Winter 2018. Chilly but not Chillin'...


Photo by: Mary Otanez


2018 has dawned crisp and cold (record cold of -6 degrees) in the vineyards at Upper Shirley, yet we give thanks for the soft light of winter, the warmth of the fireside hearth in our tasting room, and hopefully the resilience of our vines. Once the fall wedding and holiday celebration seasons come to a close at the end of the year, we take a deep breath during the remaining winter months before the spring bud break and wedding seasons, our busiest times of the year.

This is not to say the winter has been a sleepy one; our To-Do list is enormous. The cold weather damage from last year led to the removal of 6500 vines. Four year old vines deep rooted in Pamunky soil are anything but easy to extract. A solid month with a full crew and heavy equipment was needed to remove and prep to replant that many vines. Long overdue vehicle and building maintenance has now given way to bottling.

Our first bottling commenced this week with 550 cases of our estate grown 2017 Viognier and we could not be happier! It has the same roundness that is becoming the signature of Upper Shirley Viognier, an abundant floral aroma, and a touch more crisp acidity. An outstanding harvest in Gordonsville prompted us to bring back Sauvignon Blanc after a 2 year hiatus. The Sauv Blanc, Rose and #2 White Blend are next to be bottled. Though our over vintage (barrel aging) red wines are months out, our winemaker Michael Shaps believes he has a stellar vintage in the barrels.

And, of course, the fire in the fireplace is keeping the tasting room cozy, and we still have live music on Saturdays and Sundays to soften the chill. In February we have a Thursday night Wine Paired Dinner, Valentine’s Day dinner, and our 2nd Birthday Bash to look forward to. 

Chef Carlisle’s winter seasonal menu features Chicken Pot Pie, Crab cakes, Crab bisque, Lobster and Sweet Corn Hushpuppies, and a Country Cured Cuban Sandwich. This is Carlisle’s 9th menu in under two years as pushes to stay in tune with the seasons and provide variety to our loyal restaurant patrons.

We were tickled to be mentioned as one of the best restaurants of the year by the Richmond Times-Dispatch and by Megan Marco, on her website Marco, who declared our Glazed Donut Bread Pudding one of the best desserts in Richmond. In the meantime, we wholeheartedly agree with Megan, who calls Chef Carlisle’s Glazed Donut Bread Pudding, “pretty much everything you want in a classic dessert,” having “just the right amount of sweet and gooey with a delectable soft texture.”

“This plate almost got licked clean,” she says. We raise a glass to that and say, “Megan, next time go right ahead.” We don’t blame you one bit!

As we look forward to another great year of making award-winning wines and sharing them with you, we are excited to announce that we have committed to increasing our output from 2,800 cases to 3,500 cases. We are replacing the 6,500 damaged vines from 2017 and we have 3 acres of new vines going in this spring topping out our original block at over 20 acres. Stay tuned and visit often.