Archive for July, 2011


Virginia Wine Writer Goes Missing

Posted on Jul 14 2011 | By

Walker Elliott Rowe Published Two Books on Virginia Wine

Wandering through Virginia's Vineyards

For the better half of the last decade, Walker Elliott Rowe was a presence in Virginia wine.  He wrote two popular books on the subject—Wandering through Virginia’s Vineyards and A History of Virginia Wines—and tended a vineyard on his Rappahannock County farm.  But he has not been seen in the Old Dominion for awhile and no new wine books have been published.  What gives?

It seems Rowe has reinvented himself and is now living in Santiago, Chile.  This writer recently caught up with him via Skype—the software application that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet.  We chatted for an hour as he sat in a Starbucks in Santiago.  He discussed his new life and why Virginia wine was an enjoyable but past chapter on his literary journey.

From Virginia to Chile.  How So?

Walker Elliot Rowe

In a word, employment.  Chile’s economy is roaring along while America’s continues to struggle in recession-like doldrums.  I grew weary of being laid off from one job after another. My former wife was from Ecuador and I speak Spanish so South America was always an attractive place to me.  I no longer contribute to my Rosewood Hill Farm blog.  I now write at on life in Chile.


Chile is known for its wine.  Are you writing on the country’s vineyards?
Actually, I did write a book on Chilean wine back in 2005, Wine, Communism and Volcanoes.  But today, my love affair with wine is limited to drinking it.  I don’t intend to write on the subject again.  My interests are wide-ranging and I felt I had fully explored not only Virginia wine, but the subject in general. I simply didn’t have anymore to say.  Life moves on and so have I.

So what are you doing for a living?
I am a software engineer by vocation and currently working for a computer security firm with clients in the banking industry.  We provide network protection to banking institutions.  Business is good.

I still love writing and contribute material to the blog segment of the Santiago Times. The paper has given me license to write on any subject and I view myself as the paper’s essayist in the mold of Christopher Hitchens.  I’m also researching my next book.

And the subject?
I have a degree in mathematics and have always been fascinated with the logic of mathematical proofs and deductive reasoning. I’m planning on writing a book on math for the lay person but will research it for few more years.  Over the past year, I have been studying calculus with one of my two sons, both of whom still live in the states.  I study everyday and have read ancient Greek mathematical texts and works on math by French, German and Swiss writers.

It all sounds a bit esoteric but the beauty and clarity of mathematics draws me to the subject.  The challenge is to write a treatise that the average person will find engaging while simultaneously enlightening.  It’s far removed from wine writing, although no less interesting to me.

So how does Santiago compare with Rappahannock County?

A History of Virginia Wines

They are both beautiful in different ways.  In Virginia, I commuted to work in Northern Virginia and worked my farm in my spare time.  It was a tough commute and a somewhat lonely life out on the farm.  I simply grew tired of working one job after another with no consistent employment.  Contracts came and went and as soon as a firm no longer needed your services you were sent packing.  I do miss Rappahannock County’s beauty.

Here in Santiago the economy is vibrant.  I am content with my current job and the stability it provides.   But if I wanted to move to another company, the opportunity is there.  Down here even savings accounts are earning four percent interest; that says a lot about the local economy.

Santiago is like living in New York City but with the climate of San Diego.  It’s beautiful.  I can go skiing in the Andes on a Saturday morning and the next afternoon be surfing in the Pacific Ocean.  It’s an ultra modern city with great restaurants and cultural events.  I even play soccer with my business colleagues.  There is so much to do to keep a single guy happy.  That was not the case on my Virginia farm.

Closing thoughts?
I’ve had an interesting life.  I grew up in Georgetown, South Carolina, the son of a tug boat captain and farmer. My interest in farming dates to my youth and I played it out during my Virginia years.  But for me, there is simply too much world to limit yourself with one endeavor.  I am voracious reader and if something piques my interest, it’s everything I can do to control pursuing it.

Virginia was a satisfying time in my life.  Now I’m having a wonderful time in Chile.  My advice to everyone is to chase your dreams so the bucket list is empty when your time comes.

And to all my friends in the Old Dominion, come visit Santiago; either in person or via my blog.  I will provide you with a real or virtual tour of this great city.


Published in the July 21, 2011 edition of the Rappahannock News.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Narmada’s Unique Winemaker

Posted on Jul 01 2011 | By

Dentist From India Crafting Fine Wines in Amissville

Is there a doctor in the house?  Indeed, and she’s likely to be found in the wine cellar.  She may also be the only woman winemaker in America who hails from the Republic of India.

Dr. Sudha Patil, an endodontist—or root canal specialist—has over twenty-five years dental experience and is co-owner of Narmada Winery in Amissville, along with her husband Pandit.  She currently practices dentistry in Culpeper three days a week and can be found making wine and greeting winery guests on her days off.  It’s a demanding schedule driven by her love of children and wine.  Pandit retired from the Department of Energy and is a part-time energy consultant.

Sudha’s dental practice focuses on young patients in financial need who are often underserved by conventional dentistry.  “Money does not drive my professional goals.  Working with children who have serious dental issues is gratifying,” says Sudha.

But wine has also been a source of enjoyment throughout the Patils marriage.  Vacations often included visiting winemaking regions around the world.  As their retirement years drew closer, the couple reflected on what second careers they would like to pursue.  “Initially, we simply wanted to farm a vineyard.  Pruning and caring for grapevines is a relaxing pastime that can produce income.  But a few years after working with grapes, we realized making wine was the logical next step,” Sudha says.

Education & Labor
The story of the Patils embodies their commitment to education and hard work.  Pandit received his college education in the states and then returned to India to seek a bride.  “The first young lady I began seeing was Sudha and I looked no further.  It was the best decision of my life. She’s a jewel,” Pandit emphasizes.

Sudha and Pandit Patil

But Sudha drove a bargain with her husband-to-be.  “We knew the chemistry between us was right.  But I asked him if he would put me through college and dental school. I had always wanted to be dentist,” Sudha explains.  Pandit committed to fulfilling her dream and the newly weds moved to America.

Pandit went on to obtain his PhD but it was ten years and two children later before Sudah’s vision became a reality.  She graduated from George Mason University and then Georgetown Dental School before receiving her Masters Degree in Endodontics from the University of Maryland.  Within two years she had created a successful dental practice in McLean, Virginia. Five years ago, she relocated her office to Culpeper to be closer to their Rappahannock County home. The Patil’s have been residents of the Commonwealth of Virginia for 35 years.

The couple’s success extends to their offspring.  The wine lovers have two children with successful careers of their own. Their son, Dr. Susheel Patil, is an Associate Professor at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine and practices pulmonary medicine and critical care. He conducts research in sleep apnea.  He has two wonderful boys.  Their daughter, Mrs. Prema Patil Sharma, holds a degree in chemical engineering from Virginia Tech and worked for an international drug development company. She currently serves as part-time Business Manager at the Winery and cares for her 19 month old son.

Sudha studied winemaking and vineyard management under Jim Law, one of the most respected winemakers on the East Coast and owner of Linden Vineyards.  She made her first wines with Narmada’s estate grapes in 2008 at Barrel Oak Winery with the guidance of Tom Payette, their current wine consultant. Her wines include Vidal Blanc, Chardonel, Chardonnay, Viognier, Cabernet Franc, Chamboucin, Cabernet Sauvignon and others. Current production is 1,700 cases annually with an ultimate goal of 5,000 cases.

Sudha Patil

The Patil’s purchased their property in 1999 and planted their vineyard and a cherry tree orchard a few years later. In addition to grape wine, plans are to produce a cherry dessert fruit wine when the trees mature. The tasting room has an expansive, wraparound deck that overlooks the vineyard and a lake; wine and scenery are brought together to assure guests a relaxing environment. Their private residence sits on a gentle ridge at the back of the property with a sweeping view of the entire landscape.

Narmada Winery is a unique addition to the Virginia wine scene. It reflects what can be accomplished when talent and industry converge. Moreover, it showcases a heritage known for its beauty and artisan skills.  America’s strength lies in its cultural diversity and now Virginia wine lovers have their own Star of India.

Narmada Winery is opened Thursday through Monday, 11am to 6pm.  Learn more about their wines and special events at (540) 937-8215.

Experience India…Taste Virginia.


Published in the June 30, 2011 edition of the Rappahannock News.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES