Located on the Delmarva Peninsula separating the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic (and only winery in the Chesapeake AVA), Chatham is a bit out of the way, even by Virginia wine standards. Operated by the Wehner family, they’ve been operating the place since it opened in 2005. Jon is actually a second-generation wine grower himself. I arrived early in the morning, and as the first visitor of the day I had the place to myself.
Visually the place is stunning. The property is right next to the water, so there was always a cool breeze to enjoy. You drive down the road past long rows of vines, passing the historic manor home (where the family still lives) before entering the production/tasting room.
Chatham’s story begins…35 million years ago (work with me here) when a meteor strike created what would become the Chesapeake Bay. The vineyard’s location on a peninsula can be described as a trade-off of different growing conditions; it never gets the heat a California-type vineyard gets, but at the same time it never gets particularly cold. The result is a terroir friendly to a lot of grapes, especially those who like mineral-rich whites.
Bordeaux’s influence is strong here. Today, they have 20 acres of French vinifera and make around 5000 cases/year. They even have a visiting French wine maker!
While I liked the reds, I LOVED the whites. Across the board, they were light and refreshing, often with nice minerality to them. I especially liked the 2017 Chardonnay, fermented in steel.
Next up was the rose was a nice pinkish color.
But a not-distant 3rd favorite was their French oak Chardonnay – it was a perfect example of how to get the most out of your oak barrels but not over-doing it. A bottle of that eventually went home with me.