Last week, I ventured to the great state of Virginia to celebrate its 30th harvest as part of Virginia Wine Month. I started my adventure with great food and wine in Norfolk’s NEON District, so I was excited for my journey to Cape Charles for a special harvest dinner.
Located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore, Cape Charles is an adorable sleepy beach town with one main street, a handful of stop lights, and no commercial stores (I’m serious, not even a Walgreens or Starbucks). It was as though I was transported back in time—back to an era where kids could be kids, neighbors knew each other, and you didn’t have to worry about leaving your door unlocked. It was utterly charming, surrounded by powdery beach dunes and Craftsman-styled homes.
The harvest dinner was being held at the Northampton Hotel, a historic building with stunning views of the Chesapeake Bay. I arrived just as golden hour started, with the sun slowly sinking into the water leaving behind a cotton candy sky. We gathered on the hotel veranda for Virginia wine, a variety of seafood hors d’oeuvre, and a raw oyster bar (NOM NOM NOM). I started the night in celebration with some crisp bubbly—Ingleside Vineyard’s Brut, made Méthode Champenoise, as I stuffed my face with four different types of oysters.
As the night sky came alive, we moved into the parlor where two autumnally decorated tables were set. After a colorful introduction about the area and the cuisine from Dr. Bernard Herman, professor of southern studies at UNC, we dived into a locally-inspired five-course menu prepared by Chef Amy Brandt paired with delicious Virginia wines.
First course: Crab tamale with Griselda’s red chili sauce, crema, and a pomegranate garnish—showcasing the new Latin American influence on Eastern Shore cuisine—paired with Chatham Vineyard’s Church Creek Rosé. This mashup of flavors, paired with the wine, was unlike anything I had ever tasted. A truly spectacular start to the meal.
Second course: Oyster pie with lattice crust—a delicious representation of a British North America classic. This southern comfort dish was paired with The Williamsburg Winery’s Petit Manseng—a new varietal to me that was full of fruit and flowers.
Third course: Fresh locally-caught fish with waffles and fried pears—a common breakfast for fishing families in the region—paired with Ingleside Vineyard’s Albariño.
Fourth course: Hog Island mutton braised with dried and preserved Eastern Shore figs, fig syrup, and Virginian red wine, served over mashed rutabaga and local potatoes with field greens—paired with Ingleside Vineyard’s Virginia Gold, made up of Petit Verdot 33%, Merlot 33%, Cabernet Sauvignon 17%, and Cabernet Franc 17%. During this course, I also tried Chatham Vineyards Church Creek Cabernet Franc and The Williamsburg Winery’s bold Adagio.
Fifth course: Fig ribbon cake paired with two deliciously surprising dessert wines— Two Is Better Than One Pyment (54% Traminette, 13% Honey, 33% H2O (for sugar dilution) The honey is a blend of Virginia Wild Flower, Alfalfa and Orange Blossom) and Chatham Vineyard’s Church Creek Late Harvest Red Dessert Wine.
I unfortunately didn’t take many wine notes because I was enjoying the moment. The evening was filled with conversation, clinks of glasses, and laughter, peppered with insights from winemakers and special guests.
It was truly a special way to mark Virginia’s 30th harvest and a night I will never forget. A piece of my heart stayed in Virginia. Stay tuned for the rest of the journey!