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Oysters and Wine, Virginia’s Surprising Pair

April 12, 2014 Food & Beverage No Comments Email Email

Virginia, long a favorite destination for wine lovers, is also fast gaining a reputation for showcasing wine’s delicious companion – fresh farm raised oysters. The state produces highly acclaimed oysters renowned for their quality.

Most oysters grown on the East Coast are of the same species, Crassostrea Virginica (or Virginian Oyster.) However, they taste distinctly different depending on the salinity and algae content of the water in which they are found. Oysters are harvested year-round on reefs or in cages in an environmentally friendly way, and the state’s oyster production has increased ten-fold over the past decade, thanks to improved and sustainable farming techniques.

Available in a variety of shops, restaurants and fresh seafood markets, oysters can be served raw or eaten steamed, grilled or fried, leaving visitors well versed in Virginia’s different, but equally tantalizing varieties.

Virginia’s Wine – the Perfect Partnership 

Those traveling to Virginia for oysters can also enjoy world-class wine. With 25 new wineries scheduled to open in 2014, Virginia will soon be home to 250 wineries and vineyards located in every region of the state. Visitors to the “Commonwealth of Wine” discover vineyards   surrounded by lavish countryside, quaint towns and historic sights.  A good way to discover them is driving along one of the state’s wine trails.

Virginia’s Seven Oyster RegionsCN00010101V_42.JPG

From the salty oysters of the waters in Chincoteague on the east coast to the sweet taste of the oysters in the Rappahannock River, Virginia offers an oyster for every palate.

(Region 1) Seaside

Oysters raised on the Atlantic side of Virginia’s eastern shore are known to be the state’s saltiest because of their location. The famous Chincoteague oysters can be found in this region. Truly delicious, these full flavored, meaty specimens reveal a sweet and buttery finish once chewed.

(Regions 2 & 3) Upper & Lower Bayside

Those grown in creeks and tidal waters in the Bayside Eastern Shore regions typically offer more of a balanced taste between salt and sweet. Those found towards the Upper Bayside are the most equally balanced in salinity, providing a contrasting sweet and salt taste with a savory finishMeanwhile, those found further south in the Lower Bayside, closer to the entrance of the Chesapeake Bay from the Atlantic Ocean, tend to be heavier in salinity but with a creamy, mellow sweetness and quick finish.

(Region 4) Upper Bay Western Shore

Influenced by the sweet water of the Potomac River, its estuaries and the headwaters of the Rappahannock River, oysters found in the Upper Bay Western Shore region are relatively light in salinity and sweetness, with a light creamy finish. Because of their meaty texture, they are particularly good fried.

(Region 5) Middle Bay Western Shore

One of the most balanced and savory of Virginia’s oysters, those found in the Middle Bay Western Shore region tend to be sweet, buttery, lightly salted, with a pleasantly mineral rich taste.

(Region 6) Lower Bay Western Shore

Known as the quintessential Chesapeake Bay oyster, these specimens are influenced by the waters of the Mobjack Bay, York River and the Atlantic Ocean. The oysters in the Lower Bay Western Shore region are plump, sweet and crisp with an initial mild salinity and a sweet finish.

(Region 7) Tide Water

Once served to presidents and royalty because of their size, saltiness and gentle zing, the resurgence of Lynnhaven oysters has been key to the state’s comeback story as an oyster hotspot. Some of the most exciting flavors can be found in this region, which are both highly salty and large with a sweet and smooth finish.

Festivals and Events

From oyster roasts to festivals and competitions, lovers of the delicacy have an amazing array of events from which to choose.  A major highlight of the oyster calendar and the largest festival of its kind in the country, the Urbanna Oyster Festival  attracts approximately 75,000 visitors to the quiet tidewater town each November. The event includes the renowned Virginia State Oyster Shucking Competition, during which some of the world’s best shuckers compete. The festival boasts a popular parade of modern and vintage fire-engines, and the main parade showcases colorful floats and marching bands. Each year the Oyster Festival Queen and Little Miss Spat (a spat is a baby oyster) are crowned.

ew this year, the Virginia Wine & Oyster Classic at the Dog and Oyster Vineyard takes place on the same weekend as the Urbanna Oyster Festival and is just a short drive away in Irvington. This offers an ideal opportunity to experience the perfect pairing of two of the world’s finest delicacies. Ten of Virginia’s best chefs will prepare and pair oysters with award-winning Virginia wine from the state’s different oyster and wine regions in the idyllic country setting of The Dog & Oyster Vineyard.

Other popular events include the Chincoteague Island Oyster Festival  on Virginia’s Eastern Shore and “all you can eat” roast with oyster stews in Irvington, the Oyster Roast at Cardinal Point Winery.

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