Feature: More Than a Winery...Mattapony Reserve
A short scenic drive to the Mattaponi Indian Reservation in King William County is well worth it, to visit Virginia’s newly opened winery, Mattapony Reserve. Situated high on the cliffs of the Mattaponi River, Mattapony Reserve is a uniquely immersive winery experience that offers all natural wines and foods with stunning river views and Algonquin cultural undertones. The tasting room and museum contains several hundred projectile-points, some dating over 11,000 years old, as well as other relics, pottery and crafts. The live-edge maple bar top was handcrafted by master woodworker, now winemaker and owner of Mattapony Reserve, Lonnie Custalow. The golden warmth and beauty of the massive wood slab is impressive and inviting. The walls are bold with colors of the medicine wheel with black, red and white. Behind the bar is a shelf that reaches wall-to-wall and is lined with the pottery of esteemed potter Christine “Rippling Water” Custalow, a tribal Elder and culture-keeper.
Lonnie and his wife Ginger Custalow’s winemaking, which began as a hobby over 10 years ago, quickly turned into their passion. Increasingly, their time, trips and conversations became all things wine. Ginger says, “As our curiosity for the art and science of winemaking grew, so too did our efforts to learn more; taking us on a journey to grow our craft.” For nearly two years, they took winemaking classes which included hands-on experience at various Charlottesville wineries. Ginger achieved Level 2 Somali certification at WSET and she guides guests through their wine-tasting. Mattapony Reserve supports other local businesses by locally sourcing foods when possible. They offer assorted charcuterie and cheese plates and their signature dish is the Mattapony Meat Pie. Using grass-fed ground bison, these hand-pies are perfectly seasoned, tucked into a crispy crust and serve with Sassy Sauce and a side of fruit. The meat pies are a must-have delicacy that pairs perfectly with their wines.
In 2020, Lonnie and Ginger made four varietal wines, Chardonnay, DeChaunac, Norton and Petit Verdot. The 2021 vintage was released this spring with six more wines and includes Chardonel, Pinot Grigio Rose’, and Two Rivers, a red blend of Petit Verdot and Sangiovese. Utilizing state-of-the-art innovation in winemaking equipment, Mattapony Reserve wines do not use additives, sulfites or preservatives, and are also vegan. Ginger explains, “Increasingly, there is a global demand for natural-wines as consumers become more knowledgeable about the ill-health effects of sulfites.” Lonnie and Ginger proudly say, “We make wines you can feel good about. You will taste and feel the difference of our natural wines.” The planted grape vines on the property are too young to yield fruit, so they support the agriculture economy by purchasing 100% Virginia grown grapes.
After enjoying a wine tasting in the one-of-a-kind tasting room, guests step onto the observation pavilion which offers breathtaking panoramic views of the river and wildlife. There you will hear the symphony of bird songs and view eagles in their natural habitat. The observation pavilion gives guests a front-row seat to a wildlife theater while they Sit, Sip and Savor this remarkable place.
During non-winery hours, Mattapony Reserve is a tribal community center where tribal families gather for events and cultural classes, drumming and dance. A lifetime resident of the reservation, Lonnie remembers when tour buses filled with tourists would come to the reservation during the 1970s-80s to learn more about the Mattaponi people. It has been several decades since the reservation was frequented by weekend tourists, until now. Lonnie says, “Growing up here, I felt the spiritual significance of my ancestors, for centuries our ancestors have been here. I feel strongly that this land, this scenery, it cannot merely be enjoyed by only us. It must be shared.” Mattapony Reserve has welcomed guests from over 25 states and four countries since opening in the fall of 2022.
Birding clubs, Master Naturalists, and other ecological groups have held events at Mattapony Reserve. The birding clubs find the viewpoint of the observation pavilion to be ideal for their bird counts and photography. The Middle Peninsula Bird Club counted 29 species within two hours of viewing in March. They also enjoyed the hot breakfast sandwiches made with locally sources eggs and bacon along with juice and coffee.
Prior to building, Lonnie met with and encouraged other reservation residents to open their own shops providing crafts, products or services for tourists. The type of economic development Lonnie envisions for the tribe is built on commerce, not government funding.
To Lonnie, the newly elected Chief of the Mattaponi Tribe on March 26, 2022, the financial sustainability of the Mattaponi Tribe is about creating businesses which create jobs. Already, Mattapony Reserve employs several tribal members directly and by selling their pottery and crafts to patrons.
There are many reasons to visit Mattapony Reserve, but the owners express it best: “You can actually feel the weight of the world lifted off your shoulders when you come here. It is a place where senses are soothed and spirits are lifted.”
Contact Mattapony Reserve to schedule corporate events, retreats, celebrations and small
Business Hours: Friday 12-6, Saturday 12-6:00 and Sunday 1-5