RINER — A small farm in Montgomery County is trying to morph into a hub for “all things fermented,” according to Richard Obiso, owner of the recently rebranded Obiso Company.
The business is better known as Whitebarrel, one of the first vineyard wineries to open in Montgomery County in 2011. It was then called Attimo Winery.
But now Obiso says he and his wife are preparing to launch a brewery and distillery, called Blackbarrel Brewery and Blackbarrel Distillery. All will operate as separate businesses under the Obiso Company umbrella.
The winery, brewery and distillery will share the company’s current tasting room on Childress Road, meaning visitors will be able to try whichever locally crafted libation they prefer in one place.
Blackbarrel Brewery is planned as the first new business to launch, once all the licensing comes through later this summer.
Obiso said that project is two years in the making, as he wanted to make sure he was capable of growing his own hops. An experimental crop went well last year, so he’s planning to start harvesting and brewing this season.
Obiso is also planning to grow his own wheat and barley for the beers. The idea is to plant those crops between the rows of wine grapes as a sort of cover crop — but one that he can use.
He says the beer-making plants don’t harm the grapes, but actually help control weeds. They also allow the farm to make better use of its 50 acres of land, split between the site near Riner and another farm in Floyd County.
The distillery will join the operations a little further down the line.
The company has picked out the equipment and begun growing ingredients, but they’re waiting on funding to begin production.
Obiso says Blackbarrel Distillery will naturally focus on brandy, since it’s made from grapes. But the farm is also growing a variety of herbs for gin and vodka-style botanical infusions.
During a recent visit, Obiso pointed to two empty parcels across a gravel parking lot from his winery’s current tasting room. One empty space is where he’ll build a warehouse for beer brewing equipment, and the other will be for the distillations.
Obiso launched a crowdfunding campaign to help fund the new brewery venture. The business is looking to raise about $67,000 to pay for a brewing system, refrigeration, kegs and equipment to process the hops.
“We know exactly what we want to do,” he said. “We’re literally just waiting for the funds and the license.”