Archive for November, 2013


Gadino Cellars offers Italian hospitality

Posted on Nov 17 2013 | By

 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.

End of Harvest

End of Harvest

“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.

Going Pro
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

John’s Pick of the month 

Gadino Cellars

2011 Viognier


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.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

 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.

Toni Kilyk

Toni Kilyk

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
IMG_7932_1In 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.

Tasting Room

Tasting Room

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. 

Early recognition
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.

IMG_7929Her 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 for further information.      


Published in the Fall 2013 edition of the Piedmont Business Journal.          

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Culpeper Premier Fitness in peak condition

Posted on Nov 05 2013 | By

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.

IMG_8005Welcome 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.

IMG_7997Scarbrough 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. IMG_8003Another 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

Published in the Fall 2013 edition of the Piedmont Business Journal.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES