Couple turns hobby into new Washington winery

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Six years ago, John and Angela Burgess of Washington, Pa., thought it might be a good idea to capitalize on their love of wine by making some of their own. So they stopped in at the A&M Wine and Beer Supplies in their town and bought several wine kits.

"We were looking for a hobby and had wanted to make wine for some time, so we jumped right in," Mrs. Burgess said. "John has a background in chemical engineering and took an immediate interest in our new hobby."

A director for a gas processing plant owned by Dominion Transmission in New Martinsville, W.Va., Mr. Burgess, 41, "read and read and read up" on how to make wine. He and his wife also continued to hone their winemaking skills using kits and grapes from California.

Their involvement in what was originally a hobby got more serious when they purchased the A&M store in July 2012. From the first day they opened the doors to their new business, they knew they eventually would open a winery as well.

"People who came to our house and tried our wines told us they liked them," said Mrs. Burgess, also 41, who manages the wine supply store and new winery while her husband works his day job. "When we considered buying A&M, we thought a winery would be a good fit to the overall business."

The couple’s vision became a reality Feb. 6, when The Washington Winery opened for business on A&M’s 10th anniversary. Since then, the Burgesses have been offering tastings of 12 red and white, dry, off-dry and sweet wines made from California grapes from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturdays. The cost of the tastings is $3 for four wines, but the fee is waived with any $10 purchase.

Their current inventory of nearly 2,000 bottles ranges in price from $9 to $14 for a 750 ml bottle. The winery will be releasing its barrel-aged Petite Syrah in conjunction with its grand opening, scheduled from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday with food, free tastings and giveaways.

Six months down the road, the winery plans to release three 60-gallon barrels of zinfandel and cabernet sauvignon now aging in French and American oak with a customized burn (char) favored by the winemakers.

"Right now our biggest seller is our moscato, a sweet white wine," Mr. Burgess said. "Our Washington Red, a blend of zinfandel and cabernet, and our Washington White, a blend of chardonnay and riesling, are also very popular."

Other names for their wines — Rebellious Raspberry, a reference to the Whiskey Rebellion; Bushel of Peaches; and Liquid Caramel — fit in with the winemakers' whimsical motto, "Moderation is Overrated."

From now through October, the winery is offering winemaking classes for groups of up to 10 people. The two-hour classes cost $10 to $25 and focus on basic winemaking procedures and terminology. 

The Burgesses are looking around town for a larger building because the present location at 415 S. Main St. is a little small for the events they’d like to hold.

"We’re working with the community development corporation in town to see if we can locate an older building we can rehabilitate," Mrs. Burgess said.

In their tasting room, the couple likes to promote local businesses and items made in the Washington County area: Kisner’s Honey, wine bottle stoppers by Marco, and hand-painted wine bottles and glasses by Lisa. The shop also stocks beer-making supplies.

"Since we opened, people have said they’re excited to have another attraction in town," Mrs. Burgess said. "We look forward to growing in Washington and serving both local residents and out-of-town visitors."

Details: 724-222-WINE (9463).

Dave Zuchowski, freelance writer:

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