Gadino Cellars offers Italian hospitality

By Posted on Nov 17 2013 | By

 Family memories drive passion for fine wines 

Bill and Aleta Gadino’s inspiration for winemaking casts back to the early 1900s when both of their immigrant grandfathers made wine for family and neighbors.

“Wine was part of our lives growing up in New Jersey. I remember drinking wine with meals when I was a young boy. It was served in a small glass that was originally sold as a cheese container. A lot of the other kids weren’t allowed to drink wine but we were permitted to have a glass with Sunday and holiday meals,” recalls Gadino.

Wine with food would remain an integral part of the Gadinos’ lifestyle. After successful careers in the Navy and as a defense contractor, Gadino shifted from amateur to professional winemaker, opening Gadino Cellars in 2005.

“During part of my military career we were stationed in California. Aleta and I had fun visiting the growing number of wineries. Back then there was no just going directly to a tasting room. You learned about the grapes first and at the end of the tour you got to taste the wines,” says Gadino.

An engineer by profession—retiring as a Navy Commander—Gadino began to see winemaking as both art and science. The more he learned the more he wanted to get involved. The tipping point came in 1982 while visiting Simi Winery in Healdsburg, CA where he purchased the classic winemaking book Grapes into Wine by Philip Wagner.

End of Harvest

End of Harvest

“I read that book cover-to-cover. The pages were getting worn out,” says Gadino. The next year some friends joined him in making his first wine; a Zinfandel from fresh grapes. “It was very drinkable and at 15% alcohol I was hooked,” says Gadino laughing.

In the mid-80s, during a tour in Washington DC, he decided to add winegrower to his amateur vintner resume and planted ten vines of Seyval blanc—a French-American hybrid white grape–in the backyard of his Fairfax home. Growing fruit and making wine led to taking courses in viniculture and winemaking with Jim Law, owner of Linden Vineyards and one of the most knowledgeable winemakers on the East Coast.

Going Pro
Upon retirement from the Navy in 1989 and shifting to defense contracting work, the Gadinos purchased property in Rappahannock County while still living in Fairfax. The weekend commutes to their emerging vineyard began a dozen years of growing grapes for sale to a local winery and for their home use. The leap to professional winemaking began to unfold when they moved permanently to their Little Washington farm in 2002 and then opening Gadino Cellars in 2005.

The family vision, now including their daughter Stephanie and son-in-law Derek was to produce food friendly wines in the tradition of their ancestors. “We wanted to create wines that people would invite home to dinner. Our goal was to focus on flavorful wines with crisp acidity that would pair well with food, says Gadino.

Given the winery’s reputation for bottling clean, fresh tasting wines that goal has been achieved. The Italian tradition of “family first” is evident in the management of the winery. Aleta Gadino, who holds a degree in horticulture, manages the winery’s grounds. Daughter Stephanie is the tasting room manager. Son-in-law Derek Pross, is the winemaker and Bill Gadino devotes himself full-time to the care of the thriving six acre vineyard.

Typically there are seven wines showcased in the tasting room including two Virginia classics, Viognier and Cabernet Franc. In addition, limited quantities of an elegant Italian Nebbiolo reinforce the family’s old world heritage.

The winery produces about 2,000 cases annually, placing it in the smaller category of Virginia wineries. “We never wanted to be a big. My father owned a small diner in Westwood, New Jersey. It was a working man’s restaurant and customers had fun eating there. I have wonderful memories of the place.

“When we opened our winery I wanted the same atmosphere. Guests are welcomed to bring their own food, enjoy a game of bocce ball, walk the vineyards, enjoy the views and take one of our wines home for dinner,” says Bill Gadino.

For information on hours of operation and special events visit

John’s Pick of the month 

Gadino Cellars

2011 Viognier


This month’s selection is a gold medal winner from the prestigious Indy International Wine Competition. The wine displays tropical fruit aromas framed by citrus notes and is redolent of kiwi, melon and peach on the palate. It is emblematic of the crisp, clean Gadino Cellars lineup. Drink now.


Virginia and other fine wines are available in Culpeper at the Crofburn Market, Culpeper Cheese Company, Tyme in Culpeper, and Vinosity.    



Published in the November 11, 2013  edition of the Culpeper Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES