OK, this review is a bit biased; I was lucky to have a ‘insider’ give me a personal tasting. Even so, I think I would have given them 5 stars anyway. That’s because CrossKeys delivers a rare trifecta; amazing venue, wonderful service, and most importantly great wine.
CrossKeys makes around 8000 cases/year and has 33 acres of vines, all French varietals with the exception of Portuguese grape Touriga Nacional. The business has a wonderful back-story as well. The owners are immigrants who were living in California but decided they wanted to raise their kids in a more rural area; the Shenandoah definitely fit that bill. One day a family friend suggested that given the amount of wine they drank, it would simply be easier for build a winery. Well, that idea planted a seed which years later became CrossKeys.
The first thing you notice is the surroundings. CrossKeys is a popular wedding destination, and the huge building can definitely support them. It also has a bistro, which is great for a nice lunch. While I often get worried that places that are heavy on ‘presentation’ do so at the expense of focusing on the making wine, my tasting demonstrated they avoided this pitfall.
What I tried (and it was a lot):
2015 Chardonnay: Fermented in both steel and new French oak; it retained its crispness but the flavors of the oak also shined thru (note – I’m a big fan of Chardonnays soaked in French oak).
2015 Joy White: Named for the lady who suggested the family build a winery, it had 2% sugar but didn’t have the of cloying sweetness that I despise in many sweeter wines.
2015 Flore: Off dry rose, although I would have thought it was on the dry side. Sorry, roses are not my thing!
2015 Pinot Noir: Light and tart; my lips started puckering up by this point. CrossKeys is one of a small handful of Virginia wineries that even attempt to grow this grape, and I’m glad they do!
2015 Merlot: Nice cherry finish.
2015 Cabernet Franc: Spicy and vegetal notes on the nose, soft finish. It also noticeably avoids the heavy green pepper notes that I often get in Virginia C. Francs.
2015 Petit Verdot: Oh PV, how I love you so! Pretty smooth, as opposed to the immediate intensity many PVs have. Maybe it spent lots of time in barrel?
2015 Meritage: Also smooth, I think it was 34% PV which shown thru.
2015 Touriga Nacional: The national grape of Portugal, this was a very rare opportunity to see this grape bottled in Virginia. It’s not easy to describe; its bold and spicy, but not peppery-spice, more like cooking spice.
2014 Tavern port-style: The wine maker must be a stickler for authenticity, because he made this port-style with the Touriga, which is what ‘real’ ports are made from. One of the nicest ports I’ve had in a while; it lacked the alcohol-y boldness that tend to overwhelm port-styles.
Ali d’or desert wine (Traminette and Vidal Blanc): I tend to avoid desert wines, but I seem to remember liking this (although my notes fail me on the specifics).