Archive for October, 2018

Warrenton resident leading collaborative effort to protect small businesses

The nightmare is all too real. A small business powers up its computer and prepares for a day of commercial gain. But something is amiss. The computer is operating but access to critical files appear to be frozen.

Then the dreaded email arrives. Pay now or lose all your data.

Another victim held for ransom.

The world of hacking is an omnipresent danger in our modern digital world. From the loss of personal information to threats against national security, there is seemingly no limit to the destructive force of those intent on causing harm.

But the danger to small firms is particularly pernicious. Who does one turn to to pursue the bad boys if the attack is launched against a company with limited resources?

A 21st Century Jesse James, without horse and gun, has you standing next to your computer with your hands held high in the air. The solution? Pay the requested $5,000 or more in Bitcoin and move on.

“Ransomware is one of the biggest threats to small businesses. Someone can totally freeze your computer by encrypting the data and forcing you to pay a ransom for the keys to get it back,” said Charlie Tupitza, CEO of the National Forum for Public Private Collaboration.

But why not call the cops? Because the local police and the county and have no jurisdiction. Call the FBI. About 99 percent of cyber attacks are below the threshold Feds will respond to.

You’re on your own.

Tupitza, 63, and a longtime resident of Warrenton, has spent his career supporting small businesses who do not have the resources to protect themselves.

“Professionally I’m in the middle of the cyber war. And we truly are at war.

“Right now, small businesses are being attacked by organized crime and Nation states because they have a lot of information. And because they are often the gateway to larger businesses,” said Tupitza.

The gold in the hard drives is intellectual property rights, financial holdings information, government contract data and much more. Criminals might attack a number of small firms holding government contracts to aggregate the data for illegal purposes.

Moreover, such attacks may not result in a demand for ransom because the hackers are after bigger fish and simply using several smaller fish to tap into the supply chain of information they are really seeking.

Collaborative effort
Given the challenges facing smaller entrepreneurs, Tupitza realized creating a “circle the wagons” approach could tap into many sources for the benefit of all. Among many of his cyber activities, he sponsors conferences where there were no main speakers. Rather, representatives from both small and large firms gathered to share ideas for the commonweal.

“We don’t want to delve into a specific company’s business. We want to keep the conversation at a common level and share good practices among all the participants.

“Picture 64 people in a room divided into tables of eight. Each participant has one minute to state why he or she is there and what they expect to get out of the meeting. We want everyone to come down from the cyber summit into the fertile valley of collaboration,” said Tupitza.

The result generates numerous ideas and recommendations for combating digital threats.

While there are insurance firms offering policy protection from attack, Tupitza highlights how such apparent help can be destructive.

“Some firms ask you to complete a detailed survey of 60 to 65 questions about your system. It may take two weeks to compile. And you may have very little knowledge about what you’re actually answering.

“If your agent asks more than five or six questions about your system, don’t answer them. You may make yourself even more vulnerable to attack.”

Tupitza also meets regularly with a host of Federal agencies to help them align messaging coming from the Federal government to small businesses.

“Cyber is confusing enough. Companies hearing from government agencies, lawyers, accountants, consultants, product providers and others make it very confusing to figure what should be done.”

As a licensed insurance consultant and president of RightExposure Tupitza also seeks to align insurance industry messaging with both Federal standards and product and service providers to make the subject matter easier to understand.

What to do
There a number of actions firms need to take to help protect themselves:

*Back up all data on a weekly basis; preferably on a recognized Cloud source.

*Maintain a strong firewall on your network with up-to-date patches.

*Create strong passwords with at least nine characters containing a capital letter, special characters (such as # ! % *) and a number.

*Scan your computer for viruses, spyware and other vulnerabilities on a routine basis.

*Visit only websites you trust, open only emails from known contacts.

For more information on the broader scope of his organization visit Tupitza at both: and

Renaissance Man
While cybersecurity is clearly a passion for Charlie Tupitza, it is not his end all.

“I am very energized and I don’t see myself slowing down on the subject of cyber security. There is so much need for small businesses to have help and it’s so much fun to contribute.

But, I also believe sitting kills.”

It’s obvious his life does not begin and end in the digital world when you consider the complete man.

He is a resident of Warrenton. Both of his children are graduates of Fauquier High School.

Let’s take a deep breath and see how Mr. T spends his off hours:

Coached youth soccer in Warrenton for four years and six years in Reston; hosts a weekly Christian men’s breakfast group; active member of Hope Christian Fellowship in Vint Hill; member of the Samaritans Pursue Program helping people in need after natural disasters; hikes, bikes and plays disc golf; member of the U.S. Masters Swimming National Championship Committee; founded the Warrenton Masters swim team.

And yes, still works full-time.

“Most importantly, however, is my faith in God, love of family, helping others and supporting small businesses. I am blessed with good health and good friends.”

Indeed, Tupitza embodies what makes Fauquier County a valued place to live and work.


Published in the October 24, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.


Categories : HAGARTY TALES

The Town Duck keeps on giving

Posted on Oct 19 2018 | By

Four decades on Main Street and still thriving

The characteristics of ducks mirror one of Warrenton’s favorite shops: both paddle hard beneath the surface but one only sees calm and friendly faces.

Working hard while projecting serenity is the heart of a shop Fauquier County citizens know well. The Town Duck is the go-to place for gifts, jewelry, cheese, wine, gourmet foods and the freshest of fish.

The eclectic range of merchandise and down-home hospitality offered by the retail legend is why generations of shoppers have awarded it a long and fruitful life.

Founded by Robin Payne in the late 1970s, Bibi de Heller purchased it in 1986 and hired Annette Johnson a year later to help her run the shop. In 1993, de Heller moved to Switzerland and Johnson purchased the business.

de Heller returned to the states a year later and the partnership reunited and has been in play ever since. The winning team works flawlessly together and are still the best of friends.

Image result for the town duck warrenton vaAnnette Johnson recalls with clarity her first impression of the shop. “I was not in retail and it was absolutely the last thing I thought I would do. But the minute I walked into that shop I loved it. There was such a sense of community there.

“My late husband was in the horse world and he fox hunted so I already knew many people in the county,” said Johnson.

Later, after Johnson purchased the business she moved it to 215 Main Street. The new location tripled the size of the original shop and business jumped dramatically. “There were days we could fill a USP truck with all the outgoing shipments.”

In 2008, the owner of the building did not want to renew the lease and the shop moved to its current location at 100 Main Street. “We’ve been here 10 years. How time flies.”

Today, de Heller focuses on the financial side of the shop, including bookkeeping. Owner Johnson manages the staff and merchandise.

So how did the shop get its name? There was no “Aha!” moment that struck original owner Payne. “She simply made the name up and then had a logo designed of a cute duck going shopping with a purse under its wing,” said Johnson.

The shop has hundreds of items for sale; “perhaps thousands,” if you include all the various soaps and jewelry items. Products range in price from $5 for a simple piece of jewelry to over $100 for a bottle of fine wine.

They have something for everybody, including a bridal registry. But the busiest day of the week is Friday…fish day.

Johnson had been selling fish for years but wanted to expand her selection and offer unusual items such as Shad Roe which run in the spring.

Today, over 500 people are on the shop’s email notification list that is posted every Wednesday. It describes what fish will be available on Friday. Customers place their order and pick up their fish on delivery day.

“We use J.J. McDonald from Md. who is one of the best fish purveyors in the business. We get a variety of fresh water and ocean fish each week.”

The selections are impressive: seasonal availability of Shad Roe, sea scallops, farmed Atlantic Salmon, Mahi Mahi, Arctic Char, Norwegian Cod, Flounder, Swordfish, Lane Snapper, Rockfish, Monk fillet Bronzini, Salmon, Bluefish, PEI Mussels, and Tuna loin.

If the finest bounty of the sea is your passion, be sure cast your line into The Town Duck’s pond.

Premium seafood calls for premium wine pairings and again the shop does not fail. Dozens of selections of high-quality wines are available. The depth of choice is so deep The Washington Post wine critic, Dave McIntyre, often lists the shop as a source for wines he has recommended to his readers.

While the satisfaction of providing Warrenton with quality merchandise, wines and fish is rewarding, Johnson is most proud of the employment opportunities she has provided to over 50 young staffers over the years.

“These young people have gone on to enjoy great careers—huge careers—and they still come back to see us. They’re now married and have children. It’s very gratifying. They loved working in the shop. We were like second mothers to them,” said Johnson.

Characteristically, Johnson goes on to say the success of the shop is centered on her staff. Two of her long-time loyal and experienced employees are Anne Schalestock and Robbi Ryan. “They keep the shop looking great and customers love them.”

In her closing thoughts, Johnson opines that, “I wish people would realize that in supporting not just my business, but any local business, what they’re helping to accomplish. The money stays in the community. I am a great believer in Main Street.

“I turned 76 this fall and I’m still here because I believe in it. I’m still soldering on. It’s a great shop; it’s been the greatest experience of my life.”

American poet Maya Angelou once said, “My mission in life is not merely to survive, but to thrive; and to do so with some passion, some compassion, some humor, and some style.”

The philosophy perfectly matches Johnson’s world view.

For a digital peek inside the world of Annette Johnson’s playground, visit


Published in the October 15, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.      

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Tackling winter in ten easy steps

Posted on Oct 19 2018 | By

“Be Prepared” is more than a Boy Scout motto

First, an inside secret. A tried and true writer’s trick is to create a headline with a tantalizing list of actions. It creates curiosity and pulls a reader into the subject matter.

Why is that necessary? Because readers are notoriously fickle about jumping into a story to begin with and staying there once they’ve made the leap. And for good reason. There’s precious little time to waste in today’s hyper-world. Just get on with it.

But first some science.

Lists catch the eye. They also promise to deliver the goods in a quick and easy-to-read format. The brain is on a constant search for the new and the intriguing. Numbers pop to the forefront and pull us in.

Moreover, short lists offer the possibility of solving a problem quickly without unnecessary research. Psychologists have known for some time the more information we have at our disposal the worst we tend to feel. Too many choices complicate life.

Finally, lists create a sense of freedom. One can elect to act or them or not. Easy peasy.

Now…on to ten winter prep tips. And while these may appear somewhat obvious, we’ll focus on the logic of why to act now.

  1. Clean the garage
    Here’s one of the least enjoyable tasks a homeowner faces. Not only does it involve dirty work but it creates stress about what to keep and what to pitch. The lack of pursuit typically results in a garage so full of stuff it’s difficult to move around in it. If you don’t act during the autumn, chances of cleaning up the mess during the winter months is almost non-existent.
  2. Fertilize the lawn
    Grass benefits from a boost in plant sugars that will help protect the plant roots from freezing. Those sugars are produced by chlorophyll when nitrogen is present in the plant. Apply a late-fall application of a slow-release granular 24-0-10 nitrogen- intense fertilizer to protect the roots from freezing and produce energy for a spring growth spurt.
  3. Test for home drafts
    A loss of home energy is both uncomfortable and costly. To test where heat may be escaping, close all doors and windows and turn on the bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans. Then take a lit incense stick and hold it over any potential drafty area. If the smoke waivers and/or is pushed into the house, add insulation or calking to the offending leak.
  4. Clean the chimney
    It’s tempting to skip an annual chimney cleaning. Big mistake. There are over 25,000 chimney fires a year in the U.S. resulting in $125 million in property damage. Soot, blockages and creosote build-up is real and its lethal.
  5. Place a bag or box of survival gear in your vehicle. Tens of thousands of motorists get stranded each winter. Two benefits accrue by planning ahead: it will build your confidence when out and about on a cold or snowy day. And, you may be able to offer help to a stranded motorist. Items to consider: jumper cables, small shovel, flares, flashlight, blanket, first aid kit, hat, gloves, energy bars and some folding cash.
  6. If you own a snowblower, fire it up. Nothing can be more frustrating than when eight inches of snow blocks your driveway and your snowblower goes on the fritz. Take the machine out for a test drive now when nary a flake is on the ground. Also change the oil and fill the tank with fresh gas.
  7. Get your flu shot. Millions of people come down with the flu each winter and thousands die. Yet many consider the shots a waste or worst. Flu vaccines are safe and cause antibodies to develop in your body, providing protection against deadly viruses. Put on your winter armor now.
  8. Fight the winter blues. 21 percent of the U.S. population suffers from either Seasonal Affected Disorder or simple winter blues. Be prepared to fight the blahs with bright clothing, a well-lit home, vitamin D, movies and books, positive friends, outdoor walks and wood burning fires, if available.
  9. Test run the furnace. It’s counterintuitive to fire up the furnace when it’s still in the 70s but a smart move nonetheless. Set the thermostat to 80 degrees and if heat is not forthcoming within minutes, try to run down the problem or call your HVAC company for service.
  10. Disconnect your outside hoses. Ever wonder why the useful life of hoses and their rubber washers seem to be limited? It could well be they’ve endured cold winters outside filled with water. The freezing and thawing takes its toll. Drain them and hang then in the garage. They will thank you in the spring with spraying delight.

There’s joy in tackling a “go do” list during a seasonal change. It’s the zest of blending the tried of a fresh beginning with the true of a job well done.

Bring on winter. We’re ready.


Published in the October 15 , 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.     

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

The state of Virginia wine

Posted on Oct 18 2018 | By

Reflecting on the future of the Old Dominion’s vinous fortunes 

The year was 1607 and hopes were high as the intrepid band of colonists landed and founded a colony named after their king. They endured frightful weather crossing the Atlantic and encountered an initial hostile welcome from Native Americans until they eventually landed on a small, quiet peninsula. They called it Jamestown.

The colonists were sponsored by the Virginia Company chartered by King James whose objective was to established a new, revenue producing colony.

As the hearty band approached the shores of the New World the scent of delicate grapes drifted over the ocean breezes. Wine! Surely this new land would reward with copious amounts of wine so beloved by the English.

Thus began a, long, painful and ultimately disappointing saga of wine making in America. The wine made from native grapes tasted awful. And while the colonists repeatedly tried to make palatable wine from their European cuttings all efforts ended in failure.

It is analogous to frame the delicate Vitis vinifera grape species—it makes 99 percent of all wine worldwide—as vulnerable as the natives were to English diseases. Some 10 million Indians would perish as their defenseless bodies fell before the onslaught of smallpox, measles, influenza, malaria and other dreaded diseases.

The European grapes were similarity taken to slaughter by insects, humidity, heat and cold. Virginia went on to have an anemic wine culture until the mid-1970s.

Today, over 300 wineries dot the state’s landscape making it the fifth largest wine producing state in the Nation with approximately 3,500 acres of grapes producing over half a million cases of wine annually.

Science and skill have been brought to bear to make quality wine.

Virginians couldn’t happier.

Let’s gain the perspective of four Virginia wine professionals on what the next five years might hold for the Commonwealth.

Virginia Wine Marketing Board
Based in Richmond, the Board handles education and marketing efforts on behalf of all Virginia wineries. Annette Ringwood Boyd is the director.

“I think we’ll see some consolidation in the industry over the next few years,” said Boyd. She believes there are a number of smaller wineries whose owners are nearing retirement and their children do not want to pursue a career in wine. This may lead to the closing of unprofitable businesses.

“Sales of wine are currently outpacing supply so there will be a big push to grow more grapes. If weather impacts this year’s harvest, the shortage issue will continue, further squeezing the little guys,” Boyd said.

The consolidation trend may already have begun. Over the last three years the previously explosive growth of wineries has slowed to a trickle. From 2000 to 2015 some 210 wineries—an average of 14 a year—opened tasting rooms. The recent number has fallen to four to five annually.

“We’ll still see people entering the market but those people will be better financed,” said Boyd. She explains that it will be harder for smaller entrants to have access to fruit and expensive equipment.

In the past, bootstrapping paid dividends but into today’s market it’s going to require more capitalization. This may be a sign the industry is maturing. There will be fewer small wineries in lieu of larger, better financed ones.

It may also bode well for the quality issue. Historically, Virginia wines have not had a consistent quality profile. Many are producing excellent wines but marginal performers undermine the state’s reputation. Boyd takes some exception to the charge stating, “Every wine region has it under performers.

“I think the market tends to make its own corrections. If someone is not making good wine, people are not going to buy it. The market takes care of that problem,” Boyd said.

John Delmare
John Delmare is the owner of Rappahannock Cellars in Huntly. He earned his wine bona fides in California as owner and winemaker of a small winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He saw what was unfolding in Virginia and moved his family here in the late 1990s and opened his winery in 2000.

“In the last two to three years a lot of capital that might have flowed into the wine industry went into the craft beer and the craft distilling craze. I think that sucked a lot of energy of our sails. The industry kinda stopped growing,” Delmare said. In response to the trend he opened his own distillery last year.

Nonetheless, he thinks the market is in the middle of a change with the industry continuing to grow by not by new wineries coming on line but by the growth of existing companies. His initial output 18 years ago was 2,000 cases a year. Today he produces over 15,000 cases.

In some instances that growth has been significant. “We’ve found ourselves growing 12 to 16 percent annually over the last six years,” he said. “Not everyone has seen that rate. It’s the wineries who are doing something unique and doing it right.”

In Delmare’s case it’s his wine club. When he opened his business 18 years ago to his knowledge not one winery in Virginia had a wine club. He launched his and today it’s one of the largest in the state.

It’s not a quarterly shipment either but two bottles per month. Some 80 percent of his revenue is now generated directly from the club. “It’s been our life blood,” he stated.

He feels like some investment is now coming back into the wine industry with beer sales slowing down. On the negative side, his crop was hit during the spring bloom season with heavy rains and he lost some grapes, as did other wineries, so the existing grape shortage will likely continue.

“Overall I think we are entering a period we were are going to have a shakeout but I think it will be a healthy shakeout,” he said.

Stephen Barnard
Stephen Barnard originally hails from Capetown, South Africa but is now a U.S. citizen. He is emblematic of the young, talented winemakers from outside the state who are finding a fruitful home in Virginia. He is winemaker and vineyard manager at Keswick Vineyards in Keswick.

“Quality is on the upswing. People are planting better grapes on better sites and learning how to deal with the weather issues; rain, humidity and a short growing season.

“The best fruit makes the best wine so the emphasis on the right sites, root stock, and clones has helped,” he said. He also believes the sharing of knowledge among winemakers is critical to further success.

“The only way to challenge ourselves is to share information and collectively grow. The ensuing changes are subtle not massive.” Barnard said, He cites groups in his region such as the Winemakers Research Exchange, numerous winemaker roundtables and the Governors’ Cup tastings as examples of the collaborative efforts.

He agrees breweries and distilleries have taken some business away but the world of wine is not going anywhere. “This is a bump in the road. People are going to be coming back,” he states.

His vision for the future of Virginia wine is to move beyond our borders and ship wine nationwide. “We need to be making more wine, more quality wine. Making something authentically Virginia. I don’t know if we know what that is yet but I don’t think its Viognier,” he opines. The popular white wine is notoriously hard to grow and in chronic short supply.

Tom Kelly
Tom Kelly is past president of the Virginia Vineyards Association and director of operations at Brown Bear Vineyards in Woodstock.

“I see an attrition of older folks who are trying to find a way out. There will be a culling out of wineries. Many folks are starting to age and may not have a succession plan in place. That’s not all bad,” said Kelly. He compares the process to pruning a vine by cutting back the weak branches.

He also sees a growing influx of talent from beyond Virginia. “These young people are graduating from UC Davis and Fresno State with wine degrees and looking to make a name for themselves in Virginia; the big fish in a small pond scenario,” Kelly said.

“As we gain more experience and figure more things out” quality will advance even further. Technology also helps. We are definitely trending on the upside of quality,” He said.

Reflecting on the future of Virginia wine “past is prologue” will be an enduring theme. The success of the last four decades are portents for the future.

The critical issues to be addressed in the next five years is further improving quality, increasing quantity, attracting talent, solving the chronic grape shortage, and convincing wine lovers outside of Virginia it deserves its place among the best wine regions in the Nation.

In the words of the immortal Abraham Lincoln, “The best way to predict your future is to create it.”



Published in the Fall 2018 edition of Dine, Wine & Stein magazine.


Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Virginia’s Heritage wine

Posted on Oct 18 2018 | By

Collaborative effort captures 400 years of lightening in a bottle

On July 30, 1619, the first legislature in the English colonies met and established a set of laws governing Virginia. The House of Burgesses set in motion events that shaped the democratic process, cultural diversity, historical traditions and the entrepreneurial spirit in the United States.

Yes, it was that important.

The Virginia Tourism Corporation will celebrate the four-century seminal event with numerous activities during 2019. But a select number of Virginia wineries have taken the lead in observing a segment of the watershed moment in American history.

The nexus for the industry’s involvement was a document emanating from the young government called Acte XII. It established a wide-ranging set of laws directing the growth and success of the new colony.

One section addressed the importance of establishing a commercial wine industry. Specifically, it read, “…be it enacted by this present assembly that every householder does yearly plant and maintain ten vines, until they have attained to the art and experience of dressing a vineyard…”.

To support the nascent wine culture, in 1621 King James directed that 10,000 grape vines be sent to the colonies. They were accompanied by eight French winemakers to ensure the success of the endeavor.

Alas, the early efforts did not take root in the state’s hostile climate that included heat, cold, humidity, insects and fungi. The delicate French grapes balked at being forced to work under such conditions and did not thrive.

Nonetheless, it launched a wine industry in Virginia that ebbed and flowed until the late 1970s when the cumulative experience of almost four centuries, coupled with scientific advances, catapulted Virginia into the fifth largest wine producing state in the Nation.

Today, the Commonwealth has over 300 wineries producing over a half million cases of wine annually and generating $747 million to the state’s economy. King James would have been proud.

Celebratory bottle
Fauquier County’s own Chris Pearmund recognized the state’s yearlong celebration as an opportunity to showcase the success of Virginia wine. Pearmund, 56, owns Pearmund Cellars, Vint Hill Craft Winery and Effingham Manor Winery and has been involved in opening numerous other Virginia wineries over the past two decades.

Virginia’s 400-year history will be celebrated far beyond just its contribution to winemaking in the new world. So much has unfolded in the state in the ensuing four centuries Pearmund knew he had to highlight the state’s role as the cradle of wine production in the U.S.

“I started the Heritage wine project two years ago. I realized no one was talking about the wine industry as it related to the birth of the state. If we were going to do something, we needed to get started,” said Pearmund.

If you want something done, ask a busy person. In this case, Pearmund appointed himself as the doer bee.

He developed the concept of creating a celebratory bottle of red wine that reflected the best the state had to offer. He reached out to a select number of quality producers asking them to contribute one barrel of their best red wine to the project. Sixteen wineries responded.

Back in his cellar Pearmund began blending the wines into a unique, full-bodied dinner wine. He aged it in Virginia white oak barrels for 16 months, designed a shaved Birchwood label and packaged the bottle in a presentation case.

“The entire effort was focused on Virginia components, including a mid-1800s machine that was used to make the presentation box in Richmond. We produced 10,000 bottles to commemorate the 10,000 vines that were shipped to Virginia back in the early 1600s,” said Pearmund.

Each participating winery has a supply of the wine that will go on sale the last weekend in September in concert with October’s Virginia Wine Month. The retail price is $59 a bottle and once sold out will not be reissued, making it a unique collector’s wine.

The 16 participating wineries are: Aspen Dale, Cooper Vineyards, Glass House, Effingham Manor, Ingleside, New Kent, Pearmund Cellars, Phillip Carter, Rappahannock Cellars, Potomac Point, Rosement, Naked Mountain, Narmada, Vint Hill Craft, Williamsburg and the Winery at Bull Run.

Nine of the sixteen wineries are in or border Fauquier County.

“The wine can be aged for at least 10 years. It’s a blend of 44 percent Merlot, 25 percent Petit Verdot, 12 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 percent Cabernet Franc and nine percent Tannat. It’s a big wine.

“The reason the wine exists demonstrates how the industry worked collaboratively and in unison to produce a wine representing the Virginia industry. We sold 20 cases to the Governor’s’ office for a dollar a bottle that will be used throughout next year’s celebrations,” Pearmund said.

The wine mirrors a Spanish Rioja Alta in style. Its focus is on dark fruits of black cherry, with spicy notes of cinnamon and vanilla on both the nose and mid-palate. An earthy and smoky texture of sweet tobacco, cedar and cherry liqueur presents on the finish. While drinkable today, its flavors will deepen with further aging.

For a full description of the wine, its production and an informative video pull the cork at


Published in the October 15, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times. 

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

The Blue Door’s secret

Posted on Oct 12 2018 | By

Flint Hill restaurant rapidly losing hidden jewel status

The lyrics to the classic rock and roll hit “Green Door” centered on, “…what’s that secret you’re keeping?” But the secret behind a local dining establishment opened just five months is: it has no secrets.

Unless, of course, you’ve yet to discover its flavorful menu.

The latest casual dining establishment in the area is gaining a reputation for quality food, quiet ambiance and focused service.

The Blue Door Kitchen & Inn, located in the village of Flint Hill, opened in May and its owners Andrea Pace and Reem Arbid have quickly secured a warm spot in the tummies of local and Northern Virginia diners.

The restaurant could well have been called The Green Door except for a whimsical exchange between the two business partners shortly before opening.

“We kept coming up with names that neither of us cared for and I told Andrea, ‘You know, it doesn’t really matter. People change the name of restaurants all the time. For all that it matters, we could just call it The Blue Door,’” said Arbid.

“Hmmm, I kinda like that name,” responded Chef Pace. “So do I,” answered Arbid. Bingo. The restaurant had a name.

The color of the front door is a rich, deep blue and easily catches the eye of travelers passing by. But Pace did not want to be permanently locked into just a single color of blue. Arbid told him not to worry. “There are 50 shades of blue,” she assured him.

But the color of the door is of minor importance to those who have dined there. Walking through the door and enjoying its varied menu is their focus.

Old World experience
The heart of any eatery is the individual behind the range. Chef Pace, 52, is a native of South Tyrol, Italy, located in northeastern Italy on the border with Austria; he speaks both Italian and German. As a young man he studied at an Italian culinary school and then worked in a restaurant called Villa Mozart where he was further trained by a Michelin star chef.

Later his mentor moved to New York City to open a restaurant and Pace joined him as a sous chef. For nearly 20 years Pace worked at various restaurants in the Big Apple until he moved to D.C. in the early 2000s to continue his career.

In 2007, his extensive experience led Pace and Arbid to open Villa Mozart in Fairfax City. The fine dining establishment was named in honor of his original mentor and gained a wide following and critical acclaim.

Last year, he closed Villa Mozart with an eye toward establishing a causal dining restaurant in Northern Virginia. Successful fine dining reaps acclaim but it’s also a lot of work. The new goal was to ease the workload while continuing to draw on his extensive kitchen experience.

But a new location was not quickly forthcoming. Then one day they received a call from a previous customer who was traveling through Flint Hill and spotted the former Public House restaurant for sale. “Reem, I’m out here in Rappahannock county and I’m looking at a place that has your name written all over it,” said the ad hoc real estate agent.

“We had no clue where Rappahannock County was but we arranged to see the building. Our first reaction was, ‘wow,’”, said Arbid. The building was larger than they needed and included four upstairs guest suites, “But we fell in love with it.”

It also included an herb and vegetable garden, something Pace has always wanted to nurture as part of a restaurant. While a rainy spring and summer has been a gardener’s challenge, the future is colored green for more estate grown produce to be gracing menus.

In understanding the early success of the restaurant, keep the “past is prologue” in mind. Pace was trained in classic Italian cooking with an emphasis on simplicity and freshness.

“Andrea does not try to cover a plate with 16 different ingredients. His uses only four or five at the most. He tries to stay true to each ingredient. If there is artichoke in the dish, you will taste the artichoke,” said Arbid.

The chef’s menus fuse old world cuisine with modern technique and flair and include slow-cooked sauces and handmade pastas and pastries. Prices are moderate.

A major boost for The Blue Door was a recent positive review by the Washington Post’s food critic Tom Sietsema. The resulting publicity alerted many of their former customers of the new location and generated a spike in business.

“The nice thing about the review was a lot of our previous customers who we had not seen for a while came out and dined with us. It was fun seeing so many people from our past,” said Arbid.

Their goal, however, is to build clientele from the local community. Having never operated in a seasonal impacted business, the owners know winter months in a rural area can be a difficult business proposition. Local guests need to be converted to loyal diners.

There are no plans to expand beyond the Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday service hours; Fridays and weekends include both lunch and dinner service.

“Our staff is young and it’s not large. When you come in we want to be able to give our customers great service and great food. We don’t want them to wait two hours for something to come out of the kitchen. We want to stay focused on excellent food and service,” said Arbid.

For information on reservations, hours, and lodging step through The Blue Door at


Published in the October 10, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Going out in a blaze of glory

Posted on Oct 12 2018 | By

Chasing fall foliage in the Old Dominion

Virginia’s beauty is renown. From its beaches, to the Piedmont, to the Blue Ridge Mountains, planning a day or weekend getaway is a challenge handily met.

The question is where to go?

If the urge to hit the road strikes during the fall color season, the answer is almost a universal, “to the mountains.” With the Appalachians running the entire western spine of the Commonwealth, stunning views coupled with rural drives make heading westward an obvious choice.

This is particularly true for citizens of Fauquier County who live less than an hour from the Blue Ridge Mountains and the Shenandoah National Park. The Elysian Fields.

But the question in many minds this year might be, “Will the monsoon-like spring and summer deaden the fall colors?” The short answer is, not likley.

In fact, October’s glory is already beginning to emerge on the high peaks of the Blue Ridge. Soon enough it will be showcasing reds, golds and yellows as they tumble down the slopes and into our backyards and local parks.

Temperatures are the driving force for a colorful display of autumn colors. The cooler the better. Evening temperatures in the 50s and 60s will accelerate the magical chemistry behind foliage.

Why the color?
At its height, fall’s forest fireworks seemingly creates abundant colors out of thin air. Where does this artist’s palette spring from? It’s been there all the time but the leaves’ work ethic simply hid it from view.

During the summer months each leaf is a wee food factory. The process occurs deep within each cell of the chlorophyll filled leaf. Sunlight strikes the chlorophyll triggering a transformation of carbon dioxide and water to carbohydrates containing sugars and starch. Tree food.

During the vigorous growing season, the vibrant colors of fall are simply masked by the all-important chlorophyll. But when temperatures take a dip, so does the green machine’s activity level. Presto. Autumnal glory emerges.

The completion of this intricate process occurs when a special layer of cells develops at the base of each leaf stem. Slowly it weakens the bond between leaf and branch and the next thing you know we’re all raking piles of detritus off our lawns.

The circle is then completed. Like all living things, life springs from the earth and ultimately returns to its resting place.

Yet to contemplate too heavily on the science behind the beauty of an autumn landscape, is to lose sight of the joy of an afternoon drive through the countryside.

Where to go
The obvious answer is the mountains. But there’s one caveat to a day serenely driving the nearby Skyline Drive or Blue Ridge Parkway further south. Everybody else has the same idea. Yes, the views are impressive but a bumper-to-bumper caravan might not induce the relaxed frame of mind you’re seeking.

Consider an alternative. Head west on Route 211, north up Route 17 or south on Route 29. When you’ve pulled away from the population centers, select any secondary road off the main highway and let the endless backcountry roads take you wherever. The goal is to stay off the four lane highways as long as possible. Create your own custom designed backcountry road excursion.

One of the modern marvels of today’s technology is the GPS systems embedded in our vehicles, stand-alone auto units or cell phones. The fear of getting lost in rural areas is now a thing of the past. You can invest in a spirit of adventure without the stress of constantly asking, “Where are we?”.

The beauty of these day trips is experiencing rural Virginia at its finest. Since minimal traffic will be encountered, you’ll find few vehicles to deal with so you can amble along at 25 to 35 miles per hour; even slower when you hit gravel country lanes. Simply pull over when a local comes up behind you.

The payoff comes as you pass bucolic farms and pastures with peaceful grazing livestock, rolling hills with views up to the Blue Ridge and endless ponds and lakes. And of course, the amazing fall foliage.

With the density of wineries in our nearby counties you’ll likely stumble upon an occasional “grape shop” where you can take a break and responsibly enjoy its vineyard products and pastoral views.

Priming the pump
Here are just few suggestions for launching your private travel agency:

*Take Route 211 west past Amissville and take a right onto Poes Road South. Travel about four miles and take a right onto Crest Hill Road and then an immediate left onto Poes Road North. You’ll emerge on Rt 522 north outside of Flint Hill. Rappahannock Cellars is three miles north on Route 522.

*Take Route 211 west to Little Washington. In the village take a right onto Main Street and then a left onto Harris Hollow Road and travel Harris Hollow till it becomes Gid Brown Hollow Road and ends at Route 211. Quievremont Winery is on your left just before Route 211.

*Take Route 17 north to a right on to Route 245 to The Plains. Take a right on Route 55 and then an immediate left onto Halfway Road. Be adventurous here and take any upcoming left of your choosing to wander through beautiful horse country.

*Take Route 29 south and take a right onto to Freeman’s Road near Remington. The goal here is to simply “get lost” in the alternately open and forested landscape with several country road options to make it happen. Remember: your GPS is you bail out buddy.

These are just a few of the dozens of “carriage rides” awaiting spirited leaf peekers. Chances are you’ll develop some favorites you’ll return to time and again.

Now grab those car keys and start adventuring.


Published in the October 10, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.        


Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Chasing the grape and hop

Posted on Oct 06 2018 | By

October’s riot of color perfect time to visit county wineries and breweries

The urge to celebrate during the fall months may well be part of our DNA. As far back as man’s cultivation of the earth, the harvest of his labors was a celebratory time.

As time progressed and crop development advanced, the joy of gathering the fruits of one’s work began to crystallize into organized celebrations and festivals.

The joy was generated by two accomplishments: ample food to sustain the community and the freedom of not having to work the fields during the winter months.

It was hunkering down time.

Festivals typically occurred around the autumnal equinox; about September 22 in the northern hemisphere and March 20 in the southern hemisphere. The events ranged from religious services, extravagant dinners, music performances, and distributing food to the poor.

America’s first Thanksgiving took place in October 1621 and was attended by both the Pilgrims and Native Americans. It set the stage for one of the most revered holidays in the United States.

Today, our connection with farming and harvesting is tenuous at best. Industrial agriculture provides all the foodstuffs we need to thrive. Yet, the urge to celebrate in the fall retains its hold on communities worldwide.

There’s no better way to embrace these subliminal urges during the fall season than touring the numerous wineries and breweries in Fauquier County.

Social lubricants & advice
The explosive opening of wineries and breweries nationwide over the last few decades have been remarkable. There are now over 8,700 wineries and 6,300 breweries in the United States. Toss in cideries and distilleries and the opportunity to share in the bounty of grapes, barley, hops and apples is ubiquitous.

Fauquier County is home to 26 wineries, four breweries, and two cideries. But the four counties bordering Fauquier expands the opportunity for a fun-filled afternoon of picnicking and responsible sipping to dozens of establishments.

To further deepen the experience, Mother Nature has chosen the fall season to drape herself in a riotous mantel of reds and golds. This is going to be an enjoyable travel assignment.

Here’s some advice as you undertake your “freewheeling fun fall flight from frustration”.

First, don’t attempt to visit more than two or three establishments in a day. Relax. Take your time. Your understanding and appreciation of the libations will reveal themselves more fully if you simply slow down.

The old chestnut, “haste makes waste”, should become your three-word management plan for extracting maximum enjoyment from each “drinkery” you visit.

Consider taking occasional behind the scene tours at businesses that offer them. You’ll gain greater insight into how wine, beer, whiskey and cider are produced, enriching your understanding of both the simplicity–and complexity–of its production. Availing yourself of free tours is an educational opportunity that will deepen your delight of the finished product.

Make observations on tasting note sheets to learn which places you have enjoyed visiting. A file kept at home will refresh you on the drinks you found most delightful. It can also lead to a compilation of your “Top Ten” favorite establishments.

Engage your fellow tasters during your tastings. Interesting exchanges unfold as strangers begin a conversation about their mutual love of the product in the glass. Don’t be surprised if you meet people from distant states, or even overseas. Virginia’s tourism draws guests from points worldwide.

Ask questions freely. Your hosts will enjoy educating you on a variety of libation related subjects. Knowledgeable employees take pleasure in educating guests on their livelihood.

While many of the places on your itinerary provide some food, almost all of them have no objections to bringing your own. If ever there was a good reason to pack a picnic basket, visiting county libation centers tops the list.

For a list of county wineries, pop the cork at:

The four breweries to investigate are Barrel Oak Tap House, Old Bust Head Brewing Company, Powers Farm Brewery and Wort Hog Brewing Company.

The two cideries are bonus combo-paks: Cobbler Mountain Winery & Cidery and Old Trade Brewery and Cidery.

Let the fun begin.


Published in the October 3, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.   


Categories : WINE ARTICLES