Story and photos by Claire Stuart
Lisa Adams never expected to someday be operating a winery when she and her family bought a farm in Clarke County in 1996 as an escape from the city. There was an old farmhouse on the property in poor shape, so in 2007, they finally knocked it down and built a large new home.
Then, in 2011, her husband passed away, leaving Adams with the farm, a big house, and three teenage children. She pondered her options, wondering what to do. Someone suggested that she look into the winery business, something she’d never considered and knew nothing about, except as someone who enjoyed wine.
Adams gives praises to the agencies that helped her navigate her way into business. “I got help from the Small Business Administration in Fairfax,” she said. “I can’t say enough for what they do, and it’s free to businesses.”
Virginia Cooperative Extension referred her to the Virginia Wineries Association, who introduced her to winemaker Randy Phillips, owner of Cave Ridge Vineyard in Mt. Jackson.
Phillips has been making small quantities of high quality wine for over 20 years, and he happened to be looking for a winery to make wine for. With some remodeling, the large basement of Adams’ home was transformed into a spacious tasting room looking onto a patio with a fabulous view of the Blue Ridge. The 612 Vineyard came into being in March 2014. Phillips serves as winemaker and Adams does marketing, budgeting, and events.
Adams continues to work hard to learn about the business from Phillips. She goes to Cave Ridge Vineyard periodically to do everything from picking grapes to barreling. She enjoys learning about grape varieties and their relationship to the weather that gives a specific character to each year’s wine.
“It’s fun to have new things,” she says. “Wines depend on how the weather changes from year to year.”
Adams says that in her first year she primarily concentrated on learning about the business. This year, she has stressed marketing, meeting local businesspeople, and finding ways they can work together. She has focused on establishing her winery’s “personality,” as a place for community activities and classes. In February, they held a chocolate tasting; in April, a kickoff event for the Relay for Life and a pet adoption event.
Last year, Adams offered painting classes. This year, a wine tasting class (including a book) is in the works, as well as a flower arranging class with an arrangement to take home. Class offerings may change, depending on the response. The new herb garden will allow guests to pick fresh herbs. Blackberries and red and black raspberries will be growing for guests to pick and to be added to enhance wines.
The grounds and tasting room are available for events such as fund-raisers, business meetings, and dinners, weddings and birthdays. The tasting room can accommodate about 60 people; another 50 or 60 can be accommodated outside and on the porch—and still more in the picnic area and field. Outdoor weddings can be tented, and Adams hopes they might have a permanent shelter next year.
Live music is featured on weekends, with a wide variety of regional artists. Offerings vary anywhere from standards to rock, flamenco, jazz or blues. A picnic area is available to customers, and outside food may be brought in.
Adams knows how people love their dogs, so well-behaved dogs are welcome at all times, subject to some breed and size limitations dictated by insurance (see the website for dog policy). Four Paws Sundays are extra special dog days held the fourth Sunday of every month, April through October. Guests are invited to bring their dogs for an entertaining day featuring free dog treats and fun events for dogs and their owners. Dogs must be on a leash and are not allowed in the tasting room. On Four Paws Sundays, a wine tasting area is set up outside.
Adams strives to keep the operation as “green” as possible. All used wine bottles are recycled, as are plastic bottles, cans and cardboard boxes. They will continue to look for ways to reuse and recycle even more and will look at possibilities for solar energy options in the future.
Adams’ whole family is involved in the business. Son Tyler, 16, is a musician; he plays guitar and sings. Daughter Tifani, 15, works behind the counter (but cannot pour wine). Son Cody, 14, helps make wine snacks and does cleanup.
Some of 612 Vineyard’s wines include Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, Traminette, Chardonnay and Riesling. At present, they are only available on site, but Adams hopes that by fall they can be sold in local outlets.
612 Vineyard is located at 864 Shepherds Mill Road (Route 612) just east of Berryville. Hours are Friday through Sunday, noon to 6pm. For information on events and activities, see www.612vineyard.com.