In the beginning wine….now tales on whatever drives the imagination.
Family memories drive passion for fine wines
Bill and Aleta Gadino’s inspiration for winemaking casts back to the early 1900s when both of their immigrant grandfathers made wine for family and neighbors.
“Wine was part of our lives growing up in New Jersey. I remember drinking wine with meals when I was a young boy. It was served in a small glass that was originally sold as a cheese container. A lot of the other kids weren’t allowed to drink wine but we were permitted to have a glass with Sunday and holiday meals,” recalls Gadino.
Wine with food would remain an integral part of the Gadinos’ lifestyle. After successful careers in the Navy and as a defense contractor, Gadino shifted from amateur to professional winemaker, opening Gadino Cellars in 2005.
“During part of my military career we were stationed in California. Aleta and I had fun visiting the growing number of wineries. Back then there was no just going directly to a tasting room. You learned about the grapes first and at the end of the tour you got to taste the wines,” says Gadino.
An engineer by profession—retiring as a Navy Commander—Gadino began to see winemaking as both art and science. The more he learned the more he wanted to get involved. The tipping point came in 1982 while visiting Simi Winery in Healdsburg, CA where he purchased the classic winemaking book Grapes into Wine by Philip Wagner.
“I read that book cover-to-cover. The pages were getting worn out,” says Gadino. The next year some friends joined him in making his first wine; a Zinfandel from fresh grapes. “It was very drinkable and at 15% alcohol I was hooked,” says Gadino laughing.
In the mid-80s, during a tour in Washington DC, he decided to add winegrower to his amateur vintner resume and planted ten vines of Seyval blanc—a French-American hybrid white grape–in the backyard of his Fairfax home. Growing fruit and making wine led to taking courses in viniculture and winemaking with Jim Law, owner of Linden Vineyards and one of the most knowledgeable winemakers on the East Coast.
Upon retirement from the Navy in 1989 and shifting to defense contracting work, the Gadinos purchased property in Rappahannock County while still living in Fairfax. The weekend commutes to their emerging vineyard began a dozen years of growing grapes for sale to a local winery and for their home use. The leap to professional winemaking began to unfold when they moved permanently to their Little Washington farm in 2002 and then opening Gadino Cellars in 2005.
The family vision, now including their daughter Stephanie and son-in-law Derek was to produce food friendly wines in the tradition of their ancestors. “We wanted to create wines that people would invite home to dinner. Our goal was to focus on flavorful wines with crisp acidity that would pair well with food, says Gadino.
Given the winery’s reputation for bottling clean, fresh tasting wines that goal has been achieved. The Italian tradition of “family first” is evident in the management of the winery. Aleta Gadino, who holds a degree in horticulture, manages the winery’s grounds. Daughter Stephanie is the tasting room manager. Son-in-law Derek Pross, is the winemaker and Bill Gadino devotes himself full-time to the care of the thriving six acre vineyard.
Typically there are seven wines showcased in the tasting room including two Virginia classics, Viognier and Cabernet Franc. In addition, limited quantities of an elegant Italian Nebbiolo reinforce the family’s old world heritage.
The winery produces about 2,000 cases annually, placing it in the smaller category of Virginia wineries. “We never wanted to be a big. My father owned a small diner in Westwood, New Jersey. It was a working man’s restaurant and customers had fun eating there. I have wonderful memories of the place.
“When we opened our winery I wanted the same atmosphere. Guests are welcomed to bring their own food, enjoy a game of bocce ball, walk the vineyards, enjoy the views and take one of our wines home for dinner,” says Bill Gadino.
For information on hours of operation and special events visit http://www.gadinocellars.com/
John’s Pick of the month
This month’s selection is a gold medal winner from the prestigious Indy International Wine Competition. The wine displays tropical fruit aromas framed by citrus notes and is redolent of kiwi, melon and peach on the palate. It is emblematic of the crisp, clean Gadino Cellars lineup. Drink now.
Virginia and other fine wines are available in Culpeper at the Crofburn Market, Culpeper Cheese Company, Tyme in Culpeper, and Vinosity.
Published in the November 11, 2013 edition of the Culpeper Times.
Opal winery garnering accolades early in the game
Granite Heights Orchard & Winery opened just two years ago, but Toni and Luke Kilyk have burst upon the Virginia wine scene faster than a cork being pulled from a bottle of their wine.
It’s not a surprising achievement for the two over-achievers and their passion for creating. Be it their successful business careers or producing wine, jams, jellies and honey, the couple brings proven character traits to producing quality farm products.
Luke Kilyk is the winemaker. Toni Kilyk is his assistant and manages the orchard’s production and the business. And if you were to compliment them on their early success you’d likely to get a “We’ve been very fortunate” response. Interesting how good fortune follows hard work.
The high energy couple has been a married team for twenty-three years while advancing their primary careers. Luke Kilyk is a full-time Intellectual Property Law attorney who owns his own practice focused on patent, trademark and copyright law. His office is in Warrenton.
Toni Kilyk is a family practice physician who had an office in Manassas for nine years before shifting much of her focus to managing their farm. She still works two days a week at the Fauquier Free Clinic in Warrenton for a small salary. “I do it more for the love of it. The clinic serves individuals below the poverty level. Our patient load has increased from 100 to over 600 in the last six years,” she says.
Country life calls
Life before farming was similar to other professional couples living the harried suburban life in Northern Virginia. In 1997, while residing in Centreville, the Kilyk’s purchased a 55 acre forested property off Opal Road, built a home and in 2001 moved permanently to the country. They cleared three acres of land adjacent to their home and planted a fruit orchard and formal flower gardens.
“We both like to keep busy and can’t sit still,” says Toni Kilyk. What they’ve achieved underscores that assessment.
About a decade ago Luke Kilyk fell in love with winemaking. As is often the case, he started with home wine kits and soon advanced to wine made from fresh fruit. In addition to his law degree, he is a chemistry major, providing a sound foundation for making commercial wine. “Luke is like Thomas Jefferson. Whatever he does its like it’s been his career all his life,” emphasizes Toni Kilyk.
The winemaking operation moved from their home to a small cabin on the property but soon became a “hobby on steroids” as Toni Kilyk says smiling. The fruit operation was also expanding, producing numerous bottles of jams and jellies made from blackberries, peaches, blueberries, strawberries and other fruits. Honey was produced from their honey bee hives. Clearly, more room was needed to accommodate the nascent business.
Farm grows exponentially
In 2006, a 168 acre farm located directly across the street from the Kilyk’s home went on the market. The couple made an offer on the property but the developer wanted to subdivide it and build homes. Then the recession hit and the project stalled. By 2009, it was obvious new home construction was going nowhere and the farm came back on the market.
“I was going to work at the free clinic one day and saw the For Sale sign again,” Toni Kilyk recalls. “I called Luke and said, ‘It’s back on the market!”. He said, “Well, maybe it’s meant to be.” And indeed it was with their quick purchase of the farm.
In 2010, the winemaking operation was moved across the street into a new processing facility and the stage was set for a larger production of fine wines. Country music artist and actress Reba McEntire once said, “It’s very important to surround yourself with people you can learn from.” The Kilyk’s embodied the philosophy and embraced two iconic talents in the wine industry: Jim Law and Lucie Morton.
Law, owner of Linden Vineyards, is one of the most respected winemakers on the East Coast and Morton is a vineyard consultant of international renown. The Kilyk’s enrolled in Law’s winemaking classes to learn first hand the skills required to produce quality wine. They also hired Morton to assist in planting their ten acre vineyard on the newly purchased farm.
Morton is an advocate of high-density planting of vines. Typical Virginia vineyards are planted at a density of 600 to 800 vines per acre to aid air flow and fight humidity. Morton’s vineyards are likely to have 1,600 to 2,000 vines per acre to help promote even ripening by reducing the amount of fruit per vine. Many award winning wines are produced off of her high-density vineyards.
The vineyard is host to Chardonnay, Vermentino, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Barbera grapes; all French clones. While they purchased wine fruit from other Virginia vineyards in the first few years, it is their goal to be mostly sustainable with their own grape crop.
Interestingly, the couple’s relationship with Morton deepened when they agreed to let her live in the late 1800s farm house that would eventually become their tasting room. “Lucie wanted to write a book and she came here to live for a year to complete it. We were following her philosophy and she liked us because we were self-sufficient. She still stops by on occasion to take a gut check on how we are doing,” says Toni Kilyk.
Self-sufficiency is a hallmark of the winery and orchard operation. The couple performs virtually every task on the farm. Toni Kilyk explains that often a retired couple will open a winery and hire a winemaker, vineyard manager and other personnel and be compelled to start selling wine quickly to help pay down the heavy debt.
“We perform all of the work ourselves,” she says. The physical labor involved is intense; planting the vines, pruning and spraying the vineyard, making the wine, tending the orchard, bottling the wines, jams and jellies, mowing the property weekly during the summer months and the ubiquitous office work.
The only person they’ve hired tends the tasting room on weekends so the Kilyk’s can keep up with the endless farm chores. This is particularly true for Luke Kilyk who works full-time at his law practice. Weekends provide the only time to stay head of the work.
To protect their vineyard investment the Kilyk’s next purchase will be two 30 foot high wind fans to safeguard the vines from the threat of spring frost. The last frost date in Virginia is around May 10 but bud break can occur in early April. It is a tense six week period if grape vines have no protection. A single night’s chilling air can wipe out an entire vineyard and deprive a winemaker of the fruit needed to make the next vintage’s wines.
It’s not unusual for new wineries to take several years to develop quality wines and garner the coveted recognition for its efforts. The science and art of winemaking is often a trial and error process that, hopefully, results in the caliber of wine a winemaker seeks. Quality is the reward for hard work and patience in the cellar.
Granite Heights is an exception to the rule. Their dedication was a given but within two years the devotion to farming grapes and making wine began to attract the attention of the wine cognoscenti. Positive feedback from industry professionals spurred further commitment and the Kilyk’s attention to quality is evident in their current bottlings.
While Lucie Morton was living in their future tasting room home, she was impressed with not only the Kilyk’s work ethic but the wine that was emerging from their cellar. Given her reputation within in the industry she contacted David Schildknecht, a wine critic and full-time employee of the Wine Advocate, a global bimonthly publication that publishes 12,000 wine reviews annually.
The publication was founded by Robert M. Parker Jr, the most influential wine critic in the world and creator of the 100 point wine rating system. Parker’s reviews can make or break a winery. His nose and palate are insured for a million dollars.
To be employed as a critic by Parker places an individual at the pinnacle of wine evaluation. Schildknecht operates in a rarefied realm of wine appraisal.
Last year Morton sent Toni Kilyk an email saying she wanted to bring Schildknecht out to the winery to taste the wines. “I was working at the clinic that day and when I read Lucie’s message my heart jumped in my throat because here was this big, important guy coming and he worked for Robert Parker,” say Toni Kilyk.
Her fears were unfounded. Schildknecht liked the wines and later wrote in the Wine Advocate about their 2010 Humility, a full-bodied red blend, “When I tasted it from the barrel, I was shocked that wine of such promise—very much fulfilled in the bottle—could come from young vines and inexperienced part-time growers, not to mention from Warrenton, Virginia.”
He went on to enthuse, “But when you start talking with Toni and Luke Kilyk about what they are doing, their meticulousness and determination are evident. The Barbelo—a blend of Merlot and Barbera—is as original as it is delicious.”
Soon after such high praise the wine columnist for the Washington Post, Dave McIntyre, stopped by and later wrote, “Granite Heights Winery. Atop a ridge near Opal, between Culpeper and Warrenton, this newcomer is already producing some intense Bordeaux-style blends.”
Given the early praise it’s noteworthy that unlike almost every winery in Virginia the Kilyk’s refrain from describing the aroma and palate flavors of their wines. The tasting notes state, “We try not to characterize our wines with what you should be smelling or tasting—it is like leading a witness or reading a book and knowing the ending beforehand (that is not our style)—we want you, the taster, to discover and decide.”
Toni Kilyk underscores the accolades to date are likely to continue. The couple submitted their 2009 Lomax Reserve—a Bordeaux-style red blend–in Virginia’s 2013 Governor’s Cup wine competition. It was “the first competition we had entered and it won a silver medal,” she says. Their 2011 Petit Manseng won “Best in Category” at the 2013 Atlantic Seaboard Wine Association competition. The couple will attend a Capitol Hill reception for all the ASWA winners in September to receive their award.
Business verus lifestyle
There are over 8,000 wineries in the US today. A small percentage produce the majority of wine sold nationwide. In Virginia, there are about 240 wineries but many are also not making sizeable profits. The line often heard in the Old Dominion is, “If you want to make a small fortune in Virginia wine, start with a large one.”
It typically takes eight to ten years before a profit is realized given the cost of buying grape-friendly land, planting a vineyard, purchasing the myriad production equipment and building a winery. So what draws people to the business? Often it is the lifestyle and the creative urge to make a libation enjoyed by a surging number of Americans.
“Luke wouldn’t be doing this unless he could make wine as good as he can. He wouldn’t be doing this if he had to hire a winemaker or go fully commercial and make ten thousand cases a year. Basically it’s a big hobby and we have to share it,” says Toni Kilyk.
So is there payback to running a winery making less than a thousand cases a year? Yes. But it comes in the form of building a following of wine lovers who enjoy what you’ve produced and receiving serious recognition for its creation.
The Kilyk’s straightforward goal is to retire and have the winery cover its operating costs. The payback of large profits is less critical.
Like many successful artisans, a professional wine career is established over time and “profit” can be accrued both monetarily and emotionally. If the Kilyk’s early recognition continues, the future will bring them fulfillment personally and appreciation from their customers.
And that will be money in the bank for these two Virginia wine and orchard farmers.
Granite Heights Winery is located at 8141 Opal Road, Warrenton, VA. The tasting room is open on weekends from 12 noon to 5 PM. Call (540) 349-5185 or visit http://www.graniteheightsorchard.com/ for further information.
Published in the Fall 2013 edition of the Piedmont Business Journal.
Firm serves 1,200 clients in first three years
Sensing a need and fulfilling it is Business 101. Creating and delivering the product is a challenge. Achieving both in a 36-month period is impressive.
Welcome to Culpeper Premier Fitness; two women who are on the move literally and figuratively. Both Bridget Scarbrough and Susan Huff are as in shape as their successful fitness centers.
And not surprisingly, the secret to their success is—get this—experience coupled with hard work. Sound familiar? Hearing them share their backgrounds and how they’ve used their talents to build a thriving small business one realizes being in shape is de rigueur.
Although operating in two different but related realms the fitness mavens combined forces three years ago to offer area residents a unique and holistic approach to wellness. Huff is a former school teacher who specialized in teaching children with disabilities in southwest Virginia. Earning her PhD in Special Education Administration she went on to become a public school administrator and later served as an adjunct faculty member at Virginia Tech for four years. On the side, she taught cycling, fitness and yoga classes.
Moving to Culpeper in 2008, she could not secure employment in her chosen field given the tough job market and went to work for Gold’s Gym teaching yoga, weight resistance training and indoor cycling for two years, later moving on to the Powell Wellness Center.
Her first love was yoga but she realized, “I could starve to death teaching only yoga. There is so much competition out there and much of it is offered at a flat fee. I knew I had the skill set to start my own business.”
In 2010, she opened The Second Floor Studio at 120 West Culpeper Street. During her years in the local fitness scene she met Bridget Scarbrough who also worked at both Gold’s and Powell Wellness. Scarbrough says, “I was an unlikely candidate to become a personal trainer because I never played sports or did anything like that all my life. But I got out of shape and started exercising and things clicked with it,” she recalls.
Scarbrough earned her certification as a personal trainer and specialized in fitness, nutrition and healthy lifestyle training. After having helped open Gold’s she later moved to Powell Fitness because, “It better suited my interests. I was able to work with seniors and families there,” she says.
Scarbrough also worked as an in-home personal trainer traveling throughout the Piedmont region. The two motivated women were building a working relationship and it was a natural fit when Huff asked Scarbrough to join her studio and forge a business together.
Two into one
As Huff was growing her business she knew her first love was yoga but a variety of other fitness regimes were well-suited for her studio environment. Scarbrough had logged 27,000 miles on her vehicle in the first year of her in-home personal training program called It’s Up To You Fitness.
Scarbrough had left Powell Wellness Center but serving her in-home clients was becoming too demanding. “I’m a little hyper and like to try different things. I teach kick boxing, indoor cycling, TRX and boot camp style classes. After a year with Susan, I decided to move all my personal training to the studio. My clients are happy to come to the studio so it has worked out well for everyone,” says Scarbrough.
“With my interest in yoga and Bridget’s training in fitness and nutrition we realized by joining forces we’d have a lot offer clients. Our business together has taken off beautifully,” says Huff. It became apparent that the double business structure needed to be streamlined to maximize profits. “We combined our websites and created an umbrella entity called Culpeper Premier Fitness. We still have our two separate businesses but now operate under one name. People began leaving other gyms because we offer a beautiful studio experience plus one-on-one client attention,” says Huff.
Scarbrough says, “Most gym fitness programs are choreographed and don’t easily allow personal advice and attention to be incorporated into a training program. Working out in a studio environment permits us to customize routines to meet an individual’s physical needs and abilities.”
Scarbrough’s emphasis is on her program called “It’s Up To You Fitness.” She created a challenge for participants to realize their weight and fitness goals over an extended period saying, “Many people spend a lot of money at gyms but are not getting the results they want. There is an ‘all or nothing attitude’ that develops. I realized I needed to teach people how to take small baby steps in the right direction.
“From August 2012 to May 2013, my clients lost a combined total of 800 pounds. One woman dropped 85 pounds and ran a 5K race for the first time, although that was not typical. There was even an article in the local paper about her. She was a fitness rock star.”
To achieve such results Scarbrough encourages her charges to skip soft drinks and avoid other unhealthy food choices but not to give up with a failure to do so. “If they fail one day we say ‘Don’t worry’ get back on your routine and diet. It’s a change in lifestyle and that’s why it’s so successful.
“It was a conscious decision not to have mirrors in the studio. Anybody can walk in here and feel comfortable,” she says. She also sends text messages daily to her students asking questions like, “What are you going to do today to meet your goal?” The classes have been so popular Scarbrough had to hire another trainer to assist with the growing number of attendees, especially the evening classes.
“I was at the Montpelier wine festival last year and I had three husbands offer to buy me a glass of wine because the self-confidence their wives had gotten by taking just one four-week class,” says a smiling Scarbrough. Another popular program is known as Total body Resistance exercise, or TRX. “It’s body weight suspension training,” says Scarbrough created by a former Navy Seal.
The system leverages gravity and your bodyweight to perform hundreds of exercises by simply adjusting your body position to add or decrease resistance. It employs two straps with loop hand holds suspended from a ceiling or door jam that allows a person to do sit ups, pull ups, and multiple core body exercises with no equipment other than the straps. Body weight alone is employed to exercise all major muscle groups. The system has roared across the physical fitness landscape since being introduced in 2005 and shows no signs of abating. “I even have two eighty-year-olds who use the TRX,” say Scarbrough.
The cost their classes are reasonable. A new student pays $80 for a four-week program and $40 each month thereafter. “Once you’re in the program its $10 a week to continue. And that includes training videos for at-home work outs, discussions on healthy eating, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, stretching, cardiovascular and more. It’s an extremely holistic approach to wellness. No one else offers quite the program we do,” says Scarbrough.
On the quieter side
As Scarbrough’s classes grew in popularity, Huff saw an opportunity to expand her love of yoga training. Her pursuit of a quieter lifestyle led her to purchase the iconic Stonewall Abbey church in Sperryville last year and launch a second studio devoted only to yoga.
“The classes in Sperryville are different than at the Culpeper studio. They emphasize the meditative, spiritual, and chanting aspects of yoga. Recently I had seventeen people in one of my morning classes. We serve walk-ins and have relationships with local bed and breakfasts that send their guests over. We offer classes seven days a week.
“The Sperryville location has become so popular next year I’ll be offering a yoga teacher training program. A lot of people are not certified in the best manner and you can hurt people in yoga if you are not mindful,” she says. An interesting aspect of the women’s business it’s that 95% of their clients are women. “A lot men view physical fitness as building bulk and strength. But yoga can be demanding. I’ve had men clients’ teasingly tell me ‘you killed me’ so yoga can produce a good workout,” states Huff.
Huff points out men are underserved in yoga instruction and she will soon begin offering a men-only program in Sperryville. “It can be intimidating for a man to walk into a class full of women. Often men can’t touch their toes because they are classically tighter than women. It’s just the way men are wired. If it works out, we will offer the same class in Culpeper,” says Huff.
Scarbrough underscores the male perception to fitness when discussing her volunteer work with the Culpeper Police Department. “It’s a trust thing. It took a year to build up the men’s trust that I knew what I was talking about and that I could help them—and kick their butt—without using a machine, she says laughing. Culpeper Premier Fitness is emblematic of a well-executed business plan.
The young firm’s success is due to its laser-like focus on fulfilling a need. Huff and Scarbrough do not see a physical expansion of the business since both locations can accommodate their growing client base. The firm has a total of seven employees.
We’ve done pretty well after three years,” understates Huff. We are really happy with our success and look forward to increasing the personal training we do.”
For information on classes and rates at both the Culpeper and Sperryville locations call 540.250.3828 or visit http://www.culpeperpremierfitness.com/
Published in the Fall 2013 edition of the Piedmont Business Journal.
Winery attractions keep mounting after decade in business
What do you call two Type A personalities? Pat and Allyson Kearney.
The owners of the first and closest winery to Culpeper are a perpetual motion machine. Consider what they’ve achieved in ten years:
- Purchased a seventy-five acre abandoned alfalfa farm and fully restored a 1800’s era farmhouse into a tasting room.
- Planted twenty-one acres of wine grapes around a bucolic lake.
- Built a 4,000 square foot lakeside pavilion.
- Built a personal residence on a small rise overlooking the vineyards.
- Installed a 40-person lakeside flagstone patio with fireplace.
- Ramped up production to over 33,000 bottles of wine annually.
But wait, there’s more. Another flagstone patio has just been completed behind the farm house with a covered tasting bar featuring a built-in waterfall and a brick pizza oven. “I’ve waited ten years for my patio and Pat did a wonderful job with the assistance of local landscaper Dave Marciniak, owner of Revolutionary Gardens.
“On October 6, we officially start serving brick oven pizza when guest Chef Luigi from Luigi’s Italian Restaurant fires up our new oven,” says Allyson Kearney.
The patio will see duty deep into the fall because heaters will keep wine lovers cozy when the chilly air arrives. Wine, pizza and a comfy patio will likely see weekend visitorship increase above the 300 tasters typically hosted on busy weekends.
All of this activity has been achieved while Pat Kearney operated Kearney & Associates on the property. His firm specializes in creating display cases, artifact mounts and dioramas for museums nationwide.
So how do they top their achievements to date?
Grapes into Grappa
Tapping into the resurgence in hand-crafted liquors, Pat Kearney will open his own on-site distillery next June. Using fruit from his vineyard he will produce brandy, vodka, gin, grappa and French-style liquors. “Everyone is excited about the distillery. I hope they don’t forget about me and the tasting room after it opens,” says Allyson Kearney.
Fat chance. The winery-distillery complex will offer myriad social lubricants appealing to an even wider audience.
“We are just an adult Disneyland out here,” says Allyson Kearney laughing. And the owners are having as much fun as their guests. The proof? The last three months of this year have been the busiest since Old House Vineyards opened in June 2003. With each new amenity, word spreads and business grows.
One example is the twenty weddings they host annually. The lakeside pavilion and patio is a perfect location for a bride and groom seeking a romantic spot to exchange vows. The actual nuptials are performed on an island located in the middle of the lake. Details are everything in the wedding business and one small feature is the “love lock” gifted to each bride and groom.
“We present an engraved lock to each couple and they permanently lock it to a chain on the lakeside pier and throw the key into the water as a symbol of their commitment. Ed’s Awards in Culpeper engraves the locks.
“The love locks have become very popular and we invite any couple who wants to bring a lock and toss a key to do so. There’s no charge. There are so many locks on that chain now,” says Allyson Kearney.
When asked how she would describe the dream setting she and her husband have created Allyson Kearney says, “It’s a little piece of heaven right here in Culpeper.”
For information on hours of operation and special events visit http://www.oldhousevineyards.com/
JOHN’S PICK OF THE MONTH
Old House Vineyards
Wicked Bottom Chambourcin
In the yesteryears, a field located near the winery was notorious for its horse racing, cock fighting and gambling, earning the moniker “Wicked Bottom”. Today, it’s the name of one of the winery’s most popular red wines. Made from Chambourcin, a French-American hybrid grape, the wine casts a deep garnet hue in the glass and displays rich, fruit-forward cherry and smokey notes on the palate with a soft, lingering finish. Drink now and till 2017.
Virginia and other fine wines are available in Culpeper at the Crofburn Market, Culpeper Cheese Company, Tyme in Culpeper, and Vinosity.
Published in the October 3, 2013 edition of the Culpeper Times.
Marriage is seemingly under a lot of pressure these days. While divorce rates in the US have fallen somewhat in the last decade, it is still around 40% of all couples who pledge “till death do us part.” The commitment to a lifelong marital bond has lessened but its value to the Nation is self-evident to many.
The 1865 paean to motherhood, “The hand that Rocks the Cradle is the Hand That Rules The World” holds true for many couples today. Here is my tribute to my brother Bill and his wife Jan as they celebrate their golden anniversary. The piece appeared in the August 3 edition of the Inter-Mountain, Elkins, WV.
Bill and Jan Hagarty of Elkins celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary on July 27. The Hagarty’s renewed their wedding vows at home in a ceremony officiated by their brother-in-law, Jack Etzel, a deacon in the Catholic Church.
The Hagarty’s have three sons, Sean, Kevin and Marvin and three grandchildren. Over the course of their marriage they have provided a home to twenty-one foster children, ranging from stays of a few weeks to over two years.
Bill graduated from St. John Bosco High School in Huttonsville. The school taught theoretical and practical agriculture on a 500 acre dairy farm. Today the facility is a youth and retreat center. He is a Member of St. Brendan’s Catholic Church where he volunteers his services.
Bill retired from the Federal Government after 38 years of service, including an assignment in Iwo Jima with the Air Force.
For the past five years he had been a car host on the Cheat Mountain Salamander train. His love of history was on display with his fact-filled commentary on trains and the West Virginia countryside. It was the highlight of the excursions and popular with passengers.
Jan volunteers at Davis Memorial Hospital and is a volunteer at the reception desk at First United Methodist Church where she is a member.
The Hagartys are well-known throughout Elkins for their volunteer services and love of the Mountain State. Their family and friends wish them continued happiness.
Restored art deco playhouse launches next generation of entertainment
From the late 1930s on, the Culpeper State Theatre was the place to see and be seen. Memories abound from yesteryears patrons of Saturday matinees, Sunday concerts and movie classics such a Gone with the Wind, Casablanca and On the Waterfront showing weekly.
“It was also the only place on Main Street that had lots of lights,” says one resident fondly recalling his childhood.
Today, the 560 seat theatre has been restored and expanded at a cost of $9.2 million. The work includes a ground up reconstruction of the building with an impressive new lobby, state of the art stage, $1 million surround sound and lighting system, 100 percent wool reproduction of the original carpet woven by an English mill, a new wing housing meeting rooms and a small 50 seat theatre located on the second level.
The chairs in the main auditorium were donated by the Kennedy Center and refurbished in an art deco theme. A single original wall sconce was used by the firm Bingham & Taylor to replicate and then donate the remaining wall lighting fixtures.
But the crown jewel is the $100,000 restoration of the original marquee with its “air conditioned” neon lettering displayed front and center for the 24,000 cars that drive past the theatre daily.
An air conditioned building was so unique in the theatre’s earlier days local doctors were known to write prescriptions for pregnant women so they could seek refuge in the cool, dark theater during the humid summer months.
On May 4, Bruce Hornsby—a virtuoso widely known for his creative performances in a variety of musical genres—appeared before a sold-out house at the restored theatre’s grand opening on its 75th anniversary.
Hornsby is the caliber of performer rarely seen in Culpeper and the theatre will showcase similar regional and nationally known acts in the years to come.
An agreement with Audio-Visual Conservation at The Library of Congress, located just east of town, will permit the showing of classic 35 mm and digital movies and represent fifteen percent of the theatre’s programming. The library has a collection of over a million films, television and video items.
The original theatre was opened in 1938, one of thirty owned by Virginia Senator Benjamin Pitts. There are only three remaining in operation today. The theatre was closed in 1993 and sat vacant until 2004 when local residents Greg and Liz Yates purchased it.
Envisioning a rebirth of the theatre as a performing arts center, the Yates’ created the State Theatre Foundation, a 501 (c)(3) non-profit organization and donated the building to the foundation. Their gift is one that will keep on giving for the next 75 years and beyond.
Executing a vision
The dream of creating a community stage with exceptional talent appearing from near and far is laudatory; making such a dream financially sustainable is hard reality. Enter Ed Bednarczyk, stage right.
Bednarczyk and his wife Nancy were decade-long residents of Culpeper until their move to Washington State in 1999, relocating to his wife’s home town of Seattle. When the couple returned to Culpeper, he assumed the position of Executive Director of the State Theatre Foundation. A 17 member Board of Directors, which includes the Yates’, oversees theatre operations.
Original plans called for restoration to begin shortly after the Foundation was created. Unfortunately, the recession put the dream on ice as it did for millions of businesses nationwide.
In 2011, sufficient funding was secured and the two-year restoration and expansion project commenced. The funding of $9.2 million was achieved in three distinct segments; $3.2 million from new market and historic tax credits; $3 million from individual donations and pledges, and a $3 million unfunded nut to crack. It’s the third leg of the funding stool that is the primary focus of Bednarczyk’s job.
Achieving the tax credit funding was a major step in advancing the project. The credits were purchased by a third party who assumed the tax benefits over a seven year period while providing the Foundation an immediate infusion of cash.
Successful private donations of an additional $3 million instill confidence in Bednarczyk that the final $3 million funding is clearly achievable. Nonetheless, it’s a goal requiring a full time commitment to pursue private and corporate donations.
“I encourage anyone interested in supporting the local performing arts scene to consider a donation,” says Bednarczyk. A central component of the funding effort is the “Light Up the Marquee” campaign. Monetary gifts ranging from $350 to $5,000 earn the donor the right to have their name appear on a designed sculpture of the Marquee that will be displayed in the theatre lobby.
A broader based fundraising effort is embedded in the Membership Benefits program that offers a host of benefits to theatergoers who contribute from $50 up to $2,500.
One can fully appreciate the budget required to run a first tier arts center when considering Bednarczyk’s management responsibilities. In addition to his primary fundraising efforts, he manages a staff of six professionals: operations & programming, marketing, box office, technical director, financial director, and house manager. Three part-time box office assistants and several volunteers round out his staffing duties.
But any extended conversation with Bednarczyk tends to drift back to fundraising, especially corporate sponsorships.
“There’s not a better opportunity in the region for a corporation to step forward and place their name on some part of this building; from the highly visible front of the theatre right above the marquee to the main auditorium, the new annex, the fifty- seat Black Box Theater, the concession area and more. All of these venues offer a wonderful opportunity for local, regional and even national firms to embrace its customer base while supporting the performing arts,” states Bednarczyk.
The challenge becomes clear given the cost of such sponsorships. Various inside the building marketing opportunities start around $10,000 and range upwards to the premier front of the building commitment of a half a million dollars. Yet the executive director is quick to point out the advantages of such an investment.
“Given the traffic count on Main Street averaging two persons per car, nearly 50,000 people a day could be viewing a company’s name and logo and be linked with an icon of the community. And the marketing of all the shows would include the name of a major sponsor,” underscores Bednarczyk.
Another vision of the foundation is to embrace the youth of the region, including youth concerts. One specific $75,000 sponsorship is called the “Big, Yellow Bus Campaign”.
“I tell school administrators, ‘get’em on the bus and leave the rest to us’. It’s a great program. It takes some of the burden off the schools that have had to cut programs due to budgetary restrictions and helps create great field trips for the children.
“Another source of funding is applying for grants from private foundations who are interested in supporting the arts. “I would love to talk with any of them,” says Bednarczyk.
Local economy impact
A recent study conducted by Americans for the Arts, a National organization that supports the arts and culture through private and public resource development, showed that for every ticket sold at a performing arts theatre an additional $27 was spent in the local community. Shopping, dining and lodging establishments are beneficiaries in addition to the concertgoers.
Bednarczyk underscores that message with a story. “During the Lyle Lovett performance I met a gentleman from Seattle who was on travel. He read that Lovett was appearing at the theatre. Being a fan, he purchased a ticket, booked a hotel room and had dinner at one of our local restaurants. This is the kind of ripple effect the theatre will have on the ten surrounding counties in our region. A venue such as ours does not have to have 2,000 seats or more to have a serious economic impact.”
John Yarnall, owner of It’s about Thyme and two other restaurants and a lodging establishment in town reinforces the economic benefits of the theatre, saying, “I think the theatre is a great asset for the whole community. My restaurants and other local retail businesses will benefit because the theatre is bringing new people to Culpeper and they are staying at local inns and hotels. After their visit they go home and tell others about what’s happening in Culpeper.
“Short term the impact is nice. Long term the impact will be tremendous. And the staff at the theatre are wonderful people to work with.”
“Knowing and learning our audience is how we will attract people to the theatre,” says Bednarczyk. The goal is to offer a blend of regional and big name acts coupled with free concerts performed by local groups. Cinema will round out the playbill.
While acts like Hornsby and Lovett sell out almost immediately, on average about sixty percent of the seats are currently filled for other concerts.
“Our goal is to reach all audiences. It’s much like when a new store opens and it takes time to build awareness; that’s the stage we are in now. We are essentially telling people ‘we are open for business’. We opened at a difficult time for a theatre. Spring and summer are historically slow times for art centers. Our big season will start in September,” explains Bednarczyk.
He also emphasizes the theatre cannot rely solely on big names. “We would go out of business if we only booked expensive acts. Our formula is to seek sponsors for individual shows who can help offset our costs. This is another opportunity for businesses that don’t want to buy a building name or room yet want recognition. Their name is announced at the show and appears in our playbill and advertising. The cost of a show sponsorship starts at $1,500 and ranges upwards,” says Bednarczyk.
Ticket pricing reflects the cost of performers. Typically a show costs $20-$25. For major acts it jumps to $40-$50, still a bargain given most attendees do not have to travel long distances to see such performers. But tickets for many quality local acts fall in the $10 to $12 range. Free programming completes the schedule.
“Once word gets out about the theatre I think we’ll have an amazing response. We will be selling out shows quite a bit. There are millions of people within forty minutes of this location. We need to let them know we are here and provide them another entertainment option. I’m confident this theatre will celebrate its next 75th anniversary.
“I tell people the theatre is the ‘missing link’ in this community. We have connectivity to Amtrak, local tourism offices and more. I have lived all over the country and most towns would love to have just twenty-five percent of what Culpeper has to offer,” states Bednarczyk.
When asked what his greatest frustration and greatest fun is in running the playhouse, Bednarczyk responded:
“I guess my frustration is finding the patience to have every one of those seats filled at every performance as quickly as possible. I want it now. It makes for a better show when both the audience and the performers see a full house. It will happen but it takes time.
“My greatest fun is inspiring people. At just about every performance I see an elderly lady sitting across the aisle from a ten year child and it may be the first time either of them have seen a talent-filled live show. We have an awesome opportunity to both entertain and inspire those individuals and have them tell others about their experience and then come back. My fun is to win them over and show them what live theater is all about.”
Bednarczyk’s enthusiasm bodes well for the future of the State Theatre. Get your tickets now before the next show is sold out.
The State Theatre is located at 604 South Main Street, Culpeper, VA. Information on shows is available by calling 540.825.4611 or visiting http://www.culpepertheatre.org/
Schedule of upcoming events
Southside Johnny & the Asbury Jukes Rhythm and blues
Friday, July 12 at 8:00 pm
ROUTE 66: Finding Nat King Cole Bringing Nat King Cole to life
Friday, September 6 at 8:00 pm
Second City Comedy
Friday, September 20 at 8:00 pm
Blues Brothers Revue Jake & Elwood Blues come to life
Thursday, September 26 at 8:00 pm
Special Blues and Brews
Movie Celebration! The Blues Brothers
Saturday, September 28 at 7:00 pm. Movie with favorite ice cold micro-brewed beer
Dolly Parton’s IMAGINATION LIBRARY Improving children’s literacy
Saturday, October 5 at 2:00 pm
Charles Lindbergh: The lone Eagle One man show by veteran actor Steve Carroll
Saturday, October 12 at 8:00 pm
An Evening with Julie Fowlis Music of the Scottish Isles
Sunday, October 27 at 8:00 pm
David Payne in an Evening with CS Lewis
Friday, November 1 at 8:00 pm
The Chronicles of Narnia
Saturday, November 2 at 7:00 pm
Prince Caspian The Voyage of the Dawn Treader
Sunday, November 3 at 2:00 pm and 6:00 pm
Special Military Appreciation Day Film Presentation: Taking Chance
Sunday, November 10 at 2:00 pm. Free and open to all military personnel and families
A Special Veterans Day Honor Performance
Monday, November 11 at 8:00 pm
The Hot Club of San Francisco
Cinema Vivant – Special Gypsy Jazz Workshop
Saturday, November 16 2 pm Workshop. 8 pm Concert Performance
A Christmas Carol 45th Anniversary Production
Nebraska Theatre Caravan
Wednesday, December 18 at 7:30 pm
Published in the Summer 2013 edition of the Piedmont Business Journal.
With a little knowledge you can graduate magna cum tasty
Virginia is home to some 230 wineries; up from zero since the mid-60s and making the Old Dominion the fifth largest wine producing state in the Nation. In Fauquier County twenty-five tasting rooms grace our bucolic countryside.
If you haven’t already visited one—or only rarely—there are a few things that will enhance your experience when dropping by a local vineyard. Tasting wine is fun but there’s even more enjoyment awaiting you once you’re armed with a little wine savvy.
First, the infamous “wine snob” is a rare creature seldom seen in front of or behind a tasting bar. Intimidation is not something you are going to encounter at a Virginia winery. Owners and employees are eager to share their knowledge in a down-home style. And why? Because they are genuinely nice people, of course. But they also want you to come back. Having fun is a sure draw for follow-up visits.
So the first rule in wine tasting is to relax. This is not going to be a scary experience.
Second, there are two types of wine enjoyment: tasting and drinking. The former is devoted to understanding the nuances of the wine before you. The latter is to simply drink up. Both are acceptable ways to appreciate the nectar of the gods but combining the experiences will double your pleasure and double your fun.
Have you ever encountered a tasting note similar to this: Displaying flavors of clementine and candied grapefruit peel, with touches of dried apricot and pine needle. Hints of honey and smoke weave through the seamless texture and resonate on the long finish.
All that in a sip of wine? Come on, get serious.
One can be forgiven after reading many of today’s wine descriptions, if a giggle is followed by a low muttered, “Yeah, right”. It’s difficult to believe that anyone could actually taste the exotic things they purport to write about. It all seems a bit too frou-frou.
Most of us do not focus on the subtle flavors in food and drink. Our wine descriptors fall more along the lines of…crisp, fruity, sweet, spicy, dry, and hopefully, delicious. The art of tasting is largely a learned skill. And taking the time to try and understand the aroma and flavor of wine will deepen your appreciation of this ancient beverage. That’s the primary job of your winery host.
As you progress through a flight of wines, the aroma and palate descriptions in the wines will be described in the tasting notes and by the employee pouring the wine. See if you can pick up any of the sensorial elements being expressed. The moment you realize, by gosh, that does taste like black cherry will be a memorable one.
Here’s an easy four step method to help you reach tasting nirvana:
The beauty of wine begins with its colors. From the pale straw gold of a sauvignon blanc to the ruby hue of a cabernet franc. When you pour your first glass, take a moment to embrace the clarity and depth of color of the wine. Holding the glass against a light and letting it catch the various angles of natural and house lighting sets the stage for what you are about to further explore.
Swirl the glass to release its aromas. Place the glass under your nose and breathe deeply. Come on. You can stick your nose in deeper that that! Inhaling through you nose begins telling the wine story. Smell the taste. In fact, you might do this several times before you take your first sip. Build tension—it has its rewards.
Now comes the heart of the wine experience–your first sip. Take a few small sips and roll the wine around your mouth a bit. It may seem odd, but all those flavors you are about to enjoy are actually a result of your olfactory bulb. What? OK, your nose.
The olfactory bulb is located at the top your nose and actually sends signals to your brain about what you are tasting based on what you are actually smelling. Our palates only have four taste sensations: salt, sweet, sour and bitter. The apricot, lemon, pineapple, raspberry, cherry, mocha and sundry other tastes are simply aromas rising off your palate and passing through the olfactory bulb. The more you swirl the wine in your mouth the greater perception of flavors will emerge.
After tasting, swallowing the wine comes naturally. No instructions needed here. However, look for a sensation on your palate that experts call a “finish.” Wine comes with an aftershock, albeit a nice one. In fact, the longer a quality finish remains on your palate the better a wine is rated. World-class wines can linger on the tongue for up to a minute after they are swallowed.
A sip of Cabernet might start out as a bit sweet and tannic and then blossom into black cherry, chocolate and smoke as the aromas pass over our olfactory epithelium. Messages are sent to your brain to confirm the aromas as specific flavors. Taste and smell work together to create our perception of flavor.
On to the drinking
Once the tasting is over it’s time to purchase a glass or bottle—assuming you’ve found a wine you liked—and adjourn to the lounge or deck for some convivial conversation with family or friends. The “educational” portion of the winery visit is over and its time to simply enjoy your purchase. Within a few minutes you’ll begin to experience the power of wine as a social lubricant.
While the tasting segment of your winery visit has passed, take a moment here or there to re-experience what you discovered at the tasting bar. Hold your glass against the light to again embrace the color of the wine. Pause from time to time to smell and enjoy the aromatics. See if the honeysuckle or black cherry flavors are still on the palate from when you first tasted the wine. Simply put: extract as much value from your purchase as possible.
So what other advice might wine newbies benefit from as they work toward their wine tasting degree?
Take your time. Your understanding and appreciation of the wines you taste will reveal themselves more fully if you simply slow down. Plan on visiting no more than three wineries on a given day. The old chestnut, “haste makes waste” should become your three-word management plan for extracting maximum enjoyment from each winery visit.
Take at least three or four cellar tours during the early months of your tasting odyssey. You will gain greater insight into how wine is produced, enriching your understanding of both the simplicity–and complexity–of winemaking. By availing yourself of these free educational tours you will deepen your delight of the fruit of the vine.
Make written comments on tasting notes so as to learn which wineries you have enjoyed visiting. A simple file kept at home will refresh you on the wines you found most delightful. It can also lead to a compilation of your “Top Ten” favorite establishments.
Another fun way to better understand Virginia wines is to drink them along side a bottle of the same varietal, from another state or country. Sound wasteful or over indulgent? Not at all. For instance, at home, open a bottle of Virginia Chardonnay and a bottle of California Chardonnay and sip and compare them side by side. Then, use a rubber stopper and pump (available at any wine shop) to keep the remaining wines fresh for the next few days and enjoy the experience over again.
Comparing wines enhances your appreciation and knowledge of like varietals hailing from different wine producing regions.
Engage your fellow tasters during your tastings. Often wonderful exchanges unfold as complete strangers begin a conversation about their mutual love of wine. And don’t be surprised if your new found friends hail from distant states, or even overseas. Tasting room guests are drawn from points worldwide.
Ask questions freely. Your hosts will enjoy educating you in a variety of wine related subjects. And if they don’t know the answer to a query, it should send them scurrying to get the information.
Most winery employees enjoy being stumped with a wine question. It presents an opportunity to grow their knowledge and be ready when the same question inevitably crops up again. But you are not going to trip them up very often. These folks know their stuff.
Finally, if you find your love of all things wine increasing, consider seeking a job behind the tasting bar yourself. Many wineries are looking for part-time employees, especially on weekends and holidays when the crowds swell.
You are typically offered generous discounts on wine purchases and will be in the company of fellow enophiles. And the best part is the infectious camaraderie you will experience among both the guests and employees. It makes for a most enjoyable work environment.
Your local continuing wine education program is being sponsored daily by the wineries in your area. Enroll today and be the first on your block to receive a wine tasting diploma. Cheers!
Published in the 2013-2014 Guide to Fauquier.
On occasion, I write on subjects far afield from my typical interests. The following is a comprehensive look at the future of smaller housing as the economy shifts into recovery mode. The article was published in the spring edition of the Piedmont Business Journal.
Beginning in 2007, the U.S. experienced the greatest housing collapse since the Great Depression, posting a nationwide 30 percent drop in housing prices. After six years under that shadow, it now appears there is light at the end the tunnel – and it’s not a freight train.
Last month, the Fiserv Case-Shiller index projected home prices to grow 3.7 percent between the third quarter of this year and the third quarter of 2014. Further, the firm said the trends point to a return to a normal housing market over the next five years, with prices projected to grow at an annualized rate of 3.3 percent from the third quarter of 2012 to the third quarter of 2017. That’s bright news, given the wrenching six years of withered home sales nationally.
Assuming a sustained housing recovery continues, will the industry leap back into the construction of large homes? Or will the rebound signal a reset of the type and location of the next generation’s housing needs?
Preliminary signals are mixed, but buyers might want to adjust their view of what constitutes the American Dream. And builders need to be prepared to respond to an emerging market if demand for smaller homes on smaller lots, in fact, materializes.
Historically, small houses have been the norm in the Unites States. In 1950, the average home was 983 square feet. But as prosperity accelerated in the latter half of the 20th century, homes grew.
The Census Bureau reports the average U.S. home rose to 2,480 square feet in 2011, up from 2,392 square feet the previous year and seemed to defy the inherent economies of owing a smaller home in a tough economy.
One industry observer, Jack McCabe, CEO of Florida-based McCabe Research and Consulting, told Bloomberg last July that large home sales were rebounding. “It’s about opportunity, it’s about interest rates. And it’s about short memories,” he said.
A similar market reaction occurs when gas prices drop for an extended period; sales of larger vehicles begin to accelerate. Pain, indeed, has no memory.
What housing patterns are emerging in Prince William, Fauquier and Culpeper counties? And, as importantly, should local governments be developing policies that drive the recovering market toward smaller residential dwellings for the overall benefits of their residents?
Concerned Culpeper Citizens was formed in 2001 to assess county growth planning. CCC publishes its findings and opinions for public information and testifies before public boards and commissions.
Perry Cabot, director of operations for the organization, sees a changing mentality in home buyers. “Today’s fluctuating fuel costs, younger couples opting to live closer to work, boomerang children moving in with parents for extended periods and older parents opting to live with their children, are driving demand for different housing options,” he said.
“In some cases, these forces are changing the demand from larger homes to smaller ones and to condos, townhouses and multi-family construction in our region. Even a shift of 10 percent can affect tens of thousands of units. Distance, location and density are driving this new demand. But I would not yet call the movement a surge.”
His observations mirror the reports of other experts. The real estate research firm Trulia found that in 2010 the median “ideal home size” for Americans had declined to 2,100 square feet. More than a third of its survey respondents said their ideal preference was below 2,000 square feet.
Yet a sustained pattern of building homes of this size is not easily discernible in the Piedmont. Even a modest economic recovery in the years ahead could stall any significant shift to smaller housing.
Keller Williams real estate agent Brian Hagarty (Disclaimer: Brian is my son) agrees that buyers are downsizing, but that price is the No. 1 motivator. Older, smaller homes, even those in need of some renovations, are attracting buyers.
“It’s driven by economics,” he said. “I don’t see the market wanting smaller homes per se, but [buyers] do want to reduce mortgages and taxes. A secondary driver is the desire to shorten commuting time.
“The combined benefits of smaller mortgage payments, taxes and faster commutes are the motivators we are seeing a lot in Prince William County,” he said. “We’re hearing a lot of people say, ‘We don’t want to struggle with our payments.’”
Tom Campbell with Long & Foster in Fauquier County agrees. “People are downsizing for multiple reasons, including first-time buyers who do not want to mortgage their lifestyle for a large home,” Campbell said. “Buyers are foregoing formal living rooms and extra bedrooms when their salaries are better spent on more modest dwellings that offer a better lifestyle.”
It’s not just young home buyers. As the Baby Boom generation — people born between 1946 and 1964 — heads into its later years, there will be an avalanche of older Americans seeking smaller homes and alternatives to conventional assisted-living facilities .
The economic impact from the wave of retirees will put pressure on entitlement programs and health care, to be sure, but housing will also be affected. Consider that the first baby boomers reached retirement age in 2011. There are about 76 million adults in this cohort representing 29 percent of the U.S. population.
The dialogue on smaller homes began in earnest in 1997 with publication of “The Not So Big House” by Sarah Susanka. The book sold nearly half a million copies and is widely recognized as the essential treatise on home design emphasizing “build-better-not-bigger.” Susanka, an architect, believes today’s homes place far too much emphasis on square footage rather than lifestyle needs.
She wrote on making the kitchen the focal point of a home and creating the illusion of space through the creative use of storage, lighting and furniture arrangement. The objective of such design is to make a smaller living space a comfortable and inviting alternative to large and often under-utilized conventional homes.
Another important book, “Pocket Neighborhoods: Creating Small-Scale Community in a Large-Scale World,” written by Ross Chapin and published in 2011, highlights the move toward smaller homes gathered around common, park-like settings.
Buyers of such homes are often young families, empty-nesters and single homeowners — major population segments inclined to seek homes on a scale that matches their needs.
Such living arrangements foster closer social bonding among residents, their adherents say, enhancing a sense of community.
After decades of suburban sprawl, there is an emerging demographic which is ready to turn elsewhere for its housing needs. With natural resources shrinking, the green movement on the ascent and people feeling increasingly isolated from one another, the smaller-home movement offers a more rewarding, budget-conscious lifestyle enhanced by deeper connections with neighbors.
Jim Carson, president of Carson/Ashley, a land-use consulting and engineering firm located in Warrenton, agrees with the need for a new paradigm in housing. “Natural land-planning standards for the last 50 years have been that we segregate uses,” he said in the January 2013 issue of a local lifestyle magazine. “We live here, we work there, we shop over there, so we’re always in our cars and there’s no community. Mixed-use communities are walkable, live-work type of environments which is what most land planners these days are saying is ideal.”
Just as fine dining blossoms when an experienced chef is in the kitchen, so smaller housing becomes a reality when home builders are incentivized to build them. For builders, finding the profit in smaller structures has been the challenge. “The last two years have been as tough as I’ve seen it in home construction,” said Larry Aylor, a custom home builder in Culpeper.
Aylor’s 39-year career has included construction of very large homes, and he said that while he’s “been labeled as ‘he only does the big ones’, today I’m into remodeling, repairs, and whatever business I can get. I’ll even remodel your garage.”
From his perspective, building smaller homes is clearly profitable. There are many elements to making money in homes with shrunken floor space. One key is getting buyers qualified for a loan by reining in their desire for more living space.
“I do think the market is pushing smaller homes, but it’s all about affordability and price point,” Aylor said. “In Culpeper, the housing market is starting to clear of foreclosures, and it’s getting better every day.”
Retirees are a customer segment Aylor sees as holding great promise. “They are moving down from their 3,500-square-foot-plus homes and looking for little jewels that are one level, on smaller lots and easy to care for,” he said. “But I do not carry an inventory of building lots to always meet that need.”
Finding land is a challenge for small-home builders. Moreover, deed restrictions and covenants in existing subdivisions can prohibit smaller homes because of minimum square foot requirements.
Local governments’ role
Given the mixed demand for smaller housing, local governments play an important role in either fostering or discouraging the trend, particularly in view of the housing industry’s modest interest in building such units.
Kim Johnson, zoning administrator for Fauquier County, underscores builders’ general lack of interest, saying, “We haven’t seen developers coming in wanting to build smaller homes. Typically, it’s the individual property owner who is seeking a special exception, such as an auxiliary dwelling unit up to 800 square feet for an aging parent or in-law.”
With respect to pocket neighborhoods — homes fronting on a common area without street frontage — Johnson said county zoning does permit such dwellings when clustered on smaller sites in some planned residential districts. But there are still no recognizable pocket neighborhoods in Fauquier County.
Where an applicant wanting to build such a neighborhood runs into problems is with regulations that “require homes to have frontage on a public street,” Johnson said — a costly expense for builders considering such an option, and one that likely makes building a community of smaller homes economically unattractive, perhaps even economically unfeasible.
“We are editing our Transportation Design Manual and asking ourselves do we always need frontage on a public street?” Johnson noted when she was interviewed last year. Amending the current regulation might open the opportunity for builders to build smaller homes and still make sufficient profit to make the project attractive.
In summing up the slow pace of small housing projects in the county, Johnson said that “Part of the reason people move to Fauquier is the idea of owning a nice piece of land with a house. I know the smaller home movement is happening around the country, but I don’t know if it’s come to Fauquier County yet.
“But certain segments of our population would be well served if smaller homes were available,” she mused. “Young people who grew up here and who’d like to stay but can’t afford the bigger homes are a good example of one of those groups.”
Prince William Zoning Administrator Nick Evers said “Generally, I think there is an interest in smaller homes here. People are downsizing. I’m not sure what percentage overall. But homes are getting smaller and developers are looking to put as many homes as they can on a development parcel.”
Perhaps one reason for the interest is population density. While Prince William County is slightly smaller than Culpeper County and only about half as big as Fauquier, its population is nearly nine times that of Culpeper and seven times Fauquier’s population.
The shrinking availability of land close to work centers and arterial highways may be driving greater housing density in Prince William.
Concerning Pocket Neighborhoods, Evers said, “We have cluster development standards. We have what we call ‘pipestem lots’ that allow a builder to place homes off private drives, enabling builders to maximize the number of building sites in a given subdivision.”
However, Ray Utz, the county’s long-range division chief, cautions that any such development as a pocket neighborhood would have to meet zoning requirements. Those requirements often include the deal killer – minimum road frontage. “My perception is everyone needs to get a driveway to their house,” Utz said.
“Generally, there is some sort of vehicular access to the front of a residence. Prince William offers quite a bit of flexibility in allowing private road access to some, or in certain cases, all of the homes in a development. We usually encourage and support a range of housing types.”
From here to where?
In assessing the movement toward smaller housing in the tri-county area, a mixed picture emerges. While demand exists, it does not appear to have reached the critical mass that would drive builders to respond.
Until they can discern a sustained movement away from the traditional-size single-family home and townhouse, they are likely to pursue business as usual.
It can be argued that local government policy could be the strongest catalyst for such change, and that government should take the lead — especially to the benefit of those who are ill-equipped to buy or don’t need or want a traditional-sized home.
Additional benefits include housing that helps preserve open space and the natural beauty of a region, does not place undue demands on taxpayers for infrastructure, and enhances community and overall lifestyle. Increasingly, that includes people who cannot find affordable housing, such as middle-income families, individuals and retirees.
Except for the retired, these are people who often hold jobs in local essential services – trade, manufacturing and government — and are forced into long commutes.
While local government often has little control over many factors that affect housing cost and size, that does not mean it is powerless.
In setting local land-use and development regulations, specifically in the areas of land acquisition, site development and location, local planning commissions and boards of supervisors hold the key to change.
It’s not the purpose of this review to address in-depth actions local governing bodies might undertake. Nonetheless, there are some ideas on how local leaders could respond to the movement for smaller housing that needs its support and regulatory action.
• Comprehensive Plan. The comprehensive plan sets out the broad outlines of the community’s plans and goals governing land use. While comprehensive plans establish the broad policies and goals which guide the land development process, a community’s zoning and subdivision regulations provide the detailed means for achieving those goals.
• Zoning regulations. Zoning ordinances govern such matters as density — the number of housing units per acre of land — lot sizes, setbacks, frontage requirements, and the placement and mix of residential, commercial, and industrial uses.
Density standards in particular have been identified as having a direct relationship to land values. Land values, in turn, are a central component of housing costs.
According to a study by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the cost of raw land can range from 8 to 25 percent of the cost of a new housing unit, depending upon the local market.
Where density standards are unduly restrictive, land prices per housing unit are likely to be high.
Reducing land costs through increased density is generally the largest single factor in achieving smaller and more affordable homes.
• Subdivision Regulations. Subdivision regulations set standards for street widths and construction, sidewalks, parking, drainage and other site-development requirements.
Site planning and development represent major areas of potential cost savings for housing developers. These costs may make up 10 to 20 percent of the cost of a new single-family home.
A number of communities are reviewing the development standards in their subdivision ordinances to determine where they can be modified to enhance housing affordability.
Successful approaches to affordable housing require more efficient utilization of land than has often characterized American home-building practices in the past.
Many towns and cities are employing new approaches to encourage development of smaller housing, either by providing incentives to developers to include such housing in new developments, or by giving developers greater flexibility in design and site development, or a combination of both.
Other approaches seek to make more efficient use of existing housing resources by removing regulatory barriers or by encouraging the adaptive reuse of existing buildings.
Upzoning, or higher use application, is a basic and effective strategy for promoting rational house size and affordability.
It involves the selective rezoning of residential land to allow greater density, as measured by the number of housing units that can be placed on a parcel of land. Higher density can include both multi-family and single-family housing.
Municipalities that allow higher densities may also enact special design requirements to ensure that new higher-density developments are compatible with existing housing in the community.
A single-family home on a half-acre lot uses 12.5 times as much land per household as a garden apartment of 25 units per acre.
At the extreme, a steel-and-concrete high-rise of 80 units per acre holds 400 times as many households per acre as a five-acre lot development of single-family homes.
Many communities have developed programs that offer developers “density bonuses” in exchange for the inclusion of smaller units within a proposed residential project. A density bonus allows a developer to build more units within a project than would otherwise be permitted under normal density limits. Both zoning and subdivision regulations can be modified to allow density bonuses.
Density bonus programs must be designed on the basis of a thorough understanding of the real estate market to determine feasibility and to develop appropriate regulations. If current zoning allows enough density to satisfy current market demand, developers may have no interest in using a density bonus.
Additional strategies include, performance/impact zoning, planned unit development, cluster subdivisions, small-lot subdivisions, infill development, adaptive reuse, mixed-use development, office-housing linkage, impact fee exceptions and a host of other approaches.
Perhaps none other than the 14th-century Italian Renaissance polymath Leonardo da Vinci summed up the ultimate marker of smaller housing: ”Small rooms or dwellings discipline the mind, large ones weaken it.”
It will be interesting to see what size homes Americans will embrace as the economy strengthens over the next few years.
Not so fast
Not everyone is sold on the idea that smaller homes are the wave of the future.
Warrenton Long & Foster Realtor Charles Ebbets, who works closely with builders of larger homes in FauquierCounty, sees little indication the housing industry will scale back the size of units it intends to build as the economy picks up steam.
“There is pent-up demand for housing in the 2,500- to 3,500-square-foot range,” he said. “There is almost no inventory of these existing homes. The demand for housing this year — both old and new — will go crazy, but it will be for the conventional-sized single-family home that we’ve seen in the past.”
To underscore his point, Ebbets lamented his lack of progress in launching a development in Warrenton within walking distance of the Warrenton Aquatic and Recreation Facility (WARF) that would feature seventeen 2,000-square-foot homes for buyers over 55 years old.
His market research demonstrated the demand was strong, but he could not find a single builder who was interested in the project. “One of the reasons the builders cited was the lengthy time it takes to get a site plan approved by the county,” Ebbets said.
But builders and Realtors should do well this year, Ebbets predicts. “This year and next will be a slam dunk,” he said. “The housing industry is going to go crazy; prices will jump 25 percent to 35 percent over today’s prices. No spec houses have been built in the last three years. Demand will be great. The young married couple with an infant six years ago now has two growing children. They will be looking to move further out to a larger home, especially with the attractive interest rates available.”
The larger builders are still focused on the conventional size family home. The $325,000 to $400,000 homes are their bread and butter, Ebbets said. “What I don’t see is much interest in the McMansions with more than 4,500 square feet,” he said.
Last August, Toll Brothers, the No. 1 luxury home builder in the U.S., reported its highest revenue since the recession, sending its shares to a five-year high. In Prince William County, Toll Brothers Group President for Virginia John Elcano confirmed the market for larger homes in his Dominion Valley project is making a strong comeback.
“We think the American Dream is still the American Dream and buyers want large, luxury homes,” Elcano said. “Now that interest rates are at an all-time low, people can afford a lot more house. Around the Beltway, we are seeing prices growing 5 percent to 11 percent this year, and that creates equity sellers can use to move up.”
He cites Toll Brothers experience with its Villages Collection of homes that are 2,500 square feet. “When we first introduced that collection, they were smaller homes, but we found buyers wanted more space, so we made them larger.”
As a result, Elcano does not think there is a growing market for smaller homes and reinforces the premise that as the economy grows, the memory of hard times will fade.
“Buyers have been sitting on the sidelines waiting for the equity in their homes to rebound,” he said. “In December, we had one of our best months in years selling our estate homes that range in size from 4,000 square feet to 6,000 square feet. When people are starting their families, they want room; a bedroom for every child, and, hopefully, a bathroom for every one of their children. The market for large homes seems to have returned.”
Jim Epstein is chairman of his family’s investment firm based in D.C. and has been involved in a number of diverse ventures, including a project called Blue Ridge Produce that markets locally grown produce from artesinal farms. That venture, still being planned at the time, was featured in Piedmont Business Journal in the Winter 2011 issue.
In 1978, his father purchased 125 acres in northern Culpeper County known as Clevenger’s Corner. Epstein saw an opportunity to develop the property using “new urbanism,” design concepts that came to the fore in the 1980s and which promote mixed-use, pedestrian-friendly communities containing a range of housing and business options. “I made an effort to use those concepts at Clevenger’s Corner,” he said. “My efforts didn’t get very far. There were all kinds of issues. Then and now, people aren’t ready for something new and different.”
Last July, Epstein pulled his application for Clevenger’s Corner, saying he would return to the project in six months. As this was being written in January, the county had not heard from the applicant. It could well be he’s waiting for a stronger housing market to emerge in Culpeper County before proceeding. Epstein successfully developed BelmontBay in Woodbridge, a 325-acre community that will ultimately have 1,600 homes.
The town center is 80 acres of condos and businesses built by Epstein and embodying the principles of new urbanism. Other builders constructed the community’s remaining conventional single-family homes. “People love living there,” he said.
His project reinforces the idea there are successful alternatives to sprawling subdivisions with large homes where the automobile rules. “There is definitely a growing interest in smaller, more compact houses,” Epstein said.
In Prince William, long-range planning chief Ray Utz cited “two over two” housing as an example, perhaps, of a contrary signal for the housing market. These are four-story townhouses with two separate entrances. One of the residents would access his or her home by climbing two flights of stairs.
“While we have such homes in the county, some builders who thought it was a good product later found out the market had moved away from the concept,” Utz said. “Those builders came back asking for modifications to allow other types of housing.”
Last November, The Washington Post wrote about a high-tech cottage dubbed the “Granny Pod” and marketed by a Blacksburg company called MedCottage that could revolutionize the way Americans take care of mom and dad in the later stages of their lives. Several other companies sell similar “auxiliary dwelling units.”
The prefabricated mini-homes are placed on existing home sites by crane; utilities are connected directly to the primary residence. The Pods are designed with a kitchenette, bedroom and bathroom and monitor the inhabitant’s vital signs, filter contaminants from the air and permit communication with the main house.
The average cost of an assisted-living facility is about $45,000 a year, and full nursing-home care costs more than $83,000 annually; prefabricated Pod housing, ranging in size from 288 to 605 square feet and costing up to $125,000, including installation, is an attractive option to a traditional elder-care facility.
Three years ago, Virginia passed legislation requiring all localities to allow auxiliary dwelling units for relatives requiring temporary assistance. However, the units cannot remain in place after that family no longer needs the dwelling.
And that, some observers believe, kills any chance that such structures will make many inroads. It is, they say, simply too expensive to bring in the small structures, then take them out. If they could stay in for other family members, perhaps….
At the extreme end of small housing concepts is the tiny house. One firm marketing such building plans is the Tumbleweed Tiny House Company based in Santa Rosa, CA. It exemplifies the smallest of small homes that are available.
The firm sells design plans for homes ranging in size from 50 square feet – -that’s not a typo — up to 847 square feet. It does not offer turnkey finished dwellings, but rather a host of plans a construction firm or individual would use to build a house, typically for $20,000 to $50,000.
The smallest of the houses are crafted to look like traditional homes but Lilliputian in size and built on a trailer bed similar to a mobile home. They range in size up to 150 square feet. The plans are sold under its “House To Go” category.
The next level of homes is dubbed “Cottages” and offers floor plans up to 847 square feet. They are not mobile and a typical reaction on seeing such a home is, “How cute!” The exterior designs mimic classic home styles, including front porches.
Jay Shafer founded Tumbleweed in 2000 and has sold more than 1,500 sets of plans so don’t look for subdivisions of his tiny homes sprouting up anytime soon.
While these are radical living options for singles and adventuresome couples, such micro-housing offers relatively low-cost home ownership in lieu of renting.
A group of tiny home advocates calling themselves Boneyard Studios erected three tiny homes in an empty lot off an alley in Washington, D.C. late last year to demonstrate an urban affordable housing alternative.
“Although the diminutive homes are made of high-quality materials, they are priced for a flagging economy,” The Washington Post reported. “They sell for…less than the down payment on a two-bedroom condo in a trendy D.C. neighborhood.”
As with more traditional smaller homes, local government has a role to play if these housing options are going to get a foothold in the Piedmont.
Divide and conquer
Piedmont Business Journal interviewed Crissy and Daniel Southard of J&D Handyman Services for another article in this issue. More than handy, both Southards have Class A building licenses and do, indeed, build some homes from the ground up.
During our interview, the Southards noted, in passing, that McMansions are still popular in the Piedmont, though oftentimes for reasons that have changed substantially since their original construction.
“McMansions are holding their own because parents are now living with the kids,” Crissy Southard said. “Five, six bedrooms is not uncommon – people need them because so many more of these homes are housing multiple generations.”
Many of those families, likely, would consider making changes to the structures themselves to make living together more comfortable. Many, likely, would like to divide their McMansion, to duplex or even triplex the building. If so, they better be prepared to hoe a long, tough row.
In Fauquier, that would “typically require a special exception and the home needs to be on a larger site,” Zoning Administrator Kim Johnson said. The general consensus is that builders don’t want to get involved in such projects because at least some of them perceive it’s a lengthy process to get special exceptions approved in the county.
“Over the last five years, we have had two or three controversial applications that took a very long time,” Johnson said. “But, on average, they don’t take long at all. The majority of applications hit the mark within the 90-day process. It may be the perception that the process in lengthy, but the record doesn’t reflect it.”
In Prince William, Ray Utz, the county’s long-range division chief, also views duplexing as problematic.
“We don’t allow more than one dwelling unit per lot,” he said. “To turn a single-family home into a duplex, you would need to subdivide the property. You would have to be in a situation that allowed land subdividing and that would be unlikely. It would also involve creating multiple drain fields and other issues,” he said.
Another alternative which doesn’t seem to be moving forward in the PBJ readership counties has to do with allowing the construction of “backyard cottages” in already existing neighborhoods. “In many cities, growing populations are putting a stress on existing housing options,” apartment therapy.com noted in an article two years ago.
“Instead of building new condos and apartments, one creative solution is to increase the density of existing single-family neighborhoods by allowing ‘backyard cottages.’ These small dwelling units can be rented out for supplemental income or serve as a living space for extended family. (Some homeowners are even deciding to downsize to the cottage and rent out the primary home).
“Cities like Seattle have recently changed their zoning code to allow these detached accessory dwelling units (nicknamed “DADU’s”) and local architects and homeowners have been eager to explore the possibilities.
“In addition to the their small size and urban settings,” the article pointed out, “many of these examples also boast sustainable features like rainwater catchment, super insulation and the use of simple and durable materials.”
It is interesting to note that some of the most fashionable streets in Warrenton and Culpeper feature large, older homes, many of which have “backyard cottages” that do nothing if not increase the appeal of the property.
“We really have extremely liberal accessory dwelling unit [regulations],” Fauquier Zoning Administrator Kim Johnson told Piedmont Business Journal last year, though liberal is in the eyes of the beholder.
“Almost anybody can put a second house, for family members, or even an apartment, a small apartment up to 600 square feet, or even a larger apartment in some cases, on their property,” she said, “if they have the room for it and they can meet setbacks and can get the sewer and water and all those issues resolved.”
There are opportunities, she noted. There are also a lot of restrictions.
Build an efficiency apartment in your home, for instance, and “you can have only two people living in it, and it can only be so big, and, in the case of an efficiency apartment that’s open to anybody, not just family, it has to be incorporated above a garage or other existing building, or it could be in a basement or be part of the house,” Johnson said.A free-standing backyard cottage must be occupied by a family member.
And if that family member should die or move away? “The planning commission is looking at that,” Johnson said.
As winter draws to a close its farewell to a loving friend
Gazing into her magical depths transfixes me. Night after cold and dreary night she comforts me. Her warmth and charm infuse our living room with a presence. She never speaks accept to murmur assurances that peace prevails. And now, she begins to fade as the days grow longer and the sun gains strength.
Until we meet again next fall, I will soon bid farewell to my beloved wood burning fireplace.
Fire. Perhaps only the sound of a gurgling creek holds such hypnotic power over man. The fossil record dates fire to 470 million years ago; well before man appeared on the planet. Archaeological evidence points to man’s mastery over fire some 400,000 years ago. Capturing and controlling fire enabled man to assume his position as the dominate force among all living things.
Through the centuries fire embedded itself in our psyche. Our Stone Age ancestors’ greatest fear was the loss of its fire source. Earliest man captured a flickering flame thrown down by a bolt of lighting. Cradling and lovingly protecting this miracle from the heavens was central to his survival. The warmth and protection afforded by the flame is seemingly hard wired into our DNA.
But today, man’s proximity to fire is far removed. Fossil fuels provide most of the energy needed to drive the modern world. Direct connection to fire is remote for most of us; more often associated with pollution and burning buildings than comfort.
And yet the lure remains. As I sit in my living room and watch my newly lit wood fire gain strength, it generates a feeling of security and peace. I have often reflected that fire is a real presence, as if an old friend were joining our company and comforting us with her warmth and ever changing landscape of hot coals and burning logs. I cast back 400,000 years and understand the powerful link between the dependence on light and heat to man’s existence in a harsh world.
When we first purchased our home twelve years ago, we had a faux gas burning fireplace installed. It bore a close resemblance to the real thing but was a cold and indifferent companion. Hour after hour it burned with the boring sameness of a rotating drum-like photograph. All glitz but no character. Monotonous.
Fortunately, six years ago we discovered an out of work master bricklayer who offered to build the real deal at an attractive price. It was designed to accept a wood burning insert stove with a variable speed blower fan, maximizing the heat produced to reduce our propane furnace fuel costs.
Securing a local wood cutter to keep us supplied with split wood was later augmented by white oak slab wood delivered from a nearby mill. It made the entire unit a cost saving proposition; not dramatic, but nonetheless cheaper that our previous heating costs.
So it is with mixed feelings I embrace the coming spring. The winter has been long and dreary and the brown-drab forests and fields a one dimensional landscape. Spring with its lush greens, yellows and purples will soon be upon us.
But my old flame will steal away with the coming warmth and vivid colors.
Till next fall, adieu.
Vintner earned hundreds of medals during tenure
As 2012 came to a close, so did Andy Reagan’s seven year stint at Jefferson Vineyards in Charlottesville. Last year’s wines are still in barrel and tank but Reagan will not be bottling them.
“Let’s say I had a difference of opinion with the owners coupled with a desire to build my own brand. After twenty years in the industry I’m looking forward to creating my own vision of Virginia wine,” says Reagan.
The man will have a challenge to equal and exceed the wines he produced at the historic site on the outskirts of C’ville. Italian winemaker and industrialist Fillipo Mazzei planted grapes on the winery’s grounds in 1774, with the help of Thomas Jefferson who invested in the new venture.
Last year Wine Spectator observed, “Jefferson winery produces 12 wines from 25 acres and has one of the region’s most consistent track records.” Similar accolades poured in from around the state and nation since Reagan took control of the cellar in 2005.
During his time at Jefferson, Reagan’s emphasis on quality wine resulted in more than a doubling of production and an increase in net profits of 250%. He credits his multiple roles as General Manager, vineyard manager and winemaker to his success.
Reagan is now looking for both a site and financing to open his own winery which will be called AJUDE Wine Company. Jude is Reagan’s middle name.
“To succeed in this business you need to produce quality wine at a great location. I intend to stay in the Charlottesville region because it’s home to some top wineries and has the best winegrowing land in the state. Being near two or more quality establishments is key to a successful venture,” he emphasizes.
Reagan underscores his success will be achieved by starting small and performing most of the work himself. Major investments and large annual case production can often lead to over supply and the inability to sell a warehouse full of wine. Reagan’s first year production will be 500 cases with an ultimate goal of 2,000 cases annually, numbers that are clearly in the boutique winery category.
The winemaker has written a business plan and identified possible properties to purchase but securing financing is his primary goal; not an easy task in a tough economy. While his preference is to obtain a full loan for the venture, he is also open to investors bankrolling his dream. “I’ll talk with anyone interested in producing limited quantities of very high end wines,” he says.
His intent is to pursue varietals that he built his reputation on: Chardonnay, Viognier, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc, Syrah and Petit Verdot.
Not only has Jefferson Vineyards recently lost its winemaker but Rappahannock Cellars, Boxwood, Chrysalis, and Ingleside vintners have also moved on for various reasons. The early months of winter are prime time for a change of winemakers. The past vintage’s wines are sleeping safely in the cellar and its months before the next harvest will commence.
Reagan asks any readers who may have an interest in becoming part of his vision, or know someone who is, to contact this writer at Hagarty-on-wine.com.
Moon shining brightly on legal & illegal distilling
In 2005, there were some 50 craft distilleries in the US. Today, 250 are in operation and ten years hence it’s projected there will be over 1,000 nationwide.
Craft distilleries generally produce less than 100,000 gallons a year; often much less. By comparison, the handful of major distilleries can distill 100,000 gallons a day. The $63 billion distilled spirits industry is dominated by the major producers. Small distilleries generate less than 1 percent of sales.
On the amateur side, some industry observers believe there are over 50,000 home nano-distillers who are operating without a license; not a risk-free endeavor for scoring a few bottles of liquor considering the severe penalties for firing up an unregistered still.
Here in Virginia, there are seventeen holders of distilling licenses, eleven of which are operating craft distilleries with more on the way. In 2012 alone, the Virginia Alcoholic Beverage Control issued 12 new distillery licenses; eleven of them for manufacturers seeking to produce less than 5,000 gallons.
So what’s driving the resurgence in booze?
The demand for hand-crafted, artisanal beverages and the creative urge to produce such libations, coupled with the reduction of licensing fees to operate smaller distilleries. The cost of obtaining a legal license in Virginia is modest; $450 for producing less than 5,000 gallons annually.
The days of moonshining in mountain hideaways may be fading just as urban hobbyists and professional distillers are gaining traction in the world of upscale liquid refreshments.
In the beginning
The distillation of beer and wine dates to the 8th century when a Muslim alchemist named Geber developed the alembic still and observed that heated wine from the vessel released a flammable vapor that he described as “of little use, but of great importance to science.” Little did he know of its future employment as a libation.
Then again, his religion would ultimately forbid the consumption of alcohol even if he had been aware of its “medicinal” qualities. But mankind soon learned of alcohol’s use as an inebriate. Less than a century later, the poet Abu Nuwas observed a wine that “has the color of rain-water but is as hot inside the ribs as a burning firebrand.”
Moonshine had arrived. And with it a host of descriptive monikers such as white lighting, ruckus juice, hillbilly pop, panther’s breath, jump steady, mule kick and more.
The process of distillation migrated to America when the Scotch-Irish began arriving around 1717, driven by their thirst for freedom, land ownership, and the making and drinking of whiskey.
Distilling also was an economic necessity, enabling a farmer to convert any surplus corn crop into a lighter weight liquid easily deliverable to market via mule trains. Twenty-four bushels of corn could be converted into two eight-gallon kegs of whiskey. Whiskey farming enabled the backwoods men to buy nails, sugar, coffee and other much needed necessities.
These hardy pioneers peacefully distilled until 1791 when the Federal government implemented an excise tax on whiskey. The frontiersmen wrath erupted in the form of the Whiskey Rebellion as 5,000 hot-tempered home distillers descended on Pittsburgh to torch the town. The city fathers dissuaded the violence with wagon loads of whiskey, dried venison, bear meat, hams and poultry. In 1794, George Washington in command of 13,000 troops persuaded the rebels to forgo their cause without any loss of life.
With implementation of the excise tax, thousands of men and their families began migrating deeper into the mountainous regions of Virginia, the Carolinas, Kentucky and Georgia to escape the prying eyes of the revenue men. The stereotypical legend of the mountain moonshiner was born.
On the homefront
The growth of professional distilling can be understood in the context of creating a business and lifestyle centered on the production of an artisanal product. But why would home distillers risk the penalties of the law to make hard alcohol?
It’s useful to consider the background of making alcoholic drinks hearthside. When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, the law permitted the making of up to 200 gallons of wine per household. Home winemaking has a long and peaceful track record.
Home brewing was not legalized until 1979. Since the law’s passage, the hobby has exploded. Today, there’s an estimated one million beer lovers who brew at least once a year. The essence of beer making is the mashing of grain, brewing the wort and fermenting the liquid into beer. Forty years ago, there were only a small number of craft breweries. As home brewers learned the art, it was inevitable some of them would consider doing it professionally.
As a result, there are currently 2,200 craft breweries in the US. The legalization of the hobby gave birth to a new industry. A similar situation is unfolding as home and craft brewers pursue both illegal and legal distilling; the important difference is individually the former is typically producing five gallons or less and the latter 3,000 gallons or more.
An integral part of brewing is mashing—steeping crushed grain in hot water to release fermentable sugars. It’s also a necessary process in distilling. To a degree, the home—and more importantly the craft brewery phenomenon—is driving an increase in hard alcohol production.
Nano-distillers are able to fly under the radar because selling their product is not in their “business plan”. Home distillers often eschew the moonshiner tag, largely considering it an insult. Their only goal is to enjoy crafting a beverage in extremely limited qualities, often as few as 3 or 4 bottles at a time.
As one home distiller of wine explained, “I purchased a small stove top distiller in Portugal 15 years ago. Since then, I’ve distilled wine into brandy more than fifty times and aged it in a 5 liter oak cask. As it’s consumed, I distill a new batch. And truthfully, while my brandy is good I can buy higher quality stuff. The fun is in the doing.”
The fun may also be in the romance of breaking the law, if only on a modest scale.
While home distillation of a bottle of alcohol seems innocent enough, both federal law and the Virginia ABC takes a decidedly different view. In response to an inquiry to the ABC, their response read:
Producing ANY amount of a distilled spirit (even a single bottle for one’s own consumption) is a Class 6 felony with a penalty of 1-5 years imprisonment or jail up to 12 months and up to a $2500 fine, either or both. Simply possessing a still or distilling apparatus without a license from the ABC is a Class 1 misdemeanor, if convicted.
The penalties are clear so caution is advised. But in reality, budgetary constraints and the priority on more serious offenses likely keeps the ABC focused on more pressing concerns. It reports it has not received complaints involving nano-distilling but if made aware of such a violation it would investigate and determine if prosecution was necessary.
The ABC also posits that illegal alcohol manufacturing is a public safety issue. One can’t quibble with that view given the tales of rotgut whiskey poisoning consumers. On the production side, exploding stills can have lethal consequences.
However, New Zealand legalized home distilling in 1996 and research indicates minimal negative impact from the law’s passage. On the positive side, sales of legal liquor actually rose, apparently due in part to the hobbyists taking a greater interest in commercial distilling versus their amateur endeavors.
As for the traditional moonshine trade in Virginia, in 1941, the ABC Division of Enforcement seized an all-time high of 1,771 illegal stills. In 2011, a collaborative four-day air and ground operation between the ABC and Virginia State Police resulted in the discovery and destruction of just 25 inactive but operational stills in Franklin, Pittsylvania and Carroll counties. Clearly things have settled down since the heyday of the moonshiners.
Franklin County is legendary for its moonshining industry. The 2012 movie Lawless was based on a book called The Wettest County in the World and takes place in Franklin. The Discovery Channel reality show Moonshiners is also filmed somewhere in the region. The ABC states no booze is actually being made during the show’s filming and if it was attempted, they would take action to shut it down.
Surfing the internet is a quick way to get the pulse on any endeavor. Google “moonshine” and you’ll get over 16 million results. Sites will include equipment sales, recipes, books, videos and yes, even sources for purchasing legal shine. Anyone tempted to engage in the pursuit will have no trouble finding out how to do so.
What you won’t find are sites selling illegal liquor. Commercial moonshining may be fading but the elusive practioners are not resorting to marketing to boost sales. They don’t have to.
Since Prohibition, moonshine has declined in quality in pursuit of the fast buck. Grain is seldom used to create the potions. Sugar and water are often the majority ingredients employed and result in an inferior drink frequently sold to suppliers of “nip houses”. These establishments are located in poorer neighborhoods where patrons can buy a nip for a dollar or two.
Old Dominion shines
Virginia is home to eleven distilleries; six of which are located in the Virginia Piedmont.
Critics’ reviews of the libations have generally been positive. One assessment of Wasmund’s Single Malt Whiskey reads: Very complex fruit, smoke and barley notes. Imagine a young Islay whisky with apple, cherry and hardwood smoke. Finish is warm and bracing.
Or, a review of the Catoctin Creek Distilling Company enthused: The result is a collection of high quality, handcrafted, small-batch spirits, including the poplar Rye, a four-month aged 100 percent rye whiskey.
Acclaim will accelerate as more Virginia distilleries open their doors and its distillers’ craftsmanship grows. For as Mark Twain said, “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”
For additional information on the state’s distilleries, visit these establishments online:
1. A Smith Bowman Distillery
2. Catoctin Creek Distilling Company
3. Chesapeake Bay Distillery
Virginia Beach, VA
4. Cirrus Vodka
5. Copper Fox Distillery
6. George Washington’s Distillery
7. Great Dismal Distillery
8. Laird & Company
9. Reservior Distillery
11. The Virginia Distillery
As time moves on so does one’s outlook
Three years ago, I was asked by the editor of my local paper to pen a monthly article on wine. She knew of my involvement in the Virginia wine industry and thought a lifestyle column on the subject would be of interest to her readers. I had never written commercially and embraced the offer; today, I have written for numerous state newspapers and magazines.
Almost simultaneous to my first columns, a friend suggested I create a website—which he offered to build—to archive my work and share with a larger audience. To date, I have posted 151 stories, short and long, focused mostly on wine.
But a feeling began emerging as I approached my thirty-six month of blogging. I began to run out of steam. I found it difficult to plow ground I had covered before. Yes, new Virginia wineries were opening almost every week and interesting owners and winemakers still made for fertile editorial ground.
Subject matter was not the issue. Ebbing passion was.
As I would hover over my keyboard, my mind would increasingly drift to other subject matter. Here and there I began to contribute articles for publication unrelated to wine. I knew it was time to evolve. This post launches that shift.
One subject I found intriguing was homebrewing. In 1979, it became legal to brew beer at home (legal home winemaking dates to the repeal of Prohibition in 1933.) Craft beer shares many of the same components of boutique wines. The variety is endless; and the aromas, tastes and food pairing possibilities offer enjoyment similar to wine.
In the wine industry, a common refrain heard at harvest time is, “It takes a lot of beer to make great wine,”referring to the beverage of choice for many hard working cellar employees. It is estimated there are one million homebrewers in the US today. I’ve written on the evolution of craft brewing.
But beer is just one of many interests. I am not shifting from wine to a beer centric theme. I will explore the people, places and events of the Old Dominion and most subject matter—except politics—will be fair game. And yes, I will continue to write on wine whenever an interesting story attracts me.
For those who have followed my writing, I thank you and ask that you continue to drop by from time to time to see what’s on my mind. To all readers, I suggest if there is a story that you believe has merit, let me know.
A blank Word document now sits before me. I can’t wait to get started.
Owner of Vinosity wine shop succeeds in tough economy
Some of the best business advice Kim Kelly ever received was also a compliment.
She was taking a wine tasting course in Georgetown when a fellow student suggested she work for the wine distribution firm where he was employed. He told her she had a good palate, “You should really consider applying for a job. I think you’d be great.”
“I had never done direct sales before and didn’t consider myself a wine expert. But the firm I was working for was going out of business so I said, ‘what the heck,’ and applied for the job. They hired me,” Kelly says. The new job turned out to be the springboard to a great career.
Today, Kelly is the proprietor of Vinosity, a popular wine shop in Culpeper and living in the Virginia Piedmont.
In 1990, Kelly worked for AARP in DC in its membership development office. A fellow worker decided to start her own firm focused on selling discounted services to women. She asked Kelly to join her. As with many startup firms, success was elusive and the underfunded enterprise eventually went out of business. But Kelly says, “It was a great experience because I was part of a new business and got in on the ground floor. I learned a lot.
“Making sure you’re setting realistic expectations and goals and managing the business is key. The company burned through a lot of money not realizing how quickly it goes. It gave me a good understanding of what it takes to make a business go.”
In 2000, building on what she learned in both direct marketing and the failed startup, she accepted the wine job offer and applied her palate skills and business acumen to becoming a successful wine sales rep. For eight years she was employed by a small distribution firm in Northern Virginia. The company’s portfolio included about 300 wines from boutique producers around the world; by comparison most major wine distribution firms have a “book” of 3,000 to 5,000 producers.
Her accounts were restaurants and wine shops. But she was selling high quality esoteric wines that most of her clients had never heard of. “I learned I had to be prepared. I became knowledgeable about my producers so I could tell their story. It was exciting but incredibly more challenging to convince someone to buy wine that they had never heard of and knew nothing about.
“I also researched my clients businesses. Doing your homework and being prepared are critical. It’s how you build respect and sales in this business,” Kelly emphasizes.
Part of her research involved an analysis of each account’s wine inventory, looking for opportunities to place her distinct wines where they would offer greater depth to an account’s portfolio.
“Overall I think consistency was the critical component of my success. I always arrived at appointments on time. I did my homework, researching both my wines and my customer’s needs. I knew each of my shops and restaurants business profile. I knew the palates of the managers and owners and what type of wines to offer them. I really was looking to see where the holes were and offering unique selections to fill the gap. It was fun and rewarding and led to my next career move,” says Kelly.
In 2005, Kelly and her husband moved to Madison,Virginia. The couple had been renting a house near White Oak Canyon for weekend getaways. “We both loved the country and were looking for a way to make a permanent move to a rural area. The traffic and congestion in Northern Virginia can wear you down. My husband telecommutes so we began thinking about relocating,” she says.
When the lease on their mountain hideaway was not renewed, it set the stage for the purchase of their home in Madison. Kelly quit her job in wine distribution and for six months acted as general contractor for their home’s renovation and expansion. “At first, I was ecstatic at not having to work. But after the house restoration was done I wanted to go back to work,” she recalls.
Serendipitously, her former employer asked in she could again cover The Inn at Little Washington. “The Inn was an important client and they had been unable to find a wine rep to cover it. I agreed to do it and to also build a customer base in the Culpeper to Charlottesville area. Within three years I was servicing some 30 new accounts. But the job involved a lot of driving. I was ready to move on again,” she says smiling.
In 2008, the former Culpeper wine shop Chateau du Reaux came up for sale. The owner was retiring and the small shop offered an opportunity for Kelly to transition to wine store owner. “The shop was perfect for me. It was small enough for me to get my hands around the inventory and located at an ideal location on Davis Street. We opened in the middle of the recession and I threw myself into building the business,” she says.
And build it she did. Within three years she had outgrown the small shop and relocated to larger quarters diagonally across the street on Davis Street. The doors of Vinosity opened in November, 2011. The business has grown 15% annually since 2008 through one of the most intractable recessions in recent memory.
“All of my previous business experience paid off when I opened Vinosity. I had learned how to build inventory—don’t go crazy—and how to keep your funds in control,” she says. Kelly also knew what to provide customers. Today, the wine shop offers more than 500 different selections, almost twice her original inventory. Some 200 of her offerings are priced at $15 or less.
The shop also features nearly 100 beer selections, a host of artisanal cheeses sliced to order, and a humidor of hand rolled cigars. Wine tastings are held twice a week on Fridays and Saturdays.
“I am very proud of what I’ve accomplished and super thrilled with the growth we’ve experienced. But the best part has been getting to know the community. It’s been an integral part of our success. Our core customers are local and are our biggest cheerleaders. Getting to know them and their palates and making wine recommendations has really been fun,” says Kelly.
Community: Kelly is a member of the Board of Directors of Culpeper Renaissance Inc. CRI promotes Culpeper’s downtown Virginia Main Street Program. She also serves as co-chair for Taste of Culpeper, an annual wine, food and crafts festival held every October.
Insider Information:“My advice to women in business is the same as for men. Know your customers. Be consistent. Be reliable. Do your research. Work hard. The basics are really the key to success. Learn what your customers want and then provide it.
“When customers come to trust you and your knowledge success will follow.”
Published in the Fall 2012 edition of the Piedmont Business Journal.
Early reports point to fruitful vintage
On August 25, I received an email from my wine juice supplier in Charlottesville: viognier and chard to you next week.
That was my cue to convert my basement family room into a fermentation farm. It was time to start making wine again.
Late August is a bit ahead of previous white harvests but there’s been a trend in the recent past for early ripening fruit in the Old Dominion. This is especially true this year given the sweltering July heat.
Word from winemakers around the state echo my experience. Doug Fabbioli, owner of Fabbioli Cellars in Loudoun County, says, “Things are early and moving along well. Chard came in from Charlottesville two weeks ago; Viognier is coming in as we speak.
“I see Merlot coming off next week if the moisture from Isaac does not mess us up too much.” The tropical storm dumped much needed rain in the Midwest but generally avoided Virginia. Doug’s Merlot must be pleased.
Fabbiolo also opines that, “I am hoping to get some separation between varieties so we can press one grape off the skins without holding up harvest on the next grapes going into the fermenter.” Simultaneous ripening of multiple varietals can be a headache for winemakers.
Too much fruit coming in too fast with too little capacity makes for a cranky vintner; not to mention the endless hours of physical labor spent on the crush pad. Harvest is the most demanding time of the year for winery workers and a blitzkrieg harvest is hyper-exhausting.
Rick Tagg, winemaker at Barrel Oak Winery in Fauquier County, says, “I am excited about our Chardonnay; the fruit is clean and I anticipate a nice yield—four to five tons. This is the most uncertain time of the year when all the hard work we do to grow great wine comes to fruition. We need a little more time to get the grapes in while they are not soaking wet.”
Heavy rains in 2011 reduced the quality of the red harvest. Too much water swells the berries reducing sugar levels and creating opportunities for black rot and other unwelcome fungi.
Tagg goes on to say, “Things always look great this time of year. Let’s all hope they continue to look good for the next two months. It helps if I don’t check the weather forecast every 15 minutes.”
As for Hagarty Cellars, my email alert to pickup both Viognier and Chardonnay was a bit premature. The Viognier did come in and was beautiful at 23 Brix—or 23 percent sugar level—and decent pH and acidity. I am hopeful I can duplicate my 2011 Viognier. It was one of the best renditions of that grape I have created in the past eight years.
Conversely, the Chardonnay harvest did not materialize. An unusual dump of six inches of rain unrelated to Isaac slowed the maturing fruit. But today, I received word it has arrived at the winery. I will be in C’ville tomorrow morning with four empty pails in tow.
Meanwhile, my Viognier is bubbling along nicely. The five six-gallon pails are fermenting slowly to help retain aromatics and palate flavors. I keep the nascent wine at about sixty degrees by immersing each pail in an insulated tub of cold water. Ice and blocks of Blue Ice motors my refrigeration units. The big boys use glycol jacketed stainless steel tanks to achieve even cooler fermentation temperatures.
This vintage I will trim back production given my bumper crop of fruit last year. I will produce about 300 bottles of white and a somewhat lesser amount of reds for a total of 45 cases of wine. I will pick up the slack in wine production by continuing to pursue my new hobby of home brewing.
Do I have a problem or what?
Statute likely to be challenged
On July 12, the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors passed a controversial ordinance regulating the hours of operation and the type and number of events that can be held at the county’s 26 wineries. The public hearing saw 53 people speak in support or opposition to the proposed law. It takes effect January 1, 2013, assuming there are no challenges.
But that might be a bad assumption.
It seems many of the proponents and adversaries of the law aren’t happy with the legislation. The chances it will be reconsidered by the county either voluntarily or by law suit appear to be good.
Three players with strong interest in the ordinance shared their views on the issue.
Jim Law Law is winemaker and owner of Linden Vineyards and one of the most respected vintners on the East Coast. His support for the ordinance runs counter to most of the other county wineries. Moreover, his vocal endorsement of the legislation at the final hearing strongly disappointed his fellow winery owners who felt his record was clear and speaking publicly was unnecessary and harmful to the industry.
His take on the reaction is philosophical. “I’ve not really heard much since the hearing. I’m not plugged into the blog thing. People tell me some things but I’m just mostly out in the vineyard and don’t follow the issue. This is the fourth time I’ve spoken at the hearings so my position was nothing new to those who know where I stand.
“Many of my neighbors and concerned citizens tell me Linden is an ideal winery. When I hear the ordinance is going to put wineries out of business, I think it’s ridiculous. Some people say I held such events in my early years and don’t appreciate where the newer wineries are coming from. It’s true. I did hold a few events in the early nineties but soon stopped it.
“One time I had a jazz band performing in my wine cellar when they started playing Jimi Hendrix. I knew then that events would change the nature of my winery and I mostly stopped them. I did some after that but they were related to wine education. I even wrote an article on my position several years ago.
“I think the ordinance is good zoning and the Board is being unfairly bashed. The beauty of this countryside is attributed to good zoning. We don’t have houses scattered everywhere and businesses located helter-skelter. The law takes a very thoughtful approach and the supervisors really took their time in passing it. They probably dragged it out more than they should have,” Law states.
John Richardson practices law in DC and owns a 100-plus acre cattle farm in Happy Valley near Delaplane. He has followed the winery issue for several years. He underscores that he speaks as an individual but many of his views mirror those of the 400 or so citizens who supported the ordinance.
“I’m a wine drinker, as are many of my neighbors, and we support the industry. Some wineries are attractive and others are event centers. The essential business seems to be toward event centers rather than a vineyard or winery.
“Oasis was probably the catalyst for our efforts. Most people did not want that type of winery replicated. The county has an historic and environmentally protected heritage. Many people sympathized with our view, including the Piedmont Environmental Council and the Citizens for Fauquier County.
“Our concerns are noise, night lights, air pollution, water pollution and possibly unsafe buildings that do not have to pass inspection as part of a farm winery law. One lady at the hearing described how she won’t let her children play in her front yard because it’s perfectly obvious drivers are impaired as they pass her home after visiting wineries.
“But when the draft ordinance first hit the street last year, we knew it wasn’t harmless. If you give to one group, you take from another. Many of us don’t like the ordinance but its better than none at all. I think it needs to be revisited because it’s not a law than floats all boats.
“I would like see more flexibility in the ordinance. I would take a completely different approach. All the wineries are different; all neighborhood situations are different. I much prefer an ordinance that recognizes those differences and encourages cooperation rather than conflict.
“My preferred approach is to give the wineries the authority the state gave them but anything else would need a special dispensation from the county. I would have the wineries go their neighbors and see if they could reach accommodation then go to the county and say we all agree with this. The county would then say, OK you’re blest, go forward and do it that way.
“Nobody likes the ordinance. I think it’s a bad ordinance. It’s incumbent for everyone to come up with an alternative,” says Richardson.
Barrel Oak Winery
Brian and Sharon Roeder are owners of Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane, or BOW, emblematic of the dog friendly atmosphere in the tasting room. BOW has met with considerable success since opening four years ago. It also may experience the harshest impact under the new law.
“If this new ordinance was in effect when we first opened and we received no administrative permits or special exceptions, it would have reduced our income by $1.8 million during that period,” says Brian Roeder.
“Business hours are a core issue for Barrel Oak. We are open till 9 PM on Friday’s during the winter months and 9 PM on Fridays and Saturdays in the spring, summer and fall. Next year, based on the new hourly restrictions our revenue predictions—after allowing for full special exceptions and administrative allowances—it will cost the winery $411,000 in revenue. And that doesn’t include lost revenue from our food carts and arts and crafts.
“We have operated from day one without one complaint from anyone. I’ve reviewed the Sheriff’s police report for the last two years. We searched the data base for the word ‘winery.’ Of all of the wineries in the county, there has been only one instance of where the word winery and DUI show up together. One.
“We are not talking about neighbors approaching wineries with complaints. We’re talking about ‘concerned citizens’ who are not necessarily neighbors of the wineries.
“I think it was a mistake on the part of the wineries as much as the Board of Supervisors. The Board became convinced the wineries were going to sue so they decided to throw everything and the kitchen sink into the ordinance and let the courts sort it all out. That assumes the small family winery community can afford to foot the bill. This is highly destructive.
“It places the burden on the wineries to prove the ordinance is illegal and we don’t have the money. It’s functionally designed to force wineries out of business. The county has defined every single marketing activity of our businesses as an event. If you do anything other than tastings at your bar, it’s an event according to the ordinance.
“BOW will be forced to sue the county to protect our legal rights. I will file a suit because I am required by law to challenge it within thirty days of passage. But it will not be ‘served”, which means we will continue to work with the county. I believe another suit will be filed by the Wine Council, but can’t say for certain.
“I also believe the Governor’s office will get involved based on the state’s interest in the matter.
“I seek a re-visitation of the ordinance that takes into account the enormous financial impact upon wineries. The law requires that the economic impact be taken into consideration. That’s never been done. They also need to show the impact on health, safety and welfare and that’s never been done.
“Our winery encompasses 270 acres and we have the support of our neighbors. I am certain there will be modifications or elimination of this ordinance as it is written. It is so illegal it will not be able to stand.
“Finally, I don’t fault the Supervisors directly on this group effort. I don’t blame them. They are all good people trying to do the right thing. We need to differentiate between the actual impact and the implied impact of the new law,” says Roeder.
Passions run strong on all sides of the issue and it appears certain the ordinance will be given further scrutiny in the months ahead.
Let’s hope the adage, “The best wine makes the best vinegar,” doesn’t hold true for Fauquier County wineries.
Published in the Autumn 2012 edition of The Piedmont Virginian.