Brave little crocuses popping up in the garden offer a glimmer of hope that spring is here. Their purple and yellow blooms invite us to break free from winter’s cabin fever and hit the road to slurp and sip Chesapeake oysters with fine local wine. As ice melts away from the Bay’s shores, it’s a good time to journey south to Virginia’s vineyards located amidst rolling countryside, historic sites and stunning waterfront views.
The Commonwealth’s vino tradition dates back to Thomas Jefferson, who tried and fell short as a vintner but believed Virginia’s rich soil could yield top-notch grapes. Centuries later, nearly 300 wineries are curling their vines around 4,000+ acres of land, creating the fifth largest wine-producing region in America.
The success is partly due to nurturing grapes that thrive here yet fail in other places. Virginia vintners also defy the old adage that champagne and oysters are the ultimate couple. Instead, they pair their wines with scrumptious bivalves that are cultivated in the same area and compliment each other’s flavors.
This bivalve quest also takes you to aquaculture farms that are bolstering a lucrative rebirth in the Chesapeake oyster biz and turning Virginia into the leading East Coast seafood producer by selling more than 40 million oysters last year. They’re grown in seven unique regions that present a wide range of flavors. From creamy Rappahannocks to briny Chincoteagues, every palate can find its dream bite of Bay oyster.
If you’re ready for great grape and bivalve adventures, go explore these 12 Virginia destinations:
VIRGINIA’S TOP 12
WINE & OYSTER LOCATIONS
1) BLACKWALL HITCH ALEXANDRIA (Alexandria, www.theblackwallhitch.com)
2) BRINE (Fairfax, www.brinerestaurants.com)
3) DENSON’S GROCERY & R&B OYSTER BAR (Colonial Beach, www.densonsgrocery.com)
4) DOG & OYSTER VINEYARD (Irvington, dogandoyster.com)
5) TIDES INN (Irvington, www.tidesinn.com)
6) MERROIR TASTING ROOM (Topping, www.rroysters.com/restaurants/merroir)
7) YORK RIVER OYSTER COMPANY (Gloucester Point, www.yorkriveroysterco.com)
8) SMITHFIELD STATION (Smithfield, www.smithfieldstation.com)
9) BERRET’S SEAFOOD RESTAURANT & TAPHOUSE GRILL (Williamsburg, www.berrets.com)
10) SEAFOOD EATERY AT THE OYSTER FARM AT KINGS CREEK (Cape Charles, www.theoysterfarmatkingscreek.com)
11) BIG EASY OYSTER BAR (Norfolk, www.bigeasygrillandoysterbar.com)
12) PLEASURE HOUSE OYSTER FARM (Virginia Beach, www.pleasurehouseoysters.com)