To be in downtown Staunton, or not to be in downtown Staunton? The answer is, for us, to be in downtown Staunton.
We realize that this goes against the Virginia grain, which boasts of approximately 200 tasting rooms located in bucolic settings, surrounded by the vines that grow the wines. Oh yes! I love visiting them, too. Can anything be more pleasant than sipping a glass of Virginia wine while sitting on a pretty patio overlooking acres of verdant vineyards. So, when we opened Ox-Eye Vineyards Tasting Room in downtown Staunton (rhymes with Danton), seven miles from our farm winery, perhaps we should have expected a few raised eyebrows. I think John did, but I was unprepared. It is not uncommon for a customer to say, “I thought I was lost. I was looking for the vines,” or “Do you have tours of your vineyard? Can we buy the wine there?”
There are several reasons behind our decision to locate the salesroom in town. First, while our farm is only about a half hour from the next closest tasting room, Barren Ridge, it feels like we’re in the wilderness. A visitor has to navigate quite a few country turns to find Ox-Eye Farm. GPS usually directs people the wrong way. The drive is beautiful, no question about it, but even "Stauntonites" get confused about just where we are.
Which brings up reason two: we wanted to make our wines accessible to the locals.
While we love meeting people who visit from all over the country, there is something very special about the regular customer who walks to the tasting room on his lunch break just for that glass of Gewurztraminer, or who quickly dashes in after work for that bottle of Cabernet Franc to go with his steak. How likely would it be for her/him be to drive out to the southern edge of Swoope (rhymes with hope) for that glass or bottle? Not very, I think, especially in this day of high gas prices.
Reason three: Staunton! If you haven’t been to Staunton, I highly recommend a visit. The charming Victorian architecture was saved from the sixties’ urban renewal plans by a band of alarmed citizens, for which we are eternally grateful. Today it’s not only architecture that draws the tourist, but theatre (Black Friars Playhouse is a must for Shakespeare buffs!), food (many excellent restaurants) and music (rock, folk, jazz…it’s all here!) and of course wine! Many of the Victorian homes have become B&B’s. Staunton has a very healthy tourist population.
But our main reason for our in town shop is that we fell in love with a little building. Situated on the west end of Staunton’s historic Wharf district, this little gem of a building with it’s funny little angles and arches and its need for some major TLC caught our eyes and our hearts. Apparently, we weren’t the only ones enamored by “the little yellow building.” I’ll never grow tired of hearing a customer say, “I’ve always loved this building! Thank you for rescuing it.” I hear that with a pang of guilt, as we’d owned the building for several years before we were able to start work on it in earnest. I’ll write more about the building in a later blog.
So Downtown Staunton it is! Come sit on our patio and hear the train chug past or the church bells peal. It’ll charm you.