Bring Viognier to the Watershed!

This is exactly what chef Todd Gray accomplished this past Tuesday. I attended a dinner at the acclaimed Todd Gray’s Watershed in Washington, D.C. that featured pairings of seafood with Virginia’s official grape, Viognier. In fact, Virginia Viogniers were the only wines served at the wine dinner except for a surprise red wine poured with the fourth course. Vintages from Tarara Winery, Delaplane Cellars, and Veritas Winery were poured at the wine dinner, and winemaker Jordan Harris and Veritas owner Andrew Pelton were on hand to introduce the wines.

The evening started with a sample of the aromatic 2010 Viogner from Tarara Winery paired with light starters that included fried clams on toast points. Four courses were then served alongside pairings of Viogniers and Viognier blends from the 2008, 2009 and 2010 vintages. The courses were stunning, and I only wish that chef Gray could cook for me every night. The wines were quite nice too, and it was interesting to observe which vintages were the favorites of my tablemates. I will list the courses here and vintages here with a nod toward my particular favorites:

First Course: Curried Pumpkin and Butternut Squash Bisque with Littleneck Clams, Celery Root and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds served with:
Delaplane Cellars Viognier “Maggie’s Vineyard” 2008 and “Honah Lee” 2009
This dish was absolutely divine and my favorite of the evening! The creamy texture of the “Maggie’s” seemed a perfect match for the lush squash soup.

Second Course: Marland Jumbo Lump Crab Cake with Hand Rolled Orechette Pasta with Little Tomatoes and Basil Pesto Butter served with:
Tarara Winery “Nevaeh White” 2009 and 2010
Succulent! That is the only word to describe the crab cake. The tomatoes and their characteristic acidity matched well with both vintages, but I’m a Chardonnay fan and the 2010 vintage presented a blend of 55% Viognier and 45% Chardonnay. The older sibling comprised 70% Viognier and 30% Chardonnay. Guess which one I preferred? (To be honest, I finished both samples!)

Third Course: Pan Roasted East Coast Halibut on Wild Rice Pilaf, Rock Shrimp, Mango and Cilantro Crème Fraiche served with:
Tarara Winery Viognier 2010
Halibut is my favorite white fish, and served atop the wild rice was an extra treat. The 2010 offering from Tarara was classic Virginia—floral aromatics and rich tropical fruit flavors. Perfect with white fish.

Fourth Course: Maple Balsamic Glazed Breast of Mennonite Chicken with Italian Sausage Bread Pudding, String Beans and Black Pepper Chicken Gravy served with:
Tarara Winery Syrah 2007
WOW! More of this from Jordan Harris, please. What a hidden gem! Concentrated dark fruit flavors with spicy elements demanded that I request a second sample. This Syrah will not be for sale to the general public but may serve notice that winemaker Jordan Harris is a serious Rhone ranger! Harris revealed to me his belief that the Virginia climate can be conducive to growing Rhone varieties that include not only Viognier but also Syrah and Mouvedre. Therefore, look for Rhone-style white and red wines at Tarara in the future.

Dessert Course: Warm Sticky Toffee Cake with Coconut Ice Cream and Armagnac Toffee Sauce served with:
Veritas Winery Viognier 2010
A nice way to end the evening. Less than 1% residual sugar makes this Viognier quite versatile. Toffee, caramel, spice—just in time for fall. Also consider this Veritas offering with Thanksgiving turkey.

The lovely evening of food, wine and conversation came to an end. I would like to remind readers that October is Virginia Wine Month, and Todd Gray’s Watershed does feature Virginia wines on the wine list. I hope that he continues this practice and expands the list to include other Virginia wineries. In the meantime, dine at Watershed and request a Virginia wine with your meal. Of course, I encourage readers to visit the wineries mentioned in this post, but please mention that Virginia Wine Time sent you.