 1995 and quickly learned the trade through more experienced vineyard owners. He said he uses his knowledge and experience to mentor new grape growers entering the industry.
"I don't think you get the award for just growing great grapes and winning competitions with your wine," he said. "It's bigger than yourself, I guess."
Past award recipients have included Len Thompson (2013), Jeanette Smith (2012) and John H. Stephens (2011).
Contact staff writer Ryan Cornell at 540-465-5137 ext. 164, or firstname.lastname@example.org