Virginia Is For Lovers… of wine and oysters. I’ve personally tacked this addendum onto Virginia’s state slogan after sipping and slurping my way through VA Wine and Brine.
This year, the Eastern Shore kicked off its inaugural, month-long recognition of the region’s viticulture and aquaculture offerings to coincide with “November is Oyster Month” across the state. The centerpiece of that celebration was Merroir & Terroir, a wine and bivalve bacchanalia.
Merroir & Terroir showcased the Shore’s unique landscape that allows wine and oysters to be cultivated just steps away from each other. Merging the concept of terroir, the environmental conditions that impacts the taste of wine, with the flavors from the sea, la mer, Merroir & Terroir invites guests to savor this synchronicity firsthand.
Held each year at Chatham Vineyards, Virginia’s only winery along the waterfront, partygoers were sipping Chardonnay alongside vines that bore the grapes in their glass as they breathe the salt air from the oyster-laden bay. Instead of farm to table, think grapes to glass and bay to belly.
A traditional Shore oyster roast helms the Merroir part. Local oysters were roasted atop a wood-fire under blankets of burlap sacks as local clams steam beside them. Once cooked, enormous trays toppling with bivalves were brought to communal tables under tents of twinkling lights. Guests casually congregated, standing for better leverage. Some donned gloves while others bravely grabbed the piping-hot shells with their bare hands, plucking their juicy contents, plump with liquor. Some ate them naked while others preferred a dash of hot sauce or a squeeze of lemon. Steaming cups of Eastern Shore clam chowder — a lovely, clear broth soup — kept guests warm, as did the roaring bonfires scattered around the lawn.
For the Terroir component, Chatham pours its repertoire of European-style wine, from a crisp chardonnay to a peppery cabernet franc. Chatham’s beloved steel-aged Chardonnay, which is grown specifically to complement the nearby oysters, is a perfect pairing.
Merroir & Terroir is an annual event held at Chatham Vineyards each year, so ladies and gentlemen: mark your calendars for the 2015 extravaganza.