“When I came down here and plunked this great big winery here on the hillside, a lot of people were appalled,” Roeder said. Four years ago, Barrel Oak wasn’t there, and his wife, Sharon, was a government contractor, not an award-winning winemaker. Now their Delaplane winery is the biggest in Fauquier, one of the busiest and fastest-growing winemaking regions of the state.
The growth of Virginia farm wineries has been dramatic, nearly tripling in the past decade to 209, with much of the recent growth in Loudoun and Fauquier counties. Fauquier has 26 wineries now.
That’s either a champagne cocktail or a can of skunked beer, depending whom you ask, as people here disagree stridently about whether wineries help preserve farmland or disrupt the countryside.
After several years of bitter debate, county leaders had planned to vote Thursday on a new law regulating farm wineries. But on Wednesday evening, Peter B. Schwartz, the supervisor who sponsored the legislation, decided the board was getting so much intense intense feedback — and the issue is so emotionally charged that even minor tweaks would be explosive if done last-minute — that he would ask the board to postpone the vote for a few months until after the grape harvest.
Some say the new rules would be so restrictive that they would choke wineries out of business; others fear it would give winery owners too much leeway to host noisy events and crowd rural roads with tipsy drivers.
The proposal would limit farm winery hours and events and ban amplified music if it can be heard at the property line.
The governor, Robert F. McDonnell (R), loves Virginia wines, pouring them during international trade missions. There are tax breaks for grape growers, and the General Assembly voted several years ago to effectively insulate farm wineries from strict local rules. It’s a top priority for the administration to promote Virginia wines, according to Agriculture and Forestry Secretary Todd Haymore, because they foster economic development, job creation and farmland preservation. And there’s a romance to vineyards — people get married at wineries and plan vacations around them.
But to some neighbors and conservationists, the wineries are just loud bars smack in the middle of the country. That’s especially true in quiet Fauquier, where roads roll over hills past endless white fences and thoroughbreds in fields. When night falls here, the only lights are fireflies winking or the tiny glow from a house far down a long driveway
For years, Fauquier restricted events at wineries so that almost any gathering required a special permit. Often, hundreds of people would show up at public hearings to oppose them, said Philip Carter Strother of Philip Carter Winery.