Marty’s Wine Cellar: specialty wines, craft beers, and character

By Susan Gibbs

Marty’s Wine Cellar in Ruckersville isn’t just about specialty wines and craft beers.

Marty Fagin, owner of Marty’s Wine Cellar in Ruckersville

It’s about atmosphere, and character.

The wines are a given at the Cellar, located at 8843 Seminole Trail, in the first shopping center on US 29 south of that road’s intersection with US 33, where owner Marty Fagin provides a service that he says can’t be found anywhere else in the area.

“If my customers want a wine or a beer that’s available in Virginia, I’ll do all I can to get it,” Fagin says.

He stocks Virginia wines, as well as French, Italian, Australian, Spanish and more. And he prides himself on his collection of more than 100 types of hard-to-find craft beers which, he says, contains “some very interesting flavors.”

As to atmosphere: from the antiqued brass vintner’s reserve wine opener and the big screen television at the front of the store to the home bar set up for tastings at the back, the Cellar issues an understated, laid back welcome to all who enter.

It speaks to the character of its owner, a free-spirit who grew up in College Park, Maryland in the 1960s.

Back then, life was simpler than it is today. There were no computers, cell phones, text messages. Teens communicated the old fashioned way – by talking on the telephone and in person. For recreation they went to movies, skating rinks, and bowling alleys. But times were changing: via television, even suburban kids participated, at least vicariously, in the Civil Rights, Anti-War, and Women’s Liberation movements, and the space race.

This was also the time that rock and roll proved itself here to stay, topping the popular music charts for the first time with the emergence, over the course of the decade, of surf music, folk music, Motown, Stax, the British Invasion, psychedelic, hard rock, heavy metal – and “garage rock”.

The term “garage rock” comes from the perception that many such performers were young and amateurish, and often rehearsed in a family garage.

“When I was 16 I was a member of a band called the Wandering Souls,” Fagin smiles.

Fagin stocks craft beers, along with specialty wines

Back then, it was easy for teens to believe that fame and fortune could be had. The Wailers was a garage band that gained fame with a hit titled “Tall Cool One.” Another garage band hit was “Louie Louie” by the Kingsmen, and some garage bands, like Paul Revere and the Raiders, went on to become much more than one-hit-wonders.  Members of others, like Fagin’s Wandering Souls, drifted apart and into their own lives.

Fagin finished high school in College Park, went to college, and then on a road trip that ended, at least for him, in Morrison, Colorado, home to the historic Red Rocks Amphitheatre, where performances have been held for more than 100 years.

By the time he and his friends arrived in 1972, the Beatles had performed there, but rock concerts had been banned after an incident during a performance by Jethro Tull the year before. For the next five years, shows at Red Rocks were limited to softer acts, such as John Denver, who performed several world-televised concerts there, Sonny & Cher, The Carpenters, Pat Boone, Seals & Crofts and Carole King.

“I fell in love with the landscape, and the vibe of the people,” Fagin says.

He opened up a landscaping business and did what he loved: worked the land; attended concerts; and skied Ajax – known outside the local area as Aspen Mountain.

The City of Aspen, now the site of the most expensive real estate in the United States, was just beginning to evolve into the glitzy playground of the wealthy and famous it is today when Fagin arrived. Founded as a mining camp during the Colorado Silver Boom and named for the abundance of aspen trees in the area, the City’s fortunes had boomed during the 1880s, its first decade of existence.

When the silver market collapsed in 1893 the City began a half-century known as “the quiet years”, during which its population steadily declined, reaching a nadir of less than a

Red Rocks Amphitheatre

thousand by 1930. Its fortunes began to reverse in the mid-20th century when neighboring Aspen Mountain was developed into a ski resort, and an industrialist bought many properties in town and redeveloped them.

It was not until just 10 years before Fagin’s arrival that all of the City’s downtown sidewalks had been paved, and five years before he arrived that the first snowmaking machines had gone into use. One year after Fagin arrived, the first phase of the City’s now-famous downtown mall was completed – but the City was already becoming a popular retreat for celebrities.

By the time Fagin arrived, Aspen was home to the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Aspen Skiing Corporation had hosted world championship ski competitions, and former US Ski Team Gold Medalist Billy Kidd had been named director of skiing.

Aspen resident and gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson, who was the inspiration for the Uncle Duke character n Gary Trudeau’s Doonesbury comic strip,  had become famous for his 1967 publication Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs. In 1970 Thompson had run unsuccessfully for Mayor of Aspen on the Freak Power ticket. The year Fagin arrived in the area Thompson published Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream, a rumination on the failure of the 1960s counterculture movement, which, 26 years later, would be made into a film starring Johnny Depp.

This same year John Denver recorded “Rocky Mountain High”, which has since become the Colorado state song. “Rocky Mountain High”, and others by Denver, popularized the area among the countercultural youth of the 1970s as an ideal place to live, and the city continued to grow, even as it gained notoriety.

Aspen in the 1970s

When the ban on rock at Red Rocks was lifted in 1975, America performed and U2 would perform one of the most notable performances in Red Rocks history, leading to the release of the full-length video “Live at Red Rocks: Under a Blood Red Sky.”  The performance would later be included in Rolling Stone’s list of the “50 Moments that Changed Rock and Roll.”

In 1976 Aspen resident and US Ski Team Member Spider Sabich was murdered by live-in girlfriend Claudine Longet, former wife of Crooner Andy Williams. In 1977 notorious serial killer Ted Bundy, while in the Pitkin County Courthouse in Aspen for a pre-trial hearing, jumped from a second-story window and escaped.  Bundy remained free for six days hiding out on Aspen Mountain, before he was arrested while attempting to drive a stolen car out of town.

Fagin would head back east in the mid-1980s, as the historic character of the City began to be challenged by skyrocketing property values and the proliferation of second homes, increasingly shutting low- and middle-income workers out.

Today, Aspen is a second and third home to many international jet setters. The historic downtown has been largely transformed into an upscale shopping district that includes high-end restaurants, salons, and designer boutiques. As of March 2011 the lowest-priced single-family home on the market was a trailer for $559,000. The median listing price for homes or condos for sale in Aspen is a reported $4,229,558. It is not uncommon to see listing prices reaching the mid-eight figures, and as of August 2012, six guaranteed weeks of fractional ownership for a three-bedroom luxury condo in the downtown core of Aspen cost $625,000.

Back in Virginia, Fagin fell into his down-to-earth, free-spirited ways. He was hosting at TRAX in Charlottesville when the club was the site of the first public show presented by the Dave

Some unusual craft beers can be found at Marty’s Wine Cellar

Matthews Band on March 14, 1991.

“The first night they played we charged a $4.00 cover, and we did a couple of two-for-ones to get 13 people in the door. We took in about $36.00,” Fagin says, smiling at the memory. “But TRAX would become known as the House that Dave built.”

That first show was a benefit for the Middle East Children’s Alliance and included the songs:  “Typical Situation”,  “Best of What’s Around”,  “I’ll Back You Up”, “Song That Jane Likes”,  “Warehouse”,  “Cry Freedom” and “Recently”. Local weekly appearances soon followed, and within a short time word of the band’s sound spread.

By the summer of 1991, the band was playing at Eastern Standard, at fraternity functions, and then, by September of 1991, regularly at TRAX through the end of 1993. TRAX operator Coran Capshaw managed the band, and by early 1994, it had become a national touring act on the verge of mainstream stardom. After 1993 the Dave Matthews Band would play at TRAX only four times.

TRAX experienced resurgence in the mid-1990s, nurturing an ever-growing music scene at the time. Earth to Andy frequented the club as well as My Dog Lucy. Matt Jagger, who used to cook food behind the club, taught Chris Daughtry how to play the guitar, and who is reported to be one of America’s best undiscovered blues masters, also performed a TRAX. The club closed around the middle of 2001 and was demolished at the end of the following year.

After leaving TRAX Fagin returned to the landscaping business, and opened Abacab — a taxi service that became a part-time car service when, in 2009, he opened Marty’s Wine Cellar, where his intent was not just to provide a service that could not be provided elsewhere, but to get to know his customers, and provide them with an enjoyable experience.

Specialty wines and craft beers are fairly easy to come by for an enterprising entrepreneur, and ambiance can be created, but character is something else.

As one who has frequented the Cellar’s wine tastings has said, “Marty’s got some great stories.”

For more information, call Marty at (434) 985-4400.

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