The Story so Far…
Gauthier Vineyard, LLC, is a family-owned working farm, equestrian center, vineyard and winery located in scenic New Kent County near the intersection of the Lafayette and Washington-Rochambeau trails to Yorktown. The owners, Mo and Sandi Gauthier, both retired Navy Captains, purchased their “Fair Winds” farm in 2010. Like most ground in the county, the farm is rich in history. Local relic hunters have validated its service as a Civil War encampment for both Union and Confederate forces during the lengthy Peninsula Campaign.
The Gauthiers built their state-of-the art equestrian center in 2011. The equestrian center offers boarding, training, lessons, clinics and competitive events. We are pleased to have Arleen Hensley, international and ApHC show judge, relocate from North Carolina to spearhead establishing the center. Her newly formed 2013 Junior Hensley Show Horse team won numerous awards during their first year of competition. Arleen has over thirty years of experience breeding, training and showing championship appaloosa, paint, and quarter horses in numerous equestrian disciplines.
The Gauthiers’ vines were planted by friends and family in the Spring of 2011, followed by construction of the tasting room and wine making facility in 2012-2013. In addition to their estate grapes, the Gauthier’s lease vines in the foothills overlooking the Shenandoah Valley in partnership with Randy and Karen Phillips, founder-owners of Cave Ridge Vineyard. Randy, an award winning vintner, oversees the wine making operations for Gauthier Vineyard. The majority of Gauthier Vineyard wines are 100% Virginia Grape, and the grapes are grown on the premises or on the leased vines.
Since the February 2014 opening, we have invested in a pizza pavillion built around a wood-fired pizza oven we purchased from Kingsmill resorts. They had decided the oven was not adequately sized for their market. The oven opened in 2016. We have since added roasted oysters and chicken wings to our offerings. The menu varies, and our Facebook page is the best place to see what is on the menu any given week-end. In response to requests from our guests, we added a large firepit down a stairway leading from the pizza pavillion.
In the early Spring of 2016, we began construction of an underground facility for wine making and wine storage. That project was expanded in 2017 to include an above ground facility for hosting corporate events, parties and weddings. The “Event Center” is still in its final stages of completion. We have hosted a few events for the purpose of testing our design concept, and continue to make adjustments from lessons we continue to learn.
In May of 2019, we were presented with the opportunity to purchase an adjacent 12.5 acres with a 5,000 sq. ft. new construction home, all within a short walk to our winery and event center. We closed on this property in June of 2019, and went to work converting and outfitting it for operation as a Bed & Breakfast. We had a long list of needed upgrades, and we anticipate full operation with five bedrooms in late 2019 or early 2020.
This is probably the place to describe the Wuhan Virus Chapter of our little farm’s history. It arrived just after we began our second year of Date Night Wine Pairing Dinners. With little control on outcomes, we decided to use this challenge to focus on the concerns of our staff and patrons. Our response was to retain staff, turn down government hand-outs, and navigate the avalanche of fluctuating mandates issued by constitutionally elected officials.
In retrospect, the pandemic enhanced our resilience and our faith in our patrons. We remain extremely positive about the future of our great country and, more importantly, its resilient inhabitants. We, the people, will define the new normal. Our staff and our patrons continue to lead lives of their choosing. We will continue to serve them both to the best of our ability. Like all small business ventures, ours continues to be a journey of highs and lows — with highs made possible through the gifts of time and fellowship. Again, many thanks to all of our supporters!
We began taking reservations at our newly minted Inn in September of 2021. Of course, the timing crushed bookings. Daring guests are awarding us 5 stars, and VRBO has identified us as a “Premier Host.” We gladly accept the challenge of retaining that status. We subsequently signed on with AirBnB, and look foward to what that might bring. We have decided to rent the Inn on a “Whole house” basis. Sandi and I are the Inn’s staff, and we might be looking for help in the future.
The aftermath of the pandemic produced a surge in patron activity. This rebound resulted in 2022 being the best year ever with an unprecedented jump in year-on-year sales. It was a boost we both needed and welcomed. However the soaring costs of our patrons’ household basics put downward pressure during 2023. We experienced the same level of patron traffic and transactions. For that, we remain very grateful. However, the spend was down about 7%. Our own experience in filling gas tanks and grocery carts is highly instructive. We recognize that our offering is in the luxury category, and we are committed to keeping our prices as stable as possible in the face of rising costs across the board.