I was born and raised in the third "most boring city in America", Chesapeake, located in the Hampton Roads/Tidewater/Coastal/I really don't know what we are calling it at this point- region of Virginia; I went to college in the Shenandoah Valley area, and now I am back in my hometown. For 27 years, I have called Virginia my home, and although I have an intense love for all things food and wine, I've never gotten to know the history behind it and even worse, I've never visited a winery, or knew there was more to oysters than just the James River (lowers head in shame).
During a recent dinner at Williamsburg Winery, I got to hear first hand by some of the best winemakers and purveyors in Virginia, about the 400 years of history, passion and innovation behind the things I love the most. Patrick Duffeler, Founder and Chairman of the Winery started the evening off with a personal motto that he addresses to his customers; "Is there anything better in life than enjoying it?"
We started with a cocktail hour featuring wines from Barboursville, Veritas and Williamsburg Winery, with the Veritas Paul Shaffer Petit Verdot being my personal favorite. We continued with Oysters from Big Island Aquaculture and Charcuterie from Edwards Virginia Smokehouse.
After hearing from the Duffeler family and our host Frank Morgan of Drink What You Like, we headed down to the lower cellar for a memorable 6 course dinner with wine pairings.
Featuring a beautiful tablescape by the lovely folks at Virginia Tourism.
Staying True to Virginia's Roots, all of the courses featured ingredients from Virginia. Between each course, a representative of each vineyard and farm spoke to us about how they are staying true to their roots.
The Amuse: Smoked Edwards Sausage and the best cornbread I've ever tasted. Keith Roberts from the smokehouse was there to talk about the business that has existed in the family for almost 100 years. When I asked him, I was pleased to hear that he was on a first name basis with a few owners of local restaurants in the Hampton Roads area.
Course 1: Stuffed Barcat Virginia Oysters from Rappahanock Oyster Co. with Edwards Bacon, Wessex Hundred Arugula and Carmont Chevre. While I thought all oysters had a briny taste to them, this variety was sweeter than I expected. The salt from the bacon and peppery finish from the arugula paired well with the creamy texture of the cheese. Recreating this meal is definitely in my future.
Wine Pairing: Thibaut-Janisson, Xtra Brut Blanc de Blancs, N.V.
Course 2: Wessex Hundred Salad with Picked Vegetables, Fresh Strawberries and Sherry Vinaigrette. Wessex Hundred happens to be the 300 acre farm that Williamsburg Winery is located on. The land dates back to the colonial area when the crops could support a hundred families. Today they are using that land to produce not only wine, but fresh produce that they serve to visitors daily.
Wine Pairing: Veritas Vineyard & Winery, Sauvignon Blanc, 2016
Course 3: Filet of Wild Caught Rockfish with fermented vegetables and ramp butter. While this is actually Maryland's state fish, it is one of the most popular varieties of fish in the Chesapeake Bay. Its buttery texture paired well with the vinegar flavor in the vegetables. Chef Ian Robbins and his team presented this dish with complex flavors but in an approachable manner that didn't overwhelm my senses.
Wine Pairing: The Williamsburg Winery, Petit Manseng, 2016
Course 4: Border Springs Farm Lamb Loin w/Hoe Cake, Pea Puree, and Green Tomato Chowchow. Known as the Lamb Guy, Craig Rogers farm is located in the Blue Ridge Mountains where all of their lamb are raised on pastures and not treated with hormones or antibiotics( he even gets high praise from Al Roker). From chowchow, to the hoecake, and even the lamb in general, this was a meal of firsts for me but one that I would love to try again in the future
Wine Pairing: The Williamsburg Winery, Adagio, 2013
Course 5: "Funky Cheese Board of Rye, Caraway, Grayson, Appalachian, topped with John Adlum Mostarda. Eating with your hands (and maybe even playing with your food) was not looked down on. They say, the further you get into a wine dinner, the shorter the speaches should be. Presented on an edible plate, oohs and WoW's were heard across the room when this course came out.
Wine Pairing: Chatham Vineyards on Church Creek, Vitner's Blend, 2015
Course 6: Strawberry Cloud, w/assorted strawberries, reservoir whiskey, hickory syrup, torched marshmallow ice cream. Would it be bad if I told you I licked my plate? While I am not normally a fan of deconstructed meals, diving into this was a treat. Although the textures were similar, they all stood out on their own when paired together.
Wine Pairing: Barboursville Vineyards, Paxxito, 2013
The True to Our Roots wine dinner was fun and educational, it showed me the passion that is put into the things that I eat every day. Emily, a winemaker from Veritas Vineyards said that although her job may appear glamorous, she is a farmer first. We must remember that each of us play a crucial role in elevating and sustaining our society (both food and non food).
From us as the customer, the waitress, chef, restaurant owner, and truck driver, none of it would be possible with the farmer...the root of our blooming society.