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Celebrating the Oyster: Virginias Historic Food Tradition


October 16, 2019 | Ivy Publications

By Brian Mellott

Across the nation, we are seeing a resurgence of oyster sales and of the local oyster bar. In Charlottesville alone, we find raw oyster bars, like Public Fish & Oyster. In addition, we can attend annual oyster roasts and festivals and we can go to dozens of other restaurants serving oysters that come from right here in Virginia. With the success of the farm-to-table movement in the state over the past decade, it’s no surprise that residents are also becoming more and more interested in where their shellfish come from. In the same way that we have started to turn to local farms for our land-based foods, more and more, the demand for oysters has been met, and not by large companies, but by small farms often with just a few employees and much more open to receiving visitors. That is how I came to find myself standing on a small dock in Topping, Virginia. This is the home of Rappahannock Oyster Company, a business that not only produces some of the best oysters I’ve ever tasted but also is on the forefront of saving the nearly endangered Bay oyster, reviving Virginia’s oyster industry, and helping to clean and revitalize the Chesapeake Bay.

With Virginia being a coastal state, oysters have been a part of Virginia’s food culture since its earliest days. Native Americans dined on them before European settlers arrived on the shores. Governor George Percy, in his days of exploration with John Smith, wrote in his 1607 journal that “oysters … lay on the ground as thick as stones.” The streets of Colonial Williamsburg are paved with crushed oyster shells and the mortar for the brick buildings of the day came from oyster shells as well. Even Thomas Jefferson couldn’t get enough of them. According to author James Gabler, Jefferson once polished off 50 oysters himself in a single sitting.

By the late 1800s, Virginia was supplying nearly half of the world demand for oysters, upwards of 20 million bushels of oysters each year. It was around this time that James Croxton laid claim to two acres of Rappahannock river bottom and founded the Rappahannock Oyster Company. By 2001, harvests of Bay oysters were down to less than 1 percent of their historic highs. Over-harvesting and dredging had destroyed not only the oyster population but also the oyster reefs, where spat attach and grow, and which protect shorelines and fish alike. Virginia’s native oyster, Crassotrea virginica, was on the brink of being added to the endangered species list. This seemed like the most unlikely time for cousins Ryan and Travis Croxton to take over their great-grandfather’s business, yet they saw it as a great opportunity to carry on the family legacy.

Over the past 10 years, Rappahannock Oysters has grown from harvesting 10,000 oysters a week to over 180,000 oysters each week, all while maintaining its commitment to help restore the wild oyster population and to clean up the Chesapeake Bay. They use practices from all over the world, information from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and a lot of Google searches to produce the best, most sustainable product available. The cousins now ship oysters to restaurants around the country, including the famous Le Bernardin in New York City. They help to plan events at wineries and other locations across Central Virginia and run restaurants of their own.

And what better way to enjoy such fresh cuisine than with amazing wine. The classic wine pairing for oysters is a French Muscadet. Its light, crisp acidity allows the oyster to shine. When eating Virginia oysters, though, pairing them with something from Virginia only seems fitting. In 2015, The Virginia Oyster Trail was established to celebrate not only the eight distinct regional flavors of Virginia’s oysters but also the wineries, breweries, farmers markets and, especially, the oyster farmers, themselves, who help visitors truly “experience” the simple oyster.

Just as I learned so much that morning on the Chesapeake Bay, I couldn’t help but be impressed by something so simple, yet so pure. And sitting at the Virginia shoreline eating a Virginia oyster (Angels on Horseback) topped with Virginia ham and drinking a Virginia wine, I couldn’t have been more proud to be a Virginian.

Mellot’s Oyster Pairing Recommendations:

  • Rappahannock’s Olde Salts
    • Taste: A bold brininess due to its closeness to the sea; One of the saltiest oysters.
    • Pair With: A dry Viognier
  • Rappahannock River oysters
    • Taste: Sweet and buttery with a mild saltiness
    • Pair With: Buttery Chardonnays
  • Mobjack Bay’s Stingrays
    • Taste: Sweet and mildly briny
    • Pair With: IPA Beer
  • York River’s Rochambeaus
    • Taste: Mildly sweet and mildly briny
    • Pair With: IPA Beer

Ready to enjoy some oysters yourself? Autumn in Virginia means the beginning of oyster festival season which generally begins in September and continues through December, following the oyster harvest on Virginia’s coast, which began on October 1 this year. Several Virginia vineyards celebrate harvest season with oyster-inspired festivals, like Early Mountain Vineyards’ Fall Oyster Festival this weekend. Also this weekend, Breaux Vineyards is partnering with King Street Oyster Bar for a Harvest Celebration. Later this fall, Cardinal Point Vineyard & Winery will host their 16th Annual Oyster Roast on November 9 and 10.

You can also learn more about the Rappahannock Oyster Company in Wine & Country Life, Book Five.

Wine & Country celebrates elevated living in the heart of Virginia Wine Country. Wine & Country Life, a semi-annual life & style magazine, and Wine & Country Weddings, an art book celebrating elegant country weddings in the region, are accompanied by the Wine & Country Shop in Ivy, VA—a beautiful lifestyle boutique featuring over 40 Virginian artisans with everything from tailgating essentials and Dubarry attire, to locally made foods and award-winning Monticello AVA wines, as well as craft beverages for your next event. Wine & Country Experiences are now also available and include exclusive tours and hands-on classes with leading professionals in the local farm-to-table and vineyard scenes.

Palladio Restaurant Celebrates 20th with Food and Wine Gala


October 10, 2019 | Ivy Publications

On Saturday, October 5, Wine & Country was pleased to join Barboursville Vineyards in celebrating the 20-year anniversary of Palladio Restaurant at a spectacular gala held at the foot of the historic Barboursville Ruins. Established in 1999 under the leadership of native Italians Luca Paschina (winemaker) and Gianni Zonin (founder), Palladio has long been hailed as one of our region’s finest restaurants with a strong commitment to excellent cuisine paired with the beautiful wines of Barboursville Vineyards.

On the evening of the gala, guests were treated to delicious food and some of the best vintages Barboursville Vineyards has produced to date. Poured alongside appetizers was the 1994 Barboursville Anniversary Brut as well as the 2018 Allegrante Rose. Seen above at right, winemaker Luca Paschina welcomed viticulturist and winemaker Gabriele Rausse (on left) for an evening of fine wine and cuisine. Rausse, who is a childhood friend of founder Zonin from back in Italy and fellow viticulturist, helped Zonin establish the Barboursville Vineyards in the first five years of its existence from 1976 to 1981. Once established, Rausse went on to help establish well over 100 vineyards in Virginia, earning him the title “Father of Virginia’s Vineyards.”

Executive Chef Spencer Crawford (seen below on left) stepped out of the kitchen momentarily to welcome esteemed Chef Patrick O’Connell of The Inn at Little Washington to the gala. Adding to many accolades throughout his career, Chef O’Connell was presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award by the James Beard Foundation earlier this year, and he enjoys offering Barboursville’s Octagon at his much celebrated restaurant.

Just before sitting down to dine, Zonin joined his son Francesco Zonin (seen above) and Paschina. Francesco, alongside his two brothers, Domenico and Michele, accepted the executive duties of Barboursville Vineyards in 2017, leading the way into a new generation of Zonins.

When guests were seated, Paschina welcomed them with a short speech. “When we began developing Octagon in the late 1990s, we felt it should be paired with good food,” he said. “And so, we opened Palladio in 1999 to do just that. Now, here we are, 20 years later, and I can say that I am very proud to be a part of all we have accomplished.”

The first course began with Sommelier Alessandro Medici pouring a 2006 Viognier Reserve to pair with a beautiful North Carolina yellowfin tuna cured in Castello di Albola extra virgin olive oil and wrapped in roasted peppers. Next, guests enjoyed the Nebbiolo Reserve 2014 paired with a luscious parmigiano reggiano flan, West Virginia lagotto truffles and Barboursville farm-raised Berkshire coppa.

Medici then began decanting three prized reds from the winery’s library vaults: the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 1998 from Double Magnums, the Octagon Fourth Edition 1999 (the year Palladio opened) and the Octagon 200th Anniversary Edition 2010. The sumptuous Cabernet Sauvignon paired beautifully with the braised veal ravioli in thyme-scented oxtail broth mixed with Cabernet Franc.

The two Octagon wines were served with the main course of licorice-glazed Retreat Farm lamb chops, supernova sunchoke puree, roasted Bella di Napoli squash and fairy tail eggplants—a dish the guests raved about. Both Octagons were sublime and paired wonderfully with the dish.

Last, but never least, the dessert course included a traditional tiramisu, a chocolate and Piedmontese hazelnut bunet and a Feudo Principi di Butera extra virgin olive oil cake with candied orange and Elysium citrus honey whipped cream. The dessert course was paired exquisitely with the delicious Malvaxia Reserve 2003.

As the evening came to a close, Francesco Zonin gave a warm thanks to his mother Silvana and Luca’s wife, Patricia, who were credited for their unwavering devotion and support for the many endeavors of Gianni and Luca, which, of course, includes the creation of Palladio. He then recognized Chef Crawford and the devoted staff of Palladio, many of whom have been with the establishment for years and are like family to both the Zonins and the patrons who enjoyed being a part of the special celebration.

Wine & Country celebrates elevated living in the heart of Virginia Wine Country. Wine & Country Life, a semi-annual life & style magazine, and Wine & Country Weddings, an art book celebrating elegant country weddings in the region, are accompanied by the Wine & Country Shop in Ivy, VA—a beautiful lifestyle boutique featuring over 40 Virginian artisans with everything from tailgating essentials and Dubarry attire, to locally made foods and award-winning Monticello AVA wines, as well as craft beverages for your next event. Wine & Country Experiences are now also available and include exclusive tours and hands-on classes with leading professionals in the local farm-to-table and vineyard scenes.

The Wine and Country Shop Creates a Commemorative Beer and Wine for the 150th Anniversary of Kappa Sigma


July 26, 2019 | Ivy Publications

In celebration of Kappa Sigma Fraternity’s 150th Anniversary and its 72nd Biennial Grand Conclave being held in Charlottesville this weekend, the Wine & Country Shop was honored to create a special commemorative wine and beer for the occasion. Drawing upon their knowledge of the local artisan drinks community, Wine & Country developed the concept and labels to highlight the history of the brotherhood, and worked with locals Barboursville Vineyards and Champion Brewing Company to produce the exclusive wine and beer as well as complementary t-shirts.

In honor of the fraternity’s founding year at University of Virginia (UVA) and it’s tradition that Kappa Sigma evolved from an ancient order founded during the middle ages at the University of Bologna in Italy, the wine, named 1869, was produced with the talents of local, Italian-owned and operated Barboursville Vineyards. Bred on the vine and in the winery for early approachability, the Virginia Cabernet Sauvignon contains a complex, ripened dark berry fruit with currant, cassis and chocolate notes.

Similarly, the 5 Brothers beer tells the story of the fraternity’s five founders—five friends and UVA students who became brothers in 1869 when founding the fraternity. For this special brew, Wine & Country enlisted local brewmaster Hunter Smith of Champion Brewing Company, who created an award-winning Bohemian Pilsner made with Czech Saaz hops, giving it a fresh, clean maltiness and spicy flavor.

For Kappa Sigma, it all began 150 years ago when those five friends gathered in the room at 46 East Lawn at UVA to found the first American chapter. This weekend, over 1400 members from across the country have come together to walk the same brick pathways as their founders did. Headquartered in Charlottesville, Kappa Sigma remains the largest social fraternity in the world, with more than 200,000 living members, 20,000 of those members being undergraduates at over 320 chapters. Through it’s focus on the Four Pillars of Fellowship, Leadership, Scholarship and Service the organization has donated millions of dollars and thousands of hours in volunteer service to numerous charitable causes. Kappa Sigma said in a statement, “The 72nd Grand Conclave of Kappa Sigma Fraternity will represent a tribute to our history and a focus towards our future.”

To read more about the fraternity’s history and Charlottesville’s role in its origination, see Book 8 of Wine & Country Life.

Fraternity Images Courtesy of Kappa Sigma

Wine & Country celebrates elevated living in the heart of Virginia Wine Country. Wine & Country Life, a semi-annual life & style magazine, and Wine & Country Weddings, an art book celebrating elegant country weddings in the region, are accompanied by the Wine & Country Shop in Ivy, VA—a beautiful lifestyle boutique featuring over 40 Virginian artisans with everything from tailgating essentials and Dubarry attire, to locally made foods and award-winning Monticello AVA wines, as well as craft beverages for your next event. Wine & Country Experiences are now also available and include exclusive tours and hands-on classes with leading professionals in the local farm-to-table and vineyard scenes.

Shakespeare in the Ruins Returns to Barboursville Vineyards


July 13, 2019 | Ivy Publications

After a 13-year absence, Shakespeare fans returned to Barboursville Vineyards this weekend for a magical evening of wine and open-air theatre set at the foot of the striking Barboursville Ruins. The ruins were once the home of Gov. James Barbour who built the home with the help of friend and architect, Thomas Jefferson. The home was finished in 1822 but tragically burned on Christmas Day in 1884. It now stands as the centerpiece of the prestigious Barboursville Vineyards, whose award-winning wines are produced on the stunning estate.

Surrounded by an historic boxwood garden, the setting was the perfect backdrop for Four County Players to stage “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” in which nature is such an important aspect, almost a character unto itself. The bard’s most popular comedy, the play captivated the audience with music, energetic humor, jealous lovers and mischievous fairies.

Adding to the theatre festivities, guests enjoyed delectable picnics packed by Barboursville Vineyards’ award-winning Palladio Restaurant, as well as food truck fare and, of course, delicious Barboursville wines. With music performances before the curtain went up and mischievous Puck and the fairies gamboling about during intermission delighting guests with funny poses and pantomime, the show entranced all from start to finish.

As darkness fell, lanterns were lit, crickets gently joined in as a background chorus, and fireflies added to the romance and magic of the outdoor evening in the vineyard. There was plenty of laughter and smiles as love potions went wrong and the talented cast resolved their troubles with a little help from the fairies. As Quince so well sums it up for the troupe, “Our true intent is all for your delight.” With a standing ovation, the audience applauded a fabulous performance and the end to a beautiful evening.

Four County Players is Central Virginia’s longest-running community theatre group. The open-air staging of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” runs through July 27. Tickets may be purchased from the Theatre. If you are interested in a picnic from Palladio, reservations should be placed one week in advance. Chairs are provided.

Wine & Country celebrates elevated living in the heart of Virginia Wine Country. Wine & Country Life, a semi-annual life & style magazine, and Wine & Country Weddings, an art book celebrating elegant country weddings in the region, are accompanied by the Wine & Country Shop in Ivy, VA—a beautiful lifestyle boutique featuring over 40 Virginian artisans with everything from tailgating essentials and Dubarry attire, to locally made foods and award-winning Monticello AVA wines, as well as craft beverages for your next event. Wine & Country Experiences are now also available and include exclusive tours and hands-on classes with leading professionals in the local farm-to-table and vineyard scenes.

3 Must-Try Garden Trends from 2019 Historic Garden Week


May 30, 2019 | Ivy Publications

Each year, our local Caspari hosts a special floral exhibition for Historic Garden Week. The event is held a few days before the local Albemarle-Charlottesville garden tour, and allows local floral and landscape designers and members of local garden clubs to showcase their floral design skills and creativity, as well as incorporate current garden and floral trends. In addition, all proceeds from the annual event benefit the Garden Club of Virginia’s efforts to restore and preserve historic gardens and state parks across the state of Virginia. This year, Catherine Bolton, Hillbrook Collections, LH Gardens, J.W. Townsend Landscapes and Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello all created displays for the affair.

A few garden trends really stood out from this years creations, and were further showcased in our local Historic Garden Week tour, as well as at the 2019 RHS Chelsea Flower Show, which took place earlier this month. Check out these three trends that are popping up in gardens not only locally but also internationally!

Above (Left), J.W. Townsend Landscapes showcases their popular “Hotpots.” Above (Right) LH Gardens presents a beautiful garden display overflowing with plants and vibrant blooms, including wildflowers. Bottom, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello styled a delightful window display with many woodland elements.

1. Woodland Gardens. Not only was this theme present in the inspiration for the Albemarle-Charlottesville garden tour, which showcased the “Woodland Gardens of Ivy,” but also was presented in the RHS Chelsea Flower Show by the Duchess of Cambridge herself. The Duchess debuted a “Back to Nature Garden” that she designed this year with landscape architects Andree Davies and Adam White, complete with a treehouse, edibles, and a multitude of various plants, trees and shrubs. We also saw this theme incorporated into the designs at Caspari’s event through the use of shade-loving/woodland-inspired plants and foliage like moss, ferns and hostas.

2. Wildflowers. Part of the larger trend of planting things that are native to the area and supporting the local eco-system, wildflowers are becoming a popular way for gardeners to support local pollinators and can add beautiful color and texture to a garden. We saw wildflowers incorporated in both the displays at Caspari, as well as throughout our local Historic Garden Week tour, especially in the Boninti home.

3. Garden Buildings. Whether they be used as a “she shed,” an outdoor entertaining space or a more traditional gardening prep and storage area, having small stylish garden structures is all the rage. We saw these in homes like Little Spring Hollow in this year’s garden tour, as well as through Caspari’s custom-made Garden Folly by Hillbrook Collections, which debuted in the store right before the “Little Chelsea” event.

The “Caspari Garden Folly,” custom-made for by Hillbrook Collections, debuted in the boutique shortly before the “Little Chelsea” Event. J.W. Townsend Landscapes garden urns surround the shed.

We had such a lovely time attending Caspari’s “Little Chelsea” event, as well as the Albemarle-Charlottesville Historic Garden Week tour and seeing some of the inspiring gardening talent of our community. If you missed this year’s Historic Garden Week, be sure to mark your calendar for 2020! These events not only give you a chance to see some incredible floral and landscape artistry, but also provide bounds of inspiration for gardeners and homeowners.

Left, guests mingle while browsing all the “Little Chelsea” inspired designs. Top right, local Historic Garden Week Co-Chairs Thierry Drapanas of Harriet and Vee and Vicki Snead greet guests. Bottom right, guests enjoy local bites and sips during the event.

Wine & Country celebrates elevated living in the heart of Virginia Wine Country. Wine & Country Living, a semi-annual life & style magazine, and Wine & Country Weddings, an art book celebrating elegant country weddings in the region, are accompanied by the Wine & Country Shop in Ivy, VA—a beautiful lifestyle boutique featuring over 40 Virginian artisans with everything from tailgating essentials and Dubarry attire, to locally made foods and award-winning Monticello AVA wines, as well as craft beverages for your next event. Wine & Country Experiences are now also available and include exclusive tours and hands-on classes with leading professionals in the local farm-to-table and vineyard scenes.

5 Sparkly Ways to Celebrate the Mom or Grad in Your Life This Season


May 10, 2019 | Ivy Publications

With Mother’s Day and college graduations right around the corner, many of us are looking for perfect gifts. When it comes to gift giving for those special moments, jewelry is always a staple. So, we paired up with the team at Schwarzschild Keller & George Jewelers for some sparkly gift ideas that can be treasured for years to come.

1. Lagos sterling silver “Luna” 8mm pearl stud earrings. $250 | Pearls are a traditional coming-of-age jewelry, making them a great gift for a new college or high school graduate. Pearls are also a beloved customary Mother’s Day gift. These earrings would be a lovely choice for a mom to receive from her infant for celebrating her first Mother’s Day.

2. Monica Rich Kosann sterling silver global compass charm necklace with moonstone cabochons and blue sapphires on a 30” chain. $495 | This necklace is fitting for the student with plans to travel and see the world after graduation, or to show a mother how much you love her, no matter the geographical distance between her and her child(ren).

3. Roberto Coin 18K white gold 3-station diamond necklace featuring three full-cut eyelet-set diamonds weighing approximately 0.14 total carats. $780 | Another traditional gift idea, diamond jewelry is a special and treasured way to commemorate a milestone or celebrate the unwavering love and devotion of a mom.

4. Lagos sterling silver “Maya” turquoise station necklace with caviar beading, 36” in length. $795 | Considered to be a healing stone, the gift of turquoise is not only beautiful but also meaningful for any woman in your life.

5. Monica Rich Kosann 18K yellow gold slim round Locket on a 17″ delicate chain. $1,385 | This beautiful keepsake would be particularly touching for a mother with the inclusion of two photos of her family. It could also be a heartwarming way to keep her family close to her heart for the student who is moving away from her family after graduation.

Wine & Country celebrates elevated living in the heart of Virginia Wine Country. Charlottesville Wine & Country Living, a semi-annual magazine of Life & Style in Jefferson’s Virginia, and Charlottesville Wine & Country Weddings, an art book celebrating elegant country weddings in Jefferson’s Virginia, are accompanied by the Charlottesville Wine & Country Shop in Ivy, VA, a beautiful lifestyle boutique featuring over 40 Virginia artisans with everything from tailgating essentials and Dubarry attire to locally made foods, award-winning Monticello AVA wines as well as craft beverages for your next event. Wine & Country Experiences are now also available and include exclusive tours and hands-on classes with leading professionals in the local farm-to-table and vineyard scenes.