Winter Whites & Orange Delights

by | Jan 1, 2023

Photo courtesy of the Virginia Wine Board

Crisp, cool white wines are just the thing for those hot summer days, right? Sure. But Virginia’s wide range of white wines are diverse and rich in flavors and aromas of tropical fruit, florals, apples, pears, herbs, vanilla, oak, butter and more.

Whether dry or slightly sweet, they can offer the perfect complement to cut through the rich, comforting foods we love to warm up with in winter. Ciders, sparkling wines, dessert wines and so called “orange wines” are also delicious options for cooler weather.

We asked Annette Boyd, Director of the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office, and her team for some food pairing tips for winter white varietals as well as some suggestions on Virginia orange wines to try. Their ideas are listed here.


Sparkling Wine
Pair with: The universal donor of the food and wine pairing world, sparkling wines pair with just about everything! Try a piping hot baked brie or use it as a meal kickoff.

Petit Manseng
Pair with: The high acidity makes it an easy choice for cheese and charcuterie. It keeps the palate fresh and whets the appetite. Or drink it alongside a Virginia baked ham with pineapple.

Oaked Chardonnay
Pair with: A classic and simple chicken pot pie paired with a rich oaked chardonnay is a match made in heaven. It is also great with buttery seafood such as shrimp or lobster.

Unoaked Chardonnay
Pair with: Find yourself a bushel of local Chesapeake Bay oysters and a bottle of unoaked chardonnay and you’ve got a party! The wine’s briny acidity pairs perfectly with shellfish.

Pair with: Rich and full bodied, these wines pair well with similarly rich dishes. Sweet potato casserole is always great. Or chicken/turkey salad made with last night’s leftovers.

Orange Wines
Pair with: Intensely flavored with soft tannins, these wines are great with poultry such as duck or turkey. Be sure not to serve these wines too cold! Around 55-60 degrees is best.

Sauvignon Blanc
Pair with: Finding a wine for salad can be tough but look no further than Virginia sauvignon blanc. A winter salad with goat cheese and a dijon vinaigrette fits the bill.

Dessert Whites
Pair with: For fans of the sweet and salty, pair these wines with a selection of soft local cheeses. For the sweet tooth, vanilla crème brûlée or fresh fruit and homemade whipped cream.

Virginia Cider
Pair with: Lighter bodied ciders are great as aperitifs or paired with delicate dishes. Heavier styles are ideal companions for baked chicken, glazed ham, roast pork or apples.

Leona Baker

Orange You Glad You Tried It?

Look for these “orange wines”—also known as skin-contact wines or amber wines—being produced by Virginia winemakers. The grapes used in making white wines traditionally have the skins removed before they are pressed into juice. When the skins are left in contact with the juice for days or even weeks, they can produce wines with more tannins and darker, warmer colors from gold to amber to pale orange or pink.

Quite a few Virginia winemakers are exploring what’s possible with orange wines. Here are a few bottles to look for and their tasting notes.


King Family Vineyards
2019 Viognier Skin Contact Wine
The skin contact imparts a slight orange color and tannic structure and develops outstanding aromatics. Serve at “cellar” temperature, around 60 degrees Fahrenheit.

Stinson Vineyards
2020 Wildkat
Skin fermentation lends a light amber hue and elegant tannic structure to rkatsiteli, an ancient varietal. Rich aromatics lead into a textured palate with a bright acid undercurrent.

Early Mountain Vineyards
2021 Sauvignon Blanc
Peach, melon and a touch of classic sauvignon blanc grassiness lead to notes of pear, apple and a skosh of allspice, influenced by a small amount of skin contact.

Slater Run Vineyards
2021 RocketFish Viognier
This 100% viognier amber wine achieves its distinctive color and flavor by fermenting on the skins. Aged in French oak, it presents aromas of lemon curd, tangerine and white tea.

Jefferson Vineyards
2019 Skin Fermented Pinot Gris
Harvested from Church Vineyard, skin fermentation imparts mineral and floral notes, delicate strawberry, cranberry and vanilla on the palate and a honey finish with mild tannins.

Jefferson Vineyards
2019 Skin Fermented Viognier
This viognier opens with prickly pear, citrus and guava on the nose and a pleasant acidity on the palate and is accented with a tropical and slightly tannic finish with notes of apricot.

Paradise Springs Winery
2020 L’Orange d’Virginia
Skin contact gives this wine a unique aroma of marzipan and baked apple. Fruit flavors including persimmon and Asian pear are followed by white tea with honey on the finish.

Chisholm Vineyards
2020 Skin Contact Chardonnay
Barrel aging and skin contact influence a broad mouthfeel, soft tannins, notes of apricot, cooked apple and dried citrus. The finish has subtle aromas of savory herbs and baking spices.

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