It’s pretty much a sure thing that oysters and wine pair well together.
That’s the thinking behind “Wine & Brine, It’s a “Shore Thing,” a virtual experience on March 21 that offers an interactive opportunity to taste the sea and land together in a uniquely Virginia manner.
AquaCultured, a new program from Virginia Sea Grant and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science that finds innovative ways to help Virginia shellfish farmers bring their harvest to the dinner table, is presenting the event.
Tune in free at 7 p.m., on AquaCultured’s Facebook page.
Frank Morgan, a longtime wine columnist, and Jon Wehner, owner of Chatham Vineyards, will present the tasting experience and discussion featuring wine paired with oysters.
Wehner touts his Church Creek “Steel” Chardonnay, a wine fermented in stainless steel that he started making in 2004, as the ideal pairing with oysters. Natural notes of honeysuckle and pineapple along with mineral elements on the nose make this a pure expression of the varietal.
“It’s a very distinct wine,” Wehner said. “It has a very unique characteristic to it because it’s grown primarily in marine deposits on the coast. You get this wine that has a very distinct minerality and it also has a saline quality to it, a slight saltiness that makes it very distinct with seafood.”
Fermenting it in stainless steel as opposed to an oak barrel preserves the clean and pure outdoor taste. The flavor comes from the grape, not the barrel.
“For people who want to really understand Virginia’s Eastern Shore, understand Chatham Vineyards and the viticulture of this area, it’s a real insight to taste this wine,” Wehner said. “We’re in one of the few places in the world where you’re able to taste the sea and the land together.”
Morgan’s appreciation for Chatham Vineyard wines dates back many years. He used to visit a summer cottage that belonged to his wife’s parents, a bike ride away from Wehner’s farm in Northampton County. It’s been a working farm for the last four centuries; the winery was constructed in 2005.
“It was always a summertime highlight — getting on the bikes, going to Chatham, doing a tasting, getting a few bottles of wine and going back to the cottage and drinking them on the deck overlooking the Chesapeake Bay,” Morgan said.
He regards Chatham’s steel Chardonnay as “Virginia’s oyster wine.”
“What grows together goes together,” he said. “Basically, in Virginia there is no other places to do this. There just isn’t.”
Morgan will use some of the time during the virtual event to explore the life of two different types of farmer, the viticulturist and the aquaculturist.
“The work that watermen do is hugely important, and I don’t know that people understand it,” he said. “When I look at what Jon Wehner does and what oyster men and women do, they’re all farmers. Jon is cultivating the land. (They are) cultivating the water. None of that work is easy and they’re all at the mercy of Mother Nature.”
Morgan’s a pro at making a virtual food and wine event lively and interactive. Years before anyone heard the word COVID, he created Virginia wine chats.
“I’ve done these virtual events for seven years,” he said. “Anyone with an interest in local foods, sustainability and local wine and the intersection of food and wine should tune in.”
Want to participate and taste alongside the hosts of this event?
Visit www.chathamvineyards.net to order Chatham Vineyards wines online.
Visit www.aquacultured.org to find a location to buy shellfish near you.
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