The sale of wine on vineyard premises is an integral part of the winery agricultural business. So says the Virginia Supreme Court which has just reversed a Circuit Court decision that forced a Fauquier County vineyard to shut its doors.
Charles and Lori Marterella bought a parcel of land in Bellevue Farms, a Fauquier County subdivision, with the intention of starting a winery. As land purchasers, they agreed to abide by the applicable subdivision covenants. Among these were Article II, Section I, which states “[all] tracts … shall be exclusively used for residential, agricultural, and recreational purposes,” and Article III, Section 3, which states “[n]o commercial enterprises may be undertaken on the property, which, in the [Site] Committee’s opinion, is in conflict with the goals of these Covenants.”
The Site Committee was established to rule on certain property uses of the landowners. In 1994, it created an informal handbook that stated, among other things: “Agriculture is the only commercial activity expressly permitted under the covenants. Any other work whether as a self-employed person or as an employee that causes external change to your property or leads to regular visits by customers, suppliers, business associates, or others is not acceptable. If you wish to engage in non-agricultural business activity, the Committee will rule on its acceptability and the Board would then approve or disapprove your request.”