Archive for October, 2014

It’s been said that experience trumps knowledge. But when a person possesses both, success typically follows.

Old House Vineyards

Old House Vineyards

This summer, Andy Reagan joined Old House Vineyards as its full-time winemaker. And if past is prologue, look for the 14 year-old winery to further advance its reputation for quality wines.

Reagan’s 20 years of winemaking includes stints at both Old Dominion and out-of- state wineries. In the process, he has amassed a closet full of medals; over 300 alone during his seven years with Jefferson Vineyards in Charlottesville.

“Finding wine talent today is hard,” said Pat Kearney, owner of Old House. “When we heard Andy was available, he was what we were looking for.”

Kearney explains he had been using winemaker interns from France for years, assisted by a consultant, and was pleased with where they had taken his wines. “I had a connection with the French. My consultant was invaluable to our success.

“But when the opportunity to bring a dedicated, full-time winemaker on board, I made the decision to hire Andy.”

Reagan began his career working for his sister at an upstate New York winery as a teenager and subsequently made wine at several wineries, including one producing 30,000 cases a year. A typical Virginia winery produces 2,000 to 5,000 cases annually.

But Kearney’s goal is not about churning out mass-produced wines. His wants to slowly grow his small production of high-end bottlings. “Often guests say they have enjoyed every wine in our tasting line up, not just one or two. I want to further that reputation.”

In the beginning

Andy Reagan

Andy Reagan

Reagan recalls his first year in the business was 1992 as a 17-year-old high school student working during his summer break. “I had a blast and wanted to keep doing it,” said Reagan.

One invaluable job experience unfolded while working at a large out-of-state winery. “They were making so many wines I had to fully learn the chemistry side of winemaking. I super honed my lab skills while working there,” he said.

Most wine lovers are not aware that producing wine is working with a living product. Unwanted organisms can create havoc during the process. Knowing how to quickly identify problems and make necessary corrections is integral to being a successful vintner.

Over time, the Norfolk native sought employment farther afield than Virginia to grow his experience. “But every time I tried to move out of Virginia I started to quickly miss the state and the people who work here. There is a certain type of special person who lives in Virginia,” states Reagan.

Asked if there is a secret to making award winning wines, Reagan said, “Paying attention to detail makes clean, balanced wines. But producing good fruit in the vineyard and using quality equipment is important.

“When I was interviewing for this job I was impressed with the quality and amount of French oak barrels Pat had. Oak ageing plays an important role in quality wine and costly barrels are critical to its success.”

So will more gold medals be raining down on Old House Vineyards in the future? “We’ll see,” says Reagan, “That’s up to the consumer. I hope so.”

Pat Kearney and his wife Allyson make up the Kearney perpetual motion machine. Proof is in their next venture to be launched early next year. A distillery is sited next the winery and will produce brandy, grappa, vodka, gin and whiskey among other libations.

“We are just an adult Disneyland out here,” said Allyson laughing.

Old House still

Old House still

John’s Pick of the month   

Old House Vineyards 



The Bacchanalia were Roman festivals celebrating Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. And as one pours a glass of Old House Bacchanalia and takes in its dark ruby color and rich aromas, celebration is an appropriate thought. The wine is an eclectic blend of Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Tannat and is a perfect match for any beef entrée on a crisp fall evening.   

Published in the October 23, 2014 edition of the Culpeper Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Real estate with zeal

Posted on Oct 23 2014 | By

 Horizon Real Estate, Inc. led by experience with a smile  

When seeking a real estate firm to help sell or buy a home, a client seeks out a knowledgeable agent who is attentive to their needs. After all, it’s likely the biggest financial transaction of their life. Optimistic business acumen makes good things happen quickly.

Loni Colvin

Loni Colvin

And making good things happen is the hallmark of Warrenton real estate broker Loni Colvin. Goal setting is not a dry business term to Colvin but rather the mantra she lives by. “I never feel like I hate getting up in the morning and coming into the office,” said Colvin. “I love helping people.”

As a result, over the years a cavalcade of individuals and couples have felt that love and gotten into a home on its cresting wave. The energy driving this successful real estate entrepreneur is not about to let up either. “I don’t ever want to retire,” said a laughing Colvin.

The native of Kentucky catapulted out of the Bluegrass state in 1989 and hasn’t slowed since. It’s been a trajectory of success with several businesses now a memory as she accumulated experience and moved on to bigger challenges.

In the beginning
After arriving in the D.C. area, Colvin worked for a Roy Rogers restaurant as general manager while doing cleaning on the side. Her fiancé, now husband, suggested she start a cleaning service and she took the advice. “It’s because of him that all of this other stuff has happened,” Colvin said.

As the cleaning service evolved it led to snowplowing. She had contracts with the town of Warrenton for a couple of years and her cleaning business blossomed with 14 daytime employees and a smaller staff working nights cleaning office buildings in Prince William County and elsewhere.

The business success led to the idea of starting a property management company. She obtained her real estate license 2000 and began focusing on real estate. She eventually closed the cleaning business to devote full time to selling real estate.

What happened next was as assured as the sun rising. She met with immediate success and in 2001 was named Rookie of the Year by the Greater Piedmont Area Association of Realtors.

She was subsequently recognized for her performance with multiple awards with names such as Platinum and Chairman’s Club. Over the course of the next several years, Colvin worked at three different real estate firms, gaining more experience with each passing year.

In 2006, she sold $26 million worth of properties, earning the distinction of being placed in one company’s Hall of Fame.

“I remember the broker telling me I had achieved a big thing. I was in the top 2 ½ percent of the nation’s real estate agents,” said Colvin.

In 2009, her peers installed her as the President of the Greater Piedmont Area Association of Realtors. But there was no resting on her laurels. Hard work, some disappointment and greater success lay ahead.

Industry structure
Titles used in real estate can be a bit confusing. Who does what and why? Let’s recap the meaning of the most frequently used industry titles:

Real estate agent: Simply anyone who earns a license to sell real estate. State requirements differ but in every state the person must take a minimum number of classes and pass an exam to earn a license.

REALTOR®: An agent that is a member of the National Association of Realtors®. The person must uphold the standards of the association and its code of ethics.

Real estate broker: An individual who has pursed education beyond the agent level and passed a state’s broker license exam. Brokers can work alone or can hire agents to work for them.

Real estate associate broker: A person who has taken additional classes and earned a broker’s license but chooses to work for a broker.

In Colvin’s case, after gaining extensive experience as a real estate agent she elected to purse a broker’s license. The move set the stage for her next career step.

On her own
In 2008, after eight years in the industry, Colvin obtained her broker’s license and struck out her own and founded Horizon Real Estate, Inc. To paraphrase Charles Dickens, it was the best of times and the worst of times. Yes, she now headed up her own agency but she launched it at the onset of a severe recession.

Timing is everything. “It was the worst of times. My building fees were overwhelming but I made through that period,” said Colvin. She started with one employee and three agents in a snail’s paced economy. Today, the office, located at 26 N. 5th St., is home to three administrative employees and 25 agents.

“I looked at the companies that had closed and merged and had no clue of being a broker myself. But I have a great group of agents at my office. We all worked together. It’s wonderful,” said the always expecting the best Colvin.

She is also poised to open a second office in Front Royal in October. The office will initially be staffed by two agents but if the past is prologue, look for her to attract additional agents into her sphere of success.

In 2009, she became certified as a real estate instructor and launched yet another business teaching potential agents. Given her track record, being a student in one of her classes is key to launching a new career. It is a 60 hour course conducted to fit a student’s schedule. To date, 20 students have graduated from the school and she has brought an additional instructor on board.

Most recently the energizer broker opened a title company appropriately called Sunshine Title & Settlement. It recorded the first of many deeds to come in early September and adds another entity to her growing number of businesses.

Ever looking beyond today, Colvin has plans to open another agency when her work schedule permits. It is already licensed and ready to go and will operate under the name Ches-Bay Real Estate in Hartfield. “Today Warrenton, tomorrow Virginia” might be her mission statement.

Model for success
The mark of a successful executive is to envision their company five years into the future. If they focus on the here and now, stagnation can set in. To underscore the philosophy Colvin said, “I don’t look at how much I’m earning. I’m looking to grow the business. As long as I’m still going forward that’s an accomplishment.”

Colvin’s advice for a successful career is for people “to figure out what they want to do and what they enjoy” because then it’s not a job. Goal setting is paramount for her. And while she won’t elaborate, it’s obvious her goal oriented work ethic is alive and well with bigger things to come. “I will never retire because I’m having too much fun.”

Her advice to those looking to advance is to “follow your heart” and don’t listen to other people. “When I started out I didn’t have deep pockets. You have to believe in yourself and believe in what you are doing,” she said.

Another critical element to her success is “I’m honest. I’m fair. I treat everybody the way I want to be treated. You can’t get what you’re not willing to give.” When managing her employees if there is a problem in a business relationship she meets with the individual and asks, “Tell me what you think I need to be doing to help you succeed.”

One of her pet peeves is a lack of commitment. She emphasizes she doesn’t ask 100 percent from an employee but “if you’re not giving 60, 70 percent then you’re not moving forward.”

When a new agent joins the company, Colvin knows it’s her responsibility to help them succeed. “They’ve come here because they believe in Horizon. I am going to help them. I can’t let them down,” said Colvin.

When asked how she would summarize what she has achieved Colvin said, “I love laughing. I pray a lot. I’m always positive. I wake up every day and thank God for what I’ve got and for everything that’s coming in that day. And if it’s a bad day, I say ‘OK’ its’ been bad but let’s get on with the new.”

If one were to check a thesaurus for the word success, one of the synonyms might likely be Loni Colvin.


Published in the Fall 2014 edition of the Piedmont Business Journal.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Serving the local community

Posted on Oct 23 2014 | By

 Summit Community Bank leader seeks to personalize financial services  

Community banks play a valued role in a local economy. The institutions are typically operated by local or regional owners and focus on the needs of businesses and individuals living where it’s located. Think Wall Street comes to Main Street.

The banks help keep local economies growing by providing a host of financial services. When lending decisions are made by people who know their community needs, the entire citizenry benefits.

“I love being here. I love being able to know most of my clients on a first name basis,” said Trisha Hwang, branch manager and assistant vice president of Summit Community in Warrenton.

Hwang connects deeply with her customers and is rewarded by getting to know their children and helping their families achieve financial goals “much more so than I could if working in a larger bank.”

Hwang has a resume of management experience that dates to her first job at 16 when working in the fast food industry. Her position today is enhanced by growing up in a small town in western Kentucky and subsequently working retail in Ohio where she met her husband.

In 2003, the couple moved to Loudoun County and Hwang landed a job in a large bank. Banking provided more predictable and stable work hours than retail management and it enriched her experience by working for a large financial institution.

What happened next is typical for a person on the move. In 2008, a headhunter called. Was she interested in a position at the Summit Community bank in Warrenton? Say what? She accepted the job.

“It’s been a wonderful experience having been able to work in both worlds—a larger bank and smaller community bank,” said Hwang.

She reminisces on the old chestnut that the grass is greener on the side. “Some things run more effectively in a larger bank and some more effectively in a smaller one. At the end of the day, it’s a question of are you happy where you work,” said Hwang.

And this banker is happy. Very.

Hwang manages a staff of three; a customer service representative and two customer service tellers. The bank also employs a commercial lender with an assistant and a chief banking officer also with an assistant at the same location at 250 Lee Highway.  

Summit Community history
Summit Community Bank is headquartered in Moorefield, W. Va. and dates its founding to 1883 as the South Branch Valley National Bank.

South Branch Bancorp was formed in 1987 and in 1999 changed its name to Summit Financial Group. Today, the bank has 15 community banking locations; nine in W. Va. and six in Va.

Summit Community BankWhen the Warrenton office opened in 2005, the bank’s initial objective was “getting our name out, having a face with that name and making sure people knew us. We don’t do a lot of advertising like larger banks do. But today we are a force to be reckoned with,” said Hwang.

“We have really great products. We show people what we can do for them. One of our mottos is ‘We put ourselves in your shoes’. If you are sitting on the other side of the desk from me, I want to know what I can do for you.”

While Summit Community is a local institution, its services are national in scope. It is a full service bank offering checking and savings accounts, money markets, home equity lines of credit, insurance, investments, and retirement planning. “You name and we do it.”

“There is an assumption that because we are a smaller community bank we don’t offer investment advice, retirement planning or mortgages, but we do,” said Hwang.

She underscores the bank has grown during a difficult economy and has fewer loans going into default. “We try to work with those customers because we understand everybody has gone through a difficult time as some point in their lives. We believe in offering a helping hand.”

She also sees signs the local economy is starting to right itself. Compared to 2008, more personal savings accounts are being opened because she thinks people are beginning to set aside some of their earnings for the proverbial rainy day.

But is the economy finally back? “It depends on who you are talking to and it depends on the month. Some months I attend ribbon cuttings and it’s great to see the new businesses open. But at the same time I see firms going out of business too,” said Hwang.

Building the bank
All successful companies seek to create and build solid customer relations and banking is no exception; perhaps more so than for many firms. “I regularly visit businesses in our area,” said Hwang. “I take clients to breakfast or lunch and talk about our product offerings; checking and savings with no minimum balances or monthly fees and more.”

She seeks to educate on not only Summit Community offerings but banking issues in general. “When I return from an appointment my staff is eager to know, ‘How did it go? Did you get the account?’ but I tell them that’s not what it’s about. It’s more about building the relationship,” said Hwang.

To reinforce her point, Hwang recalls a business customer who made an appointment to discuss opening an account. “He told me he remembered me giving a  presentation to a local group a few years earlier. He became a customer because of that initial contact. I plant seeds in this business. You might not need us today but you could later on. Being friendly and accessible to everyone pays offs,” said Hwang.

During a typical off-site meeting, the banker spends about 15 minutes discussing her product line and “package account” of services, including no charge for ATM usage at other financial institutions. Summit even refunds such fees incurred at other banks. The perks of many of the bank services is attractive.

Her secret to signing new accounts is to listen to the potential client before discussing her product line and asking questions to better understand actual needs. “Often they simply want to be heard,” underscores Hwang.

Hwang takes the time to educate on the merits of her offerings and not try to force a sale. Selling the customer may come later when their comfort level with the bank is secure. One particular attractive product is a savings plan earning one percent interest. “The national average is .2 percent so our rate is a big deal,” said Hwang.

Knowledge coupled with friendly patience pays off. In today’s world, no one wants to listen to a pressurized sales pitch. The days of the iconic Willie Loman in Death of a Salesman are gone.

Additionally, while the bank has a plethora of products it’s important not to treat each in an in-depth fashion. If she has 10 things to share with a promising client, she will not attempt to discuss all of them. Understanding where an interest lies will lead to deeper and more fruitful discussion of the bank’s services that are actually needed.

After six years with Summit Community, Hwang’s sales philosophy is not to product- push but rather provides for immediate needs and waits for satisfied customers to return for additional services.

“I deal in a down-to-earth way with clients. What’s best for them today may not work six months from now,” said Hwang. If a solid relationship is established in the beginning, customers will likely return to explore ways to address new financial challenges.

If all this sounds like common sense being brought to bear in a complex industry, then it’s easier to understand why this bank is climbing steadily toward the summit of success.


Published in the Fall 2014 edition of the Piedmont Business Journal.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Warrenton Huntington Center scores high marks for students and owner

Donna Isler’s love of learning is in her DNA. Her great, great grandfather was the first black lawyer in Washington, D.C. Her grandfather was head of the Linguistics Department at the University of Michigan and her father led the Orthodontics Department at Howard University.

“Education is in my blood,” said Isler. Education, coupled with a driving work ethic that created five tutoring centers in 10 years. “I’ve always believed in providing every student the best education possible.”

The Jamaican native knows first-hand those who are not able to receive an education because of the cost. Being able to help others is “extremely important” to her.

Early in her career the speech language pathologist worked at D.C. General Hospital and for the Fairfax County school system. But the entrepreneurs lurking in her and her husband wanted to build a business of their own. “It was the combination of my passion for education and his desire to own a business that we ended up choosing Huntington,” said Isler.

With over 37 years experience in premier student tutoring, Huntington Learning Centers is a pioneer in the field. It has a proven model in supplemental education for those committed to building a successful franchise business.

“What we really liked about Huntington is the founders are actively involved in the business,” said Isler. “We see them every year at various meetings.”

Each franchise is independently owned and operated and is provided corporate support in teacher training and student instruction methodology.

In 2005, Isler opened her first center in Manassas and subsequently opening centers in Fredericksburg, Lake Ridge, Stafford, and Warrenton. She has 15 full-time administrative staff and employs 25 to 32 part-time certified school teachers at each location.

Success is demanding
The firm’s growth has been steady but demanding. “Five centers is a lot to manage,” said Isler. In the tutoring industry customer service is extremely important. “It’s not as easy as I would have anticipated.” Hiring and training staff, while still teaching whenever she can, requires a full-time commitment.

Her favorite aspects of the job are administering student evaluations and working with parents. The evaluations are critical to a student’s performance since it identifies strengths and weakness prior to developing a specialized program of instruction.

“It’s an academic x-ray,” Isler explains. “It pinpoints the areas to work on and focuses on an enrichment program of remedial study skills.” The emphasis is often on building reading, comprehension and math skills.

All of the instruction is individualized with recommendations to parents on what can be done at home to reinforce classroom instruction. One typical technique Isler uses is assigning students the task of reading a newspaper then writing a summary of what they read. “Writing is the active form of reading,” she emphasizes.

Each center has 38 to 70 students depending on the time of year. There is no set time limit for the length of individualized instruction. Typically, during the school year a student will attend four to six hours a week. During the summer program it runs 12 to 16 hours.

“When school is out Huntington is in,” said Isler. “It’s the perfect time for students to build their skills for the upcoming school year.” Mid-June to mid-April is the busy time of the year. Issuance of second semester report cards—when detention notices go out—also see an increase in student enrollment. Alarmed parents want help immediately.

While 90 percent of the student body is kindergarten through 12th grade, adult instruction is provided, often in building English language skills and the study of foreign languages, mostly French and Spanish. “Our oldest student was 67,” said Isler.

Business strategies
Operating a small business is fraught with challenges. The moribund economy of the last several years has taken a toll on many local businesses. One negative impact unique to the DC area was the government shutdown in 2013.

With government and military families laid off during the shutdown, parents were worried about spending money for tutoring. It’s difficult to make such an investment when concerned about paying household bills.

School closures due to snow days in 2014 also saw a reduction in the number of Huntington students.

“We’ve had to get creative on how to cut expenses and while working with parents so they can continue” sending their children to the centers.

Active involvement with the business community is key in building the firm. Isler uses grassroots marketing to increase student enrollment. This includes providing promotional literature to appropriate restaurant, retail and medical offices that highlight the importance of tutoring.

Often customers have free time while waiting for appointments or services and can educate themselves on the benefits of a Huntington student experience. The firm’s newsletter “Huntington News for Parents” is a vehicle for driving business to the company while providing useful information to parents of school-age children.

Additionally, newspaper advertising, Google Adwords, direct mail and parent referrals help strengthen the business. It’s a multi-channel approach employed on a daily basis. “Yes, it’s a franchise firm but it operates as a small business” and it is up to Isler and her staff to build enrollment.

In the course of ten years, Isler has learned two important lessons: listening to her staff and learning from past mistakes. When things don’t go right one needs to develop a more effective response to a problem to avoid repeating it.

As an example, working within the Huntington structure requires compliance to proven educational strategies the corporate firm has developed. “It’s like learning a new language and new ways of doing things. I can’t expect a new teacher to pickup up the Huntington system and perform at the same level as I do. Everybody has a different learning curve,” said Isler.

So she has to work closely with instructors to assure the classroom strategies are implemented. One mistake she learned from was retaining staff that was unable to accept the Huntington instructional format.

“It’s was hard letting go of teachers who could not adapt to our structure but it’s necessary to the success of student performance,” said Isler. In some cases teachers simply cannot implement the necessary curriculum given their previous training. “We must follow our program because it works,” said Isler.

Personal satisfaction
After ten years in building the business this passion-driven educator even now becomes emotional when enrolling a student. “I still cry during the initial conference” if parents are struggling with a child in need. “But it’s very gratifying. There’s nothing better than when a light bulb goes off and a student makes a learning connection. It’s the moment they get it and they understand it.”

Other collateral rewards unfold when a student comes to class excited about their first B on a school exam. Or a parent relates how their son wants to pickup a book and read it when he has never wanted to in the past.

So what might be some important lessons learned in achieving success? “First, don’t take on more than you can handle. I am married with three children. I still work on the weekends. It’s gratifying but hard work.”

Secondly, success is all about customer service. Meeting and greeting new parents and students is important. “It’s like inviting them into your kitchen and having a conversation. The family is bringing their child to us because of academic concerns. By the time they leave that are literally changing their child’s life,” said Isler.

The success of the center even extends to her daughters. All three of her children attend the Huntington center to further improve school performance.

“I truly believe in this business,” said Isler.

Published in the Fall 2014 edition of the Piedmont Business Journal.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

High expectations need to be held in check when starting a small business. Only 44 percent survive after four years and the average life span is eight and a half years.

Yet this year, Battlefield Travel of Culpeper is celebrating 30 years of success and still going strong. The E. Davis St. firm’s secret? Consistently planning and providing successful travel experiences.

Cheryl Clear

Cheryl Clear

“If we weren’t good at what we did, we wouldn’t be around for 30 years,” said owner Cheryl Clear. And there are no plans to close shop. “Battlefield will be around for considerably more years.”

That’s not hubris talking. Clear has a staff of four that have an accumulated six decades of experience in making vacation dreams come true. The key to the successful business is agents who are widely traveled.

“Our certified travel consultants have over 60 years combined experience,” said Clear. Traveling the world provides her clients vacation getaways to places the consultants often have firsthand knowledge of.

Experience combined with educational training further assures successful adventures. Clear is an Elite Cruise Counselor, Certified Travel Agent and holds certifications in various fields of travel. Her sheepskins are brought to bear with each client encounter.

While enjoying multiple decades of achievement, it doesn’t mean there haven’t been bumps in the road; sometimes big ones. “I purchased the agency in January 2001. Then 9/11 happened. It hit us really hard. I had to downsize,” said Clear.

The business had to relocate to smaller quarters and the only staff she retained was her receptionist. But perseverance prevailed and today her staff is back to the same size as when she assumed ownership.

Interestingly, and fortuitously, when the recession hit business actually increased. While the cruise segment of travel declined, Clear realized working professionals were more insulated from the impact of the recession and continued to travel worldwide. She focused on selling excursions to this market segment.

“Because we had been around so many years people knew who we were. We have a good reputation so we made more money than before the recession,” said Clear.

Reputation is golden. As a result, the business has ceased most forms of advertising. “Most of our marketing today is word of mouth. I found advertising did not make that much difference. Past performance is our best marketing tool,” said Clear.

The industry
There are two key benefits in employing a travel agency. First, except for airline ticketing fees, there typically are no extra charges levied by the agency above lodging and airfare costs. There is an hourly charge if a specific itinerary is requested.

Agents are usually compensated by the companies they use to book lodging. “It’s not going to save anybody to not go through a travel agent. Lodging and air fare will be the same,” said Clear.

Secondly, often an agent’s personal experience will be employed to plan a vacation. Imagine a relative going to Ireland and later sharing every step of the trip. It’s same with an agent. No muss. No fuss. Board the plane and fly off to happy times.

“One of my agents spent two weeks in Italy. There is not a whole lot about Italy that she can’t tell you,” said Clear.

She emphasizes her first question posed to a client is “What is your budget?” The answer will determine how the trip is assembled.

Clear also recognizes in the digital age vacations can be planned on a keyboard in the comfort of one’s home. But often it takes hours of research and the luck of the draw that a traveler has chosen well.

Conversely, an experienced agent frequently brings “boots on the ground” to the planning process. “We are not just selling trips. We are sharing our experiences. You can’t get that on the internet,” emphasizes Clear.

Today, one small trend Clear has observed is that Americans are turning more to domestic vacations. “I’ve noticed we are selling more Alaska and Hawaii trips and less of Europe,” said Clear.

Sounds like a good time to enjoy London, Paris or Dublin since there might be fewer tourists to compete with, eh?

Battlefield Travel is located at 163 E. Davis Street. Visit them in person or at (540) 825.1393.


Published in the October 16, 2014 edition of the Culpeper Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Unicorn Winery for sale

Posted on Oct 23 2014 | By

Unicorn Winery in Amissville is on the market for $1.8 million. The sale includes 18.8 acres, a five bedroom brick residence and a turnkey winery with all equipment needed to produce over 2,000 cases of wine annually.

A one acre pond is nestled next the winery with a pond-side deck. It was the 55th winery established in Virginia. Today, there are 275 wineries in the state.

Proprietors Richard and Sandy LePage are the second owners of the winery that originally opened in 2000; the couple purchased the property in 2008.

An on-site six and a half acre vineyard is planted in five varietals and produces 60 percent of the tasting room wines. The remaining fruit is purchased from other Virginia vineyards.

Unicorn wineryThe winery is located on Old Bridge Road just north of the Culpeper County line in the Clevengers Corner area. The LePages built a covered stage on the back of the property—bordered by 650 feet of Rappahannock River frontage—and host many events there.

“Last year, we sponsored a fundraiser for Hospice that generated $14,000 for the organization,” said Sandy LePage. The setting is ideal for outdoor performances utilizing a sweeping natural amphitheater overlooking the river.

“The property is phenomenal, Mother Nature’s natural landscaping,” said Richard LePage. “We have no plans to leave the Piedmont region. We love the Blue Ridge Mountains and the foothills. We’ll stay in the area.”

Not only will they remain in the Piedmont, the sale of the winery comes with an offer for the LePages to manage it and train new owners, with the couple living either onsite or off; preferably on the property.

The river setting is dramatic and the hard-working couple often relaxes by setting up plastic Adirondack chairs in the middle of the shallow river and “enjoying a bottle of wine” after a day of working in the tasting room.

Interestingly, years ago, well-known Old Dominion vintner Chris Pearmund bottled his first wine with his name on the label. Pearmund was consulting for the winery at the time.

So what precipitated the sale of the winery? “Our financial and working partners unexpectedly retired to Wyoming last May,” said Sandy LePage. The couple was the “right arm” of the LePages, running the winery whenever they attended festivals or were otherwise away from the operation.

“We don’t have them available anymore” and it’s become more work than passion for the LePages whose adult children have not shown an interest in running the business.

Another challenge was the closing of the Waterloo Bridge last year for safety reasons. The bridge was used by over 800 cars daily and provided access to winery guests coming from Northern Virginia.

“We’ve seen a drop in foot traffic since the closing,” said, Sandy LePage. She is working with GPS firms to create new coordinates for travelers.

While the real estate listing is being marketed as a full winery, the LePages will consider offers for purchase of the residence, winery or winery equipment separately. “We are flexible” and would negotiate any portion of the property in part or whole. The equipment includes wines presses, tanks, tractors, trucks and inventory.

Interested buyers can contact Horizon Real Estate in Warrenton for further details.


Published in the September 26, 2014 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Galloping Grape blending leather and wine

Posted on Oct 23 2014 | By

Specialty shops are a minority of the 23 million small businesses operating nationwide.

But one such shop opened eight years ago in Warrenton and is gaining popularity with each passing year. And why? Because the saddle and wine shop, Galloping Grape, attracts a loyal group familiar to the Piedmont region: Wine loving horse people.

Kim Pinello

Kim Pinello

“I have a fantastic wine crowd and equally great saddle customer base,” said owner Kim Pinello. “A lot of the business overlaps. They come in for fly sprays and bridles and will definitely pick up a few bottles of wine.”

Pinello explains that horse folks often enjoy a glass of vino so the shop’s target audience has produced growth every year since its opening in 2006.

But is it all Fauquier County fans? No way. “More than 30 percent of my business comes from Culpeper County. A large saddle shop in Culpeper closed a few years ago and since then my Culpeper customers have increased each year. When that shop closed, all of his traffic came our way,” said a smiling Pinello.

So how does one conjure up a business model rarely seen elsewhere? “I was an accountant working in DC and the commute was a nightmare. I couldn’t do it anymore,” said Pinello. So the entrepreneur began looking for an alternate lifestyle.

She and her husband own a ten acre farm in Fauquier County with a stable of five horses. As a professional accountant she had a head for numbers and knew an option to the grinding commute was only a good idea away. Oh, and she loved wine.

“I wanted to open a saddle store—our county needed another shop—particularly one that was consignment,” said Pinello. “But I knew I needed something else to sell. Saddles don’t walk out the door every day. I wanted something that brought in the every day traffic.”

Serendipitously, an old Southern States feed store came up for lease as she ruminated on how to build a business. “I found that crummy old building and saw how we could possibly renovate it. We came up with the concept and the store name in one weekend and signed the lease on Monday,” said Pinello.

A few years ago, the store relocated to an upscale setting at 143 E. Shirley Avenue across the street from the Fauquier Horse Show grounds. Location is everything, eh?

IMG_9167On the leather side of the house there is a wide selection of saddles covering the riding interests of any equestrian. English, western, endurance and dressage saddles are offered for sale; most are stocked on consignment from the local horse set and priced to sell.

All riding-related gear is also available: riding helmets, bridles, saddle pads, sprays, and shampoos, “everything you need for your horse.” Pinello assures that most of her leather inventory is made in America.

Along side the rows of burnished leather saddles, there are over 800 selections of wine. It’s an impressive collection of high quality bottlings sure to please discriminating palates. And while the wine is competitively priced, the store’s policy is to beat or match any bottle purchased elsewhere. “We want our customers to stay here and shop for their wine, not the local grocery store,” emphasizes Pinello.IMG_9173

Free wine tastings are held each Thursday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. and all day Saturday.

Over 75 craft beer selections round out the libation portfolio. Keg beer is also sold. “We sell tons of kegs” that are likely welcomed at many a horse event.

For the cowboys, there is a humidor with over 50 hand rolled cigar selections.

With an obvious streak for creativity, Pinello also features horse and wine related art that grace the walls of the shop. “We have a variety of artwork and iron work and strive to get anything created by local artists” that fits the shop’s theme.

“Business is fantastic. It grows every year. This is by far the happiest place I can be. I love my customers and I can’t brag enough about my little shop,” said Pinello.

Great affirmation from a former road warrior who got out of her car and on to a horse to make her dreams come true.

Galloping Grape is opened 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. weekdays and 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays and closed Sundays. Visit for complete information on products and events.


John’s Pick of the monthIMG_9189

Roederer Estate



For the last several years, I have encouraged wine drinkers to break the mold and drink more sparkling wine. It’s not just for special occasions. It’s delicious anytime; especially in the summer months.

One can’t go wrong grabbing a bottle of this Brut (dry) sparkler at the Galloping Grape. It’s a French-owned winery located in California’s Anderson Valley.

Here’s Wine Spectator’s take on this tasty bubbly:
“Focused and vibrant, with aromas of creamy apple, cinnamon and hazelnut leading to complex, layered flavors of lemon custard, mineral and almond. The finish lingers.”
91 points.



Published in the October 2, 2014  edition of the Culpeper Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES