Viva Virginia’s New AVA!
It can take five years from planting to bottling for a vintner to make wine. But an even more illustrative show of saintly patience is the seven years weathered by Williamsburg Winery owner Patrick Duffeler, winemaker Matthew Meyer and their team in petitioning the federal government for formal designation of the Virginia Peninsula, home to their trailblazing winery (among the oldest and largest of the state’s more than 300), as an American Viticultural Area (AVA), the U.S.’s answer to France’s Appellation D’Origine Contrôlée (AOC).
As if defending a PhD dissertation, they cited squint-inducing geological survey maps and historical journals to evidence the uniqueness of the area’s climate, elevation, sun exposure, soil composition and topology. They finally triumphed in September.
“To have this recognition elevates what we’re doing,” said Meyer when we spoke in the midst of the promising 2021 harvest. “It’s a really big deal for labeling. We will be able to label our wines as ‘Estate Grown’ and ‘Estate Bottled.’”
Encompassing Poquoson, Hampton, Newport News, Williamsburg and the counties of James City, York, New Kent and Charles City, this AVA includes four other wineries: New Kent Winery, Upper Shirley Vineyards, Gauthier Vineyard and Saudé Creek Vineyards. All share a subtropical climate, extended growing season and, bounded by the James and York Rivers, maritime features such as sedimentary soil.
While the distinction may not sway the casual imbiber, wine drinkers in large are becoming savvier. They nerd out on terroir (sense of place) with a winemaker’s fervor and appreciate that, transcending mere commercial production, AVAs denote singular authenticity.
“This news validates that Virginia continues to be up and coming in the wine world,” said Meyer. It brings the state’s AVAs to nine – seven entirely within the Commonwealth (Eastern Shore, Middleburg, Monticello, North Fork of Roanoke, Northern Neck George Washington Birthplace, Rocky Knob, Virginia Peninsula) plus two straddling neighbor-states (Appalachian High Country, Shenandoah Valley) – the most outside of California, Oregon, Washington and New York.
Experience Virginia’s newest AVA with these upcoming happenings…
Oct.-May/June 2nd and 3rd Thursdays: “Date Night Dinner for Two” and “Date Night Getaway Specials” including a night at the winery’s bucolic B&B at reduced rates. GauthierVineyard.com
New Kent Winery
Nov. 20: 5K Turkey Trot. Run or walk through gorgeous vineyards to a finish-line wine or beer from its Talleysville Brewing Company. NewKentWinery.com
Saudé Creek Vineyards
Dec. 4: Holiday Open House/Sip & Shop – Take photos with Santa in the winery then shop more than 20 vendors (jewelry, clothes, art, books) in Arris Hall, its wine bar-bedecked wedding venue. SaudeCreek.com
Dec. 8: Wine Discovery Seminar “Cheers to Sparkling Wine” at the Winery’s Tasting Room and Wine Bar in Merchants Square (also Dec. 9). WilliamsburgWinery.com
Upper Shirley Vineyards
Feb. 14: Valentine’s Dinner at the winery’s Southern-inclined, farm-to-table restaurant. UpperShirley.com
Take a Lap in the Winners’ Circle
Forty-three wineries from across the Commonwealth nabbed gold medals at the esteemed Virginia Governor’s Cup competition in 2021 (among them were two from the Virginia Peninsula AVA: Williamsburg Winery for 2017 Petit Verdot Reserve and Upper Shirley Vineyard for 2016 Tannat and 2016 Zachariah).
Curious to taste these top performers? The Virginia Governor’s Cup Gold Medal Wine Trail leads you to all of them as well as award-winning cideries and meaderies. Visit Taste.VirginiaWine.org for a mobile passport that delivers the roster to your phone (no app needed).
Tap for maps and facts and simply check in upon arrival at one of these gilded go-tos. An adventure-spurring way to familiarize yourself with the best of Virginia wines, it’s also a ticket to enticing promotions like Breaux Vineyard’s BOGO tasting and discounted bottles at Early Mountain. And you’ll earn a “Virginia Wine” tumbler after hitting 12 wineries.
It’s a road well-traveled according to Virginia Wine Board’s Amanda Christian with over 3,500 check-ins during the trail’s first six months. It winds to an end December 31, but no tears in your Traminette, please. The next Gold Medal Wine Trail, featuring 2022 Governor’s Cup results, launches mid-March.
Wine, Brine and Dine Amidst Vines
Maryland may have co-opted blue crabs, but when it comes to oysters, as an oenophile once belted out (with apologies to the Gershwins): “Decant take that away from me.” Virginia is, in fact, the Oyster Capital of the East Coast. And wine can complement bivalves profoundly.
Slurp both during the Fall Oyster Crawl Nov. 13-14 (Facebook.com/ChesapeakeBayWineTrail) when wineries in the Chesapeake Bay Wine Region tout succulent mollusk-centric eats (think po’ boys, stews, tacos). Embracing the Northern Neck and Middle Peninsula, it’s one of the few spots on earth where grapes and oysters are harvested near each other and, aphoristically, “what grows together goes together.”
Ingleside Vineyards, a granddaddy in the field founded in 1980, is participating. Check in there on your Virginia Governor’s Cup Gold Medal Passport (Ingleside’s 2019 Albariño and 2018 Chardonnay Reserve were gold-getters. InglesideVineyards.com
Chatham Vineyards on the Eastern Shore, another rare locale where “merroir” meets terroir, celebrates Wine and Brine with five different kinds of oysters from bayside to seaside for $25/bag (Thanksgiving Weekend, Christmastime and Saturdays January-March) and observes Winter Wine and Oyster Weekends (Nov. 26-27, Jan. 15-17 and Feb. 19-21) with raw oysters on the half-shell and a glass of their perfectly paired, stellar wine for $15. ChathamVineyards.net
The oyster is eponymous at the Dog & Oyster Vineyard in Irvington, recently relocated by Dudley and Peggy Patteson to the front of their nearby boutique-luxe Hope and Glory Inn. They planted Petit Manseng, erected a 20 x 40 clear span tent and rebranded as a micro-vineyard and oyster bar. As Dudley describes: “It’s extraordinary in that you’re able to dine in the vines in the middle of a town.” HopeandGlory.com/The-Dog-Oyster-Vineyard
Find Fine Wine Online
Not just Virginia vinos, but unsung discoveries from around the world are among the prudently-curated, ever-changing offerings at The Hidden Bottle Shop, recently uncorked by New Jersey-transplants Brian and Kristin Curry. Aptly named, you won’t find it on any street; it’s all online. Click on a bottle to reveal tasting notes and winery details. Make your pick, pay and schedule delivery for anywhere in Coastal Virginia.
“Online and delivery made sense when we started because of COVID-19, but it also suits a dynamic industry,” explains Kristin of their tiny word-of-mouth, Carrollton-based enterprise, a nano-drop in the growing multibillion dollar alcohol e-commerce bucket.
But unlike most online retail, theirs is no faceless transaction. “We’re both owners and deliverers. It’s us!” she says. “We love talking with our customers, finding out what they’re looking for.” The two have traveled and tasted extensively, and Brian played several integral roles at a Jersey winery for over a dozen years.
Their approximately 100 wines (plus craft beer and ciders) showcase the “esoteric, atypical, hard-to-find” including Switzerland’s Domaine de Beudon and some from France’s Loire Valley otherwise sold only at Northern Virginia restaurants.
Many are under $20. “People think if it’s expensive it must be good but that’s not so,” says Kristin. “You don’t have to drink expensive to drink good.” TheHiddenBottleShop.com
CoVa WineFest Is Back!
Last, but certainly not least, get your tickets now for Coastal Virginia Magazine’s very own CoVa WineFest returning to the Virginia Beach Convention Center Feb. 5-6, 2022: Savor a range of Old Dominion wines—along with a craft beer garden and distillery den—at an event that crushes it. CoastalVirginiaWineFest.com