Barrel Oak Winery pulls celebratory cork

By Posted on Aug 24 2018 | By

Popular Delaplane winery marks tenth anniversary

 For legions of Fauquier County residents, it may come as a surprise a decade has gone into the history books since Barrel Oak Winery opened on Memorial Day 2008. And you thought a bottle of wine disappears quickly.

Consider what’s unfolded in those lightning-quick 120 months: Almost a million bottles of wine have been produced, over a half million guests have sipped and chatted on the hilltop venue and 50,000 tail wagging dogs have gazed lovingly at their relaxed owners.

On the community-oriented side, dozens of fundraisers have generated $1.8 million for a host of worthwhile charities.

By any measure it’s a business that’s had a uniquely positive impact on the community it serves.

“I don’t think we could have picked a better place to open Barrel Oak,” said Brian Roeder, a self-confessed serial entrepreneur and co-owner of the canine friendly “grape shop”.

“When we opened we had a dream and its being fulfilled. We’ve employed hundreds of people over the years; it’s been a wonderful journey. Challenging at times, yes, but nonetheless wonderful.”

How many can similarly rapture about their place of employment after a decade in the harness? Exactly.

Brian and Sharon Roeder share operating responsibilities; Sharon Roeder is the production manager and one of two winemakers and Brian Roeder wears the green eye shade with a sharp pencil tucked behind his ear.

The saga began in 2006 when Sharon Roeder sought to execute on a life-long dream: growing grapes. They scoured properties from Loudoun County to Albemarle County before settling on their Delaplane site. Within a year, it was obvious financial success might not lie in just pruning vines and selling grapes. The decision was made to take the endeavor to the next level and open a winery.

The budding lady vintner honed her skills by volunteering at local wineries; essentially creating an internship for developing her enological skills.

Both Roeders loved dogs and knew they would be an integral part of the winery. You’d be hard pressed to find a Virginia winery that doesn’t have canine buddies circulating through the vineyards shooing deer away while greeting guests with a tail wag.

Serendipitously, Sharon Roeder was walking around the winery during its opening days carrying her Golden Retriever puppy. The ensuing hugs and cooing often ended with the question, “Can we bring our dog here too?” Of course!

BOW WOW was born.

Brian Roeder

“We knew we were going to be dog friendly but, in the beginning, didn’t know exactly what that meant,” said Roeder. In essence, the early guests and owners worked collaboratively to create the first family-kid-dog friendly winery in Virginia. The intuitive move was the catalyst for explosive growth.

“Before opening the winery our experience with wine was centered around family and friends in a living room setting. It was just natural to create the same atmosphere at Barrel Oak,” said Brian Roeder.

“We wanted people to come out and celebrate important moments; graduations, anniversaries, birthdays and other life celebrations.”

A well-honed Barrel Oak trait is innovation or thinking outside the wine barrel.

Never satisfied to rest on past successes, the entrepreneurial couple were the first winery to open a food court, first to provide dozens of picnic tables for large capacity outdoor seating—some 500 seats are available at any given time—first to be awarded a permit to produce and serve beer alongside side their wine and the first to extend hours on Fridays and Saturdays to 9 p.m.

The brewery operation is emblematic of searching for the new and thus becoming the first.

With the ascendency of craft beer in Virginia—and its financial impact on wine sales—Roeder knew he wanted to be in both the grape and hop game but not a single winery in Virginia had broken the ice with a dual production and sales permit.

In reality, even ABC officials were reluctant to agree with his initial request without researching the inquiry. The interim response of “We’ll look into it” turned into a “Yes, it’s legal” answer.

“It was an important question that nobody had thought to ask,” said Roeder. “Today other wineries are following suit.”

The dual social lubricant solution also addressed the question whether men prefer beer and women wine? Maybe, but not necessarily so.

Gender could play a role in the issue but more important to Barrel Oak was the ability to fulfill co-customer desires. In trade speak, it was simply a freedom of choice issue and freedom wins every time.

Today, the winery Tap House is a thriving center of craft beer sales. The menu includes a variety of brews including Kolsch, IPA, Winter Amber, Irish Red, Saison, Belgian Doubel and more. Even some of their hops are grown on the property.

But with the advent of beer sales, it did not mean a de-emphasis on wine.

To the contrary, last year there were over 8,000 cases of wine produced and a new premium red category placed in the lineup. The new bottlings will receive extended aging in oak barrels for three to four years to enhance body and complexity before taking a position on the tasting menu.

With the continued emphasis on expanding the adult Disney World atmosphere, the guest count on weekends is as strong as ever. “During the Fall weekends we’ll have between 1,200 and 1,600 people here with parking for 400 cars,” said Roeder.

But he quickly underscores no one waits to be served. “We have eight tasting bars operating when its busy.”

Since opening its doors the winery has sponsored hundreds of fundraisers. The events range from donating $150 gift certificates to a deserving charity for auction or door prizes to turning the entire winery over to a charitable entity who plan and organize a dedicated event for their organization.

“We hand the winery over to them so to speak,” said Roeder. “These large events typically raise between $5,000 and $45,000.”

One such affair was held last year in support of the Washington Area Animal Adoption Group, or WAAAG. The money raised was used to help rescue dogs impacted by the hurricanes. Animal rescue is especially important to the winery since, “We are committed to the welfare of dogs.”

Many guests may not be aware that Barrell Oak has a dog rescue organization located on the winery grounds. On October 18, WAAAG will again hold a fundraiser called Vineyard Trails & Tails 5K and Family Fun Dog Walk.

As Roeder reflects on the success of Barrel Oak he notes customer support has been an integral part of its accomplishments. “We have 35,000 Likes on Facebook and more reviews on Yelp than any business in Fauquier. Our social media is unequal in Virginia wine thanks to our customers.”

Here’s to the grape and the hop.



                                              BeLEIGHve Fest at Barrel Oak 

On September 8, join the fun while supporting a wonderful cause when Barrel Oak dedicates the day to the Leigh family and their sons, Noah and Kaleb. Both brothers have faced cancer; Kaleb is in remission for the second time and Noah is currently in treatment. The funds raised will go to help the family with medical expenses.

The festival kicks off at 12:30 p.m. with live music starting at 1 p.m.; five talented groups will perform nonstop until 8 p.m.

General admission tickets are $20; children $5. For more information visit:


Published in the August 22, 2018 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES