Posts Tagged ‘Chatham Vineyard’

“Art & Music on the Farm”–The Barrier Islands Center’s 10th Anniversary Celebration

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

The Eastern Shore of Virginia’s Barrier Islands Center  marked its 10th  anniversary with a walloping big  day- long celebration billed as “Art & Music on the Farm”.   Kudos to all the planners, the festival  was beautifully executed and great fun for all who attended.  A little history is likely in order here for those not familiar with Virginia’s chain of pristine off-shore Barrier Islands,  given world class status by the United Nations who has named it as one of  its Biosphere Reserves.  Stretching along Virginia’s  Atlantic Ocean coast  from Chincoteague, VA  all the way south to Smith Island at the convergence of the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay,  these barrier islands have a rich history as homes to hearty watermen,  destinations for tourists and hunters, outposts for Coast Guard stations and locations for lighthouses  as well as sheltering a singular diversity of  plant and animal life.  Except for Cedar Island, which still has a few remaining summer homes accessible only by boat trip,  most  of the remaining Islands have been purchased by the Nature Conservancy, 14 islands in all, some with romantic names like  Parramore, Rogue and Revel.  Purchased to  preserve them from development, the Conservancy’s protection has allowed the wildlife to flourish, especially critical for the many species of shorebirds and waterfowl that are now able to safely nest there.  It was to protect  the unique heritage of these  unique Islands that the Barrier Island Museum was established in 2002.  Located in the little hamlet of  Machipongo, VA , it has truly met its mission statement.  In the last 10 years, over 7500 artifacts from those by-gone days  have been collected for preservation and display at the Museum and the adjacent Almshouse Farm but the Center has ventured well beyond that initial mission, establishing itself as a place for classes for all ages, a lecture series,as well as a hands-on resource for local schools to teach young  children about the history and culture of the Eastern Shore .  ( Visit them at  )

So Saturday’s anniversary celebration brought together the important 3 “F“s– Fun, Food and Fiddling and the equally important  2 “S” s-  Shopping and Sipping.    Under the leafy shade provided by the  Center’s  huge broad oaks, tables were set up for rest, dining or just enjoying a glass of wine from the tents set up by two local vineyards,  a tall cold glass of freshly brewed  iced coffee from Eastern Shore Coastal  Roasting Co. booth or perhaps a frothy pint from  Wendell Brewery’s travel truck.   Lots and lots to see, do and hear– from 40 little tents filled with local artists,  several booths bursting with flowers and colorful shrubs from local nurseries  to a sound stage set  for the 4 different musical groups set to perform.  We arrived just as the  Carribean group, Ban Caribe,  was finishing  its toe-tapping opening number to much applause, “we”  being husband,  daughter-in-law and 2 grandsons.    Right off the bat,  the boys gravitated towards  the little sheep pen where a freshly shorn mama stood in the shade with her sweet-faced tiny  lamb, carefully people watching  the people sheep watching.   From there,  we made our way over to the  Kids Activity Tent staffed by patient volunteers who helped the kids get started on making  their creative picture project while I drifed towards the Appleseed Nursery area which was doing a brisk business from their  colorful display of cut sunflowers and blooming perennials, so winsome to the eye.


But it was the incredible  artwork  that  was the main focus of the day– some of the most famous artists on the Eastern Shore of Virginia  were there, works displayed  in  individual little white tents,  so many different creations,  a myriad of  art mediums.  Local painters like Thelma Peterson,  Mary Ann Clarke, Marty Burgess and Jack Richardson,  potter Elizabeth Hunt, sculpter  Maurice Spector,  metal artists  Copper Creations and Buck Doughty,  fine furniture craftsmen   Windsor Chairs, ceramics wizzard David Crane  and so many, many other fine artists and artizans were on hand, showing and selling  their unique creations.  Pungo Mills was there with their stone ground cornmeal, Chatham Vineyards was offering samples of  its  fine wine,  Machipongo Trading Company was madly selling cones of  delicious “Marsh Mud”,  the  super-delicious,  ultra- chocolate ice cream made homestyle by The Creamery.  Inside the Museum,  in the blissfully air-conditioned lecture room,  a  “Blues Workshop”  featuring the Harris Brothers was scheduled from noon to 1pm, followed by “Recollections from the Bay: Lives and Lore of Menhaden Fishing”  offered by the Northern Neck Chantey Singers.  Later in the day the well-known old time string band, Whitetop Mountain Band, was scheduled to appear out in the bandstand, see a video of that band below.  Out in the parking  lot,  a  sweet little collection of vintage cars caught a lot of eyes,  including my husband’s,  who has a real nostolgia for yesteryear automobiles.  All said,   having  enjoyed the 3 “F” s   as well as the  2 “S“s,  we set off for home, a few treasures in hand,  the end of a lovely Eastern Shore Day.


(Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)

A Stroll Through The Vineyard, A Wine Tasting, A Pleasant Summer’s Afternoon At Chatham Vineyard

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

Owner Jon Wehner Explains Chatham Vineyard’s European Trellis System

A few weeks ago my daughter, a  friend and I spent a lovely few  hours touring Chatham Vineyards located in Machipongo, VA on the Eastern Shore, learning about the art of growing grapes and  sampling some of  Chatham’s  delicious wines.  Owner Jon Wehner started our afternoon off  with a leisurely stroll through the  vineyard itself,  explaining  the vineyard’s seasonal activities,  which was quite engaging.   I have been fortunate to have done  the  “Tour & Taste”  at a number of wonderful  wineries but this was my first extensive tour through a vineyard and I think everyone in attendence  found it  quite interesting.   Definitely the perfect time of year for it,  the colors were beautiful.  In sharp contrast to the deep green of the leaves, row after row of  compact bunches of  black and purple grapes glistened in the sun,  plump,  juicy, nearly ready for harvest to begin,  no doubt a vintner’s favorite time of year,  the sweet culmination of a great deal of work.

Merlot Grapes Nearly Ready For Harvest

The first thing one notices is that wine grapes are quite small,  much smaller than their kissing cousins, the  “eating grapes”  like Thompson seedless that one buys in a grocery store.   Chatham is currently growing  about 20 acres of grapes,  primarily Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay varieties grown on French rootstock  as well as  a small section of Petit Verdot  produced to provide  extra color and complexity in blendings.  ( Especially in their Cabernet Franc which contains  3 %  Petit Verdot.)  As we walked through the vineyard,  Jon invited everybody to taste the various grape varieties,  including different plantings of the same variety,  all planted in rows which are oriented north- to- south  for a more even ripening of the fruit.  Although I much perfer a Cabernet wine to a  Merlot,  surprisingly,  I that found that I preferred the flavor of the  Merlot grape to that  of the Cabernet grape.  We learned about the “chewiness” of the grape skins,  how to evaluate the ripeness of the grape seeds and how the immature tannins  found in unripe seeds can adversely effect the wine.  We admired the huge wind machine, very tall with long,  tilted blades which can rotate 360 degrees,  a newish  invention which helps  vineyards get through an early frost which could kill the new fruit buds by  pushing  the higher, warmer air down towards the cold air found near the ground, circulating  it so that the coldest air doesn’t settle on the vines.   Jon says  it works very well and has added a second wind machine  to his  official  “Wish List”.


Now For The Real Fun- Wine Tastings and Hor d’oeurves Inside The Winery Building

Part of a historic waterfront estate and started in 1999,  Chatham uses a high density European trellis growing method and is now harvesting about 80 tons of grapes  and  producing about  3000-5000 bottles of wine each year.   The moderate  maritime climate here on  Virginia’s  Eastern Shore is similar to the climate found in Bordeaux, one of France’s  most famous vineyard regions.  Our excellent climate,  combined with the well drained loamy soils here in Northampton County,  creates  a good environment for producing  top quality grapes needed for fine wines.  Chatham Vineyard has received a number of  awards for  various vintages and its wines are found in some of the finest Virginia restaurants and yes, I do know from personal experience that  its wines make a very nice gift.




After the stroll we all went back to the winery building to look at some of the equipment used there to de-stem the grapes, crush them for the juice, etc., etc.   But the highlights  of the day no doubt were the  barrel tastings and the hors d’oeurves (catered by the North Street Gourmet Market in Onancock)  which included aged Gouda cheeses,  a delicious  spinach dip and a pungent salami rolled with cream cheese and chives,  accompanied by several varieties of olives and a number of other items.   But my favorite  hors d’oeurve  was  a very ripe brie served with  quince paste.  I had never before had quince paste– it looks a little odd,  a very dark brown and is shaped into a small, dense block which is a bit difficult to slice.  But trust me, on a multi-grain cracker, balanced atop the brie,  served with the Cabernet Franc,  that hard dark quice paste tastes  like ambrosia !     The afternoon concluded on a very high note  with a  tasting of  Chatham’s  late harvest red desert wine served with some luscious chocolate truffles, an elegant pairing, truly a treat to remember.   ( P.S.   Try a Chatham wine for yourself,  shop on-line at their website,  )  (Posted by Marlene Cree, licensed Virginia agent with Blue Heron Realty Co., 7134  Wilsonia Neck Dr., Machipongo, VA)