Crimson Lane Vineyards, a new vineyard in the Blue Ridge Mountains, offers the perfect day trip (and sip) for Washingtonians looking to get away from the city.
A minute of scrolling on your social media of choice reveals there is always something to do in the District. Every other post or video highlights a must-see exhibit, a new bar or a must-see exhibit at a new bar. With unyielding sensory overload, sometimes it’s nice to venture outside city limits, find a nearby nature reprieve and sip on some wine.
Perched in the Blue Ridge Mountains, Crimson Lane Vineyards in Linden, Virginia is a sprawling 23.6-acre vineyard on the south-facing side of a mountain, spanning 900 to 1500 feet elevation. Their tasting room overlooks the majority of the land, with serene views of surrounding mountains, cascades of trees and neighboring vineyards. For owners Tom and Deanna Herrity, the visual beauty is only part of the equation.
“We chose this place because it checks just about all the boxes for winemaking,” Tom Herrity says. “It’s got an elevation in a sweet spot and gives you a little bit cooler temperature, but not too much. We’re on a slope, which you must be in Virginia in order to grow, because the slope sheds the water. It also sheds frost.”
Upon request, Herrity can rattle off the property’s soil makeup, the type of varietals suited for the region’s finicky climate and the exact temperature to chill grapes after harvest. The vineyard, which opened in March, is a 13-year-long passion project. Herrity’s love for quality winemaking is only matched by that of his brother-in law and Crimson Lane Winemaker Dominick Fioresi.
After Herrity met and married Deanna, he and Fioresi started to make wine together in his basement, the way Fioresi’s grandfather had taught him. Over time, they started taking viticulture classes at Piedmont Virginia Community College in Charlottesville. Fioresi ultimately gave Herrity the final push to turn his dreams of owning a vineyard into a reality.
“We figured we really had to do this was when I sold my company, where Dominick had also worked,” Herrity says. “Dominick left and got an apprenticeship at Linden Vineyards. When he changed his career professionally, I thought, ‘Okay, now I can’t back out. I’ve got to do this.’”
Fioresi trained for two years under Jim Law at Linden, who he affectionately refers to as “The Godfather of viticulture in Virginia,” before serving as Delaplane Cellars’ cellarmaster for two years and then as a winemaker at Ingleside Vineyards. By 2016, Fioresi had switched to working at Crimson Lane full time, with the first harvest starting in 2018.
“We hold ourselves to a very high standard of what the wines should be,” Fioresi shares while running labs to check the levels of malic and lactic acid for each varietal aging in the cellar.
Fioresi’s validation? Touring his mentor Law around the property and having him taste some of their wines.
“[Law] was like, ‘Wow, this is really nice,’” Fioresi recalls. “His response made me light up.”
With the recent opening of the winery, Herrity and Fioresi are set on providing a unique and memorable experience for all those who take the trip up the mountain.
At first glance, the interior design and architecture sets the tasting room apart from other local wineries. Led by a West Coast firm known for designing Napa Valley wineries, the space is modern with minimalistic, natural oak and wrought iron finishes; floor-to-ceiling windows and a patio to take in the views; and a large fireplace near the entrance to welcome guests when they first enter. Herrity credits Deanna for spearheading the interior choices which add a touch of warmth to the overall sleek, open-concept design.
“We want to provide a really relaxed atmosphere,” Herrity says.
The actual tasting is broken up into three options: a private tasting room experience, an at-the-bar tasting for those passing through and tables and patio space for people who want to unwind and sip wines at their leisure. Each option requires an advanced reservation (no walk-ins allowed).
Instead of flights, Herrity will have trained staff pour visitors each glass and guide them along the tasting before pouring the next. Small bites will be offered, including empanadas from Colada Shop and hors d’oeuvres from the newly opened cheese shop on H Street, Paste & Rind Cheese Co.
For Herrity, it’s all about sharing his love of wine and fostering a community of like-minded people interested in learning about regional wine. Herrity is no stranger to exploring wines around the world, yet Virginia has a special place in his heart. When working in public affairs in D.C. early in his career, he would take day trips to the nearby Virginia wineries on his days off. With Crimson Lane, he hopes to offer the same retreat and further the region’s budding reputation in the industry.
“Virginia wine takes a step every year to become an emerging wine region,” Herrity says. “This whole project — the wine, the vineyard and the winemaking — is basically a reflection of what has come before us in the region. We’re using that knowledge to push to the next level.”
Crimson Lane Vineyards’ tasting room is now open 11 a.m. – 6 p.m., Thursday to Sunday. To reserve a tasting, visit crimsonlanevineyards.com.
Winemaker Dominick Fioresi takes us through a few of his favorite pours.
It’s easy and approachable, but it can also pair with food easily with its level of acidity. Drink with a buttery or creamy dish. The acid just slices right through. It makes everything pop.
2020 Sauvignon Blanc
This wine expresses the youth of the vines, which gives it crazy aromatics. The acidity is equally refined, versus a sharper tap. It’s stainless-steel fermented, never sees oak and is not heavy-handed. A lot of people really, really like it. We are proud of this sauvignon blanc.
Chardonnay: Stainless Steel Finish
The stainless steel emphasizes more of the fruit and acid. We grow seven different clones of chardonnay to use for each bottle, and each is planted for a specific reason. Some are planted for mid-palate or mid-weight, some for aromatics and acidity. Each was planted in proportions of what would contribute to the final product.
We throw about 30% new oak in it, which gives it a different profile than the steel finish. It is very attractive to chardonnay drinkers. I use French oak and a little bit of Hungarian oak.
This is 60% new French, 40% Hungarian oak, 42% merlot, 33% cabernet franc and 25% cabernet sauvignon. The 2019 merlot gives this blend a big mouth feel. It’s just going to get better and better with age.
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