About Chateau Z  

You have arrived at the online home of Chateau Z Vineyard. Chateau Z is a late 19th century farm home built by Mr. James B. Peters around 1897 in a broad valley on the eastern side of Tobacco Row Mountain in central Amherst County, Virginia. The previous farm house on the property was a log home, probably built by William Beverley of Monacan Indian heritage, sometime close to 1841 (based on cut dates from the logs). The old log home was used as a barn from Mr. Peter's time through 2008 when it was taken down and stored by Four Square Builders of Madison Heights for future reconstruction. An Italian tile barn was constructed adjacent to the old log home/barn by Mr. William Uniss in the early 1970's and now houses CZ's vineyard equipment. The chateau itself was saved by Uniss and his associates in the early 1970's by many improvements to the house after many years of tenant and renter occupation. Uniss orchestrated the digging of a basement by "Eric the Human Mole" where the cellar is now located. The following owners, Roy and Mary Lee Taylor continued improvements to the house including replacing the footings under the east and north walls of the back addition, maintaining the roof, and installing the large brick patio where we have installed a pergola and raised garden beds. We have also re-sided the house, rebuilt the kitchen, rebuilt the front porches and columns, installed new front doors, replaced all the windows, and updated the wood burning stove and heat pump system. We hope to install solar water heat soon and solar panels in the future. A downstairs bathroom is also badly needed in the house.

  About Us  

There is a lot of "we" in this website and it refers to Drs. Clifford and Rebecca Ambers, both Ph.D. holders in geology. Cliff takes care of all vineyard business including all farm labor. Rebecca is an associate professor in Environmental Science at nearby Sweet Briar College. Cliff carries on his family's tradition of self-sufficiency through horticulture. With Czech, German, and Irish roots, he has the European peasant in his genetics and needs to squirrel away produce for later consumption. This drives his wine making and home vegetable fermentation business. In 2007, Rebecca grafted and planted about 30 heritage apple trees which started to produce in 2012. Rebecca has recently taken up hunting game and augments the household food stores with venison and an occasional rabbit or squirrel. Rebecca also started bee keeping in the spring of 2012 and time will tell if honey (and mead!) becomes part of the larder.

  What's this "Z" Business Anyway?  

Well, a chateau is a house, which is where we live. "Z" refers to Cliff's father Anthony's birth surname which was "Zamborsky." Tony served on Navy Pier in Chicago during WWII as an instrumentation instructor and having a 'Z' name, received his paycheck after all the other sailors. He often recounted the story of getting his paycheck after most of the rest of the sailors had spent theirs. He told us that he decided then to lose the 'Z' so his children wouldn't be at the end of the list. He dropped the 'Z' from Zamborsky, removed the 'ky' and changed the 'o' to an 'e' to arrive at "Ambers." And here we are! There have been many times it has been nice to be at the front of the line and we remember it in the name of our vineyard. Tony was also a "grape nut", as well as an avid gardener and orchardist. His passion lives on in our vineyard.

  The Area  

Shown at right is Tobacco Row Mountain viewed from the Blue Ridge to the southwest. Chateau Z is on the opposite side of the mountain from this view.

This region is as yet fairly low on wineries, but is a fantastic area to grow hybrid grapes. Viniferaists are warned of the difficult eastern growing climate that is very humid and wet in most years. Most of the local people do not understand wine fashion and despise snobbery, so premium vinifera wines are a hard sell here. Furthermore, Pierce's disease, a bacterial infection that kills vinifera grape vines, is on the move northward from North Carolina and it won't be long given climate warming before culture of the non-indigenous European grape varieties becomes very expensive and uneconomical here. Sorry Mr. Jefferson, you should have listened to the noise Dr. Norton was making down in Richmond and built a successful industry on his grape and the other indigenous cultivars that arose in the early 1800's throughout Virginia instead of trying to stuff French culture down Virginia's throat! Although vinifera grapes are the most abundant varieties grown in Virginia today, it is seriously doubtful they can continue that way indefinitely given their disease susceptibility and requirement for heavy chemical prophylaxis to grow and produce in this climate. They simply are not sustainable here.

Grape Breeding
CZ Virtual Vineyard
About Norton