Crimson Lane Vineyards: An Exciting New Quality-Oriented Winery in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains

Businessman Tom Herrity is doing everything right with his new vineyard and winery in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  We recently visited him to see the progress he’s making and to taste his first vintage, made by winemaker and brother-in-law, Dominick Fioresi.  Dominick has considerable winemaking experience in Virginia at Linden, Ingleside, and Delaplane.   In this brief article we discuss this exciting venture and offer general comments on the wines. Since the red wines are Crimson Lane’s first vintage made at another winery in less-than-ideal conditions, we don’t give them ratings. However, we do conclude the future looks very bright for Crimson Lane.

In developing his project, Tom first found the perfect site for growing grapes, a south/southeast facing high altitude (950—1465’) mountaintop in the Manassas Gap that receives continuous cooling breezes.  While the soils vary by elevation, they are all fast draining. The combination of excellent aspect, climate, and soils mean there’s less disease pressure than most vineyard locations in Virginia.  Tom then enticed the East Coast’s top viticulturist, Lucie Morton, to advise him on planting the vineyard. They dug their first soil pit in 2011 and then planted multiple clones of several grape varieties, including Petite Manseng.  At present, they have almost 24 acres planted with a goal of reaching 35. Their vineyard management practices result in clean fruit and low yields (2 tons/acre at present).

Tom and Dominick next built their winery incorporating all the latest technology for cold maceration, pressing, and fermenting grapes. They have also made a careful selection of barrels. While they have released some white wines made at this facility, the reds are still in barrel or bottle awaiting future release.  The final part of Tom’s project is a large tasting room, now under construction, designed by California’s top winery architect, Howard Backen. While Crimson Lane’s wines will mostly be sold at the cellar door, this venture is not tourist oriented.   Reservations will be required to visit the winery, and only small parties will be allowed.

The winery is producing several red wines including two red blends, Colina and Parral. Both are blends of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon and given 24+ month aging in mostly new French oak. Both wines are well made and have good concentration of red and black fruit with a silky texture and firm tannic grip. Parral is especially refined in character and is Crimson’s flagship wine. Both wines would benefit from decanting before serving.  In addition, the winery is producing small amounts of single varietal Syrah, Petit Verdot, and Nebbiolo. Quality-wise, they are all promising wines, especially the Nebbiolo (labeled Vitale), which revealed a dried red cherry nose with good acidity, medium tannins and a long finish. As befits Crimson’s high quality standards and limited production, prices on these wines range from $55 to $80;

In addition to the reds, Crimson Lane makes several whites.  We tasted a 2021 Sauvignon Blanc of clones 1 and 376 made in a reductive Loire Valley style that showed good acidity and citrus and melon flavors. The 2020 Barrel Aged Chardonnay spends 18 months in 30% new oak, mostly French, giving it a seamless, creamy, rich character. Given the barrel regime, we were surprised how well integrated the oak was.  Crimson Lane also produces a steel fermented Chardonnay we did not taste. Our favorite white was the 2021 Albariño, which could pass for a good quality wine from Rias Baixas.  Prices on the whites range from $30 to $45.

We look forward to tasting future releases of Crimson Lane wines.

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