Where: 170 White Fences Drive, Irvington, VA
Tasting Fee: $6 for a tasting of six wines
Don’t Miss The: Rescue dogs, Shelter Dog Red, Giant Corkscrews
Food: Oysters (of course!), dips, and a few smaller seafood dishes
Have you ever heard of the term “terroir” before? It’s a French term that basically expresses that grapes taste like where they are grown. You can take two identical grapes and make wine with them in identical ways, but if grown in separate places, you’ll still get totally different wines. The Dog & Oyster Vineyard completely capitalizes on this. Located in Virginia’s Northern Neck and right next to the bay, you can taste the salty brine-y goodness of the sea in their wines. This ain’t your typical Virginia mountain winery.
Like it’s name would suggest, as you pull up to the Vineyard, you’ll be immediately be greeted by a few friendly dogs. However, you might be distracted by an even bolder sight–giant twin corkscrews sitting at the entrance to the winery. Apparently, these were the topic of great controversy when they first went up, but you have to admit that they’re a statement piece of architecture. I mean, who doesn’t want to see a 40 foot tall corkscrew (or two)?
We rolled in six people deep on a Friday afternoon and ended up with the place to ourselves. Since it was pretty damn cold outside, we settled into their indoor tent, which was nice, cozy, and toasty with plenty of heaters. Tastings were a very reasonable $6 (and buy-one-get-one-free with a Virginia Wine Pass) and everyone in our group found something that they enjoyed. The six of us have some very varied palettes, so getting us to agree on good wine is no small feat.
The Dog & Oyster mostly operates with 100% grape varietals, which is something that we found to be fairly common in the Northern Neck area. We started with their 2017 Oyster White, which is full Chardonel. Aged in stainless steel, we found it refreshing and tropical. Next up was a 2017 Pearl, their Vidal Blanc. It was another winner, with the grapefruit shining through. I even got some hints of toasted almond on the nose. After a tank-bleed style rosé, (you may also have heard this style of wine as saignée–it gives a more concentrated taste) we moved onto the reds. Our group was particularly into the 2015 Shelter Dog Red. It’s a dry 100% Chambourcin grape, that has a jammy start and a very mild oaky finish. We ended up ordering a bottle for the table to go along with some snacks.
If there’s one slightly weak spot with The Dog & Oyster, it would have to be the food. Our oysters were extremely fresh and delicious, but were also unfortunately a bit sandy. Some of our group also came back the next day and ordered a crab dip. For $25, we were expecting something warm and homemade. Unfortunately, it was served cold and from a pre-package tub. Nevertheless, it was delicious. We were also visiting in the off-season, so I’d love to come back when their food staff is likely in more full force.
After our food but while still sipping some wine, we picked up some complimentary dog treats and wandered through the vines, playing with the pups. The Dog & Oyster has six well cared for rescue dogs who now guard their vines and let me tell you… they are ADORABLE. We had a blast and the dogs got plenty of pets.
Overall, we absolutely loved our experience at The Dog & Oyster. If you’re in Northern Neck, it’s hard to imagine a better afternoon than grabbing lunch at NN Burger and following it up with this winery. The ambience was lovely, the dogs are friendly, and the wine is delicious. If you haven’t been to a seaside winery, The Dog & Oyster is a worthwhile first stop.