Continuing to Grow Outside of the Box
Each year it seems that the time between the holidays and the springtime gets smaller and smaller. There is always a bit of a downturn in business this time of year because of the weather but before you know it, Valentines Day is here and winter is behind us. Many wineries stay open through the winter because they realize how many of our local customers are looking for the chance to come out and enjoy us all year long. Also the planning that we do in the off-season is critical to being able to feed the future market and to grow the business in the direction we choose.
A movement that I see developing more each year is operations making lesser known alcoholic beverages. Meads, ciders and fruit wines continue to grow in production and popularity. These are some interesting and historically based libations that may not have previously hit the mainstream market like beer and wine. It is possible to make an alcoholic beverage out of any product that has sugar in it. Mead is a honey-based product that is sometimes enhanced with fruits and herbs. Ciders have a lower alcohol than traditional wine and are made with the natural sugars of the fruit, apple being the most common but they can be made with pear, peach and other fruits. The beer brewers have been very creative at blending spices, flavors and other ingredients to make some very interesting and popular beverages. The consumers have been happy to enjoy these creative and flavorful products and are looking for more. This desire for more creativity has encouraged this movement for meaderies, cider mills and fruit based wineries. These types of operations can function in Virginia under the Farm Winery licensing mandate as long as they are farming at least 51% of their products. These are exciting times for consumers as well as producers. For me, I am not looking into expanding my fruit wines (I say that now) but I am certainly interested in tasting other products that are made from pears and berries.
The Virginia Farm Winery Act was created to encourage more agricultural activity in our state. Some of these operations fit into this model through the agricultural base of the business. Others may purchase their ingredients and find their best location in a town that has industrial zoning. Catoctin Creek Distillery is a good example as a production facility with retail and social space in downtown Purcellville. They use locally farmed crops in some of their spirits, but they are not an ag based business. They work well with the local wineries as we share many customers that are looking for a similar experience. Many of the new breweries are fitting into this model as well. The cideries and meaderies may go either way depending on whether they are able to commit to growing their own ingredients.
Each business adds to the experience of the area and the flavor of the region. If the quality of the products are sound, there is room for everybody. Moderation and common sense should always be in play, but enjoy the tapestry of flavors that continue to blossom in this great region.
Written by: Doug Fabbioli