Welcome New Carolina Heritage Owners Pat & Wendy McNabb!
Although most of the staff at heArt & Soul of the Yadkin Valley are sad to see Clyde and Pat Colwell leave Carolina Heritage, it was consoling to hear about the exciting future planned by new owners Pat and Wendy McNabb.
Eager to share everything about their sustainable story, Pat eagerly described the value of organic farming from the back of a tractor. “Obviously we care about the Yadkin watershed and all that because that’s what we drink,” stated Pat noting that the winery uses natural irrigation for the organic farm.
Supporters of the Yadkin Riverkeeper, the McNabbs use no artificial chemicals on their farm. “We’re one of only 3 on the East Coast,” claimed Pat, exhibiting how a new piece of equipment will make caring for crops easier as well as keeping the produce Vegan-friendly and worry-free, helpful with a toddler on the property.
“I like that Carter can walk up and he’s eating freaking grapes (right off the vine),” said Wendy pointing out that their youngest child was a fan of the farm produce. “Organic blueberries; oh my God he was eating those by the pint!”
After spending time at Surry Community College learning about the winemaking process, it became clear to Wendy and her husband that organic was important.
“It was scary,” confided Wendy describing an extensive safety protocol including telling students to remove their shoes before entering their home after being in the vineyards as well as washing their clothes separate from those of the rest of the family. “I thought that was a little freaky.”
“So, they’ll spray (the grapes) and it will kill all the stuff and (the pesticide) will get into your food and that’s not awesome,” explained Pat proud of the care given to the land at Carolina Heritage even though not a native.
The McNabbs immigrated to the Yadkin Valley by way of Highland where Pat’s parents live, although they have spent most of their married life in Florida. In IT security Pat is able to work from anywhere, however the pandemic impacted Wendy’s teaching career.
I taught 18 years in the classroom,” stated Wendy who shares her 16-year-old son with Pat. “We were like, ‘this is great! We’ve got two more years of high school and then we’re going to travel the world’ and then all of a sudden ‘surprise! No, you’re going to have a whole new life.”
The former science teacher doesn’t seem to mind the change in plans after COVID changed teaching. “I didn’t love the classroom as much as I did and having a baby changed my life. I didn’t enjoy (teaching) as much. I wanted to be home and so I was looking for something.”
Neither of the McNabbs thought it would be a winery. At Pat’s suggestion the plan was to start with a summer near his parents and see how Wendy, originally from Buffalo, New York, would like the area. It was when she went for a girls’ day out that he discovered their unexpected future.
“I was researching rental properties, recalled Pat, “the next thing you know I came across 33 acres and a winery and vineyard.”
The process was not quite that simple. “There’s actually a bunch of wineries (available). It seems that a lot of folks were in their retirement years in their 60s and now they are in their 80s and the kids don’t want it because the kids weren’t part of it.,” speculated Pat who had an idea of what he wanted in his new home.
“We just went winery shopping which is something that’s pretty cool to do once in your lifetime,” laughed Pat describing the variety of situations he discovered. “We saw a bunch of wineries. Not all of them they lived on. Not all of them grew grapes or not all of them they made their own wine, and so this was state grown state produced.”
“That was interesting,” agreed Wendy who was as taken by the previous owners as the property itself. “Pat and Clyde were just so amazing. Pat was just so welcoming to us and really took us under her wing. She really wanted to help me learn the wine making part. She wanted to show me to make sure that we were successful.”
The scientist in Wendy was obvious as she discussed the winemaking process revealing that time could be a significant ingredient. “I feel like it has this edge but I never added the sugar. I just got distracted by everything else that was going on and I went back to it,” explained Wendy. “I (could) taste the blueberry more! It really comes out more when I just let it sit. If that didn’t teach me patience- I’m really glad I didn’t add the sugar.”
What they are adding, however, is more elements of sustainability. “I got involved with my company in the sustainability certification for our packaging,” stated Pat who plans to further the practice through the winery. “We really looked at alternate packaging. The bottles, you can’t recycle them. It’s too expensive to do that and we’re looking at a paper bottle solution to start rolling out which will be fully recyclable.”
That appreciation for the environment is a significant part of the McNabb and Carolina Heritage story. “People buy a product obviously because they like it but some people buy a product because they like what you stand for,” claimed Pat. “I think that’s our clientele”
“That’s why people come here. It’s not posh-y. It’s not modern and NAPA-y. Really, you’re looking at chickens you’re coming to the farm, you’re drinking healthier wine and relaxing. I think that people come here for the organic part of it. We definitely have people that drive out of their way,” stated Pat.
“People like to buy products that taste good,” according to Pat, “but then also there is something about what they stand for to that matters to folks.”
Guests can test the tastes of Carolina Heritage and hear more about their exciting plans by stopping at the heArt & Soul of the Yadkin Valley gallery at 113 East Main Street during regular business hours.