Uncorking gold: Cat-n-Bird Winery still thriving five years after opening

Published 10:45 am Tuesday, April 26, 2022


CHELSEA – Matt and Robyn Lyons were just two people who enjoyed making wine together when the idea of turning their hobby into a business took root nearly seven years ago.

They weren’t sure what was in store then, but on Saturday, April 9, Matt and Robyn celebrated the fifth anniversary of opening Cat-n-Bird Winery, the result of a dream—and a shared interest in good-tasting wine.

“It’s awesome,” Matt said as he looked around at their employees, friends and patrons filling the property. “We love it. We love celebrating with you all.”

To say wine is important to Matt and Robyn is an understatement considering how big of a role it has played in their lives.

Matt had been experimenting with the process of brewing wine at home before he and Robyn started dating. Robyn joined in the fun, and by the time she and Matt married in October 2015, they had made about 1,000 bottles of wine together.

And this was all happening outside of their full-time jobs.

When their friends started to taste their home-brewed wines, the couple knew they had struck liquid gold.

With requests pouring in every day, Matt and Robyn began to consider turning their hobby into a business—a small-scale winery.

In early 2016, they discovered that a farm home on a nearly 5-acre spread of property known to many locals as “the old alpaca farm” off Old Highway 280 was for sale.

When they toured the property, they saw how well it suited their vision.

“Immediately, we said we have to figure out how to turn this thing into a winery,” Matt said in a previous interview. “I said, ‘There’s 1,000 reasons this won’t happen, and there’s one reason it will. Let’s shoot for the one.’”

They purchased the property in April 2016 and, a week later, started the preliminary process for opening a winery.

They also started renovating the basement of their new home to accommodate a boutique winery, complete with a production room, tasting room and indoor events room.

Outside, Matt and Robyn saw the potential to someday expand the patio area and utilize the ample backyard space for various events.

Last September, they finished the construction of a large pavilion that can seat more than 250 guests for weddings, concerts and normal Saturday gatherings at the winery.

Without an onsite vineyard, Matt and Robyn import grapes and juice from vineyards around the world, meaning their winery offers a variety of international wines, such as Italian Amarone and Australian Cabernet Sauvignon, but no muscadine.

They start the process with fermentation and then monitor the wine as it develops until they bottle, cork, label and sell it from the winery’s tasting room.

Each batch produces about 550-600 bottles of wine, and the winery has the capacity to run as many as 12 varietals at any given time.

They introduce new wines regularly, always maintaining an extensive list of reds, whites and specials, such as port and rosé.

In addition to wine, they also have wine slushies, three different champagnes and several non-alcoholic choices.

“As the business expanded, Robyn and I just couldn’t keep up with demand in the tasting room, the wine-making process, marketing and operations, so we now have 13 part-timers we call the Dream Team,” Matt said. “Without them, we couldn’t make it.”

Everything from the wines themselves to the winery’s name and logo have been products of Matt’s and Robyn’s creative vision.

The name “Cat-n-Bird” and the accompanying logo of a bird perched atop a lion’s head are clever nods to the couple’s last name, Lyons, and the name Robyn.

The animal theme continues in the couple’s horses, miniature donkey, pig and dogs and cats that can be seen in the barn or roaming the property.

Cat-n-Bird Winery is located at 11661 Old Highway 280 in Chelsea.

The winery is open to the public on Saturdays from 12-6 p.m., with different food trucks and live music performances each week.

Reservations are not required to visit the winery during normal business hours, but private wine tastings and events may be booked by emailing info@cat-n-bird.com.

For weekly updates, follow Cat-n-Bird Winery on Facebook and Instagram.