Chiswell Estate Enters its First Spring as a Winery
For another six weeks or so, Cynthia Chiles will be watching the young grapevines surrounding her at Chiswell Estate, the area’s newest winery. Like other wine growers, she worries that a string of warm days will cause a growth spurt that might be followed by a cold spell, thereby damaging tender new growth and limiting wine production. It’s a scenario that’s all-too-likely, and she knows it.
Although Chiles is new to managing a winery, worrying about the famously fickle local weather has been a preoccupation all her life. She’s a member of the Chiles Orchard family, and expects a number of tense nights every year. In addition to their orchards, her family has grown grapes for thirty years at Batesville and Carter Mountain for other wineries, but now the wine from grapes there, as well as the plantings of Chambourcin, Vidal Blanc, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot at Chiswell are bottled under the Chiswell label.
Chiles said there’s a warmth and camaraderie among area wineries: “We’ve been made to feel really welcome,” she said. Elite local winemakers Michael Shaps and Matthieu Finot make Chiswell’s wines, and other wineries have made a point of wishing her the best. “There’s a lot of texting back and forth when the weather is threatening,” she said. “And someone who stops in at, say, Pollak or Septenary—or really at any of the local wineries—is encouraged to come here next. I do the same for them.”
Each of the local wineries has something distinctive about it. Chiles believes that the beauty and space afforded by the historic Jeffersonian estate will entice visitors to spend some time on her porch, on the grounds, or in the graceful common rooms. Her family made the decision to have an “adults only” policy at Chiswell. “We welcome families at our orchards in many ways, and have a lot of activities that are family-friendly,” she said. “They can sample our wines there, and come here for a different kind of experience.”
There are already a number of regulars who find their way down the back roads again and again for a moment of relaxation and peace. Chiswell offers a variety of substantial snacks that go well with the wines.
In late March, Chiles headed to Richmond and the Governor’s Cup celebration (see below). It was her first time at a reception for the awards, often considered to be the most prestigious for Virginia growers. “We’re just bystanders this year,” she said, “but who knows about the future.”
Cyclists Stop in White Hall, Report on Breakfast at Wyant’s Store
In May of 2021, Stephen and Karen Kreider Yoder began their travels east on a bicycle built for two. Three thousand or so miles later, they rolled up to Wyant’s Store, hungry for breakfast. They weren’t disappointed. In an article they wrote for the Wall Street Journal (Stephen is an editor there) they said they’d feasted on “Dave’s Mess,” a breakfast bowl created by the store’s owner, Dave Wyant.
Wyant, who retired in 2020 from his long-time position as a football referee (he also worked for the Virginia Department of Transportation), said he’d always been aware of the importance of maintaining a weight that allowed him some speed while judging NFL games. “One of the guys had a diet book that recommended eliminating all wheat,” he said. “I looked around at the breakfasts we were serving at the store and improvised a version without biscuits or bread of any kind.”
Thus was born “Dave’s Mess,” a giant bowl of eggs (scrambled or fried), peppers, onions, sausage and bacon, all topped with a choice of cheeses. Whether or not this diet approach works for everyone, the cyclists said in their account, published in the February 26 edition of the Journal, that they could eat just about anything they wanted to fuel their 63-miles-a-day journey.
White Hall is on U.S. Bike Route 76, a popular cross-country bike path that begins in Colorado and ends in Yorktown. Cyclists stop at his store often and Wyant has plenty of stories about them. The Yoders weren’t the only tandem bicyclists to stop for a meal: “Once a family of five showed up, split between a three-person bike and a two-person bike,” he said. “Another time, a guy biked through here and wanted to stay a while. He stayed for two or three nights in my barn.” This hungry biker spent a lot of time eating at Wyant’s store, so much so that the owner became concerned. “I told him if he kept this up, he’d never be able to get back on his bike.”
The store keeps a journal that cyclists sign on their way through Virginia, all appreciative of the small-town feel and honor system. “We let them pay when they’re ready,” Wyant said. “Often they go outside to eat and rest, but they always come back. I hope this will never have to change.”
New Chef, New Menu at Ivy Road House
It’s been a one-year journey with more ups and downs than anyone could have imagined, said Bill McKechnie, one of the owners of the Ivy Road House. A grand opening didn’t seem right, considering the times, and the owners and staff hoped that each new development as Covid unfolded would make dining out seem more normal. The original vision was to serve the combination of tourists, students and families that most area restaurants expect. With no students and no tourists for much of the year, their expectations changed.
However, there were lessons to be learned, said McKechnie, despite the difficulties. “In Crozet, it’s all about the families,” he said, “whether or not there’s a pandemic.” That’s not to say visitors to the area and University students won’t find a warm welcome to the restaurant.
McKechnie wants people to know that the interior is not what you might expect from what you see driving by. There’s lots of light and space and interesting views, with calm colors and greenery everywhere you look. “The inside belies the outside,” he said. He’s very aware of the limitations of his location: “I overhear a lot of cursing from motorists at this intersection (Routes 240 and 250),” he said. The upcoming installation of a roundabout will be welcome, despite the inconvenience. “It will be a lot of pain at first, but it will solve a lot of problems.”
As part of the thoughtful re-imagining of the venerable space once known as Pop and Ethel’s, there’s a new chef in the kitchen, trained by well-known Charlottesville chef Christian Kelly, one of the owners. Ivy Road House Chef John Connolly, who formerly managed the kitchen at Lampo’s in Charlottesville, is a distinguished baker and a devoted believer in delivering food with the best seasonal ingredients, locally sourced. All the bread, including the new flatbread selections, are baked in his kitchen. And there will be more, Connolly said. Ivy Road House will begin offering brunch May 1, and continue on Sundays and later Saturday as well, and there will be a focus on homemade baked goods.
Connolly lives near Crozet with his young family, gardens, and raises goats. In keeping with his desire for the freshest ingredients possible, he hopes to plant a kitchen garden for the restaurant. Meanwhile, the new menu is evolving, incorporating a great deal of late-winter and spring produce in the small plates, entrees, salads and flatbreads. McKechnie said they’ll keep the popular old favorites, too. “Hopefully, we’re entering a new phase,” he said; “Somewhere between anxious and “new normal.”
Kathy Johnson Honored
Kathy Johnson, a colorful dynamo who became a tireless advocate for Waynesboro in a number of volunteer roles, was honored by the Waynesboro City Council in March, ahead of her move to Texas to be close to her family. Since her move to the city in 2005, Johnson served the Boys & Girls Club, the Downtown Waynesboro Board of Directors, the Library Board, the Augusta Health Community Steering Committee, Valley Area Community Support, the Appalachian Trail Town Advisory Committee, the Augusta Regional Chamber of Commerce, the Waynesboro Kiwanis Club, and the Wayne Theatre. She was an Appalachian Trail Angel.
Known for her upbeat personality, her love of art, and her oversized glasses, Johnson had an impressive string of professional accomplishments as well as well as her voluntarism, ranging from radio personality to Artisan Center’s “trail boss” to writing and directing her popular “Murder is a Game” staged mysteries. Before she moved to Waynesboro, she managed a family farm near Afton and worked for the Crozet Gazette. “I loved working for the Gazette and writing about the history of the area and the people who live there. Getting to know the roots of where my mother and the Schultz family came from in Greenwood, Afton and Crozet was a joy,” Johnson said.
Western Albemarle Shines in 2022 Governor’s Cup Competition
It’s no surprise that the vineyards around Crozet produce some of the best wines in the state, a distinction that’s proven year after year at the Governor’s Cup, considered the most difficult and prestigious of the state’s wine competitions. Growers and wine makers like to be judged against their peers, who all work with the same soil, the same weather conditions and the same diseases and insect pests. The winners were announced in late March, and both Pollak and Stinson Vineyards are in the “Governor’s Case,” the 12 best wines submitted. Pollak’s 2017 Meritage made the case, as did Stinson Vineyard’s 2017 Meritage.
Top honors this year—the Governor’s Cup—went to Cana Vineyards & Winery of Middleburg’s 2019 Unite Reserve.
Cider was judged in its own category, and Albemarle Cider Works’ Virginia Hewes Crab was judged to be the best in the state.
Just as indicative of the overall quality of our local wines are the sheer numbers of gold medal winners within a stone’s throw of Crozet. The Governor’s Case winners are chosen from these. Find a complete list of gold, silver, and bronze medal winners at www.virginiawine.org/governors-cup/awards.
Gold Medal Winners
- Afton Mountain
- 2017 Bacco
- 2017 Petit Verdot
Albemarle Cider Works
- 2019 Royal Pippin
- 2020 Wickson
- 2019 Hewes Crab
Flying Fox Vineyard
- 2017 Petit Verdot
Grace Estate Winery
- 2017 Ice Wine
- 2018 Le Gras de Cuve White
King Family Vineyards
- 2019 Petit Verdot
- 2019 Mountain Plains Red
- 2019 Sauvignon Blanc
- 2020 Chardonnay
- 2020 Viognier
Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards
- 2019 Petit Verdot
- 2020 Petit Manseng
- 2019 Bundoran Blue
- 2017 Meritage
- 2019 Meritage
- 2017 Mille Fleurs
- 2019 Merlot Reserve
- 2017 Meritage
- 2015 Scintilla
Bluebird & Company Lands in Crozet
New tenants are coming soon to the space vacated by Countryside Pet Grooming, which is moving into the space left by the Art Box and Frame Shop. The familiar lavender building will house a unique business anchored by Bluebird Books, formerly a mobile and pop-up bookstore; and Fancy and Nell, a curated clothing pop-up. Other local products and gifts will be sold there, too. The women behind this venture are Flannery Buchanan and Chelsea Powers, and they promise activities as well as shopping. Watch for more details in May. Meanwhile, no word yet on whether Bluebird and Company’s new building will get a fresh coat of paint to better match its name.
Virginia Museum of Natural History Seeks Design Firm
The search is on for a lead design firm to accomplish the final design work and documents for the branch campus of the Virginia Museum of Natural History to be located next to the South River Preserve in Waynesboro. All the firms being interviewed are experienced in designing museum buildings and exhibits, as well as in-state construction procedures. The public will be invited to meet and speak to representatives of potential firms as the selection process continues.
A nationwide discount chain, Ollies, opened March 31 in Waynesboro. The store specializes in closeouts, selling everything from chainsaws to sheets. It’s in the former Kroger store on Waynesboro’s Lew DeWitt Boulevard.
Three professional clinics— Crozet Eye Care, Crozet Pediatric Dentistry, and Aligned Clinical and Educational Services—have moved to the newly-constructed health care complex adjacent to the Lodge at Old Trail, 300 Claremont Lane.