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Melissa Close, Executive Chef
Barboursville Vineyards & Palladio Restaurant
In the 1970s Gianni Zonin, a sixth-generation Italian winemaker, visited Virginia and decided to plant a vineyard. Most people thought he was crazy and advised that he plant tobacco instead. But Zonin persisted, recognizing his homeland in the Virginia landscape. In 1976 he purchased the historic James Barbour Estate and rolled up his sleeves. Today, Barboursville Vineyards is a standard–bearer in the Virginia wine industry, having established itself early as a successful producer of European varietals. In 1998 Zonin’s winemaker, Luca Paschina, was inspired to showcase Barboursville wines with food, and the Palladio Restaurant was born.
Melissa Close, an Alabama native, first learned about Italian food while working with Frank Stitt at his Bottega Italian Restaurant in Birmingham. She was hired as the Palladio Restaurant’s head chef in 2000. Melissa brought with her to Virginia a passion for fresh ingredients and, of course, an appreciation for good wine. The menu at the Palladio Restaurant is a marriage of northern Italian inspiration and Melissa’s Southern roots. Her Terrina Caprese, for example, is an heirloom tomato and basil aspic terrine served with homemade mozzarella. Melissa is also committed to taking full advantage of Virginia’s seasonal bounty, which includes Barboursville wines.