MAURERTOWN — Brad and Krista Foster, owners of North Mountain Vineyard & Winery, say they are ready to walk away from the vineyard they stumbled upon here 20 years ago.
The Fosters are retiring, but their son John Jackson, Krista Foster said, hopes to keep the legacy of North Mountain growing.
“His vision is to bring the winery to the next level,” she said. “We brought it to a wonderful second level… and he’s looking for more improvement as we go.”
Krista Foster said she has talked with some of their neighbors who are interested in buying the property, but the situation is still unclear. The $2 million price tag will include all of the equipment necessary to keep the wine flowing — pending the new owners having the vigor to keep up.
“It is an engagement that you cannot take lightly,” Foster said. “Everyone has to be serious, but we still can have a lot of fun and good times.”
Brad Foster has managed the estate while his wife has been responsible for the tasting room. Jackson serves as the winemaker.
Krista Foster left Virginia to teach German and met her husband in California. While they lived in Monterey, California, the couple fell in love with wineries. They were avid wine tasters, visiting vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms.
When it was time to come home to Virginia, the couple were looking for land. What they found was the next step in both of their careers.
“All of a sudden, we purchased North Mountain, and all three of us agreed this is what we wanted to do,” Krista Foster said. “We learned whatever we had to learn in order to succeed in this business.”
She stepped away from her career teaching German and her husband, a pilot, came back to earth with an eye to work it.
As Krista Foster tells it, Dick McCormick put down the first vines here in 1983 at the foot of the winery’s namesake. He cleared a 10-acre vineyard and built a European-style farmhouse three years later.
The family has slowly built upon that legacy, almost doubling the acreage under vine — now up to 17 acres — expanding the house to include an open area tasting room, increasing the size of the cellar and introducing a bottling line downstairs.
Everything at North Mountain is set up for an estate-grown experience, Krista Foster said. From the vine to the bottle, everything is done in-house — setting North Mountain apart from a number of new wineries cropping up.
The growth of factory wineries with imported grapes is hurting the Virginia wine industry, Krista Foster said. She said she loves what she does and that she has enjoyed her life in the vineyard, but lately, it has taken its toll.
“The only disappointing factor is the last five years or so, too many wineries are coming on board,” she said. “It’s beginning to be a crowded field, which is not very nice.”
Where age is good for wine, it is wearing down the Fosters. Brad Foster is in the hospital with a broken hip, and she said their health, combined with a crowded industry, forced them to look seriously at retiring.
“It has been a very fulfilling career, and we’ve been at this for 20 years,” she said. “We are very reluctant, but we need to retire.”
In the face of a changing scene, she said she has tried to keep the winery as consistent with the original vision as possible.
“We’ve kept the schedule just like Mr. McCormick had introduced it 36 years ago,” she said. “We believe in continuity and persistence, and that really pays off so that customers know when we’re open, and that’s when they come over.”
As the sun sets on Fosters’ time at North Mountain, she said the life in total of a winemaker is what she will miss the most.
“The vineyard, the winemaking and being rewarded with good wine,” she said. “That’s what it’s all about.”