Friday, March 1, 2013

Love by the Glass: March is Virginia Wine and Dine Month

It's that time of the year again-- March Virginia Wine and Dine Month, where nearly 300 restaurants throughout the state highlight Virginia wine with some of their own latest and greatest culinary creations. Even Virginia food and wine travel packages are on tap this year with local hotels, resorts and inns creating special wine-focused travel packages. It may come as a surprise to some, but Virginia was recently ranked a Top 10 Wine Destination for 2012 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine. How cool is that? You've got some of the best vino right here in your backyard people, so I suggest getting out there and drinking it. We now have over 230 wineries and counting in Virginia (currently ranking us 5th in the nation), so I can promise you, there is no shortage of tasty juice.
Speaking of delightful libations, Barboursville Vineyards took home this year's Virginia Wineries Association Governor's Cup for its 2009 Octagon 12th Edition, which seals the winery's very well-deserved fourth Governor's Cup win. Not only was the competition stiff this year (and it was definitely the year of the Bordeaux-style grape blends), but the judging was stringent with judges participating in over two weeks of tastings. Sounds like a pretty good gig to me.
Jason Tesauro of Barboursville Vineyards basks in Octagon glow.
Meanwhile, a few of us journalists and Virginia wine lovers were lucky to get a mini-sampling of what folks are in for with March Virginia Wine and Dine Month with a luncheon tour of several of Richmond's finest participating dining destinations. And it went a little like this:
Bar cameo: Roosevelt owner and all around cool chica Kendra Murden.
We started with a visit to The Roosevelt, where chef Lee Gregory whipped up a divine braised Virginia lamb over gnocchi with salsify paired with one of Virginia's very few Pinot Noir's, a 2011 Pinot from Ankida Ridge Vineyards. For those of you who don't know, the Pinot Noir grape is arguably one of the hardest grapes to grow anywhere, much less in Virginia where local weather can be a full-on crap shoot, but this wine is truly stellar. I recently became a convert to the joys of the delicate, berry-laden Pinot Noir after hitting a bunch of wineries in Monterey, California, and I have to say, Ankida Ridge's version was on point.
Did you know chef Lee Gregory is up for a James Beard Award? Huzzah!
Next, we hit up Rappahannock Restaurant, where chef Dylan Fultineer showcased what owners Travis and Ryan Croxton do best, which is anything involving a Virginia-raised oyster. Fultineer topped a Rappahannock and an Olde Salt oyster with minced apples, red onion, thyme and a touch of vinegar, creating a sort of mignonette that paired beautifully with our next wine of the day, Chatham Vineyards steel fermented 2011 Chardonnay. This wine screams, "bring on summer, so I can sit outside and sip this stuff all afternoon", and it's a great wine to whet your taste for a French-style Burgundy-- minerality, light acidity and slightly melon ball-y, this is the perfect seafood wine.
Behold the brine:
Our last stop of the day was to Lemaire, where along with some local meats and cheeses, we chatted with Virginia winemaker, Michael Shaps of Virginia Wineworks while imbibing his 2009 Viognier (which I personally just loved, loved, loved) and his 2008 Cabernet Franc, one of Shaps' several old world-style wines made in very small lots. This is a Cab Franc that's slightly tannic with all of those fruit-laden spicy notes you want from an aged version of this grape. It's clear that Mr. Shaps knows his stuff when it comes to this style of winemaking as evidenced by his own Governor's Cup win back in 2004.
Our day culminated with a special appearance by First Lady Maureen McDonnell, who has done so much to promote all things Virginia, but most specifically Virginia wines through her FLITE program (First Lady's Initiative Team Effort), and with the international recognition Virginia wines are finally receiving, I'd say her program has been a success.
Virginia's First Lady offers a Champagne toast.
Virginia Wine and Dine Month kicks off today and runs through the entire month of March. With so many amazing restaurants, wine shops, hotels, resorts and inns participating, you should have no trouble finding something new to enjoy, so how about giving Virginia wine a try?

For more information on Virginia wine and Wine and Dine month, check out

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1 comment:

  1. Tasty recap - craving Eastern Shore oysters and Chatham Steel Chard right now! Sorry I missed this.


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