Madeira Wine at Stratford

Stratford Hall is constantly seeking new ways to engage our visitors in the past. Last year, we were approached by Mannie Berk, founder of the Rare Wine Company, with a proposal to create a Stratford Hall branded Madeira. Knowing of the Lees passionate devotion to Madeira, we immediately accepted his kind offer.

On July 20, 2012, will we host a special event to formally introduce our Stratford Hall Special Reserve Madeira. This exciting evening will include a four-course dinner prepared by Stratford Hall’s Executive Chef, Benedicte Merian, and an opportunity to learn about Madeira from Mannie Berk, who is considered the country’s leading authority on this historic wine. Both Berk and his company are recipients of numerous wine industry awards, including being named America’s Best Wine Importer by Food & Wine magazine in 2002. The dinner will also include lively discussion provided by Richard Henry Lee, portrayed by Frank Megargee.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, Madeira was the most revered wine in America, shipped on sailing vessels from the Island of Madeira, off the coast of North Africa. Then, as now, Madeira was produced in a variety of styles ranging from dry wines which can be consumed on their own as an aperitif to sweet wines more usually consumed with dessert.

The Island of Madeira has a long winemaking history dating back to the Age of Exploration when it was a standard port of call for ships heading to the New World or West Indies. The 18th century was the “golden age” for Madeira. The American colonies, in particular, were enthusiastic customers, consuming as much as a quarter of all wine produced on the island each year. Based upon estate inventories and other documents, the Lees of Stratford were especially large consumers of Madeira.

Stratford Hall Special Reserve is a type of Madeira that was desired by the colonial Virginia elite in the mid-to-late 1700s. To achieve the flavor pleasing to the palates of the Stratford Lees, Madeira wine journeyed through the tropical climate of the Indies before arriving at Stratford where it aged in casks and bottles in wine cellars. Like the Lees’ Madeira more than two centuries ago, Stratford Hall Special Reserve is a medium-dry wine of remarkable quality, aged ten or more years, with enormous depth of color in addition to its rich, tangy, and complex flavors.

Seating for the dinner is limited and reservations are required by July 13, 2012. The menu will include: cream of lobster and chestnut paired with Savannah Verdelho Madeira; beef tournedos Rossini with Madeira sauce, vegetable fricassee paired with 2007 Chateau Clos Canon, St. Emilion Premeier Cru; salad and cheese platter paired with Stratford Hall Special Reserve; chocolate mousse cake with crème Anglaise and berries paired with New York Malmsey Madeira, and coffee.

The cost is $140 per person, which includes taxes and gratuity, as well as a ticket to the Stratford Hall Wine Festival on September 22 and 23, 2012. Overnight accommodations at Stratford are also available at the Cheek Guest House or the Astor Guest House for a rate of $160 double occupancy that includes a Saturday brunch in the Dining room as well as tour tickets to the Great House. To make reservations for this special event, please call 804-493-1966 or email If you want to sample the Madeira, but cannot attend the dinner, it is available for purchase in our gift shop.

– Paul Reber, Executive Director