By: Jennifer McNinchCapital Cooking Contributor
The enormous success of the inaugural Oyster Festival at Early Mountain Vineyards in beautiful Madison, VA, should alert everyone within a 100-mile radius to plan ahead to attend next year. However, that should not prevent you from planning a visit (or several) between now and next Spring because the vineyard, staff and offerings are top notch! The tasting room is more like a lounge with several comfy couches, some set in front of a massive double-sided fireplace, seating areas with tables and chairs, and window-seat benches to enjoy the view of the lovely grounds.
Inside the private event hall, VIP guests were invited to participate in the studio audience recording of FOODIE and the Beast, the Greater DC Area’s only food and wine variety show. The show airs live on 1500AM every Sunday and is hosted by David and Nycci Nellis. After the show, tables were set up so that the feasting could begin.
Just outside the event hall, Eastern Shore oysters and clams were being roasted, steamed, or shucked fresh. If you went with the roasted, you got to shuck them yourself, which wasn’t as hard as it sounds since they were already cooked and easily opened.
To round out the meal, chowder, collard greens, coleslaw, grits and cornbread were in ample supply.
In line with Early Mountain’s goal to champion and celebrate the best Virginia has to offer (a virtual Virginia wine tour under one roof), the festival teamed up with one of their “Best of Virginia” partners, Chatham Vineyards. We were treated to two complimentary glasses of 2010 Church Creek Steel Chardonnay which paired perfectly with the meal.
With the guests elbow deep in shucking and slurping all the oysters and clams one could want, it was time for the band to start playing since, what’s a festival without music?!? Virginia-local band, Chamomile and Whiskey filled the event hall with the perfect mix of folk, funk and rock. They did a great cover of “Folsom Prison Blues” by Johnny Cash.
With our bellies full but our thirst not quite quenched, we headed back to the Tasting Room to enjoy a flight tasting and to take in the other amenities. The choice of tasting flights gave us the chance to taste the wines from Early Mountain as well as some other vineyards. I selected the “Red Berry Pickings” from Early Mountain Vineyards, Barboursville Vineyards, Breaux Vineyards, and Granite Heights Winery which was delivered to my table by one of the very helpful staff with an ingenious wrought-iron wine glass carrier. Be sure to come hungry because the food available for purchase includes the standard cheese and charcuterie, but also offers panini, “sammiches,” small plates and sweets.
No matter what the weather Early Mountain Vineyard is a great place to visit. They offer several fire pits and outdoor fireplaces to relax and hang out with friends and the Tasting Room has enough flat screen TVs to ensure that your favorite sporting events won’t be missed. In fact, the setting is perfect for any occasion; according to my fabulous hosts, Dave Kostelnik, General Manager, and Jade Floyd, Senior Communications Manager, they have over 40 weddings planned for 2013 alone!
So, bring your friends
and bring your dogs
and support Virginia wines!
For more information on visiting Early Mountain Vineyards visit www.earlymountain.com. They are open 11-5pm every day except Tuesday when they are closed, and Fridays when they stay open until 8pm.