In Hampton Roads, wine buffs have the privilege of eating and drinking locally.
And the pairing benefits both.
“We are in the renaissance of the wine world in Virginia,” said Patrick Duffeler Sr., founder and chairman of The Williamsburg Winery at Wessex Hundred. “I look forward to Virginia propelling itself on the map and being recognized seriously in the world of wine.”
According to Duffeler, there are two factors in cultivating wine in Virginia. The first is the climate, which in Hampton Roads is similar to that of Bordeaux, a region in France, because of the humidity, Duffeler said.
The second is the individual winemaker. According to Duffeler, each winemaker has his or her own style based on personal training, palette and expertise.
Raised on wine
Matthew Meyer, vice president and winemaker at the Williamsburg Winery, grew up with an appreciation for wine.
“Mine is an age-old love story,” Meyer said. “I was basically given a case of wine at birth and I really believe that being introduced to wine at an early age makes you a better person.”
Duffeler was raised in Europe and by the time he was a teenager, he was traveling from Norway to Portugal, learning about wine.
After going to school in the U.S. and working abroad, Duffeler bought a 300-acre property in Williamsburg in 1983 and founded the Williamsburg Winery in 1985, according to the winery’s website.
“I always said that tomorrow I want to make better wines than today,” Duffeler said. “And I wanted to create a winery in the new world because of this mindset.”
Duffeler kept the love of wine in the family.
“I was basically given a case of wine at birth and I really believe that being introduced to wine at an early age makes you a better person.” — Matthew Meyer
After his son, Patrick Duffeler II, was born, Duffeler Senior raised him to appreciate wine just as his own father had, he said. Patrick Duffeler became the president and chief executive officer of Williamsburg Winery at Wessex Hundred, the 300-acre farm that serves as the winery’s home, in 2013, according to the winery’s website.
Virginia is for wine lovers
Duffeler started his business in Williamsburg, and brought on Meyer to help cultivate grapes.
In Hampton Roads, humidity creates a location for cultivating white wines such as chardonnay because the grapes for these wines can resist moisture better than certain red-wine grapes, according to Meyer.
But what can make a Hampton Roads wine stand out is pairing it with local foods, to bring out the flavors of both, Duffeler said.
“The one thing that is truly Virginian is the aquaculture industry,” Duffeler said. “There are specific pairings for things that are unique to the Chesapeake Bay because the bay is Virginia.”
Another Hampton Roads winemaker echoes that view.
Jennifer Eichert, owner of Mermaid Winery in Norfolk, sources grapes in California and Virginia, according to the winery’s website; one of its wines, a 2015 chardonnay, “was assembled from select barrels of Chardonnay grown in Orange County, Virginia,” the website says. She recommends pairing chardonnay with oysters from the bay to really bring out the drink’s floral notes.
Ham from Edwards Virginia Smokehouse in Surry also pairs well with white wines from Hampton Roads, according to Meyer.
“It’s all about weight of the food compared to the wine,” Duffeler said. “But I always say, ‘drink what you like and don’t think twice about what anyone says.’”