David King, who founded King Family Vineyards west of Crozet in 1998 with his wife Ellen, died May 2nd of cancer.
David had been a corporate lawyer from Houston (no relation to the Kings of the King Ranch), and when the Kings bought the property they were thinking of a profitable crop to plant, when a man named Tom Vandenberg approached them in late 1998 asking if he could lease some of their property for a vineyard. They did some research, and decided to start a vineyard on their own.
Situated on a plateau close to Bucks Elbow Mountain, King Family Vineyards’ Roseland Estate has a stellar view of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west. When it was founded in 1998, the winery’s first vintage was only five hundred cases, but today the winery produces approximately 10,000 cases of wine annually. The merlot vineyard on the property produces wine with remarkable complexity. Nearly all of the wine is made with estate grown grapes.
From the start, King Family Vineyards was noted for high-quality, limited production vinifera (European vine species) wines. Initially, Michael Shaps was the winemaker and quickly established King Family as quality-minded from the start, winning some impressive awards.
This reputation has continued under French Winemaker Matthieu Finot. His Meritage (red blend) won the 2018 and 2010 Virginia Governor’s Cup; other top awards include the 2008, 2009, 2010, and 2019 Monticello Cup. Since 2011, King Family red wines have placed in every Governor’s Case (the state’s top 12 wines) except one year, and in 2019 two of their wines placed in it.
David King believed in giving back to the community. He was active with the Monticello Wine Trail and the Virginia Wineries Association and lobbied for provisions in the Virginia Farm Winery Act in 2007 which would limit the ability of localities to restrict farm winery activities.
Colleagues like Kirk Wiles of Paradise Springs Vineyard in Clifton said that David King was always ready to help in their efforts.
David was also a helicopter pilot, whose generosity was particularly appreciated by the Albemarle County Search and Rescue operations, as he would volunteer to fly it during county search and rescue operations.
Aside from a consistent reputation for quality, the Kings also developed a superior visitor experience at their winery. A unique feature is its polo pitch (David was an avid polo player), where winery guests are invited to watch live polo matches on certain Sundays during the season, and are encouraged to bring picnic lunches.
An event space “barn” was built a few years ago to accommodate weddings, and the small tasting bar has been complemented with two additional bars in the front of the tasting room, with an option to use the barrel room for additional space if necessary.
Although they have a justifiable reputation as one of the best red wine producers in the state, their merlot based rosé cleverly named “Crosé” (the pronounciation of the nearby town of Crozet) is dry and surprisingly like sauvignon blanc, and always sells out; it may be the most popular rosé in the state.
David is survived by his wife Ellen and sons Carrington, Stuart and James.
Those who wish to celebrate David’s life and contributions may do so from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. June 14 at the winery in Crozet.