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Upper Shirley Vineyards
Kathy Sullivan

Upper Shirley VineyardsSummary: At Upper Shirley Vineyards we met with co-owner Tayloe M. Dameron. Tayloe is enthusiastic about the wines being produced by Michael Shaps using the Upper Shirley estate vineyard grapes. Upper Shirley Vineyards is also a destination site for wine, food and events. This is a delightful spot in Virginia to relax, taste wines and enjoy local cuisine.

Traveling to Upper Shirley Vineyards takes visitors through Virginia’s bucolic countryside. Upper Shirley Vineyards is located 20 miles outside of Richmond, Virginia and lies close to the historic Upper Shirley Plantation.

Visitors to Upper Shirley Vineyards will discover the large tasting room with a restaurant and event center in a Low Country-style building. The large, long three-story building stands out against the landscape. Colorful red/pink roses grace the front of the building, close to the parking area. Steps lead to the front doors and visitors enter into a foyer with the tasting room/restaurant on the left and the event room to the right.

Once inside the tasting room, guests can see that the building with a porch and large patio overlooks the James River. Far out on the James River one can see the Presquile National Wildlife Refuge, a large bird sanctuary.

Upper Shirley VineyardsTasting Room

The tasting counter is shaped like a winged letter U. The largest area of the room has tables with seating for two and four people. At the time of our visit, several tables had been arranged to accommodate larger groups.

An image of the logo of Upper Shirley Vineyard is above the fireplace. The logo is based on polo. Tayloe played polo. The stripe is on a polo shirt. A regimental stripe is used for polo and the military.

Upper Shirley VineyardsUpper Shirley Vineyards is owned and managed by Tayloe M. Dameron (pictured left) and his wife, Suzy Dameron. Tayloe has always wanted to own a vineyard and winery. According to Tayloe, “Let’s make a destination spot and build a premium brand of great wine.” Together they decided to create and build a destination site. The focus of Tayloe and Suzy is on growing quality grapes, offering wine tastings, including a restaurant and an event center which features weddings.

While talking with Tayloe in the tasting room, he mentioned that growing grapes is volatile and that he and his wife wanted to build a vineyard and winery that would sustain itself. Tayloe noted that one year the winter temperature dropped to -6 degrees Fahrenheit and they lost much of the vineyard. Today the Upper Shirley Vineyards offers an elegant experience with views of the James River and vineyards. Upper Shirley Vineyards makes this a great location for weddings and other special events. The Damerons would like people to know, “Tidewater is an unknown region that can grow quality grapes. It is near the capital which resonates with people in Richmond.”

Upper Shirley VineyardsVineyards

The couple discovered the site with gravel soils that would be good for growing certain grape varieties. They are still searching for the right grape varieties to grow. During the years when the weather creates havoc in the vineyards, it is the wedding and event venue that helps Upper Shirley to thrive.

The vineyards comprise of 23 acres of grapes. The soil is sandy gravel. There is no cold air drainage. Currently the grape varieties include Viognier, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Tannat (pictured left).

The wines of Upper Shirley Vineyards are produced by Michael Shaps, a prominent Virginia winemaker.

Upper Shirley VineyardsWines

The Rosé 2018 was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The winemaking process included 3 1/2 hours on the skins. The result was a wine with an orange color and a red hue. The aroma was of red fruits. The taste was smooth with raspberry and red cherries. The finish was crisp and fruity.

The Sparkling Rosé 2018 was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The wine was an orange color with a red hue. The mouthfeel was lively with notes of red raspberries. The finish was crisp.

Merlot 2016 was a dark ruby color with a red hue. The aroma reminds one of leather, black plums and black cherries. The mouthfeel was silky. The taste was reminiscent of black cherries, plums and leather. The finish had leather and fruit.

The Red #1 2018, was a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Chambourcin. The wine had a residual sugar of 2.3% (23 g/L). The color was a translucent ruby color with a red hue. The aroma offered notes of cherries. The wine had a velvety mouthfeel and offered cherries and black raspberries. The finish was crisp and fruity. Suggested food pairings were BBQ and Jambalaya.

The Petit Verdot 2016 was a dark ruby color with a purple hue. The aroma was reminiscent of a black fruit salad. The wine had a velvety mouthfeel with black raspberries, black plums and blackberries. This Petit Verdot was a full-bodied wine with bold tannins. Fruit and leather were on the finish.

The Zacharia 2015 was named for Tayloe’s grandfather, father and brother. This was a blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot and Tannat. The wine was a dark ruby color with a purple hue. The aroma was of black fruits. The wine was full bodied with bold tannins. The taste included notes of black raspberries, black plums and leather. The finish offered spice and fruit notes.

The 2016 Tannat was a dark ruby color with an aroma of black fruit. The mouthfeel was silky and offered notes of blackberries and black raspberries. The full-bodied wine had very bold tannins. The finish was fruity and spicy.

The Viognier 2018 was a light straw color with an aroma of tropical fruits. The taste had a racy acidity with melon, peach and a hint of pineapple. The finish was crisp and fruity with fruit yielding to mineral.

The Sauvignon Blanc 2018 was a light straw color. The aroma was very tropical and reminded us of our 2010 trip to Marlborough, New Zealand. The taste was smooth with peach, melon, pineapple and a hint of lemon grass. The finish was crisp.

Chardonnay 2018 was light yellow color. The wine offered notes of butterscotch. The mouthfeel was velvety and had notes of butterscotch and apple. The finish included notes of fruit and butterscotch.

The White #2 2018 wine was a blend of Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier. The wine had 2.2% (22 g/L) residual sugar. The wine was a light yellow color with a green hue. The aroma offered some tropical notes. The taste was smooth with notes of peach, pineapple, melon and chalk. The fruity finish was crisp.


The focus of the Upper Shirley Vineyards restaurant is on lunch and small plates featuring local seasonal foods. During September, the Small Plates menu included House-Made Spiced Pecans, Mixed Olives, Pimento Cheese, Creole Deviled Eggs, Flatbread, Cheeses from Here & There and a Vineyard Board. For dessert, ice cream, a chocolate torte, Key Lime pie, and bread pudding were offered. The restaurant also offers a selection of full lunch menus including an assortment of Shared Plates, Salads, Sandwiches, Plates (pasta, shrimp & grits and crab cakes.) During nice weather, the porch fills up quickly.

Upper Shirley Vineyards

When traveling in the Richmond, Virginia region, consider a visit to Upper Shirley Vineyards to discover their estate wines, the views of the vineyards and James River and enjoy the seasonal cuisine the restaurant has to offer.

Upper Shirley Vineyards
600 Shirley Plantation Road
Charles City, VA. 23030

GPS: N37º 20.7157 W77º 15.3993

Article written September 2019.




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