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In Loudoun’s labor of love, balancing the costs with the romance

Theresa Robertson owns Two Twisted Posts Winery in the Purcellville-Neersville area with her husband, Brad. Facebook/Two Twisted Posts

For Theresa Robertson, it was an easy question.

“Seven years in, have you made any money from the winery?” I ask.

“Oh, no,” responds Robertson, the co-owner of Two Twisted Posts in Purcellville. “Absolutely not.”

It's a familiar tale for anyone with experience in the Virginia wine industry. You don’t get into it for the money. It’s by no means glamorous.

It’s a lifestyle choice -- a labor of love.

“Eight or 10 years before you get into the black” and “around $20,000 an acre to plant vines” are sobering realities of a winery romance. Still, the intrigue of owning your own vineyard or crafting a bottle with your name on often prevails.

“A lot of people around here have Champagne tastes and beer pocket books,” said Mark Malick, a vineyard realtor and the co-operator of Maggie Malick’s Wine Caves just down the road from Two Twisted Posts.

If people around here have Champagne tastes, you could consider Malick’s current real estate project, Loudoun Valley Vineyards, the Fontaine-sur-Ay -- given it falls in the dead center of D.C.’s Wine Country.

Loudoun Valley has been on the market for about a year, according to Malick. The site is prime real estate in the heart of one of the hottest wine regions in the country, just off Route 9 in northern Loudoun.

But it’s not without its drawbacks. No functioning vines remain on the property, meaning the new owner -- should he or she want to engage in this alluring yet arduous profession -- will have to shell out tens of thousands of dollars to get the estate wine operation off the ground.

The building, currently used as a tasting room and constructed in the early 1980s, is due for some renovations as well.

Loudoun Valley lists for $750,000 without any of the accompanying winemaking equipment. While not necessarily cheap, the price tag isn’t as steep as one may expect considering it spans more than 20 acres in serene Virginia countryside.

But $750,000 is just for the land and the cozy tasting room. If you want to purchase the accompanying farm and vineyard equipment, that’s likely to push the price tag closer to $1 million.

“I have tractors that cost more than my Mercedes,” Malick tells me.

The Loudoun Valley Vineyards property listing for $750,000 covers 20 acres and the tasting room just off Route 9 in Loudoun wine country. Landwatch.com


Promoting on the hush-hush

Selling a winery isn’t a typical experience in terms of property listings, Malick says. It’s delicate. You have to get word out, of course -- but you also have to keep it on the relative down-low. Spreading the potential sale too deep into the general public can wreck the ongoing business, leaving owners and employees in a thorny spot. Wine club members are likely to flee knowing a new direction is on the horizon.

“It’s tough,” Malick said. “A lot of times owners don’t want to put a sign up, but you have to get the listing out there.”

Malick offered up a central insight into wine real estate: Just because a winery isn’t openly on the market doesn’t mean it’s not for sale.

“I know a lot of people who will say, ‘For the right price, I’d sell,’” Malick said. “Everything has a price.”

He gives a for instance, saying there’s currently a Loudoun vineyard considering sale for around $2.3 million, but that’s only known in inner wine circles.

A generations-long investment

One person who’s definitely not selling her relaxing vinous estate is Robertson at Two Twisted Posts. While her and husband Brad, the vineyard manager, have yet to turn a profit, they have not one regret.

“It sounds like a cliche, but you only have one life, and you might as well jump on it and follow your dream,” Robertson tells me on an opulent Sunday afternoon.

Theresa Robertson still works full-time -- she “loves, loves, loves” her accounting job -- and Brad, also an accountant, recently started working part-time. They invest more than a small chunk of their earnings back into Two Twisted Posts.

Open Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, the winery functions secondarily as family time, with the Robertson kids and even a grandkid lending a hand in the tasting room.

“How do you know my grandma?” Robertson’s granddaughter says quickly upon my arrival.

The Two Twisted Posts star, however, is Sage, a 3-year-old Indonesian umbrella cockatoo who keeps a loving eye patrons sipping award-winning chardonnay and petit verdot. No one gets too rowdy on Sage’s watch.

Flashing immaculate white feathers and endearing blue eyes, Sage is expected to be around for awhile – Indonesian cockatoos regularly live to celebrate their 100th birthday.

Just imagine how prestigious the local vines will be by then.


***

I meet my new best friend, Sage, a 3-year-old Indonesian umbrealla cockatoo at Two Twisted Posts winery.



Featuring news on the Loudoun County wine industry, the Times-Mirror's award-winning “Wine Wednesday” appears the first Wednesday of each month. Contact the writer at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

Check out recent Wine Wednesdays:

-"Family and patriotism at Casanel Vineyards in Leesburg" -- June 3, 2015
-"No, not that Catoctin Creek" -- May 6, 2015
-"We're talking grapes by the tons" -- April 1, 2015
-"Meritage is the new black" -- March 4, 2015
-"Let's get weird: Five funky wines in Loudoun" -- Feb. 5, 2015

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