Goochland events venue Rassawek Vineyard plans to add a winery

An aerial view of Rassawek Vineyard’s inaugural Autumn Festival in October. The Goochland County venue plans to bring the event back this year. (Photos courtesy of Rassawek Vineyard)

After adding converted rail cars-turned-short-term rentals on its grounds, a sprawling Goochland County events venue has plans to become the site of the region’s newest wine-making operation.

Rassawek Vineyard at 6276 River Road West, which has hosted Rassawek Spring Jubilee for more than a decade, wants to add a winery to its growing list of offerings.

The winery could open as early as 2023, though the venue is still working on most of the details of the project.

At least initially, the winery wouldn’t be open every day or to the general public. Instead, it would operate in coordination with other events at the property and be accessible to people who attend those events, Rassawek Event Planner Jessica Jessee said.

The winery would likely take up residence in one of the structures the venue’s owners have collected and moved to the property over the years. The square footage and seating capacity haven’t been determined yet.

“We are still deciding where on the property to have the main thrust of the winery project be,” Jessee said.

Owned by the Liesfeld family, Rassawek Vineyard already grows grapes on its property but it has yet to make wine onsite. Its grape crop is managed by Goochland-based Elk Island Winery, which last year helped produce a Rassawek-branded line of wines.

Beyond wine, Rassawek also plans to enclose an existing open-air wedding pavilion this year. The project will roughly double the space to 6,900 square feet. The venue has a wedding capacity of 150 to 200 seated guests.

“We are enclosing the space to expand our wedding season to year-round,” Jessee said. “This venue will be heated and cooled, which will allow for weddings during the summer and winter in addition to our spring and fall weddings we have lined up.”

She said the venue has fully booked its spring and fall wedding weekends for 2022.

Those moves come as the venue looks to take full advantage of a 2020 conditional-use permit to increase the range of programs and events it offers. One of the first such steps was the opening of five short-term rental properties on the grounds and the addition of a fall festival last year.

Rassawek Vineyard offers short-term rentals. Among them are modified train cars such as the one shown.

The Liesfeld property is 1,000 acres, of which 355 can be used for programming, per the 2020 CUP.

Rassawek’s five short-term rentals consist of two cabins and three train cars, which were opened to the public in June.

Among the retrofitted train car rentals is Rassawek’s Pullman car, which features a bedroom with two double beds, a four-person dining table, a full bathroom and a half bath. Jenny Liesfeld said Rassawek acquired the car after it had been renovated by its previous owner and it spurred the idea of renovating more train cars.

The venue also has a caboose, which has a full bathroom and four twin bunk beds, as well as a boxcar that features a queen-sized bed and kitchenette.

The Pullman and the caboose car were part of a private collection located at Lestor Manor in King William County and owned by Carroll Lee Walker. All the train cars were donations, Liesfeld said.

Jessee said the rentals have proven popular and plans are underway to open a sixth rental. The CUP allows the venue up to eight short-term rentals.

The short-term rentals were rented more than 50 times during the six months they were open in 2021, which Jessee said was above expectations.

The currently available rentals range in their nightly rates from $220 to $500. Renters have access to biking and fishing on the property, and the units either have full kitchens or have access to full kitchens.

This year will mark the first time Rassawek will hold both its big festival events in the same year. The Spring Jubilee hasn’t been held since 2019 due to the pandemic and is set to return in June.

The new Autumn Festival, which was held for the first time in October, will return in 2022. The fall festival is focused more on showcasing historic and contemporary trades like blacksmithing and welding, whereas the Spring Jubilee is focused on wine, food and arts and crafts.

The first autumn festival had 8,500 people attend, Jessee said. She added that the spring festival has attracted an average of 5,000 to 6,000 guests in past years.

Other ideas pitched for Rassawek, such as plans for an airstrip with which to hold air shows, and a zip-line course, are on the backburner for the time being. Plans to open the venue up to the general public on certain weekends is also under consideration.