Exploring VA Wines, Wining & Dining

The Shift of the Seasons

By Doug Fabbioli

The Shift of the Seasons

Farmers know the change of the seasons more than most people. It’s not just the fewer hours of daylight and the cooler temperatures, it’s how the daily job focus and planning changes from absorbing sunshine to dealing with the “hibernation” season. No, we certainly do not hibernate around here, but the seasonal shift in our work efforts keeps the job interesting and challenging.

One seasonal change for me is getting out in the public more in these few weeks than during the rest of the year. This is the busiest time of the year for wine sales, so I need to get my face out there to build the brand and get folks excited about our wines. And I’ll admit, this is invigorating to me as well. When I am in the tasting room and customers enjoy our wine, I know I have the “home field advantage.” Folks come to us for Fabbioli wine, and many already know what they are getting. But out in a shop or at a public pouring, I know this is frequently the first time people have tasted our wines. When they come back for more, or ask for a wine recommended by a previous taster, I know they have found a taste they will remember pleasantly, and I hope they will find their way out to our tasting room.

Another area in which we shift for the season is maintenance. It’s not really sexy, but very critical to our success. As most farmers do, we do as much of the work ourselves as possible. We have specialists we depend on for mechanical issues, heating systems and the like, but we take cleaning, repairs, and build-outs as far as we can ourselves. I have hired too many contractors over the years who charge more and know less, and if I or my crew can do something, so much the better. In this year of lean staffing, lots of acres to tend means that we had to put a lot of work on the back burner until we got through the more pressing issues. Well, now is the time to finish things up!

Cleaning is probably the biggest thing we try to do before the weather gets too cold, both in the vineyards and in the production areas. But believe it or not, we are planting a bit this time of year! We grow a few things other than our grapes, and our efforts in growing garlic seem to be fruitful. It grows well here, has a good shelf life, and we can sell it through Farmer John’s Market here in Lucketts. By planting the bulbs in the fall, the roots develop in the relatively warm soil and the green sprouts are hearty enough to survive the winter. Next June, we will have fresh, locally grown garlic to sell. All good!

We have another project to do around the farm at this time, and that is decorating for the holidays. We always have some of that with our monthly theme changeovers, but we enjoy the Christmas lighting projects and giving our farm that seasonal glow. When we lived in Sonoma, California the wineries would have a friendly competition for the most spectacular lighting display. This might not be a bad idea for the wineries around here—I guess I should chat with a few folks about that, and pick up a few more strings of lights. By the way, our theme for December at the Fabbioli Cellars tasting room is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, so more lights will go up and any thoughts of subtlety will fly out the window! Come out to visit us or your favorite winery this holiday season and see what’s happening on the farm.

About the Author: Doug Fabbioli is the proprietor and wine maker at Fabbioli Vineyards. He has also consulted with many of the Commonwealth’s winemakers and vineyard managers over the last several years.

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