The historic town of Occoquan is best known for the thicket of small shops in the downtown area that sell country crafts and scented candles. But according to the Virginia Wine Marketing Program, this riverfront community is also home to the first and only retail store devoted solely to wines produced in Virginia.
The idea of being the one and only appealed to owners Mari Spragins and Janet Carper when they opened Ye Olde Dominion Wine Shoppe in November 2000.
"We were two stay-at-home-moms from Lorton. But also we were two good friends who both enjoy wine and wanted to do something different that was fun," says Carper.
Their cozy, 800-square-foot shop has a floor composed of aged bricks and a ceiling of exposed wood beams. There are two comfortable rockers in front of a working fireplace. Most importantly, wines from more than 45 of the 76 licensed wineries in the state are stocked.
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The pair agree AmRhein Wine Cellars in Bent Mountain, Va., produced a stellar 2001 Viognier ($27). "It's so sensual. It blushes and is incredibly aromatic with nectarine notes that grab your nose," says Spragins. "It's a great rendition of a Viognier."
At Ye Olde Shoppe's tasting table five or more wines from different vineyards may be sampled. Every Saturday from 1 to 5 p.m. a representative of a Virginia vineyard is on hand for tastings and wine talk. "Everything has been going beautifully," says Spragins.
In the past year sales totaled $200,000. "And that's pretty darn good," says Carper. "According to our accountants, this is a business that's worth keeping up."
-- Walter Nicholls