The following is an excerpt from a story that originally appeared in the spring 2023 issue of the W&M Alumni Magazine. – Ed.
It’s no great hardship to leave city streets behind and head for the mountains. So on a sunny Saturday in February, my family and I happily piled into our car and traveled west from Richmond, Virginia, through woods and farmland to Valley Road Vineyards in Rockfish Gap, just a few miles east of the Blue Ridge Parkway’s northern entry.
There, we met Mary Miley Theobald ’74, M.A. ’80, P ’05 and Jim Theobald ’74, P ’05, who also made the trip from Richmond and graciously offered to give us a tour. They are among five couples who own the winery, including Director of Marketing Barbara Cole Joynes ’82 and her husband, CEO Stan Joynes, the pair who are on-site most days.
The winery partners bought the property, previously a peach orchard, fruit and vegetable market and home to a specialty mushroom business, in 2015. The next spring, they planted four types of grapes on the property, two white and two red: sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, petit verdot and cabernet franc under the guidance of Grayson Poats, the winery’s senior vineyard consultant. They have since added merlot, chambourcin, and viognier and this year, they are including a new varietal, albariño, a white grape grown mostly in Spain and Portugal, but becoming increasingly popular among Virginia growers. In addition, they lease 20 acres at another site in Nelson County known as Mountain Glen.
Barbara Joynes says the idea for launching a winery developed when she and Stan began visiting other vineyards while spending time at their home near Wintergreen Resort and striking up conversations with the owners.
“They said the local wine industry is booming but we need more Virginia grapes,” she says. “We decided we wanted to do something to help increase the supply of vines.”
The number of Virginia wineries has jumped from six in the late 1970s to more than 300 today, and the state estimates its economic impact at $1.7 billion. Grape growing has lagged behind in the business expansion, however.
Stan Joynes and another partner, real estate developer Paul Kreckman, began looking at potential properties and brought in more partners after finding their dream location near the eastern slopes of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Rockfish Valley — named for the fish that once swam west to the area from the Chesapeake Bay. As their plans expanded from growing grapes to making wine, they realized additional investors were needed and reached out to a small group of friends.
The winery is a second career for most of the partners. Jim Theobald and Stan Joynes (who received undergraduate and law degrees from the University of Virginia) practiced law and had referred clients to each other over the years. A prominent land use development lawyer, Theobald is a partner and former chairman at Hirschler Fleischer; Joynes was co-founder and president at what became LeClairRyan. Theobald knew Kreckman and fellow Valley Road partner Bruce Kay, a Markel Corp. executive, from handling real estate matters.
As Jim Theobald approached retirement, both he and Mary found the idea of a winery appealing. (Additional partners are Linn Kreckman, Janet Kay, Bobby and Karen Edwards.)
Read the full story on the W&M Alumni Magazine website.