local business

Vine to Wine with Greenhill Vineyards

Written by Kaitlin Hill

“We have a team that believes in a wine experience that starts in the vineyard, works its way to the bottle, and into the glasses we pour and the information and passion we share,” says Jed Gray, general manager of Greenhill Vineyards. Gray and his team know that more than good soil and the right climate, making an exceptional bottle of wine starts with meticulous vine care, staying true to the land, and pride in the final product. Gray, along with David Greenhill, Ubaldo Morales, Ben Comstock, and Jenny Travers, invest their expertise, sweat equity, and an undeniable camaraderie in their craft to produce bottles as distinct as the property, process, and people on the path from vine to wine. 

A sprawling 128-acres, the Greenhill property is the image of Virginia wine country complete with a stylish tasting room, historic stone manor, gorgeous vistas, and, of course, rolling hills of diligently tended vines. More than the aesthetics, it’s the dedication to the vines that is at the root of the vineyard’s success. “When you are dealing with vines, you are tending to them 365 days a year. It’s personal,” Gray shares. “Each vine is a little different and you can get to know not only a block of vines, but individual vines themselves.” Perhaps no one knows the vines better than Morales, who has worked on the property for 19 years. “I started on this land in 2003…When Mr. Greenhill bought the farm, I started working for him full-time. And, I’m still here.” 

Nearly two decades on, Morales has seen the quality of the landscape improve. He notes, “The vines look nice, and the fruit grows differently than before.” And Gray adds, “Over the years we have implemented more sustainable vineyard techniques that produce a healthier canopy and healthier fruit. Everything we do is to make a healthier vineyard and we have seen the results over the past couple of years.” 

Part of achieving optimum vineyard health is down to understanding the environment of the Middleburg American Viticultural Area. “We really try to understand what is happening in [our] unique microclimate,” Gray shares. He expands, “We plant varietals that thrive in [this] unique microclimate. Now that we have revitalized the land and learned what works best and what doesn’t, it has resulted in some unique fruits from our vineyard.”

Sustainable practices are aided by Morales’ vigilance in the field. Gray shares, “Ubaldo has this immense attention to detail and pride in his work. Growing the vine from bud break in the spring, watching the fruit mature, taking care of the vine to produce the highest quality fruit, when you pick it and know it is as perfect as you can make it, it’s insanely gratifying.” He adds with a laugh, “Essentially, he enjoys the fruit of his labors.” 

The result of Morales’ dedicated tending and the vineyard’s agricultural practices are grapes ripe for picking and producing award-winning wine. This next step benefits from the talent and experience of Ben Comstock, Greenhill’s head winemaker. Comstock got into the wine world when a friend with a winery in Loudoun County needed help with his harvest in 2009. “When I started, I didn’t necessarily have a passion for wine. I actually fell in love with the work first, and then got to fall in love with the industry itself as the years went on.” Comstock brought that love to Greenhill Vineyards in 2018. 

At Greenhill, producing premium vintages is as much a practice in adaptability as it is in standardized methodology, all while reflecting the relative newness and distinct terroir of the region. Of Comstock’s approach, Gray says, “Every single vintage is different, and the fruit that comes in is different. Ben allows the fruit and then the juice to speak to him [about] how he is going to ultimately create a final product.” 

“Our goal, our ideal, is to make a wine from Virginia,” explains Comstock, understanding that in making it, Greenhill is helping define it. “There is no definition of what Virginia wine is supposed to be,” offers Jenny Travers, the assistant general manager at the vineyard. “So, we are part of a process of defining what Virginia wine actually can be.”

Crucial to defining Virginia wine is harnessing the terroir. “Everything [the team] does, they do in accordance with the terroir,” shares Greenhill’s owner, David Greenhill. “It’s not just the land, but the soil, the climate, everything that goes into the wine…We actually care for the vines in accordance with the elements that are here and not techniques from other areas that don’t necessarily apply,” he adds.

“It’s an evolutionary process where we are constantly educating ourselves with the fruit every single year and always striving to make a better product,” Gray says. 

The result? Numerous award-winning and, as Travers says, “cult favorite” wines with something for every preference from Chenin Blanc to Cabernet Sauvignon. “Our sparkling is something that people know Greenhill for. Our Cabernet Franc is amazing. Our Merlot is fantastic. And then we make two or three iterations of Chardonnay. Oh, and Petit Verdot. Those are some of the wines we are known for making exceptionally well,” Travers lists. When asked, Morales says his favorite is the Merlot.  

Beyond the wine, the team at Greenhill applies the same laser focus when nurturing team camaraderie and guaranteeing customer enjoyment. “Me, Ben, Ubaldo and Jed, we all have separate roles, but we all work collaboratively. And we all like each other. I mean, genuinely like each other,” Travers emphasizes. 

Just a few minutes in the tasting room or a walk around the grounds reveals an inter-employee warmth that spreads to each customer with whom the team members interact. “Everything we do is about an experience…And every touch we have with the customers is extremely important to us. It is something that every single person that works here takes pride in,” Travers says. 

“We are not [only] successful because of our pride, but [also] because of our passion. If you can look someone in the eye and pour them wine and speak passionately about it, that resonates with the customer and their enjoyment and appreciation of the product is endless at that point. We have pride and passion in everything that we share with our [guests] and we stand behind that 100%,” Gray says. Travers finishes, “And that’s 100% from vine to bottle to glass.”  

Pride, passion, and a spirit of camaraderie are served in abundance at Greenhill Vineyards making it a must-visit during Virginia’s wine month and beyond. Perhaps Travers puts it best when she says, “The celebration around the time you spend with people when you are drinking, that connection you make, that is extremely important [to us]. It’s extremely important to the business and it is extremely important to the experience.” ML 

This article first appeared in the October 2022 issue.

Local Breweries Collaborate on Fall Beer

Article by Diane Heletjaris
Photos by Michael Butcher

Chris Burns had an idea. As the president of Old Ox Brewery, not surprisingly, the idea revolved around beer. Wouldn’t it be fun to get together with fellow Virginia craft brewers to dream up a new brew?

“What sparked this collaboration was that we are all distributed by the same distributing company, Premium Distributors of Virginia. It would be great to get everybody together to brew a beer, [which would] give us the opportunity to talk shop and have a good time. Customers would have the opportunity to try beer from breweries they haven’t had the opportunity to try,” Burns says. “Collaborations are pretty normal. The [brewing] community likes to get together, see how different people approach the same problems…We always learn something during these collaboration beer days.”

Julie Broaddus, co-owner of Old Bust Head Brewing Company, confirms the camaraderie of the experience. “I really like connecting with other local breweries. [We] all share a lot of the same challenges. It’s good to help each other out. [We] definitely want to do it again.”

Representatives from Virginia-based breweries gather at Old Ox Brewery in Ashburn to make a batch of Collaborator.

Typically, craft breweries, like Loudoun’s Old Ox, produce small quantities of beer for a mostly local market. Their craft brews reach the chilled glasses of beer lovers several different ways. Locally,  customers can drink at the taproom or pick up their beer while passing by. To reach a broader audience, craft breweries, like Old Ox, use the same distribution supply lines as the huge nationwide breweries. Any retailer served by the distributor can order craft brews right alongside the nationwide brands and sell it at their bar, tavern, restaurant, or store. 

In August of 2022, six craft breweries from Ashburn to Charlottesville, that all use Premium Distributors of Virginia as their distributor, met at Old Ox Brewery and spent the day formulating a new brew. Others joined in, including representatives from the distributor, sharing tips, finding solutions to common challenges, and having fun preparing the ingredients for the new beer. The collaboration was a rousing success even before the first barrel of beer had been tapped.

Behind the scenes at Old Ox Brewery.

They chose to brew was a lager, specifically a bock beer, and even more specifically, a doppelbock. Lagers originated in Germany and are brewed using a cool fermentation method in contrast to the warm fermentation used to make ales. Bock beers originated in southern Germany as seasonal lagers. Doppelbocks are historically (or maybe only mythically) tied to beers made for monks fasting during Lent and reportedly nicknamed “liquid bread.” 

Doppelbocks are rich amber lagers in the Bavarian tradition. “This is a style we would love everybody to [have] an open mind [about] —  a classic style with a rich history and a lot of integrity,” says Dave Warwick, founding brewmaster and CEO of Three Notch’d Brewing Company in Charlottesville, Virginia. 

The new beer has been dubbed “Collaborator.” This is a nod to doppelbock naming conventions which typically end with the suffix “-ator.” Aldie artist Ryan Danger created the label which features the logos of the six breweries. 

Warwick believes “Beer tells a story. Beer is world history.” Three Notch’d Brewery frequently creates special beers with input from customers for charity dinners, weddings, birthdays, and other events. They even did a beer to celebrate a divorce. “Needless to say, it was bitter,” Warwick says. “When Old Ox approached with the idea of doing a beer together, it was a no-brainer.” 

As Broaddus says, “[This is] really a celebration of local craft. It’s a statement about how craft breweries are a different type of business. Breweries, in general, often have a more community-focused mission… [They] are gathering places for the community, something we’ve been missing, a place you can bring your family, go, and lighten up a little bit. What else do we have like this? Coffee shop? Not the same. Bar, winery? Not the same.”

The beer aptly named Collaborator is slated to be released in mid-October and will be available from all six breweries in a territory reaching from Roanoke to Richmond to Williamsburg and up into Northern Virginia. It will also be offered by Premium Distributors. Burns describes the flavorful amber drink as a pleasant beverage to “wind down and relax” with after the hurry-scurry of Oktoberfest. 
Charlie Buettner, brewmaster and CEO of Fair Winds Brewing Company in Lorton, Virginia, hopes Collaborator will demonstrate that, “There is unity in craft beer…[It will] show everyone we’re in this together.” ML

This article originally appeared in the October 2022 issue.

What’s Old is New Again at Another Blue Moon

Written by Shayda Windle
Photos by Callie Broaddus 

If Hunt Country is anything, it most certainly is not a place lacking in things to do or see. In addition to pastoral views of the Blue Ridge and Bull Run Mountains, famed foxhunts, and steeplechase races, there is also a vibrant shopping district in the town of Middleburg that keeps visitors coming back for more. With its tree-lined brick sidewalks and 18th-century buildings, historic Middleburg has rows of lively restaurants and boutiques that attract people from all over. This intriguing mix of old and new can be found at Another Blue Moon, a luxury consignment shop in the heart of town. The unique secondhand store offers an assortment of antique and vintage furniture, decorative accessories, collectibles, and home goods.

What started out as a pop-up founded by six friends in 2018 has evolved into the brick-and-mortar retail store you see today on Washington Street. The store is co-owned by longtime friends Kerry Dale and Jennifer Andrews. As people began cleaning out their homes and looking to recycle possessions during the pandemic, Dale and Andrews saw an opportunity to continue the venture. At Another Blue Moon, you’ll find beautiful furniture, vintage mirrors, lamps, tables, rugs, tea sets, and so much more. What makes this boutique so special is that most items come from local homes and friends of the owners. So, when you buy a piece from Another Blue Moon, you’re not only supporting the local economy — you’re also giving back to the community of contributors who have decided to consign their goods here. You’re buying something special from another person’s sanctuary and continuing that treasure’s story.

“We take things that we know customers are looking for and are complementary to our design style and inventory.”

-Dale

Dale says, “Because of our community and the nature of it, and as the real estate market has exploded, our business has grown too. We added space this year and now have barn space in the basement of the Middleburg Professional Center.” During the pandemic, Dale adds, “Instagram saved us. We would take photos and post them to social media. People would claim their goods online then come pick them up in-store.” Andrews chimes in, “Instagram not only provides an outlet for home shopping and dreaming, but continues to offer comic relief even today. What else could make you laugh about a needlepoint pillow, a Herend cat, or a shapely French chest? We learn something every day about the business and there’s always a fresh challenge around the corner.”

Left: A stack of books perfect for a home office. Center: Dale surrounded by the shop’s many treasures. Righ: Hunt Country accents are in no short supply.

“Many times, people will send me twenty pictures of what they want to consign, but we must curate what we take,” Dale explains. “We take things that we know customers are looking for and are complementary to our design style and inventory. We carry anything from antiques to contemporary to transitional and more traditional goods.” Another Blue Moon also considers whether items are on-trend, the condition they are in, and seasonality as they curate their collection. They will generally hold items for about 90 days, but Dale says they try very hard to sell with a quicker turnaround.

“If you don’t love what you do, then why do it?”

-Andrews 

It’s clear how much these two women enjoy the process of building a business together, and their passion for “finding a new life for something that still has life in it” is even more inspiring. But perhaps Andrews puts it best. She says with a laugh, “I feel like I’m in an episode of the Beverly Hillbillies, driving through Loudoun with a van full of old furniture to drop off at a barn. If you don’t love what you do, then why do it?” ML

Another Blue Moon is open Thursday, Friday, and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and by appointment. Be sure to stop by the basement area of the Middleburg Professional Center on 119 The Plains Road for more from Another Blue Moon. You can also check them out on Instagram @anotherbluemoon to see what’s available now. New inventory is added regularly.

This article first appeared in the June 2022 Issue.

Wisdom Gallery: A Valentine’s Day Jackpot

Story and Photos by Katie Johnson

Tucked away on Middleburg’s quiet, tree-lined Madison Street, the Wisdom Gallery has stood the test of time.

Full to the brim of carefully selected greeting cards, artwork, unique furnishings and lighting, jewelry, and all manner of interesting collectibles, this little shop makes for a cozy retreat from the cool winter weather.

Owner Pauline Wisdom says business has always been good in her corner of the town, though with a few empty storefronts on the street these days, things have gotten a bit quieter. Still, she loves her job. “I’m meeting wonderful people,” she says. “I really am, and I have for thirty years.”

Pauline Wisdom

When Pauline, a native of East London who speaks with a distinct and charming British clip, initially visited Middleburg as a tourist, she thought the town could really use a good English tea shop. She chose a storefront and signed a lease, but when her plans for a tea shop fell through, she opened the Wisdom Gallery instead.

Having operated an antique shop of the same name when she lived California, it felt like an easy choice. Soon after that, she acquired a papery and stationery shop in town. To consolidate the two locations into one and simplify her business operations, she eventually purchased her current building, and set about turning the one-time dress shop into the eclectic business it is today.

A stroll through the Wisdom Gallery’s first level will lead customers to a showcase in the back full of beautiful chocolates. “I just love it,” says Pauline of this sweet collection, and smiles as she remembers how choosing the chocolates she carries was “the roughest job I ever had.”

She features confections from two suppliers, one specializing in a more home-made, simple style, and the other in giant, decadent truffles. These, she advises, are very rich, and can be cut into four pieces and enjoyed with friends. Her personal favorites are the coconut creams, but it’s the sea salt caramels that fly off the shelves. So quickly, in fact, the she has to double order them to keep them in stock.

“I’ve always had good luck with my chocolate,” she says. Upstairs, Pauline keeps an assortment of fine stationery, supplied by Crane and William Arthur.

She notes that people do still send handwritten letters, and she’s happy to be of service to those looking for special announcements and invitations. When she began selling personalized stationery and cards, she was nervous. She knew that she wanted to get everything just right for her customers, and she’s been successful.

Her stationery business really picks up during wedding season, she says, particularly for June brides, who generally come to her six months ahead of time. “You have to be so careful to do everything correctly,” she says. After so many years in business, though, Pauline is confident.

“People have come to me because I know what I’m doing,” she confides. She pauses for a moment and jokes, “Sometimes I know what I’m doing.”
Over the years, Pauline has seen many vendors come and go, and she’s always sad to say goodbye to her favorite lines. Now, it’s her shop that’s on the market.

“I have fun,” she says, “but I’m having to give it up because of a wonky knee.” Her building has been for sale, on and off, for about two years, and she would love to find a buyer who could carry on the business as it is. Her customers have asked for the same. She’s willing to help for a few months, once the right buyer comes along, to ensure the transition goes smoothly. Then, she says, she’ll focus on “just being here, and taking care of my one puppy that I’ve got left.”

In the meantime, Pauline is glad to be part of the Middleburg community. She speaks highly of the businesses in town and often recommends other shops to her customers, especially if they’re looking for something she doesn’t carry. “We’re all here in the same community,” she says. “We need to work together and not against one another.”

It’s that sense of collaboration and impeccable customer service she’d like people to remember after they visit the Wisdom Gallery. Her goal is simply to offer customers a pleasant, peaceful, and fun experience when they stop in to look around.

“We all get to work and we’re lucky if we get out and do anything else,” she says. “I don’t like to pressure people. That’s not what I’m here for.”

This article first appeared in the February issue of Middleburg Life.