Fauquier Wineries Reflect on New Restrictive County Ordiance
On Thursday 7/12, the Fauquier Co. Board of Supervisors, in a 4-1 decision, voted to adopt a new ordinance which would restrict the number of people a winery could invite to a food event to 25, and even then, put a limit of 2 such events per month per winery into effect.
Amongst the Fauquier wineries, opposition to the new ordinance was strong, although two wineries–Linden and RdV, which oppose on-site festivals and large events, supported the new ordinance.
Rutger de Vink, proprietor of the new RdV vineyards in Delaplane, says he supports the new ordinance because wineries should stay true to their agricultural roots as “farm” wineries instead of event centers. “As long as [vintner] are farmers, I’m OK with wineries doing events, but there should be a balance,” he says.
Nearby at Delaplane Cellars, Betsy and Jim Dolphin reflect on the impact of the new ordinance for their business. Jim explains that they are a small winery making a mere 3,200 cases last year that is not event-centered, and considers himself able to see the merits of both sides of the debate, but feels the ordinance will still impact their business financially.
“We’ve tried very hard to make 100% Virginia grape wines. We rely on small, non-intrusive events to promote our wines,” explains Betsy. Delaplane hosts monthly wine appreciation classes combined with a food pairing. “If we do that just twice a month, we can’t also do another event like a new release party with food or ‘ll be in violation of the ordinance.” She adds that the 25 person per food serving event twice a month limit has been raised to 35. “We know that when regulations go into effect, it’s only a matter of time before they take away more farming rights.” She mentions a Fauquier farmer who raised tomatoes and honey, found themselves in violation of a different county ordinance and was fined $5,000 for the violation, and is now being defended by the Foundation for Land and Liberty.
Jim explains that land conservation is a passionate cause in Fauquier County, which has more land in conservation easements than nine states in the country! Although the wineries offered the recently-adopted Albemarle County winery ordinance which was less restrictive, a subcommittee of the Fauquier County Board of Supervisors rejected it. Jim says the Fauquier Co. attorney has told the Board that this ordinance may not be legal, which was also the warning of Virginia Secretary of Agriculture Todd Haymore.
It is also a matter of speculation the degree to which the Board’s ordinance represents an actual farming community in Fauquier County in contrast to a powerful moneyed group who don’t actually farm themselves.
The ordinance is likely to be challenged in court and the political fallout has only just begun.