' Cheers to 2022 from Chatham Vineyards - Chatham Vineyards on Church Creek

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Cheers to 2022 from Chatham Vineyards
12/28/2022

After a memorable harvest season at Chatham Vineyards, we move into 2023 with a refreshed lease on life that fuels our passion for producing great wine that captures the essence of Virginia’s Eastern Shore.

Wehner

We’re incredibly thankful for our staff and partners who weathered the uncertainty of the last three years with us. Their commitment and dedication remind us that it takes a village to grow and craft wine.

 

And we’re also grateful for our customers, who visited in droves throughout 2022. More than 750 wine and music enthusiasts made our annual Dead on the Vine a record-setter, enjoying amazing sets from Last Fair Deal on a picture-perfect summer evening. Stay tuned for details in the coming months on the 15th annual concert returning in August.

 

Harvest for the Ages

 harvest 2022

Grape growing can be finicky, so dependent on weather conditions that vary every year in Virginia. But we dare say 2022 was about as close to perfect as possible on the Eastern Shore, thanks to the wet spring and five weeks of dry heat that blessed us as fall approached. The rare, late-season drought – with fewer rains and heavy dews – allowed us to keep our grapes on the vines longer to ripen.

 

This year’s grapes also had a richer, darker color. The Chatham Rosé, made in the saignée method, will be darker in color with more blue bleeding from the Petit Verdot.

 

Benefitting from a cool, wet spring, the grape clusters we harvested this year weighed slightly more, creating a surplus. Paired with the dry fall, we have the ideal combination of more fruit and higher quality. Ultimately, growing and harvest conditions will lead to 2022 vintages that should be exceptional.

 

Surplus of Experimentation

 winemaking 2022

With the bountiful yield and quality of 2022 fruit comes more willingness for experimenting. Virginia winemakers may take a tank and extend maceration or try working with some different barrels for aging.

 

Chatham is exploring new co-fermentations — the Cabernet Franc and the Petit Verdot together, for example – and is also working with some new French oak coopers.

 

Besides a darker color, better concentration and a slightly different flavor profile, the grapes have a lower PH, which makes them more ageable. It’s what keeps keep grape growers and winemakers interested year after year.

 

Single Varietals Surge

red wine 

This year, Chatham planted a new Petit Verdot clone – French clone 1058 – that differs slightly from the 400 clone planted by most U.S. vineyards.

 

In the next few years, Chatham will introduce this new grape in a varietal Petit Verdot, instead of blending it in other reds. Wine lovers can look forward to a subtle, more elegant Petit Verdot that has a little more finesse thanks to the ideal growing season.

 

A varietal Cabernet Sauvignon is also on the horizon, thanks to the ideal ripening conditions of 2022. It’s well documented how Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to fully ripen on the East Coast, especially on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. For Chatham to produce a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon tells you a lot about the quality of this growing season. 

 

“Typically, you blend to try to produce the best wine you can,” said Chatham winegrower Jon Wehner, who owns the business with his wife, Mills. “But doing varietals really showcases what the grape can do on its own. You’re going to see some pretty interesting and powerful varietals this year because of the weather conditions.”

 

Redeveloping for the Future

 vineyards

Chatham also spent the past year redeveloping several of its existing vineyards, as many were planted as early as 1999. One of them is for Chatham’s Church Creek Steel Chardonnay, a full-bodied signature expression of the varietal and Eastern Shore terroir.

 

“It’s really fun to look at this vineyard that’s 23 years old and see that it still produces a healthy canopy and incredible grape quality even though the yields are low,” Jon says. The decision to keep that vineyard as is will please all of those who have made Chatham Steel Chard a classic. Learn more about our redevelopment efforts here on the blog throughout the year.

 

Jon feels energized by the past year, excited to be part of the trial-and-error process of winemaking and growing that requires decades of fine tuning to get right. “What makes wine so interesting is the process of moving forward and being thoughtful,” he says. “There are no shortcuts to getting there.”

 

Slow and steady experience can’t be bought. Chatham wines showcase the distinctiveness of Virginia’s Eastern Shore along with the slow and steady process the Wehners embrace.

 

Every year is different, Jon likes to say. Cheers to 2022, a very good one.

 
Post By:   Amanda Shortt
 
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