Paul and Brenda Hric bought her grandparents’ 100-acre farm in Max Meadows in Wythe County to grow grapes and make wine, but they never planned to expand the business rapidly. Two years after its opening, West Wind Farm Vineyard and Winery has just five acres of grape and produces 1,200 cases of wine annually.
“We always wanted to be able to sell everything we produced, as opposed to going out and planting 40 acres and realizing, ‘I’ve got to grow my business to fit 40 acres,” says Paul Hric, who previously ran a nursery business in Greensboro, N.C. “We’d rather do small lots and take the time and care necessary to make really high-quality wines.”\
That strategy appears to be working. The Hrics have been able to sell all the wine they have produced, and one of their first wines, a Cabernet Sauvignon, won a gold medal at the Dixie Classic Fair in North Carolina last year.
The Hrics sell their wine without the benefit of a distributor or host, such as a restaurant. “The winery opened and then the very next month, the legislature passed the law allowing self-distribution,” Paul explains. The Hrics’ wine is sold only through the winery, online and at festivals.
The operation is largely family-run, with Paul, Brenda and their two nephews, Paul and Jason, doing all of the work. They face some challenges in growing grapes in the mountains of Southwest Virginia. West Wind Farm is located on a 2,500-foot elevation. That height means that temperatures tend to be cooler and the growing season shorter than at many other vineyards in the state.
The Hrics compensate for their location by planting grape varieties that tolerate the cooler climate well, such as Riesling, Chambourcin, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon.
“We’re a small winery, but we like it that way,” Hric says. “We’re not under any pressure to sell, sell, sell. We put a lot of pride and care in our work so hopefully we produce the best product we possibly can.”