About

Who We Are

WRE Board

Ben Jordan Winemaker, Early Mountain Vineyards
Emily Pelton Lead Winemaker, Veritas Vineyards and Winery
Kirsty Harmon Winemaker and General Manager of Blenheim Vineyards
Matthieu Finot Winemaker, King Family Vineyards
Micheal Heny Winemaker, Michael Shaps Wineworks

Staff and Consultants

Joy Ting Research Enologist
Jenna Barazi Exchange Coordinator
Jocelyn Kuzelka Cider Specialist

Consulting Experts

Tim Jordan

Dr. Tim Jordan provides assistance with experimental design in the vineyard as well as statistical analysis of results.

Jessica Trapeni

Jessica Trapeni is an Excel wizard, programming spreadsheets to keep data organized and on track.

VaTech Vit and Enology Team

VaTech Vit and Enology Team (Tony, Tremain, Mizuho, Beth, Bruce) provide endless advice, assistance, and guidance from an academic point of view

Experimental Winemakers from all over Virginia

Most of the work of the WRE is done by winemakers committed to experimentation in their own wineries.

Virginia Map

WRE Board

Ben Jordan Winemaker, Early Mountain Vineyards

Ben fell in love with wine through the influence of a few good mentors while working retail wine sales in New York. He moved to California and worked his first vintage at C Donatiello Winery in Healdsburg, California in 2008. After experiences in the lab and cellar in the Russian River Valley and Dry Creek Valley in California, Ben returned to Virginia in 2012 to become the winemaker at Michael Shaps Wineworks. He moved to Early Mountain Vineyards in the summer of 2015 where he serves as winemaker as well as crafting the Midland wines (from his family’s Mount Airy vineyard) and the Lightwell Survey Wines.

Ben views the WRE as a way to help push innovation so that Virginia wine can find its place when viewed in light of wines of the world. Ben has adapted techniques of whole cluster fermentation in Petit Verdot first tasted through the WRE and admits to using the WRE as a workshop on his own Petit Manseng journey.

Emily Pelton Lead Winemaker, Veritas Vineyards and Winery
Kirsty Harmon Winemaker and General Manager of Blenheim Vineyards

Kirsty’s path to the winery began in an old truck driving to Culpeper with Virginia wine pioneer Gabrielle Rausse to look at old equipment. Kirsty was acting as the tasting room manager for a yet-to-be built tasting room at the time. During the drive, Gabrielle discovered Kirsty had a degree in microbiology and experience in laboratory research, after which he declared she would be the winemaker for the new winery. After a few years of apprenticeship working under Gabrielle Rausse, Kirsty left Virginia to earn her Master’s Degree in Viticulture and Enology from UC Davis. She then worked in New Zealand and Burgundy before returning to Virginia to take the helm at Blenheim Vineyards, where she has served as winemaker since 2008.

Kirsty appreciates the WRE as a venue where discussion centers on honest open dialogue toward improvement, not just sharing successes, and values the accountability that comes with doing structured experimentation. Through a series of experiments in 2018-2020, Kirsty has changed the way she uses SO2post fermentation, a series of experiments that has had broad impact among other winemakers as well.

Matthieu Finot Winemaker, King Family Vineyards

Matthieu grew up in the French winemaking region of Crozes-Hermitage in a family that grew grapes and loved wine. He studied viticulture and enology in school in Burgundy, followed by training in France (the Rhone Valley, Bordeaux, Provence, and Jura) as well as Italy and South Africa before settling in Virginia in 2003. He has worked at Afton Mountain Vineyards and Potomac Point Vineyard before taking over at King Family Vineyards in 2007. 

Matthieu loves to experiment in the winery and values the feedback of others when evaluating the results, a practice that the WRE helps to facilitate. He feels that experimentation through the WRE allows him to take risks in small increments, ultimately allowing for better informed decisions when pushing the envelope of winemaking in Virginia, an approach he has applied to topics such as low SO2 winemaking, whole cluster fermentations, and many more.

Micheal Heny Winemaker, Michael Shaps Wineworks

Michael began work at Montdomaine Cellars as a way to pay bills during college and continued to work harvests in Virginia post-college while living abroad in Czechoslovakia teaching English and pursuing his writing the rest of the year. Eventually Michael connected with the wine consultant Alan Kinney, who offered him a job at Horton Winery, promising him lots of work, little pay, but great training. Michael joined the team at Horton in 1997 and stayed for 20 years. He now leads the team at Michael Shaps Wineworks, which is located in the same building (with much expansion) as the original Montdomaine Cellars!

While at Horton, Michael was encouraged to experiment by the owner Dennis Horton, whom Michael quotes as saying “We’ll never know unless we try it.” When the WRE began, Michael already had experiments to share. He enjoys the open dialogue about approaches, especially when that dialogue leads him to challenge his own assumptions and ask “why”?

Staff and Consultants

Joy Ting Research Enologist

Joy’s first job in the wine industry came after a fateful dinner with Michael Shaps in 2013. A teacher at the time, she inquired how things were going at the winery and Michael replied that he needed a lab tech before the next harvest. Six months later, her adventure began. While at Wineworks she had the opportunity to train under several noted Virginia winemakers including Michael Shaps, Ben Jordan and Jake Busching before taking on the role herself in 2016. While at Wineworks, Joy participated in WRE by attending tastings and doing experiments in flotation and micro-oxygenation. In 2018, the opportunity arose to combine her love of teaching, background in research science (she earned a PhD in applied biology from Georgia Tech), and desire to expand her winemaking knowledge by joining the staff of the WRE. Since then, Joy has worked with winemakers from around the Commonwealth to craft and execute experiments and share those results with the larger community of Virginia wine producers. As the Research Enologist, Joy gets an in-depth view of all the innovative approaches being tested. Though it is impossible to choose a favorite, most recently, the Blenheim SO2 management experiments and the King Family chaptalization work have changed her decision making for her own wine projects.

Jenna Barazi Exchange Coordinator

Jenna was first introduced to the intricate and complex world of wines in college while studying Biology at Virginia Tech. It was rumored that the Geography of Wines course was an “easy A” (it was not) hence her initial interest, however Jenna was quickly intrigued as she saw how scientific and fun many aspects of wine are. Jenna’s exposure and appreciation for wine continued as she studied abroad in Cape Town and toured wineries in Stellenbosch, South Africa. In 2019, after years of teaching high school Biology in Northern Virginia, Jenna moved to Charlottesville where she continued to teach and began working in the tasting room at Early Mountain Vineyard, where she loves to learn about Virginia wine.

Upon hearing about the WRE, Jenna felt excited about an organization that is trailblazing in wine experimentation and education as it demonstrates the importance and impact of communication within the scientific community (something she consistently taught her former students!). Jenna is thrilled to be working with the WRE where she can utilize her scientific background, skills as a former teacher, and appreciation for wine within her role as the Exchange Coordinator. She’s especially grateful to get to pursue her greatest passion of learning within this role everyday.


 

Jocelyn Kuzelka Cider Specialist

Jocelyn’s exposure to wine making started at a very young age in Allentown, Pennsylvania where gathering seasonal fruit to preserve and ferment was built into her everyday life. In fact, Jocelyn’s father even converted a portion of their basement to ferment wine! Despite having had early exposure, it wasn’t until Jocelyn graduated from Virginia Tech with a Biochemistry degree, that she attended her first wine festival and realized that perhaps she could make a career out of traveling the world learning about and making wine. In 2003 Jocelyn jumped right into vineyard and cellar work at Villa Appalaccia Winery. She then went on to spend the next 3 years working in vineyards and cellars in Virginia and Europe and decided to obtain an M.S. in Enology at the University of Adelaide, in South Australia from 2006 to 2008. Upon returning to Virginia, Jocelyn started a consulting business for small producers and had her first cider specific client, Diane Flynt at Foggy Ridge Cider. It was through this experience that she found that there were many similarities between wine and cider. In 2010, while consulting, Jocelyn began making cider. Till today, researching cider, cider apples, tasting commercial products from around the world and learning from academics, growers, and producers remain one of Jocelyn’s favorite ways to “work”.

Jocelyn is excited and honored to listen and provide a respectful and open space for Virginia cidermakers’ ideas and questions through her work with the WRE. She hopes to help expand the boundaries of the conversation around commercial Virginia cider production, while also providing the technical resources and support cidermakers need. Jocelyn believes this is an exciting time for cider producers in Virginia and she is thrilled to be a part of this resource that is now available to the growing Virginia cider community.


 

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