A Family Affair
In the vineyards of rural Stokes County, the family Younts helps grow the future
By Peter and Amy Freeman
Regular phone calls to coworkers during the turmoil of Covid crisis have become something of a challenge in current work life. But after I was recently unable to reach one of our talented young architectural designers who lives rural Stokes County, my wife Amy and I were eager to see for ourselves how he was faring and what was happening in his neck of the woods.
Prior to the virus, Worth Younts made the 40-minute trek to our High Point office on a daily basis, but our calls briefly went unanswered.
“Hi Peter, sorry I’ve been out-of-pocket for a few days,” he explained when he finally reached us by phone. “Eric and I are just coming off the river. I think I told you about his bachelor party, and I really needed to wash up before I called you back.”
His mention of a bachelor party reminded me that Worth and brother, Eric Younts, whistle their own tunes in life. Rather than the traditional raucous late-night celebration that most of us are accustomed to among marrying city friends, these brothers of the north country and a couple of close friends chose to venture out and explore the historic river that carves through their own backyards. If there are any wild oats to sow, they are content to do so in an actual watering hole, one that runs right under their noses.
“We paddled all 42 miles of the Dan through Stokes County,” Worth explained, a tale of wonder that involved four days of rustic male bonding on the water, all the elements of a stag party in the wild.
For what it’s worth, the coming nuptials are also deeply planted in Stokes soil. Eric plans to be married under the same pair of walnut trees where his parents tied the knot some 30 years ago. The shaded hilltop off Fowler Road near Walnut Cove is adjacent to the site of the Fowler family homeplace, the home in which their mother, Tina Fowler Younts, grew up. But don’t be fooled by simple nostalgia, because in this neck of Stokes County, tradition and innovation walk hand-in-hand.
Bruce and Tina Younts shared a new vision and direction for this ancestral tract when, in 2011, they became vested in North Carolina’s newly emerging viticulture scene. The Younts Wine Farm was born. Today, over 5 acres of select vines are cultivated on the property. As a wine farm specializing in growing grapes, not a winery, family heritage informs every aspect of the vineyard’s diverse operation.
Wife Amy, son Louis and I made the trek to the winery and Younts’ homeplace to see for ourselves, a place full of surprises and hints of the shape of things to come. Under the direction of the next generation Vigneron, son Eric brings a heightened technical savvy to the endeavor of growing grapes and making wine. As with all of the Yountses, versatility is a family trademark. Eric was trained at the noted viticulture and enology program at Surry Community College, and his influence is clearly visible. New processes and an assortment of high-tech tools, however, nestle charmingly among antique wine presses and other traditional farm implements, a tribute to the past. But don’t be fooled by this mix of new and old technologies! The proof is in the variety of highly drinkable wines and popular ciders they make. On the day we came to call, for example, we witnessed firsthand the bottling of delicious Rosebud dessert wine.
Not surprisingly, commitment to sustainability and a “local first” mentality are deeply ingrained in the Yountses, not to mention a subtle but genuine ecofriendly mindset. Two generations of the family are Eagle Scouts (Papa Bruce and both sons), reflecting a passion for the great outdoors symbolized by a replica of a Scout cabin from former Camp Bunn Hackney that Bruce built on the farm, memorializing the cherished Boy Scout Camp of the Uwharrie Council. The simple structure features passive ventilation, rustic building materials and recycling.
Building and rebuilding things is clearly in the Younts’ bloodstream. In a nearby storage barn, for example, sits a classic Austin-Healey among several vintage motorcycles, each one at a different state of completion. Under the winery’s attached shed, one finds a re-purposed wine press sitting among old-fashioned tractors and other farm vehicles in the state of being restored to life.
Given this marvelous world of hands-on ingenuity, it’s no wonder that Worth Younts gravitated towards architecture and graduated at North Carolina State University’s College of Design. Like his father and brother, he likes to have a finger in many pies. In addition to practicing fine architectural design, for example, his interests have led him to seek better opportunities for those around him by re-imagining a community theater in Walnut Cove and developing new ideas for more affordable housing in and around Stokes County.
Another of his creative interests, developed by Worth and business partners Miles and Tiffany Montgomery, is something called The Daily Basket, a successful retail venture that brings sought-after local and regional products to downtown Germanton. A curated collection of homegrown craft foods and beverages are sold alongside seasonal organic produce, meats, baked goods and various locally made crafts and artifacts.
To our great pleasure, The Daily Basket offered the perfect ingredients for the quintessential Hunt & Gather picnic basket. In almost no time, the Freeman clan had selected an assortment of tasty local favorites and went in search of an al fresco feasting spot.
With a chilled bottle of crisp Younts cider and delicious mobile feast, it was great to land back at the walnut trees of the family birthplace to hear more about this dynamic creative force in the rural heart of Stokes County – and, of course, the approaching family wedding. h
Amy and Peter Freeman include among their pastimes mindful wandering. Amy, a photographer, and Peter, an architect, are perpetually in search of new gigs, fresh digs and fun swigs.