If I worked in Cary, North Carolina, Chatham Hill Winery would be my Wednesday night retreat from the pressed burdens of an over-starched corporate world. And probably Thursday’s retreat. Maybe even Friday’s, too.
As it is, I don’t live in Cary, so I only had the opportunity to briefly visit one day after work as I passed through town. The winery popped up on my GPS, which is a rare occasion (but a welcome surprise, nonetheless, considering my nav system is so old that the suction cup no longer holds the device to my windshield and the resulting falls onto my dashboard has the navigation voice occasionally shouting directions to me in German).
I let Das GPS guide me to the winery, but as I started snaking my way deeper and deeper into a corporate business park, a got a little nervous. Could this be right? I decided to go a little farther before giving up. After winding down several roads lined with identical brick buildings, I suddenly spotted a small, inconspicuous sign. Tucked away among the other small businesses and practically hiding itself like a well-concealed, stray animal in the woods, Chatham Hill could have passed for any other business building. No glitz, no glamour, no snazzy oak barrels or rosebush-lined gravel driveways to lure visitors to a tasting. The building just — fit in. I almost didn’t even notice it as I drove closer.
Convenient. I’d certainly enjoy a corporate holiday party at a winery a block or two from my office.
Not to mention that I’d be interested to meet the wine maker, a biochemist from Poland: Marek Wojciechowski, to learn a bit more about his wine-making technique (I had to write that name down to remember it, and I’m still not sure if I spelled it correctly). I can only assume that a biochemist making wines would be meticulous in ensuring that the wine-making process was completely controlled and precise.
I didn’t get to meet him and ask, but I figured I’d get a decent idea during the tasting, which offered about a 50/50 selection of typical varietals and “Sweet Carolina” choices. Oh, and did I mention that this was the first winery that used stemless glasses? It’s a welcome change from the copious amounts of stemmed glasses that currently fill my wine cabinet.
I especially want to tip my metaphorical hat to the efforts that Chatham Hill Winery contributes toward raising funds for Operation Homefront, a non-profit group that supports U.S. troops by helping the families they leave behind while on active duty. Not to mention that armed servicemen and women receive an additional 10% discount on purchases of single bottles of wine (15% for cases).
Overall, Chatham Hill is a unique atmosphere. While it’s not flashy, I still enjoyed the environment for its open space conducive to catering toward corporate functions and I likewise appreciate their high-flying patriotic spirit.
- Chatham Hill 2009 Merlot – A dry, black cherry nose, mellow tannins with hints of almonds and chocolate — a nice, delicate balance between fruits and tannins; a typical “mixing grape” before Merlots got heavy and spicy ($16)
- Chatham Hill Christmas Red – a semi-sweet, zesty mulled drink with flavors of cranberry and candied cherry… reminiscent of the Gluehwein found at German Christmas Markets ($15)
Other Tasting Notables:
- Chatham Hill Sweet Carolina White – A semi-sweet palimino with hints of grapefruit and lime aromas. Peach, nectarine, and honeysuckle flavors – similar to a semi-sweet Reisling
- Chatham Hill Pomegranate – slightly sweet with a cranberry cherry aroma; zesty tart flavors and a unique, slightly sweet finish