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Notaviva Vineyards joins alliance with Crooked Run Orchard; calls Town actions “malicious”

July 14, 2011 by Blue Ridge Leader filed under Business, Development, Government, News 21 Comments

The following was received as an open letter to the Purcellville Mayor and Town Council.

July 11, 2011

Mayor Lazaro, Purcellville Town Council Members:

I am writing to inform you of our alliance with Sam and Uta Brown, owners of Crooked Run Orchard, in their efforts to preserve their farm.

For some time now, we have followed with mounting disappointment and ire the news reports of their ongoing battle with the Town of Purcellville. Perhaps, like many others in the community, we held high hopes the issue would somehow “sort itself out” and that the Browns would prevail in their campaign. And perhaps, like many others in the community, we also held high hopes that their rights as citizens, rural business owners, and landowners would be preserved.

We reacted with shock as we learned of the Town’s aggressive tactics in removing the injunction preventing the seizure of the Brown’s property, and your subsequent acquisition of their land. In our opinion, you have violated a sacred American right, and we find it unconscionable that the Town of Purcellville has engaged in such actions.

Your quick-take was our tipping point, and we have committed ourselves to assisting the Browns in any way possible. In the short time we have known Sam and Uta, we have found them to be intelligent, passionate, honest and wise – stewards of the land with agricultural knowledge far surpassing our own. Such wisdom should be treasured, nurtured and preserved for Loudoun’s future generations, not abused like some inconsequential aggravation. It is a grave sign of Purcellville’s societal and political priorities that this situation has deteriorated to this point.

Through business collaboration, awareness campaigns, social media, and professional networking, we shall bring every resource at our disposal to their aid. To that end, we have established a Virginia ABC remote license at Crooked Run Orchard and have begun conducting tasting of Notaviva wines on their property each weekend. Our license allows visitors the legal right to enjoy open bottles and glasses of wine as they sit under the trees enjoying the rural vistas, though inevitably the question arises “what are those stakes over there…?” We have very much enjoyed the passionate response from customers as we advise them of the situation, the Town’s actions, and the many ways in which they can help. This collaboration has brought Crooked Run into the DC’s Wine Country family, and we have begun advertising Crooked Run as a remote Notaviva Vineyards wine tasting facility.

In addition to our remote tasting operation, we will be producing our first fruit wine this month with fresh produce harvested from Crooked Run. We find it hypocritical that the same Town who created the Loudoun Grown Expo is now endangering not one, but two rural small businesses. Our ability to source high quality local produce is paramount to our winery production capabilities and our continued success. Loudoun wineries depend on a reliable network of dedicated suppliers, as our industry growth has far outpaced our ability to quickly establish our own crops to meet demand. Not only will Notaviva Vineyards products be available at Crooked Run, we will begin offering many of their Loudoun grown products, such as fresh produce and Christmas wreaths, in our tasting room. These interdependencies between rural enterprises are critical to the sustainable goals of our Western Loudoun economy, as well as the preservation of our open spaces.

A long-time dedicated servant of community and small business interests, I was recently elected to the Board of the Virginia Wine Council, a Richmond-based organization tasked with furthering the rights of the wine industry. I am President of the Loudoun Wineries Association, and through the LWA we have a direct and open dialogue with both Loudoun Department of Economic Development and Visit Loudoun. I also serve on the Loudoun Economic Development Commission and the Rural Economic Development Council, the EDC Marketing and Business Retention Committee, and we are members of the Loudoun Chamber of Commerce. Though this correspondence does not endeavor to speak on behalf of any of these organizations nor imply their involvement in any way, I have copied each of them so they may be advised of our intentions and commitment to these matters. I will continue to seek their advice and support as we proceed down this path. In addition to the above organizations and legislators, I am also copying local media channels; the complete list of recipients appears below:

Senator Jill Vogel
Delegate Joe May
Loudoun Board of Supervisors
Matt Conrad, Deputy Chief of Staff, Governor McDonnell
Todd Haymore, Virginia Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry
Patrick Cushing, Director, Virginia Wine Council
Chris Blosser, VP Loudoun Wineries Association
Bree Moore, Secretary Loudoun Wineries Association
Colleen Berg, Treasurer Loudoun Wineries Association
Tony Howard, President & CEO Loudoun Chamber
John Wood, Chair EDC
Kurt Krause, Chair EDC MBRC
Doug Fabbioli, Chair REDC
Tom Flynn, Director Loudoun DED
Kellie Boles, ADO Loudoun DED
Patrick Kaler, CEO Visit Loudoun
Gem Bingol, Piedmont Environmental Council
Washington Post
Loudoun Times
Leesburg Today
Blue Ridge Leader
Purcellville Gazette
Six (6) Virginia Wine Blogs

I implore you to cease your malicious activities and your intent to destroy the Brown’s rights, property, crops and business. It is my understanding that the SCR is not funded, not engineered, and mired in lawsuits. Therefore any destruction of the Brown’s property under the mantle of quick-take eminent domain may be construed as nothing more than a thinly-veiled pro-development land grab; how could it be perceived otherwise? These activities are a scar on the history of Purcellville, of Loudoun, and of Virginia. It is our understanding you intend to construct a fence to bar the Browns from their property. Should you commence with this initiative, we will organize a benefit concert to raise funds for the Brown’s legal defense. This will be held adjacent to “town property” at Crooked Run and will engage a comprehensive social networking and media strategy.

If you feel there is no chance for further negotiations and that the Town’s position is firm, then our destiny is aligned with that of Sam and Uta’s. However, if there may be any possibility of the Town reconsidering its present course of action, we would gladly donate usage of our facility to bring all parties back to the table to re-establish a constructive dialogue. We do not believe the destruction of Crooked Run Orchards is a foregone conclusion, and will continue to work tirelessly to ensure its future.

I would welcome an opportunity to personally hear your responses to this correspondence; therefore I have a video crew standing by to meet us this Sunday, July 17th at 10 AM at Crooked Run. We are prepared to film you speaking in front of the 25-year old orchard, the 80-year old boxwood hedges, the previously working barn and the wide swath of private property you are intent on destroying. I would like to film you standing in front of the stakes you have placed delineating your unfunded roadway, as well as the stake you placed at the entrance to the Brown’s barn. Further, we would like to film you reading aloud the condescending letters and lease offer you have submitted to the Browns. I believe it is critical for the community and our future generations to bear witness to this debacle – if we do not study our history we are doomed to repeat it. Bear in mind every word of your response will be included for release to YouTube, agricultural, environmental and heritage association websites, and any other media channel interested in carrying the piece.

Please reply to all and let us know how many of you will attend the video shoot so we may plan accordingly. We look forward to filming you this Sunday at 10 AM.


Stephen Mackey
Co-Founder, CEO and President

Notaviva Vineyards, LLC
13274 Sagle Road
Purcellville, VA 20132



Town of Purcellville puts up fence on a portion of Sam Brown's land that they took via quick take condemnation. Mr. Brown is now separated from his fruit bearing trees.


  1. Angus says:

    Mr. Mackay, You should also notify Farm Bureau they might be willing to help, plus the have alot of lobbyist in there arsonal.

  2. David says:

    This is fantastic news; thank you Notaviva Vineyards! Let’s hope this is just the beginning of pushback against this out of control courthouse gang running roughshod over Purcellville. No doubt Mike Farris has a vendetta against the Browns too. After all, he can’t tolerate having real Christians around to contrast with the fake one.

  3. K. Mueller says:

    I live in Lovettsville and one of the few reasons I and my family even go to Purcellville, is Crooked Run Orchards. The town is about to have nothing of substance to offer for a family outing. So why even visit at all.

  4. Ann says:

    Finally someone to step up and help while we all stood around and watched the town take someones land. Notaviva you are stellar people!

  5. Molly Phemister says:

    I grew up in Fairfax but with many ties to the Leesburg and Purcellville area, ties which extended and deepened as I moved south and spend nearly a decade in and around Charlottesville. An active, healthy small farm is nothing short of a cultural heavyweight, especially there along the stirrings of the Blue Ridge, where orcharding dates back to the 1600 and 1700s.

    We have passed the moment of peak oil, and though the ramifications are only just beginning to become apparent, I would expect Purcellville’s town leadership to recognize that 50 years from now, productive rural land in northern Virginia will be on par with Napa Valley, which no one would ever sanely consider paving. The east coast cities will be hungry and nearby; the uniquely rigorous terrain of Loudoun will become some of the top wine territory in our nation; the perennial crop nature of naturally run orchards (I note Crooked Run is engaged in asparagus and has preserve wild insectaries on site to abate the need for pesticides) will become the backbone of cleaning the Potomac river, which will be a crucial step in rebuilding the once thriving oystering, crabbing, and fishing communities of the Chesapeake.

    This is not about one small farm in one small town in one mid-sized mid-Atlantic state. This is nothing short of choosing whether Virginians of the 22nd century have food to eat and water to drink. The values that guide your choices now have long long long impacts. Does Purcellville want Loudoun to be another Fairfax or Arlington, or does it want to be something closer to Albemarle, Rockbridge, or Floyd? I know where I grew up and I know where I’d choose, in a heartbeat.

  6. Payam says:

    Thank you Notaviva Vineyards. Your struggle for this cause not only reveals how passionate you are about this topic but how important these decisions are for future generations.

    As you say:

    “Such wisdom should be treasured, nurtured and preserved for Loudoun’s future generations, not abused like some inconsequential aggravation.”

    The ramifications of such decisions made about our land significantly outlast a single generation and must be made with great care. Land like this is itself a collection of cultural (and biological) knowledge acquired over time about a specific place and cannot be replicated – it is unique.

    The economic value of such place-based knowledge is evident in the multiple ways in which Notaviva Vineyards is benefiting from its relationship to Crooked Run Orchards and to the multivalent uses of ‘green spaces’ like this one.

    Thank you again for your efforts.

  7. David says:

    @Molly, very well said. I will be interested to see if Crooked Run sustains less damage from stink bugs in comparison to local orchards that use conventional practices. It’s too early to tell yet, but so far the stinks have been more sparse than anticipated.

    The Town is being SO short-sighted. This whole debacle appears to be nothing more than a means of boosting the commercial value of some nearby properties; and then what? They don’t seem to care.

    One other thing it shows clearly is this: The outfit that was running expensive full page ads and had so much influence over local elections a few years ago, “Citizens for Property Rights,” is a complete and utter fraud. The only “property right” they were concerned with then had to do with a proposed zoning change; the right to sell huge swaths of farmland to be carved up into 3 acre lawns without regard for the consequences on taxes and groundwater supply. Then, we were all told that concerns about the common good could not trump the absolute right of the individual property owner to do whatever s/he wished, and that demanding consideration of the impact on others was “selfish.”

    Now, in the face of this egregious and direct violation of the rights of this property owner, where are these “Citizens for Property Rights”? The people who were so vocal in advance of the 2003 election, those who dressed up in silly outfits and yelled rude things at their perceived opponents in board meetings, those who wrote letters to the editor full of language about sacred American rights and the tyranny of government bullies – where are they? Why aren’t they just as vocal in defense of the Browns? Why aren’t they at every meeting of the Town Council, threatening the members with loss of their jobs? Could it be that they were lying about their real motivation, they don’t really give a hoot about property rights other than their own, and were just exploiting a convenient campaign issue?

    Remember that when the propaganda starts flowing for the next election. It will be a different issue, and an organization with a different name, but the dishonesty and hypocrisy (and many of the players) will be the same.

    • John A. Haskin says:

      I recommend that you attempt to trace the funding source for the Citizens for Limited Government and Property Rights in Loudoun County, VA. My guess is that you will find a few big money sources like the Koch Brothers who are behind so much these days and who came to our small town in Michigan when the winds of change began to blow from another direction, one they did not like.

  8. Waldo says:

    I couldn’t agree more. There’s little reason to enter Purcellville — unless you’re curious about how areas of Long Island got the way they are. You can, by looking carefully, see how day by day Mayor Bob LaZero works his magic to transform this place into the sort of mess he left behind (temporarily) when he moved down here.

    I hope one of these days he’s in front of yet another parade but this time it will be because the crowds behind him are marching after him with pitchforks!

  9. Patty says:

    I am so happy to hear that Notaviva is joining forces in support of Crooked Run. The first place my family visited before our move to Western Loudoun was Crooked Run Orchard. It is a tradition not just every week through the fall but all summer for the amazing fruit, trails, and serenity it brings us. It is with absolute malicious intent and down right vicious what Lazaro and the town have done to the Browns and their farm. I fully support the Browns in their struggle and will now support Notaviva. I applaud their effort, compassion, and spirit!

  10. Stephen Mackey says:

    After I submitted the above letter, I sent another urging the Mayor and Town Council members to attend the Sunday 10 AM video shoot to personally defend their actions on camera. I have not received a response from any of them, though ex-councilman Varmecky has sent a response. The shoot went spectacularly, as Sam and Uta are naturals in front of the camera, and both their passion and frustration are incredibly genuine. Personally, my biggest revelation was learning of their desire to form a foundation to leave Crooked Run as an open space nature preserve for future generations to enjoy a la Temple Hall Farm. I find it incredible that the populace of Purcellville would choose roads and strip malls over this priceless gift – has the town lost its collective soul??? That said I suspect many of the residents are unaware of this generous vision and thus remain on the sidelines, allowing the motivations and personal agendas of their elected officials to go unchecked. We’ll be reviewing the rough footage this week and next and hope to have an edited piece in a few weeks – stay tuned…

  11. Andrea Gaines says:

    I drive by the Crooked Run corner and see, on the one hand, two hardworking farmers acting as worthy stewards of their land, and, on the other hand, a grossly over-sized commercial development (the former Cole Farm) covered with trucks and trash and silt and piles of wrecked buildings.

    Stunning that, in the choice between these two visions, the Town of Purcellville has chosen destructive suburban style commercial development over the preservation of a productive, centuries old working farm.


  12. Jonathan says:

    I found it interesting that both Joe LaFiandra and Judy Stearns of the Purcellville Gazette were present at the press conference but this week’s Purcellville Gazette didn’t publish a story or a commentary.

  13. Ryan Cool says:

    Judy wouldn’t even walk back to get a real tour of the property due to “poison ivy.” What a joke. But lets be real, she wasn’t going to write anything anyway, and Joe knows how wrong this is but Ben Weber and Frank, I mean Judy Stearns would never allow an article to be published. Of course they ran an article from the Cole Farm developer though. Stange, isn’t Judy?

  14. David says:

    @Ryan – I would think that a reporter investigating a story about either a working farm or a construction site would choose boots and jeans over high heels when she visits the site. That alone suggests there was no intention to do any actual reporting.

  15. Ryan Cool says:

    while not surprising, it is typical Lazaro to not respond to the letter, but provide a statement for the Leesburg Today article. He will never address this issue or others head on and thruthfully because he isn’t of strong enough moral character to do so.

  16. Loudoun Native says:

    Thank you Stephen Mackey and Notaviva Vinyards. You are truley a modern-day warrior for the rights of hard-working individuals in the face of greed and ignorance. Shame on Mayor Bob Lazaro and the Purcellville Town Council. These individuals clearly do not have the better interest of Purcellville’s culture, heritage, future on their agenda.

    The world could use more people like Stephen Mackey and Sam and Uta Brown.

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