Narmada Winery was established in Rappahannock County, VA in 2009. Owners Pandit and Sudha Patil had a long-standing dream to own a vineyard one day.
The couple arrived in the US from Mumbai, India, some 40 years ago to further their education. Pandit pursued studies in engineering at University of New Mexico and at Carnegie-Mellon in Pennsylvania.
At that time in India, marriages were still often arranged by the families. As a condition of the marriage, Sudha insisted that Pandit provide her with the education necessary to become a dentist.
Throughout their married life, Pandit and Sudha traveled the globe and their passion for fine wine was kindled. They eventually settled down in northern Virginia after Pandit had earned his doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh. It was then Sudha was able to pursue her dental studies, earning a BS in chemistry at George Mason, her DDS from Georgetown and a certificate in endodontics and Masters in oral biology from the University of Maryland.
Pandit’s career as an engineer and Sudha’s as endodontist were both very rewarding. The couple had two children, Susheel and Prema, now happily married and living in nearby Maryland.
As years passed, Pandit and Sudha started to plan for their eventual retirement. At this time, Virginia was just starting to be known as a quality wine-producing region. At the couple’s 29th anniversary dinner at the renowned Inn at Little Washington, the plan to plant a vineyard took shape. On this visit to Rappahannock, Pandit and Sudha discovered a gently rolling piece of land on which to build their dream.
The Patils brought in Pat Peacock from Virginian Tech and noted Virginia viticulturalist Lucie Morton, who performed climate and soil studies and advised the couple on which varietals would thrive in these circumstances. The first vineyard was planted in 2004. Several more acres were planted the following year and today has reached 20 acres.
Sudha and Pandit at first intended only to grow the fruit to provide to other Virginia vintners. But Sudha’s curiosity about the winemaking process grew, and she began reading everything she could on how to vinify wine. As her interest increased, she commenced studies with Jim Law of Linden Vineyards, one of Virginia’s premier winemakers. Today Sudha refers to Jim as “the guru of Virginia wine.”
Meticulous work in the vineyard including such labor-intensive techniques as cane pruning brought forth banner harvests in 2007 and 2008. Today, Sudha continues to closely monitor the vines throughout the growing season. She scouts the vineyards regularly to ensure that the fruit is healthy and sprays only as needed to prevent pests and other problems.
Minimal intervention is part of the sustainable farming philosophy that Pandit and Sudha hold dear.
The Patils began construction on their own winery facility in 2009. Consulting enologist Tom Payette was brought on board to guide Sudha through her first few crushes. Tom has remarked that because of her background in chemistry, she quickly became adept at the lab work necessary to create a flawless wine. Tom retains his position as consultant to the winery today, and assists Sudha with winemaking and blending trials regularly.
The combination of art and science is a given in making wine. Sudha Patil’s competence in both areas has made Narmada Winery something special right from the start. With attention to using the best quality grapes, diligent sorting of the berries, and maintaining proper chemistry of acidity and pH, Sudha’s medical background ensures clean processing of the fruit from harvest through the aging process.
Sudha’s knowledge of complex spices acquired during her childhood in India enable her to coax latent flavors from her grapes that perhaps would be overlooked by others. Her focus is to create graceful wines that are a true reflection of the fruit and to produce Virginia wines of the highest possible quality.
This goal has been evident even as Narmada Winery released its first wines to critical acclaim. Gold medals were awarded to Narmada Primita in 2009, and to Narmada Mom – the winery’s signature blend – as well as to Narmada Viognier in 2010. In the following years, Narmada wines have achieved more than 40 gold medals in national and international competitions.
Looking to the future, Pandit and Sudha Patil want to remain a small, boutique-sized winery, producing no more than 5,000 cases a year. It remains essential to Sudha to keep her hands-on approach to Narmada wines with fruit-forward flavors taking the lead and a commitment to the finest quality attainable in Virginia wine.