Va. blazes a whiskey sales trail

If wineries can sell their products on the premises, why can't whiskey distillers?

Well, at least one can in Virginia. And only one, at this point.

Chuck Miller, seen here, received a license from the state to sell his products to the public at his Belmont Farm Distillery in Culpeper County as of July 1. Before, he was limited to selling through Alcohol Beverage Control (ABC) stores, which he had been doing since 1987.

"We've been dreaming about this for years," said Miller who, with his wife, Jeanette, is selling two products -- Virginia Lightning, an actual moonshine priced at $12.55 for a fifth, and Copper Fox, a Virginia whiskey priced at $17.90 a pint, from the gift shop at distillery.

Miller, 61, a retired airline pilot, credits county supervisor Steve Walker for getting the ball rolling toward Virginia General assembly approval. Walker, he says, believed whiskey distillers should be treated the same as wineries. Since the corn for the concoctions is grown on Belmont Farm, Walker suggested trying to get approval because of what he called a "value-added farm" approach.

With the assistance of Delegate Ed Scott, R-Culpeper, and a friendly ABC administration that helped write the necessary legislation, the project slowly made its way through various hearings and debates, finally getting approval and being signed into law by Gov. Tim Kaine.

Miller plans to continue selling his products through the state's ABC stores, but told a local newspaper, "This has done wonders for my business" by drawing more tourists as well as curious locals to the Belmont Farm operation.

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