Tom Corpora was a writer for United Press International, who subsequently became a bureau chief for NBC News. He visited and patrolled with our LRRPS in 1967. His stories are elsewhere on this website. He and his wife, Shinko, created the Afton Mountain Vineyards in Afton, VA, to the west of Charlottesville. They recently sold the vineyard and retired in Central California. Their son Robbie continues to work as the Vineyard Manager for Afton Mountain Vineyards since 2005.
If you need wine shipped to you - or are in the area - contact Robbie - and tell him you know his Dad - and tell'em you were a 2nd Brigade LRRP. If you knew Ron Speck, Charley Britt, Dan Harmon, Wayne Littlejohn and/or Male Hatchett ... Tom will give you special treatment.
In the fall of 1988, Shinko and Tom Corpora began living a dream that many Americans dream - to own a farm. The small farm they bought in October of that year lay on the eastern slope of the Blue Ridge Mountains 25 miles west of Charlottesville, Virginia, in a setting of sublime beauty. It consisted of a small vineyard and a mostly empty building that had been designed as a winery. Because of the poor health of the previous owner, the vineyard was in rough shape.
The Corporas had never lived on a farm. Tom had been a journalist for nearly 30 years and Shinko was a wife and mother to their two sons, Sascha and Robbie. They certainly knew nothing about growing grapes or making wine. So the couple sought expert help before they made their purchase. They learned that in the Charlottesville area there were two persons who offered vineyard and winery consulting services, one a German and the other an Italian. Because Tom's father had been born in Italy, the choice was obvious. The Italian, Gabriele Rausse, had come to the United States in 1976 to plant Virginia's first commercial vineyard of Europe's "noble" wine grapes at Barboursville. Since then, Gabriele had helped so many people start vineyards that he was known variously as the guardian angel and the Godfather of Virginia vineyards. During the next two years, Gabriele worked closely with the Corporas to restore the vineyard, equip the winery and teach Tom how to grow grapes and Shinko how to make wine.
In the fall of 1990, the Corporas made their first commercial wines - about 1,000 gallons - and the following spring, on Memorial Day weekend, they opened the winery to the public, worried about whether anyone would like the wines well enough to buy them. They worried needlessly. On that first day, the first customer who walked into the tasting room, Frances Daniel of Richmond, walked out with two bottles of Afton Mountain Chardonnay. Frances is still a customer. Since those days, the Corporas have expanded the winery, including the construction of a barrel storage cave and installation of a gravity-flow processing system, nearly doubled the size of the vineyard and increased production of wine five-fold.
Afton Mountain Vineyards remains a small winery, even by Virginia standards, but a winery still committed to making the fine wines Gabriele insisted on from the beginning. Afton Mountain wines have been recognized for their excellence by winning awards in California and New York as well as in Virginia.