New Year’s Eve in Ox-Eye’s Tasting room! Kind of. We’ll close at 4pm as we’re boring people and like our beauty sleep. This bugged some of our staff, who are much more fun-loving than we are.
Maybe next year.
It’s cold in here, as it has been since November. Brrrr! I told my husband that the heating system is insufficient and that the staff and customers are uncomfortable. He suggested jumping jacks and deep knee bends to keep the blood circulating. I emailed him a link to some cute infrared space heaters. He emailed me back a picture of a fine-looking coat.
REVIVING THE YELLOW BUILDING
The tasting room is in an old building in adorable downtown Staunton. If you live in Staunton, you will be impressed that the building is an original T.J. Collins design, built in 1904 as a scale house. In the old days, the train would pull up from West Virginia and dump coal next door. Wagons would then load up with coal and pull into the scale house to be weighed. We still have the original Fairbanks scale on display in the tasting room. If you don’t live in Staunton, chances are the name T.J. Collins will mean nothing to you.
We renovated the downstairs last winter. It had been vacant for years and needed tons of TLC. The acoustic tile drop ceiling was removed, along with the rotting floors. Thank you Lovegrove Construction for a stupendous job! The new hickory floors are gorgeous (“I love your floors” is usually the first thing a customer says) and the new crown molding on the high ceilings really pulls the room together (“Is the molding original?” is often the second comment.)
Paul Borzelleca of Modern Boy Woodshop custom built a stunning bar out of wood from a cherry tree we had to cut down when building a deer fence. Thank you Paul!
While I’m giving thanks — Buddy Deaton, great job on the interior paint job!
Our family has been growing wine-grapes in Virginia’s beautiful Shenandoah Valley since the late nineties. We were the first winegrowers in Augusta County, causing many cattle farmers to raise their eyebrows. Some laughed at us,, but others were interested in a possible new crop for the area. We sold our first ten vintages to Charlottesville area wineries, establishing good relationships with winemakers like Brad McCarthy and Andy Reagan. Once we reached twenty acres in vines, we knew it was time to build our own winery. So, in the summer of 2010, we did.
I’ll let my husband, John, tell about the back-breaking work of planting, pruning, harvesting and arguing. My input is about the tasting room.
About nine months after we built our winery, we opened our tasting room on April Fools Day. We had no sign, and there were painters all over the exterior (Thank you, Mike Shinpock and your Busy Bodies team for a fine job!) We didn’t advertise our opening. In fact we were scared! Did we know what we were doing? Could we work the register? Process credit cards? Convince someone to buy?
We were all there, John and I, our daughters, waiting for the first customer to walk through the door. I wasn’t certain I really wanted a customer at all that day.
Our First Customer (and John), 4/1/2011
But five minutes after taping the “Open” sign to our window, we had our first customer! She didn’t know what she had walked into, and was not normally a wine drinker, but gamely did a tasting and…drumroll…BOUGHT A BOTTLE OF WHITE OX! We were in business.
Word got out that the weird little building around the corner was open. People came that first day and throughout the weekend, mostly out of curiosity or to welcome our business to the area. The atmosphere was festive and the sales were good.
I’m no longer afraid of my cash register. The sales are still great, despite the slow Thursdays. People still love the hickory floor. And, to me, the atmosphere is always festive.
Now, if only I could talk my husband into a better heater.