The founders of Democracy Vineyards, Susan Prokop and Jim Turpin, started with just an idea, a notion of a Virginia farm winery where they could start their encore career as Virginia winegrowers.
Early in the search, with help from Virginia Tech’s Tony Wolf, they targeted Nelson County with its rich agricultural lands, location near population centers and its growing number of viticultural enterprises. In Nelson, they found a welcoming farm community and a link to Jim’s family. A somewhat distant relative was the largest apple broker in the region during the Depression. Legend has it that one of the early “Waltons” episodes, featuring the family being hired to pick apples, was based on Jim’s relation.
In determining the best property for the vineyards, Democracy turned to a valuable resource for any rural community, their county extension agent – in this case, one of Virginia's best, Michael LaChance. Michael and Jim spent countless hours visiting sites, evaluating vineyard aspect and soil conditions. They were assisted in their search by Jim and Joan Mummery, two Nelson County realtors who became so excited by the project that they took classes in vineyard site selection.
The parcel eventually chosen was home to one of the many apple orchards in the region. Most interestingly, the two orchards were separated by a small residence known as Ruby’s Cabin. For forty years, this cabin was the home of Jim’s cousin Ruby Turpin. When preparing the vineyards, a shoe from one of Ruby’s horses was found on the property. A harbinger of good fortune, this shoe will have a place of honor in the Democracy tasting room.
Once the site was selected, Susan and Jim turned to longtime Virginia vineyard consultant Chris Hill to alter the apple operation to a productive winegrowing farm. Chris focused the vineyards on the front portion of the parcel to take advantage of the natural drainage contours and the favorable elevation of the site. Understanding the usual wind conditions (east/west dominant), he arrange the rows to run vertically to maximize air flow between panels.
With an acre each of Chambourcin, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Pinotage, Viognier and Petit Manseng, Democracy Vineyards aims to produce good quality, estate grown wines at affordable prices. Since all wine starts in the vineyard, Democracy is proud to have Ben Margulies overseeing the care and tending of the vines and production of our wines beginning with the 2013 vintage. Ben has a degree in Chemistry from the University of Maryland, College Park and studied Viticulture and Enology and the University of California at Davis. Since 2009, he has worked with vineyards and wineries in the Commonwealth of Virginia including Leogrande Winery, Blenheim Vineyards and Chateau Morrisette.
As Vineyard Manager and Winemaker, Ben says “making the wines at Democracy Vineyards gives me the opportunity to follow the vintage from bud-break, to berry, to bottle. Making wine in Virginia, there is always the need to improvise from year to year, but that's also a chance for some tinkering and creativity. The wines benefit from modern vineyard and winemaking techniques as well as the close attention they can get at smaller production levels. My ultimate goal in the winery is to use the diversity of flavors that our vineyard site gives us to make a variety of wines for our customers' palates.”