Barrel Oak Winery fights new farm winery ordinance

Photo: Christian Haugen

With 26 wineries and counting, Fauquier County has become a place to go to escape from the D.C. metro area, but troubled has brewed.

“There are people here that are concerned because they are right next to an operation that is impacting their lives,” says Holder Trumpo, Chairman of the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors.

A hotly-contested battle in the county seemly pitted neighbor against neighbor.

“You expect a certain amount of privacy and that is probably taken away more than anything else,” says Paul Goff, a resident.

Living next to a winery can mean noise and traffic.

“We could like the winery owners to respect us,” says Goff.

The county’s answer last August was a new farm winery ordinance. One new rule stood out: wineries had to close at a set time and there would be no toasts after 6 p.m.

Can there be exceptions to the new rule? One winery hopes so, based in large part on its location.

Barrel Oak Winery, the county’s largest and recently voted most popular in Northern Virginia, sits on 220 acres. There are no winding dark roads as it is right next to I-66 and its neighbors, like Jim Sittner, are about one-fourth mile away.

“I was completely shocked that they would try to put a bill to control what they do with their business, says Sittner.

The push here, the winery says, is community. There is a tasting room and outdoor seating area where family dogs are allowed, where fire pits glow at night and acoustic music fills the air, but can’t be heard past the patio.

“While we are able to do that during the day, it’s more impactful if we can’t do that at night,” says Elisabeth Woolhouse, sales manager at Barrel Oak.

“We may lose up to $1 million in revenue,” says Jorge Massas, Barrel Oak general manager.

Many wineries, including Barrel Oak, have sued, but now the business and the Board are working to settle.

“We would like to have the operation that we have been able to conduct,” says Andy Melton, a partner with Barrel Oak. “That is a very peaceful, family-oriented atmosphere."

The Board will vote for or against allowing Barrel Oak a special exemption so it can go back to 9 p.m. closing times on Friday and Saturdays, and hosting up to 194 special events, many of which are charity fundraisers.

“They are part of the land and of the character,” says Cathy Gilbert-Silva, a neighbor.

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