This past weekend, the youngest member of our squad graduated from James Madison
University! I am so excited and proud of him and couldn’t wait to attend the graduation. I was talking to our friends at Terra Nebulo about our weekend trip to Harrisonburg and they told me that Cave Ridge Vineyard, the winery owned by Randy Phillips, who is the winemaker that makes their wines, is only about 30 minutes north of JMU, in Mount Jackson, VA. So naturally I did what any reasonable person would do, I sent the graduate a text and said ‘how about we start the party at Cave Ridge, meet us there!’ Of course he was in, we’ve put a lot of time and effort into him learning to like wine, and it’s paid off!
We headed out from home at a little after noon. After a quick stop for lunch, we arrived at Cave Ridge at around 2pm. What a beautiful setting! The winery is located in the foothills of the Shenandoah Valley with sweeping views of the countryside. When we arrived the first person we met was Randy, who was testing out his new drone in the vineyard. He was with the mother of a bride to be and they were trying to see if they’d be able to get aerial shots of the wedding with the drone. I can’t think of a much better setting for a wedding. We talked with Randy for a bit and then headed inside. We were immediately greeted by Elena, who apparently doesn’t usually work in the tasting room, so it really was our lucky day. Turns out she’s the one who designs all the fun bottle labels for Terra Nebulo. We were the only people there at the time so we spent probably a good hour with Elena as she walked us through all the wines and we talked and laughed and just had a fantastic time. We did the ‘Reserve’ tasting, which features 10 wines; Traminette 2015, Riesling 2016, Viognier 2014, Chambourcin 2013, Syrah 2012, Fossil Hill Reserve 2013, Petit Verdot 2012, Mount Jackson Rouge, La Petit Traminette, and Fandango 2013 Port. A great selection of wines and there wasn’t one in the bunch I wouldn’t drink a glass of. Towards the end of our tasting with Elena, Randy came in to talk and decided to pull out some unlabeled bottles from his library for us to try. He brought out a 2010 Merlot, and a 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon. They were AMAZING! Told you it was our lucky day. Truly a great start to our celebration. We agreed on a bottle of the Fossil Hill Reserve, which is a red blend of Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Chambourcin. We also got some crackers and Havarti with dill (one of my favorite cheeses!), and made our way upstairs to sit on the expansive deck and enjoy the beautiful view of the vineyard. While we were up there the parents of the graduate arrived so we went down to meet them. They did a tasting with Elena, then we all sat upstairs and enjoyed each others company. If you haven’t been to Cave Ridge you need to go. Fantastic wines, a beautiful setting, and warm and welcoming hosts, you won’t be disappointed.
We were staying in Staunton for the weekend, because it appears that if you don’t book your graduation weekend hotel in Harrisonburg twenty years in advance you don’t get one. And in the case of the graduate’s parents even if you do book in advance you still might not get one, but that’s another story. I was ok with heading a bit south because I happen to love Staunton. It’s a cool little city with lots to see and do. And since we had no more plans for the day or anywhere really to be, we looked at the map and decided to check out CrossKeys Vineyards, in Mt. Crawford on the way south to Staunton. CrossKeys could not be any more different from Cave Ridge if they tried! It’s HUGE. Located in a large building with an expansive courtyard and surrounded by vines as far as the eye can see. The place was packed with people who were obviously having a great time. In fact the first thing we were asked was ‘do you have a reservation?’ We said no we just stopped in and were quickly told ‘no problem, come on let’s do a tasting.’ Whoa, that was close. We were helped by Jessica, who walked us through the Classic Tasting. This tasting consists of nine wines; 2015 Chardonnay, 2015 Joy White, 2016 Fiore, 2015 Pinot Noir, 2015 Merlot, 2015 Petit Verdot, 2015 Touriga, 2015 Meritage, and a 2015 Joy Red. Our white drinkers really liked the Joy White, and our red fans liked the Merlot, Touriga, and Meritage. I think if I had to choose, my favorite was the Meritage. Overall just great wines all around. Jessica also brought out their new Hopwine, which is wine made with hops so it’s like a wine/beer hybrid, it was quite good and I could see drinking it on a hot summer day. Jessica took great care of us, she was funny and engaging and we really enjoyed our time with her. But it was getting late and almost closing time, and it was pouring rain, (that’s why there aren’t any outside pictures) so we decided to head to Staunton for dinner. Tomorrow was the big day and we needed to rest up!
It’s amazing how you can visit two wineries in the same day and have two completely different experiences. Cave Ridge was quiet and intimate, where CrossKeys was louder and packed with people. Both were wonderful and I’d highly recommend them if you’re in the area. That’s the beauty of Virginia wineries, each one has its own unique personality and idea of what they want to be. What they all share though is a love for their craft, and a warm and welcoming team that can’t wait to share their wines with you.
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