From Mines to Wines
A loud, shrill whistle signals a blast and the blast shakes the earth. The big haulers loaded with dirt rumble by, passing the trucks coming to be loaded with coal. Dust swirls and coats the nearby trees…that was the past. Today row after row of grapevines laden with grapes have replaced the noisy dozers, haulers and coal trucks. Hawks circle the skies where dust and noise once ruled, waiting and watching for a dinner of mice and rabbits. The blue sparkling pond that once served as a brown sediment pond, has two quiet fishermen catching bass, bluegill, catfish and the occasional unwanted big brown water snake. Is it possible there’s a vineyard on a reclaimed surface mine?
It is possible, and it is MountainRose Vineyards! This family-owned dream is located in the heart of the coal mining region of the Appalachian Mountains. David Lawson had a dream that he could change a little piece of earth in Wise County into something better. David is part owner and winemaker of this unique family winery and vineyard. David dreamed of being an entrepreneur in high school and he loved the land that had been in his family for over 100 years. He rooted his first grape vines from a 100 year old Concord grapevine in the family’s yard and planted his first vines while in high school.
His parents insisted that he couldn’t make a living farming, so David went to college to be an engineer. When he was a senior at Virginia Tech, he took a semester to work off campus in a large winery in Northern Virginia. David stayed well beyond his semester and finally called his parents, Ron and Suzanne. David said, “Mom, Dad, I don’t want to be an engineer! I want to be a winemaker!” His parents said, “you can’t be a winemaker! We live in Wise County and no one has ever had a vineyard here.”
David assured his parents that since Wise County had been a major producer of apples and since grapes will grow where apples grow that he could indeed grow grapes. David insisted that not only would certain varieties of wine grapes grow here, but that the low humidity and cooler temperatures would make a great climate for grapes. David believed that the 'not too rich' soil of the reclaimed land could be broken up and since there is no hard pan in mined soils, the roots would grow deep.
So, David convinced his parents to become partners in building the first ever winery in Wise County in 2004.Ron and Suzanne both retired from their jobs in the public school system and the adventure began. The family began restoring the soil by adjusting PH, ripping and plowing, adding compost, fixing drainage, planting special cover crops and more. David and his wife Brandi then bought a second small producing vineyard, Grace Vineyards, in Russell County, Virginia. The winery was barely completed in time for the first harvest in 2004.
The Name MountainRose
The name, MountainRose, has its own unique history that adds a beautiful, almost magical element to David’s story. The “Mountain Rose” is a seventh generation family heirloom rose passed down through the family and is only one of the over 100 roses throughout the vineyard. Traditionally, roses in vineyards are considered “the canary in the mine” if certain diseases show up on the roses, before they are apparent in the vineyard, it can serve as warning or indicator to spray. The vineyards themselves are like a “rose” in the mountains to us and many others!
Dreams Really Do Come True
Visitors love to tour our vineyards and try our wine, being pleasantly surprised when they taste them. Most can’t believe such great wines are being made in the heart of coal mining country, more famous for coal mine strikes than award winning wines. What brings visitors back again and again is not only the wonderful wine, but a chance to be part of the dream. The truth is, it's the wonderful white, blush, and red wines of MountainRose Vineyards, not the black coal, that's the true hidden treasures of the Appalachian Mountains in Wise County. So, it can be said that dreams really do come true.