Getting into the spirit at Old House Vineyards

By Posted on Jun 21 2015 | By

 Winery expands with opening of distillery  

If you are looking for a unique gift for dad on Father’s Day, consider taking him out to Old House Vineyards for the launch of its new distillery. But first, stop by the winery and sample the wines then wrap up your visit with a brick oven pizza on the patio while listening to live music.

Of course lake fishing could also be on the agenda. They’ll even supply the worms.

Old House Vineyards and its new libation factory is synonymous with fun. On Sunday, June 21, after three years of hard work and an investment of over a quarter million dollars, the Kearney family will open its distillery for tastings and sales.

Pat and Allyson Kearney are the power couple behind the social lubricant adventure land. They also apparently never sleep given what they’ve created at Old House since opening in 2002. Wine production increased to 3,000 cases this year and some fifty weddings and numerous other events are held on the estate annually.

FullSizeRenderFortunately, the heavy workload at the vineyard will now be shared by Ryan Kearney, the couple’s 24-year-old son and newly minted crafted distiller. The University of Virginia graduate spent a year working for an IT firm in Washington, D.C. before being lured home by dad with an offer he couldn’t resist; creating distilled spirits.

“I can’t really complain much about what I do. I have a pretty awesome job. It definitely beats working in D.C.” said Ryan Kearney.

Indeed. An awesome job that makes not only the young man happy but the soon-to-be fans of Old House spirits as well.

Using the template that created their previous successes, the Kearneys will launch the distillery with two different bottlings and expand over time. A vodka produced from the winery’s Vidal Blanc grapes and a silver rum distilled from sugar cane and molasses will be available for tasting and sale on opening day.

In the near future, a specialty product made from Blue Agave nectar will grace the tasting notes. The libation is similar to a Tequila.

Starting a distillery from scratch requires money, education and patience; jumping in without due diligence courts a quick stumble. All of the products at Old House have to be tested on small ten gallon stills before moving to full production.

FullSizeRender (3)The equipment itself is pricey. The distillery has one 150 gallon copper Olympic pot still from South Africa costing $60,000. Three additional column stills cost $15,000 each. Quality spirits are not made on the cheap.

Additional equipment will be purchased as production increases. Future liquors will include grain- based whiskey and gin using rye, barley and wheat grown by Culpeper farmers.

To prepare for the new venture Pat and Ryan Kearney took a distilling course in Seattle. Then Ryan Kearney hit the books hard to perfect his skills. He also sought help from current Virginia distillers.

When Old House secured its permit to distill, it became the 21st distillery in the state. “All of the state’s distilleries are very open to sharing information. It’s one of the great things about craft distilling in Virginia,” Ryan Kearney said.

Licensing by the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control added a another dimension to the endeavor; strict laws govern the production of distilled beverages.

An added attraction to the new stand-alone distillery is a World War II museum. Pat Kearney’s primary job is president of Kearney and Associates, a firm specializing in the design and construction of museum exhibits for government and private organizations.

“Dad has 30 years experience in museum design and World War II speaks to him a lot. Our neighbors are also veterans of the war,” Ryan Kearney said.

The museum provides a unique backdrop to the tasting room and reinforces the contributions the “Greatest Generation” made to the Nation.

“There’s nothing better than working with your family,” Ryan Kearney said. “It’s a neat experience. Hopefully, the distillery will bring more people to Old House and to Culpeper. We are excited about the next couple of years.”

The Kearney’s have two other children; Brittany, 26, is a registered nurse and Liam, 19, attends college and works at the winery during the summer months. “I could see him coming back after school,” said Ryan Kearney.

Old House Vineyards is located at 18351 Corkys Lane, Culpeper. It is opened six days a week year round; closed on Tuesdays. For additional information on hours and special events visit: http://www.oldhousevineyards.com/

FullSizeRender (2)

Published in the June 18, 2015 edition of the Culpeper Times.

Categories : WINE ARTICLES