' Paddle Your Glass Off an Experience Unlike Any Other - Chatham Vineyards on Church Creek



Paddle Your Glass Off an Experience Unlike Any Other

Paddling and the Eastern Shore go together as well as wine and oysters.


Chatham Vineyards and Southeast Expeditions offer another extraordinary pairing by combining a 45-minute paddle southward from the local Wharf of Bayford on Nassawadox Creek to Church Creek, where paddlers refresh with a complimentary wine tasting and cheese tray before paddling back.


“This is truly an authentic Chatham experience,” says Chatham vintner Jon Wehner.


Three-hour roundtrip “Paddle Your Glass Off” kayak-winery tours begin April 22 and are weekends only through April 30. Starting May 6, you can book your tour any day of the week. All tours begin at 1 p.m. and include a complimentary bottle of Church Creek wine for every two paddlers.


Twenty years ago, Virginia Tourism research deemed Paddle Your Glass Off as the only kayak-winery tour in the nation. “Since then, others have popped up but there’s not many places where you can paddle right up to a winery,” says Southeast Expeditions owner Dave Burden, who approached Jon with the idea in 2003. Back then, they were two young entrepreneurs looking to collaborate to grow their businesses.


A friendship blossomed along with a pairing for the ages.


“We had no idea what a good idea it was,” Dave admits. “I really love the way both of us do what we do. We are able to tie together the two most important things from Shore history — commerce on the water or commercial fishing and agriculture. Both have been the heart and soul of this community for 200 years, and we’re reinterpreting them for today and tomorrow. We’re paddling through the waters where the oysters live. The oysters shells are part of where the vines grow. If we tried to design something like this, we could never do it. It happened organically.”


The paddling tours have become wildly popular, engaging both locals and visitors seeking to escape the stresses of everyday living.


“We’re really unique in that we can launch from an old working wharf at Bayford, where you still have watermen coming and going, bringing in their catches as we leave the dock,” Dave says.


These guided tours are a birder’s delight. It’s not unusual to see a bald eagle overhead or nesting in the creek. Paddlers pass a great blue heron rookery – “When they’re nesting, it’s a sight to behold,” Dave says.


During the spring, the water is crystal clear and approaching the summer months, it takes on a magical green hue.


Guides share the history of the Shore and how integral the water has been to its growth. “You’re paddling the same waters that John Smith sailed and where Pocahontas grew up,” Dave says.


The experience is ideal for first-time paddlers as the water is shallow and land is visible from all sides. The easy paddle also often introduces paddlers to wine tasting and wine lovers to paddling.


While spring and summer are popular times to paddle, the tours extend through October 15 and change with the seasons. The warm months offer an abundance of crabs, flounder and blue and grey heron while during the fall, paddlers will see migratory birds, speckled trout and rockfish and the vineyard workers at Chatham harvesting grapes.


“You’ll have a completely different experience if you come in May and come again in September or October,” Jon says. “Come in the spring or summer and return again in the fall when you’ll practically have the Shore to yourself.”


Adds Dave, “Our whole job is to give people a good time.”

Post By:   Amanda Shortt
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