NOTE: The descriptions of the places in this guide were accurate at the time the articles were posted. Please be advised that you should call ahead before traveling to any of them.
BOW WOW! New Winery Goes to the Dogs
By: Jennifer Heyns
Virginia is quickly becoming known as the Napa Valley of the east. With so many wineries dotting the map now, how do you know which ones are worth the trip? One Fauquier County winery will soon open its doors to the public and demonstrate a distinctness not to be matched. Barrel Oak Winery, located in Delaplane, Virginia has generated a uniqueness that is evident in all facets of its existence.
Barrel Oak Winery owners Brian and Sharon Roeder didn’t know a thing about growing grapes, designing bottle labels or creating a production room just five short years ago. In fact the couple was happily going about their 9 to 5 jobs and living a successful metropolitan life until one day while vacationing in Key West in 2004 Brian popped THE question.
“If you could see yourself doing something else, what would it be,” he asked of his bride who had answered him by recounting a recurring dream she’d been having of walking sleepily and happily through a misty mountain morning with a cup of coffee in her grip and her golden retriever at her side, checking grape vines.
“And that question led to all of this,” he said, gesturing to the couple’s 70-acre homestead which is now blossoming with grape vines and overlooking a picturesque scene of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The winery is nearing the completion of the construction phase and is the largest and greenest in the county. The Roeders, who are busy planning their May 23 grand opening, realized immediately after selecting their Delaplane haven that Fauquier County was unique in that the residents and business owners there are all very concerned with the environment and maintaining its pristine condition. Following suit, the couple revised their original building plans to bring the winery’s structure more in line with the atmosphere of the community.
“We spent a lot of money to build green,” admitted Brian, “the energy-efficient efforts we employed cost four to five times more than conventional construction methods, but it will equate to our using only about 10 percent of the energy we would have otherwise.”
The production area of the winery, located under the tasting and event rooms, was placed nearly completely underground in an effort to use the earth’s steady temperature of about 58 degrees to keep the structure comfortable with little heating and cooling. The winery is atop a geo-thermal system which uses liquid running through a tubing system to heat the building more efficiently. In order to ensure that heat is not lost through the structure’s roof or windows, Brian had SIPs (structural insulated panels) added to the roof and low-e windows installed.
The couple have also consciously chosen building materials that would have the least impact on the planet’s natural resources as well as purchasing only what is necessary for the construction so that there is as little waste as possible.
Not only is Barrel Oak Winery friendly to the environment, it is a very pet-friendly place as well. Brian and Sharon share a love of dogs, which has left a paw print on the design of their business. It took the couple weeks to come up with a name for their winery that they both adored and Brian accidentally found one to bark about. When he suggested Barrel Oak he was uncertain of the name since it didn’t really demonstrate their love of dogs, which was what the couple was hoping would be theme in their winery. Sharon pounced on the idea, however, noting that if you add Winery to the name its initials spell BOW.
In keeping with their theme, Brian and Sharon had some of their wine bottles labeled with paw prints and plan to have “dog and wine”-themed items for sale in their tasting room, mostly craft and boutique items made by local artisans.
Through the tasting room, guests can step out onto the winery’s patio which overlooks the most breathtaking scenic view of the mountains and also looks out upon the vineyard, which includes vines getting ready to bloom with Vidal, Traminette, Chambourcin and Seyval grapes.
All of that is fine and dandy, but how about the wine, you might ask. With the aid of neighboring winery, Pearmund Cellars, Barrel Oak has already produced and bottled several varieties of their own blends to rub the bellies of their visitors. They’ve termed their house wine Bowhaus and have a red and a white blend. They also offer a Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Norton and two very special and unique flavors - the Touriga Franc and the Chocolate Lab.
The Touriga Franc is named after the Tour de France and was inspired by Sharon’s love of cycling. Sharon developed a blend from the Touriga Nationale grape and Cabernet Franc to make a unique wine that guests will feel good about drinking because of it’s palatability as well as its charitability. A portion of the proceeds of each bottle sold will go to the Lance Armstrong Foundation to help find a cure for cancer, a project very close to Sharon’s heart because of the battle lost by both of her parents.
Aside from the building, growing and developing, the Roeders wanted their venture to be a bit of an adventure in amusement as well. The couple developed a formula for fun, deciding to turn about 10 percent of their grapes into experimental and innovative blends. Their first foray into the laboratory resulted in a most unusual combination of flavors - red wine and chocolate; which they’ve aptly named Chocolate Lab. Their Chocolate Lab Dessert Wine is a fusion of Merlot, Muscat and Cabernet Sauvignon steeped with crushed cocoa beans.
“It’s a wonderful combination in the glass,” confessed Brian, “and is a fantastic complement to any dessert or as a finishing wine for tasting sessions.”
They are excited to see how this new flavor will be received by their guests and wine lovers are excited to see what the Roeders will come up with next at Barrel Oak.
The winery’s grand opening will commence on May 23 at noon and will continue on through the Memorial Day weekend with much pomp and fanfare. Individuals, families and, of course, man’s best friends are invited to join the celebration which will include vineyard and winery tours, alpaca petting, live entertainment and fantastic people, scenic mountain views and doggone good wine. To make the weekend even more exciting, Barrel Oak’s grand opening is running simultaneously with the Delaplane Strawberry Festival (starts Saturday) which takes place annually at Sky Meadow State Park (just five miles away from the winery) every Memorial Day weekend.