Potter's Craft Cider

Daniel Potter and Tim Edmond, co-founders of Potter’s Craft Cider, at their new tasting room in Albemarle County on Friday.

{child_flags:featured}Tasting room coming soon

{child_byline}By ALLISON WRABEL

awrabel@dailyprogress.com | (434) 978-7261 {/child_byline}

Hidden among the trees along U.S. 29 in Albemarle County is a historic former home and community center that has now been transformed into a craft cider tasting room.

On Saturday, Potter’s Craft Cider’s new tasting room will open to the public in Neve Hall south of the city along U.S. 29. While the cidery has stationed a mobile tasting Airstream Trailer around the area and serves cider at Bridge Progressive Arts in Charlottesville on weekends, the company has never had a permanent, formal tasting room since its founding in 2011. Using an existing, historic space felt like the right way to make that step, co-founders said.

“We had fundamentally rejected the notion of buying the spot on the top of the hill and building a new tasting room from scratch. It didn’t appeal to us,” said Potter’s co-founder Tim Edmond.

A friend told Edmond and Potter about Neve Hall coming on the market. The friend had grown up with the children of Jim and Erla Hagan, who had owned the house from the 1960s until their children sold it in 2018.

When Potter and Edmond came to visit the property, they thought it would be too big an endeavor for them to purchase and renovate the building.

“But just the energy — all of Jim’s artwork was still out here — it just kept pulling us back in, and we were really captivated by the history of the house and the property here and decided to take over,” Potter said.

Jim Hagan was a professor at the McIntire Department of Art at the University of Virginia from 1963 until 2001, and founded the department’s sculpture and new media concentrations.

The cidery now is working with the family to get more of Hagan’s work, and ultimately wants to add sculptures from other artists to the garden.

Edmond said the spirituality of the church mission that originally occupied the building and the passionate, artistic contributions from the Hagans really drew the cidery’s founders in again and again.

“It just felt like a good confluence in a building that just had all of this character,” he said.

The building was designed by architect Eugene Bradbury, who designed at least 40 buildings in the area, including Villa Crawford, which is now Keswick Hall; Saint Paul’s Memorial Church; Peoples’ National Bank, which now houses the restaurant Prime 109; the Brigadier General John Watts Kearney house, also known as the Lewis Mountain house; and several houses on University Circle and Rugby Road.

“Neve Hall was Episcopal Rev. Frederick W. Neve’s manse and chapel and the only Bradbury building that I know of that contains his identity in a cornerstone,” said K. Edward Lay, a professor emeritus of architecture at UVa and author of “Architecture of Jefferson Country: Charlottesville and Albemarle County, Virginia.”

Neve came to Virginia from England in 1888 and served at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Ivy and Emmanuel Episcopal Church in Greenwood. He worked to establish Episcopal mission churches and schools in the Ragged and Blue Ridge Mountains.

The hall, which features a large great room, annexes and an attached former residence, was built between 1923 and 1925 as a community center and a residence for workers of the Archdeaconry of the Blue Ridge, according to The Daily Progress archives.

It was described at the time as “quite a spacious building, but not too much so for the needs of this community.”

Some of the funds for the building were raised by the Mountain Mission Mite Society and its founder Marcelyn E. Buxton, who raised money to build mission houses and schools for children in the mountains.

At the dedication of the hall in 1925, Neve, who was Archdeacon of the Blue Ridge, said the hall’s naming in his honor was the only way his family name would be carried on, as his son was “taken away,” but, he said, “this beautiful hall will live, and I thank God that it has been built,” according to a Progress article covering the event.

Outside, the patio will have long biergarten-style tables, with areas for art, entertainment and games.

Potter and Edmond said they want to have a space that’s welcoming, family friendly and open and inclusive, and plan to have a variety of events such as educational workshops and yoga.

“We’re trying to really kind of think out of the box in terms of what you would normally find at a weekend tasting room experience,” said Kate Lynn Nemett, Potter’s general manager.

Inside, the primary tasting room space will be housed in the large great room area that had housed Hagan’s studio, and will be a lively area with communal-style seating and smaller tables, and a large bar for tastings that can be broken up to spread out service for an event.

“We’re going to be doing poured bottle tastings at the bar for folks who want to get the full start to finish experience of the different Potter’s styles and the history behind center making in general and our cider,” Nemett said.

The south hall, with its exposed stone walls, will have a more intimate seating area with two fireplaces.

“A lot of the winery traffic slows down in the winter and we want to have this really cozy space for people to come,” Edmond said.

When the main driveway to the building was added, some red oak trees had to be removed, but the timber was able to be used for the framing of the mezzanine, which can be used for larger groups or private tastings.

Small plates will be available from the kitchen.

Potter’s Craft Cider is currently available in Virginia, Washington, D.C., Maryland, North Carolina and South Carolina. Edmond said the company plans to stop growing.

“A big part of Dan and my’s foundational interest is to cap growth and focus on making a sustainable, enjoyable, regenerative kind of workplace environment that we can keep focused on quality, and to try and stay engaged and interested in what we’re doing,” Edmond said. “I think we’re both approaching this from the standpoint of wanting to build a company that has growth potential internally, but not be focused on growth externally.”

Potter’s $1.56 million investment to relocate and expand its existing hard cider production facility and add a tasting room was announced earlier this year, and Gov. Ralph Northam approved a $50,000 grant from the Agriculture and Forestry Industries Development Fund to secure the project for the state.

Albemarle County and its Economic Development Authority will match the grant with $30,000 and $20,000, respectively.

The company plans to add 12 jobs in Albemarle and to more than quadruple its cider production, while continuing to source 100% of its apples from Virginia.

Potter said the grant helped to make the vision they had for the property a reality.

“Some of those agricultural and bigger ambitions probably would’ve had to wait a little longer,” he said.

For now, the cidery will still use its current production facility in Free Union.

“In the long run we are going to move production down here, that’s the next phase,” Edmond said.

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