Business Briefs: November 2019

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Whistle Stop proprietor Connie Snead, center, with employees Tammy Pugh and Tiffany Moubrey. Photo: Theresa Curry.

Whistle Stop Grill Turns Two

When Connie Snead opened the Whistle Stop Grill two years ago, she had a pretty good idea of what she wanted. Still, she said, “This is the kind of thing you learn as you go. There’s a lot of trial and error.” If there have been errors, they haven’t kept the hungry public away: the Crozet Avenue eatery has been popular and well-patronized from the beginning. “I’ve always had great employees,” she said. Some of them—high-school students who have moved on—come back during summers and breaks. She welcomes children. and you might find cartoons on the television if there are a few in attendance. 

One new thing she’s learned is that in the restaurant business you need a thick skin: “You just can’t take everything to heart.”

Snead wanted to give people a chance to revisit Crozet the way it used to be, and she said newcomers as well as old-timers are fascinated by the nostalgic photos on the walls of the Whistle Stop, and all are invited to partake of her regular menu and daily specials, which rarely exceed $10. “I don’t care whether you’ve just come from a meeting and are in a suit, or if you’ve just come from digging a ditch, you’re welcome here,” she said.

The exterior is under cover and interior under construction at Pro Re Nata’s new tasting room. Photo: Submitted.

Pro Re Nata Adds New Tasting Room

The giant structure quickly rising in the midst of Pro Re Nata’s property will be much like the popular brewery’s existing tap room, said PRN’s Kelly Bauer. She said the new building will have areas of lounge sitting, as well as table and chair seating for about 125 people, and add a new stage area for music and entertainment. 

The exterior is under cover and interior under construction at Pro Re Nata’s new tasting room. Photo: Submitted.

An enthusiastic public has responded well to the addition of wine and cider to the menu, which includes the brewery’s own cider, named “Apple A Day” to fit in with the inspired “prescription” theme. PRN also carries Blue Toad’s “Harvest Fest” cider and, in the wine department, New Zealand Savignon Blanc, a French Chardonnay, and an Italian Cabernet Savignon.

Artists Open Studios

For the 25th annual artisans studio tour, 46 professional artisans share their creative processes and open their studios from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, November 9 and 10. Four of the sites are in the Crozet area, and all are open free of charge.

At the Barn Swallow Gallery at 796 Gillum’s Ridge Road, potters Janice Arone and Mary Ann Burk present new works in clay. Both create objects known for their sculptural form as well as their function.

The Barn Swallow – Janice Arone

Artist Sarah Tremaine creates naturally dyed, botanical-printed, and felted wearable art in the form of dresses, tunics and accessories. Her work will be displayed at her Sunset Farm Studio at 5026 Jones Mill Road.

Veteran potter Roslyn Nuesch can be found at her Two Owls Pottery at 5135 Halcyon Drive, and offers demonstrations at her wheel as well as a large inventory of pots.

One-of-a-kind greenwood-turned bowls that serve as artistic vessels and functional tableware can be found at the studio of Frederick Williamson at 5623 Sugar Ridge Road. At the Williamson studio you’ll also find affordable silver, gold, and natural gemstone jewelry hand-made by Greg Sandage.

Crozet Artisan Depot-Victoria Horner

The work of fine local artisans is always on display at the Crozet Artisans Depot. The November guest artist there is Victoria Horner, with locally made structured handbags in contemporary fabrics. She’ll be available from 2 to 4 p.m.

The Hamner Theater now operates out of Crozet Arts at 1408 Crozet Ave in Crozet, and invites anyone interested in improvisational theater to join a workshop at 3 and a performance at 4, or both. Find the theater on Facebook: www.facebook.com/HamnerTheater.

A complete schedule and map for Crozet “Second Saturdays” can be found at www.downtowncrozetinitiative.com/crozet-second-saturdays.

Local Harvest

“If we’d designed the season ourselves, we couldn’t have done better,” said George Hodson. He’s the CEO of Veritas Vineyards as well as the president of the board of the Monticello wine trail, the designation given our nearby vineyards. Speaking for the vineyards in this particular viticultural district, he said weather moved up the grape harvest in many cases. Usually, local wine growers are still harvesting in late October. Not so this year, when high temperatures and weeks of dry weather accelerated the grape harvest a few weeks. It’s quite a change from last year, when wine growers did the best they could to get the grapes in between the constant rains that left the fruit and pickers soggy and diluted the flavor of the grapes. This season, Hodson said, the rain that fell in the spring and again right after the harvest helps with  the overall vigor of the vines. He’s especially optimistic about the quality of the Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot, whose vines delivered nearly perfect juice, concentrated and flawless. What’s next in this perfect year? Well, ideally, we’d have a series of very cold days this winter, he said, to kill bugs and parasites completely and to make sure the vines stay dormant, which makes them bloom later in the spring, thus avoiding the frosts that settle along the ridges and bottoms. 

Up at Chiles Peach Orchard, the long string of hot days caused the apples to ripen a week or so earlier, said manager Lisa Henson, but the season is in full swing, with the apples showing no bad effects. “We were glad to see the rain, though,” Henson said. At Vintage Virginia Apples in North Garden, apples were showing no signs of stress, and the trees benefitted from the recent ample rain. In Virginia, apple growing is a $70 billion industry, employing 330,000 workers.

Talking about the hops harvest, Stan Driver said he lost two hops fields to mildew, and has replanted the hops stand at Blue Mountain Brewery. “Hops are just difficult to grow in Virginia,” Driver said.

Mo Mo’s Bloody Mary Mix: “Just Right.”

Before she sold the first bottle of her Mo Mo’s Bloody Mary Mix, Mariah Doyle had a following. She was the long-time brunch bartender at Fardowner’s restaurant, serving the popular spicy concoction to a loyal crowd. She also had plenty of time to do research. For the six years or so that she administered to a roomful of thirsty patrons, she fielded a great many suggestions. “People were always saying I should put in a little of this, or a little more of that,” she said. Finally, she said, she got it just right. 

Mariah Doyle makes a delivery of Mo-Mo’s to the Batesville Market.

When she left Fardowner’s, she continued to mix big batches of tomato juice, herbs and spices for friends who missed her magic touch at the bar. They encouraged her to get into the business for profit, and her small business was born. She named at after the nickname she’d picked up during her bar-tending days. Outgrowing her home kitchen, she got formal approval to bottle her mix for retail and found outlets in and around Crozet and Charlottesville. 

The secret behind her lively, fresh-tasting sauce? Well, she can’t give it all away, she said, but she does painstakingly grate fresh horseradish root and uses fresh poblanos. This winter, she plans to find more outlets and gear up for increasing production. Meanwhile, you can find Mo Mo’s at Crozet Market and the Batesville Market.  

Virginia Wines Sparkle in Former Textile Mill

More than $700,000 will go towards supporting sparkling wine production in Nelson County, starting with $590,000 invested by Virginia Sparkling Company, and matched with $40,000 each from Virginia and Nelson County. 

Virginia Sparkling Company is an affiliate of Veritas Vineyard and Winery, and it will join another  Veritas affiliate, Flying Fox Wines, in the former carpet factory on Route 151 in Afton. 

The state’s support of the new business comes from its Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development (AFID) department, and is the first such grant for Nelson County in the current administration. 

Although wonderful news for the growing Veritas operation, it’s also good news for the state’s other wineries and grape growers, as they’ll be able to have their own grapes (generally, Chardonnay or a mix of dry whites) transformed into sparklers and bottled under their own name. We don’t call it “champagne” in Virginia because that designation belongs to France’s champagne region, but most Virginia wineries use the same process, the “methode Champenoise,” which is far from easy. Most wineries in the state don’t have a process in house to do it. It involves trapping CO2 in the bottle from a second fermentation, aging the wine while carefully trapping the sediment from the yeast infusion in the neck of the bottle, then freezing the sediment so it can be popped out in one lump. The wine is treated with a special mix of sweetener and wine to offset the acidity, and the permanent cork wired on. 

Under the terms of the grant, Virginia Sparkling Company will use only Virginia grapes, and is committed to buying more than 168 tons in three years. 

Biz Bits

Progress is slow for new businesses to the east of Crozet and, although there are signs of life at the former Otto’s and Mountainside restaurants, the new tenants—a Mexican cantina and a home-style bar and grill—have not opened as expected. Across the street, Burritoh’s has closed, and, closer in, nothing seems to be happening at the long-vacant Mechum’s Trestle, and in Ivy,  Toddsbury of Ivy has closed (see separate story). 

Meanwhile, construction is moving right along in the expanded ACAC in Old Trail, which closed the athletic club for a few weeks. Also in Old Trail, Restoration has extended its Octoberfest offering of craft beer due to popular demand.  

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