Posts Tagged ‘Jon Wehner’

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