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The Lodge at sunset

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East Tennessee at Its Best

Steven Brewington on the Culture and Heritage of Windy Hill Farm

In 2000, George W. Sampson, founder of Cherokee Distributing Company, bought some land in Loudon on the banks of the Tennessee River and named it Windy Hill. He was fulfilling a long-term dream he had of owning a swath of land in East Tennessee and running cattle on it. His grandson, Steven Brewington, spent many summers on that farm, doing whatever the young teen could do to help.

Then, in 2014, after graduating from The University of Tennessee, Steven came back to the farm with fresh eyes. He started looking at other ways to use the property while still honoring what his grandfather had begun when Steven was just a boy. The family wanted to invest in the land, to recoup and reestablish healthy, quality habitats for wildlife and, subsequently, invest in the community at large by offering something special and unique that didn’t require a long drive from Knoxville. The decision was made to move away from the cattle-centric concept and consider an avenue that was beneficial to the land as a whole.

“That’s when the quail hunting started,” says Steven. “We started selling off the herd and converted more pasture and hay crop to wildlife habitat over the course of four years. We started some guided hunts here in 2018, small-scale and occasional, and it snowballed from there.” 

The vision ignited for what Windy Hill Farm and Preserve could be and the big ideas started to take shape. They wanted to create an elevated upland hunting experience – upland meaning quail, pheasant, chukar, and other land fowl, though Windy Hill is exclusively focused on quail. They built a main lodge for visitors to rest, eat, and enjoy the property. But then they realized that hunting was season-specific, and this pushed them to consider what the property might be used for in spring and summer. 

Since Windy Hill is a short 30-minute drive from Knoxville, it was worth considering what locals might enjoy if they wanted a staycation in a place that felt far away but wasn’t. So, they built more lodging. Currently, the property boasts 17 double-occupancy guest rooms, plus a farmhouse that sleeps six to ten adults. 

“We opened on July 1, 2022 for leisure guests and non-hunting folks,” says Steven. “We’re coming up on two years, and it’s been great. We’re still getting our name out there and building our reputation, but we’ve become a favorite spot for a lot of people.” 

A quick perusal of the activities list covers a lot of options for those non-hunting folks. Across the farm’s 650 acres, guests can enjoy bike riding, archery, fishing, kayaking and paddle boarding, orchard walks and casual hikes, yard games, and on it goes. Not outdoorsy? No problem. Opt for an in-room massage, crafts such as leaf pressing and wood burning, nightly bonfires, and, for the foodie, cooking classes at the on-site restaurant, Wilder.  

It’s like summer camp for adults – and you can bring your dog. 

“There’s all manner of outdoor exploration, but there’s also rest and relaxation. You can have a hands-on beekeeping experience with a honey tasting, or you can go over to the garden and talk to Amanda about what’s being grown for the Wilder restaurant. Or, you can take a wine hike, which is really a stroll, with five stopping points to taste wine and have some instruction there,” says Marlee Warwick, director of hospitality. “It’s great for a weekend getaway, where all meals are inclusive, or you can just come to dinner Thursday, Friday, or Saturday night, or brunch on Sunday. It all depends on your priority and what you’re interested in doing. It’s a great place no matter the season.” 

Dinner is by reservation, but walk-ins are welcome for Sunday brunch.

Marlee is particularly pleased to suggest a cooking class with Chef Ben Warwick, her husband, whose resume includes The Orangery and Cherokee Country Club. The food at Wilder is an homage to the South, with some French and Spanish-inspired dishes, and is largely rooted in ingredients grown there on the property. 

Not long after the couple married in May 2020, Mary Ellen Brewington approached them about joining the staff at Windy Hill. She knew they came as a pair. The Warwicks had toyed with the idea of opening their own restaurant, with his experience as a chef and her long-standing experience in hospitality (her resume includes Tomato Head, Knox Mason, as well as the Cherokee Country Club), but the Windy Hill concept was too good to pass up. 

“We aim for The Carefree Experience here, where a guest can leave any care or worry at the door. We’re excellent note-takers, which is where great hospitality begins. Whether it’s an allergy or restriction, or there’s an anniversary you’re celebrating, or the guest is a caretaker who needs a weekend away – these are all signals we look for,” says Marlee. “We craft an experience from start to finish. We’re not a large resort by any means, but we’re intentional. We have real relationships with our guests, and we’re not in the middle of nowhere. Once you pull onto the property, you sense the peace and quiet.” 

The success of Windy Hill can be attributed to many things – the sheer beauty of the place, the array of options, the restorative nature of the land. But all of that had to begin somewhere. There had to be a fount from which all of this flows. 

“I could write a book about the investment the Brewingtons have put into this community. They are over the top with their generous spirit. The only reason we have Windy Hill is because they saw the need to share it,” says Marlee. “They love East Tennessee, and they wanted to make an enriching experience for everyone. They really say, ‘This farm is your farm,’ and I see our guests being more than pleased, nourished, and restored. But, our team receives that as well, which is special. It’s a joy and privilege to be here.” 

Indeed, the guest experience extends to the staff, which isn’t typical in hospitality, widely known for its long hours and continual self-sacrifice. The very nature of the service industry demands giving of oneself to the pleasure of others, but the Brewingtons aren’t having that. 

“What’s special is our people, our employees,” says Steven. “They’re adopted into the family and we take care of them so they’re happy, healthy, and sustainable. We spend a lot of time making sure they enjoy the property too. We want them to do the activities we offer guests. They are our biggest salesmen, whether it’s serving tables or checking on rooms or guiding hunts. That makes it an approachable, palatable destination for guests.” 

As for the Brewingtons, there is hope that Lila, Jack, and Rosie – Steven and Allie’s young children – will one day play the role that Steven did in his childhood, helping where they can, getting their hands dirty, and learning about what it takes to share the family farm with others. 

“I would hope my kids have an interest [in the farm]. With my mom’s family having a business with Cherokee, we were aware of what my family did, but there was no pressure to go one direction or another. But I hope they love the place as much as I do,” says Steven. “This is the natural state for me. I was never going to be a desk guy. This is our culture – to be out and about. Growing up, everybody’s mama had a garden or their dad had a dove field he was working on. It’s part of our culture and heritage. It’s just East Tennessee at its best. We’re dirty-fingered people who like to work and enjoy and share the fruits of our labor.” 

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“There’s all manner of outdoor exploration, but there’s also rest and relaxation," says Marlee Warwick, director of hospitality

“What’s special is our people, our employees,” says Steven. "We spend a lot of time making sure they enjoy the property too."

  • The Lodge at sunset
  • Premium room
  • Wilder interior
  • Wilder patio view
  • Steven and Allie Brewington with their children, Lila, Jack, and Rosie
  • Steven and Allie Brewington with their children, Lila, Jack, and Rosie