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

“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

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

Action Drives Fauquier Climate Change Group

Posted on Oct 04 2019 | By

Belief or disbelief in climate change engages the electorate today as perhaps no other issue. The science, or as some believe, the lack of it, can create “heated” discussions among the gentlest of souls. So how do you defang passion and discuss fact?

“When I talk climate change, right up front I let people know I don’t care whether people are responsible for it or not,” says Kevin O’Neill, director of the Fauquier Climate Change Group, noting that it takes away much of the intensity and makes it easier to discuss the reality.

“I’m a pragmatist,” he adds. “I look around and see 99.9% of over 20,000 scientific studies conclude the climate is changing.” He quickly underscores global warming can occur as either hotter or colder temperatures.

It could be a long-term climatic cycle unfolding or human activity driving the change. The causes can be left for future science to determine, but action to address the changes lies in the hands of an informed public. “We all need to sit down and come up with a viable game plan,” Kevin notes. “If we don’t, we’re sticking our heads in the sand and hoping everything works out. There is no Planet B.”

Noting the preponderance of the world’s population resides on or near oceans and that ocean levels are rising is a sobering reality. Kevin explains that we have tens of trillions of dollars of infrastructure on the world’s coastlines, and this infrastructure and human lives are at risk since there are already climate change refugees in certain regions of the world.

So, who is Kevin O’Neill and why does he care so much? After enjoying several successful careers, including 20 years as special agent for the State Department, he joined the Fauquier Climate Change Group four years ago and serves as its director. “This country has been very good to me and I want to make sure my children have the opportunities I have had. I want to give back,” he says.

The organization was founded in 2013 by county resident Judy Lamana. It is comprised of local citizens—spanning the political spectrum from conservative to liberal—who are passionate about finding ways to ameliorate damage caused to the planet by worldwide temperature changes. Group activities include working with members of Congress and raising the profile of climate change in the community, including churches and schools.

“We’ve talked with the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors and the Town of Warrenton, urging them to switch to LED lights,” Kevin explains. “That one change alone would reduce the carbon impact dramatically, including a decrease in people’s electricity bills.”

He also describes how teaching youth the value of LED lights sets the stage for generational acceptance for such cost-effective lighting. The group takes their “energy cycle” to schools and for kids to ride. When they cycle as hard as they can, it lights up the incandescent bulb panel. When they maintain an easy, steady pace, the fluorescent lights flicker on. Yet by contrast, with almost no pedal pressure at all, the LED panel shines brightly.

As dire as today’s climate prognostications are, Kevin speaks positively about the rate of change. Underscoring that it takes an average of 50 years to introduce a new technology, he thinks we are 30 to 35 years into a transformational conversion to solar and wind energy, noting that the price of a solar cell today is about a dollar.

Fauquier Climate Change Group’s message is clear; being part of the problem offers the opportunity to be part of the solution. The group meets on the third Wednesday of each month (the next meeting is on October 16) from 7:00–8:00 p.m. at the Bistro on Hospital Hill, and there is no cost to join nor any membership fees.

Published in the September 2019 edition of Discover Fauquier.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

From young lad to master cidermaker

One of the recent entrants into the surging cider and mead boom opened its doors in Amissville in the fall of 2017 and began welcoming guests to the local world of fermented apple juice and honey.

It was not its first foray in producing what some might claim is the highest and best use of the red orbs and golden liquid. “I made my first batch of cider when I was 17. I pressed it with a cider press I made myself,” said Dennis Kelly, a partner along with his wife Mary Graham and fellow cidermaker and neighbor, Dave Shiff.

“I made it in Old Hollow in Sperryville where my parents had a share in the Apple Hill Farm. We’d spend weekends there and I fell in love with Rappahannock. I would have been amazed back then to know I would end up living out here. It seemed like a far-fetched dream but here we are.”

Kelly, 60, went on to a career in government contracting in Northern Virginia and still wields a keyboard full-time to augment his passion for fermentation. But his love of the countryside and producing social lubricants is where his heart has been since moving to the county in 2006.

His good fortune continued when he learned his neighbor Shiff was also a cidermaker. Shiff proposed joining forces and going commercial and today their cidery is located on Shiff’s 22-acre farm next to Kelly’s property at 379 Hinson Ford Road.

Over the years mead entered Kelly’s hobby portfolio but the breakthrough came at his daughter’s wedding in 2015. “We served champagne, wine, and craft beer but the mead kind of blew everything away. We knew then we were on to something,” said Kelly.

Going local
Realizing the bountiful riches available locally, Hinson Ford focuses on locally grown fruit and honey to make their offerings. The first year they obtained apples from Lee’s Orchard and pressed the fruit by hand. “It was exhausting.”

Subsequently, they contracted with Thornton River Orchards. The orchardist Allan Clark and his daughter Megan select apples best suited for cider and press the fruit on their equipment. At harvest time pure apple juice is used to make cider saving considerable time and labor.

Clark had been considering producing hard cider himself but elected to supply the juice and let Kelly make the product. “Allan is very plugged into what apples make good cider and we’ve had great success with the fruit he’s procured for us.”

Windsong Apiary in Castleton is the source for their quality honey. As with any libation, the ingredients used in its production dictate the flavor and taste of the final product. Owner Bob Wellemeyer is a long-time apiarist and professional pollinator.

In addition to his own locally produced honey, each spring he travels to Fla. with his hives to help pollinate orange groves. Since pollination is the only thing the growers are interested in, he keeps the orange blossom honey for sale back in Rappahannock.

“It makes quality honey that produces quality mead,” said Kelly. “Also, he obtains nectar from Goldenrod plants in Pa. It’s the last nectar-producing plant in the fall enabling an additional crop of honey to be taken in before winter.

“It’s bright yellow with an almost vinegary smell and makes wonderful mead.” Henson Ford uses numerous 60-pound pails of honey annually to produce its mead.
This year Kelly’s own hives will start contributing to its mead. Moreover, his wife Mary Graham grows elderberries, blackberries, and raspberries to use as flavorings in the mead.

Dry is fine
One educational task the three partners engage in during tastings is explaining the rationale for their predominately dry line of ciders and meads. Unlike many commercial versions, the owners believe the most flavorful product is realized by not covering it up with sweeteners but letting its true nature shine through.

The result is beverages that are similar to dry wines.

As with many newbie wine drinkers who start off drinking wines with residual sweetness, cider and mead fans often gravitate to drier versions as their palates mature.

“I am an evangelist for dry ciders and meads. We have about a 98 percent conversion rate on the dry meads. Many people first tasted mead at a Renaissance festival where it’s typically sweet.”

The current bottlings of both products in the taproom are:
Brehon: Blend of eight Rappahannock County apples. 8% abv.
Ciderhouse: Blend of a dozen county varieties. 8.5% abv.
Ginger: Flavored with fresh ginger. 5.6% abv.
Hopyard: Dry hopped with Cascade and Amarillo hops. 8.5 % abv.
Scrumpy: Named for a traditional English cider. 7.2% abv.
Ruby: Blend of Baldwin apples, Montmorency cherries, and bittersweet cider apples. 9.8% abv.
Dark Skies Bochet: semi-sweet with caramelized honey fermented with maple syrup. 14% abv.
Elderberry: Fermented with Elderberry juice. 10% abv.
Orange Blossom: Made with orange blossom honey. 9.1% abv.
Goldenrod: Made with Goldenrod honey. 9% abv.
Strawberry: Fermented with strawberry puree. 8% abv.

“We are coming up on our first anniversary of participating in the Rappahannock Farm Tour. This year it will be held September 28 and 29. All three of us are kind of stunned how well things are going for us,” said Kelly.

Residents of northern Piedmont might also be a bit stunned at the elegant and flavorful ciders and meads this boutique establishment is producing. Its taproom is open Friday 5 to 8 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday noon to 6 p.m.

To learn more about their lineup and production techniques visit

Published in the September 18, 2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Magnolia Vineyards opens new tasting room

Posted on Aug 09 2019 | By

Amissville winery takes incremental route to success

Virginia’s torrid winery growth is cooling off. Twenty years ago there were about 60 wineries statewide. Today 312 dot the Old Dominion landscape making Virginia the fifth-largest wine-producing state in the U.S.

But the last few years have seen just a handful of new entrants. Why?

As with all business trends, answers abound but the success of other artisanal libations has taken some of the air out of what was a juggernaut of success.

Craft beer, distilled spirits and now cider and mead are on the ascendency stalling the industry’s growth. Added to the increased competition from other social lubricants are a grape shortage and the dramatic increase in the cost of entry into the business.

There are now fewer couples or families bootstrapping their way to success. Often it takes an investment of two million dollars or more to secure a pastoral setting, plant a vineyard, procure the needed equipment and build an attractive winery and tasting room.

And don’t forget the passion and almost nonstop work required to make it all happen.
In short, “smarter and harder” is the new mantra for success. Magnolia Vineyards embodies both strategies.

Italy First
Owners Glenn and Tina Marchione are both of Italian descent. In 2006, they journeyed to Italy and visited Glenn’s relatives, toured a winery and became smitten with the idea of opening one of their own.

Fortunately, they are both fiscally conservative and in the ensuing years created a blueprint on how to pursue such a dream on a modest budget. Being employed full-time in Northern Virginia as IT professionals helped bankroll their vision.

“We did everything in stages. We spent one and a half years looking for the property. If the winery didn’t work out, it would be our retirement property,” said Glenn Marchione. The step-by-step planning process is still the hallmark of their growth strategy.

In 2008, they purchased 25 acres on Viewtown Road followed by an additional contiguous 25-acre acquisition. The setting met the requirements of a winery while fulfilling their desires for the home they had built.

Tina & Glenn Marchione

The couple planted the first vineyard block themselves with help from volunteers. Then an eight-foot-high deer fence encompassing 20 acres, including the seven-acre vineyard, was installed.

The basement of their home doubled as a tasting room until recently when they opened a new tasting room within view of their home.

“Everything we’ve done has been incremental, said Glenn Marchione. “In the beginning, we made wine for two years at Fabbioli Cellars in Leesburg before we released it in 2013. Then we opened the tasting room in our home the following year. We wanted to see if the public liked our wine.”

Positive social media and on-site customer compliments reinforced their decision to proceed. “At that point, we could have shut the doors and it wouldn’t have financially destroyed us.

“But securing a mortgage and breaking ground on the new tasting room was the point of no return. It now had to be a viable business. We waited five years to establish a record of producing wine that would sell,” said Marchione.

Today, Tina Marchione still works full time in Northern Virginia. Glenn balances his workload between the winery and IT consulting. The couple works seven days a week logging 10 to 12 hours a day.
This year Magnolia Vineyards will produce 1,000 cases of wine annually.

Their goal is 2,500 cases which they envision as sustainable to permit shifting to full-time retirement.

“Retirement”, of course, meaning working full time at the winery. The goal is five years out.

Vineyard & Wines
Currently, there are seven acres of grapes under vine on the property. An additional two acres are cultivated at a nearby winery. Plans are to establish an additional five acres of vines on site that will enable them to reach their ultimate production goals.

Increasing success has also permitted the wine couple to hire a staff of three who help pour at the tasting bar during their operating hours of 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Thursday through Sunday.

“It allows us to greet and welcome our customers. “We’ve found guests like to talk with the owners and are often surprised we are also the winemakers. Otherwise, we’d be stuck behind the bar,” said Tina Marchione.
The winery produces eight selections including their popular Viognier, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Like many wineries, Magnolia Vineyards has a quarterly wine club of two bottles each. Due to production constraints, they’ve had to cap club membership until more wine is available to new members.

This might be deemed a “good problem” but the owners are eager to expand membership once availability can meet demand. There is a waiting list that interested wine lovers can be placed on.

Club members quickly become family and known by their first names. Dropping by the winery might be viewed as a visit to a country club where management knows your name, the members of your family and wine tastes.

In reflecting on the investment in time and money, Glenn Marchione says laughing, “On occasion after a rough week I tell Tina, ‘We could have had a heck of a wine cellar and vacations for all the time and money we’ve invested.’”

Tina Marchione echoes the sentiments but quickly adds, “We really love what we’re doing. We’re happy to be doing it.”

For oenophiles who have not had a chance to check out the new digs at Magnolia Vineyards swing by and feel the love in both the tasting room and the bottle.

For the full success story drop by the digital winery at

Published in the August 7,2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

The mountains are calling

Posted on Aug 02 2019 | By

Staying young and connected in the high country

The fountain of youth is movement. Science has proven this so many times most of us glaze over when we are urged to get out and about. Neighborhood walks often fill the prescription for staying healthy but they can get boring.

Often done individually and on the same route month after month the natural joy of walking can begin to fade. And come winter many prefer to gaze out the window rather than don the fleece jacket and hit the pavement.

What might be a cure for the exercise blues? Hiking clubs.

Hiking organizations embodied the two most important keys to longevity and mental well-being: exercise and social connection.

The lack of social relationships is as much a risk factor for death as smoking or obesity. People with limited social involvement or feel lonely have a 29 percent higher risk of heart disease and a 32 percent higher risk of stroke.

An obvious but underutilized path to wellness is to stay active within a community of like-minded folks.

A stellar example of this powerful connection of body and mind are thru-hikers who each year embrace the challenge of hiking the entire Appalachian Trail.

The AT 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 annually spend some time on sections of the trail. Some 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.

But anyone who attempts the journey will become part of a “tramily”; a group of hikers who start their journey about the same time and bond as they seek to complete the entire trail.

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

Forget reaching for the calculator. That’s an average of 53 miles a day.

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.

Recently a young thru-hiker stayed overnight at the Gravel Spring shelter in the Shenandoah National Park and left these comments in the shelter’s log book:

“The inexorable march of time drags us along in its wake. We are allotted a small measurable span in which to leave our own stamp upon this sphere. Humans, in general, are pressed to rush and strive; a race to see who has the most when they die. But in taking the trek on the Appalachian Trail one can meander, smell the roses, and find oneself. What you walk away with from your quest depends upon your daily decisions and timeline. Make the most of every day and avoid mindless marching. Immerse yourself in the experience doing all possible – practically. One wouldn’t want to gaze back through the years wishing one could have seen and done more. So, eat drink and be merry with your extended “tramily” making memories to span a lifetime! Square Peg (trail name). June 25, 2019.

Sensitive and heartfelt words by an individual who likely will spend a life involved in hiking with friends.

But the vast majority of today’s active seniors are not seeking to conqueror the Appalachian Trail. They may simply be looking for a group of like-minded hikers for exercise and camaraderie.

Blue Mountain Hiking Club
There are numerous hiking clubs in the DC Metro area with the premier organization being the Potomac Appalachian Train Club. The club maintains over 1,000 miles of trails in Va., W.Va., Md. and Pa.

Our tri-county area is fortunate to have a local organization that is popular with a group of some 270 hikers; many of them seniors. It’s called Blue Mountain Hiking Club and it sponsors numerous monthly hikes in addition to backpacking, skiing, and cycling excursions as the seasons dictate.

Typically, each hike has about ten attendees offering the opportunity to get to know your fellow hikers and establish enduring friendships. The distance averages 5-8 miles; no marathons for these folks.

Each hike is led by an experienced trail maven so attendees do not have to plan routes, carry maps or even be concerned about transportation. A small day pack with a snack and a couple bottles of water is the only investment necessary to become linked with this convivial group of “mountaineers”.

At the end of each outing, the hearty band gathers at a local tavern or restaurant to “rehydrate” and break bread. The organization embodies the spirit of a shared, health-centered experience.

The founder of the club is Andreas Keller, a retired international banker and native of Switzerland. Keller’s enthusiastic personality defines the spirit of the club. He is eager to introduce trail newbies to the joys of hiking and is affectionately known as “Special K” to his friends.

At the completion of one of his backpacks trips, he reflected on the interesting group of people he met on the trail.

“It was a highly inspiring night and as I reflected on this by the campfire, I felt bonded to all there and I realized our commonality was a deep love for nature and for spending time to explore it.”

Most Blue Mountain hikes depart from Clevenger’s Corner on Rt 211, eight miles west of Warrenton or from the Marshal Food Lion.
As the famed naturalist and environmental philosopher John Muir once said, “The mountains are calling and I must go.”

To become a member and learn about upcoming hikes visit

Published in the July 31,2019 edition of the Fauquier Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Posted on May 21 2019 | By

In the beginning wine. Now tales on whatever drives the imagination. Visit our site map for over 400 chronicles.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

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

Teen texting and driving: finding the fix

Posted on Jan 03 2019 | By

State Farm Insurance seeks reduction in distracted driving

Fact #1: Distracted driving crashes are under-reported and the National Safety Council estimates cell phone use alone accounts for 27 percent of all car crashes.

Fact #2: The fatal crash rate for teens is three times greater than for drivers 20 years of age and older.

Fact #3: 88 percent of teenagers ages 13 to 17 have or have access to a cell phone.

Houston, we have a problem.

Generation after generation older folks have clucked and wagged fingers about the shortcomings of the upcoming generation of young folk.

From Elvis and his road to perdition called rock and roll to today’s millennials who are deemed not contributing to society’s well-being, it seems youth is always taking it on the chin from adult swings.

The latest discontent is the constant use of cell phones by teenagers. The charge may be accurate but it’s also one that could be leveled at many adults. There are over 7 billion cell phones worldwide feeding the addiction.

The omnipresent “device” has shown a startlingly capacity to make a person forget where they are. But once a user—especially a young one—slips behind the wheel of a vehicle, it becomes a life or death issue.

Technology itself is seeking fixes to the problem; one feature is to remind drivers they are driving before they can accept a message.

But another approach is to reach out to teens in an interactive way to show them how lethal the combination of wheels and cells can be. The approach might be characterized as, “The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.”

State Farm initiative
Carmen Rivera manages the State Farm Insurance Company in Warrenton. She has worked for the insurer for over two decades assuming management of the local office last year. She has three full-time agents and two-part timers at her Warrenton Village Shopping Center office.

She is also the mother of two adult children and a proud grandmother. With a strong maternal instinct and a career in insurance, she observes, “You see things that you would hope you never see. One of them is children involved in distracted driving. It’s a huge responsibility to get behind the wheel of a car.”

To help counter the problem she took advantage of a program sponsored by State Farm to educate youthful drivers on the hazards of driving, with a strong emphasis on the misuse of cell phones. The effort includes both classroom instruction and simulated driving conditions.

She visits local high schools and speaks to driver education students on the responsibilities and dangers of driving. “One of my points is to get them to understand the horrific accidents that can occur from distracted driving.

“And they are not usually just fender benders. I also talk about how accidents and tickets can impact their insurance premiums. I emphasize the need to keep two hands on the wheel and two eyes on the road at all times.”

More dramatically, however, is Rivera’s collaborative efforts with Virginia state police to simulate actual distracted driving conditions and its consequences. The program takes place at local high schools and involves the use of a four-seater golf cart that acts as a “vehicle” to create highway scenarios.

And less one thinks a golf cart is a golf cart, think again. The training vehicle—officially designated a Distracted Driver Simulator—is a tricked-out vehicle with doors that sport the colors and logo of a Virginia state police cruiser. A first-time reaction in seeing the little guy is likely, “Hey, that’s cool.”

“Liberty High was the first school where I actually performed the distracted driving course. We had over 150 students participate. We try to replicate on the road situations and tell the children, ‘this is what you are going to encounter’.”

The exercises take place in school parking lots lined with rubber cones to create a “road”. The cart is driven by a student with a police officer riding shotgun and two students sitting in the back seat. A series of real-time “tests” are then administered.

To make it fun and realistic, the students are told they can chat, tap fellow students on the shoulder, pretend they’re changing a radio station, and even text while driving. In other words, actions students often do while behind the wheel.

To further increase reality, on a section of the course drivers must choose to wear either daytime or nighttime goggles that impair vision and replicate driving under the influence or night time driving; many cones get knocked over.

Most dramatically, however, is when each student is told to text a friend while behind the wheel. “When they try to text and drive the “car”, even very slowly, they run over all of the cones. We emphasize that’s what happens in a controlled environment. In the real world, a split second can change everything.”

Rivera urges her students to stow phones in purses, glove compartments, or even in back seats so as not to be tempted to respond to incoming messages.

Weather permitting, the next on course training will take place in December at Kettle Run High School.

To date, Rivera has conducted three classroom sessions and one distracted driver session at local high schools. “I absolutely will continue the program in the years ahead as long as it’s beneficial to the students. I hope it helps the children and shows them driver responsibility.

“But a one-day classroom or driving session cannot fully prepare these children for real-life scenarios” so all efforts must be undertaken to combat the scourge of distracted driving.

Rivera showcases how one person can make a difference when passion and knowledge are brought to bear to solve a community problem.

For more information on her full community involvement, visit her on Facebook at:


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


The state of Virginia wine

Posted on Oct 18 2018 | By

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Virginians couldn’t happier.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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


Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Virginia’s Heritage wine

Posted on Oct 18 2018 | By

Collaborative effort captures 400 years of lightening in a bottle

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

Yes, it was that important.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Categories : WINE ARTICLES

Chasing the grape and hop

Posted on Oct 06 2018 | By

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

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

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

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

It was hunkering down time.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let the fun begin.


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


Categories : WINE ARTICLES