Wine & Brine Lounge 4/8: Meet Ward Oyster Company - The Williamsburg Winery

Wine & Brine Lounge 4/8: Meet Ward Oyster Company

Renowned American food writer M.F.K. Fisher 

wrote in her 1941 culinary classic, Consider the Oyster, 

“American oysters differ as much as American people.”

Not only do American oysters differ considerably in terms of look and taste, so do the oysters of Virginia waterways. Although all oysters cultivated in local waters are the same species — Crassostrea virginica — each provide a different taste of their place.

This weekend, visitors to the Wine & Brine lounge can continue to explore the diversity of Virginia waterways with Ward Oyster Company oysters from the nearby Ware River.

Located in the town of Ware Neck in Gloucester County, Ward Oyster Co. was founded in 1986 by John and Floyd Ward of neighboring Deltaville. In 1991, ownership was transferred to a new owner John Vigliotta, who still operates the business today. 

With nearly 30 million oysters in cultivation, Ward Oyster Co. is one of the largest oyster farms in Virginia. The Ward Oyster Co. also operates a hatchery where they produce their own oyster seed and control every phase of cultivation — from spawning to delivery to market. 

At the hatchery, the oysters remain in tanks for about 21 days while feeding on algae and are moved outside in upweller tanks when they reach one millimeter in size. After a month, when the oysters have grown to about ¼” in size, they are moved to upwellers on the Ware River. After another month of feeding on algae (and growing to about ⅝” in size), the oysters are then moved to the Ward oyster farm, situated on a sandbar at the mouth of the Ware River.

Located about 25-miles northeast of The Williamsburg Winery, the Ware River is a nine-mile tidal river that stretches through Gloucester and feeds into Mobjack Bay. The river is part of region seven of the Virginia Oyster Trail, where salinity levels range from 20-22 parts per thousand, producing slightly salty and sweet oysters. This salty-sweet balance has earned Ward oysters the nickname ‘Goldilocks of Oysters’ — not too sweet, not too salty.

Chef Win Goodier of Ward Oyster Co. will be shucking these salty-sweet oysters this weekend at the Wine & Brine Lounge.

Before turning his attention to cultivating oysters at Ward Oyster Co., Chef Goodier attended culinary school and worked on the Eastern Shore of Maryland crabbing and tonging oysters. As a Chef, Goodier was first a customer of Ward Oyster Co. where he met owner John Vigliotta. Goodier eventually joined the Ward Oyster team full time.

Oyster epicures will find the delicious salty-sweet oysters from the Ware River pair nicely with several Williamsburg Wines; like the Wessex Hundred Dry Rose and 2015 Reserve Chardonnay.

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