Owners Neal and Star Wavra stop by a table to talk with customers at Field & Main in Marshall, Va. (Dixie D. Vereen/For The Washington Post)

The customer was adamant. He was not going to try a Virginia wine, even at a restaurant dedicated to Virginia’s farms and food.

This was Field & Main in Marshall, Va., a time-capsule hamlet just off Interstate 66 in Fauquier County, about an hour’s drive west of Washington. The restaurant, opened in early September by the husband-and-wife team of Neal and Star Wavra, embodies the farm-to-table concept. Yet although diners have happily chowed down on pork from Middleburg and beef raised one exit down the interstate in The Plains, Neal Wavra has encountered some resistance to the idea of local wine.

“I offered to give him a taste, but he wouldn’t even try it,” he recalls.

Wavra remembers another customer who insisted Virginia could not make good wine. “She said she didn’t believe in Virginia wine because the Europeans weren’t coming here to make it. I pointed out that her companion was drinking the Barboursville vermentino,” produced by an Italian-owned winery with an Italian-born winemaker. “She wasn’t convinced.”

From 2009 to 2014, Neal and Star Wavra managed the Ashby Inn in Paris, Va., a hamlet even smaller than Marshall. Neal Wavra’s wine list at the inn’s acclaimed restaurant included an entire page of some of Virginia’s best bottles. At Field & Main, he intends to offer “benchmark wines from around the world,” but his list will have a strong Virginia accent.

“Our goal in time is to have the best Virginia wine list,” he tells me. “I’d like Field & Main to become a gateway for Virginia wine. When you go to the Loire Valley in France, you drink Loire wines. You’re in wine country. It should be the same here.”

Field & Main’s house wines — white, red and rosé — are keg wines produced at Early Mountain Vineyards by winemaker Ben Jordan. They are delicious, and affordably priced at $7 for a five-ounce glass or $29 for a liter (about 6½ glasses).

“I got a lot of pushback at the Ashby Inn from people complaining that Virginia wine costs too much,” Wavra says. “I wanted to show that Virginia makes good, inexpensive wine to enjoy with food. Let’s build our wine culture.

“After all, it’s not like this is a pet project where I’m forcing people to drink bad wine,” he says. “These wines are good.”

Wavra, 39, started out in public service rather than restaurant service. Armed with a master’s degree from the Monterey Institute of International Studies, he spent two years in Washington at the Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration, monitoring compliance with trade agreements. He found it unsatisfying, so he went back to school, this time to the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. He began his hospitality career at Charlie Trotter’s restaurant in his native Chicago, where he discovered he enjoyed working the front of the house and became dining room manager. He then worked at Blackberry Farm in Tennessee. There, he learned the farm-to-table concept of a restaurant, working with local farmers and ranchers and larding the menu with local products. He also met and married Star.

The couple came to Virginia in 2008 to work at the Goodstone Inn & Restaurant in Middleburg, then left to take over management of the Ashby Inn the next year.

Neal Wavra says he found the hospitality industry more rewarding than government work. “In restaurants, the harder you work, the farther you go,” he says. “In government, it felt like running uphill on sand.”

During the two years the Wavras were developing Field & Main, they formed a consulting firm they call Fable Hospitality, “Fable” being a combination of “farm” and “table.” Neal helped train the tasting room staffs at several wineries, including Lost Creek, Stone Tower and Early Mountain. This year, the Loudoun Wineries Association chose him to manage the Loudoun County Wine Awards competition.

His clients praise Wavra’s homespun demeanor and ability to cut through wine’s pretensions.

“He has an uncanny ability to translate wine knowledge in ways everyone can understand,” says Aimee Henkle, co-owner with her husband, Todd, of the Vineyards & Winery at Lost Creek and chairwoman of the Loudoun Wine Awards Committee.

“He’s so great at approaching customers and listening to them to figure out what they like,” agrees Kiernan Slater Patusky, who with her husband, Christopher, owns Slater Run Vineyards in Loudoun. The Patuskys hired Wavra to help develop the Local Taste, their tasting room and wine bar in Upperville, just west of Middleburg in Loudoun County.

At Early Mountain Vineyards in Madison County, Wavra “was invaluable in helping us build our Best of Virginia wine program,” says owner Jean Case, referring to the winery’s menu of some of the state’s best wines, available for customers to sample.

Persuading diners to try local wines is easier today than it was just a few years ago, due to the growing reputation of Virginia and other states for producing fine wines, Wavra says. But he shakes his head over the memory of those stubborn customers during the early days of his new farm-to-table dining destination.

“There’s still more work to be done,” he says.