The Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail boasts some of the best vineyards in Virginia, and a tour of the wineries on the trail provide a unique experience that includes beautiful mountain scenery, relaxing entertainment and award winning wines. One top on the trail that is a must visit is Cave Ridge Vineyard, located at 1416 Conicville Road, Mount Jackson, Virginia.
Owned by Randy Phillips, who is also the winemaker at the vineyard, Cave Ridge is world-renowned for its scenic beauty and history, and produce wines that emphasize the character of the fruit using sustainable farming practices to promote a healthy ecosystem.
Phillips spends most of his time in the vineyard rather than the wine cellar, taking no shortcuts in the wine making process. He requires that each vine be touched at least six times during the year to be sure the grapes are of the highest quality. Grapes that do not meet his standards are sold or dropped on the ground. Cave Ridge recycles everything not used for production. The vineyard uses composting as a natural fertilizer so chemical fertilizers are not necessary, improving the quality of the fruit. At harvest, all grapes are handpicked and inspected twice before being crushed and gently pressed to produce wine.
The tasting room at Cave Ridge is housed in a beautiful cedar-sided cabin, with a wooden bar on the left and comfortable tables on the right. At the tasting bar, visitors are able to taste a variety of wines for $7. On Saturday’s in January, the winery offers Chili Saturdays, where visitors can purchase a bowl of chili and a glass of wine for $10.
The Barrel-aged Vognier 2010 had a slightly sweet, woodsy taste, although it is advertised to have a “complex tropical aroma and a round, buttery palate.” However, the Viognier-Stainless 2011 was delicious with a dry, smooth flavor. Although both wines are created using the same grape, one is barreled in oak while the other is barreled in stainless. In the barrel-aged version, the wood flavor definitely comes through. The Reisling has a nice light flavor, less sweet than many other Reislings. Due to allergies, I did not taste the reds, but my companions enjoyed the Chambourcin 2010 and the Syrah. The Fossil Hill Reserve 2010 is a combination of Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot and Chambourcin and has a woodsy aroma. This wine is named for an ammonite fossil found on the property. Ammonites were prehistoric molluscs, closely related to octopus, squid and cuttlefish, and look much like the shell of a snail and. The discovery of this fossil indicates that the area, at one time, was underwater.
Because it was lunchtime, we decided to join Chili Saturday. The event is held in an upstairs room overlooking the valley and the surrounding farmland. There is a large fireplace and soft, comfortable furniture, as well as tables to enjoy the wine and chili. The chili was very meaty, not overly spicy and went well with the wine we chose.
On the walls, and on some of the wine bottle labels, the winery displays the artwork of Patricia Ponikvar, who creates artwork using nothing but colored pencil, many of which are available for purchase. There is also a small gift shop with wine related apparel and home goods.
The winery also offers fireside, wild game and winemarker dinners throughout the year. In the summer months, Cave Ridge Winery offers live entertainment on an outdoor covered stage. Visitors are encouraged to bring chairs and picnic lunches to enjoy the live entertainment and sample the wines available. Cave Ridge is open daily from 11 a.m. until 5:30 p.m. and on Sunday from 12 Noon until 5 p.m. They are closed on Tuesdays.