From Mines to Wine

By Suzanne Lawson
David’s Mom

The loud, shrill whistle which signaled a blast, then the blast and wait… What’s that hitting the roof?   Falling in the yard?  It is raining rocks!!  This is just too much!  First the dust, the noise of the trucks and heavy equipment night and day and now there’s a hole in the roof. An over zealous blast from strip mining more than 1500 ft away has hit the house! That was the past.  Today row after row of grape vines laden with grapes have replaced the dozers, haulers and coal trucks. Hawks circle the skies where dust and noise once ruled, now after birds that might eat the grapes and rabbits that eat the leaves of young vines. The blue sparkling pond that once served as a brown sediment pond has two quiet fishermen catching bass, bluegill, catfish and occasionally the unwanted big brown water snake. What!  A vineyard on a strip job!

What brings visitors back again and again is not just the wonderful wines but a chance to be part of a dream.

MountainRose Vineyards planted its first vines in 1997 because our son, David, had a vision that he could change our little piece of life into something better. With some fear and trepidation in our hearts, Ron and I retired from the local school system to help make his dream a reality. The vineyards, now in three locations, produce about 25 tons of grapes from 9 acres annually from eight varieties of grapes; whites-traminette, riesling, vidal blanc, seyval blanc, niagara and reds-chancellor, cabernet franc and chambourcin.  Another acre (tempranillo and rkatsetelli) was planted in the spring of 2007. 

Wecome to Mountainrose Vineyards

The winery was built in 2004 and made its first wines in the fall of 2004. The winery produces about 1200 cases of wine annually with five white wines, three reds and a blush. People visiting the winery; whether they walk the vineyards and smell the shrub roses where the earth used to smell or sit on the patio overlooking the pond, love the peace and beauty.  A visitor this week commented that he used to visit as a boy and he can’t believe the change. Most can’t believe such great wines are being made in the heart of coal mining country and not in Germany or some more exotic place.  We can—because we have a dream and we work really hard to make it happen.

Since most of the grapes near the winery are planted on land previously mined for coal and then reclaimed, obviously the theme of the winery is “From Mines to Wines”.  The wines have fun names such a Jawbone, Splashdam, Pardee Red, Dorchester and other coal seam names. The reclaimed mine land with its rocky soil and minerals increases the complexity of the fruit flavors at harvest. The vineyard’s elevation of over 2600 feet creates a mezoclimate in southwest Virginia with warm days and cool nights making our wines different from other wines in Virginia with more mouth watering aromas and fruitier flavors. 

David Lawson

David painstaking trains every vine himself to be assured of the greatest quality wine grape he can grow.  Vines are trained on several different trellising systems to improve the wine quality by maximizing the sunlight to each cluster. We entered our first wine into competition summer of 2007; and Autumn Gold Vidal Blanc was the gold medal winner in the dessert wine competition, which validates our story! Coal was once called “black gold” but now our wines are the Gold!

The vineyard also has about 120 vines of the Concord grape that David rooted from cuttings of a vine on the old “homeplace” which is over 100 years. These vines now grow in the very popular “pick-your-own” vineyard near the winery from which we also make the delicious grape jelly, “just like grandma used to make”, which is sold in the gift shop. Visitors to the winery are often amazed at the beauty of the vineyard, the 120 plus shrub roses, and the quiet beauty of the pond but most they love the story of how we recreated something beautiful and alive from the old “mined” land!  What brings visitors back again and again is not just the wonderful wines but a chance to be part of a dream. All the Lawson Family now believes that the red and white wines of MountainRose Vineyards and not the black coal are the hidden treasure of the mountains of Wise County. 

Come and visit us on the web at, email me at or tour the vineyards and taste the wines in the breathtaking beauty of the Southwest Virginia Mountains. We do tours, tastings, parties, and special events 6 days a week and are just waiting for you!

Check Local Listings for Times »

David Lawson


I got a firsthand knowledge of writing a business plan, and it opened me up to the idea that it wasn't necessarily a college, get a job market.  There might be opportunities outside of just going to college and working for somebody.  I've always wanted to be able to work for myself, and be my own boss, but I wasn't sure exactly how to do that.  This class was a good introduction for me to realize that it's not so complicated to start your own business.

-David Lawson
Owner & Vintner
MountainRose Vineyards


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David Lawson


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