In Memoriam: Dennis Horton, East Coast Wine Pioneer

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.

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