When Bill and Chris started William Chris Vineyards it was a grand idea, with only a few barrels of wine to show for it.
So, what did we do? We decided we had to find a piece of land for a tasting room and production space. While we were all searching for the perfect location, Chris’s dad found the listing for our current property. We hadn’t even been looking ‘this far out’ of Fredericksburg. Back in 2009 most of the wineries were situated on the stretch of Highway 290 in between Fredericksburg and Stonewall. Moving to Hye was a gamble, and we were afraid people wouldn’t venture this far off the beaten path.
Now Known as Hye Estate
The property that you all know as Hye Estate was by no means ‘perfect’ but it had a cozy little 3/2 house, an old chicken coop, and land for vines to be planted. It also had an old farmhouse that had been used as a hunting cabin. The old farmhouse was missing floors and ceilings - it had a potential only Bill could see at the time. I was sure it needed to be bulldozed.
But that little house that was in good shape? Well, Chris and I moved in right after William Chris Vineyards took over the deed on the property. We moved our boxes and furniture in icy December weather on Chris’s birthday in 2009.
WHEN WE Called THE HOUSE OUR Home
This was Chris and my second house as a married couple. And the first we could really call our own. Of course, that feeling of ‘home sweet home’ didn’t last too long. The tasting room (we quickly made the front 3 rooms of the old farmhouse inhabitable so we could open for business) opened its doors in April and our privacy disappeared. Our front, back, and side yards were all tasting room grounds now. It wasn’t rare that someone walked into our living room looking for a tasting.
There was a hilarious time someone walked in while I was nursing our first born June on the couch! One morning I got up to warm a bottle for her and one of our tasting room associates was in the hallway bathroom brushing his teeth.
Needless to say, we moved off property when our daughter was 15 months old in the interest of having some privacy at home.
Chris with baby June Brundrett in front of the old winemaker's quarters/offices - now our welcome center
Once we were out, the house began a slow transition into offices and workspaces. And much to the displeasure of every caterer we’ve ever had out - my tiny kitchen turned into their kitchen - a place where meals were prepared for our guests here at the vineyard.
Eventually the master bedroom contained three desks, our daughter’s playroom was the wine club office, and the dining room was home base for Bill and Chris. When I left teaching in 2014 to join the William Chris team in a full-time position, my desk was where my living room TV had been.
Now we are transitioning to a ‘real’ office: the second story of our new wine club members tasting room. In March we demolished our old house, the house we lived in, the house we worked in... So many good (and a few bad) ideas were developed in there. So many late nights and early mornings, lots of coffee and even more wine.
Katharine and June Brundrett in the old Winemaker's Quarters; later WCV offices
WILLIAM CHRIS IS A Place for Making Memories
While William Chris Vineyards preaches the importance of place, I’m not overly sentimental about that particular building. It was a little sad watching the destruction, but I mostly felt excitement for the changes to come. You may appreciate how we pay homage to the kitchen and the memories the space is home to - we’re making it a space that will give our guests new memories for years to come!