Karen Reed’s career in winemaking began in 2000, not far from Loudoun County (relatively speaking), at White Hall Vineyards in central Virginia.
Between 2003 and 2010, winemaking took her around the world, including:
- To Australia for a Master of Viticulture from the University of Adelaide;
- To Brooklyn as wine sales for Red, White and Bubbly;
- To Napa Valley for a range of roles at Clos Pegase Winery.
When she came to Loudoun in 2010, she discovered a place worth putting down roots. In 2011, she accepted her current role of winemaker for Dry Mill Vineyards, a position that allows her to freelance with others in Loudoun’s entrepreneurial and collaborative winemaking community.
“In 2011, I began offering vineyard consulting services to local farm wineries in Loudoun County,” Reed recalled. “Shortly after I began consulting, I noticed a need in the local wine industry and I branched out into selling wine making supplies—such as yeast, yeast nutrition, and tannins—to local professional winemakers.”
Alchemy Wine Supply was born, and the explosive growth of Loudoun’s wine trail has driven demand for her services.
“I have seen how supportive Loudoun County is to the development and growth of our local farm wineries,” she said. “As a result of that support, the county has been able to attract top talent within the winemaking community, many of whom I’ve had the privilege of working with. I have also witnessed the incredible engagement and loyalty among our local Loudoun County customers.
“These are the three essential legs to the stool which is the Loudoun County wine industry, and the driving forces behind our designation as ‘DC’s Wine Country.’ I am proud to be a member of this community.”
When Reed isn’t at Dry Mill or a client’s vineyard, she works from the comfort of home, which is a cozy 764 square feet, including a guest room packed with inventory. While Alchemy Wine Supply is technically part-time, winemaking is full-time during the grape harvest season from September through November.
The seasonal nature of her work makes it simultaneously difficult to cover the demand for her services or hire help that could help her scale. This dilemma made Alchemy Wine Supply a perfect candidate to participate in the FireUp Business Mentoring and Coaching Program this spring, a business accelerator cohort supported by Loudoun Economic Development its regional counterparts.
Alchemy Wine Supply was one of 15 Loudoun businesses that received a scholarship, and Reed has leveraged her spot to its fullest benefit.
“We’ve completed eight out of the 12 weeks of the FireUp Program, and it has been extremely valuable to me and my business,” she said on the eve of Loudoun Small Business Week. “The curriculum is fast-paced, and I have a feeling that I’ll be revisiting and working on the 12 modules for the rest of the year! It’s like a college course compressed into 18 hours of mentoring and coaching.
“With Alchemy Wine Supply, my goal has always been to support my local professional Winemakers by supplying them with high-quality fermentation supplies. The FireUp Program is helping me to reach a much larger client base, and connect with Winemakers not only in Loudoun Country, but across Virginia and beyond.”
Her vision extends beyond her current consulting work to one day owning a farm winery, where the farming always takes precedence.
“For my next step, I aspire to further diversify into owning a farm winery of my own, with the emphasis on the ‘farm’ portion; not only producing grapes for my winemaking, but also producing eggs, produce, honey and flowers for my local community,” she explained. “During the pandemic, it became clear to me that there needs to be more connection and community around food production in Loudoun County.
“I aim to sell local farm produce, while teaching my community how to grow their own food at home. And as a bonus, I’d like to continue the art of winemaking and educating my local wine lovers about the joy of wine and food pairing.”
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Photo credit: Jennifer Godbold