Archive for November, 2019

On November 30, the pastor of First Baptist Church of Warrenton will step down from the pulpit and for the first time take a seat in the pews. His life has been one dedicated to the Word of God. The Reverend Matthew Zimmerman will move from in front of his congregation to a seat among the faithful whom he has guided for the past 21 years.

But the short journey reflects a lifetime spanning the globe and acting as the embodiment of the Golden Rule. It also closes the circle on a life of service that began in a small town in South Carolina almost 78 years ago.

“My father was the principal of my school and the pastor of our church,” the pastor recalls, smiling. “My mother was my first-grade teacher. When I stepped out of line, I was corrected three times because my grandfather was also a pastor.” While his intention as a young college student was to pursue a medical degree, his DNA directed him to the clergy. When he sets aside his pulpit robe this month, it will be his third retirement.

His first position culminated in achieving the rank of major general in the U.S. Army as chief of chaplains. That position led to his second career as chief of chaplains with the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs for four years. The Chiefs of Chaplains of the United States are the senior service chaplains who lead and represent the Chaplains Corps of the United States Army, Navy, and Air Force. In this capacity, he oversaw and directed the activities of all the clergy serving in the U.S. Army, regardless of denomination.

As his term of office ended at the Department of Veterans Affairs, the secretary of the department persuaded him to accept the pastorship at First Baptist Warrenton…because if you want something done, ask a busy man.

Among the notable people he became friends with over the course of his first two careers were men of achievement such as the Reverend Billy Graham, General Colin Powell, Walter Cronkite, and many more.

But his self-effacing and modest demeanor belies the world of important men and women in which he traveled. It’s also why so many are drawn to his personality and leadership, making him the embodiment of an earthly spokesman for Christ.

One of the most gratifying aspects of his current position has been reliving as an adult the life he had as a young lad in a small southern town church. “When my father was the pastor of our church in South Carolina, you got to know all of the members on a personal basis,” says Reverend Zimmerman. “It’s the same today at First Baptist Warrenton.”

The church has 150 members, making it large enough to be a job and small enough to be a personal, heartfelt endeavor. In his previous two careers, reassignments and travel dictated meeting new faces and issues every few years. Today, the stability among his flock is a valued part of his work.

Reverend Zimmerman has no plans during his retirement other than enjoying the fruits of his labors and relationships. He and his wife Barbara are looking forward to leading a well-deserved quiet life of relaxation and reading. The days of endless responsibilities are over.

One thing that will not change is his attendance at First Baptist of Warrenton services. And he quickly adds, “We welcome everyone and ask that you join us for youth and adult Bible study and other church activities.” Once a pastor, always a pastor.

Published in the November 2019 edition of Discover Fauquier.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Virginia and West Coast grapes star in quality portfolio

Seth Chambers is a winemaker on the move. Wherever he can source grapes that shine, he moves on them. Virginia, California, Washington State and Oregon are four of his favorite venues.

But he quickly underscores he does not blend out-of-state and Old Dominion wine. Each offering stands on its own merits.

“Our goal at LaGrange is producing fine wine and pleasing customers,” says Chambers. “When guests taste our wines, I don’t think they think West Coast is better than Virginia. I am super proud of my Virginia Rosé, Petit Verdot and other wines.”

His wines are labeled Virginia or American so there is no sleight of hand about what’s in the bottle. What Chambers believes is there are certain terroirs—or the somewhereness of where the fruit is grown—that can produce different palate experiences.

To fully grasp the concept of terroir here’s a wee test: Where’s the best expression of a Georgia peach grown? Yep, Georgia.

In Virginia you rarely see grapes such as Gewürztraminer, Petit Sirah, Barbera, Nebbiolo, Zinfandel and more. They make excellent wines but the Old Dominion’s climate is often too cold, hot, or humid to bring out the best in those varietals.

But in the hands of a capable winemaker, it doesn’t matter where the wine is made. Once the fruit is in the cellar a qualified maestro can create a symphony of aromas and flavors from a variety of grapes.

“I want to be different and work with what Virginia produces best while also bringing out the best in West Coast fruit. It’s not an overlapping of styles. It’s what our guests are looking for.

“I try to be honest and upfront as winemaker. You can buy good wine at a lot of places today. At LaGrange it’s about producing a variety of quality wine while offering hospitality and a unique experience in the tasting room.

“An example was one of our Cabernet Sauvignon selections. The same wine was aged in French oak and American oak. We poured them as a pair and went back and forth contrasting the difference and similarities between the two oak styles,” says Chambers.

While the tasting room serves wines reflecting both east and west provenance, many of the more unique bottlings are destined for its wine club Black Label program. The club has been revamped this year and is gaining in popularity. Members receive special selections quarterly and can pick them up at the winery or have them shipped directly to their home wine cellar.

Bona vides
So where does the talent and skill originate to produce a panoply of wine styles? As with most success, it springs from a focused education coupled with passion. Chambers, 36, has both in ample supply.

Early in his formative years, he switched his college major from astrophysics to organic chemistry because he wanted to become a winemaker. He served a summer internship in 2006 at LaGrange, the year it opened.

“I left that summer with a determination that I had found my calling. I finished up at Penn State with a degree in organic chemistry and a minor in plant biology and got my first job as a winemaker in Virginia.”

The following spring, he obtained his Enology certification and in 2014 returned to LaGrange to lead its wine program. His education reflects a growing number of Virginia winemakers who hold wine and vineyard degrees as opposed to the early days when hobbyists largely morphed into winemakers.

The venue
With the dedication to producing a wide range of wines what might add to the experience? If the answer eludes, it’s likely you haven’t walked the hallowed grounds of LaGrange or toured its historic home.

Built in 1790, the manor house sits on a small rise in the shadow of Bull Run Mountain. The almost six-acre property was originally part of Robert “King” Carter’s Bull Run Tract in the 1600s known as LaGrange.

The property’s size ebbed and flowed over the centuries but fortuitously the three-story red brick manor house survived the vagaries of time. In December 2005, a small group of investors purchased the historic farm and dilapidated home and made necessary repairs to both. It opened it as a winery in September 2006.

Today the estate is a historical gift to wine lovers. To tour the home or relax on the park-like grounds while gazing at rolling vineyards and mountain scenes, is an invitation to step back in time and enjoy the liquid fruits of the vineyard and cellar.

“I live in nearby Gainesville,” says Chambers,” It’s always five to six degrees cooler out here. It’s a beautiful setting.”

The winery, located at 4970 Antioch Road, Haymarket, is opened seven days a week from noon to 9 p.m. enticing guests to sip and nibble from their own picnic baskets both during the day or after a day’s slog in the job harness.

For a full digital tour of The Winery at LaGrange, its history, wines, events, and more visit

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Birds of a feather

Posted on Nov 14 2019 | By

Birdwatching is focused relaxation on wing

As seniors move into their golden years advice they’re likely to hear is, “Stay involved.” Good counsel since movement and social interaction are the twin fountains of youth. But high energy activities may begin to lose their appeal when the color gray starts to play a role in in their lives.

Most of us want to stay active as we age but jogging, weights and jazzercise may be a bit less enjoyable after passing the half-century mark. What to do? Consider a casual walk through field or forest or even a loop around the backyard dedicated to gazing skyward.

Think birdwatching.

Birdwatching, or more commonly referred to as birding, is one of the fastest-growing hobbies in North America. Some 50 million Americans, young, middle age and seniors draw joy from observing the sights and sounds of feathered beauties as they dart, swoop and perch on trees and landscaping.

It’s an endeavor particularly well suited to sages. It can be a solo activity or enhanced through group bird walks often led by knowledgeable birders eager to share their experience with neophytes.

Moreover, with window bird feeders and a comfortable chair or recliner positioned to take advantage of the activity, it can enhance the lives of the homebound. The joys of gazing at fluttering birds are obvious but it also has a calming, almost meditative, effect that can help individuals connect with nature in richer more meaningful ways.

Today, with the advent of smartphones and digital cameras, notepads and pencils have largely been set aside. Field guides are as near as a few good apps and flipping through a hard copy guide is often replaced with a click and swipe.

But some seniors may not be comfortable with the technology, so tried and true birding guides are still employed. It’s not an either-or proposition. Comfort levels and enjoyment dictate how the activity is embraced.

Daniel Lebbin
The non-profit American Bird Conservancy is located in The Plains and dedicated to saving birds and their habitat across the Western Hemisphere. Its work seeks to eliminate extinctions, protect habitat and expand the capacity for birds to grow and thrive.

In other words, the organization is a birder’s best friend. Daniel Lebbin is vice president of threatened species at ABC and an avid birder.

Lebbin, 42, holds a degree in Biology and Environmental Science and Policy from Duke University and a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from Cornell University. He has worked for the World Wildlife Fund, The Nature Conservancy, and the National Zoo, and participated in field research projects in Jamaica, Costa Rica, Ecuador, and Venezuela.

A lifelong birder, Lebbin enjoys bird illustration and photography. He co-authored “The American Bird Conservancy Guide to Bird Conservation”.

“Some of my earliest memories are watching birds at my grandparent’s feeder. I became interested in birds at the age of 12. At 16 I got my driver’s license and was more independent and things really took off,” said Lebbin.

He says, “eBird is the most useful tool for people getting into birdwatching.” The goal of the website is to gather information in the form of checklists of birds, archive it, and freely share it to advance conservation and education.

It has numerous tools to make birding more rewarding. From being able to manage lists, photos and audio recordings, to seeing real-time maps of species distribution. eBird is the world’s largest biodiversity-related citizen science project, with more than 100 million bird sightings contributed each year by members around the world.

Getting started
For as richly rewarding a pastime as birdwatching can be the cost of entry is relatively low. A pair of good binoculars is the first item to consider. Prices can range from $100 to $300.

Two popular models are the Nikon Monarch and Leupold Yosemite. Its recommended 8-power magnification be used since it provides a good field of vision without the shaky effect of larger powered glasses.

If you are serious about quality, consider a visit to One Good Tern, a birding supply store in Alexandria. “They have some of the best salespeople in the industry. If you want hands-on help, they are very good,” says Lebbin.

Next, consider downloading the app eBird or purchasing a field guide. Two solid publications are National Geographic’s “Field Guide to the Birds of North America” and Peterson’s “Birds of Eastern North America”.

If you don’t already have one or more already installed, place some bird feeders on your window sill or in your backyard. Leaning into the hobby is a lot easier if you can glance out your window and start identifying nearby warblers.

Your smartphone will serve as your camera and also permit you to post photos of your “scores” on eBird if you are so inclined. With some 400 different species of birds in the Old Dominion, you’ll have no trouble staying entertained.
Finally, the joy of birding is multiplied by engaging with other birders.

There are several organizations to consider joining by searching your keyboard. One particularly useful site is the Northern Virginia Bird Club. It offers field trips, a newsletter and an extensive list of other birding organizations for your enlightenment. Visit

“Birding can be as little or as much as you want it to be. You can make it a second career, or in my case, a first career,” said Lebbin. “The more people who understand and care about nature, the more they help us achieve our goals at American Bird Conservancy.”

Published in the October 16, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Tasting the authentic at Café Torino

Posted on Nov 14 2019 | By

Warrenton’s Little Italy is where appetites fall in love

Pressed for time and money for a getaway to northern Italy? Forget booking flights and making hotel reservations, simply drop by Café Torino and let Andrea and Amber Ferrero transport you to Italiana via the plate.

The cozy restaurant, located in the Waterloo Station Shopping Center, has a proven track record of gustatory performance. If you’re not speaking Italian by the end of your repast, you wish you could. For 18 years the eatery has been satisfying a legion of fans who finish their meals with a sigh of “delizioso”.

To put its longevity in perspective, most restaurants close their doors after the first year of operation. Within five years 70 percent will have faded from memory. In the industry, an 18-year run seemingly approaches the longevity of the Roman Empire.

What sustains such a track record? Authenticity. “I try to keep the food authentic Italian. We focus on keeping the flavors like my grandmother used to make. She is the one who first taught me how to cook,” says Andrea Ferrero.

Struck with a passion for cooking as a young lad living in Torino, Ferrero went on to graduate from culinary school at age 18. He then did a tour of duty in the military and at 24 was offered a job at the former Warrenton restaurant Fantastico’s to design, open and run a bakery.

“I was crazy enough to accept the offer, got on a plane and came to America,” recalls Ferrero. A fortunate decision for the rest of us.

He met his wife while working at Fantastico’s. The couple have been married for 27 years and have two adult children. After the restaurant closed, Ferrero worked as a corporate chef in D.C. for two organizations but found himself unemployed after his last place of employment closed.

After receiving a severance check, he recalls his wife saying, “We have a three-year-old and five-year-old and you cannot be out of job. We are going to open our own place.” Behind every great man is a wife and mother who wants stability.

Amber Ferrero located the building where the café is located and created its name. “All I had to do was meet with the real estate agent and sign the contract,” says Andrea Ferrero. Together with her father the threesome completed the interior of the building and opened in 2001.

Today he calls his wife the owner of the café. But wait. Aren’t they co-owners? Of course. But Amber Ferrero “owns” the restaurant as in she is the “hero behind the picture” and soul of the establishment.

This perspective reveals the level of love and respect they have for each other. “Not many couples can work together”, but their success is reflected in the quality food and service coming out of the kitchen.

The menu
In the early days, they had a cook in the kitchen. But when he left, Ferrero put on the dining apron and switched roles as the bakery chef with his wife. She took over with no formal training and today produces all of the cafe’s baked goods except for the focaccia bread which is made early in the morning before she arrives.

“Amber picked up what I taught her and came up with some new ideas. That’s why the pastries look and taste way better now than when I was making them.” If the man were ever to consider another career, marriage counselor might be a good choice.

During the recession the focaccia bread and chicken salad, “…were what kept us in business.” But the menu has considerably more depth than those two popular items.

A quick glance at a recent menu reveals dishes rich in imagination and flavors: crab filled calamari, eggplant Sciliana, Paglia e fieno with scallops and lobster, chicken torino, veal ossobuco, tuna steak with saffron cream sauce and more. Perusing the menu requires some thought before placing an order.

A few years ago, a rumor circulated that the café was going to close. “We have no intention of closing whatsoever. We are not going to abandon Warrenton.” Good news for loyal fans such as Dan Kutruff who owns The Grapevine wine shop next door.

“I’ll pop over for a sandwich because the restaurant is the real deal. The baked goods are unbelievable. I always tell my customers to go over and try Andrea’s focaccia bread. It’s phenomenal. I tried to duplicate it myself but couldn’t.” High compliments coming from a wine connoisseur who knows a thing or two about food and drink.

Giving back to the community is high on the Ferreros’ priorities. Recently they contributed over $1,000 worth of food to the kick off this year’s “Shop with a Cop” program sponsored by area law enforcement agencies. The program connects children 5 to 12 years old from less fortunate circumstances with law enforcement officers for a two-hour shopping spree.

“Warrenton has given us a lot and we want to give back,” he says.
Café Torino is located at 388 Waterloo Street. For a full description of its diverse lunch and dinner menus, cakes, catering service and hours of operation visit

Published in the October 16, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES