Julie & Ethan Brown – Opening Virginia’s First Winery/Brewery Joyce Wilburn March 8, 2014 Features Julie Brown calls it “calculated serendipity.” Ethan Brown refers to it as “destiny.” Overlooking that minor difference, the couple agrees that the reason they will be opening Virginia’s first co-existing winery/brewery on Danville’s Trade Street in April is because, “The universe was talking to us and we just had to listen.” It all started in 1978, when Julie’s mom, Caren Jefferson, made Halloween witch costumes for Julie and her sister, Andrea (Andee) Geiger, and a picture was taken of the two youngsters. When dad, Marvin Jefferson, saw the image, he immediately said, “If I ever start a vineyard, I’m going to name it 2 Witches.” Julie continues the story: “Dad always dreamed of owning a vineyard so after he retired from B & MW in Amherst, he bought 29 acres in Pittsylvania County with that in mind.” In 2009, Marvin put his Master Gardener skills to the test when he planted an acre of Traminette grapes and another of Cabernet Sauvignon. The first year of maturity was 2011. Ethan elaborates, “We immediately realized that the relationship between the vineyard and the winery was very intimate. Once the crop is harvested it must be processed quickly because the grapes start to rot. That’s when we got the idea of starting a winery to process our own grapes.” Small tanks were purchased and a few gallons of wine were successfully produced. It was originally assumed that the winery with a tasting room would be located near the vineyard in Callands, but then Julie stumbled across some articles about urban wineries—operations within the city limits that produce small amounts of wine. She realized that customers would visit 2 Witches Winery near Riverside Drive more often than if it were 20 miles away on a country road. “At the same time, we saw craft breweries popping up all over the country,” Ethan adds. Knowing that wine-making is a long, slow process and producing beer is quicker, the next question seemed obvious, “What if we make beer as well?” In 2012, the ABC Board started allowing breweries to sell beer without food sales, so all the pieces for a nano brewery (under 300 barrels a year) and a farm winery within the city limits came together for the developing family business. “We thought about locating in the River District, but we are a farm winery and must have land for a few trees and vines to grow,” Julie says pointing to the apple trees and grapevines thriving in the area beside the building near the Dan River. The fruit that is grown in town will be added to what is produced in Callands. When the business opens, it will be the culmination of five years of hard work in the vineyard cultivating grapes, at the winery/brewery making the beverages, and behind the desk doing the necessary paper work. Commenting on the years of work preceding opening date, Julie says, “We are manufacturing a substance controlled by Federal and state regulations so we had to make sure everything was legally correct.” The beer can be consumed in April; the apple and strawberry wines will be ready this summer, but the red wine will take longer to mature. Ethan quips with a smile on his face, “You want your beer fresh and your wine old.” The married couple with two sons sees this venture as an opportunity to help Danville and part of their retirement plan in the distant future. In the meantime, Julie will continue as the Director of Advanced Learning at the Institute for Advanced Learning & Research; Ethan will stay at Sartomer as their technical manager. That is, of course, unless the universe has another idea. • 2 Witches Winery & Brewing Company is located at 209 Trade Street in the former Gingerbread House Garden Center. • The projected opening is April 2014. • For more information, call 434.549.BREW (2739) or visit www.2witcheswinebrew.com (under construction).