The Tasting Room: Old House Vineyards welcomes experienced vintner
© Culpeper Times
This summer, Andy Reagan joined Old House Vineyards as its full-time winemaker. And if past is prologue, look for the 14-year-old winery to further advance its reputation for quality wines.
Reagan’s 20 years of wine making includes stints at both Old Dominion and out-of-state wineries. In the process, he has amassed a closet full of medals; more than 300 alone during his seven years with Jefferson Vineyards in Charlottesville.
“Finding wine talent today is hard,” said Pat Kearney, owner of Old House. “When we heard Andy was available, he was what we were looking for.”
Kearney explains he had been using winemaker interns from France for years, assisted by a consultant, and was pleased with where they had taken his wines.
“I had a connection with the French. My consultant was invaluable to our success. But with the opportunity to bring a dedicated, full-time winemaker on board, I made the decision to hire Andy.”
Reagan began his career working for his sister in an upstate New York winery as a teenager and subsequently made wine at several wineries, including one producing 30,000 cases a year. A typical Virginia winery produces 2,000 to 5,000 cases annually.
But Kearney’s goal is not about churning out mass-produced wines. His wants to slowly grow his small production of high-end bottlings.
“Often guests say they have enjoyed every wine in our tasting line up, not just one or two. I want to further that reputation,” says Kearney.
In the beginning
Reagan recalls his first year in the business was 1992 as a 17-year-old high school student working during his summer break.
“I had a blast and wanted to keep doing it,” said Reagan.
One invaluable job experience unfolded while working at a large out-of-state winery.
“They were making so many wines I had to fully learn the chemistry side of wine making. I super honed my lab skills while working there,” he said.
Most wine lovers are not aware that producing wine is working with a living product. Unwanted organisms can create havoc during the process. Knowing how to quickly identify problems and make necessary corrections is integral to being a successful vintner.
Over time, the Norfolk native sought employment farther afield than Virginia to grow his experience. “But every time I tried to move out of Virginia I started to quickly miss the state and the people who work here. There is a certain type of special person who lives in Virginia,” says Reagan
Asked if there is a secret to making award winning wines, Reagan said, “Paying attention to detail makes clean, balanced wines. But producing good fruit in the vineyard and using quality equipment is important.
“When I was interviewing for this job I was impressed with the quality and amount of French oak barrels Pat had. Oak aging plays an important role in quality wine and costly barrels are critical to its success.”
So will more gold medals be raining down on Old House Vineyards in the future? “We’ll see,” says Reagan, “That’s up to the consumer. I hope so.”
Pat Kearney and his wife Allyson make up the Kearney perpetual motion machine. Proof is in their next venture to be launched early next year. A distillery is sited next to the winery and will produce brandy, grappa, vodka, gin and whiskey among other libations.
“We are just an adult Disneyland out here,” said Allyson laughing.
John’s Pick of the month
Old House Vineyards
The Bacchanalia were Roman festivals celebrating Bacchus, the Roman god of wine. And as one pours a glass of Old House Bacchanalia and takes in its dark ruby color and rich aromas, celebration is an appropriate thought. The wine is an eclectic blend of Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Tannat and is a perfect match for any beef entrée on a crisp fall evening.