The Alexandria Times    I    Friday, May 23rd, 2008

By Jennifer Heyns-

When Brian and Sharon Roeder decided to turn their 70-acre homestead in Delaplane into a vineyard and winery, they had no idea they were about to trade in their 9 to 5 jobs for a backbreaking 24/7 venture, but they still wouldn’t trade it for the world.

Before 2006, the couple had a typical metropolitan lifestyle, living in a remodeled house in Arlington and enjoying steady income and an active social life. All of that began to change when Brian noticed how frustrated Sharon was with her job.

During a 2004 vacation in Key West, Brian asked a fateful question, “If you could see yourself doing something else, what would it be?

“And that question led to all of this,” he said, gesturing out the couple’s kitchen window to the vineyard, winery and scenic mountain views beyond.

So how had Sharon answered the question?

She told Brian about her recurring dream of waking up in the morning, taking a walk with her golden retriever — steaming cup of coffee in hand — to check her grapes.

“What I was checking for I had no idea,” she admitted, “but I was checking them.”

Brian, who is like a loaded spring ready to solve the next challenge, asked if he should do something about it, but Sharon replied, “Of course not, don’t be ridiculous, I don’t know what I’m talking about.”

Fortunately, Brian persisted and the following spring he received a different response.

“Go ahead, knock yourself out,” said Sharon, knowing full well she had just released the spring.

The couple delved into researching local properties and winery operations, gathering information from wherever they could find it. Shortly after finding, falling in love with, and settling on the Delaplane estate however, the Roeders came face-to-face with devastating news: Virginia Dominion Power announced their new power line plan.

“They really gave us a bad scare,” Sharon said. “Just two months after we uprooted our lives to live our dream, they announced they were coming across our property with huge lines and towers.”

The couple put a halt to their plans while they analyzed their options. They immediately researched and regrouped, resolving to forge ahead with plans for Barrel Oak Winery (BOW) — aptly named not only for the wooden containers that store the fruits of their labor, but also for their love of dogs, as in Bow wow.

At the root of the power issue, according to Dominion, is the potential for rolling brown-outs in Northern Virginia, starting in 2011.

“It’s still an unknown variable that looms over our heads,” said Brian. “It could potentially doom the winery by taking our property or ruining our view. We are still on the preferred alternate route for Dominion.”

Realizing that their construction project would boost energy usage, providing more justification for Dominion, the Roeders committed themselves to making Barrel Oak Winery the most environmentally friendly, energy-efficient winery in the county. Building plans were amended and budgets were recalculated in order to implement several green facets of construction.

“We spent a lot of money to build green,” Brian said. “The energy-efficient efforts we employed cost four to five times more than conventional construction methods, but it will equate to our using only about 10 percent of the energy we would have otherwise.”

To begin with, the production area, which is housed under the winery’s tasting room, was built almost completely underground. This helps create a steady temperature of approximately 58 degrees, making it easier to maintain the preferred temperature for producing and storing wine.

The winery’s geothermal system, which transfers heat energy more efficiently by running a glycol fluid through a piping system in the ground and utilizing the Earth’s constant temperature to minimize energy usage, also helps maintain comfortable temperatures.

Additionally, Brian had a crew install SIPs (structural insulated panels) to prevent heat from escaping through the structure’s roof, and special windows were mounted in the walls as a way to keep the temperatures constant with as little electricity as possible.

Brian and Sharon also implemented the use of as many fabricated wood and recycled materials as possible, minimizing the amount of wood in the winery, a plus for our planet’s natural resources.

“We are also being very efficient and conscientious with our use of materials on the job site,” said Brian, “We are creating very little waste; in fact in the process of building this million dollar winery, we’ve had only seven trailers of trash to haul off to the dump.”

Now nearing the end of their construction phase, Brian and Sharon are busy preparing for the grand opening of Barrel Oak Winery, which will be a veritable festival. Although alcohol consumption is reserved for adults, Barrel Oak is the kind of winery that has excitement for people of all ages (and species).

The Roeders welcome individuals, families and dogs to come and share their exquisite mountain views, innovative new wines (like their Chocolate Lab Dessert Wine) and the activities they have planned for Memorial Day weekend, including live music, alpaca petting courtesy of their friends at Full Moon Alpacas and special giveaways.