Editor’s Note: Recently a team of culinary professionals embarked from Charleston, South Carolina, on a mission to explore Virginia’s bounty, including wine, cider, and excellent food. Cappie Peete, Charleston’s newest Eater Young Gun and Director of Beverage and Education of the Neighborhood Dining Group, was part of the group, and she kept a diary of the trip for us.
Chef Ian Boden was excited to be one of the hosts because “When I started cooking, Virginia wine and food was nothing. One or two people were getting attention, but no one was taking it seriously. As a native and proud Virginian, to see the group of notables that came to eat and drink in my restaurant and in my state was amazing. It’s a true testament to where Virginia stands today. “
While you can’t replicate this exact road trip, we’ve bolded the places you can visit, so gas up the car and start planning your own “follow your footsteps” foodie adventure.
Dugspur, Virginia to start our adventure at Foggy Ridge Cider with Chuck and Diane Flynt. After our five-hour drive, we made various cider cocktails with crème de cassis and Armagnac, and Diane prepared garlic scape pesto crostini with soft boiled duck eggs on top. We then walked the orchard with Diane, learning about various apple trees and harvests, then ate lunch. Afterwards, we took ATVs around the property to see the land, their garden, and their guesthouse. Diane sent us on our way with a Virginia care package of Slim Jims and Mountain Dew. Thanks Diane!
About 2 hours and 45 minutes later, we arrived in Staunton at the Stonewall Jackson Hotel. After a brief check-in, we headed to dinner at The Shack (featured in TLP March 2015) where we met Claude Thibaut and his wife Pamela Margaux of Thibaut-Janisson, which produces traditional method sparkling wine. Diane and Chuck Flynt also joined us for dinner.
Chef Ian Boden prepared a wonderful four-course meal paired, with a variety of different Virginia wines. My favorites were the Thibaut-Janisson Brut and Foggy Ridge Pippin Gold. The Pippin Gold is a blend of cider and Laird’s apple brandy. The dinner was really amazing and Ian did an awesome job utilizing the great produce and meat from the area, including delicious rabbit!
A TASTE OF SUFFOLK
Headed to Suffolk for lunch at Harper’s Table. Although they aren’t open for lunch, Harper opened just to cook for us. We drank Michael Shaps Chardonnay, which was really delicious and is from a winery out of Charlottesville that I’d never tasted. We started with pork belly, pimento cheese, and pickled cucumber sliders, then a beautiful plate of radishes, turnips and other crudité with a delicious Caesar dressing. The main course we had summer peas with bacon, asparagus with grilled shrimp, and fried rabbit sandwiches. All was delicious!
We continued our journey to Cape Charles on the Eastern Shore, where we all checked into different bed and breakfasts (I stayed at the cute Cape Charles House). We changed and headed to kayak to Chatham Vineyards. This was mindblowing to me—kayaking to vineyards? The vineyards were literally 300 yards from a saltwater creek. It was a gorgeous day and incredible! We then walked the vineyards with John Wehner, a second generation Virginia wine grower on the Eastern shore. He mentioned his desire to plant more varieties one of which was Albariño, which is of particular interest to because of the success of this grape on the Atlantic Coast of Spain.
Chatham produces several grape varietal wines, but specializes in Chardonnay and Cabernet France. After the vineyard tour we went to the tasting room to taste through the 2012, 2013, and 2014 stainless steel aged Chardonnays, and we could taste how much vintage variation there is. I really enjoyed the 2014 the most for its freshness and lean, crisp texture. It went great with the local oysters they served while they finished up dinner.
SUPPER WITH MILTON
Our amazing dinner was cooked by Chef Travis Milton (featured in TLP February 2015), who is about to open his own restaurant in Richmond. The dinner was special because we were surrounded by folks from the Eastern Shore of Virginia, who are all working to elevate the awareness of wine and food coming from that area. Bernie Herman was also there, the chair and George B. Tindall Professor of American Studies at UNC Chapel Hill, and he was incredibly interesting and basically narrated the dinner. The clam fritters with the 2014 Steel Chardonnay was my favorite pairing. However, the soft shell crabs, whole black sea bass, and even the eel, which I’d never tried before, were exceptional.
The next morning we hopped back into our trusty minivan for another five-hour trek to Middleburg to visit Boxwood Winery. Boxwood is very different than the other wineries we visited; the production and production area is much larger. They have a tasting room that is open to the public with a restaurant, and it was busy! We met Executive Vice President of Winery Operations Rachel Martin in the tasting room, and she gave us a tour. They have a beautiful lake on the property, which is where we enjoyed lunch and drank Boxwood rosé. Lunch was lamb ham and lamb philly cheesesteaks cooked on a Cowboy Cauldron by Craig Rogers. Delicious! This was probably the least technical of the visits as we really just enjoyed the property and a nice lunch.
Virginia was delicious.