A Magazine for the George Mason University Community

Wine, Wilson, and Song

By Michele McDonald on July 13, 2015

When George H. Wilson was 17 years old, he sang in front of 20,000 people in Dallas, Texas, as part of a barbershop chorus.

George H. Wilson. Photo by Alexis Glenn

George H. Wilson. Photo by Alexis Glenn

That moment in 1960 led to a realization that’s guided him throughout his life.

“Here I was—a skinny kid from the sticks of Herndon, Virginia—and I find myself singing in front of 20,000 people.

“I began to wonder what made me uniquely me, as opposed to the people around me,” Wilson recalls. “I realized then the answer is experiences and friends. My approach to life has been to accumulate friends and experiences.” Now, at age 73, he has a long tally of experiences and friends to his name.

This gentleman outdoorsman, Mason Class of ’69, majored in English. Wilson was on Mason’s first basketball, rugby, and baseball teams. Patriot fans can see him walk across the basketball court during Homecoming games. He was a professional horseman and polo player on three continents for 25 years, served in the U.S. Coast Guard, oversaw construction projects, and managed a string of drug stores, among many other projects.

Oh, and that barbershop chorus? The teenage Wilson toured nationally with the Fairfax Jubil-Aires and racked up international medals.

Wilson is now a vigneron working with Virginia wineries. He cultivates grapes for wine making but doesn’t make the wine. Among the varieties this native son grows is a hybrid of Virginia’s only native grape, the Norton.

Wilson found his way into growing grapes for wine through a housemate in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, about 25 years ago. He began learning how to grow wine grapes and decided the lifestyle suited him. Wilson has worked with 25 vineyards and wineries in Virginia and established nearly 100 acres of vineyards. He has even planted more than 36,000 vines for the Winery at Bull Run, which is owned by two Mason alumni.

“I’m an outdoor sort of guy who likes to play in the dirt,” he says.

Wilson’s latest venture is honey production. He and his wife, Karla Eisen, keep bees on their “backyard farm” and have won tasting contests. He’s working to become a certified international honey judge.

“They say that beekeeping is farming for intellectuals,” Wilson says with a husky laugh.

An English degree may not seem the first choice for such an avid outdoorsman, but it has inspired him to find new adventures. In fact, an O. Henry story led him to become a polo player.

A voracious reader, Wilson has David McCullough’s biography of John Adams on his nightstand. He says that he’s a fan of local author David Baldacci.

“I highly recommend a liberal arts education,” Wilson says. “My pursuit of an English degree dovetailed with my lifelong reading habit, suggesting opportunities and enhancing my communication skills.”

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