A Gem on the James: Upper Shirley Vineyards

A Gem on the James: Upper Shirley Vineyards

If you’ve been keeping up with Let’s Share A Dish since the beginning, you’ve probably figured out one of my favorite weekend activities is visiting wineries within an hour or two of Richmond. I enjoy a glass of rosé as much as the next girl, but I’d be lying if I said my favorite thing about wineries isn’t the scenery. We’re lucky to have a number of amazing vineyards throughout Virginia, but when I heard that Upper Shirley Vineyards opened to the public this past March, I knew this was a place I had to visit. After all, who can resist a glass of wine that you enjoy with a water view?

water view upper shirley vineyards

Upper Shirley is owned by Suzy and Tayloe Dameron, who live on the vineyard grounds. It is located off of Route 5 about 20 or so minutes from downtown Richmond. The winery offers a great view of the James River, though calling Upper Shirley just a winery doesn’t quite do this place justice. The gorgeous estate is a winery, restaurant and event venue all wrapped into one beautiful space, clearly a labor of love where attention to detail shines throughout.

A visit to Upper Shirley Vineyards

Taylor and I finally had the chance to visit Upper Shirley Vineyards on a recent Sunday afternoon and quickly realized we weren’t the only people who thought this would be a good way to close out the weekend. Even though it was quite crowded, we snagged a seat outside on the porch in a lounge area with a great view of the river. We lucked out because these seats were first come first serve while the rest of the seating on the patio was on a 20 – 30 minute wait.

rose upper shirley vineyards

We decided not to do a tasting on this visit and opted to get a bottle of their 2015 rosé to share, which was perfectly fruity and refreshing. We knew we wanted to get something to snack on and with one look at the lunch menu, I knew this was a place where it was going to be hard to decide what to order. We finally decided on the okra and corn fritters, tasty bites served with a dipping sauce of spicy Duke’s mayonnaise that was so good I’d like to try and replicate it at home. Per our terrific server Matthew’s recommendation, we also got the truffle frites which were delicious, the perfect salty snack to complement the sweet rosé we were drinking. If it’s any indication of the generous portion sizes, we couldn’t clean our plates, and I am NOT one to leave truffle frites behind.

okra corn fritters upper shirley vineyards

truffle frites upper shirley vineyards

The menu at Upper Shirley Vineyards is seasonal and will next change in September, but I’m hoping I can make it back before the menu shifts as there are at least five more things on the current menu I’d like to try, from the spicy pork rinds served with Alabama white sauce and honey to the buratta salad, a mix of lettuce, tomato, melon, basic, prosciutto and balsamic — talk about heaven on a plate. Changing seasons aside, if the dishes coming out of the kitchen on our visit were any evidence, something tells me the Route 5 burger and bananas foster bread pudding will be mainstays on the menu as they seem to be quite popular.

One of the best parts of our visit was the time that we got to spend with executive chef Carlisle Bannister who leads the culinary direction at Upper Shirley Vineyards. Bannister kindly stopped by our table for a few minutes and it was a pleasure chatting with him and learning more about the restaurant at Upper Shirley Vineyards. He has his hands full, as he also runs a catering business in Richmond, Carlisle’s Culinary Connection. Speaking of which, I’m still over here craving the ham biscuits and chicken salad from the first time I tried his catering a few months ago.

I couldn’t leave Upper Shirley Vineyards without trying a glass of the 2014 sparkling rosé, and boy am I glad I did. The effervescent beverage was a great way to cool down on a hot August day, and it left such an impression that on my next visit I already know what my first drink will be.

What to know, if you go

upper shirley vineyards estate

porch upper shirley vineyards

Upper Shirley Vineyards is located at 600 Shirley Plantation Rd, Charles City, VA 23030, and cyclists will be glad to hear it’s a convenient stop along the Virginia Capital Trail.

The winery is open Wednesday through Monday from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m, where visitors can do a tasting of seven wines for $10 per person. Reservations are preferred for tasting parties of six or more. The restaurant is open Wednesday through Monday from 11 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., though they also offer a prix fixe dinner on Thursday nights with seatings from 6 – 8 p.m. You can request a reservation for lunch or dinner by phone or online, and they are required for the prix fixe dinner. It’s worth noting that pets and outside food and beverages are not permitted on the grounds.

I know I’ll be back to taste the changing menu and to witness the changing riverfront view. Oh yeah, and to get another glass of that sparking rosé!

What’s your favorite winery in Virginia? Tell us in the comments below!

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1 Comment

  1. Kandie
    August 9, 2016 / 11:47 am

    What’s up with Duke’s mayo? There is a full page ad for it in the August “Southern Living” magazine. I’ll pay more attention to it, now.

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