The Tasting Room: Magnolia Vineyards blossoms in Amissville

Six months ago, the Old Dominion saw another winery open; this time near the village of Amissville. There are now 275 licensed wineries scattered across the state with more on the way.

Itâ??s a remarkable story given that 50 years ago finding a vintner in Virginia was like seeing a rose blooming in the snow. Now an arboretum of wineries carpets the state reinforcing that Virginia is for lovers. Of wine, that is.

One marker for most of the establishments is the passion brought to bear before and after the winery sign goes up. After all, thereâ??s not big money in producing and selling wine.

There is, however, a lot of gratification in transforming fruit from the vine into a glass of joy.

This preamble is by way of saying Glenn and Tina Marchione, owners of Magnolia Vineyards, are emblematic of the ardor seen throughout the industry. And their guests are thankful for it. They currently produce 500 cases a year with an ultimate goal of 2,500 cases, or 30,000 bottles.

The dream

The Marchioneâ??s are both of Italian decent. In 2006, they journeyed to Italy and visited Glennâ??s relatives, toured a winery and became smitten with the idea of opening their own winery.

Fortunately, they are both fiscally conservative and in the ensuing years created a virtual blueprint on how to pursue such a dream. Being employed full-time in Northern Virginia as IT professionals helped bankroll their vision.

â??We did everything in stages. We spent one and a half years looking for the property. If the winery didnâ??t work out, it would be our retirement property,â? said Glenn Marchione. The step-by-step planning process is still the hallmark of their growth strategy.

In 2008, they purchased 25 acres on Viewtown Road followed by an additional contiguous 25 acre acquisition. The setting met the requirements of a winery while fulfilling their desires for the home they had built.

The couple planted the first vineyard block themselves with help from volunteers. Then an eight foot high deer fence encompassing 20 acres, including the seven acre vineyard, was installed.

Newbie winery owners are quick to learn only one audience loves wine grapes more than wine drinkers: wildlife. Fencing is mandatory for survival.

So how do two wannabe winemakers make the leap into the professional ranks? Surround yourself by people in the know and hit the books to gain the technical skills to change grapes into wine.

In the Marchionesâ?? case, it was Jim Law (Linden Vineyards) and Doug Fabbioli (Fabbioli Cellars) who helped set the stage for opening a winery. Both men are well known in the Virginia industry for producing quality wine and furthering the stateâ??s vineyard and wine making culture.

After studying under these two leaders, the couple used excess cellar capacity at Narmada Winery to produce their own first wines.

The future

Today, their tasting room is opened on weekends and features seven wines; all clean and flavorful. The tasting room is located in the basement of their home and the wines are made in the nearby three car garage.
But given the systematic, goal oriented approach to building the business, all that will change in the years ahead.

â??Itâ??s likely I will start designing the winery and tasting room over the winter and open it in two years,â? said Glenn Marchione. The site will be on a high piece of ground with views of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
The couple will also continue building their investment with the purchase of tanks, presses and other equipment integral to wine making. â??We donâ??t like carrying a lot of debt so we paid for as much as we could, including the land.â?

â??But we want to make sure people like our wines before we build a separate structure. Then itâ??s the point of no return,â? said Glenn Marchione.

So what has been the reaction to the wines?

â??Itâ??s been very, very positive and quite satisfying for us. The positive response further drives the passion,â? said Glenn Marchione. Nonetheless, itâ??s a pursuit that comes with some angst.

â??At times it feels like everything is on the line financially. This is the most rewarding and scariest thing Iâ??ve done in my entire life. People think itâ??s going to be romantic. But for anybody thinking about doing it, I would tell them to â??Think again!â??â? said a laughing Glenn Marchione.

â??We like the social aspect of it; sharing our passion, sharing our stories and sharing good wine,â? said Tina Marchione.

In the not too distant future, if all goes well the wine-loving couple will devote full-time to making and selling their wines. Some might call that â??retirementâ? unless they are aware of just how much work it will be. But fun too.

Magnolia Vineyards is open Saturdays and Sundays, 11:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Visit them at http://www.magnoliavineyards.com
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Share more of John’s stories about wine at his blog www.hagarty-on-wine.com

Johnâ??s Pick of the Month

Magnolia Vineyards

2012 Cabernet Franc Reserve

$22

Cabernet Franc is Virginiaâ??s red grape. It grows well in our climate and produces an excellent wine. Generally considered a blending grape elsewhere it has earned its right as a stand alone varietal in the Old Dominion (for a wine to be labeled by its grape name it must contain at least 75 percent of the specified fruit).

Aged for nine months in French and American oak, the wine is invitingly fruit forward with a dash of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot blended in. The result produces a soft aroma of allspice followed by berry and raspberry notes on the palate with a spicy pepper finish. The bottling would be a perfect mate for a hearty roasted chicken and vegetable dinner enjoyed on a cold winterâ??s night.