When David Sheldon and his wife Diane retired more than a decade ago, they debated whether they would sail around the world or open a vineyard and winery. They chose the winery route, and Hampton Roads Vineyard & Winery was soon born.
The Sheldons relocated to the Hampton Roads area from Boston after purchasing land in Surry County near Bacon’s Castle to start their new venture. The pair planted their first four varieties of grapes in 2008.
“We’ve always enjoyed wine as hobbyists,” David Sheldon said. “We’ve always had grapevines growing in our yards.”
In 2012, the couple bought White Oak Farm in Elberon, and opened Hampton Roads Vineyard & Winery for business at the farm three years later. Their son, Rich, also helps operate the winery.
“From start to finish, we do it all here,” said David Sheldon. “We grow the grapes, we make the wine, we bottle it, and we sell it all right here. We are a true farm. I think that’s what makes us unique.”
The wine is made and bottled on-site in an old helicopter hangar while the retail space and tasting room is in a separate building that was designed to look like an old carriage house.
The vineyard carries seven different wines with several more in the works. The most popular seller is the Hog Island Sweet White wine, a sweet, fruity wine made with half Scuppernong grapes and half Seyval Blanc.
Diane Sheldon is the winemaker, and David Sheldon prefers the peace and solitude of being outside, pruning the grapevines and harvesting the grapes each season.
“I’m pretty hands-on here at the farm,” he said. “I really enjoy it. Each year is different and I like trying to figure out what to do to make the next year’s crop better than the last.”
Sheldon also enjoys sharing his experiences growing grapes and making wine with patrons.
“All of our workers are very knowledgeable and we like to share what is happening here on the farm,” he said. “We want to build relationships with our customers and have people walk away learning something new.”
He also likes to share his craft at local farmers markets, including the Williamsburg Farmers Market.
“I really like going to the farmers markets and talking to people and educating them.”
Visitors at Hampton Roads Vineyard & Winery can savor a glass of wine inside or on the patio outside. The winery also rents out space for weddings and other events, including music and art programs featuring food trucks.
Meanwhile, the property is also home to Red Angus beef cattle as well as nine Nigerian Dwarf goats, who live in the tallest goat tower in the world, which Sheldon had specially built.
The winery recently celebrated its third anniversary and hopes to continue to expand. This year, David Sheldon’s goal is to unveil a port wine and sparkling wine. He also hopes to start selling wine in growlers as well launch a second brand, Goat Tower wines. In the fall, Red Angus beef may also be available for purchase.
“We are always trying something new and seeing what works and what doesn’t,” he said. “We are always learning as we go.”
Want to go?
Hampton Roads Vineyard & Winery
6074 New Design Road, Elberon 757-899-0203
Open daily April through December, noon to 6 p.m. Sunday-Thursday; noon to 6:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays.
April 7: Spring Paint & Sip
April 14: Music on the patio — join in with our Wine Club members and just make a toast to Bud Break 2019
April 20: Adult Easter Egg hunt
April 25: Diversified Uses for Farms Summit: an all-day summit with speakers going over everything from AgriTourism to growing hemp and offering value-added produce. Secretary of Agriculture Bettina Ring will be in attendance.