Wine royalty: Remembering David King, who lived up to his family name

David King, who founded and owned King Family Vineyards with his wife, Ellen, chose the winery site, in part, because it had a nice flat spot to put a polo field. Photo: Courtesy of the King family David King, who founded and owned King Family Vineyards with his wife, Ellen, chose the winery site, in part, because it had a nice flat spot to put a polo field. Photo: Courtesy of the King family

By Joe Bargmann

A lot of ink and tears were spilled when David King died. He was 64 when he succumbed to cancer, on May 2, 2019.

The tears flowed for the obvious reason, grief upon the loss of a much-loved family man, a person who endeared himself to many with his good humor, big heart, and dedication.

The ink came out in tributes, filling newspaper column inches with descriptions of King as an “icon,” “mentor,” and “lion.” We all learned of King’s accomplishments. He played NCAA Division I tennis for Trinity University, received a law degree from the University of Houston Law School, and was an avid polo player and skilled helicopter pilot who used his own chopper to help the Albemarle County Sheriff’s Office with search-and-rescue missions.

And it’s safe to say that, second to his family, King poured more energy into growing the Virginia wine industry—including his award-winning King Family Vineyards—than anything else in his life. As chair of the Virginia Wine Board (he held the position from 2007 to 2009 and 2013 to 2018), he was instrumental in passing the Virginia Wine Farm Act. This occurred in 2007, a pivotal moment for Commonwealth wineries, which had numbered just 40 in 1988 and grew threefold in the next two decades. The law allowed for increased distribution and sales, and laid the foundation for the industry as we know it today.

King Family Vineyards came into being shortly after David and his wife, Ellen, bought the Crozet property in 1996 and planted their first vines. By 2000, they were making 480 cases of wine a year from grapes grown on eight acres. From that point until King’s passing, production grew to 10,000 cases annually from 31 planted acres.

The numbers tell only a small part of the story. David King and his family, through hard work and a love of the land, created an extremely special place. It is a haven of wealth and privilege, to be sure. But it is nonetheless a welcoming place, a site for gathering with friends and family to take in a polo match, picnic on the lawn, sit around a fire pit, and enjoy a glass of wine. What’s great about the vineyards’ final products, from its famous Crosé rosé to its renowned meritage, is they are as delightful as they are sophisticated.

This combination is King Family Vineyards’ magic formula. As awe-inspiring as the setting may be—an elegant horse farm surrounded by rippling mountains under a wide-open sky—visitors feel free to make themselves at home. It’s a perfect place for a wedding, as our Best of C-VILLE voting shows.

Judging by the tributes that emerged after his death, we think David King—a strong personality who placed family first and lived a full life—would be pleased.

Posted In:     2019 Best of C-VILLE Editor’s Pick

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Such a good man that influence the lives of a lot of people