Meet Andrea Matheson, General Manager of Chisholm Vineyards and Adventure Farm in Charlottesville, Va.
I like to think of Chisholm Vineyards as my neighborhood vineyard. It's less than 10 minutes from my house, on the most stunning piece of land I've ever seen. And even as a Charlottesville newbie, I still always see a familiar face or two every time I go.
On Friday nights, the place becomes alive — the thumping rhythm of a live band; the smell of fresh, local food wafting from the visiting food truck; a group of kids chasing a giant beach ball through the sunset-drenched lawn; and at least one group of friends celebrating a birthday with clinking glasses and homemade charcuterie boards.
Since moving to Charlottesville, Chisholm has been one of the first places to give me that warm, homey feeling.
So to partner with Andrea, who has managed the vineyard and farm since 2013, has been so incredible! Andrea grew up on the land and moved back in 1991 when her grandfather was diagnosed with a brain tumor.
In 2007, Andrea's grandmother started the vineyard, with the first wine produced in 2012 — a Gigi Red Blend and Chardonnay. Two years later came the tasting room, and as Andrea says, "the rest is history!"
Q&A with Andrea: Growing up on the farm, her grandparents' legacy, and a peek into the vineyard's future
What do you love most about your job?
My favorite part about being an entrepreneur is thinking outside the box, figuring out how all the pieces fit together, and making a plan to realize the dreams. I love working from home and having the flexibility to take care of my children. I also love sharing the farm with our community. The best part about farming is the benefits of living in a beautiful place and knowing that you are keeping green space preserved and the heritage alive.
What was it like to grow up on the farm?
I grew up as an only child, so in some respects it was lonely being on a big farm all by myself. But I often had friends over, and we would wander the fields, play in the creeks, or ice skate in the winter. My grandparents lived on the farm, too, so we spent a lot of time fishing, checking cattle, or riding horses. It was simple and pure.
What's one thing people might not realize about what it takes to run a vineyard?
Running a vineyard takes a lot of hard work, investment, patience, and in the end, whatever good luck Mother Nature allows. There is never a slow time. I would never consider farming to be a hobby and know there are many easier ways to make a living. I often joke that I could make more money not working or gambling in Las Vegas. The joy of being on the land and being a part of the seasons is a driving force through even the most difficult times.
How does Chisholm differ from other vineyards in the area?
Our wine is 100 percent estate-grown, which means that we only use the grapes that we grow on our farm. We are also a family-owned and operated farm with beef cattle. The setting is peaceful and relaxed, family-friendly with lawns, gardens, a lake, and a spectacular Blue Ridge Mountain view. We have a relaxed approach to wine and enjoy engaging with our customers, telling our story, hearing theirs, and learning about wine and life together.
What makes a memorable wine?
A wine is only as memorable as the experience you have while drinking it. The best wine is one that is tasted in a beautiful and meaningful setting with people you care about the most.
What's your all-time favorite wine?
Having an all-time favorite wine is almost impossible since, to me, it depends on the setting, the company, the season, or the weather. However, I am a big fan of champagne and sparkling wine and feel they go with all foods and can be enjoyed at any moment. Champagne is viewed as a luxury item, but really like anything fine and precious, it should be enjoyed and not relegated to celebrations. I am fond of French biodynamic and organic champagne, which is beyond words.
Which Chisholm wines are you most proud of?
I love our darker style Rosé, made with Chambourcin, and so do our customers. The perception has been that lighter Rosés are more appealing, but the trend is toward darker versions with more flavor and less intervention. Our signature wines are our Gigi Red Blend and Farmer’s Reserve. Both are unique and showcase our high-quality fruit.
What's one thing most people don't know about you?
Most customers are shocked to know I have six children! It is my balancing fate, since I was an only child. I wouldn’t trade it for the world. Family is everything to me.
What's your favorite thing about Charlottesville?
It is my home and such a beautiful place to live. I feel blessed every single day and would not trade it for the world. Although I love traveling and have a long list of places to visit, I will always come back to my home.
Who inspires you?
My grandparents have been my biggest inspiration. I spent so much time with my grandfather on the farm and remember so many of his antidotes and soaked up his approach to life. It would be a long book to write about his wisdom and how I try to embody that spirit on a daily basis. My grandmother is 93, and her ongoing will and strength keeps me focused. She has always been there for me and is the centerpiece of our life here today.
What does a typical day look like for you?
A typical day starts early, a homemade bulletproof coffee and then to work, usually at my computer. I do my best work in the first part of the day. In the afternoons, I go out and take care of business. There are breaks for children and eating, but the farm and the wine business are always on my mind. If it's not football or basketball season, I am watching shows about food and wine or reading anything I can about wine around the world. The more I learn, the less I know. I dream about it all, too. My family jokes about a t-shirt I wear that reads, “Never not working,” but the reality is that it really isn’t work at all. It is living and I love it.
What's in store for Chisholm in the near future?
With the winemaking team at Early Mountain Vineyard, we aim to make wines with minimal intervention that are true to the terroir. In 2020, we will have a new “orange” wine or skin-contact Chardonnay that we are super excited about. This is an ancient method that leaves the skins on and allows for more depth and tannins. We would like to experiment with kegged wine that could be served on tap and purchased with reusable growlers. There is also a trend for simple packaging like cans, and I like the idea of keeping up with the desires of the customers.
Laura Richards is a family, newborn and maternity photographer in Charlottesville, Virginia. She specializes in authentic, feel-good photographer that tells "the story of you" for decades. Learn all about what makes her different from other photographers here.
When I first approached Lee Robison, owner of the Golden Shoestring in Roanoke, about collaborating, I had lots of ideas running through my head.
But I was most excited about the possibility of a styled shoot. I was eager to feature some pieces from the store's curated selection of high-end consignment clothing, and show off how beautiful they can look in a relaxed photo session.
I had so much fun shopping the store and picking out the embroidered top (TINY by Anthropologie), embroidered dress (Umgee), and sandals (Talbots). My model JoAnn looked amazing in everything!
When I met with JoAnn before the session, I told her that in addition to featuring some great clothes, I also wanted the images to really reflect the relationship she has with her daughter. I wanted her to be able to look at the photos years from now and hear her daughter's sweet giggle and feel the warmth of her hugs and kisses.
I'm proud to say we accomplished just that! I absolutely loved getting to watch them laugh and play. JoAnn and Lee — thank you both so much for spending time with me and helping me create some magic!
Laura Richards is a family, newborn and maternity fine art photographer serving Charlottesville and the Roanoke Valley in Virginia. She specializes in authentic, feel-good photography that tells "the story of you" for generations. Learn all about what makes her different from other photographers here.
Tucked behind a Jiffy Lube on Franklin Road in Roanoke you'll find one of the Valley's fashion meccas: The Golden Shoestring.
The high-end consignment store owned by Lee Robison takes designer brands many only dream of owning — Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, Kate Spade, and Chanel to name a few — and makes them accessible to every fashion-loving woman.
If you grew up in Roanoke, you may have visited the store with your mom or grandma — it has, after all, been around since the 1970s — but if you stop in today, you will not find the same shop.
When Lee, a former Macy's Buyer, took over in 2013, the store was old, tired and in desperate need of modernization. After much hard work, they are now computerized, actively involved in social media (find them on Facebook and Instagram), and have made eye-catching improvements inside and outside the store. Lee and her team of female employees have also hosted several events, including a fundraiser for rescue greyhounds, Elevate Your Image demonstrations, Royal Wedding festivities and an annual holiday open house.
Q & A with Lee
Laura: What's one thing people might not realize about what it takes to be a successful business owner?
Lee: The business environment — particularly with social media — is an ongoing challenge and keeping your business relevant and fresh requires constant visual change and awareness. Our staff reads lots of magazines, follows our fashion favs on Instagram, reads "Off Duty" in the WSJ, and we work with Christina Garnett, our marketing guru. Garland Gravely of Roanoke Fashionista is constantly getting us exposure on TV, in fashion shows and on covers of magazines. We also travel to locate great finds and designer items are shipped to us. We try to continually set the bar higher as far as what we consign.
Laura: What kind of experience can customers expect at Golden Shoestring?
Lee: We get to know our customers and consigners on a personal level. For some people, we provide retail therapy in a unique boutique environment, and we want the experience to be memorable, fun and something they always look forward to. Our staff loves fashion, recycling, and helping others save money on designer brands. Each of us are from families that shared clothes with siblings and friends, so we love going green.
Laura: What does a typical day in the store look like?
Lee: There is no real typical day, because we never know what items will come through the door. It can be a little hectic when three or four consignors show up with merchandise for us to evaluate. Some days we get brand-new items with $1,000 tickets on them. We love the stories behind the merchandise, which we pass onto our customers. We are busy bees helping our customers and consignors, posting Instagram and Facebook stories, freshening new arrivals, and moving items to our Last Chance area before donating locally.
Laura: Who inspires your own fashion style?
Lee: Chanel, Burberry, Ralph Lauren, Tory Burch and Eileen Fisher. I love designers who consistently create new, forward-thinking ideas, but stick to their true image and craftsmanship. They set the tone for the entire marketing industry, from fashion to home, to gardening.
Laura: What styles are you looking forward to this spring?
Lee: High waisted jeans, wide leg pants, high impact sleeves and beautiful printed mixing of patterns.
Laura: What's one fashion trend that makes you cringe?
Lee: Low rise tight jeans.
Laura: What's one thing most people don't know about you?
Lee: I love to garden. My grandmothers and my mother were amazing gardeners. I love digging in the dirt — I think I've moved almost every plant in my yard a couple of times. I'm a member of the Mill Mountain Garden Club, which oversees the Mill Mountain Wildflower Garden next to the Discovery Shop on Mill Mountain. It's a crown jewel that can bring you joy, peace and a true love for our beautiful Roanoke Mountains.
Laura: How do you spend a day off?
Lee: To be honest, it is hard to get away from the store. Even if I'm not there, I may be doing bookkeeping or buying supplies or doing research on designers and brands. A full day off happens when I'm out of town, but even then I like to pop into little boutique stores.
Interested in consigning with the Golden Shoestring? They are now taking summer items on Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They accept unstructured (non-business clothes) boutique items sizes 2-18. Learn more here.
Laura Richards is a family, newborn and maternity photographer serving Charlottesville and the Roanoke Valley. She specializes in authentic, feel-good photographer that tells "the story of you" for decades. Learn all about what makes her different from other photographers here.
Welcome to the blog! I'm Laura, a Charlottesville-area photographer specializing in authentic, natural-light photography and heirloom print art. Hope you'll explore my little online home and reach out if you have any questions!