This year will mark Chris Ritzcovan’s 10th vintage as head winemaker at Jefferson Vineyards in Charlottesville, a milestone in a career that has been decorated from the beginning. His very first vintage at the helm — a 2013 viognier — won a double gold medal at the San Francisco International Wine Competition in 2014. And the awards haven’t ceased since, with Jefferson’s wines consistently receiving top prizes in the Virginia Governor’s Cup, Monticello Cup, and San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition, among other prestigious events.
Winemaking just seems to come naturally to Ritzcovan. He grew up in a family of gardeners and home winemakers. The UVA grad studied environmental science and urban planning before getting the opportunity to be the assistant winemaker at Jefferson. He spent about a year at the vineyard learning the winemaking process, then moved on to attend graduate school and study architecture. But he missed the time outdoors working with the vines, so Ritzcovan returned to Jefferson as assistant winemaker post-graduation and was appointed head winemaker in 2013.
Ever since, Ritzcovan has continued to realize Thomas Jefferson’s dream to make wine, while helping to elevate Virginia’s wine industry as it has evolved into a staple of the state’s tourism industry. Can’t make it to Charlottesville? Try his wines at the Virginia Wine Festival. Virginia Wine Festival: Oct. 1–2, noon-6 p.m., One Loudoun, 44600 Freetown Blvd., Ashburn
This story originally ran in our August issue. For more stories like this, subscribe to our monthly magazine.