Archive for March, 2019


Rise and shine

Posted on Mar 30 2019 | By

Black bears poised to leave dens

One of the delights of living in the Piedmont is the seemingly endless vistas we encounter as we motor around our countryside. But our verdant landscape is home to not only natural beauty but a host of wildlife.

Chipmunk, squirrel, rabbit, beaver, raccoon, skunk, fox, bobcat, coyote and more call our home their home. Oh, and of course, black bear.

Black bears have made a remarkable recovery in Virginia since the early 1900s when they were largely hunted out. Today it’s estimated some 17,000 of them roam almost all of the Old Dominion.

The state’s western mountains have the highest concentration with the Shenandoah National Park home to about 500. Bears can live up to 30 years in the wild and even longer in captivity.

For newcomers, the reaction of hearing or seeing sightings of Ursus americanus, especially around homes and subdivisions is, “Oh, my. That’s scary.” With a large boar weighing in at 400 pounds it’s an understandable reaction.

But rest easy. The black bear is one of the most intelligent, shy and gentle of mammals. Attacks on humans are extremely rare. Its full-time job is filling its belly. If you really don’t one to encounter one, don’t leave a menu lying around.

But if they find out you’ve opened a local “restaurant”, it’s almost guaranteed you’ll be treated to repeated visits. They are omnivores and opportunistic feeders. Up to 75 percent of their diet is consists of berries, flowers, acorns and other plants. But they will eat meat, including insects, roadkill and garbage.

Commercial farm crops like corn, apples, and peaches are also on its menu. Increasingly winery owners are encountering bear depredation. An entire vineyard can go down in a couple of nights as a bear vacuum cleans its way through chardonnay, cabernet sauvignon, and other grapes. An unsettling thought for wine lovers.

During the lead-up to winter denning, they may forage for food 20 hours a day. Guess what happens when they stumble upon a birdfeeder or unprotected garbage can?

Life cycle
The cycle begins in June and July when males and females “hookup” for a three or four-day lovefest. Within days a repeat encounter with a new mate starts the lovemaking all over again.

These guys want to make sure they are propagating the species properly. They then part ways until the party starts over again the following year.

The animals also sport a characteristic called “multiple paternity”. For example, a sow’s three cubs may well have three different dads. An even more interesting trait is females are “delayed implanters”.

To assure that an impregnated mother does not have to forage to support both herself and up to four fetuses the fertilized egg is held in what might be called suspended animation while she puts on weight to survive the winter hibernation.

Once tucked comfortably in a den of a hollowed-out tree or dense thicket of vegetation, the egg implants in the uterus and the wee ones begin to grow.

As solar energy increases in the spring males are the first to stir beginning in mid-March followed by the females in early to mid-April. Mom has to assure herself her young family is capable of moving about the forest learning the rudiments of its lifelong food search before she leaves the den.

For those living in bear country, a good rule of thumb is to be alert to bear depredation beginning around April Fool’s Day. But this time it’s no joke with what you may encounter.

The cubs will again den with the mom the following fall and be urged to make their way in the world the following May when the cycle repeats itself.

Protective measures
While its obvious removing potential food sources is the best way to stop bear encounters it nonetheless can be difficult for bird and squirrel lovers to forgo putting feeders out. Resist the temptation. Feeders equal bears.

The fastest way to discourage the furry predators is to remove all temptation.

Here’s some state recommended preventive actions:

  • Secure your garbage in bear-resistant trash cans or store it in a secure building.
  • Keep your grill clean.
  • Remove bird feeders if a bear is in the area.
  • Don’t put meat scraps in your compost pile.
  • Don’t leave pet food outdoors.
  • Make sure your neighbors are following the same recommendations

But what to do if a bear still shows up looking hungry and casing your home? Listen to a few proven strategies for scaring them away from expert Fred Frenzel.

Frenzel is a wildlife biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries in Edinburg. Fauquier County is part of his service turf.

“One of the best tools to use is a small marine air compressed horn. They are really super loud. And you don’t even have to go outside. Just open a window or door and let it go,” said Frenzel. A small horn capable of numerous blasts cost about $20.

Another clever scare’m tactic is to click your vehicle door opener fob’s red button to let loose a honking-flashing light show. “It’s very effective. It happens so quick and they never see a human so it scares the daylights out of them, he said.

If caught short, however, a large spoon banging against a pot may work. And tossing stones at the brute is also likely to make it scatter. What you do not want to do is get close enough to expose yourself to danger.

While attacks are rare a bear can run up to 30 miles per hour. Trying to flee would be a lost cause if one decided to launch a rare attack.

Frenzel shares that a robust hunting season extending from September through mid- January keeps the bear population in check. Hunting seasons vary by county and weapon which include bow, muzzleloaders, and guns. During the 2018-2019 hunting season, 2,715 bears were harvested.

Asked what bear meat tastes like, Frenzel said, “It’s stringy and tastes somewhat like roast beef. It’s gamier than venison.”

For a fascinating education in all things black bear visit Virginia’s Department of Game & Inland Fisheries at 


Published in the March 27, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Traveling the green highway

Posted on Mar 26 2019 | By

Junkluggers hauling its way to a cleaner planet

Each year over 9 billion pounds of garbage is produced in the United States. That’s a nine followed by nine zeros. It looks like this: 9,000,000,000. Any way you cut it, it’s a whole lot of trash. And growing.

About 25 percent of that mountain of detritus is recycled. The remaining three-quarters consist of valuable glass, metal, paper and other materials tossed into landfills.

Admirably, recycling has progressed over the last several decades. In 1980 Americans recycled 15 million tons of garbage. By 2016 that number had climbed to well over 90 million tons and continues to grow.

Still, by any measure, there is an opportunity to further redirect tons of waste from landfills into reusable materials. The solution is embedded in every citizen contributing one bottle, can or newspaper at a time.

But operating with a larger vision, the newest member of Northern Virginia’s business community is channeling tired household goods into second lives by recycling furniture, appliances, glass, metal and other commodities.

The company’s business model centers on coming to your apartment, home or office to start the evolution of used things to their next useful stage. And it does not involve a visit to a landfill.

So, who might need such a service? Families renovating a home, empty nesters cleaning out after a young adult’s departure, loved ones disposing of a life of accumulated possessions after the death of an elderly family member, or simply those switching out one piece of furniture for another.

Welcome to Junkluggers.

Hauling for humanity
The force behind Junkluggers is Mark Harrington, 44, a Haymarket resident, husband and father of three young ones. He is a native Virginian having grown-up in Alexandria and Springfield.

The first part of his professional career centered on business development in the IT industry serving Beltway Bandits and the Federal Government.

“I worked for a midsize Chantilly firm securing IT contracts for eight years and then spent 12 years with a larger firm in a similar capacity. That company was sold in 2016 and I took time off to consider what I wanted to do with the rest of my life,” said Harrington.

The energetic and athletic looking man had a strong entrepreneurial streak waiting to be set free. He undertook extensive research on franchises to find one that was both profitable and contributing to the commonweal. Junkluggers resonated as among the best.

The company was the original brainchild of Josh Cohen who stumbled upon the idea of an environmentally friendly junk service in 2004 while studying in Australia. He returned to the states and established the nascent service using his mom’s SUV. Needless to say, that original workhorse has been put out to pasture.

Today, the company is a highly rated waste and junk removal franchise. Northern Virginia is fortunate to have Harrington’s firm serving the top third of the state. With his experience in business development, he quickly assessed the potential success factor of opening his own hauling company. “Initially I didn’t know anything about the industry but after my research, it was appealing to me and it fit my skill set.”

Two months ago, the local firm began service and is now serving all of Northern Virginia, D.C. and suburban Maryland.

Its service is simplicity itself tucked into green trucks. Junkluggers contracts to haul any used household goods and recycles almost 100 percent of the contents. When a truck full of former life stuff leaves a customer’s home or office its destination is either partner charities or recycling centers.

“Frankly the term junk is a misnomer. Often, it’s simply things that have run its course within a certain home and need to start a new life somewhere else,” Harrington explains.

Here’s how it works: A customer places a call to the firm and arranges for a free estimate. After an agreement on terms, the company’s two-man team arrives with one of its trucks that are outfitted with an off-loadable 15-yard container. The container is only left on site when sortation and packing cannot be accomplished in one visit.

As the used materials are removed from the home, items are segregated as to their intended disposal. Furniture, lamps, appliances, etc. that obviously have second life potential are packed separately from glass, metal and other recyclable materials.

“Currently we have six designated charities: Habitat Restore, Soles4Souls, Inova Children’s Hospital, Vets on Track Foundation, Women Giving Back, and Mikey’s Way Foundation. We will grow our list of hyper-focused charities over time.”

The remaining items including unusable home furnishings are taken to multi-stream recycling centers. “For example, if we are removing used paint cans, we do not simply put them in a plastic bag for dumping. We segregate and dispose of them in proper recycling bins,” said Harrington.

He also underscores that unlike simple trash hauling companies his crew will remove furnishings from throughout the home, including basements and third floors. “A lot of trash companies want you to stage the stuff. That’s not required with our service,” he explained.

The cost of the service is divided into 13 increments depending on the size of a given load. The average job to “clean house” has been running around $533.

In the next few months, Harrington will open a 5,000 square foot warehouse as a remix marketplace. “It will be a further testament to sustainability and 100 percent landfill diversion.

“If a piece of furniture is really banged up and one of our charities does not want it, the last thing we want to do it take to a landfill. At the center, we can re-purpose and refinish it and upcycle those pieces to sell them and give a portion of the proceeds back to a charity.

“What I really would like to ultimately do with the center is create a, “Do it yourself” operation and have creative people produce art and craft items to benefit a charity,” said Harrington.

Any way you segregate it, Junkluggers is an emerging force in the battle against landfill overload. They are located at 6632 Electric Avenue in Warrenton.

To learn more about how the company can declutter your life visit its comprehensive website at


Published in the March 20, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

In a hurry to get well

Posted on Mar 25 2019 | By

Piedmont Urgent Care celebrates first anniversary

Back in 2004 Piedmont Family Practice in Warrenton spotted a trend. An increasing number of patients were looking for doctor appointments after hours and on weekends.

Often these were younger people with no family physician and did not want to spend three or four hours in an emergency room seeking treatment for the flu or a sprained back.

Like a moistened finger held high in the air trying to judge which way the breeze is blowing, this Warrenton medical practice “felt” a trend and launched Family Docs on Call. They offered evening and weekend hours out of their existing offices. The patients came.

On March 15, 2018, the service was rededicated into a separate section of its large medical building and named it Piedmont Urgent Care. It’s opened from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. seven days a week.

The original concept of 14 years ago proved prescient. Today there are over 7,100 urgent care centers in the United States serving 160 million patients.

“We have three nurse practitioners down there with at least two working during the entire day,” said Dr. Christopher Ward a primary care physician and a member of the practice.  “Down there” is one floor below the main practice but with a separate entrance and its own patient parking. It’s located at 493 Blackwell Road, Suite 101B.

Today up to forty patients daily are served with no need for an appointment. A typical visit lasts about 45 minutes but can extend to over an hour depending on treatment and workload. A lot faster than a typical ER visit.

Ward, 49, is one of eight medical doctors and eight physician extenders at Piedmont Family Practice. “Physician extenders” are professionals who can treat, order tests, and prescribe drugs. By any measure, 16 medical professionals are a large practice. Include the three additional staff at the urgent care center and you have what equates to a small hospital.

“If they are falling behind or have a difficult diagnosis, we can walk down one floor to provide needed assistance,” said Ward.

Ward is married to another physician, Dr. Amy Trace, who works with him giving new meaning the term “family practice”. “We were married right after medical school in Ohio and were looking for a region without the cold winter months of the north.

“We visited Virginia and fell in love with Warrenton and joined this practice in 2001,” he said. The couple has two daughters.

Treatment and advice
Virtually any type of medical condition can walk through the door of an urgent care center. It’s essentially designed to treat semi-urgent situations. If the problem can wait, patients are encouraged to see their own doctor if they have one.

“There are some things you don’t want to wait on like a sinus infection, possible pneumonia, lacerations or strep throat. We are not set up to handle things like a heart attack, stroke or car accident. In those cases, a person should go directly to a hospital emergency room,” Ward said.

The patient demographic is broad but tends to slant toward a somewhat younger profile. “My guess is younger folks tend to not have a relationship with a doctor because they don’t have many chronic health problems.

“The biggest factor is probably the convenience of being able to just walk in and get treated,” he explained.

But at the end of the day, the ultimate goal is to not have to visit a medical provider in the first place. How to achieve that? Listen to the good doctor’s counsel:

“First, take care of the things you can take care of, for both your physical and mental health. Both are so important to the overall quality of life. You can’t do anything about genetics and you can’t do much about what you are exposed to like workplace stressors,” he said.

What one can do is eat a healthy diet, avoid fast food, get regular exercise and cultivate healthy interpersonal relationships with both your family and friends. “Improving the quality of life makes our intervention so much less necessary. Take care of yourself like you take care of the material things you own.”

Good stuff but we’ve heard it all before. So, Ward drills down further. “We are a consumer-driven culture. Unfortunately, social media and cell phones have become ubiquitous in our lives. Our brains need to settle down and process things in a quieter meditative state.”

He recommends even simple outdoor walks as restorative. “We are surrounded by the constant pinging of digital devices it creates a stress factory. We never really get a chance to rest. That affects our immune system and raises stress hormone levels.”

He also believes the health care system itself needs some healing. “We are working toward a better model to keep people healthier for longer periods.”

The goals of both Piedmont Family Practice and Piedmont Urgent Care is to integrate with the community and enhance the health and wellbeing of Fauquier County residents and beyond.

“We are really trying to invest and become part of the community because most of us live here. We are raising our families here and we want to provide the same service that we want for our families.”

The ultimate message from Ward is that physicians and patients must work together to enhance lives. Shared responsibility will lead to a more joy-filled existence.

For a full description of its services, visit Piedmont Urgent Care at


Published in the March 20, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.


Categories : HAGARTY TALES

A cut above

Posted on Mar 17 2019 | By

Marshall barbershop spinning scissors and rock music

It’s tough to say when it began. Perhaps in the 1970s. Its progression grew quietly. Then, one day the American male arose from his hirsute slumber and realized most traditional barber shops had morphed into hair salons.

Guys had lost another battle to the increasing forces of the gentler persuasion.

There are those among us who will claim male dominance is on the wane, and it’s not just at the neighborhood barbershop. But it’s likely the guys that are staking out that position if they think about it at all.

Equality of the sexes is simply the multiplying power of individuals. It started with the vote and has accelerated to the overall benefit of humanity.

But still. There is something nostalgic about guys chatting away among themselves as their locks are shorn. To their benefit, there is a shop reviving the old-time haircut but with a modern twist.

“I started cutting hair at a salon near Akron, Ohio back in 2001. I don’t know why but I picked up a really strong male following. I enjoy cutting men’s hair. I don’t like coloring, permanents and all that, said Kristy Haase, owner of Rock-N-Barbers in the Food Lion Plaza in Marshall.

“I always thought it would be neat to combine the best of a hairstylist and a barber.”

But the idea had to incubate for a few years. In the interim, Haase moved to D.C. and cut hair at a high-end male-only hair salon. “They offered a full spa with massages and adult beverages. It was very much what I wanted to do and I spent several years researching the idea without success,” she said.

But there is more than one way to trim a head and Haase took a modified approach to her barbershop dream when she moved to Front Royal seven years ago.

Realizing a full-blown shop would take considerable financial investment Haase elected to start where everything does. At the beginning.

“I said, ‘You know, I’m just gonna start small. I don’t have all this money to get a huge, fancy place with fancy chairs so I’m just going to start somewhere.’ I knew I had the experience and talent and there was no one that could do what I could do.”

Confidence is what someone is looking for when they make a decision to place their hair in scissor-powered hands. It’s also why Haase’s shop has been a success from the first hairs that hit the floor.

What she has created is a traditional barbershop catering to men but also serving women. “About 90 percent of my customers are guys. But the men will tell their wives what we do. When the women come in, they don’t see old barbers in overalls cutting hair,” she said laughing.

What they do see is a shop staffed with experienced women hair stylists who know hair from the roots up. At any given time, you’ll see Haase and one or two of her staff of four cutting, or shaving while chatting away with their clients. Rock music plays in the background and friendly banter echoes around the shop.

“I wanted a shop that was modern but with a relaxed atmosphere. That’s why I went with a rock music theme. I’m originally from Cleveland which is the home of rock and roll and I just thought it was a cool idea,” to create a shop called Rock-N’-Barbers.

In addition to custom haircuts, the guys get to choose their favorite rock genre if they desire. Amazon’s Alexa stands at the ready to play classic rock or whatever generation of rock desired.

“There might be Pink Floyd or Guns N Roses playing but a customer can ask Alexa what they want to hear,” said Haase.

Clients and services
So are the loyal customers who drop by for a trim the edgy clientele she served at the high-end D.C. shop? Not quite. Haase explains her customers range across all age groups from the very young to seniors. “I’ve had customers where it was their first haircut and, unfortunately, where it was their last one,” she said.

There are a lot of businessmen and farmers who frequent the shop along with high schoolers reflecting the demographics of a rural location. And the dream of serving adult refreshments has been put on hold for now. Instead, there is a Keurig machine at the ready serving coffee, tea or hot chocolate.

All of the stylists are adept at razor, scissor, and clipper work, “We even have one girl who specializes in ethnic hair. Tell us exactly what you want and we will custom cut your hair. And that includes hot lather shaves if you want one.”

In addition to traditional haircuts, the shop specializes in cutting and sculpting beards. “Beards are definitely popular right now. They’re more like design beards where the beard is faded or tapered to what’s called ‘skin fade’. They can take as long as a haircut to do,” Haase said.

Men’s haircuts cost $17 and women’s go for $20 to $25. When asked if men silently endure their cuts Haase says, “The guys are probably as chatty as the gals but you do find some who just want to take a nap.”

Plans for the ultimate spa barbershop are on hold for now. “Someday I’m hoping I’ll be able to get a bigger place and have tanning beds and massages but I don’t know how far in the future that is.

“For sure we won’t leave Marshall. I just signed another five-year lease on this place,” Haase said.

The shop is opened seven days a week and serves about 30 customers a day. It takes about 15 to 20 minutes to score a typical cut. Wait times can range from a few minutes up to 30 depending on the time of day. However, reservations are accepted and online booking is available from the shop’s website.

For a full description of the shop’s services and personal profiles of Haase and her four stylists visit   


Published in the March 13, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Traditional service competitive prices

Posted on Mar 17 2019 | By

Tolson Appliance & Design Center launches new pricing strategy

The bane of small shop retailing is the competitive edge big box stores hold over the small guy. Absent the leverage the ginormous stores possess in purchasing power, it can be a struggle.

But that’s no longer the case with Warrenton’s Tolson Appliance & Design Center, Inc., located at 470 Broadview Avenue.  Its challenge to the “big boys” benefits both the long-time appliance retailer and, more importantly, their customers.

How did they pull it off?

By thinking outside the washing machine while staying focused on its, “small is beautiful” theme. “We recently joined a buying group out of New York so our pricing today is basically the same as the big box stores,” said Dennis Lexo, the newly hired sales manager for the store.

While Lexo is new to Tolson’s, he has 30 years in appliance sales tucked in his shirt pocket. “We are now one of 1,500 members in the buying group.” Challenging the behemoths with their own strategy bodes well for a store that has been serving Fauquier Country for 135 years.

And quite a history it is. The original store opened alongside the railroad tracks in Calverton in 1883 selling general merchandise. That was the same year that “Buffalo Bill” Cody launched his first Wild West Show in Omaha, Nebraska. In other words, a long time ago.

Even more impressive, the average life expectancy for a small retail shop is about eight years. Obviously, these folks know what they are doing.

The store’s owner, Church Matthews, has hired new management to execute his revised retail strategy while keeping valued long-time employees in place. His philosophy is what is right for the customer is right for the store.

Think of the tried and the true blending with the new to create another century of success. A staff of 10 employees works as a unit to make it all happen.

To underscore the philosophy another new hire Jennifer Drunagel, is now the store’s business manager. With experience running a family-owned business, she is a Vint Hill resident and mother of two who brings contagious enthusiasm to her job.

“My husband and his family were born and raised in Warrenton,” she said proudly, and she is dedicated to the long-term success of the business.

Drunagel says, “We have a beautifully updated showroom with new countertops and cabinetry,” that will trigger buying ideas for homeowners updating their kitchens.

In addition, Warren Cabinets Inc. is located nearby and stands ready to install any cabinetry and that may be purchased in conjunction with new appliances.

Showroom floor
So what sells in the world of household appliances today? The standard suspects dominate such as stoves, refrigerators, dishwashers, washers, dryers, microwave ovens and grills. The shift has been in colors and coatings not seen in the past.

Sales manager Lexo explains: “Stainless steel is still the number one choice for color. But it now comes in different coatings, including fingerprint resistant and smudge proof to aid in keeping them clean. Black stainless steel is also popular as is black matte.”

One interesting twist is the top-load clothes washer is making a comeback. The most popular manufacturer is American made Speed Queen.

“It is the most reliable washer in the industry. It will last 20 to 25 years. Most other washers have a life expectancy of 10 to 12 years,” said Lexo. “We see a lot of people who have been disappointed with their front-load machines.”

Speed Queen is only sold through independent dealers giving Tolson a big edge in meeting customers’ expectations for the much-desired product.

Lexo emphasizes that when you purchase a product from Tolson you also buy a support team to boot. “We have our delivery, installation, and service teams who are in place to assure proper installation and follow-up on any service-related issues.”

Financing and extended warranties are available on the store’s products.

Drunagel emphasizes, “What sets us apart is our knowledge of small appliances. We know exactly what we can do to meet a customer’s needs. We have customers repeatedly come back and buy from us, even for as long as 50 years.” That experience scores more than a wheelbarrow full Facebook Likes.

In addition to the depth of its product line, there is a fully stocked parts department at the back of the store.

One of the important goals for the “new Tolson’s” is to get its message out to a younger demographic.

“We are looking to pull the younger generation into the store,” said Drunagel. With the proliferation of today’s superstores, attracting a younger buying crowd becomes critical to tomorrow’s success.

The key to achieving that goal is quality backed by competitive prices. As the author Robert M. Pirsig once said, “Quality tends to fan out like waves.” And if it is emanating from Tolson Appliance & Design Center, then may the wave be with you.

For a full description of the store’s products accompanied by an impressive gallery of product photographs, visit their website at


Published in the March 6, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Denim & Pearls raises a glass

Posted on Mar 10 2019 | By

Warrenton Main Street eatery launches wine and whiskey dinners

It’s always nice when a family member comes home for a visit. But it’s even better if they stay and become part of the family business. That’s how Denim & Pearls owner Jennifer Robinson feels about the return her former chef Robin Woodrow Isaac.

“We are really excited to have Woody back,” said Robinson. “He’s got some great ideas and new menus he’ll be creating for us in the months ahead.”

Isaac mirrors her sentiments. “I worked at the former Iron Bridge and Bridge restaurants and then Denim & Pearls and was a chef at Poplar Springs on two occasions. I’m pleased to be back with Jen and her staff. I have a lot of ideas for the restaurant.”

Hitting the ground running is one of Isaac’s traits as evidenced by his new brunch, lunch and dinner menus which will be available starting this week. Accompanying the changes in food fare are updated drink menus also gracing the dining tables.

The restaurant’s emphasis will continue to be on Italian American cuisine but with a subtle shift to more American dishes. “With Woody back, we are going to be able to implement some really great changes. We will be utilizing our downstairs dining areas more and of course our rooftop setting when the weather turns warmer,” said Robinson.

Robinson opened the restaurant in 2017 and knows the importance of the new and creative to keep her regulars and newcomers coming back.

A quick scan of the restaurant’s website emphasizes in part the ambiance the restaurant seeks to create:

The term “upscale casual” has been adopted by countless restaurants in the last 10 years.  We wanted to find another way to convey that message. We want them to think of us for their anniversary and special occasions or because it’s Tuesday and they don’t want to cook.

The actual name is from a country song, by Drake White, “Making Me Look Good Again”. There’s a line in the song that goes “leather and lace, denim and pearls, whiskey and wine”. The “denim and pearls” part just stuck with me. We started with our cowhide barstools and went from there.”

Wine & Whiskey
One of the more unique new ideas will be a series of alternating wine and whiskey tastings the first Wednesday of each month followed by a companion dinner showcasing the same libations the last Wednesday of the month.

First out of the gate was Rappahannock Cellars pouring its wines on Wednesday, March 6. On March 27 the same wines will be served at a dinner in the downstairs dining room. The intimate room with its exposed original stone walls is the perfect setting for a social lubricant-centered repast.

“The monthly tastings will be accompanied with a menu for the follow-up dinner,” said Robinson. Guests can sign up for the dinner following the tasting or make reservations later. “We anticipate a strong response to the new offering so I wouldn’t have guests wait too long before signing up.”

The 6 p.m. wine dinners will focus on quality Virginia producers and each course will be carefully paired to accent both wine and food.

The whiskey tastings and dinners will highlight both Old Dominion and nationally known whiskey producers.

Incredibly, the first four-course dinner will be priced at $50 per person, not including tax and gratuities. This is well below similar dinners and offers “early adopters” an opportunity to experience what should quickly become a restaurant tradition.

“The introductory pricing will likely rise somewhat as we progress through our series to the $75 range. For now, we want to get the word out to the community,” said Isaac. There will be seating for 26 guests but if the dinner sells out some consideration will be given to increasing attendance.

“We want it to be an intimate and enjoyable experience so we do not want to sell an overly large number of seats,” said Robinson.

Interested diners are encouraged to attend the March 6 tasting and learn first sip about the wines to be poured at the 27th dinner. However, for those who know a good deal when they read one, reservations can be made anytime by calling the restaurant’s front of the house manager, Taylor Davenport at (540) 349-9339. NOTE: the March 27th dinner has been sold out. A second dinner is now scheduled for Sunday, March 31 at 6 p.m.

The whiskey producers for the April tasting and dinner have not been finalized but will be available on its website soon.

But wait, there’s more!
In addition to the new menus and dinners, Robinson says every third Wednesday of the month starting in April there will be a cigar and whiskey flight on the rooftop dining area. “It will be a blend of local and nationally known producers,” she said.

The restaurant’s wine list is comprised of some 25 selections while its whiskey list embraces 30 producers so no one will go thirsty when dropping by for a drink or dinner.

Moreover, the popular First Friday and ladies night specials will return with warmer weather. And of course, this week is Restaurant Week in Warrenton and eight of Denim & Pearls fellow restaurateurs will be serving specially created dishes through March 10 along with them.

For a complete tour of Denim & Pearls including menu items and hours, visit 


Published in the March 6, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Tiny Bubbles

Posted on Mar 05 2019 | By

Rappahannock Cellars expands sparkling wine production 

Weddings, graduations and anniversaries are the quintessential time to lift a flute of sparkling wine and toast the celebrants. But special occasions are fading as the leading occasion to enjoy a bubbly.

Today, sparkling wines are the fastest growing segment in the U.S. wine industry. In 2017, 312 million bottles of champagne or sparkling wine were sold in the United States, a steady increase in sales dating from 2000 that shows no signs of abating.

Wine bubbles are increasingly consumed as an everyday libation simply because they are delicious. Prosecco from Italy and Cava from Spain have helped popularize sparklers and domestic production is drafting behind the accelerating trend.

A pulled cork of fizzy wine leaves the bottle at 25 mph and contains 49 million bubbles. And the real fun hasn’t even started.

Here in Virginia, winemaker Claude Thibaut is the most respected sparkling vintner in the state. He is co-owner of Thibaut-Janisson Winery in Charlottesville. The winery is a joint venture with Manuel Janisson, a French champagne producer. The winery produces some 4,000 cases of sparklers a year.

Patricia Kluge was among the first to make sparkling wine in Virginia starting in 1999 at her Kluge Estate Winery. Donald Trump purchased the winery at a foreclosure sale in 2011. It still is the largest sparkler producer in the Old Dominion at more than 10,00 cases annually.

It is estimated there are now 25 wineries in the Commonwealth producing sparkling wine. Most bottle between 500 to 2,000 cases a year. Among the fastest growing is Rappahannock Cellars in Huntly with a 3,000-case production.

“The reason we got into sparkling wine is twofold. First, we like it ourselves and we think everybody should like it,” said owner John Delmare. “Secondly, it’s becoming more recognized as not just a celebratory drink. And it pairs well with lots of different foods.”

Delmare can spot a trend when he sees one. He opened his winery in 2000 after moving from California where he had a winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains. He pulled the 60th farm winery permit in Virginia. Today, over 300 wineries dot the Old Dominion’s winescape.

His overall wine output has gone from an original 2,000 cases to 15,000 annually.

Production commitment
Among the formidable challenges a winery faces when considering adding sparkling wine to its lineup is space, equipment, and skill.

It is relatively easy to produce a carbonated wine. Many wineries do. The production involves taking a still wine and injecting it with CO2. It produces a pleasant effervescent wine. But it’s not a true sparkler; a palate comparison between two would quickly reveal the difference.

Delmare has produced such a wine for several years dubbing it his “Fizzy Lizzy”, a carbonated rosé that is a tasting room favorite. But the bubbles in the wine struck a chord with him and his winemaker, Theo Smith. Why not make the real thing?

And the real deal, like so many things in life, comes with a high-sounding name called méthode champenoise, or the traditional champagne method of France.

The process involves taking a still wine and bottling it with the addition of some yeast and sugar and sealing it with a beer cap. Immediately the yeast knows sugar has become its best friend and the two work in tandem to ignite a re-fermentation, trapping the gases inside the bottle.

The process is similar to what many homebrewers use in making beer.

The wine is then aged for 9 to 12 months to make certain all the sugar has been consumed by the yeast. Since the bottles have been stored upside down, the dead yeast cells accumulate in the neck and are disgorged when the cap is popped off.

Immediately, a “dosage”, or small amount a sugar & wine, is often added back to the bottle to provide a bit of sweetness to the final product. It is then corked and a wire basket placed over the cork to prevent it from exploding during its final aging process.

Much heavier bottles are used in producing champagne and sparkling wine to prevent “grenade” bottles from being a safety hazard in the wine cellar and for the consumer.

In the original production of such wines two centuries ago, winemakers would be terrorized by shattering bottles ricocheting around their cellars. Experience dictated much heavier bottles be used to bring the wine safely to market.

Rappahannock Cellars produces three sparkling wines: Rosé, Blanc de Blanc and Prestige. Prices range from $34 for the first two and $40 for its Prestige, a blend of different blocks of Chardonnay wines.

Delmare underscores that the price point for the wines reflects the high production costs and more expensive corks and bottles employed.

Charmat method
This past December, Delmare took possession of a $40,000 stainless steel tank for Charmat styled sparklers. The new equipment will enable him to accelerate the amount of bubbly he produces and the time it which it takes to bring it to market.

The process uses a large pressurized tank that retains the carbon dioxide created by the refermenting wine. The process replicates the traditional method except that it occurs inside a 1,300-gallon fermentation tank, not a 25-ounce wine bottle.

The new equipment will enable the winery to boost production beyond 3,000 cases annually.  If sparkling sales continue to grow as expected, production could top out at 5,000 cases or more.

Theo Smith
A winemaker is the beat in the heart of every winery. As the talent and skills of the man or woman crafting the wine goes, so goes the fortunes of the winery.

It’s emblematic of the success of Rappahannock Cellars that it has one of the largest wine clubs in the state. And it’s not just a quarterly club like most, but two bottles-per-month year-round.

That success is driven in large part by Theo Smith.

If customers don’t like your wines, they will not sign up as a club member. Over 80 percent of Rappahannock’s wines today are sold to club members. The numbers reinforce Smith’s talent and hard work.

Smith got his first taste of the wine trade working part-time at a vineyard in the Ohio Valley while attending Franciscan University in Steubenville. After graduating in 2008 with a degree in biochemistry, he worked for two years at a cancer research firm before realizing he was not cut out for laboring in a lab. The vineyard was calling.

Through a mutual contact, he reached out to Delmare seeking employment. “John encouraged me to go back to school for a wine degree since I already had the science prerequisites.

“He played a large role in returning to school and getting my viniculture and enology certifications from Brock University,” said Smith.

Smith, 36, represents a growing number of young Virginia winemakers who have scored their educational wine bona fides and go on to make a mark in Virginia. It’s sometimes referred to as seeking to be a “big fish in a small pond” rather than laboring in Calif. or elsewhere in competition with a legion of other winemakers.

The bet paid off for both him and Rappahannock Cellars. Today, his skill set has been demonstrated repeatedly with a string of exceptional still and sparkling wines produced since being named head winemaker and vineyard manager in 2013.

Claude Thibaut provided mentoring when Delmare brought him on board as a consultant to get his sparkler program up and running. In that position, he quickly observed that Smith was “…a very sharp young guy. He is eager to learn and not just learn but to implement. He wants to make the best sparklers he can.”

John Delmare echoes those sentiments. “Theo has mastered the process very quickly. There’s a lot of nuances in making sparkling wine. It’s a whole different process from making still wine. I give him incredible credit.

“Theo sent me an email recently after we disgorged our first Prestige wine that said, ‘This is the most favorite wine I’ve made at Rappahannock Cellars’. He loves making sparkling wine and he’s doing a great job.”

Delmare’s expectation for the future of his sparkling wine program is upbeat, observing, “At our recent annual soup events, I asked our members, ‘how many of you drink sparkling wine’. About half the room raised their hands.

“We have a good base and room for growth.”

The same can be said for a unique wine that is increasingly being produced and appreciated across the Commonwealth.

Look for a bubbly coming to a winery near you.


Published in the February 2019 edition of Dine, Wine & Stein magazine.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Catch of the day

Posted on Mar 05 2019 | By

Blue Ridge Seafood Restaurant celebrates four decades of salt life

Ask almost anyone living in Fauquier or Prince William counties if they know where the Blue Ridge Seafood Restaurant is and the answer will be a variation of, “Of course. On Route 29 west of Gainesville.”

The restaurant’s iconic sign with its large crab logo is viewed by thousands of travelers a day as they motor past the down-home eatery or into its packed parking lot. Siting the restaurant in a quiet country location and then watching development encircle it bordered on genius.

Or more likely hard work created the success.

Rod and Cora Stringer founded the crab factory back in 1979. Working full-time as an air traffic controller Rod Stringer parlayed a part-time gig selling crabs out of a trailer in Dranesville into the beloved seafood restaurant.

Today the Stringers are enjoying the rewards of their work as retirees in Fla. They also beam with pride as they see their creation embraced by family members who are laboring as hard as they did to satisfy seafood appetites.

Mark and Donna Donavan and their son Kyle are the faces of the restaurant today. Donna is a daughter of the Stringers. She married a man like dad in Mark Donovan who is an entrepreneur in his own right. He owns Donovan Asphalt Paving in Warrenton.

“I grew up with a father that was always doing something. He had multiple side businesses. He would never sit still,” said Donna Donovan. “My mom worked in the restaurant for years.”

In the early days, success was fueled by personnel working at the Vint Hill military base who were among its first fans. Young Donna Stringer and her sister Gail worked at the restaurant then, “We helped out minimally in the beginning but then full-time as we got older.”

To keep the restaurant supplied in fresh seafood Rod Stringer traveled widely to wherever quality product could be obtained. Road trips to Fla, N.C. and up and down the East Coast were typical. The strategy paid off as customers increasingly counted on Blue Ridge to feature choice offerings on its menu.

Mark Donovan entered the picture when he met Donna at the former Napoleon’s Restaurant in Warrenton. “I asked her where she worked and she said, Blue Ridge. So, I went to Blue Ridge Hardware looking for her. I didn’t realize there was another place called Blue Ridge Seafood.”

His pursuit paid off at the altar and in the late 1980s. Rod Stringer asked him to work at the restaurant. The gig turned part-time when he developed his construction businesses and then the paving company. Today he works at Blue Ridge on weekends.

The eatery’s menu has expanded over the years and now covers the gamut of seafood and more. It showcases shrimp, crabs, clams, lobster, calamari, crayfish, haddock, scallops, mahi-mahi, salmon, flounder, and catfish. Oh, and gator tail.

If seafood isn’t your thing, choose from quail, chicken, steak, BBQ ribs, and even frog legs. Wine, beer and cocktails round out the chock-a-block menu.

If you leave this establishment hungry, shame on you.

To reinforce the popularity of the restaurant, its classic busiest days are Mother’s and Father’s Day. “We serve a tremendous number of people on those days. Our record is 1,900 people on one Mother’s’ Day,” said Mark Donovan. The restaurant seats 250 people, including its outside dining area.

To assure prompt service a staff of about 60 people is employed as needed, including many part-time high schoolers.

The future
Several members of the family’s third generation are now taking the restaurant into the future. The Donovan’s son Kyle is increasingly the point person and his role will undoubtedly grow in years ahead.

Kyle Donovan, 27, graduated from college with studies in business and hospitality. His success at managing the firm is giving his parents more opportunities to take time off from their demanding schedule. “It allows us to do more things on our own.

“We have a lot of customers tell us what a great job Kyle is doing,” said Donna Donovan. “I see him taking over more and more of the business. He is very good and he’s taking our social media to another level.” Kyle is featured in a video on the company’s website.

One segment of the business getting special attention is catering. Some modest catering occurred in the past but it will intensify in the future. In addition to two catering trucks, a special trailer is being constructed to further advance this side of the business.

Ironically, the trailer concept casts back to the Stringers earliest days bringing the business full circle. Two major catering events occurred at Philip Carter Winery with successful crab and oyster feasts. An increasing number of similar events are planned.

As the family takes aim at their 50th anniversary, Donna Donovan underscores their commitment to quality. “We use local crabs as much as we can and all of our seafood is produced in the U.S. We buy the freshest seafood we can with no chemicals involved in its production. We pride ourselves on high quality.

“It’s also gratifying to have longtime customers come back for a meal even if they’ve left the area. You lose a lot of people over the years as they move on. We consider our customers as part of our family and they come back to visit their favorite seafood restaurant.”

Blue Ridge Seafood Restaurant is opened six days a week and closed Mondays. For a mouthwatering digital visit to the ocean emporium visit Or check out their Facebook page at


Published in the February 13, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.        

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Hear that lonesome bugle blow

Posted on Mar 02 2019 | By

March 9th fundraiser to aid restoration of North American Elk

In 1855, a hunter took careful aim at a lone elk in southwest Virginia. Resting his sights carefully on the 700-pound bull he slowly squeezed off a shot and unknowingly dropped the last elk in Virginia.

Thus ended centuries of the regal animal’s existence in the Old Dominion.

The exact nature of the last elks’ demise here is conjecture but for certain it was a combination of hunting pressure and loss of habitat that saw the noble Cervus elaphus fade from our mountains and valleys.

Much like the buffalo who would be brought close to extermination in the late 1880s by professional buffalo hunters who slaughtered up to 250 animals a day, elk had the unfortunate luck to thrive and die in an era when killing wild game was dictated by hunger…or greed.

But there is a Warrenton resident who has spent 29 years tirelessly working to reestablish elk throughout the U.S., with an emphasis on Kentucky, North Carolina, and especially Virginia.

It’s a success story that many are only vaguely aware of and positions both wildlife enthusiasts and hunters for unique outdoor experiences for generations to come.

Meet Danny Smedley, a retired senior manager for an electronic funds transfer company, who ignited his passion for elk and elk hunting 29 years ago when he picked up a magazine called Bugle, published by the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation headquartered in Missoula, Montana.

“I was out in Yellowstone on a family vacation after my first child was born. I looked through that magazine and was very impressed and joined the foundation,” Smedley said.

“About six months later, a gentleman who had been a former chair of the national organization invited me to a meeting in D.C. He said they were thinking about starting a Warrenton chapter of RMEF.

“I attended that meeting and for 29 years have been involved with both the foundation and organizing the local fundraiser that supports our cause.”

In the beginning
The RMEF was founded in 1984 by four guys sitting around a western elk hunting camp opining that unless action was taken both elk habitat and the species itself would disappear. Its success is measured today by the 500 active chapters and thriving herds around the country. Over one million elk roam the western states.

The organization’s template was taken from the pages of Ducks Unlimited who worked tirelessly since 1937 to successfully preserve wetlands and associated upland habitats for waterfowl, other wildlife, and people.

Today RMEF has brought over seven million acres under conservation easement providing critical survival habitat for the America Elk. While the emphasis has been on western land preservation, individuals like Smedley and cadre of other dedicated sportsmen have achieved similar success in the eastern U.S.

There are now some 13,000 elk in Kentucky, 200 in North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains National Park, 200 near Grundy, Virginia, 1,000 fittingly thriving in Elk County, Pennsylvania, and 100 in the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.

By any measure, the success of the relocation of these herds represent diamonds on an elk’s rack. Moreover, the location of some of the herds is on reclaimed strip-mining land, often located in some of the poorest sections of the country.

“Down in Grundy they’ve got little cabins, a visitor center and viewing stations throughout the area. Last year we had 350 people visit the area and pay $30 each to see the elk and listen to them bugle,” Smedley said.

The positive economic impact on these rural areas cannot be understated. Moreover, as is often the case in re-establishing one species, it serves to boost the advantages for a variety of other wildlife.

Hunting is conversation
This is the slogan of the RMEF and underpins why the hunt is an integral part in saving a threatened species.

Smedley says he is often asked about the dichotomy between hunting and recovering threaten wildlife. Actually, the two go hand-in-hand. He cites as an example the tale of two birds: The America Wood Duck and the White-Billed Woodpecker.

The former thrives as both a game duck and successful survivor because Ducks Unlimited became its “sponsor”, recovering wetlands and building hundreds of thousands of duck boxes. Today it is one of the most numerous ducks in the country for the mutual enjoyment for both birders and hunters.

Conversely, the latter had no sponsor and today the White-billed Woodpecker is extinct. “A species can lose out if it does not have a purpose and a sponsor,” said Smedley.

This year the RMEF’s local fundraiser will be hosted at the Fauquier County Fairgrounds on March 9th from 3:30 p.m. till 9:30 p.m.

In addition to speakers updating attendees on the success of elk restoration nationwide, there will be games, live and silent auctions with prizes as exotic as a premier elk hunt in Wyoming, an Illinois Whitetail hunt, a 10-day African safari valued at $16,000, and a two-night cabin Virginia elk tour.

High-end hunting rifles, numerous pieces of art, jewelry, and a host of related items will also the gifted to the lucky assembled. A catered big game banquet will round out the evening.

Join some 200 other sportsmen and wildlife enthusiasts and learn more about the valued work of the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

Tickets are $85 each, $135 for couples and support the goal of elk revival throughout the United States. Tickets can be purchased by contacting John Overend at (703) 930-7594. For information on the foundation itself or on making a donation, reach out to Danny Smedley at (540) 222-4994.

Tickets can also be ordered online at A digital tour of the world of elk recovery can be taken at

Finally, consider visiting any of the east coast elk recovery areas and be riveted by the sound of the haunting bugle call of this stately king of the forest.


Published in the February 27, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Seeking sound sleep

Posted on Mar 02 2019 | By

Weighted blankets helping the weary overcome insomnia

One of the silent health issues today is sleeplessness. Silent in the sense it occurs in the depth of night as the afflicted lies motionless, staring at walls and ceilings waiting for the sleep fairy to arrive.

Often, she fails to show or does so reluctantly in the early morning hours. The resulting next day’s work is a slog for the underpowered as they labor through another day of chronic energy loss.

Just less than 50 percent of Americans claim they are not getting a good night’s sleep. Some 164 million citizens struggle with the curse at least once a week.

Coming to the rescue—and profit—are prescription drugs and OTC sleep aids. Americans spend an estimated $41 billion annually on such remedies. The number is anticipated to swell to $52 billion by 2020.

A 2016 Consumer Reports investigation found on average, popular sleeping drugs like Ambien and Lunesta only helped the afflicted get eight to 20 minutes extra sleep a night. Even science seems flummoxed on how to treat the misery.

Given the extent of the problem, troubled sleepers will try almost anything to get some shuteye. In addition to a sea of drugs washing over the problem, numerous devices are pedaled as the secret to sawing wood in peace.

Glasses that block “blue” light emitted by tablets and smartphones are supposed to help counter the loss of melatonin, a hormone that induces sleep. White-noise machines that block distracting noise, special sleep-inducing masks, “smart” mattresses, calm-inducing smartphone apps and much more are also marshaled to solve the problem.

Perhaps one untried strategy is to simply cruise the internet looking for the best drug, device or secret to a good night’s rest. With over 33 million results popping up on the search word “sleeplessness”, an extended Google hunt might simply bore a person to sleep.

Segmented sleep
Before we jump to the conclusion that not getting eight hours of uninterrupted sleep is a calamity, let’s consider a pattern that has been around for centuries: segmented sleep.

Segmented sleep, or “polyphasic sleep”, is sleep that is divided into two or more sessions. Someone who comfortably coexists with this pattern may go to bed at 9 p.m. and wake at 1 p.m., read or work—in or out of the bed for one or two hours—then retire for a second time.

It’s not insomnia and anyone who thinks it’s unhealthy will be surprised to learn many of our ancestors slept this way until the 19th century.

Historians believe humans naturally evolved to sleep in blocks of time—not a straight eight hours. There are written descriptions dating back 3,000 years of this behavior; polyphasic sleep is even referred to in Homer’s Odyssey.

The “in between” time was considered sacred. People would use it for purposes as diverse as praying, visiting neighbors or enjoying a romantic interlude with their loved one.

Physicians in the 16th century even advised patients that the time between sleeping was ideal for conception, going as far as telling couples they, “would have more enjoyment” and “do it better” than other times of the day.

Today, one should carefully consider waking a mate at 1 a.m. with a whispered suggestion it was time to get “chummy”. But if they proceeded anyway, they might simply be displaying evolutionary behavior’s sleepy face.

Suffice to say, waking up in the middle of the night is not all that unnatural. If it works for you, enjoy. But given today’s work schedules, a more modern approach to beddy-bye may be in order.

Weighted blankets
Into this battle for dreamland comes riding yet another claim for achieving sleep nirvana: weighted gravity blankets. Never heard of them? They’ve actually been around for a while but mostly used by therapists and psychiatry clinics.

Today the blankets are going mainstream and are increasingly catching the attention of a sleepy workforce. Whether their benefits ultimately collapse in a heap as a passing fad or settled into an accepted and proven sleep solution, time will tell.

But for many current users, the jury is in and the verdict is, “These things work.”

In clinical settings, the blankets’ history revolves around their use in an occupational therapy called sensory integration. The treatment is employed to help deal with autism and similar disorders by focusing on sensory experiences.

Let’s listen in as one manufacturer describes its blanket:

“The weighted gravity blanket is filled with hypo-allergenic, non-toxic, odorless glass beads engineered to be around 10 to 15 percent of your body weight. The deep pressure from the weight causes the body to produce serotine and endorphins, improving mood and promoting restful sleep.

“It can help promote sleep by reducing anxiety, improving cognitive function, overcoming sensitivity to touch and pacifying obsessive-compulsive behavior. The blanket can help with sensory disorders, sleep insomnia, ADD/ADHD Spectrum Disorders, Asperger’s and Autism Spectrum Disorders”.

Think of curling up in your mother’s loving arms as an infant. Huggly snuggly.

Some studies have shown the blankets do reduce anxiety, creating a safe and more comfortable feeling while sleeping. One study even demonstrated a drop in heart rates for dental patients having wisdom teeth removed.

And yet, like snake oil salesmen of yesteryear, one must be cautious when a single product promotes relief for multiple ailments.

But if the blankets work, they can achieve startling results without the use of drugs. Even some clinicians find the blankets have more up-value than many conventional sleep aids.

Proof in the snoozing
A quick review of Amazon’s verified customer reviews shows four to five-star ratings on most of the blankets for sale. Typical comments include observations such as:

“Feels really great on. I got the 20 lb. blanket and I weigh about 165. I love it.”

“After about a week of use, I feel like the blanket works incredibly well. I’ve been sleeping 8-9 hours a night, falling asleep faster and tossing and turning less.”

“I’m not a fan of being held too tight or being restrained but I must admit I love!”

“This blanket is amazing!”

Lullabyland does not come cheap. Be ready to bruise your credit card for $70 to $150, depending on the size and quality of the blanket purchased. But you may recover from sticker shock after a couple weeks of solid rest.

And if you do pull the trigger and are unhappy with your purchase, return policies for most in-store and online sales are accommodating. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

Except a good night’s rest.


Published in the February 20, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.      

Categories : HAGARTY TALES