Where to Go and What to Drink in an Emerging Virginia Wine Region

Saudé Creek Vineyards / Photo by Kenny Tate
Saudé Creek Vineyards / Photo by Kenny Tate

For far too long, Virginia wine has been synonymous only with central Virginia. (Thanks, Thomas Jefferson.) Due east, however, lies the Hampton Roads region of Virginia, a worthy destination comprised of the seven core cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, Newport News, Hampton and Suffolk. This area has been quietly building a notable wine region to call its own.

In addition to wineries, Hampton Roads has specialty wine shops, wine bars and restaurants with bottle lists that rival those found in America’s largest cities. Best of all, this portion of Virginia borders the Chesapeake Bay, and it’s hard to beat a glass of wine served alongside ocean views. Drink it all in with this wine lover’s travel guide to Hampton Roads.

Urban winery tasting room at Mermaid Winery / Photo by George Kartis
Urban winery tasting room at Mermaid Winery / Photo by George Kartis

Hampton Roads Area Wineries

Mermaid Winery

Opened in Norfolk’s Ghent neighborhood in 2012, this urban winery sources grapes from Virginia and California. Mermaid offers free tastings on Fridays, pairing dinners, Vino Vinyasa yoga class and a selection of 800 wines at its in-house wine bar and restaurant. An 8,000 square-foot location opened in Virginia Beach in 2018 with an expansive covered patio, wine bar that peeks into the production room and a wine chandelier made from 715 bottles.

The vines of Williamsburg Winery / Photo by Sara Harris Photography
The vines of Williamsburg Winery / Photo by Sara Harris Photography

Williamsburg Winery

A trip to this winery on the city of Williamsburg’s southern side, is a weekend getaway all on its own. Founded in 1985 on 300 acres, the winery offers a charming tavern, an elegant white-tablecloth French restaurant, a romantic 28-room boutique inn and more than 40 acres of vineyards. The family-owned winery offers a wide variety of tours and tastings for novices and connoisseurs alike. Try the Introduction to Wine tour and tasting with trips to the vineyard and crush pad, or the Extensive Tour and Reserve Wine Tasting, held in Williamsburg Winery’s private cellar.

Staying further south? Williamsburg Winery recently opened its new Wine Bar in Virginia Beach, serving their own labels alongside local cider, sparkling wine, cheeses, charcuterie and oysters.

Saudé Creek Vineyards from above / Photo by Kenny Tate
Saudé Creek Vineyards from above / Photo by Kenny Tate

Saudé Creek Vineyards

Sip award-winning wine and take in views of rolling hills and the Pamunkey River from a wraparound porch at the 100-acre Saudé Creek Vineyards in Lanexa. On weekends, local barbecue food truck The Scottish Pig serves chopped pork, brisket and other fare in classic North Carolina style, available as sandwiches, combos or platters. The winery’s Classic tasting offers seven wines for $10, while the Premium ($17) adds four reserve offerings.

Stella Wine Co., inside and out / Photos courtesy Stella Wine Co.
Stella Wine Co., inside and out / Photos courtesy Stella Wine Co.

Wine Bars

Stellar Wine Co.

After 20 years in the wine and restaurant industry in Washington, D.C., Charleston, South Carolina, and Raleigh, North Carolina, Stellar Wine Co. owner Mandy Tamplin returned home to historic Olde Town Portsmouth. She sought not only a relaxing atmosphere to sip wine, but also a shop for customers who’d like to bring a bottle home. The wine bar menu features a rotating list of 225 labels from small producers and family-owned wineries. Offerings include a small selection from local wineries across Virginia and the Mid-Atlantic region to a larger range of bottlings from Spain, Austria and France.

Cork & Co.'s taps and bottles on display / Photos courtesy Cork & Co.
Cork & Co.’s taps and bottles on display / Photos courtesy Cork & Co.

Cork & Co. Wine & Martini Bar

Choose your preferred bottle from the rows displayed along the statement wall at Cork & Co. in Norfolk. Or, if you prefer, select from the easy-to-understand wine list broken down by reds, whites and “fun stuff.” The list features organic and sustainable wines, as well as offerings on tap and flights for those open to explore. The event calendar also boasts happy hours, tastings and sip-and-paint nights. Don’t miss the mimosas during Sunday brunch, served with mini bottles of Prosecco.

Press 626

The team behind Press 626 in Norfolk provides a comfortable, unpretentious space for wine lovers open to trying something new. Specials include 50% off by-the-glass options during happy hour, seminars and complimentary tastings. The wine list is nearly 20 pages long, and sections include a bit of wine trivia to educate and help you impress your friends.

Crystal Cameron-Schaad inspecting a bottle at Crystal Palate / Photo courtesy Crystal Palate
Crystal Cameron-Schaad inspecting a bottle at Crystal Palate / Photo courtesy Crystal Palate

Wine Shops

Crystal Palate Wine & Gourmet

A former television anchor and public relations director, Crystal Cameron-Schaad opened Crystal Palate in Norfolk in 2017. The boutique shop has more than 100 wines from small, family wineries around the world. There’s an extensive collection of Virginia offerings, but if you’re a Napa wine fan, Crystal Palate serves as an East Coast tasting room for Abiouness Wines. Events include themed classes, Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET) courses, Sherry and tapas happy hours as well as Champagne tastings.

Uncork’d

Rows of bottles await at Uncork’d, a craft beer and wine shop in downtown historic Suffolk. Although employees are happy to help you select a bottle, the hope is that customers will stay and socialize over cheese samples at communal tables. The shop hosts free wine tastings Fridays from 5–8 pm, and a small kitchen serves sandwiches and desserts.

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The Wine Seller

Celebrating its 21st year, The Wine Seller is the place to go for local beers and a large selection of global wines, meads, ciders and cigars in Williamsburg. On Thursday nights, it hosts rotating breweries for free beer tastings, while wine tastings are held on Fridays with guest industry professionals helping guide customers. Check the calendar for events like Wine 101 classes, themed parties, wine and paint nights, and fundraising events that benefit area charities. Its on-site Cork Cafe offers shareable small plates, charcuterie boards and flatbreads.

Yiannis Wine Shop

Ever try a great bottle of wine at dinner that you couldn’t find anywhere else? In Virginia Beach, Yiannis Wine Shop will track it down and bring it in for you, even if it’s not one of the more than 1,000 bottles the store already stocks. Try one of the 28 offerings available on tap. The shop has also developed a fantastic restaurant, with dishes like whole roasted red snapper, rib-eye and seared scallops. Wine dinners are held multiple times a month.

Schelsinger's, a classic American chophouse with wine to match / Photo courtesy Schelsinger's Steakhouse
Schelsinger’s, a classic American chophouse with wine to match / Photo courtesy Schelsinger’s Steakhouse

Restaurants with Stellar Wine Lists

Schelsinger’s Steakhouse

In Newport News, classic chophouse Schlesinger’s serves fare you’d expect at a steakhouse, with a list of more than 150 wines to match. Prices are reasonable, and the staff will help you choose the perfect pairing. Most of its wines are American, with the majority from California, while international selections hail from Italy, France, South Africa, Argentina and Germany.

Varia

At Varia, an Italian restaurant in downtown Norfolk, the wine selection is nearly as cherished as the house-made pastas. Certified Sommelier Matthew Emborski will help navigate its list of more than 200 offerings, which includes 50-plus wines by the glass. There’s also a Wine Studio where guests can choose three different-sized pours from the 28-bottle Cruvinet and sip to the sounds of live piano. The Studio menu is divided into themed categories like High-End Hitters, Seasonal Favorites and Australia vs. New Zealand. Weekly wine tastings are held, as are wine education classes and a happy hour with $5 wines, $4 cocktails and $3 beers.

Wine under the open sky at Four Eleven York / Photo by Jessica Shea Photography
Wine under the open sky at Four Eleven York / Photo by Jessica Shea Photography

The Restaurant at Four Eleven York

Tucked in the Freemason Historic District of Norfolk among cobblestone streets and Colonial architecture is Four Eleven York, a boutique inn and restaurant. The dining area has exposed brick and natural light-filled charm, and while it’s easy to get swept up in the ever-changing food menu, the wine list also shines. Options are interesting and hard to find in Norfolk, like the Tetramythos Retsina from Greece or the Capitulo 7 Belinda Blend from Argentina.

Second Street an American Bistro

Brothers John and Mickey Chohany acquired Second Street in 1985, and have transformed it into two modern bistros with alfresco dining and globally inspired menus with a Southern twist. Locations in Newport News and Williamsburg offer tasting events along with large wine lists that showcase vintages from around the world and a handful of Virginia wines. Don’t miss trying a glass from Napa Valley-based Aratás Wine, of which the Chohany brothers are founding partners.

Macarons and sparkling wine cocktail pairing at Hummingbird / Photo courtesy Hummingbird

Hummingbird Macarons & Desserts

Though not a restaurant or bar, Hummingbird deserves a mention for owner Kisha Frazier’s passion for pairing her delicious macarons with sparkling wine. Meringue cookies comes in flavors like Black Pepper Raspberry and Banana Biscoff Brule. They’re amazing on their own, but a pairing from Frazier’s small but thoughtful wine list make the flavors pop. The bakery is housed in a historic, two-story Taiwanese Pagoda, a gift from Taiwan to the Commonwealth of Virginia and City of Norfolk in 1989.

Published on December 11, 2019
Topics: Travel


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