Archive for December, 2019


From the field to the bottle

Posted on Dec 26 2019 | By

Locally produced strawberry wine scores big

Collaboration is often the soul of creativity. An idea orchestrated by two or more imaginative people can result in a winner. The latest example is producing smiles of satisfaction across the northern Piedmont.

It took a farmer and winemaker to break out of the mold and produce a tasty idea that is sipping its way to success. What typically is enjoyed in a bowl is now being poured from a bottle. It’s a locally produced strawberry wine with a fresh new taste.

The idea guy behind the libation is Jimmy Messick, co-owner along with his brother Ronnie, of Messick’s Farm Market in Bealeton. The magic in the bottle springs from part of six acres of strawberries that are under his cultivation, the largest planting in the county.

Additionally, over 40 acres are planted in a wide variety of fruits, berries, and vegetables all available in the market or as a pick-your-own buying experience.

In conjuring up his wine idea, Messick may have subliminally thought of the lyrics of a Kingston Trio song: “Raspberries, strawberries, the good wines we brew” and wondered why not create such a beverage for his market.

The only problem he wasn’t a winemaker. Enter Glenn Marchione, co-owner with his wife Tina, of Magnolia Vineyards in Amissville. Marchione is an experienced vintner, but grapes are his forte. He had never made fruit wine.

“We’re pretty excited. This is our first foray in producing fruit wine,” says Marchione. But he’s not the only one who is pumped about the social lubricant.

Farmer Messick couldn’t be happier that his idea has been successfully brought to fruition. “The wine is flying off the shelves. It’s been a great surprise to us that it’s been so well accepted,” says Messick.

The wine is bottled in clear 750 milliliters bottles showcasing its reddish amber hue. It’s 11 percent alcohol with a residual sugar of nine percent, making it a sweet wine. “It has a beautiful strawberry taste that bursts in your mouth. If you love strawberries, you’ll love this wine,” says Messick proudly.

The wine is called Prairie View in honor of the original farm his grandfather started in the 1930s where the terrain is flat and reminiscent of Midwest prairie land. One of his employees, Caitlin Taylor, designed the label.

The Farm
The Messick brothers are third-generation farmers. They own 1,000 acres of farmland over three separate properties in southern Fauquier County. In addition to the seven-day-a-week farm market, the brothers have 330 milk cows, 250 of which are daily milkers.

In addition, 800 acres are devoted to grain growing, producing corn, soybean, and wheat. Jimmy manages the farm and market, and Ronnie oversees the cattle operation.

The Messick’s business is an agritourism farm offering pick-your-own strawberries, pumpkins, and much more in season. As you walk the aisles of the market, you’ll find produce from the farm and pickled and preserved items such as sweet bay pickles, strawberry jams, and cheeses from the dairy.

The market carries local artisanal goods like handmade pasta, pastured meats, and even skincare products. For those who come hungry, there is a made-to-order deli counter for sandwiches and prepared salads and an ice cream stand.

In addition to the new strawberry wine, several selections of in-county wines are sold.

Wine recipe
Winemaker Marchione realized in undertaking fruit wine production, the components of strawberries needed a little boost to create a balanced taste. To that end, he added sugar, tartaric acid, and tannins to the fruit before fermentation was begun, building a structurally sound and satisfying wine.

The wine took about six months to produce and is expected to age similar to a light white wine, meaning you wouldn’t want to cellar it for years. This liquid treat is meant to be consumed young to capture its essence of strawberry flavors.

The first bottling was produced from one ton of strawberries resulting in about 1,500 bottles of wine. It takes about 40 plump strawberries to make a single bottle. The majority of the product will be sold at the farm market, but a portion is available for sale at Magnolia Vineyards. It retails for $18.99 a bottle.

Success is breeding an expansion of the fruit wine concept. “I just got a load of blackberries from Jimmy and will start fermenting the fruit soon. He already has a new label designed for the wine,” said Marchione.

On December 21, Messick will be holding a wine tasting for his “new kid on the block” and advises, “It will be a great time to come out and taste the wine. I think it makes our market complete,” he said.

For the full Messick’s Farm Market story visit
Published in the December 18, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Beyond your Grandfather’s Spirits

Posted on Dec 20 2019 | By

Dida’s Distillery Crafting Memories in Memory

“Pressed not mashed” may not immediately conjure up elegant craft brandy, vodka, and gin but it’s a technique central to producing award-winning spirits that taste beyond what you associate with these libations.

One needs to think out of the bottle when embracing such unique aromas and flavors. Dida’s Distillery—say “did-uhs”—is located in Huntly and presses grapes rather than mash barley and corn to produce its “water of life”.

“In 1906 our great-grandfather Paul Mariani immigrated to California from Croatia and began farming. Through commitment and passion, it led to the creation of Mariani Fruit Packing Company, a firm still producing high-end dried fruits today. Dida means grandfather in Croatian and the distillery honors his memory,” says distiller Allan Delmare.

The Delmare family knows from grapes having relocated from California in the late 1990s and opening Rappahannock Cellars as the 60th winery in the Old Dominion. Today there are over 310 wineries statewide. The winery produces 15,000 cases of still and sparkling wines annually and oversees one of the largest wine clubs in the state.

Delmare is the son of winery proprietor John Delmare and the force behind the craft spirit side of the house. The “spirit factory” is named in honor of the beloved family member but the pleasures flowing from its stills are not cast in your grandfather’s—or great grandfather’s—style. These spirited lubricants go well beyond.

Delmare knows grape-based spirits are only as good as the raw material that goes into the still. “We make incredible wines at Rappahannock Cellars so distilling those wines offers the opportunity to make world-class spirits.”

Delmare has two distilling goals: “Wine regions worldwide produce spirits made from grapes. Think Cognac in France, Grappa in Italy, Pisco in Peru and more. Why isn’t the U.S. noted for such spirits given its vibrant wine industry? My goal is to change that situation.

“Secondly, forget what you know about brandy. This is not your grandfather’s brandy. It’s an incredible fine libation born in the U.S. that can rival the taste of the best bourbons.”

How so? Cognac is typically aged in toasted wine barrels. But if you age it in both charred and toasted barrels you get a balanced bourbon-like palate effect. “Guests say they love our bourbon and but we quickly let them know its brandy produced and aged in a different style.”

The aging technique produces rich, deep, caramel, vanilla, butterscotch, toffee and coffee notes. The surprises continue as guests sample the vapor distilled gins flavored with a host of botanicals such as coriander, angelica, orange peel, lemon peel, rose hips, elderberry, orris root, cardamom and grains of paradise. The vodka is vacuum distilled with all-natural cinnamon sticks.

Delmare believes it’s an exciting time for Virginia to be introducing Americans to spirits like brandy that have largely been ignored by the consumer. “There’s an untapped potential for unique distilled spirits made from high-quality grapes and wine.”

For the full story on the delights being produced at Dida’s drop by its digital distillery at

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

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Evergreen Season

Posted on Dec 20 2019 | By

The joy and beauty of a fresh-cut Christmas tree

Artificial Christmas trees are steadily growing in popularity. The first fakes were created some 90 years ago by the Addis Brush Company but did not gain wide acceptance.

But since 2004, sales of the imitations in the United States have doubled from nine to 18 million trees. Real trees have held their own during the same period selling about 27 million each holiday season.
If you consider there are 36 million more Christmas revelers today than 15 years ago, the artificials are making headway. It’s understandable.

Artificial trees are now more realistic looking than ever and can “live” for years. The branches are typically made of polyvinyl chloride; think PVC plumbing pipe. And while they cost more initially, amortized over a long-life expectancy they are a good investment.

Still, they aren’t the real deal. Folks who walk into a home with a beautifully decorated artificial tree will often know it’s not from Mother Nature’s cupboard. Too perfect.

There is also the question of which tree is more environmentally friendly. The pros and cons tend to balance each other out. Many believe cutting a live tree is ecologically harmful but artificial trees made of petroleum-derived plastic will sit in landfills for centuries. Real trees decay in about seven years.

Sound arguments prevail on both sides of the issue. There is no right or wrong when Christmas celebrations are in play. Nonetheless, real seems more fun; especially if you can make a family event out of scoring a “needle factory” for the holidays.

During the Roman era, the mid-winter festival Saturnalia saw houses decorated with wreaths, evergreens and other items now associated with modern-day Christmas celebrations.

The first actual Christmas trees date to medieval times in early modern-day Germany where the populace brought trees into their homes to help celebrate Christmas. Decorations consisted of colored paper, apples, wafers, tinsel, and sweetmeats.

At the close of the Middle-Ages, the Catholic religious order of monks and nuns called the Cistercians wrote what many consider the oldest reference to the Christmas tree: “On Christmas eve, you will look for a large branch of green laurel, and you shall reap many red oranges, and place them in the branches that come of the laurel and in every orange you shall put a candle…”.

The first mention of the Christmas tree in the United States was in 1836 when an article was published describing a German maid decorating her mistress’s tree.

Since 1923, a national Christmas tree has been placed on the Ellipse near the White House. The towering evergreen is decorated with 2,500 lights and is lit by the President in early December.

Go local
Given the popularity of the tradition, it’s not surprising Christmas tree farms have sprung up in most rural areas of the country. Typically, these are small businesses that cater to families in search of the holiday icon. It often becomes a ritual to pack up the kids and spend a day in search of the perfect tree.

The farms usually offer both pre-cut and cut your own trees. However, the joy of visiting these farms is the time spent roaming the properties looking for a live tree that matches a family’s needs.

Here in Fauquier County there are four cut your own farms: Aboria in Marshall, Hank’s Christmas trees at the Hartland Farm in Markham, KK Christmas Trees in Marshall, and Stribling Trees at Oldacres Farm in Markham.

Jim Stribling is the tree farmer at his Oldacres Farm and knows from holiday trees as his parents farmed both the orchard and tree emporium before he accepted the baton as “tree maven” upon their retirement.

“This year we’ll be open the day after Thanksgiving until Christmas each weekend from 9 am to 5 p.m.,” says Stribling. “We have hundreds of Fraser pine and White pine trees that families can choose and cut. Customers can bring their saw or we’ll provide them one.”

Stribling underscores he has a variety of trees from four feet to over eight feet high. The taller trees are typically harder to find. His farm grows several thousand trees with hundreds primed each year for gracing living rooms throughout the Piedmont.

The farm offers hot cider and other refreshments while which customers have their trees netted and tied to their vehicles. Payment can be made by cash, check or credit cards.

For a complete list of Christmas tree farms in Fauquier, Culpeper, and Prince William counties, and throughout Northern Virginia visit

Published in the November 2019 Fauquier Times Holiday Gift Guide.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

Hoisting a pint not a pack

Posted on Dec 20 2019 | By

“Hiking” the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail

The Appalachian Trail is the most iconic of long-distance mountain footpaths. Stretching from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine it rises and falls along the spine of the Appalachian Mountains for 2,192 miles.

Three million hikers each year spend some time on the trail. And 4,000 committed outdoor enthusiasts attempt to complete the entire hike in one season. It typically takes five to six months.

Only one in four succeed.

The AT speed record stands at 41 days. Karel Sabbe reached the trail’s at Mt. Katahdin last August completing the AT faster than anyone before him.

Forget your calculator. That’s an average of 53 miles a day. The man must have needed a beer on day 41.

Another AT giant is Warren Doyle who completed the entire AT hike 18 times. That’s 39,000 miles. After graduating from college and earning his master’s degree he realized, “I had to do something no one was telling me to do—no rewards, no cheerleaders, no scholarships, something I was not going to get paid for,” Doyle said.

As Sabbe, Doyle and their fellow thru-hikers cruised through Virginia they would have passed high above one of the largest and most scenic beer trails in the Old Dominion. A few may have even taken time to drop by one of the 15 breweries on the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail.

The Trail
The Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail is a collaborative effort of Greater Augusta Regional Tourism and its participating breweries; all are located in the heart of the Shenandoah Valley.

Created in mid-2016, today the individual but linked brew houses are pulling over a hundred individual craft tap handles while slaking the thirst of tens of thousands of natives and tourists alike.

“At the beginning of developing the trail we realized we did not have enough breweries to actually create one so we asked Lexington to the south and Harrisonburg to the north to join our efforts,” said Sheryl Wagner, director of tourism for the city of Staunton.

As with all things new learning to toggle and pull the right brewery “strings” loomed important in the early days of trail. It’s one thing to build a trail and create a website but driving beer lovers to actually “hike” it required some professional advice.

“The first year we were just doing promotions and trying to get the trail name out to the public.” Then the Waynesboro, Augusta marketing managers joined Wagner in attending a beer conference in Ashville, N.C.

One of the first questions posed to the new beer barons was, “Do you have a passport program?” They did not. They returned home and quickly established one.

“Our Passport Program has just blown-up the trail. Created in mid-2017 as of July of this year, we’ve had 3,559 passports redeemed resulting in 21,025 brewery visits. Folks from 47 states, Australia, Columbia, Canada, and Germany have enjoyed Virginia craft beer as a result.”

The passports are produced and distributed to the participating wineries who in turn hand them out to their guests at no cost. At each guest visit, a brewery provides an adhesive stamp to be placed in the passport.

After eight or more stamps have been scored by a satisfied beer lover the passport can be redeemed for a bright orange “Drink in Shenandoah Valley” tee-shirt.

The colorful and catchy-titled shirt is a prized possession and obviously gets a lot of wear given the success of the program.

As an added bonus, the Trail recently extended the benefits of the passport by providing free stainless-steel growlers for anyone who posts a photo of themselves wearing the tee-shirt on a social media site.

Another collaborative effort is in the works with the popular beer app Untapped. The free app allows users to keep track of what they’ve tasted and what they thought of the brews they’ve enjoyed. A partnership is being created with the app designers and should be announced soon.

But beer is not the sole draw while pursuing the suds journey. There are numerous natural attractions to take in when circuit-riding the trail. Bordered by the Blue Ridge and Allegheny Mountains the Shenandoah Valley is a natural paradise featuring dramatic scenery wherever the eye falls.

Regardless of skill level activities include hiking, backpacking, cycling, canoeing, whitewater rafting, fishing, golfing, horseback riding and more.

For a more relaxed experience take in the beautiful and historic towns and museums along the trail’s line of travel while visiting geologic wonders like Natural Bridge and the Shenandoah Valley caverns.

Cruising Skyline Drive and the Blue Ridge Parkway is an especially effective way to let go of any stress and refresh body and soul.

Go slow and also consider stopping by music festivals, farmer’s markets, “pick your own” fields and, of course, dropping by wineries during your beer breaks.

The impact of the Shenandoah Beerwerks Trail is obvious to beer lovers. But behind the scene, it’s also playing an important role for central Virginia communities.

Promoting the enjoyment of craft beer is a “perfect pairing” for the Valley’s outdoor recreation assets and is driving increased tourism to the region by linking the craft beer experience with compelling lifestyle and outdoor recreational opportunities.

“The program has really put a spotlight on the rural places in which some of these breweries are located. These areas may not have many tourist attractions so it’s been great for us to partnered with them and our other county neighbors to showcase the region,” said Wagner.

If ever there was a time to enjoy a mini-staycation in the Old Dominion, sliding behind the wheel of the chariot and enjoying the delights of artisanal beer in a world-renown setting is now.

Start your engines.

Drop by for the full story and list of trail breweries.

Published in the Summer 2019 edition of Dine, Wine and Stein magazine.

Categories : HAGARTY TALES

“An apple a day keeps the doctor away” is a tasty way to stay healthy. As is eating grapes. The red and purple orbs are rich in important flavonoids and dietary fiber. The phytonutrients and antioxidants in the fruits may help reduce the risk of developing cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease.

Apples and grapes are beautiful to look at and satisfying to munch on, making them the perfect fruit. And they’re widely available. But the zenith of their enjoyment is having the pleasure of eating one fresh-picked from a local apple tree or vineyard without having to snag it yourself.

How so? Think of Out on a Limb Orchard & Vineyard and its produce at the Manassas Farmer’s Market and Tackett’s Mill Farmer’s Market in Lake Ridge. Guess who will be tending the fruit stand when you show up? Doctor Ross Moore. And while the good doctor no longer uses his professional title, his former wellness career now extends to agriculture.

“I was a veterinarian for 42 years with the Independent Hill Veterinary Clinic,” says Ross. “I’m retired now and tend to my orchard and vineyard year-round.” In 1980, the vet purchased a 13-acre farm on Spriggs Road in Manassas. In yesteryears, the area was known as a thriving apple region but today grows subdivisions and shopping centers.

The farm had just a few remaining apple trees, but over the years he has slowly brought the orchard back to life by dint of hard work and the love of the land. The vet-turned-farmer now has 300 apple trees showcasing 50 varietals and a small vineyard dedicated to seedless table grapes.

Ross’ labors typically begin in February as he sets about pruning his orchard and vineyard. It continues throughout the summer months as he seeks to keep trees and vines healthy. “You want to maintain a balance between the tree canopy, fruit production, and root structure,” explains Ross. “They all have to be in harmony. Good air circulation and sunlight are important too, so the fruit colors up.”

In the fall, he sprays the trees with nitrogen to build up nitrogen reserves, supporting leaf development and fruit growth for the following year. One of his unique farming techniques is to paint the base of each tree with white latex paint. The treatment protects the trunk from depredation from small animals and insects that enjoy munching on the tree bark. Who knew?

The three most popular apples he sells are Sekai ichi, Japanese for “world’s number one,” which is large, juicy, and sweet; Honeycrisp, prized for its sweetness, firmness, and tartness; and Limbertwig, an old North Carolina species that is a little acidic yet still sweet like an old apple variety should be. But any of Ross’ selections are sure to satisfy.

Ross chuckles when he says, “The farm is a hobby gone wild. My grandmother said I got my love of agriculture from my Portuguese background. My great-great-grandfather owned the largest produce farm in Bermuda.” Ah, the old DNA explanation.

From August through November on each Tuesday he sells at the Tackett’s Farmers Market from 2:30–6:30 p.m., and on Thursdays and Fridays from 8:00 a.m.–1:00 p.m. you will find him at his fruit stand at the Manassas Farmers Market.

For information on upcoming fruit availability, ask to be placed on his email newsletter list. Ross also delivers to nearby customers, or you can pick up the freshest of fruit by visiting his farm. Reach Farmer Ross at

Published in the November 2019 edition of Discover Prince William.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES