Dida’s Distillery opens a new frontier in Virginia craft distilling with 100% grape-based spirits.
Rappahannock Cellars, a renowned and award-winning Virginia Winery located in Rappahannock County, recently announced the opening of Dida’s Distillery at their Huntly, VA winery & tasting room. With a combined 30 years of grape growing and wine making experience between California and Virginia, Rappahannock Cellars is the first Virginia winery to capitalize on Virginia’s booming craft distilling industry by specializing solely in spirits made 100% from premium grape wines produced on site.
With regard to the expansion into the spirits industry with a sole focus on distilling from grape, Rappahannock Cellars founder John Delmare says, “Grapes have some major advantages over grains; they have a lot more flavor and aroma. More flavor and aroma going into the still provides more flavor and aroma in the final spirit. And not only as brandy: grapes also make for incredibly smooth and flavorful Vodkas and Gins, with character you can’t get from grains. Making exceptional wines isn’t easy, or cheap; distilling them is much more difficult and complex. But with three decades of winemaking experience, we’re crafting world class wines and distilling them into exceptional spirits.”
To launch Dida’s Distillery (pronounced “did-uh’s”), Rappahannock Cellars spent nearly three years planning and navigating the unique challenges of distilling from grape, from permitting, to the unique logistics of wine making, to the timing of it all around one annual harvest where the fresh wine needs to be immediately turned into spirits.
The name Dida means “grandfather” in Croatian, and is tribute to Paul Mariani, the Delmare family’s grandfather, who established the family legacy of fruit farming.
Dida’s is open for walk-in tastings from 11:30 am – 5:00 pm Friday through Sunday. Its initial lineup includes Pressed Vodka, Immature Brandy, and coming soon, a barrel-finished Pressed Gin. Its first barrel-aged signature Brandy will be ready in two years.
Rappahannock Cellars is a family-owned and operated vineyard and winery located in Huntly, VA. After selling their California winery and moving to Virginia in 1996, the Delmare family founded Rappahannock Cellars, and has been producing internationally acclaimed wines since 2000. Rappahannock Cellars & Dida’s Distillery is a member of the Rappahannock County Artisan Trail, Blue Ridge Whisky Wine Loop, and the American Distilling Institute.
The Rappahannock County Artisan Trail was featured in the September 7, 2017 issue of the Rappahannock News. The following article was written by Sally Latham Haynes, Special to the Rappahannock News.
“It’s all about collaboration,” says Patti Brennan, a stained glass artist, when asked about the evolution of the Rappahannock County Artisan Trail. When the Artisans Center of Virginia, a nonprofit that mentors Trails throughout the state, reached out to Rappahannock, Brennan stepped forward. Despite being busy with work, kitchen renovation, family, gardens and travel, she could envision the benefits of a program that brings together artists, businesses and the community to promote business and tourism. Brennan raised the $15,000 necessary to kick off the Trail, and has worked persistently to recruit members and develop public awareness of activities and events. Three and a half years later she is beginning to see the payoff.
Rappahannock County’s Trail is one of 18 around the state, formed under the Artisans Center of Virginia (ACV). The Trails are organized to promote tourism in the different regions of Virginia and invite the public to come explore and enjoy the byways and back roads, artisan studios and galleries, gardens and farms, wineries and breweries, restaurants and eclectic shops, and historical and cultural points of interest.
Today, the Rappahannock County Artisan Trail has 65 plus members and Brennan leads a management team of twelve volunteers. This team came up with Second Saturday — a day each month for Artisan Trail members to sponsor special events that appeal to tourists and locals alike. “Rappahannock County has had great success attracting visitors with annual events like the Farm Tour, Art Tour, Film Festival and House Tour,” Brennan explains. “With Second Saturday we have created twelve more special opportunities to generate tourism, which is vital to the County’s economy.”
When Second Saturday was launched in February, Audrey Regnery helped kick it off. She manages the magnificent and historic Greenfield Inn Bed and Breakfast, which she owns with her husband Alfred. Built between 1767 and 1769, the Inn is a testament to gracious living. Says Regnery, “Nothing I do is just about me. At Greenfield, we try to add to what’s here in the county and share with the community as much as we can.” Second Saturday fits perfectly with her philosophy.
For June, Audrey invited Beverly Shepherd, an animal portrait artist, to showcase her Paw Print Portraits at the Inn. Regnery supplemented the Artisan Trail’s Second Saturday publicity with her own evites to friends and acquaintances. To her satisfaction, about 25 people showed up at Greenfield throughout the day to see Shepherd’s work and, incidentally, to take in the Inn’s sylvan charm. Three people ultimately commissioned portraits of their pets. Concludes Regnery, “Joining forces with others for events as well as publicity multiplies our appeal. It just makes sense.”
Gina Irwin seemingly has the energy of a three-year old and chitchats about her shop as she opens Ridge Line Designs for the day. Her pleasure in her work and her shop is evident. Ridge Line offers Irwin’s original jewelry designs as well as vintage and estate jewelry chosen for its uniqueness. Gems and stones are her specialty, while her partner Sweatt works with minerals and fossils and carves items from wood and bone. His many one-of-a-kind pieces are showcased strategically around the shop, including a striking piece of slender smoothed driftwood with an animal head artfully carved on one end.
Says Irwin, “We would be crazy not to be on the Trail; it’s such a great opportunity. We participated in March and again in May when we did a Mother’s Day special, and we have planned events for the next two months. We are definitely on board and will be a Second Saturday participant more often in the future.”
Magnolia Vineyards & Winery in Viewtown is one of the newest wineries in the county, but owners Glenn and Tina Marchione did not waste any time before joining the Artisan Trail and signing up for Second Saturday. In August, the band Grass Fed from Flint Hill performed their Beatles covers, 70’s hits and original tunes, and local glass artist Patty Sevre was on hand to engrave wine glasses, decanters and other glass items for customers. Noting that one couple came from Warrenton specifically to buy items from Sevre and two others commissioned pieces from her, Tina said, “It would be really great to have a painter set up an easel on site, or a jeweler bring some of their work. We’d like to team up with more Trail members!”
Sara Adams and Nancy Nord sit quietly, seemingly intent on painting, but when the doorbell signals a new visitor, one or both call out a cheery, “Hello, come on back and see what we’re doing!” Sara is working on a bowl and Nancy is painting a ceramic sign in their River District Potters studio where they greet Second Saturday visitors.
Friends Jen Brougham of Fairfax and Hilary Riffle of Grafton, W.V., browse tables and shelves brimming with the potters’ works. They intend to tour the Copper Fox Distillery next and are delighted to learn there is also a brewery just steps away.
It’s common for Trail members to refer tourists to each other’s venues. When a couple from Staunton finishes touring Middle Street Gallery’s latest exhibition in Sperryville, the staff suggests the duo drop by Blue Ridge Artisans to see local fine art and craft such as textiles, stained glass items and oil paintings.
After investing so much in the Artisan Trail and Second Saturday, Brennan is thankful to reap its rewards. “My own Second Saturday workshops have led to students returning for entire series of classes as well as signing up for open studio instruction,” she says with a smile and sparkling eyes. “I’m very pleased with the results for De’Danann Glassworks as well as the County!”
“With Second Saturday, we are off to an excellent start and we’ve had wonderful support from the Rappahannock News. When we embarked on this journey, I said we would get out of it as much as we, the community, put into it. Awareness is building. Participation is increasing. It’s happening. The Rappahannock County Artisan Trail is getting set to amaze us.”