Dennis Horton, who founded Horton Vineyards in the 1980s, died earlier this week. Dennis and his wife, Sharon, were pioneers and entrepreneurs in the Virginia wine industry and Dennis’s contributions to our industry are many, though he’s perhaps best known as the first to plant viognier in Virginia.

Dennis is survived by his wife, Sharon, and his daughter, Shannon Horton, and his granddaughter, Caitlin Horton.

I never had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Horton, but as someone who has been paying attention to East Coast wine for almost 15 years, I’ve heard his name innumerable times from people up and down the coast.

Washington Post columnist Dave McIntyre posted a video he took of Randall Grahm — another wine iconoclast — offering a short tribute to Mr. Horton at the Smithsonian Institution’s annual Winemaker Dinner earlier this week.

“(I) will never forget his willingness to share his thoughts when I was just starting my winery adventure,” commented Working Dog Winery co-owner Mark Carduner when I shared the video on Facebook.

Mark is not alone. The Virginia — and East Coast — wine community would not be what it is today without Mr. Horton. His loss will be felt by many for years to come.

I’d like to offer my condolences to Mr. Horton’s many friends and to his family.

The family and Horton Vineyards will host a celebration of life at the winery on July 9 from 4 to 8 p.m.

About Author

Lenn Thompson, a proud Pittsburgh, PA native, moved to Long Island more than a decade ago and quickly fell in love with the region’s dynamic and emerging wine community. A digital and content marketing and community professional by day, he founded NewYorkCorkReport.com in early 2004 to share his passion for the wines, beers and spirits of New York State. After running that site -- which became the premier source for independent New York wine commentary, reviews and news -- for 12 years, he launched TheCorkReport.us in late 2016 to add the wines of Virginia, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Vermont and beyond to his beat. Lenn currently serves as the wine columnist for The Suffolk Times weekly newspaper and is the former editor of the Long Island Wine Gazette. He contributes or has contributed to publications like Wine Enthusiast Magazine, Beverage Media, Edible Brooklyn, Edible East End and Edible Hudson Valley. Lenn served on the board of directors for Drink Local Wine, and is the creator and founder of TasteCamp, an annual regional wine immersion conference for writers and trade. An admitted riesling and cabernet franc fanatic, he’s intensely passionate about eating local and the many local wine regions of America. Lenn lives in Miller Place, NY with his wife Nena, son Jackson, daughter Anna and their dog, Casey Lemieux Thompson.

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