KNOXVILLE—Rhonda and Fred Moody discovered the Highland Manor Winery business to be a happy one.
“People come in happy because they’re at a winery. They’re happier when they taste the wine,” Rhonda said. “They’re happier still when they buy the wine.”
“It’s like a Bob Ross painting at a winery,” Fred said.
The happy shades of reds, whites and roses will take an orange tint beginning Tuesday, weather permitting. The oldest licensed winery in the state is slated to receive special brushes of paint when the side of the winery becomes the 16th mural in the University of Tennessee System’s “Everywhere You Look, UT” mural campaign.
With a goal to paint a mural in each of Tennessee’s 95 counties, UT has completed 15 murals since its launch in 2018. Murals have been painted in Shelby, Weakley, Knox, Greene, Sullivan, Meigs, Houston, Roane, Trousdale, Gibson, Grainger, Sumner, Lincoln, Giles and Cumberland counties. Each mural helps to tell the story of UT’s presence across the state.
Located on York Highway in Fentress County, more than 8,000 cars a day will travel past the 40-foot-wide mural on the side of the winery.
When Rhonda and Fred met at UT on the UT Institute of Agriculture campus, owning an award-winning winery wasn’t in their plans. Fred was enrolled in the veterinary school. Rhonda was a business major working at the vet school as a large animal caretaker. When Fred graduated in 1999 and began working at a vet clinic in Livingston, Tennessee, Rhonda transferred to Tennessee Tech to finish her degree.
“She’s definitely the business person here,” Fred said.
But perhaps there is more than one business person in the family.
In 2016, it was Fred who saw the business opportunity when his aunt and uncle decided to sell the winery that they had bought in 1999. Fred’s uncle said the winery, which began in 1980, was a six-month-of-the-year business and Fred thought it would pair well with the couple’s other six-month-of-the-year business, a bird hunting lodge. The winery now operates year around managed by Rhonda, who also works in insurance. The couple recently started a brewery on the winery property to tap a different audience.
“UT’s provided us with a lot of information to make us successful,” Fred said.
From education to extension agents to agriculture publications like “Native Warm Season Grass Management” to assistance from UT experts, the couple continue to look to UT. After the Moodys bought the winery with its 70 acres of Alwood, catawba and Norton vines, they sought the advice of David Lockwood, UT Institute of Agriculture professor of plant sciences and noted viticulture expert. Lockwood taught them about grapes, trimming vines and other aspects of the wine business.
It was natural when Fred saw a video about UT’s mural campaign followed by an article in the Tennessee Alumnus (now Our Tennessee) magazine, he and Rhonda decided to apply to be considered as a mural location.
“Everything that goes on in the state revolves in some way around UT,” Fred said. “Then they’ve got somebody in every county with extension agents.”
When visiting various bank or city offices, Rhonda said she frequently sees UT diplomas proudly hanging on the wall. On social media, she sees pictures at graduation time with multiple generations of family members holding their UT degrees.
The Moodys enjoy returning to the UT Institute of Agriculture and UT Knoxville campuses whether for continuing education, a veterinary referral or taking a winery employee from Kansas on a tour. It’s a place, they said, that still feels like home.
“UT was always the school to go to. If you could get in, you went to UT,” Rhonda said.
For Fred, some of his closest friendships, including meeting his best friend from Puerto Rico, grew while he attended vet school.
“It helped me think outside the box,” Fred said of his UT education.
“It became the melting pot,” Rhonda said. “It helped to break the small-town mentality and then allowed us to come back to a place we love and make a difference.”
Knoxville-based commercial artist Curtis Glover, who has had a mural painting business for six years, will be painting the mural in Fentress County. His work can be seen from Tennessee to Costa Rica.
To learn more about the UT campaign, each location and to nominate a canvas for use, visit https://everywhere.tennessee.edu/murals/.
The University of Tennessee is a statewide system of higher education with campuses in Knoxville, Chattanooga, Martin and Memphis; the UT Space Institute in Tullahoma; the UT Institute of Agriculture with a presence in every Tennessee county; and the statewide Institute for Public Service. The UT system manages Oak Ridge National Laboratory through its UT-Battelle partnership; enrolls about 50,000 students statewide; produces about 11,000 new graduates every year; and represents more than 400,000 alumni around the world.