Archive for August, 2015


Historic Sharp Rock Vineyards

Posted on Aug 22 2015 | By

Farming the land for over two centuries 

In 1794, a tax protest erupted in Pennsylvania that became known at the Whiskey Rebellion. It’s also the year that a pioneer family established Sharp Rock farm in western Rappahannock County.

Perhaps it’s fitting the farm’s original founder and its current owner have a link to the production of each era’s popular libation; whiskey then wine today.

Sharp RockSharp Rock farm received its moniker from a well-known landmark that jutted out of the Hughes River that flows past the property. Decades ago the huge boulder was leveled off and a bridge built over it. Nonetheless, the original name of the property has prevailed for 221 years.

Jimm and Kathy East are the current proprietors of the farm, boutique winery and bed and breakfast. Unlike the farmers of the past, today the cash crop is wine grapes, a fruit seldom grown in Virginia in the 18th and 19th centuries.

The Easts purchased the property in 2004 having worked for the previous owner for a year. “I really did not have any training other than helping Dave a little. I never hired a consultant,” Jimm East said.

David and Marilyn Armor founded the winery in 1998 but work commitments led them to sell the property to the Easts. Jimm East worked for more than two decades in the outdoor recreation industry and was seeking to transition to a job requiring less travel. Sharp Rock fulfilled his needs.

It also met the needs of the wine drinking public who soon found the nascent winemaker producing clean, flavorful wines.

Jimm East

Jimm East

Today, East still maintains contact with outdoor enthusiasts but it comes in the form of chatting with visitors to his tasting room. Sharp Rock lies in the long shadows of Old Rag Mountain, one of the most popular hiking destinations in the mid-Atlantic region.

“On Saturday and Sunday afternoons we get a number of hikers” returning from an adventurous hike up Old Rag. Over 100,000 hikers summit the iconic mountain each year.

Small is beautiful
Sharp Rock Vineyards is emblematic of a small winery and lodging establishment. It is situated on 25 beautiful, rolling acres with the Blue Ridge Mountains serving as backdrop. Wine production tops out at around 700 cases annually; a fraction compared with many Old Dominion wineries.

But while production is small the lineup of wines offers considerable depth. East produces about a dozen wines each year from eight varietals grown on the farm. The eight-acre vineyard is home to three white and five red grape varieties.

East’s creative winemaking is showcased in the unique blends he crafts. Vidal Blanc, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are often melded together to create bright, crisp white wines.

Experience has taught the winemaker that red blends offer greater flavor options rather than bottling 100 percent varietals. It enables guests to experience new aromas and flavors “that isn’t the same old thing.”

The winery and tasting room reinforces the historic nature of the farm. It is housed in a 1860s era barn. The winery is located on the ground floor. Guests ascend a narrow set of stairs leading to the former loft to sample and buy wines. The atmosphere is simultaneously down-home and artisanal.Sharp Rock II

Visit and stay
If it sounds like a day spent at the winery would be time well-invested, you would have numerous like-minded folks in your camp. The ambiance of Sharp Rock is geared to reducing stress for overworked city denizens and locals alike. Proof? Both B&B cottages are booked solid on the weekends.

Each cottage comes with its historical bona fides. The “Cottage” was the original dwelling on the farm and dates to 1794. The “Carriage House” was built in 1850. Both buildings are nestled near the Hughes River.

East describes a typical guest experience. “Recently we had a couple spend a weekend at the Cottage. He fly fished in the Hughes while she read nearby. Later they did a wine tasting and received a bottle of wine as part of their stay. The next day they hiked Old Rag.”

Sounds suspiciously like a prescription from your doctor to unwind and relax, eh?

Sharp Rock Vineyards is opened Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. For information on wines, lodging and events visit http://sharprockvineyards.


                                              John’s pick of the month 

Sharp Rock Vineyards

Circa 1794


This red Bordeaux wine pays tribute to the founding of Sharp Rock farm over two centuries ago. It is a blend of the five classic Bordeaux grapes and casts a deep garnet color in the glass.

The aromatic wine telegraphs mouth filling flavors of cocoa and blackberry framed by a subtle touch of cigar box and earth nuances. It is vinified in a style that is approachable now or capable of sleeping for a few years to further enhance its rich, black fruit flavors.


Published in the July 30, 2015 edition of the Culpeper Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

White Dove Studios making beautiful music

Posted on Aug 18 2015 | By

Popular music instruction firm poised to expand 

In 2010, Greg Harpine made a decision to quit his job in law enforcement and devote full-time to teaching musical instrument classes for Culpeper’s young and young at heart.

White Dove Studios IIHe turned in his badge, picked up a guitar and never looked back. Today, students age 6 to 75 visit his home studio daily for personalized and family-oriented instruction in a wide ranging number of instruments. Over 40 students a week pass through his offices.

From banjo to bass and violin to voice, if it makes music Harpine and his five instructors teach their students to “sing” with the joy of music making.

Harpine started giving lessons part-time in 2007 and made a faith-based decision to go full-time in 2010.

“I had what you call a ‘Peter in the boat’ moment,” recalls Harpine. “You have human fears. You are worried about a monthly pay check. But you have to have faith and step out and know God is good every day.

“God doesn’t know recession. God doesn’t know shortages. If we trust and have faith, He opens doors for us every day.”

As proof in his belief, White Dove has steadily grown in size since it opened. “We have not felt the impact of the recession,” Harpine said.

While talented musical instructors form the core of a musical instruction firm, Harpine provides both his skilled teachers and students with a family-like setting that is critical to a student’s success. He strives to create an inviting atmosphere that brings out the best of their abilities.

In the front room of his studio are couches and a coffeemaker. It’s not unusual for the teachers to find waiting parents asleep when their child has finished a lesson. Relaxed defines his holistic approach to teaching music.

To further enhance the family theme one entire wall is hung with photos of his students. “We call it our ‘Family Wall’, Harpine said.

Unlike many musical instruction firms, White Dove’s lessons are a full hour long. Preparing for and winding down from a half hour lesson often leaves just 20 minutes for serious instruction.

“We won’t teach for less than an hour. It’s important to teach the music but it’s so much more important to develop a rapport and relationship with your student. They have to feel comfortable playing in front of you and being able to make mistakes and not feel like the world is going to coming crashing down,” Harpine said.

The price for the personalized instruction is $140 a month that provides four weekly one-hour sessions.

Souls In Harmony
Greg HarpineHarpine had also been providing instrument instruction for autistic children and the elderly. One of his regular students was a retired financial adviser and asked him why he didn’t incorporate that portion of the business into a non-profit organization.

He did not realize he could serve the musical needs of special students as a non-profit. “The gentleman helped me file to become a 501c3.” said Harpine.

As a result, “We are now ready to step out into the community and bring music to a lot of folks. It’s going to make a huge quality of life change for them. Research shows music can positively impact, and even reverse, dementia and Alzheimer’s.”

The company is called Souls In Harmony and was launched in early July. Harpine will devote full-time to building his new business. It will provide music lessons at nursing homes, senior citizen centers and other locales for special needs students.

New vice president
As is often the case, a new business can provide opportunity for others. In this case it’s for one of Harpine’s instructors. Kim Lillard has been promoted to vice president of operations at White Dove Studios.

Lillard began as a student and rapidly advanced through four instruments becoming proficient on the guitar, drums, ukulele and piano. “I couldn’t give her enough to do, she was like a sponge,” Harpine said.

Soon enough Lillard was teaching. “She was absolutely a natural; compassionate and caring.” When Harpine committed to starting his new business, Lillard was promoted to vice president, enabling him to step back from the day-to-day management of White Dove.

“She has been nothing but a blessing since she has been here. I have zero doubt in this young lady’s abilities. She’s my right hand,” said Harpine.

“It’s just a really great experience. Music has been a big part of my life and it’s nice I get to share that with other people,” Lillard said.

But wait…there’s more
White Dove Studios provides highly rated musical instruction and instruction for the special needs segment of the local population but it’s only part of its product offerings.

The firm also has onsite recording and video production studios. Individuals or businesses interested in producing record demos, records, advertising campaigns or conference materials will find the company prepared to deliver.

These offerings include songwriting, songwriting collaboration, arranging and copyright assistance.

White Dove Studios is located at 15161 Beverly Court. Visit them at for a full description of its product offerings.


Published in the July 23, 2015 edition of the Culpeper Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

The cat’s meow

Posted on Aug 12 2015 | By

Fauquier ferals feel the love of committed caregivers

The natural beauty of Fauquier County is legendary. The landscape encompasses rolling farmland, deep forests, and mountain views; all graced with streams and rivers of uncommon beauty.

But within this pastoral setting a silent population of some 20,000 feral cats freely roams the countryside; roams, survives and multiplies.

A “feral” is a domestic cat who has largely reverted to some of form of wildness. Often it is multi-generations removed from hearth and home.

Young feral kittens can be socialized and re-introduced to domestic life more so than an adult. But for the most part, feral colonies keep their distance from man and resist domesticity.

Feral catsSo how do they survive? Being natural hunters help. But there is also a group of compassionate men and women who are drawn to caring for and controlling the population of these silent, peaceful beauties.

The Fauquier SPCA is central to addressing the needs of feral cats in the county. The private shelter contracts with the county and receives funds in the form of grants to care primarily for dogs and cats. But all animals in need come under its watch.

One most often thinks of the SPCA when it recues livestock from deplorable conditions. Saving a starving, ribs-exposed horse is a sad and graphic reminder of the care the society provides helpless creatures.

But they also play a pivotal role in caring for feral cats in concert with help from citizens committed to their well-being.

“We started our trap, neuter and return program back in 2008,” said Caroline Folker, manager, community relations with the Fauquier SPCA. “People were bringing in a large number of cats in to be euthanized. They might have started out trying to feed five or six cats but by the following year had a population of 50 or 60.”

In the last six years, the clinic has spayed or neutered over 2,600 cats. While the number may seem modest given the estimated county-wide population, the reproduction rate of the animals means tens of thousand of ferals have not been bred as a result.

Folker underscores the effort is entirely run on donations and grants and not funded out of the general shelter budget. Why? Some people in the community are not in favor of doing it. “They think we’re helping the ferals stay out there rather than being euthanized. They don’t want them on their property,” Folker said.

But the program respects the wild state of the cats. It provides food, shelter and an opportunity for them to live their lives on their own, responding to their unique natures.

Some people may not be aware that both the feral population and disease are controlled through the humane effort of the society and its caregivers.

Once cats are sterilized they are given rabies vaccinations and parasite prevention. The caregivers commit to feeding and providing housing for the ferals upon their return to the wild. Since the colonies can’t reproduce, over time the population declines naturally.

The program is not targeted to all citizens in Fauquier County. “We are not trying to make people keep and care for cats that they don’t want,” Folker said. The society learned early on if people were persuaded to trap and go through the neutering process at some point many lost interest in the effort.

“We are trying to reach those people who are already committed. We’re not trying to persuade anybody. The caregivers will continue to look after their cats whether we help them or not, and they will never euthanize them,” Folker said.

                                            Trap, Neuter, Return 

                               Volunteers anchor feral cat program

SPCAIf you choose to have a family cat spayed or neutered by the Fauquier SPCA, it’s going to cost $50 for a male and $65 for a female. A fair price given the average cost by a veterinarian is in the $200 to $300 range.

But sign up for the feral spay/neuter service and that cost drops dramatically; $5.75 and $15.75, respectively. But there are a few caveats.

First, caregivers must to commit to feeding and providing shelter for any feral that is sterilized and returned to the wild. And the waiting time for the procedure ranges from a few weeks to three months, depending on the number cats in queue.

Nonetheless, it is an impressive cost savings for caregivers. And the benefits are multifold for their furry charges.

Typically the SPCA will wait until a substantial numbers of ferals have been identified for treatment. Then a clinic is held at its Casanova shelter.

“If we get 50 cats needing sterilizing, we’ll hold a daylong clinic,” said Judy Hagerman, a coordinator who volunteers in arranging the sessions. Some clinics have treated over 100 ferals in a day.

“I get a list of the caregivers and take it from there. We set a clinic date, arrange for volunteer vets and interview the caregivers prior to the procedure. We have 100 traps available and instruct them on their use,” Hagerman said.

Dr. Pat Denny, owner of Pender Veterinary Clinic in Fairfax, provides his services for free four or more times a year. “I enjoy doing it. I think it’s a good cause. People trap and bring in the cats. It’s all orchestrated by very good people. I’m just a small cog in the wheel.”

Well perhaps. But the sterilizations would not take place unless Dr. Denny and many other volunteer vets provided their surgical skills at no cost.

Denny reinforces the value of the program by saying, “It’s healthier for the animals. There’s not as much fighting within the colonies. And it’s better and safer for other wildlife” such as birds and small game.

It’s also been proven that fertile cats will not enter a “fixed” colony. This reduces both fighting and disease. And over time natural attrition reduces the size of the colonies.

For more information on the Trap, Neuter and Return program call the Fauquier SPCA at 540.788.9000. Or, visit


Published in the summer 2015 edition of inFauquier magazine.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Fauquier County wine names

Posted on Aug 10 2015 | By

Labels span the gamut from exclusive to inclusive  

Fauquier County’s wineries cover 651 square miles. To visit them all would involve some serious road time.

But before backing out of the driveway, multiply the 26 wineries by an average of seven wines per tasting room and you’ll get a better idea of why it would take devotion and a couple tanks of gas to sip through them all.

No calculator handy? That’s 182 different wines.

Indeed, the depth and diversity of the county’s wine culture is remarkable. Here are three randomly selected wine names you’ll encounter on your odyssey.

Philip Carter Winery of Virginia:  Corotoman. A red Bordeaux blend named in honor of the home of Robert “King” Carter. Over 250 years ago, the ancestors of the owner of Philip Carter Winery were recognized by the London society and Virginia’s Royal Governor Francis Fauquier as having made quality wine from the delicious, but notoriously difficult to grow, European grape.

It is the winery’s signature red wine with a silky mouthfeel and a full-bodied red stone fruit palate.

IMG_5664Corotoman was a 17th century plantation on the Rappahannock River and the home of “King” Carter. The mansion rivaled the best of Colonial homes of the era and oversaw 48 plantations encompassing 300,000 acres. The residence affirmed the status of Carter as the most powerful planter in the Tidewater aristocracy. The wine scored a silver medal at the 2014 Virginia Governor’s Cup competition.

Desert Rose Ranch & Winery: Covert Cab. Perhaps the most whimsical wine name in the county. The moniker is driven by two dynamics. First, it is made from a new hybrid grape of Norton and Cabernet Sauvignon. No one in the county grows or produces the unique wine except Desert Rose. The resulting wine is deep-colored and full-bodied.

Secondly, the proprietor of Desert Rose served 31 action-packed years in the Nation’s clandestine service. Covert Cab blends the mystique of the grape’s heritage with the mystery of the owner’s cloak-and-dagger career. The undercover wine won best in show for reds at the 2015 Fauquier County wine competition held at Airlie Conference Center.

Granite Heights Winery: humility. That’s not a typo; in keeping with the spirit of the wine’s name it is always spelled in lower case. It is a red Bordeaux blend typically comprised of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. It produces a rich, full-bodied wine that can simply be described as delicious.

The owners chose the name because it embodies their belief that humility is a silent strength rather than an act of lowering oneself in relation to others. It is a character trait that speaks well of the person or wine displaying it. As winemakers they want the wine to do most of the “talking”. To reinforce the philosophy, their tasting notes have no descriptive language on the aromas or flavors found within the bottle; just a simple list of the blended composition.

Guests taste, discover and decide on their own what secrets are unlocked as they enjoy the gifts from the vineyard. The owners believe to do otherwise would be like leading the witness or being told the ending of a book before its read.

Past vintages of humility have been recognized by wine cognoscenti and prestigious competitions, including a gold medal for the 2010 vintage from the Atlantic Seaboard Wine Competition and a silver medal from the Virginia’s Governor Cup for the 2011 bottling.

Here are a few other wines with intriguing back stories waiting to be revealed.  Enjoy your journey as you explore all the label tales behind Fauquier wine.

Boxwood Winery: Topiary and Trellis reds

Mediterranean Cellars: Bellview Blanc

Winding Road Cellars: Tribute red table wine

Pearmund Cellars: Ameritage

Three Fox Vineyards: Giacosa Chardonnay & Cano Passo Rose

Barrel Oak Winery: Bowhaus Red & Chocolate Lab dessert wine

Linden Vineyards: Hardscrabble Chardonnay & Boisseau Chardonnay

Fox Meadow Winery: LeRenard Rouge & Freezeland White

Morais Vineyards & Winery: Battlefield White & Sam’s Jeropiga dessert wine

Delaplane Cellars: Maggie’s Viognier & Williams Gap red

Categories : WINE ARTICLES