Archive for July, 2018


Trail of Cheers

Posted on Jul 29 2018 | By

Navigating the prettiest wine trail in Virginia

Each spring some 4,000 enthusiastic hikers hoist packs and begin a 2,190 mile journey along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains.

Known as Appalachian Trail or AT thru-hikers, they lace up at Springer Mountain in GA in April seeking to summit Mount Katahdin in Maine before the snow flies. It’s an arduous walk and a lifetime memory keeper for those who achieve their goal. Only one in four make it.

But as these intrepid hikers trek over Virginia’s 544 miles of the AT they have an opportunity at Thornton Gap to gaze down on an entirely different path: The Skyline Wine Trail. Almost none of them will have time to drop packs and explore the attractions of this singularly beautiful wine trail. ‘Tis a pity.

But their loss is a major win for the 1.5 million motorists who annually head to the Shenandoah National Park via Route 211. The four lane highway runs in an almost straight line from Warrenton to Skyline Drive. You can’t get lost. Delayed perhaps but not lost.

And why? Consider the numbers: Along the trail there are nine wineries, two breweries, one distillery, eight restaurants, 13 lodging establishments, and 14 shops and galleries scattered like diamonds on a rolling landscape of verdant fields and dense forests all backdropped by the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Virginia is one of the most scenic states in the Nation and the Skyline Wine Trail encompasses one of the loveliest regions in the Old Dominion.

There is so much to see and do along the trail that reaching Skyline Drive by days end is a challenge.

Birth of the Trail
If you’ve yet to explore the trail, relax. It was created in early 2018 and its reputation grows each month. As upcoming summer and fall unfolds, trail visitorship will increase and word of this unique day and weekend destination spot will continue to grow.

The trail’s birth is supported by all of its member businesses but its vision was conceived by Carl Henrickson. Henrickson and his wife Donna are proprietors of the Little Washington Winery located in the heart of the trail.

“When Donna and I were looking for a location for our winery we searched much of Virginia and simply didn’t connect with any given location as nice as they were. Then our real estate agent asked if we’d ever been to Rappahannock County. We had not,” Henrickson recalls.

A few weeks later they drove west on Route 211 and were mesmerized as one picturesque scene after another unfolded. They had found their special place.

“You can reach Skyline Drive by traveling out I-66 and entering the Shenandoah National Park in Front Royal. But the much more scenic route is passing through Warrenton and heading out 211,” Henrickson said.

He goes on to say, “For weekend travelers the choice can be to go to the beach in heavy traffic and sweltering temperatures or drive to the mountains through beautiful, traffic-free countryside. When you reach Skyline Drive it will offer shady walks and 10 degree cooler temperatures. It’s a nice alternative getaway.”

The Crown Jewels
Let’s take a quick tour of the trail and visit the 11 family-owned purveyors of quality social lubricants.

Magnolia Vineyards
Glenn and Tina Marchione were working professionals in Northern Virginia when they opened their winery five years ago. They embody the premise that if you love wine enough you can be drawn into producing it for others. “We like the social aspect; sharing our passion, sharing our stories and sharing good wine,” says Tina Marchione.

Grey Ghost Vineyards
Located in Amissville 11 miles west of Warrenton, Al and Cheryl Kellert opened their business two decades ago. Al was a home winemaker for years before turning professional. Over the years they have earned hundreds of medals for their quality wines as evidenced by their crowded parking lot on most weekends.

Narmada Winery
The late Pandit Pantil and his still active wife Sudah created a stunning venue in which to taste wine while enjoying the views of their rolling Piedmont estate. Sudah is a retired endodontist who parlayed her background in chemistry into creating numerous gold medal wines, including a 2017 Virginia’s Governor’s Cup winner.

Gadino Cellars
It’s likely when you meet Bill and Aleta Gadino they will be smiling and laughing. The joy of their Italian hospitality is reflected in both their personalities and acclaimed wines. Don’t feel bashful in taking your glass of wine outside for a game of bocce ball.

Wine Loves Chocolate
Little Washington Winery
Skyline Vineyard Inn
The next three establishments are owned by Carl and Donna Hendrickson. Ahhh…you remembered. They’re the couple behind the vision for the trail itself. The duo have been involved in the Virginia wine industry for years. The views of Old Rag Mountain from their winery will assure you’ll be back for a second visit.

Quievremont Vineyards
John Quievremont flew jets for the Marine Corps during his career but breaking the sound barrier is not something you’ll hear at his peaceful and beautifully appointed tasting room. The winery is the newest member of the trail and located on historic Gid Brown Hollow Road.

Pen Druid Brewery
This unique brewery focuses on wild fermentation and barrel aging of its beers. The owners are the Carney brothers previously known as the psych-rock band Pontiak. After a decade of enjoying exotic beers while traveling the globe the trio chose Rappahannock County as home for their eclectic brand of beer. Oh lucky us.

Copper Fox Distillery
Located directly across the lane from Pen Druid, this internationally recognized distillery awaits the discerning whiskey lover. Its whiskey is hand-crafted and aged with a progressive series of new and used applewood and oak chips inside used bourbon barrels. Owner and master distiller Rick Wasmund spent years perfecting the technique while earning accolades from the spirits industry and consumers alike.

Hopkins Ordinary Ale Works
Kevin Kraditor and Sherri Fickel operate the historic Hopkins Ordinary in Sperryville. A few years ago Kraditor launched a brewery in the cellar of the historic building. Small batch craft beer is made using apple and cherry wood smoked barley from Cooper Fox distillery and seasonally available local ingredients such as hops, honey, fruit and herbs.

In addition to the variety of wine, beer and whiskey establishments on the Skyline Wine Trail a host of overnight accommodations and shopping opportunities abound. For additional information in planning your day or weekend getaway visit


Published in the Summer edition of Dine, Wine and Stein magazine.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Goal setting is the purview of seemingly every self-help book. Set your goals and it will motivate, create focus, jettison procrastination, produce results and lead to a better you. All lofty promises harnessed to hard work.

But set extraordinary goals and the unexpected may well become reality. In Fauquier County there is an individual who reaches for the stars; stars that may some day gift back to the community and the Nation the sound of music.

“It’s important for our generation to reach out and find the next Mozart, the next Beethoven. When you have a child that cannot reach that potential because of any reason whatsoever the next generation is going to lose out,” said Diana Traietta.

And Traietta, executive director of the Fauquier Youth Orchestra, doesn’t like losing. More importantly, she loves winning for the youth of the county; especially youth that may be disadvantaged for any number of reasons.

Traietta founded the orchestra six years ago; it completed its fifth successful season in June. Her day job is regional manager for Music and Arts in Frederick, MD, a nationwide chain that’s a music-everything hub offering sales, rentals, lessons and accessories.

In the course of her workday activities, Traietta discovered a segment of Fauquier County students who were not being musically served. There were many reasons including the lack of family income for instruments and lessons and conflicts with scheduling practices because some students were taking classes to improve their academic scores. Even sports created conflicts.

“I learned a large percentage of students wanted to participate in music but couldn’t because remediation classes were happening during orchestra practice,” said Traietta.
“Our program is designed to help students that for any reason can’t take orchestra in school.”

Her organization helps identify those students and make sure they have the same opportunities as any other child in the county to learn a band or orchestra instrument.

Research confirms that learning music improves academic life. It builds confidence, teamwork, language, arts and even math skills.

“Music is very special because it encompasses many disciplines and contributes to the educational growth of a student. When a child does not have an opportunity to learn music, it can lead to a breakdown in overall school performance,” said Traietta.

Joining the orchestra is a voluntary decision on the part of a student. The orchestra accepts any interested pupil without the use of an audition so every child who wants to learn an instrument has the means to accomplish it.

Financial support
For a small fee of $10 a week a young musician receives one hour of rehearsal at the Highland School. But an instrument is a must if music is to be created. “If a child cannot afford an instrument we will provide one for them. The support comes through the Gloria Faye Dingus Music Alliance, a non-profit organization created by Tim Dingus who owns Warrenton’s Drum and Strum Music Center,” said Traietta.

The orchestra’s four instructors are all talented musicians who devote 100 percent of their time to teaching students on a volunteer basis. Traietta establishes the rehearsal schedules at Highland School by working with public, private and homeschool networks.

“We offer three orchestra programs and a band; beginning, intermediate, advanced and a jazz band”. The orchestra holds performances throughout the year with an emphasis on a seasonal concert in December and an end-of-season performance in June.

Mark Wood Performs
Traietta led a fundraising effort this past year to bring in world-renowned and Emmy-winning composer electric violinist Mark Wood. Wood gained fame when he played with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, an American rock band noted for their driving, high energy performances. The Washington Post referred to them as “an arena-rock juggernaut”.

Wood worked with the band for two days teaching them how to perform better as a team and improving their musical skills. The orchestra then played with Wood in a gala performance of classic rock songs.

“The kids loved the rock aspect of the concert. They picked up a new genre of music they were not accustomed to playing. Many of the kids had never heard of Led Zeppelin, Police, Sting and others. He introduced them to a different time period of music. It was awesome,” Traietta said.

One of the students, Kendra Lyons, a 13-year-old from Broad Run was chosen to play first violin alongside Wood at the concluding concert. “I really like the orchestra. I play violin and have been going there for three years. Its opened more opportunities to grow over the years and that’s cool too,” said Lyons. “I think anyone thinking about would really like it.”

Kendra’s father Rick explains she’s not limited her performances to Highland School but has played at First Night Warrenton, for senior citizens groups and even a wedding. “I even travelled to New York. We competed in the Big Apple Music Festival. I’ll be playing again next year with the orchestra,” said Kenda Lyons.

Program structure
Currently the orchestra has 40 participating students but will range in size from 40 to 60 young musicians depending on the time of the year. The students span the fifth through the 12th grades.

What makes the program unique is students are not required or expected to sign up for a full season. “We understand that as much as music is important so is homework, studying and sports so we work really hard so the children can take part in our program but also in other after school activities too,” said Traietta.

As a result, some young musicians may play only during the fall while others sign up for the entire season.

It’s also not limited to just in-county children but encompasses the greater Fauquier area, including Prince William, Culpeper and Warren counties. All rehearsals take place at Highland School where the orchestra rents space.

Traietta is gearing up now for her sixth season and is welcoming children from throughout Virginia to join if circumstances permit.

“We believe every child should learn music and we arrange to give them that opportunity to do so. There should never be any reason that a family has to choose between putting food on the table or having their child learn a musical instrument.

“Unfortunately, some families have to make that choice and we want them to know we are here to help,” Traietta said.

The success of the program has led to plans to even further expand its geographic reach. “We are going to take the show on the road. We are going throughout the entire state identifying those counties that do not have a string program offered in their public schools. We will go in and create one.

“We are extremely proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish in five years and we’re excited about what we can accomplish as an organization over the next 100 years,” said Traietta.

But whether those goals result in the next Mozart or Ron Wood making beautiful music in the future, the true gift is the joy given to youngsters fortunate enough to have fallen under the musical spell of Diana Traietta and her supporting cast.


                                                        The instructors


Diana Traietta
Traietta is executive director of the FSO. She studied music education and violin performance at Marywood University in Scranton, Pennsylvania. She teaches all string instruments and performs with the Piedmont Symphony in Warrenton.

Laura O’Konski
O’Konski is co-director of the FSO and holds a bachelor’s degree in music education from George Mason University. She is also the director of the intermediate orchestra with the FSO.

Laura Morgan
Morgan is co-director of the FSO and holds a major in music education and viola performance from East Carolina University. She recently graduated with a masters in orchestral conducting.

Craig Dye
Dye is band director with the FSO and has taught and conducted bands for nearly three decades. He is also a free-lance trumpet artist and has performed with the Virginia Grand Military Band.

For additional information on the Fauquier Youth Orchestra visit 


Published in the July 28, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Singing toward success

Posted on Jul 18 2018 | By

Fauquier’s Katie and Kelly Hagarty launch music career 

The music industry is a labor of love…coupled with extraordinary work. The odds of reaching stardom is a formidable challenge. But if talent and commitment are soulmates to success, keep an eye on two local young ladies as they begin their climb up the ladder.

On July 4, Katie and Kelly Hagarty released their first song, titled Indecisive. It’s available on popular music apps iTunes, Spotify, Pandora, and Amazon and is receiving positive reviews. The music genre the duo focuses on is country-rock.

Katie & Kelly Hagarty

The talented twosome has been making music together since their preteens but in the last year have taken dead aim at a professional career. Typical of many emerging young stars it’s been a family affair with mom and dad guiding and encouraging their youthful charges.

The family connection further extends to this writer who is the grandfather of the ladies. But a familial relationship in no way leads to embellishing the gifts of these two singers.

Their talent is real.

Parents Brian and Diane Hagarty live just outside Warrenton. Brian Hagarty is a local real estate agent assisted by his wife.

In addition to Katie, 17, and Kelly, 20, they have two sons, Preston and Peyton. Preston, 23, is a former Marine who operates a successful physical fitness business in Wilmington, N.C. Their youngest child, Peyton, 13, lives at home and works as videographer on his sisters’ videos.

In the beginning
Singers often begin to warble as youngsters and so it was with the Hagarty twosome. It started over a decade ago when Kelly Hagarty first sang at church. From there they entered local talent competitions taking first place in three of the events.

With many activities to engage them at the early teen level, the music was set aside and occasionally employed at family get togethers; all fun with no expectations.

Then in 2017, Diane Hagarty spotted her daughters sitting on a gently sloping roof of their home singing. Mom’s cell phone recorded one of the impromptu performances for posterity.

Fast forward one month and Brian Hagarty, along with his newly minted real estate agent daughter, Kelly, were in Hoboken, N.J attending a real estate seminar. A restaurant conversation commenced with two West Coast diners who were, ironically, in the music business. Kelly Hagarty showed the men the video her mother had taken.

“Hey, hand me that phone. Is that really you guys singing?” asked one of the incredulous men. Indeed, it was. “Can we call you tomorrow? We hear something different in your voices. We think you have something special. We’d like to help develop it.”

The other music guru was also a professional bus driver. He had a colorful past that included driving for Johnny Cash, BB King and other notables, including a short stint wheeling for Bob Dylan when the legendary singer was having a new engine installed in his own highway behemoth.

As the fortuitous dinner encounter concluded, the ace driver turned to Kelly Hagarty and said, “Keep in touch. When you girls make it to the top I’ll come back and drive for you.”

Heady stuff for the young lass.

“That evening is where it all started,” said Diane Hagarty. The men were successful music entrepreneurs on the scout for new talent. A short time later one of the men flew in from Calif. for a three-day stay at the Hagarty home.

The long weekend was spent discussing the singers’ goals, and more importantly, teaching them how to write songs. After a few months of collaborative work the young talent decided the style of music the men were seeking did not match theirs and the two parties parted amicably.

Getting serious
Brian Hagarty then set in motion a series of actions to accelerate his daughters’ goals. One involved a trip to Nashville to meet with a leading entertainment lawyer.

In researching the industry, he learned, “If you have any potential talent and start making money, hire an entertainment attorney and a business manager. I wanted the best and found such a lawyer in Nashville.” For now, Brian Hagarty acts as the business manager.

Next came outlays for future artistic growth. Purchases included a piano, acoustic guitars, microphones, video software programs and other assorted equipment.

One microphone alone ran $5,000. To date, $30,000 has been invested in his daughters burgeoning careers; expenditures that are a given in firing up a professional career.

The next move was building live performance skills. Open mic performances at local venues such a Molly’s Pub, Denim and Pearls, Old Bust Head Brewery and others acted as an incubation environment for building a repertoire, learning stage presence and honing entertainer skills.

One upcoming volunteer performance that the pair are proud to perform at is a September 8 fundraiser at Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane. The event is called BeLEIGHve Fest that will raise funds to help cover medical costs for the Leigh family of Marshall whose two sons, Noah and Kaleb, suffer from cancer.

After that performance a shift will be made to focus on paid performances as they advance their career. It will also include performing at private parties and corporate events.

In the interim, Katie Hagarty will finish her final year of high school by home schooling.

Further to their aspirations, Katie and Kelly have been accepted into the Nashville Songwriters Association International, the world’s largest not-for-profit songwriters trade association. They will travel to Nashville on August 2 to sharpen their song crafting skills under the guidance of the country’s top songwriters.

They are also members of BMI, an organization that collects license fees on behalf of songwriters. Each time one of their songs is aired a percent of the money is paid back to the them; a critical function for artists writing their own material.

The Future
So what thoughts swirl through the minds of these young singers as they hit the career pedal?

“When we started out we didn’t have anybody helping us. There was no set plan or detailed map. We had to learn a lot by ourselves. It was hard to research and learn; especially Logic Pro X, the software for recording our videos,” said Kelly Hagarty.

Because of her inherent technical skills, however, she was soon navigating the intricacies of producing demos and videos.

She also differed with Katie on an important function: stage presence. “In the beginning I suffered from anxiety on stage. Katie never did. Soon it became fun to perform. I also enjoy talking with members of the audience after a show is over.”

Individual skill sets are now established with Kelly handling the mixing board, sound equipment, guitar work, harmonies and other aspects of both videos and live shows. Katie is the lead singer and co-writes all of their material with Kelly.

Katie Hagarty said, “The most satisfying part of the career so far is to go back and listen to the first songs we recorded on our phones. It’s amazing to see how much work and layers go into the final product. It’s really amazing to see the progress.

“When we go back and listen to our early cover songs on YouTube we kinda cringe. We definitely got better the more we did it.”

Soon the team will begin designing and creating their own line of merchandise, including shirts, jackets and other clothing items for sale at their performances and online. The intent is to start slowly and see what sells and then expand the product line based on sales success.

In the short term, they will continue as a sister act but will likely expand to include a band within a year. “We want to play bigger venues. We plan on having a drummer, electric guitarist and bass player but we’d still be writing the songs,” said Katie Hagarty.

Katie Hagarty closes with an assessment of their hectic existence: “We are very blessed to be where we are at this point in our life. It’s been hard to get here, what with school and other work that we’re involved in. But it’s been an amazing experience; very humbling, because it’s satisfying to make music for a living and meet with some success.”

Kelly Hagarty said, “I find it enlightening to now have a job where I get to create music, putting emotions into my guitar and creating emotions for others.”

Visitors can reach the singers on their website  Interested listeners can purchase music and view videos while enjoying the sound of a blossoming career.

Published in the  June 18, 2018  edition of the Fauquier Times.


Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Book Review: Virginia Wine

Posted on Jul 18 2018 | By

Virginia Wine
Four Centuries of Change
Andrew A. Painter
George Mason University Press

Virginia’s history is the heart of the Nation’s history.

Beginning with the first permanent English settlement in Jamestown in 1607, it went on to become the birthplace of eight presidents, endure more Civil War battles than any state, create one of the most effective state governments and be blessed with extraordinary beauty.

Proud to be Virginian is no idle boast.

So it’s fitting the history of wine in America began in the Old Dominion. Today it’s the fifth largest wine producing state in the Nation. It’s also fitting the definitive history of the state’s industry has been penned by one of its native sons, Andrew A. Painter.

Painter is a land use attorney and partner in a Leesburg law firm. A graduate of the University of Virginia and the University of Richmond School of Law, he was raised by Virginia wine loving parents and spent many summers working as a farmhand in Fairfax County and spending time with his grandparents in rural Amelia County. His bona fides are self-evident.

To state a book is the definitive work on a given subject courts reservations. But consider the author read hundreds of books on the subject, interviewed dozens of experts and winery owners, spent countless hours on library research, visited over 200 wineries and devoted 10 years in writing the book.

The 436-page treatise includes 74 photographs, many of the state’s early legends, and has a bibliography of 1,021 research notes. Methodical comes to mind when one considers the work and passion required in producing such work.

And while ‘scholarly’ aptly describes the book it is immensely readable. Painter’s style is conversational and educational; particularly his description of the early personalities that launched the modem era of the state’s viniculture success.

Chapter and Verse
The book is divided into four parts: the nascent birth of the state’s wine story from 1572 to 1800; its struggles from 1800 to 1967; emergence of a viable industry from 1967 to 1990; and the success of the modern era from 1990 to present.

Each section deftly builds on previous chapters and in totality provides a vivid description of an industry of fits and starts now enjoying the fruits of its hard-earned success.

Chapter one opens with a fascinating tale of a band of seven Jesuits who established a small mission near present-day Jamestown in 1570. On a subsequent resupply of the mission one Jesuit wrote, “We made landfall in the Bay of the Mother of God, and in this port we found a very beautiful vineyard, as well laid out and ordered as the vineyards of Spain.”

Who knew? Historians now believe the grape growing was the work of an Algonquian community and offers proof of a grape culture nurtured by Native Americans.

The long and arduous path to successful wine cultivation by the English commenced shortly after Jamestown was founded. However, while native grapes grew in profusion, the wine it produced was unpalatable.

Every early attempt to grow the European grape species known at Vitis vinifera—the species that produces 99 percent of the world’s wine—resulted in failure; a pattern that largely repeated itself until the 1960s. Weather and a hostile insect environment simply proved insurmountable until science was brought to bear during the modern era.

Nonetheless, it’s startlingly to read how numerous attempts to create a Virginia wine industry for 200 years ultimately resulted in repeated failures. The effort had a ‘search for the Northwest passage’ aura; an idea so compelling previous failures did not dissuade future generations in trying to achieve a breakthrough.

Chapter two continues with the search for the Holy Grail and describes little known tales of marginal successes that ended badly and thwarting hopeful vintners. The era did see the cultivation of new native and American hybrid grapes. Most notedly was the effort of Dr. Daniel Norton from Richmond who produced a pleasing red wine by cross-pollinating clusters from two types of grapes.

Wine historian Thomas Pinney described the grape as the “best of all native hybrids for the making of red wine.” Some 170 years later it caught full traction when Dennis Horton, owner of Horton Vineyards, created his now famous “Horton’s Norton”.

The Civil War devasted the Nation and along with it whatever embryonic wine industry was emerging in the 1850s. By the 1870s, however, wine was again being produced throughout the Commonwealth but was of medium-to-low quality. It would set the stage for consumer tastes in the first half of the 20th century.

One of the hopeful entrants during this period was the Monticello Wine Company. The company entered its golden age in the 1890s, producing 68,000 gallons wine annually. The industry itself was producing 461,000 gallons a year. But with the onset of the prohibition movement the company failed in 1915 and the other players weaken and faded.

The “Drys” ultimately prevailed with passage of Prohibition in 1919 and the Nation’s wine industry came to a halt.

After Prohibition was repealed wine was not considered the libation of choice for much of the population. Low grade and sweet wines were often consumed by the few who chose to imbibe wine.

Chapter three is perhaps the most fascinating section of the book because some of today’s wine drinkers will recall the early successes that led to a revolution in wine drinking. Concurrent with California’s growing interest in high quality wines Virginia soon followed suit.

Many of the pivotal Virginia leaders of the new culture are showcased here but two early standouts are Charles J. Raney and Robert de Treville Lawrence. Raney secured the first Virginia winery permit and opened his winery in 1975 called “Farfelu”, meaning eccentric or crazy in Old French.

Lawrence was a one-man marketing machine who for over two decades espoused the joy and viability of Virginia wine and organized the Vinifera Wine Growers Association in 1973.

With prescient of a sage he told Time magazine in 1977, “The key to quality is vinifera. There is no other way to make good wine. Other wines are hamburger wines.”

The chapter goes on at length sharing one fascinating story after another about the pioneers who broke the back of cheap sweet wine and turned Virginia into a powerhouse of quality vivifera.

The fourth chapter spans from 1990 to the present and is accurately titled “End of the Beginning.” Exploring continued industry growing pains, it covers subjects diverse as the Direct Shipping controversy, emerging wine regions, home winemaking, growth of festivals, successful business deals (and ones gone sour) and real estate deals of noted magnitude.

As one sets the finished book aside, it’s with awe and respect that an individual could devote one-fifth of his life to such a notable subject. Painter’s commitment to produce the seminal work on Virginia wine is a gift to all wine lovers.


Published in the Summer 2018 issue of Dine, Wine & Stein magazine.


Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Hambrick Hammers Inc. lights 16 candles

Posted on Jul 16 2018 | By

Family owned firm rockin’ along at bone rattling pace 

Curtis and Michele Hambrick were high school sweethearts and after the 31 years of marriage the love still shows. So does the hard work that has made this Marshall small business a unique success.

The company specializes in demolition of rock and concrete. And less you think it might be hard to conjure a viable business that simply breaks rock, think again.

Curtis Hambrick toiled in the construction industry for years before the idea struck him that the demand for rock and concrete removal held economic potential. And why?

Northern Virginia and the Piedmont region is a mother lode of subsurface rock. Combine that fact with the explosive growth in home and commercial construction, highways and pipeline trenches and the recipe for success was as clear as a mountain brook.

Nonetheless, it takes courage to create, fund and execute a new small business. The average life span of a small business is eight and a half years; 555,000 close their doors annually. This firm, however, is generating over a million dollars of business a year.

Michele Hambrick shared her thoughts on how that success was achieved and her pride in what her husband and her have built. Curtis Hambrick, 56, was not available for comment because he leaves the house at 4 a.m. five to six days a week and returns around 7 p.m.

“We run the business out of our home. But Curtis leased a shop on a nearby farm 10 years ago for the maintenance and repair of the machines,” she said. Repair work is so significant the company has its own mechanic.

The arsenal of heavy-duty tractors, backhoes and trucks totals 14 pieces valued at several million dollars. “The machines range in cost from $150,000 to over $300,000 each,” said Hambrick.

The workhorse and frontline agitator of peaceful rock is called a hoe-ram. Picture your one-man jack hammer plugging away at a piece of asphalt. Now put that jack hammer on steroids and attach it to the arm of a large backhoe and you’ve got the picture of what is brought to bear on recalcitrant rock and concrete.

And where is all this rock? Everywhere. But the company’s fortunes are centered on Northern Virginia and especially Loudoun County, where work on data centers, pipeline trenches and commercial and home construction thrive.

The company has six full-time workers who are all experts on the heavy-duty equipment. The Hambricks have known three of the men for decades. Suffice it to say loyalty is a reigning character trait among the small and highly experienced workforce.

While large rock removal jobs are the company’s forte, no job is too small to get their attention. “We have broken rock for individual homeowners putting in a swimming pool and for farmers seeking removal of rock and boulders in their pastures. The Orange County Hounds even used us to remove rock from their fields,” Hambrick said.

A particularly unique application was RdV Vineyards in Delaplane who needed some rock removed from their property. We’ll drink to the success of that job.

The firm is also licensed in West Virginia where Richmond American homebuilders is building subdivisions. Home construction firms may think site preparations will be a breeze until they stumbled upon the hard stuff. Lucky for them Hambrick Hammers is on their speed dial.

While the Hambricks were building their business, they were also raising two sons, Kurt and Carson. Kurt, 27, is newly married and living in Richmond and does not work for the firm.

Carson, 24, works full-time for his parents. “Carson is doing a good job and is well-liked by all the men. When we go out of town he handles everything.

“It’s hard to find young labor today. They don’t want to do this type of work,” Hambrick said. Perhaps prying cell phones out of their hands might help.

Asked why Michele Hambrick wanted to tell their story she said, “I wanted to get some recognition for Curtis. He works so hard. He’s good a man and tries to be good to his employees. All of them have their own service trucks and he gives them a lot of freedom to get the work done.”

If all of this sounds like a family making a solid contribution to their community, it’s the reason you might find them humming Billy Idol’s 1987 hit ‘Sweet Sixteen’ as they head off to work.


Published in the July 11, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.


Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Lace’em up!

Posted on Jul 15 2018 | By

The joys of a walk in the woods

Time. It’s our most prized possession. There’s never enough of it and it flies faster than a thought. We try to husband our time to maximize its usefulness. At the end of the day we often reflect on where it went.

For many of us carving out time to exercise is a priority. And those who don’t pursue the elusive goal know they should. The medical, scientific, spiritual benefits of regular exercise have been reported with such frequency we tend to zone out when the subject is brought up. Yes, yes, we know we should exercise but…there’s never enough time.

Here’s a counterintuitive proposal: let’s waste some time. But think of it as an investment in your well-being; not frittering away a precious commodity. The only gear you’ll need is a pair of hiking shoes and a small day pack. In four hours or less one can reinvigorate mind and body under the canopy of life-giving greenery.

The most challenging aspect of hiking is the commitment to carve out a half-day from work and home responsibilities.

To create a further incentive to act let’s combine two concepts: exercise is good and a forest atmosphere is beneficial. The former is a given. The latter is the cornerstone of a preventive health practice that was developed in Japan in the 1980s.

It’s called Shinrin-yoko or “taking in the forest” or “forest bathing”. Researchers in Japan and South Korea have scientifically confirmed the health benefits of spending time under the canopy of a living forest.

The practice is simplicity itself. A person enters a natural area in a relaxed manner and achieves calming, rejuvenating and restorative benefits. The science behind the concept is that many trees give off organic compounds that support our “NK”, or natural killer cells; an integral part of our immune system.

The benefits of forest bathing include boosting the immune system, reducing blood pressure and stress, improving mood, ability to focus, energy levels and sleep. The key to maximizing forest bathing is to combine it with hiking.

The only hitch is it takes time.

But even two or three forest hikes a month can generate a host of healthful benefits. Not to mention experiencing the beauty of a quiet forest or the scenery of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

Where to go
Fortunately, Fauquier County residents have both the Whitney State Forest and the Shenandoah National Park, or SNP, within easy driving distance. Denizens living inside the beltway must devote a full day to enjoying either of these treasures.

Not so us locals. In a half a day or less an adventurous world of real nature awaits. Set your device on airplane mode and free yourself in the forest.

Whitney State Forest is a 148-acre State Forest located a few miles outside of Warrenton. The forest has a variety trees and animal life that transport a walker to venues similar to the more challenging nearby mountain trails but within minutes of town.

There are over six miles of trails crisscrossing a central fire road. Navigating the forest is easy and the rewards will include opportunities to encounter a variety of bird and animal life. Breathe deeply and walk gently in this forest.

From micro-to-macro describes heading out to a hike in the SNP. The Park has over 200,000 acres of forest, 500 miles of maintained trails, dozens of cascading waterfalls, peaceful backcountry camping and endless valley views.

The center piece is Skyline Drive that meanders the ridge line for 105 miles, from Front Royal to Waynesboro. The iconic Appalachian Trail parallels the Drive offering the opportunity to step back in time and experience the mountains as yesteryear mountain folk did.

When you arrive in the high country, finding your way around SNP is simple.  Its trail obelisks and blazed trees easily guide a hiker from trailhead to trail’s end.

There are three color-coded trail blazes: white identifies the historic Appalachian Trail which runs 101 miles through the park; blue pinpoints side trails for hikers only; and yellow welcomes both hikers and horses. The park boundary is identified by red markers.

Hiking Clubs
While forest hiking contributes to a healthy lifestyle, social interaction is also a marker for longevity. Getting outdoors with friends and acquaintances is a double your pleasure double fun proposition. There’s no need to plan and execute the hike itself. Simply show up at the designated meeting spot, jump in a car and off to the mountains you go.

There are several organized hiking clubs in the area but the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club is the granddaddy of them all. PATC was founded in 1927 for the purpose of building and maintaining the Appalachian Trail, the longest hiking trail in the world meandering over mountains and through forests from Maine to Georgia. The 2,190-mile footpath traverses through some of the most beautiful scenery in the Nation.

Each month the club sponsors numerous hikes from easy parklike jaunts to more challenging mountain ascents.

Closer to home, Fauquier County has its own hiking club called Boots’n Beer. The nine-year-old club was founded by local resident and businessman Jim Carson.

Andreas Keller, treasurer and charter member of the club says, “Hiking is the most natural exercise. It’s great medicine for a long and happy life. Nothing beats a walk in the woods, hiking mountains or simply spending time in the outdoors.”

Given the demands of work today, stress relief is a goal among many Fauquier County citizens. Proof? The nine-year-old club has over 200 members. A typical hike will see 10 or more folks navigating the trails of the Shenandoah National Park or George Washington National Forest.

But it isn’t all heart pounding, sweat inducing physical labor that eases a worried mind. Each Boots’nBeer hike is followed by a rehydration stop at a local tavern.

The club’s motto embodies its fun-loving approach to the great outdoors: “A drinking club with a hiking problem”. Its whimsical logo depicts a pair of hiking boots, one with a mug handle and foaming beer head and the other lying on its side in a dreamy beer-induced repose. All hikes terminate with a hydration stop at a local pub or brewery for a cold draft and a bite to eat. Need we say more?

Hit parade of hikes
While there are hundreds of hiking options in the Shenandoah National Park, several are perennial keepers. Here are five proven favorites to place on your bucket list. You won’t be disappointed making tracks on any of these well-travelled trails.

Old Rag Mountain: One of the most popular hikes in the Mid-Atlantic region. The nine-mile loop has spectacular panoramic views and offers one of the most challenging rock scrambles in the park.

White Oak Canyon: Some of the best scenic waterfalls in Virginia are on display on this eight-mile loop. Be prepared for some serious elevation gain but it’s well worth the perspiration produced.

Dark Hollow Falls: Pressed for time? This stroll of less than two miles will reward with four waterfalls and an easy walk. It’s popular so mid-week hiking is suggested to avoid the crowds.

Stony Man: One of the more secluded loops in the SNP. The ten-mile hike provides picturesque views of both the Shenandoah Valley and surrounding mountains. There is a nice swimming hole on the Rose River to cool the motor down on this workout.

Mary’s Rock: This favorite can be approached as either a four-mile or nine-mile hike. The shorter version starts at the Panorama parking lot and ascends to stunning views in less two miles. The more adventurous can begin in the valley and ascend the Buck Hollow Trail to reach the to

                                                       GETTING STARTED

There are several online sources for planning an adventurous day in the mountains. Here’s a few of the best.

Hiking Upward: This free site was created by a group of avid hikers who enjoy spending time in the forests and parks of the Mid-Atlantic states. They founded Hiking Upward to share what they’ve learned and create a meeting place for people who love the out-of-doors. The site lists dozens of detailed hikes. Each hike includes maps and reviews and photos by those who have walked it.  Additionally, each trail description is accompanied by a numerical rating from one to five on its difficulty, streams, views, solitude and camping. One of the best hiking resources available.

Potomac Appalachian Trail Club: The breath of activities sponsored by PATC is impressive. Its core mission is the care of the hundreds of miles of trails and numerous shelters and cabins in Virginia and parts of Maryland and Pennsylvania. Each month the club newsletter posts numerous hikes ranging from easy five milers with modest elevation gains to more challenging 15+ mile ventures to mountain peaks with sweeping views. The club has a large selection of guide books and maps to shepherd the way to trail joy.

Boots’n Beer: Warrenton’s own. A passionate group of your local neighbors who explore the state and national forests in our region. Join this group of enthusiasts and find both rewarding trail workouts and friends.

Whitney State Forest: A local hidden treasure located a few minutes outside of Warrenton. Indulge your trail urges and get back home with no fuss.

Shenandoah National Park: One of the Nation’s premier national parks less than an hour west of Warrenton. Challenge yourself to explore this park but don’t expect to experience it all; simply too much to see and do.


Published in the June 20, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Once again, the Fauquier County Fair will hold its annual get together showcasing all things agricultural and much more. Spread over four days—July 11 through July 14—there will be over 100 events packed into one of the most successful county fairs in Virginia.

The schedule features an array of activities including: poultry shows, bike rodeos, pedal tractor pulls, cattle shows, extreme illusions & escape demonstrations, comedy shows, rodeos, ATV rodeos, hot dog and pizza eating contests to mention a mere handful.

The history of county fairs dates to the early 1800s when rural folk gathered together for community cohesion and to show off their hard-earned crafts, produce and livestock.

Today, there are some 3,200 fairs nationwide generating three million attendees. Given that America’s agrarian past has largely faded from the scene its remarkable the concept of a celebration of all things farm-like endures and thrives.

Much of that success can be traced to the passion of fair organizers and volunteers who intuitively know the value of young people being involved in something bigger than themselves.

Smiling youngsters adjusting displays, grooming livestock or displaying craft projects are a refreshing counter to the ubiquitous mobile devices locked in the hands of many of today’s youth.

“I think the only reason we do it is for the kids,” said Brenda Rich, president of the Fauquier Fair. She’s held the position for 20 years. “It takes a lot of work but it makes the kids so happy. People call us in January to find out the dates for the next fair so there’s no conflict in their planning vacations.”

Rich also says the makeup of the board of directors is important. For a while it consisted of older, experienced hands but the organization has worked hard to get a younger cohort to join. “We’ve been fortunate to incorporate a bunch of young blood onto the board. That’s really good.”

So how much work is involved for these dedicated board members? “We start planning for next year’s fair on the last day of the current one. Both board members and volunteers contribute thousands of hours of work each year,” said Rich. With 30 members of the board of directors and over 100 volunteers on-site at each fair, the work gets done in a spirit of cooperative joy.

To underscore the depth of that spirit no one gets paid, including the president.

Planning unfolds throughout the year, including an annual conference in January hosted by the Virginia Association of Fairs. The four-day conference features classes and workshops geared to improving the production and building attendance at the events. “All of us are out to entertain the public and promote agriculture.” The association helps achieve those goals.

As backdrop to the exhibits and demonstrations there are 13 food vendors and 60 craft vendors creating a carnival-like atmosphere. Burgers, fries, fried chicken, pizza, brats and specialty dishes nourish the crowd as they shop at craft tents and visit agricultural and livestock displays.

As expected, weather plays a role too. Attendance over the four days is anticipated to be around 12,000. However, rain or heat can affect those numbers. “Heat is worse than rain,” said Rich.

“If you have a heat index over 100 there will be less of a crowd.” The index is a combination of heat and humidity.

As a nod to modernity, youth who display small animals or craft projects do not have to reside on a farm. Rich believes “you don’t need to live on a farm to appreciate agriculture.”  Youth who live in subdivisions can easily raise rabbits, other small animals, create art, photography, garden crops, flowers and more.

The 45 to 50 judges who are on-site to award ribbons are also volunteers. “Once in a while a professional judge is paid to judge an animal show,” said Rich. Such a person would be the only financially compensated individual over the entire four days.

In reflecting on what the fair contributes to Fauquier County, Rich said, “Seeing these kids walking around with big smiles on their faces and carrying rabbits and chickens in their arms, marching in the chicken parade, competing in the zucchini car race, or washing and grooming their cows and calves is so exciting.”

She believes the youthful energy is given back to the county in the form of future productive adults.

The Fauquier Country Fair will be held on its 10-acre fair grounds located at 6209 Old Auburn Road. Fair hours are:

Wednesday, July 11 2 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Thursday, July 12    2 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Friday, July 13        2 p.m. to 11 p.m.
Saturday, July 14     9 a.m. to 11 p.m.

Adult admission is $10; children and seniors $5. Babes in arms are free.

For additional information and a full schedule of events visit


Published in the July 6, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.


Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Aged to perfection

Posted on Jul 09 2018 | By

The Grapevine celebrates 5th anniversary

On July 1, 2013 Dan and Mary Kutruff pulled the cork on a long held dream and opened their own wine shop. Their figurative wine glasses have been swirling ever since. It’s no slight achievement for a small business to light five candles in honor of steady growth; a full 50% shutter their doors by the fifth year.

In preparation for going for the gold, Dan Kutruff spent 20 years in the airline industry then paved the way to wine proprietorship by pouring wines for a distributor and subsequently recommending and selling wines at Wegmans in Gainesville.

While it was fun and educational working for a major grocery chain, Kutruff realized he not only wanted to describe wines to prospective buyers but actually wanted to select them.

“It was not as rewarding as I thought it would be,” said Kutruff. If that sounds like an entrepreneur speaking, you’ll understand his obvious next move was to own his own wine world. “This is what I was meant to do.”

By the time the opportunity arose to buy the turnkey shop in Warrenton, his bona fides had been well-established. It made his foray into the industry easier by purchasing an existing business rather than starting from scratch.

Once he opened, he immediately began reshaping the shop to his own vision. He installed a new floor, repainted and rearranged retail space allowing for more product display. With 1,000 square feet of space to work with, it was critical for profitability to maximize the presentation area.

The shop layout “has to not only be designed right it must be ergonomically correct when selling and pouring in an area where every square foot of space is retail gold,” said Kutruff.

So does Fauquier County have a defined wine profile? Not at all said Kutruff, “Diversity is how I would describe our customers’ wine preferences. That’s what makes my job so much fun. I have a penchant for trying to cater to different palates. We don’t sell things just because. We want to make our customers happy.”

Fiscal success
From the start the Kutruffs divided responsibilities based on skill sets. Mary currently works in the finance industry but became the de facto CFO. “She is an invaluable asset. She handles all of the shops finances including payroll and quarterly taxes. Sometimes she fills in at the cash register in a pinch,” said Kutruff.

Owner Dan Kutruff

As CEO, Dan Kutruff makes all the daily executive decisions on product line selections, purchases and display setups and is the face of The Grapevine.

One investment that paid handsome dividends is a software program called LiquorPOS installed over a year ago. It was created for the beverage industry and is supported by his credit card platform company. Prior to its installation sales were tracked by cash register.

“It was very frustrating. We had some clerical errors in sales transactions and monthly and quarterly reports were a lot of work to produce,” said Kutruff. “Mary had to go through of the register tapes. Now with a press of button all the required daily, monthly and quarterly reports are produced automatically.”

It’s also enabled the Kutruffs to get a grip on their tax burdens and plan accordingly. Timely payment of taxes is critical. The first year they operated at a loss but the second year saw “outstanding, stellar” revenue growth.

“Then it came time to pay the taxes and our reaction was ‘we owe what?’ ” said Kutruff. “It was a big sticker shock as to how much taxes we actually had to pay. As a small business you must definitely get a grip on your taxes.”

“But we are now fully in the 21st century with our POS system. All the wine, beer, cigars and other products are barcoded and sales, inventory, profit margins and tax reports are readily available. We are happy with it.”

A unique aspect of the liquor business is the cash-on-delivery system. For example, when a vendor delivers two cases of wine or beer, Kutruff must write a check on the spot. And if the product doesn’t move, there’s no returning it.

The model forces him to closely monitor what sells and what doesn’t and to keep inventories in balance with cash outlays. “A big part of the learning process is managing your cash flow,” Kutruff said.

Did all the infrastructure and financial changes and real time experience make a difference? “For me an important part of our success is that not one dollar from our personal finances went into the shop. And we’ve been profitable the last four years. That’s key to the startup of as successful company.”

In explaining how he attracts new customers Kutruff said, “The biggest thing is word of mouth.” When he left Wegmans word spread that he had opened the shop in Warrenton. Many of those customers lived in town and let friends know his expertise was now just minutes away. This loyal base and new adherents drove sales up.

He acknowledges, however, the need to tap into a new demographic. Currently his base is typically 40 years old and up. He’s investigating expanding his social media presence beyond Facebook. Twitter, Snapchat and other younger oriented media venues have the potential to further grow business. Online presence is now the tsunami of retailing. Failure to actively engage it would be irresponsible and costly.

Interestingly, his 100 square foot walk-in humidor does not generate a significant volume of collateral wine and beer sales. His cigar demographics are scatted across a wide age group and acts as an adjunct to sales on slow days.

“Monday and Tuesdays are generally slow but we have a lot of cigar smoking golfers helping supplement shop revenue on those days,” Kutruff said. “That humidor is gold.”

The entrepreneur currently has no plans to open a second location. The shopping center where he’s located is on the market and he will wait and see how, or if, any possible changes shake out.

He underscores the obvious secret of running a small business is hard work. “As the face of the business I need to be here. A lot of customers get upset when I’m not. My employees are great but people come to see me and get my recommendations. That’s not to toot my own horn. But if I wasn’t here, this place wouldn’t work as well,” Kutruff said.

But rest easy Warrenton, Dan and Mary’s Kutruff’s abiding goal is to create an everyday wine shop where social libation fans can stop by for a companion to their evening meal or weekend party.                                                                                             

The Grapevine
389 W. Shirley Ave.

Warrenton, VA 20186

Lets’ do the numbers:

600 wines ranging from $7.99 to $110.
Emphasis on quality bottlings in the $10 to $15 range

140 cigar selections from the world’s top producers
90 different craft beers, ciders and meads
Free wine tastings on Saturdays

Monday – Thursday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.

Friday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Closed Sundays


Published in the Jun 20, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Rains pressure county vineyards

Posted on Jul 04 2018 | By

Most of us are getting a little weary of our monsoon-like spring and early summer. But be thankful you’re not trying to grow grapes. It’s not bronze tans that local and statewide vineyard managers are sporting this season. That’s rust.

May was our sixth wettest and third hottest on record. Dulles International Airport recorded 8.9 inches of rain in May and June is on pace to meet or exceed that number. That’s more than double the normal precipitation.

For homeowners, the struggle is centered on tending lawns and gardens. Waiting for a yard to dry out before cutting is a balance between mowing and haying. And nurturing vegetable gardens is a soggy and muddy endeavor.

But consider managing acres of delicate grape vines. Winery owners are a driven lot with a passion for producing quality wines. But fine wine only comes from fine grapes. With over 26 wineries in Fauquier County, there is a nervous group of local vintners constantly scanning the the skies for dark clouds.

“We’re seeing a lot of disease setting in and it’s taking a significant amount of work to manage the problem,” said Tom Kelly. Kelly is past president of the Virginia Vineyards Association, an independent consultant and director of operations for the Brown Bear Vineyards in Woodstock.

“There were a lot of problems during fruit set,” said Kelly. That’s tech talk for the self-pollinating process that ultimately creates precious clusters of plumb grapes. Normally that’s a good thing because vine pollination is not dependent on bees and other insect life. But heavy rains in the middle of fruit set interfered with the natural process and in some cases stopped it dead in its tracks.

Two of the keys to Virginia’s successful wine ascendency is canopy management and spraying protocols. Rain dictates that costly sprays must be repeatedly applied to the vines when rains wash them away a mere day or two after application.

Moreover, heat and rain produce explosive growth of canopy and keeps vineyard workers pruning without end to let light and air circulate around the fruit for healthy growth. Left untended, a vine will direct much of its energy into leaf production essentially smothering the berries.

If the current weather trend continues, an already existing statewide grape shortage will be exacerbated. Kelly underscores the situation is not dire at the this point but drier weather must prevail to reach a successful harvest.

Fauquier County
Closer to home Brian Roeder, owner of Barrel Oak Winery in Delaplane, echoes Kelly’s concerns. Roeder tends 30 acres of vines, one of the largest vineyards in the county, said, “It’s not clear what the weather impact will be but there will be some. Due to a fungus this spring that we had never seen before we lost our crop of Norton. We expected to harvest 10 tons of the fruit but will pull less than a ton.

“Over in the Shenandoah Valley at Indian Springs Vineyard they’ve had crop losses of 20 to 40 percent due to problems during bloom. We were lucky that only our Norton was affected.”

The rest of his vineyard is surviving but is demanding almost nonstop canopy management. “It’s like painting the Golden Gate Bridge. As soon as the crew is done they have to start over again. They work very, very hard trying to keep vigor under control and they’re doing a good job.

“But my labor costs are up 20 percent over last year and there is nothing I can do about it. You don’t have a choice to scrimp in the vineyard. If you do, you’ll end up with diminished returns because quality goes down,” said Roeder.

Roeder also highlights another issue affecting the industry; a pending shortage of qualified labor. Tending vines requires experienced workers and he thinks a smaller workforce will accelerate the current problems. He believes the government’s efforts to deter workers can lead to serious shortages for both the state’s wine industry and agriculture in general.

“We have enough help at Barrel Oak but I’m hearing out there that this is an impactful issue for wineries. It’s simply becoming harder and harder to find qualified people to work in the vineyards,” said Roeder.

To further underscore the cost of farming grapes, Roeder recently purchased a new piece of equipment rarely seen on the East Coast. “It’s called an Agrotherm and while it’s not necessarily designed for incessant rain it does help.

“The machine is essentially a giant, super blow dryer. It helps dry the vineyard out and is also useful in a non-wet environment to boost the quality and quantity of the yield,” Roeder said. “It was a big investment for us with a price tag was $52,000.”

If the 2018 vintage were to fail to any large degree, wineries would be forced to purchase out-of-state fruit from California, Washington or Oregon. Winery owners don’t want to go that route but if the viability of their businesses is at stake they’d be compelled to do so.

“If we had to go with that option, it would essentially be a doubling my vineyard costs,” said Roeder.

Central Virginia
Another large grape growing region in the state is the Charlottesville area. Stephen Barnard is vineyard manager and winemaker at Keswick Vineyards located in Keswick.

“It’s been tough here. The rains can have a detrimental effect on pollination and fruit set. We must be particular about getting out in the vineyard and spraying and opening up the canopy with pruning,” Barnard said.

Barnard goes on to opine if it’s going to rain he’d rather have it now than during harvest. A rain-soaked harvest can dramatically reduce fruit quality as the berries become swollen with water. The ensuing loss of flavor and color reduces the ability to produce high quality wine.

“For those who are on top of their game and know how to manage the problems with preventive measures they should be okay,” said Barnard. “I think we can ride this one out. It could be an incredible harvest depending on what happens over the next three months.”

Andy Reagan, winemaker at the 68-acre Horton Vineyards located in Gordonsville reinforces Barnard’s assessment. “Not too many of our varieties have been hit. Our Touriga and Albariino are down. However, Silver Creek Vineyards in Nelson County have been hit hard but overall its not a terrible issue for us at this point.”

He emphasizes one problem is he encountering is the inability to plant new vines because of wet soils. But taking a philosophical view Reagan said, “This is Virginia. You can’t get riled up but must simply adapt to the weather.”

Reagan does agree with Roeder about labor shortages stating, “A growing lack of labor is more of a concern for me than weather.”

As one steps back and views the tribulations of being a wine grower in Virginia the observation of American humorist Will Rogers comes to mind: “The farmer has to be an optimist or he wouldn’t be a farmer.”



Published in the July 4, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.


Categories : WINE ARTICLES