- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 8, 2006

CULPEPER, Va. (AP) — Chuck “Moonshine” Miller realized the seemingly impossible July 1 when his Belmont Farm Distillery became Virginia’s only licensed on-the-farm liquor store.

Mr. Miller and his wife, Jeannette, are licensed by the Virginia ABC Board to sell either of their two products — Virginia Lightning moonshine or Copper Fox whiskey — at the gift shop in the front of their distillery.

Mr. Miller has been making whiskey and selling it through ABC stores since 1987.

“Folks could come by the gift shop and buy T-shirts and mugs, but they couldn’t buy the product he was making,” said Delegate Edward T. Scott, a Culpeper Republican whose legislation allowed Mr. Miller to sell his spirits at the farm.

Mr. Miller, Culpeper’s most famous modern-day moonshiner, got the idea from county Supervisor Steve Walker.

“Walker said that since we grew the corn for our whiskey right here, we should take the ‘value-added farm’ approach,” Mr. Miller said. “He said that we should be treated just like wineries.”

But that required some bending on the part of lawmakers.

After Mr. Scott introduced the legislation, which was written by ABC board lawyers, it slowly worked its way through the General Assembly.

Several subcommittee and committee meetings later, the bill sailed through the House and the Senate with little opposition, Mr. Scott said.

“About the only question came from one senator who asked, ‘Did you bring some samples with you?’ ” Mr. Miller said.

All the moonshine hubbub has turned Mr. Miller into a minor celebrity. When word spread that he’d be allowed to sell moonshine behind the barn, a competition broke out to see who would get the first bottle.

“We had people lined up,” said Mr. Miller, who worried how two men at the front of the pack would decide who was there first. “Then one guy’s dog got loose and started running around, and while he was trying to catch it, the other fellow bought the first bottle.”

The customer had Mr. Miller autograph the label.

Now everybody who buys one of the $17 pints of Copper Fox or the $12 fifths of Virginia Lightning asks Mr. Miller, 61, a retired airline pilot, to sign his name on the label.

Last week, National Geographic dropped by to do a feature story on the distillery.

“This has done wonders for my business,” said Mr. Miller, who still sells wholesale to the ABC stores. “We’ve been dreaming about this for years.”

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