When Stephen and Shannon Mackey started their vineyard and winery operation—Notaviva Vineyards—in 2003, they knew nothing about agriculture or the wine business.
But while they lacked any kind of knowledge about what they were getting into, they didn’t lack confidence that they’d figure it out somehow. Call it hutzpah, or a case of “fools rush in where angels fear to tread” mixed with matchless energy, the couple made it through.
Today, the Mackeys own a flourishing vineyard and winery business, have three children, and a beautiful home on Sagle Road northwest of Hillsboro.
The story of how they did it and their underlying philosophy is contained in Stephen Mackey’s book, “Dream, Build, Believe. Love, Wine, Music and the Founding of Notaviva Vineyards.” Mascot Books released it Oct. 1, in conjunction with Virginia Wine Month.
“We purchased the land in 2003, put the vines in in the spring of 2005 and built the tasting room in March 2008,” Stephen recalled in a recent interview.
The story started with Stephen’s background in the music industry, then the “romantic whim, leap of faith, and the ah ha moment” of the inception of the winery itself.
He was on a date with Shannon at Breaux Vineyards in 2002, and she asked him, somewhat disbelievingly—“Do people really do this for a living?” That led to a “do you want to do it” question, then the answer, “yes”.
“We bought the land nine days later. We had no farming knowledge—just how to grow a few tomatoes,” he said. Shannon was from West Palm Beach, FL. The story of their romance is in the book, and Shannon said in her foreword she knew from the beginning Stephen spelled T.R.O.U.B.L.E.
While building Notaviva Vineyards, they commuted to corporate jobs in Rockville, MD. Shannon was pregnant and they were starring in the HGTV reality series Dream House, which documented the construction of their home and the winery.
“And all the while we were learning how to plant vines and make wine for the first time,” Stephen said. It was investment by sweat equity, the first steps on a journey that had its share of ups and downs.
“Love is the only sweat equity that lasts—for us it’s the kids and the land, a deep-rooted belief that we could overcome all these challenges when it seemed impossible. That’s the glue of the book,” he said.
“The only way to achieve anything is to take the first step into the unknown; you’re going to do 10 things wrong, but the journey is the point of it all,” Stephen said.
The “believe” part is sticking it out when the going gets tough. At the end of 2008, the couple quit their jobs.
“We had $10,000 a month in bills, a huge mortgage, no money and two babies,” Stephen said.
“So how do you pick yourself off the ground? You keep moving forward, you never give up. We almost lost Shannon over the birth of our third son, but we created two small businesses—Notaviva Vineyards and Mesh Omnimedia—and we were nominated for the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce’s small business awards.”
The book retails at $24.95 and is available through Amazon, Kindle, Barnes & Noble and at Notaviva. It’s doing nicely—Oct. 6 it achieved a “#1 new release” in Amazon’s wine pairing category.
Go to the book’s website at dream-build-believe.com.