Small businesses are vital to our communities and running a business is tough work. That’s why we feature a small business in one of our communities every month!
Le Petit Chevalier Vineyards and Farm Winery is more than a winery, it’s a passion project for one local family and a truly special experience for visitors to the Hocking Hills region. Whether you come to spend the night in their guest suite or just to sip a glass of one of their signature wines, you likely will not want to leave.
The boutique winery sits atop Locust Grove, one of the scenic rolling hills of northern Vinton County. Mark and Margit Chevalier purchased the farm and its 1883 home when their four children were small. At the time, they were focused on giving their family a healthy country life while finding ways to keep the land working. Now the kids are grown and the couple have found a new way to work the land and to build a business that fills a need in the community.
They exude hospitality and charm as well as excitement that guests can now come and enjoy the literal fruits of their labor over the last ten years.
Mark is a retired educator who Margit says has “just a wonderful palette.” She is a trained horticulturist with a vision for a vineyard and winery that celebrates the grapes, the land and the human connection to both.
The winery just opened to the public in May but Mark said the process began a decade ago when they planted the first grapes. The 2014 Polar Vortex brought bitter cold that killed some of their French varieties and encouraged them to select all heirloom and hybrid varieties that grow well in this climate.
Margit has an intimate knowledge of all their grapes, how they grow, required care and even their history. She also speaks with a motherly affection for their grapes. “They’re my babies!” she laughed. “My four babies are all grown up but now I have 5,000 of them to care for and help grow.”
Their wine list currently consists of Catawba, Norton, Seyval Blanc, Chambourcin and Grower’s White which they say is “a vineyard blend of estate grown hybrids finished in a soft, easy-drinking slightly sweet style.”
New wines will be added in coming years including Chardonel, Marquette, Itasca, Alexander and Marechal Foch. There is already a wait list for the Alexander which is expected in 2022.
The winery has plenty of room for guests both inside and out. The centerpiece inside is the bar, handmade by Mark with wood from a maple tree on a neighboring farm. Ash shelving, also of local origin, displays wine bottles that feature a label that Mark designed. Indoor seating welcomes visitors to stay for a while but the real centerpiece is the outdoor view. From the deck or a glider in the yard, guests can enjoy the breathtaking view of the vineyard and the rolling hills beyond.
It’s the perfect place to gather with friends or to enjoy an intimate evening for two.
Those who wish to stay longer can actually rent the Winery Loft which features a full kitchen, king bed, sofa bed and private entrance to accommodate up to four guests. Two private decks were designed to showcase the surroundings – one deck is placed for enjoying the sunrise while the other is available for optimal sunset viewing.
Situated near the Hocking Hills State Parks, it is the ideal location for a relaxing vacation or even a staycation for those looking to take a break close to home.
While their children are young adults who have begun finding their own way in the world, they all have been involved in the business and helping with its success. “Everything we do here is important. We are careful about what we grow and what we make and always make the best we can. It isn’t just our product, it’s our name on that bottle,” Mark explained.
Margit echoed his thoughts. “We pride ourselves that this isn’t just a winery. It’s a vineyard and everything is from our land. We have never bought a single grape from another vineyard,” Margit said. “You’ve never tasted grapes like this, wine like ours because it tastes like the work and love we’ve put in here.”
They have plans to someday serve some food but currently invite guests to bring their own. “Bring a picnic! We welcome everyone to bring their own food, a basket of bread and cheese or even a pizza! We don’t mind,” Margit said. “This is our own slice of paradise, our own Garden of Eden and we want people to come here and enjoy it. We want them to stay and experience what we live with every day.
As the midsummer sun sets, illuminating acres of grapevines for as far as the eye can see, their two border collies romp with a toy in the field and birds sing their final song of the day. Two out-of-town guests savor the moment from the deck and it really does feel like paradise.
While 2020 hasn’t been an ideal time to open a new business, Margit said that their property is a perfect place to find some sense of normalcy. She pointed out there is ample room for guests to safely enjoy each other’s company and that social distancing is no trouble.
She recalled a Loft guest who recently brought her children from the city for an overnight stay. “She sat down at the campfire and you could just feel the weight of her worries leave. She said ‘this is the first time I’ve felt normal in I don’t know how long,’ and it made me happy,” Margit recalled. “It’s so important to me that people have that opportunity to just breathe and enjoy their surroundings.”