Archive for August, 2010


A Chat With Brian Roeder

Posted on Aug 26 2010 | By

Owner of Barrel Oak Winery Shares Secrets to His Success

Barrel Oak Winery

Brian and Sharon Roeder opened the doors to their Barrel Oak Winery—BOW—in Delaplane, VA in the spring of 2008. Since then, 120,000 guests have sipped, picnicked and chatted away in their tasting room or on their patio or spacious grounds. Recently, Brian carved out an hour of his 100 hour work week to talk about why so many folks visit—and then return—to his kid and dog friendly winery. In 2010, BOW will produce 8,100 cases of wine, well on its way to a goal of 10,000 cases annually.

How did you and Sharon end up in the wine business?
We both were leading professional lives far removed from the world of wine. I was involved in small business development focusing on construction, property management, and nonprofit organizations. Sharon worked for a government affairs consulting firm. About four and a half years into our marriage, we realized we both had similar dreams. Sharon wanted to farm a vineyard and make wine and I had always wanted to own a winery. Barrel Oak was born.

Did you name the winery with the dog theme in mind?
Yes. But truthfully, we didn’t think it would resonate with the public as quickly as it did. When our beloved Golden Retriever “Bogart” died of Lyme disease at the age of eight, we called our breeder and purchased a pup just days before we opened the winery. On opening day, Sharon was not letting go of her new baby and carried the puppy all around the winery. Our customers loved it and asked if they could bring their own dogs. But of course! Word began to spread that we embraced kids, dogs and fun. The tasting room business took off.

Dogs and kids alone can’t build the volume of business you’ve generated. What else is in play here?
Think of a target with each widening circle contributing to our growth. First it’s our family and friends, then a network of twenty-six partners, followed by barrel club members, then regular wine club members, and finally, a growing email list that currently has 10,500 addresses. All of these forces are spreading our BOW message of quality wine and fun. In fact, our motto is: Farm, Family, and Fun.

In addition, Sharon and I are actively involved in working the tasting room and cellar each weekend. I personally like to greet our customers at the front door. I circulate throughout the tasting room, patio and grounds asking folks if they are enjoying themselves and what they think of our wine. We also conduct tours in our cellar. Everyone has a dream and we’re showing others they can live theirs; even if it means a lot of hard work.

Barrel Oak Tasting Room

There are some people—both in and outside the wine industry—that think Barrel Oak is operating a night club or bar type of business. How do you respond to those accusations?
With disappointment. For us, wine has always embodied the good things in life. Our staff works hard to create an environment that is accommodating, clean and safe. Anyone who visits us on a busy weekend can see we are a community. Hard working people and their families need a place in the country with scenic views and a relaxed atmosphere to act as a counterpoint to their hectic working lives. I’m proud we’ve extended our hours to 9pm on Fridays and Saturdays. We provide a welcoming atmosphere and it’s the key to our success. It’s also good for the growth of the state’s wine industry. We’ve introduced a lot of people to the world of Virginia wine.

On the other hand, there is a demand for wineries that take a different approach to their business. Some people like a quiet tasting room with the focus primarily on the wine. We understand and appreciate that. At barrel Oak we combine the energy of a fun loving place with quality wine. I think our success shows there is opportunity for both types of establishments.

Finally, we are sensitive to any actual or perceived negative impact in Fauquier County. We have good relationships with all our neighbors and I personally respond to and fix any situation that might be of concern to the local community. We live full-time on our farm. Being a good neighbor comes first.

Brian Roeder

Why do you hold charity events?
For the first time in our lives we are in a position to help worthy causes. We’ve raised over $120,000 for charitable organizations since we opened two years ago. Each of these events creates new friends and supporters and spreads the word about what’s happening here, so it also makes good business sense. Simply put, raising money for a just cause is the right thing to do.

How do you handle large groups of tasters on busy weekends?
We have seating for up to five hundred people and on some weekends we are full. But, no one should have to wait to enjoy a tasting or purchase wine. At peak times we have forty people on staff working four tasting bars, nine sales registers and serving fare such as cheeses, meats and hummus. We also focus on maintaining clean grounds and keeping an eye out so guests don’t drink too much. People come here to relax, not to get agitated standing in long lines or waiting for service.

Pet Peeves?
Clean restrooms. Every aspect of Barrel Oak should speak quality. A clean and attractive restroom sends a powerful message of quality and commitment to our customers. I push my staff to look at things through the “eyes of the owner.” I know it can be difficult for an employee to take that view but I preach it and reinforce it often.

Biggest misstep when opening the winery?
I’m a guy that tends to speak with authority. In the early months of our operation I shared my formula for success with other Virginia winery owners. Frankly, I don’t think many of them wanted to hear it. I probably ended up offending some folks. I did not intend to tell them how to run their businesses but I think that was the perception. I regret that.

I also wish I had built the winery twenty percent larger. You always think you are planning correctly but in retrospect that was an element I misjudged.

Closing thoughts?
The future of Virginia wine is unlimited. We need to focus on quality and produce wines that are authentically Virginia. I would love to see Fauquier County join forces with its wineries and attract out-of-state investors to open additional wineries. A national advertising campaign extolling the business advantages of locating a winery in Fauquier County would be a sound way to preserve our scenic countryside. If we don’t develop such strategies, the goal of keeping Fauquier green will be paved over with shopping centers and subdivisions. What we have here is too valuable to let it slip away to commercial rather than agricultural growth.

Cabernet Franc Grapes

Published in the August 26,2010 edition of the Culpeper Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

John’s August Pick of the Month

Posted on Aug 26 2010 | By

Barrel Oak Winery




Barrel Oak Winery 2009 Norton

Norton is Virginia’s own grape with a storied history dating to the 1820s.  Winemakers Sharon Roeder and Rick Tagg have captured the unique character of the grape with their 2009 rendition, aged—in what else—Virginia White Oak.      The wine casts a deep garnet hue in the glass and displays floral and chocolate notes on the nose with a blueberry and a coffee spice palate.  Pair this hearty Old Dominion red with baby back ribs and homemade fries.  Drink now through 2013.

Barrel Oak Winery is located 3623 Grove Lane, Delaplane, VA.  The winery is opened Wednesday thru Monday 11am to 6pm; Friday and Saturday 11am to 9pm; and closed on Tuesdays.  (540) 364-6402.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

2009 Vintage Finale

Posted on Aug 11 2010 | By

New Wine in Old Bottles as 2010 Grape Harvest Nears



2010 Typical Summer Lawn

Hot and dry describes the Virginia summer of 2010.  All of us can look at our lawns and appreciate what the power of the sun and the lack of rain can create, or more accurately, destroy.  Rock hard and brown is not a reference to the well-muscled twenty-somethings populating our local swimming pools and beaches, but to the earth from which wine grapes spring forth.

As a result of this summer’s climate—can we blame it on El Niño or La Niña?—procuring quality grapes in Virginia will be a challenge.  White grapes are nearing optimal harvesting conditions but it’s a bit unclear as to the caliber of the fruit.

In 2003, France experienced a similar blistering summer.  It produced some excellent red wines but not whites.  Not until early next year will we know for certain how the wines will fare given this scorching summer. For more on this subject visit

But, weather cannot be controlled so the winemaking challenge has to be considered part of the fun.

Empty Carboys Eager to Receive New Wine

All of my 2009 wines are now in bottle and my empty cellar awaits the coming new fruit.  It’s an exciting time of the year for winemakers—both amateur and professional.  Will the grapes easily produce gold medal winners or will alchemy (and some luck) be needed to create quality libations. Only time and successful winemaking will tell.

Recycled Bottles Awaiting Next Year’s Wine

As a home winemaker, I reuse a substantial portion of my bottles.  It is perhaps the most meaningful recycling program I am committed to.  Quality bottles are expensive and over the years I have reused them after the nectar contained therein has been drained.  I am certain I have bottles in storage that have held three or four vintages.  It would be great if commercial wineries could engage in such recycling, but it’s not physically or economically practicable.

As for my last year’s wines, I am generally pleased with the 2009 vintage; among my whites I have received favorable comments on my Seyval Blanc and virgin Chardonnay—meaning no oak or malolactic fermentation.  In fact, in 2010 I will increase my production of light, clean, crisp whites.  I rarely find a commercial bottling of a full-bodied, buttery chardonnay interesting anymore. Give me razor sharp acidity and bright flavors any evening.

My red wines are also pouring nicely but are still aging in bottle to round out some of the oak edges and soften the palate.  One bottling I dubbed “Cashmere” is a blend of fifty percent Cabernet Sauvignon and fifty percent Cabernet Franc.  It is a fruit forward, soft and smooth wine, almost, er, Cashmere-like in texture.  I have received several compliments on it already, telegraphing it will be a family favorite this coming winter.

Perhaps the most telling sign that I will soon be deep into winemaking was the arrival of my lab supplies last week.  Each year I replenish these items to assure fresh yeasts, additives, and cleaning supplies are in stock.  Now, I am simply waiting for the phone call, “We are harvesting the Seyval this morning.”

Soon, there will again be new wine in old bottles.

Hagarty Cellars Wine Lab

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Hospice of the Rapidan Benefits from Local Artisanal Winery Winefest

On July 31 and August 1, the first annual Festa Rappahannock wine & food festival was held on the grounds of Rappahannock Cellars  in Huntly, VA.

The two-day event, attended by several hundred wine lovers, was a celebration of locally grown and produced wine. Grass fed beef & free range chicken on the grill complimented the wines, and live music was performed in a Civil War era barn providing added entertainment to the festive two-day celebration.

After an extraordinary long and hot summer, the event’s weather crystallized into a perfect summer weekend with low humidity, soft breezes and moderate temperatures.  If you tried to dial up a better combination for success, you’d have had to bribe a meteorologist.

The festival officially launched the “Artisanal Wineries of Rappahannock County”,  Virginia’s newest and most unique wine trail.  The group is a collection of five family run wineries who have joined together to offer a premium wine tasting experience rooted in small lot, handcrafted wines. All five of the participating wineries are located in Rappahannock County, just a short scenic drive from one another, and only an hour from the DC beltway. This is boutique and casual wine tasting at its best and provides a sharp contrast to the hustle and bustle of Northern Virginia.

Tasting Tent

The group’s wineries include the Jung Family of Chester Gap, the Gadino Family of Gadino Winery, The Patil Family of Narmada Winery, the Delmare Family of Rappahannock Cellars, and the East Family of Sharp Rock Vineyards.  These dedicated winemakers invite the public to experience their individual family’s hospitality, artisanal wines and uniquely intimate environments.  For more information visit:

The funfest was held in support of the Hospice of the Rapidan, a nonprofit community organization providing skilled medical care, social work, bereavement care, volunteer support, and spiritual support to terminally ill patients and their families residing in Culpeper, Fauquier, Madison, Orange, Rappahannock and surrounding central Virginia counties. Hospice of the Rapidan offers services to everyone who qualifies for hospice care regardless of their financial resources.

Plans for an even bigger and more entertaining Festa Rappahannock next year are underway.  Stay tuned.  The fun has just begun.

Ruth Pavlik and Jan Deshceyes man the Hospice of Rapidan Tent

Categories : WINE ARTICLES