Archive for January, 2015


Where wine and art converge

Posted on Jan 21 2015 | By

Arterra Wines and Hawkmoth Arts launch unique Delaplane venture

Business alliances are increasingly seen as avenues to success. The power of two creates synergy and multiplies the entrepreneurial spirit needed to make a business go.

Sandy and Jason Murray

Sandy and Jason Murray

It’s even more forceful if the duo is a husband and wife team sharing the same vision. Jason Murray and Sandy Gray-Murray embody such a venture.

On February 7, the experienced and talented couple will open a winery and art gallery in northern Fauquier County. Local art and wine lovers will now have a venue to indulge both passions under one roof.

Jason Murray brings an in-depth vineyard and winemaking background to bear on the new business. Prior to his winemaking profession, he worked for Loudoun County in its cooperative extension office. In that capacity, he became familiar with dozens of Northern Virginia vineyards and the best practices they employed to produce quality fruit.

He then served as winemaker at Château O’Brien for 11 years before deciding to build his owner-driven career. His reputation for creating full-bodied red wines is well established.

“I developed a niche in the high-end red wine market in the Virginia wine industry,” said Murray. “I really like ripe fruit and do what I can to unlock and express that fruit.”

That isn’t hubris talking. After tasting Murray’s red wines at Chateau O’Brien’s a few years back, Bartholomew Broadbent—listed in the 2013 edition of IntoWine as #48 of the 100 Most Influential People in the U.S. wine industry—said, “I don’t believe these wines. Every one of the reds are to another level.”

Murray built that reputation on a background of education and hard work. He has a BA and Masters in Horticulture and has perfected the rarest of wine talents: native yeast fermentations combined with minimalist cellar practices.

The techniques increase the cost of a bottle of wine but produce rich, deep-bodied wines. Such fermentations must be closely monitored to prevent off-flavors. Most wineries use commercial yeasts to protect against serious problems in the cellar.

All of Arterra’s dry wines will be produced from native yeast; yeast that clings to the fruit when it is harvested. The process can take up to a year to complete. Murray is not a man in a hurry when it comes to making wine.

Enter art
Sandy Gray-Murray was an art teacher in Maryland where the couple lived while Jason Murray commuted to work at Château O’Brien. In 2009, she quit work to devote herself to raising their two sons. The couple then moved to Hume to be closer to Jason’s winemaker’s job.

During this period, Sandy Gray-Murray developed a business centered on winery influenced art. Her work encompasses paintings, mirrors, drawings, ceramics and oak barrel art. Having no retail space to sell her art, she worked the winery festival circuit.

The inherent shortcomings of selling delicate artwork in the robust atmosphere of wine festivals led to the idea of opening a gallery. Realizing the challenge of generating enough foot traffic to sustain a stand-alone gallery led to the concept of merging the age-old forces of wine and art.

Arterra Wines and Hawkmoth Arts were born.

The Hawkmoth is a small insect similar to a hummingbird. Its flight and feeding habits embody balance and precision; exactly the traits the Murrays’ art and wines strive for.

Securing a USDA farm loan, the couple purchased 75 acres off Route 17 in Delaplane. The former owners of Naked Mountain Winery, Bob and Phoebe Harper, owned the land for use as a future vineyard but it was never planted. They sold it to the Murrays based on its intended use.

“The property was larger than we were looking for but was perfect for growing grapes,” said Jason Murray. The site is heavily wooded but has nine acres of cleared land for a vineyard that will be planted this spring.

In the interim, wine grapes are sourced from two quality grape producing Virginia vineyards.

A combination art gallery and winery was built on the property. It is a custom crafted timber frame structure. The first floor features the art gallery and wine tasting bar. The lower level is a full-service wine production cellar. The cross-marketing opportunities of the dual businesses are self-evident.

Arterra_BottleWithBowl_RGBFor the next few years, Jason Murray will produce 800 cases of wine annually with an ultimate production of 1,200 cases. These numbers are very much in the boutique winery category and reflect an emphasis on quality wine production. The wines will retail in the $29 to $49 range.

The featured wines are Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Tannat and a Blueberry Apple dessert wine.

“We are excited to differentiate ourselves as not just another winery but one that comes from a depth of experience,” said Jason Murray. “This is a wine-focused business, not an events business or a gimmick. It’s strictly based on the idea of craftsmanship. Guests will interact with the owners and craftsmen.”

Arterra Wines and Hawkmoth Arts are located at 1808 Leeds Manor Road, Delaplane. They will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday year-round. Visit them at and for more information on their wines and art.


Published in the Wednesday, January 21, 2015 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES