ABINGDON, Va. — The owners of a local winery are using their winnings from a recent contest to remodel their winery kitchen, a project they hope will add jobs and foster a sense of community.
Loren and Elizabeth Gardner, a husband-and-wife team who purchased Abingdon Vineyards last August, placed second in the 2019 Washington County Business Challenge’s Existing Business Expansion Awards. Their prize was $1,500.
The couple, who has extensive wine experience in Napa Valley, is producing wines on par with Napa and Sonoma wines.
“With a unique Virginian authenticity,” they added.
“Our vision is to create a certified catering kitchen with commercial appliances and room for farm-to-table cooking classes,” Elizabeth Gardner said. “This will allow us, and other companies, to cater events such as weddings, wine dinners, meetings and festivals.”
She said the current kitchen is not up to health codes, the household electric stove has no hood and the refrigerator has limited space.
“Our wine dinner chefs have to prepare food offsite and cook outside on the grill, even in the winter,” she said.
The renovated kitchen will have the potential to be used as a commissary for food startups that need to rent space in a commercial setting, the couple said.
The upgrade will also make space for them to offer cooking classes to the community.
“By opening up the kitchen wall and creating a long counter, we can provide seats for guests to look into the kitchen,” said Elizabeth Gardner, who plans to host chefs and culinary experts once the project is completed.
“As a result, we hope this will provide job opportunities and create educational opportunities for the community. My husband and I are both chefs and very passionate about the farm-to-table movement. We want to inspire people to cook their own food and grow their own gardens. We hope to teach people how to better enjoy using the wholesome local foods this region offers.
“This new kitchen will provide a place where we can teach those skills,” she said.
Remodeling will also allow them to create a line of Abingdon Vineyards jams, sauces and pickles to sell in the tasting room, she added.
Since purchasing the 45-acre property on the South Holston River, the couple’s goals are to grow the community and the economic impact of the winery. Just since last year, they have increased wine production from 2,000 to 3,000 cases per year and have doubled the winery income by offering a variety of community events.
Those events include tastings, tours, picnics, wine dinners, community fundraisers, live music, yoga, harvest and crush parties, art workshops, book clubs, wine blending classes, kayaking adventures and fishing excursions.
The winery property also serves as a location for weddings, bridal showers, meetings and private parties.
According to the couple, the commercial kitchen will add $97,000 of annual income for the business while adding jobs.
The $50,000 in-house project will begin in late fall, she said. Loren, a commercial contractor, will perform much of the renovation that’s estimated to take two months.
The challenge winners look forward to hosting an opening reception after the job is complete.