Pair Oysters & Wine on Virginia’s Northern Neck
By Karen Newton
As ways to spend a sunny afternoon go, it’s tough to beat sitting at Jacey Vineyards sipping Albarino and slurping oysters Rockefeller. Unless it’s by relaxing on Good Luck Cellar’s expansive porch overlooking grape fields while savoring oyster tacos and a glass of Vidal Blanc. And don’t get me started on the charm of an oyster po’boy and a glass of Chardonel on the Dog and Oyster’s cozy screened porch.
Twice a year, the Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail offers a weekend dedicated to partaking of Virginia’s best wine and oyster pairings at its eight wineries. The spring and fall Oyster Crawls are self-guided and require no tickets, which was all the invitation I needed to grab a friend and take off for a weekend on the scenic Northern Neck, passing eagles, church steeples and water views as we drove from vineyard to vineyard. The payoff was meeting fellow wine lovers, listening to local musicians and stuffing ourselves silly with wine and oysters. What’s not to love?
During the Crawl, each winery has at least one seafood vendor onsite, and several also have a food truck for non-seafood fans. And while this oyster lover can’t speak to the latter, I can offer a pro tip for first-timers: Dress for the weather, since many of the tables are outside and, trust me, you’ll want to linger once you’ve got bivalves and a bottle of wine at hand.
Early afternoon is prime time, but don’t let lines at the food trucks or tasting room discourage you from joining the queue and mingling with soon-to-be new friends. Our patience was rewarded with hospitable service everywhere we went, not to mention the ultimate reward: being served the best of the bay’s merroir and terroir.
But you don’t have to wait until the next official oyster crawl to make the most of Virginia’s bounty. Try creating your own crawl. Check out Slurp, the onsite food stand at the Dog and Oyster Vineyard in Irvington, where raw, roasted, and fried oysters are menu mainstays. Grab bivalves from Denson’s Oyster Bar to enjoy at Ingleside Vineyards’ courtyard, or kick off your weekend at Good Luck Cellars, where Byrd’s Seafood’s truck makes regular stops for Wine Down Friday.
Most importantly, remember this is a crawl, not a race. Just keep calm, sip wine and eat oysters.
Make a weekend of it: The Tides Inn on Carter’s Creek puts you within an easy drive of Northern Neck wineries, and offers a riverfront pool, kayak and paddleboard rentals, and spa treatments for when you’re not out exploring.