The Journey

The Journey

I've been wanting to tell the story of Batton Hollow Winery for a long time now.  In spite of having had my own web domain for several years, it wasn't until last week that our talented graphics designer, Larry Yost, figured out how to put a blog page on our website, so here we are. 

The vision for a winery actually began almost 40 years ago when I picked up a winemaking book at our mall bookstore.  I was awaiting orders to active duty in the Air Force, and I thought that would be a fun thing to do.  It was summertime, and we had only been married a couple of years, so of course, I enlisted my wife Toni, and my Dad as assistant winemakers. We made several, one gallon batches of wine that summer - with mixed results.  There was a small winemaking supply store near where we were living and that was a big help in getting started and getting the supplies we needed.   We even went with the local winemaking club on a field trip to a winery near Lancaster, PA.  We didn't have much money at the time, but we managed to buy a bottle of their wine. 

So, later that month, we finally got the orders we'd been waiting for to report for active duty in the Air Force.  That began a great adventure, spanning over 25 years.  Our first stop in the Air Force was to San Antonio, TX for some "rebluing", then to Biloxi, MS for technical training.  I made a couple of batches of wine while we were there in Mississippi, and even tried my first batch of beer there (most of the bottles exploded).  After eight months of school, we were assigned to an Air Force Base in Warner Robins, GA.  We stayed there almost three years, and our son, Tim, was born there.  Again, I made a few batches of wine - peach worked out the best. 

After that assignment, we continued to be reassigned every two - three years.  We went to Italy first, Aviano Air Base.  There our two daughters, Beth and Katie,  were born, and our love of Italian wines began.  I didn't make any homemade wine there because I could buy great wines less expensively that I could make them.  I was able to help the next door neighbor harvest his grapes and make wine.  He had all Merlot grapes.  That was a great learning experience.  (I also helped him make grappa once.)  After Italy, we were sent to Charleston, SC, Belleville, IL, back to Biloxi, MS for more school, then to Washington, DC. From there we went to Colorado Springs, back to Italy for another three years, and then back to Scott AFB near Belleville, IL.  My last assignment was in Montgomery, AL where I retired.  Through each of these experiences, we attempted to embrace local cultures and try all the local foods, drinks and festivals.  I continued to make wine off and on - along with an occasional batch of beer.  We always talked about the ultimate retirement home where we could try our hand at growing some grapes and making a little wine.

Fast forward to our life after retirement from the Air Force.  Of course, I was looking for a job, and the best offer I got was in the telecommunications business in Washington, DC.  I did that for almost eight years, and hated living in such a congested area.  We finally made our escape in 2010 and moved to a house that we had inherited in Parsons, WV.  We lived there for two years while we were building our current house,  In the spring of 2010, my daughter Katie found an online winemaking program through UC Davis.  I guess she was tired of hearing me talk about opening a winery one day, and she basically said "quit talking about it and just do it".  I jumped into the winemaking program and finished it almost two years later.  It consisted of five courses, and they had to be taken one at a time.  It was a challenging program requiring a lot of chemistry. 

Finally, in 2012, we moved to Lost Creek, finished up our house, and began to get serious about opening a winery.  In the late spring of 2013, we finally got started on the permit and licensing processes.  They were way too lengthy and time consuming, but we got through them. We also remodeled the winery and tasting room and began accumulating equipment - fermentation tanks, crusher, press, filter, etc.   We got our Federal permit at the end of September 2013 and our state license about a week later.  We immediately began making wine. We got some of our grapes from Charlie Whitehill at Potomac Highlands Winery near Keyser, and the rest of our grape juice from New York state and California.  (We have a large vineyard where we are growing grapes to make all of our wine varieties, but it won't be producing for another couple of years.)  We made seven types of wine our first season and bottled over 5000 bottles in April of 2014.  We proudly opened our doors to the public on the last day of May this year.  So far, so good.    

Jim Kelly