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Nesting eagles, river breezes and farmland as old as the first settlers.

A passion for fine wine and sustainable working lands drove Tayloe and Suzy Dameron to open Upper Shirley Vineyards, a state-of-the-art winery in the cradle of American history. The vineyards are nestled alongside the gently flowing James River with breathtaking views of the Presquile National Wildlife Refuge, a 1,329-acre island bird sanctuary. 

Upper Shirley Vineyards neighbor Shirley Plantation, which dates to 1613, is a National Historic Landmark and the country’s oldest working farm. Upper Shirley Vineyards welcomes guests to its beautiful 14,000-square-foot Low Country winery to taste its wines, enjoy Chef Carlisle Bannister’s fine Southern cooking and celebrate life in the warm embrace of Tidewater Virginia.



Suzy and Tayloe Dameron are the proud owners of Upper Shirley Vineyards, which they founded at their historic home and equestrian farm. Suzy was at Hollins College and Tayloe, whose family settled in Tidewater Virginia in the early 1700s, was a cadet at the Virginia Military Institute, when they met and married soon after graduation. The couple moved to Germany, where Tayloe served as a lieutenant in the Army’s 8th Infantry Division and Suzy taught school. Some 33 years, two children, a Darden MBA, and a twenty-year finance career (mostly in Manhattan) later, they are here to share a genuine Virginia experience.

The Damerons live on the vineyard grounds in a private house built in 1867 from bricks salvaged from a circa 1660 house that once flanked the manor house at nearby Shirley Plantation. 


Our Team

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Ernie LaBrecque / Chef de Cuisine

A native of Williamsburg, Ernie is rooted in Southern style-cooking, using fresh, local ingredients. After cutting his culinary teeth as a teenager in local restaurants, he was accepted to Le Cordon Bleu Cooking School in Pittsburgh, one of the most renowned culinary schools in the country. After graduating valedictorian of his class at Le Cordon Bleu, Ernie continued to work and train under Chef Morrison a few more years until he began to feel the pull southward. He returned to Richmond to work as the Executive Chef for Pearl, Hard Shell, and Max's Positive Vibe Cafe, a high-end restaurant and non-profit that helps teach culinary skills to people with physical and cognitive disabilities. Now at Upper Shirley Vineyards, Ernie serves as our Chef de Cuisine, specializing in our private event catering and our Thursday night Prix Fixe dinners.   When he is not preparing delicious meals at Upper Shirley, Ernie loves to spend time with his wife and kids, as well as listening to intriguing podcasts and strumming his banjo!

Carlisle Bannister / Partner & Executive Chef

“Food is my life,” says Chef Carlisle, a fourth-generation Richmond restaurateur. Carlisle learned scratch cooking in his grandparents’ kitchen and at the Campus Room, the beloved Virginia Commonwealth University institution owned and operated by his parents for more than three decades. A graduate of the University of South Carolina, Carlisle has worked in all aspects of restaurants, fine dining, corporate food service and catering, operating his own boutique catering company, Culinary Connection, since 1999. He’s passionate about fresh, local ingredients and expressing his deep Southern heritage on the plate. His ultimate goal: making diners happy. “I love to cook, and I love to engage with people,” Carlisle says. When he’s not wearing the white jacket, Carlisle enjoys fathering four active kids, coaching football, hunting and fishing. 


Catherine Cristman / Director of Events

Catherine, a Richmond native and graduate of Christopher Newport University’s Business Program, brings a deep background in vineyard operations, event planning and recruiting to our events team. She was originally one of our first hires at Upper Shirley, and from the onset her business savviness and planning proficiency were obvious. Prior to her time on the vineyard, she had spent years organizing and planning events for non-profits. She returns to Upper Shirley with even more experience after completing a successful stint as a business recruiter. When she’s not busy organizing the perfect Upper Shirley event, Catherine enjoys spending time with her border collie exploring the great outdoors, trying new recipes in the kitchen, and kicking her feet up for a binge-worthy Netflix series.

Kaitlin Everett / General Manager

Daughter of the acclaimed chef and restaurateur, David Everett, Kaitlin has worked in all eight of his renowned establishments. She continued to pursue the industry by working in multiple fine dining establishments, including Acacia Mid-Town; restaurants are just in her genes. Kaitlin has been on the Upper Shirley Vineyards team since its inception, making her a major asset to our growth. Native of Williamsburg, she completed her BFA in Craft and Material Studies with a focus in Metal Smithing from Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Richmond.   "Having grown up in the industry, I've learned that a restaurant is more than just a place of employment for me; it's my whole life."


Abby Mertes / Assistant Director of Events

Originally from Blacksburg, Abby joins our team with a background in weddings and event planning, which has long been a passion of hers. While earning a degree in business management and marketing at Christopher Newport University, she worked in the Office of Admission as a student assistant organizing and executing events for prospective students. During her college years, she interned for a wedding planner in Charleston, South Carolina, and for a pharmaceutical company in consumer marketing in Chicago. Abby graduated from CNU in May 2019 and came straight to Upper Shirley Vineyards, where she handles social media marketing and assists Catherine with weddings and private events. She is on-site during all events to help you with logistics, coordinating with vendors, and welcoming guests. Abby is an avid Chicago Cubs fan and spends her days off exploring her newfound home of Richmond!

Matthew Hares / Banquet Manager

Originally from the Finger Lakes, The Wine Country of Upstate New York, he's always had a passion for wine. From working in the vineyards as a kid to now a member of the Upper Shirley Team, he loves this industry. Matthew graduated from the University of Mary Washington with a degree in Leadership and Management, which is very fitting as he oversees all of our weddings and events while also managing over 40 event staff. Matthew's work ethic and dedication to USV's success is always at his forefront; if you need something done, he's your guy. Matthew's other passions include his sports teams, (Yankees, Syracuse, 49ers), enjoying the outdoors, and finding hidden treasures at every antiques shop. 


Michael Shaps / Winemaker

Michael has been making wine in Virginia since 1995. He previously worked with two highly regarded central Virginia wineries — Jefferson Vineyards, and King Family Vineyards. In 2004, he won the Virginia Governor’s Cup Wine Competition, a venue where he has accumulated numerous gold medals over the years. Michael has been lauded by numerous publications, including Saveur, Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wine Advocate, Washingtonian and the Washington Post. He is also a partner in Maison Shaps Winery in Meursault, France, and holds a BPA (Brevet Professionnel Agricole) in Enology and VIticulture from Lycée Viticole de Beaune, France.

Ryan Swann / Vineyard Manager

A Tidewater native, Ryan was born to farm. The son of Virginia’s 2004 Farmer of the Year, Ryan was a leader in the Future Farmers of America and attended the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences at Virginia Tech. On the estate since the first vine was planted, Ryan continues to march us down the path of sustainability and best practices. Ryan leads the vineyard team through harvest season, maintenance of the vineyard and landscaping of the grounds. No matter the type of weather conditions, Ryan and his team work hard to ensure our property and vineyard are always looking their best! In Ryan’s free time he enjoys hunting, fishing and working on his private farm.