Having spent a long time with Tom and Laura at Whitestone Oyster Co, getting stuck in a LOT of traffic, then travelling over the 23 mile Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, we eventually made it to Virginia’s Eastern Shore, thirsty for some local wine!
Given how hot it was, our late arrival may have been a blessing in disguise as we were going to have to earn our wine… By kayaking through Church Creek to get to the vineyard!
I haven’t laughed so hard for ages, watching Mike get into a kayak for the first time in his life whilst holding a very expensive camera! After Mike and Barry’s 2-man kayak went round in circles, got beached and threatened to capsize, we were finally on our way for the 45 minute gentle paddle to the vineyard.
The scenery was beyond beautiful, it’s part of 70 miles of Virginia’s Eastern Shore that is not allowed to be developed on, so is completely ‘au naturel’ – plus, a quick note for the twitchers out there, we kayaked around a small island inhabited by a whole nest of Blue Herons – they were MASSIVE!
Arriving at the jetty, we were greeted by Jon – the owner of Chatham Vineyards, where they produce the very highly rated Church Creek wine.
Jon and his middle son, William, took us for a quick drive around the vineyard to look at some of the grapes they grow… There’s a whole mixture, from Cabernet Franc and Merlot to Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon. In total they have over 32,000 vines, all kept in shape and harvested by a small team – mainly Jon, his wife and the three kids!
Jon firmly believes that wine should be ‘expressive of the site’, which means that he really wants the flavours of the location to come through in the wine, rather than flavours of oak or other additions. They firmly believe they are farmers first, winemakers second.
Our visit to the winery confirmed this theory… it works very very well!
Inside the winery is a very modest but high quality setup, cases of wine stacked up next to top notch stainless steel tanks for fermenting and grape pressers for… well, what do you think they’re for?!
We headed to the bar where we were served up a taster of each of their wines. The whites and rose were accompanied by some delicious 4 year aged gouda cheese, sweet crisp toast, black nachos, and a gorgeous hot crab and cheese dip. Whilst the reds were served with a delicious sweet walnut and cranberry bread, which actually had some of the Cabernet Franc baked into it.
Now I’m no expert wine drinker, but my personal favourite had to be the Steel Fermented Chardonnay – it was so clean, fresh and floral… a real testament to the theory of making sure the taste of the farm came through.
Having nothing else planned for the evening, we ended up spending a couple of hours chatting to Jon and the family, sitting out on tables and chairs overlooking the farm… Barry and Mike played football (real football, ok… soccer) with the two sons, Jon and William, whilst the rest of us enjoyed the wine and marvelled at the fireflies floating around, trying to work out what made their tails light up!
It was such an idyllic evening, surrounded by fantastic and interesting people, gorgeous scenery and delicious fresh wine… Perfection!
If you find Church Creek wine on a menu in a restaurant, or in a store give it a go, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed. If you ever find yourself in Virginia’s Eastern Shore then make sure you go and have a tour… It’ll inspire you beyond belief!!