Saturday, June 19, 2010

Virginia Viognier, Where Art Thou?

As vacation time approached, memories of East Coast seafood began to prime our palates for the sweet, succulent meat of Chesapeake Bay blue crabs and the briny freshness of coastal oysters. Heaven.

We'd only need a few glasses of white wine to wash them all down – perhaps a Virginia Viognier or one of the other mid-Atlantic wines we'd only read about but never seen in area wine shops or on West Coast wine lists.

Eateries in the Washington, DC metro area made it easy for us to indulge our daily crab cravings, with occasional breaks for barbecue – North Carolina style, of course. Crab and 'cue were everywhere – homestyle at Dallas Airport's Cousins BBQ and Hampton, Virginia's County Grill or stylish and sophisticated at The Trellis Restaurant in Colonial Williamsburg, as dim sum at DC's Ping Pong, or ocean-fresh at Blue Point Provision Company on the water at the Hyatt Chesapeake Bay.

While we were happily vinified by the Rieslings, Grüner Veltliners and Torrontés we found along the way, we still thirsted for a taste of Virginia Viognier – or any regional wine, for that matter. We finally hit pay dirt at the D.C. Grand Hyatt Cure Bar and Bistro. Besides artisan cheese plates, savory charcuterie of Virginia hams and smoked duck breast and a signature Maryland blue crab pie, Cure offers wines by Virginia's White Hall (Pinot Grigio) and Barboursville vineyards (Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Sauvignon).

White Hall's refreshing Pinot Grigio had a tint of light bronze or grey. While enjoyable, its fragrant flavors and slight, pleasant sweetness were unlike most Pinot Grigio we'd had. We later learned the grape crush allows for a few hours of skin contact that gives the wine its faint color and added richness. Besides Pinot Gris grapes, White Hall's 2008 Pinot Grigio blend also includes Muscat, Riesling and Petit Manseng. The latter is an uncommon Vitis vinifera variety from France known for tropical fruit flavors akin to Viognier and an aromatic, high-acidity profile. It made a lively and tasteful pairing for our apps and crab pie.

It might take a bit of work but we hope you'll try a few interesting local wines this summer. Let us know what you find – we just might have to ship some Virginia Viognier westward, once the cooler fall weather arrives.

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