Photos courtesy of Alicia Bruce Photography
James T. Phillips
A native of the Hudson River valley in upstate New York, James Phillips didn’t grow up dreaming about becoming a winemaker. That realization may have come later on, but the seeds were planted early: “My mother’s parents came to America from Umbria and Abruzzo in Italy, and I grew up in a household that held onto those traditions and began trying the wine at a young age. We enjoyed a glass of wine with dinner once in a while, and this taught me how wine could enhance a meal and make it an experience.”
His winemaking journey began in a perhaps unexpected place: film school. “I used to make a lot of movies when I was younger and had a huge fascination with the arts. This passion led me to attend film school in western New York after graduation from high school and while in school I worked part-time at a small winery and was able to work every job from out in the vineyard, in the cellar, and the tasting room. I got to see every aspect of winery operations, and after only six months on the job I realized that wine was where I wanted to be.I even went to New Zealand to just work the harvest and was there for 3 months harvesting and making wine”
Phillips went on to study Viticulture and Wine Technology in Canandaigua, New York and passionately pursued opportunities to learn and impact New York’s winemaking industry, working in both large and small wineries before being promoted to the position of Assistant Winemaker at Montezuma Winery. Desiring to learn the viniculture of various regions, Phillips moved to Virginia Wine Country where he accepted the position of Associate Winemaker at Doukénie Winery in 2014. “I had heard good things about Virginia as an up and coming wine region, and I thought it would be interesting to come and see the possibilities of producing great wine here. It has been five years since I have been here in Virginia making wine, learning the climate, the soils and the wines and I am excited to be in this new position in my career,” says Phillips.
At Doukénie Winery, Phillips produces high-quality wines that are well-balanced and easy drinking, and manages all aspects of the winemaking process, from planting to vine care, crushing to bottling. His work celebrates Virginia’s unique terroir and has won accolades regionally and nationally.