As reported in the Charlottesville Daily Progress and Washington Post, Virginia wine pioneer Dennis Horton died at his Madison Home on Tues. June 22nd at the age of 72.

Having grown up “A stone’s throw” from Stone Hill Vineyards in Hermann, MO, Horton was aware of the Norton grape and its Virginia origins. When he and business partner Joan Bieda founded Horton Vineyards in Orange County in 1989, he was the first to plant Norton commercially in Virginia since Prohibition. Norton has since spread throughout Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic.

At the same time, Horton was known for his work with Rhone varieties, and was the first to plant the esoteric Rhone grape Viognier commercially in Virginia. He also introduced a quadrilateral training system with a horizontally divided canopy to increase yields. His 1993 vintage of Viognier was the most awarded in the U.S. at the time, and Viognier went on to become Virginia’s official white grape, helping make an international reputation for the grape in Virginia.

Horton was also the first to release a varietal cabernet franc, and was given a Lifetime Achievement Award by the Virginia Wineries Association for his work. He was always willing to help newcomers to the industry. One of his most devoted followers is Chrysalis Vineyards owner Jennifer McCloud, who went on to surpass Horton for the largest number of commercial acres of norton planted in the world.

According to an obituary by Washington Post  wine columnist Dave McIntyre, Horton Vineyards will host a celebration of Dennis Horton on July 9 at 4 p.m. 6399 Spotswood Trail, Gordonsville, Va.; 540-832-7440.