Nelson came to the vineyard and winery business in a less than ordinary way. He joined the Air Force in 1970 and went into the Civil Engineering Squadron where he learned the plumbing trade. After his four years of duty, he moved back to Virginia working in the plumbing field and then started Blue Ridge Plumbing Contractors in 1976. When Chateau Morrisette expanded and built their beautiful new winery building, Nelson did all of the plumbing and pipefitting. He spent two years working on that in the mid-90s hearing them talk about not being able to find enough grapes to make their wines. So he called the family and asked what everyone thought about starting a vineyard. A plan was soon in the works and he began taking viticulture classes and attending seminars. He planned the vineyard and based the grape varieties on what Chateau Morrisette needed. Nelson is in charge of all vineyard operations along with helping manage the winery. At this point, plumbing is still his full-time job and the vineyard/winery is his second full-time job. So when people ask them how they got into the wine business, David always says “because my Dad is a plumber!”
Elsie never thought of owning a winery, even after starting the vineyard operation. And she never planned on starting a vineyard! There was something really nice about finishing harvest in October and knowing you had several months before having to start up rough pruning again. She spent about 27 years as a dental assistant in Stuart before leaving the practice to be at the vineyard and winery more regularly. She has had crash courses in winery operations in everything from racking and punch-downs to sanitizing. She has to deliver wines for distribution at times, open the tasting room for people, and mows about 20 acres per week during the growing season. You’ll find her in numerous jobs in the vineyard and winery wearing many different hats with this operation. It’s not always glamorous work, but it beats being in an office.
The idea of owning a winery would have been very funny to a younger David, who didn’t even drink wine back then. After graduating from Virginia Tech, he began his career as a graphic designer for the Roanoke Times and then accepted a job as a designer working on paint schemes, logos, and uniform designs for NASCAR teams and moved to Charlotte. At the time, not exactly a wine drinking sport! He left there and worked with some friends who had a small design shop until he started his own design business called SilverLining Design. About that time, the vineyard was planted, so David was driving back up most weekends to help in the field. In 2005, he accepted a position at Virginia Tech allowing him to move back home, literally. The vineyard grew and plans evolved toward starting a winery, which Elsie still blames David for that idea! Like most of the family, he still has the paying full-time job at Virginia Tech and this second full-time, non-paying job. David designed the winery logo, website, labels, etc. and handles all of the marketing and festival participation. Even with the amount of work involved, nothing beats having fun in a business, meeting new people, and being able to work and spend time with the family.
Tabatha was the only family member to really enjoy wine when the family decided to start a vineyard. And she is happy that the whole family enjoys it now. Tabatha started her career off as a hairstylist, which she still does on the side and keeps the family groomed as well. While living in Charlotte, she began working for State Farm Insurance and earned her licenses for several types of insurance policies. Tabatha and David have two children who were born in Charlotte and are now beginning the process of learning the vineyard work. After moving back to Virginia, she worked on campus at Virginia Tech until accepting a position in the front office at the local high school. She manages the festival planning and setups, along with keeping up with money for festivals and the tasting room. Like everyone else at the winery, she then works many other roles to help keep a small, family-run business operating.
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