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Gauthier Vineyard sprouts up on New Kent family farm

By Amy Jo Martin, amartin@tidewaterreview.com

Tidewater Review

5:00 AM EST, February 19, 2014

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For the Gauthiers, the best part of opening a winery on their Barhamsville family farm has been its warm welcome into the wine community.

"The local wineries, especially James River Cellars, Saudé Creek Vineyards, and New Kent Winery, have been nothing but loving and sweet, and ready to give a helping hand," said Gauthier Vineyard Customer Service and Marketing Director Amy Gauthier Stephenson.

In fact, Stephenson, who volunteered at Saudé Creek for over a year learning the trade, plays a game of Tag with the other wineries, sending customers to one another with their business cards.

"All of us local wineries have this saying that 'we never compete, we only compliment'."

According to Stephenson, this was evidenced by the first piece of artwork that went inside the Gauthier Vineyard building, a stork on a piece of driftwood, which was donated by Saudé Creek Vineyard owner, John Britt.

Gauthier Vineyard, located at 5000 Farmers Drive (next to Hensley's Show Horses) on the 111-acre "Fair Winds" farm, is surrounded by rich New Kent County history, including the Rochambeau Trail, The Brick House, the county's first courthouse and the ending place of Bacon's Rebellion, and the Battle of Eltham's Landing.

According to Stephenson, local relic hunters, her husband included, have found evidence that the farm once served as Civil War encampments for both the Union and Confederate troops during the Peninsula Campaign.

Many of the wine names, such as Lafayette's Reserve, Rochambeau's Starboard, and Brick House Red, are inspired by the farm's historical location.

Initially, Stephenson and her parents, Sandi and Maurice Gauthier, planned on building a pavilion at "Fair Winds" farm, where they could hold large family get-togethers.

However, after traveling Virginia wine country, and doing a tasting at Cave Ridge Winery in the Shenandoah Valley, the family was inspired instead to start a winery.

"I remember after traveling around, that we said to each other, 'We can do this'," Stephenson said.

When approached by the Gauthiers, Cave Ridge's founder and vintner, Randy Phillips, agreed to mentor the family, and helped them plant 3,200 grapevines at "Fair Winds" farm in April 2012.

One of the first structures built on the farm was a gazebo, used to cover part of the water system for the grape production, and one of its main images on several of the wine labels.

According to Maurice Gauthier, the label colors, blue and gold, represent the U.S. Navy, in which he and his wife both served as captains.

The winery building, which overlooks a century-old pond stocked with bass and snapping turtles, was completed in 2013.

The building includes: a tasting room with a cozy fireplace and relaxed atmosphere, a wrap around porch, and scenic country setting. It is also child and pet-friendly, Stephenson said.

Gauthier Vineyard premiered its first wines on Feb. 1, using select grapes from the Shenandoah Valley, and has been gaining popularity ever since.

"We've even had people who don't like reds do a tasting and come back the next morning just for the port, [Rochambeau's Starboard]," Stephenson said.

Gauthier Vineyard's first homegrown (estate) grapes will be harvested this year in late summer and early fall.

According to Stephenson, the estate wines will be made from Norton and Viognier grapes, and created under Phillips' guidance.

Tastings at Gauthier Vineyard are $7 (or $10 for all wines, including reserve wines). All tastings include a souvenir wine glass.

"The best part of opening Gauthier Vineyard has been making new friends and meeting new people. The love from the other wineries has also been amazing and I am proud to be part of their family," Stephenson said.

For more information on Gauthier Vineyard visit: http://www.gauthiervineyard.com/ or call: 757-634-7527.

Martin can be reached by phone at 804-885-0040.