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Virginia Governors Cup 2020 Awards


February 26, 2020 | Wine & Country Life

Last night, the Annual Virginia Governor’s Cup 2020 Awards was held at Richmond’s Main Street Station. After 107 wineries submitted more than 530 wines, a prestigious panel of judges selected 64 Gold Medal-winning wines to be celebrated at the gala that was expertly organized by the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office.

A dazzling array of local wineries all made the distinguished list, demonstrating the talent and commitment to quality wine of our local wine region.

The evening’s festivities began with many of the gold medalists pouring their award-winning wines and sharing details about each vintage with attendees.

The highest-ranking twelve reds and whites of these Gold Medal-winning wines were selected for the 2020 Governor’s Case after outscoring the other entrants on appearance, aroma, flavor, overall quality and commercial suitability.

We were delighted to see so many of our friends in the industry, including Luca Paschina from Barboursville Vineyards, the Bakhtiar’s from CrossKeys Vineyards, Michael Shaps from Virginia Wineworks, the team from Pollak Vineyards and many more.

After sampling the delicious wines, the attendees moved from the impromptu tasting room into the awards hall where they were greeted by George Hodson of Veritas Vineyard & Winery, who was a warm and gracious host for the evening.

The accolades began with Justin Rose from Rosemont of Virginia receiving the President’s Appreciation Award for his service as past president, given by now President, George Hodson.

Justin was further celebrated as he was named Wine Person of the Year for his service to the industry.

Randy Phillips of Cave Ridge Vineyard graciously accepted the Gordon Murchie Lifetime Achievement Award and reminded us of the importance that each person, from grower to consumer, has in advocating for the wine industry.

All in attendance were deeply touched when Carrington, James and Stuart King of King Family Vineyards took the stage to present the inaugural David King Advocate of the Year Award. This new award was inspired by their late father who was an ardent and constant advocate for Virginia’s wine industry.

The David King Advocate of the Year will be given to the individual that demonstrates significant involvement in advocacy efforts on behalf of the Virginia Wine industry.

As James prepared to give the award, he shared his father’s favorite quote from John F. Kennedy “A rising tide lifts all boats” and reminded us of the value and strength the Virginia wine community has as it continues to grow and add new vineyards and varietals.

George Hodson was surprised and extremely honored to be the winner of this award in honor of a man he deeply admired.

The culmination of the evening was when Governor Northam took the stage along with the winemakers of each wine in the Governor’s Case for the much anticipated announcement of the Governor’s Cup.

Virginia Governor’s Cup Case Winners

The wines to receive this coveted honor are 868 Estate Vineyards’ 2017 Vidal Blanc Passito, Afton Mountain Vineyards’ 2017 Tradition, Barboursville Vineyards’ 2014 Octagon AND their 2018 Vermentino Reserve, Delaplane Cellars’ 2017 Williams Gap, Lake Anna Winery’s 2017 Tannat, Michael Shaps’ 2016 Meritage, Pollak Vineyards’ 2017 Cabernet Franc Reserve AND their 2017 Smuggler, Rockbridge Vineyard’s 2017 Vd’or, Shenandoah Vineyards’ 2017 Shenandoah Reserve Red, Virginia Cellars Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards’ 2017 Petit Verdot. 

Governor Northam was very jovial and insisted that he be included in the judging next year.

Virginia Governor’s Cup Winner

Finally, the moment had arrived, and he ceremoniously opened the envelope to reveal the winner of the 2020 Virginia Governor’s Cup: 868 Estate Vineyards’ 2017 Vidal Blanc Passito. This is the first fully Loudon County-made and Loudon-grown Virginia Governor’s Cup Winner.

Carl DiManno accepted the award on behalf of the vineyard.

“The 2017 Passito was the culmination of a concerted winemaking effort,” says 868 Estate Vineyard’s Co-Founder and Winemaker, Carl DiManno. “I take a very hands-on approach in the winery, and a lot of love and hard work went into this wine, but it was well worth it. I am thrilled that Loudoun’s wines are getting the recognition that they deserve.”

This marks the first time in 15 years that a dessert wine has won the Governor’s Cup.

The 2017 Vidal Blanc Passito is the first wine made from 100 percent Loudoun County fruit to win Virginia’s top wine award.

The talented members of the Virginia wine industry proved once again how much our region has to offer wine enthusiasts and winemakers around the world. The innovative vision that drives our region continues to progress the industry and its product, creating quality wines that delight wine lovers and impress wine connoisseurs.

We would like to sincerely congratulate 868 Estate Vineyards on their Governor’s Cup win, as well as all of the other wineries who demonstrated our region’s talent with gold medals and for being chosen for the elite Governor’s Case. We cannot wait to try all of the award-winning wines and to see all that these talented winemakers have in store for Virginia’s wine country!

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.

An Engaging Winter Wine Weekend in the Shenandoah Valley


February 25, 2020 | Wine & Country Life

Wine & Country Life attended the 2nd annual Winter Wine Weekend at the beautiful new Hotel Madison in Harrisonburg on February 21-23. The weekend started with a welcome reception Friday evening followed by a sumptuous sold-out wine paired dinner at Joshua Wilton House. Saturday morning, winemaker Lee Hartman knowledgeably led guests through the winemaking process from the field to the glass with an exclusive behind-the-scenes tour of the nearby Bluestone Vineyard.

Hotel Madison’s Second Annual Winter Wine Weekend

Back at Hotel Madison, guests filled workshops learning from some of Virginia’s most respected winemakers like Luca Paschina of Barboursville Vineyards (below) who talked about winemaking in both the “New World” of Virginia and the “Old World” of his native country, Italy.

Between workshops, guests browsed the crafts of local artisans and participated in the Grand Tasting in the Shenandoah Grand Ballroom where over a dozen wineries from around the region provided tastings.

Wineries included Barren Ridge Vineyards, Shenandoah Vineyards, Rockbridge Vineyard, Keswick Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards, Cardinal Point Winery, Bluestone Vineyard, Muse Vineyards, CrossKeys Vineyards, Brix and Columns and Cave Ridge Vineyard.

Below (upper left) Saam Bakhtiar educates guests as they taste the award-winning wines of Crosskeys Vineyard. A family business of the Bakhtiars since 2001, Crosskeys Vineyard is often awarded for excellence for their estate-grown wines. Below (upper right), Stephanie Pence, the owner of Brix and Columns, shares her wines and expertise with guests. As current president of the Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail, she was excited to see the event so well attended and the interest in her region’s wine growing in popularity. Below (bottom right) Micheal Shaps of Micheal Shaps Wineworks shares his exciting new wines from Shenandoah Vineyards, a property he has been involved in since 2010 and purchased in 2018.

Saturday evening, guests enjoyed the engaging “A Night in Tuscany” wine-paired dinner prepared by Brock Kappers of Winebow Group followed up on Sunday morning with a delightful brunch paired with sparkling wines from Veritas Vineyard and Winery and featuring their winemaker Elliott Watkins.

Curious to learn more about some of these featured vineyards? Click below for more articles:

Read more articles on CrossKeys Vineyards here.

Discover more about Veritas Vineyards & Winery here.

Explore the many delights of Barboursville Vineyards here.

More about Michael Shaps Wineworks can be found here.

Read more about Keswick Vineyards here.

Find out more about the happenings at Cardinal Point here.

We are delighted to see the wonderful wines of the Shenandoah Valley region continue to reach new audiences.

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.

Everything You Need to Know About the 2020 Virginia Wine Expo


January 14, 2020 | Wine & Country Life

The Annual Virginia Wine Expo is coming up on March 3-8 in Richmond, Virginia. This popular event highlights not only premier wines but also spirits, cider, craft beer and artisan cuisine with over 30 curated events, including master-class seminars, tasting events, wine-paired dinners, lunches and brunches, and cooking classes.

This year, the expo is kicking off with a special preview event on Thursday, February 6. This 15-course Virginia wine dinner will be prepared by award-winning Chinese Chef and Restaurateur Peter Chang. The feast will be paired with Barboursville Vineyards wines and will be held at Q by Peter Chang, Chang’s flagship restaurant in Bethesda, Maryland.

The rest of the expo’s scheduled events will begin on Tuesday, March 3, and will take place in and around Richmond. The week’s signature events will be held at the beautiful Main Street Station, while other foodie and pairing events will take place at local restaurants and venues, giving attendees a chance to explore the city. Each year, the expo’s events showcase the best of Virginia wine, as well as another guest region from the United States and abroad. Along with hundreds of Virginia wines, this year’s selections will include wines from the International Guest Region Bordeaux and Loire Valley, France and the 2020 National Guest Region Washington State.

Tuesday through Friday, guests can choose from wine-paired dinners (including a dinner at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts), seminars, workshops and a sparkling wine-paired lunch. Friday evening, Main Street Station will host the popular SMOKED! event, which features over 30 artisan dishes, over 35 whiskeys from Virginia, Kentucky, Tennessee and Scotland, wines from Virginia, Bordeaux and Loire Valley, France and Washington State, craft beers and ciders.

Saturday, attendees will have the opportunity to attend a few additional specialty events before the Afternoon and Evening Walk-Around Grand Tastings and the Ultimate Brew Fest, all of which will be held at the Main Street Station. The heart of this expo, these tasting events offer guests the opportunity to try curated libations and meet and learn from winemakers, knowledgeable volunteers and distributor representatives.

The expo will conclude on Sunday, March 8, with a seminar on Rose, a farm-to-table brunch, a Sub Rosa Bakery wine dinner and the Grand Tasting event for locals.

With events featuring curated wines, brews, ciders and spirits, as well as artisan foods, the Virginia Wine Expo truly offers something for everyone and unique, educational experiences. We cannot wait to see all that the 2020 expo has in store for participants, and we hope to see you there!

You can learn more about the expo and find tickets/the full schedule of events here.

Photos Courtesy of the Virginia Wine Expo

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.

Holiday Port Pairing Ideas with Horton Vineyards


December 20, 2019 | Wine & Country Life

Port wines are known for pairing well with certain cheeses and treats, making them a wonderful addition to any holiday table no matter whether you are serving nibbles at a party or dessert after a holiday feast. Versatile in their pairing options, port’s sweet taste can complement an array of foods. So, we went to Virginia’s port expert, Horton Vineyards to get some pairing suggestions we can all try while entertaining this holiday season! Not only was Horton the first vineyard in Virginia to make commercially available port wine since the end of prohibition with their 1995 vintage, but Horton Vineyards’ Founder Dennis Horton also first brought Portugal’s Touriga Nacional grape (a grape commonly used for port wine blends) to the state. Today, Horton is the only vineyard in Virginia making true Port wine.

We sat in on one of Horton’s pairing classes earlier this month to learn about different port pairings, as well as how the age of a wine can help it pair better with certain foods.

Horton Vineyards’ Port Pairing Suggestions:

  • Gorgonzola mousse (Paired with Horton’s 1997 Vintage Port)
  • Mixed green salad with roasted beats, fennel and balsamic dressing (Paired with Horton’s 2005 Vintage Port)
  • Fila cup topped with sautéed mushrooms and brie (Paired with Horton’s 2009 Vintage Port)
  • Biscotti topped with Apple Cinnamon Boursin Cheese (Paired with Horton’s 2008 Vintage Port)

Ready to try your own port paring? You can enjoy one of Horton Vineyards‘ vintage bottles available at their vineyard and online. In addition, Horton started the next generation’s batch of port wine last year. So, port lovers can look forward to that release in 2024.

No matter how you plan to pair your holiday entertaining and dinners this year, we wish everyone a very happy holiday season, full of great Virginia wine!

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.

Cassoulet with Oyster Mushrooms Recipe


October 30, 2019 | Wine & Country Life

The former Blackthorne Inn in Upperville, Virginia, is currently in the process of being reimagined by Easton Porter Group, who bought the property in 2016. Projected to open in 2021, the inn promises to become a place of relaxation, refreshment, and inspiration. Organic gardens are being developed in order to supply the property with the freshest produce, herbs, and flowers—a signature priority of Easton Porter Group. Additional goods and ingredients will be sourced from local vendors and purveyors. This farm-to-table and local sourcing initiative can be seen in practice at other properties under the group, including Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards.

Ahead of the inn’s reopening, we asked the group to share a few dishes similar to those we can expect the inn’s restaurant and pub to be serving. In the coming months, we will be sharing a few of these delectable recipes that encapsulate Easton Porter Group’s commitment to gourmet and locally-sourced fare, as we eagerly await the inn’s official menu debut in 2021. Enjoy!

Cassoulet with Oyster Mushrooms

By Ian Rynecki  – Corporate Executive Chef – Easton Porter Group

Yield: 6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound                      Tarbais beans, dry (or cannellini)
  • 3 tablespoons             Salt
  • 6 ounces                     Slab bacon, cut into ½ inch cubes
  • 1 pound                       Boneless pork shoulder, cut into 1.5 inch cubes
  • 1 pound                       Fresh pork sausage, cut in half lengthwise
  • 1 each                         Onion, large, finely diced 
  • .5 pound                      Oyster mushrooms, cut into 2-inch pieces
  • 6 each                         Cloves
  • 2 each                         Bay leaves
  • 4 sprigs                       Thyme
  • 4 sprigs                       Parsley
  • As needed                   Butcher’s twine
  • 1 each                         Carrot, peeled, cut into 3-inch sections
  • 2 stalks                        Celery, cut into 3-inch sections
  • 1-2 each                      Cloves elephant garlic
  • 1  28 –ounce can        Peeled tomatoes
  • 1 quart                         Chicken stock, plus more as needed to rehydrate
  • 4 pieces                       Duck confit, cleaned into large chunks, bones reserved

Procedure:

To begin, cover beans with 3-quarts water and add 3 tablespoons salt. Stir to combine and let sit at room temperature overnight. Drain and rinse the beans, set aside.

Using a wide stainless steel pot, sear the bacon over low heat, rendering out the bacon fat, about 8 minutes. Remove from the pan. Sear the pork shoulder in the same pan, cook for 5 minutes until the pork begins to brown. Flip over and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from the pan.

Sear the sausage, cut side down, for about 2 minutes. Flip and cook for an additional 2 minutes. Remove sausage from the pot and set aside with the remainder of the cooked meat.          

Add onions and mushrooms to pot and cook for 5 minutes. Tie the clove, bay leaf, thyme and parsley together using butcher’s twine. Add the bundle to a pot with drained beans, carrot, celery, garlic, tomato product and chicken stock. Bring to a simmer over high heat. Reduce to low, cover pot and cook until beans are almost tender, about 45 minutes.

Remove the aromatics (carrots, celery, bay leaf, clove, and parsley mixture). Add bacon, pork shoulder, duck confit, and sausage to pot, stir. Transfer to a 300-degree Fahrenheit oven and cook, uncovered, until a thin crust forms on top, about 2 hours, adding more chicken stock as needed. Continue to cook for an additional 2 hours, until a nice brown crust has formed on the top.


And what is any meal without its complementing wine? Corporate Executive Chef Ian Rynecki recommends pairing this dish with Easton Blue from Pippin Hill Farm & Vineyards, noting “In this dish the earthy mushrooms demand a fruit-forward tannic wine like our Easton Blue.” 

Photos by Kate Greer, Courtesy of Easton Porter Group

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.

10 Ways to Enjoy Autumn in Virginia


October 23, 2019 | Wine & Country Life

We may be biased, but fall in Virginia is pretty magical. From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Chesapeake Bay, when the leaves start changing, it’s hard to stay indoors. Luckily, there are many activities that are best enjoyed in the crisp Virginia air.

Apple Picking: Apples always taste better when you pick them yourself. With local orchards like Carter Mountain Orchard in Charlottesville, Great Country Farms in Bluemont, Dickie Brothers Orchard in Roseland and Drumheller’s Orchard in Lovingston, you can pick your own peck … and bake a delicious apple pie when you’re done.

Annual Festivals: Besides the impending holiday season, there is much to celebrate in the fall. Check out the Virginia Film Festival in Charlottesville, attend one of the several Oyster Festivals across the state, or enjoy a beer at any Oktoberfest celebration.

The Charlottesville Downtown Mall: With its abundance of delicious dives and plenty of outdoor seating, the Downtown Mall, one of the longest pedestrian malls in the country, is the perfect place to spend an afternoon and enjoy the fresh fall air while you dine. Plus, you can enjoy shopping at unique boutiques, visiting art galleries or even catching a show at one of the venues or theaters.

Photo by Jennifer Jones

Excursions: In between summer vacations and holiday traveling, it can be nice to steal a quick weekend excursion with friends and family, and Virginia offers plenty of outdoor fun. Go for a trip on the James River or visit a vineyard for a horseback ride through the fields with a tour company like the Indian Summer Guide Service.

Photo by Aaron Watson Photography

Harvest Dinners & Seasonal Feasts: Why wait until Thanksgiving to share a delicious meal with loved ones? Harvest season means bountiful, savory meals featuring locally sourced food. One regional favorite is Barboursville Vineyard’s’ Truffle Feast!

Horse Races: Virginia’s horse races offer something exciting for all ages. You can place your bets and show off your Sunday best while cheering on the horses at The Foxfield Races, The International Gold Cup or the Montpelier Hunt Races.

Leaf Peeping: Capture the most beautiful part of the season as the leaves change colors. According to the Virginia Department of Forestry’s fall foliage reports, we are in peak leaf-peeping season. Go for a bike ride through the mountains, or coast down Skyline Drive to stop at an overlook and take in the scenery. The Shenandoah National Park offers plenty of local hikes and trails for all skill levels to soak in the rich colors.

Photo by Jennifer Jones

Local Markets: Score some fun fall finds at a local market. Enjoy the brisk morning air at markets like the Old Town Farmers Market in Alexandria (the oldest farmers market in the country) and Charlottesville City Market (voted the top farmers market in the Southeast in the American Farmland Trust’s 2019 Farmers Market Celebration), and pick up some seasonal produce, artisan jewelry or some warm freshly made food from local vendors.

UVA Football Games: Fall means tailgating season. Take your corn hole set to Grounds as you cheer on the Cavaliers. There are plenty of local restaurants, breweries and boutiques that offer all your tailgating essentials this season, such as the Wine & Country Shop. Just don’t forget your orange and blue!

Photography: Sera Petras Photography | Styling: Marisa Vrooman of Orpha Events | Venue: Alumni Hall, UVA | Catering: The Local | Desserts: Kilwins & Paradox Pastry | Beverages: The Bitty Bar, Valley Road Vineyards & Bold Rock Cider | Rentals: Orpha Events & Charlottesville Wine & Country Shop| Florals: Tourterelle Floral Design | Sunglasses: Primary Eyecare | Jewelry: Andrew Minton Jewelers | Makeup and Hair Styling: A More Beautiful You | Transportation: Mercedes-Benz of Charlottesville

Vineyard Outings & Picnics: With harvest season upon us, it’s a great time to visit local vineyards. The weather is nice and the wine is fresh! Make a day of it and pack a picnic for lunch. You can catch a stunning sunset at one of the picturesque locations in Virginia’s wine country.

Photos: Rachel May Photography | Venue: Barboursville Vineyards | Clothing: Verdigris & Brooks Brothers | Ring: Ana Cavalheiro Fine Jewelry | Hair: Brianna B. Adams | Makeup: Gohar Makeup | Female Model: Noelle S., Modelogic | Male Model: Patrick K., Modelogic

No matter how you choose to celebrate, fall is the perfect season to explore our beautiful state. From apples to oysters and horses to ‘Hoos, autumn in Virginia has something for everyone.

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.

Celebrating the Oyster: Virginia’s Historic Food Tradition


October 16, 2019 | Wine & Country Life

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 | Wine & Country Life

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.

Veritas Hosts Final Starry Nights of the Season This Saturday!


August 7, 2019 | Wine & Country Life

Perhaps the only thing that could improve a delicious wine tasting with friends and a panoramic Blue Ridge view would be live music. One annual event we definitely recommend checking out is Veritas Vineyard & Winery’s Starry Nights series, which is held on the second Saturday of every month throughout the summer.

Photo by Wine & Country

This popular outdoor concert series allows guests to sip local wines, dine al fresco, and spend the evening dancing, and enjoying live music and good company under the stars. With the final night of the season coming up this Saturday, August 10, featuring music from The Legwarmers, there has never been a better time to attend this fun summer event yourself. Here is a quick breakdown of the three different ticketed experiences—SUNS, MOONS or STARS you can choose from:

  • SUNS: Includes admission and a Veritas wine glass. This is perfect for those who want to bring their own picnics and enjoy a laid back evening on the lawn.
  • MOONS: Includes admission to not only the event, but also a delicious buffet dinner, as well as access to seating at the tables on the lawn. This is a great option for those who do not want to worry about having to prep food or bring chairs and picnic items to the event.
  • STARS: Includes admission, a three-course meal and a seat at a table on the deck overlooking the lawn. For those who want a more polished experience, perhaps for a date night or celebratory outing, this is the best option.
Photos courtesy of Veritas Vineyard & Winery

For the upcoming Starry Nights this Saturday, the MOONS will be served a late summer cucumber and tomato salad with basil, feta and a balsamic reduction, pecan smoked chicken with maple BBQ sauce served with a summer pasta salad, and roasted sweet potatoes and strawberry peach shortcake with an orange rose reduction and cocoa whipped cream. The STARS’ three-course meal will start with a crunchy summer vegetable salad with ricotta crostini, followed by a seared chicken with broken balsamic served with basil zucchini noodles with pine nuts, ricotta salata and orzotto. The dinner will be completed with a graham cracker cake, toasted mallow and chocolate two ways.

Photo courtesy of Veritas Vineyard & Winery

Whether you prefer to pack a picnic and enjoy an evening on the lawn under the stars or to make the affair more of a foodie outing, this event is a great way to celebrate the season. And, don’t forget to bring your dancing shoes, as most attendees find they can’t help but move to the great bands that are booked for each event. You can find tickets on Veritas Vineyard & Winery’s website. Please note, any tickets for the dinner options must be purchased in advance, and the STARS tickets are already sold out.

You can also learn more about Veritas Vineyard & Winery in Book Four of our magazine.

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 | Wine & Country Life

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.