Hands on approach to wine making

Hands on approach to wine making

May 6, 2015 | Author: Sudha and Pandit Patil, owners, Narmada winery, Virginia

Getting recognition:

My husband Pandit and I were surprised and ecstatic in February when Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe recognized our wine, Narmada Yash-Vir, as one of the top twelve wines in Virginia, for 2015, at the Governor’s Cup Wine Competition in Richmond. We took our place in The Governor’s Case alongside some very well-respected and well-established brands.

Our winery, Narmada, is located in Rappahannock County, Virginia, and I’ve been crafting wine here since 2008, while maintaining my dental practice, on a part-time basis. Pandit and I first became interested in fine wine during our travels both in the US and around the world but I didn’t think our “retirement project” would generate such high accolades.

At the start:

We arrived in the US from Mumbai some 40 years ago to further our education. Back then in India, marriages were still often arranged by the families. As a condition of the marriage, I insisted Pandit provide me with the education necessary to become a dentist.

We eventually settled down in northern Virginia after Pandit earned his doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh. As the years passed, we started planning for our eventual retirement. At this time, Virginia was just starting to be known as a quality wine-producing region. On our 29th anniversary dinner, at the renowned Inn at Little Washington, the plan to plant a vineyard took shape. On this visit to Rappahannock, we discovered a gently rolling piece of land on which to build our dream.

Narmada Winery is named for Pandit’s mom. In fact, our signature wine, a lovely white blend, is called Mom in her honor. Mom’s hard work and sacrifice enabled him to make a home away from home here in Virginia, and we remain forever grateful that our lives took this path.

Making wine:

I feel making wine is both an art and a science. My undergraduate degree in chemistry helps me run labs efficiently! I grew up in the small town of Thane outside Mumbai and as a young girl learning to prepare food with her mother, I naturally developed a love of the exotic spices that are part of the traditional Mumbai table. Now I coax interesting flavors from my grapes that might be overlooked by others!

Pandit’s family have long been farmers, but after his career as an engineer and mine in endodontics we knew we needed to take advantage of the experience of our tight-knit community of Virginia winemakers. I studied with Jim Law of Linden Vineyards, the “guru” of Virginia wine. At the winery, I work closely with winemaking consultant Tom Payette to fine-tune my approach to producing the best quality wines, from the best Virginia grown fruit.

Narmada depends on our grower-partners. In a climate as challenging and variable as Virginia, it is important to be able to draw upon a varied supply of grapes originating in other regions of the Commonwealth. In 2010, as a young winery waiting for our own vineyards to mature – it can take 3 to 5 years for a vine to produce high quality berries – we dedicated ourselves to sourcing exclusively Virginia fruit. Without the outstanding grapes we obtained that year, the gold medals we received for Yash-Vir and Narmada Melange would not have been possible.

I had a particular style in mind right from the start: I wanted to create graceful wines that are a true reflection of the character of the fruit. Using the best quality grapes, diligent sorting of the berries, and maintaining the proper chemistry of acidity and pH – all this is essential to the clean processing of the fruit which is critical from harvest through the aging process.

Looking ahead:

Looking to the future, Pandit and I want to remain a small, boutique-sized winery, producing no more than 5,000 cases a year. I want to keep my hands-on approach to Narmada wines with fruit-forward flavors taking the lead and a commitment to the finest quality attainable in Virginia wine. We currently offer 18 different wines with a broad spectrum of flavors.

We recently received an endorsement from James Beard Award-winning Chef Vikrum Sunderam of Washington’s famed restaurant, Rasika. As the American palate becomes more familiar with creative Indian cuisine such as Vikrum’s, we are encouraged the idea of an Indian woman winemaker producing a product that compliments Indian cuisine perfectly will not seem like an unusual feat!

Being recognized at the Governor’s Cup Competition is quite an honor. This is a giant step for us and will hopefully allow Narmada to stand with the best in the Commonwealth. We love it when new guests not only discover our tasting room with its international flair but also are delighted by the quality and depth of the wines they find here.