We follow in the pioneering spirit of our forebears as fourth-generation owners of this remarkable land in the Shenandoah Valley. James A Higgs purchased St James Orchard in 1934 during the precipitous Apple Boom. Where our winery now stands was once an apple shed where our apples were crated before being distributed across the country until industrial-scale orchards, and the introduction of refrigeration changed the market. After that, the land lay fallow for many years, waiting to be reborn.
Despite the crumbling shed and fields running wild with bee balm and bramble, a second generation of Higgs envisioned a winery where friends old and new could gather, share in its spectacular beauty, and enjoy world-class wines.
Our first varietals, Petit Verdot and Merlot, were planted in 2007, and we opened our doors to the Barren Ridge Winery in 2008.
True hospitality consists of giving the best of yourself to your guests.
After earning a BA in biopsychology at Mary Baldwin College and a master’s degree at the University of Richmond, Jessi was pursuing her Ph.D. in Neuroscience and working as research faculty at the University of Virginia when she reached a turning point in her professional life.
Instead of staying in a traditional lab, she had a fortuitous meeting with Gabriele Rausse, who instilled in her a love of the science and art of winemaking. She was fortunate to learn from Gabriele and his family, training at his home winery. In the ensuing years, she worked in the cellars of several Virginia wineries, landing at Barren Ridge in 2014, where she worked until 2016, when her son was born.
During her time as a new mom, she worked for renowned VA winemaker Michael Shaps, rising through the ranks to head winemaker in 2018. While challenging and exciting, learning from a legend, she was drawn back to the Valley and Barren Ridge in 2019. Since that time, she has found her confidence as a winemaker and started to train a new generation, happily bringing her son to wander through the vineyards with her at harvest time.
Most recently, Jessi has collaborated with and drew inspiration from the master of methode champenoise, Claude Thibaut, on her first Blanc de Blanc for Barren Ridge Vineyards, released July 2022.