Cave Ridge Vineyard & Winery Review
Address: 1476 Conicville Rd. Mt. Jackson,Virginia 22842.
Phone Number: 540-477-2585
Tasting Hours: Mon 11:00-5:30, Wed-Sat 11:00-5:30, Sun 12:00-5:00
Region: Shenandoah Valley AVA, Virginia
Reviewer: Jim Finley
Review Date: 8/1/2015
Reviewer: Jim Finley
Cave Ridge Vineyard, opened in 2005 by Randy and Karen Phillips, is located in the northern section of Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley near the small town of Conicville. Although the winery is only a few miles from the truck-infested I-81, you’re not likely to “stumble across it.” You’ll have to travel down some narrow, country roads to get to it, but it’s worth it.
You’ll know you’ve arrived when the hill-covering changes from cows and corn to grapes. It’s a wonderful sight. The winery and tasting room are located in large, wood-sided buildings that fit naturally into the “mountain” environment. The grounds include several outdoor seating areas, all of which provide views of both the vineyard and the distant Blue Ridge Mountains to the east.
The tasting room is clean and bright with a standard L-shaped tasting bar large enough for 20 or so tasters. On the day (actually, morning) of my visit, I was the only one in the tasting room and received attentive service. The young gentleman who poured the wines was knowledgeable about the winery and the wines and answered all my questions, even if he didn’t volunteer much on his own beyond the standard wine description.
The tasting list is relatively long. The standard tasting includes seven wines for $6, and the reserve tasting includes eleven wines for $10. I sprung for the reserve tasting, which I would eventually learn included two of the winery’s best wines, the Fossil Hill Reserve and the Red Silk. The large tasting menu, including a wide range of varieties, caused a slight feeling of trepidation. How could a small vineyard excel with both cool-climate Riesling and warm-climate Viognier .and four dessert-style wines? Fortunately, my fears were completely unfounded. As a matter of fact, every wine I tasted at Cave Ridge was very well-made and a few were exceptional – not one insipid bottle of plonk nor one overdone, California wanna-be wine on the list. Across the board, Cave Ridge’s estate-grown wines were balanced and complex and provide further proof that the Shenandoah Valley is one of Virginia’s premier wine-growing locations.
To give you an idea of the variety of grapes grown on Cave Ridge’s 30 acres, the tasting included Traminette, Viognier, Riesling, Chambourcin, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot. The tasting didn’t solve the cool vs. warm-climate debate for me, though, as both the 2012 Viognier and 2013 Riesling were unfortunately towards the bottom of my “favorites list”. Where Cave Ridge excels, in my opinion, is with Traminette, Syrah, and Cabernet Franc.
Traminette is a Joannes Seyve 23.416-Gewurztraminer hybrid designed to withstand the cold winter temperatures of the northern United States and still retain Gewurztraminer’s flavor profile. I don’t have a lot of experience with Traminette, but those that I have tried usually seemed overly simple and sweet. Not so at Cave Ridge. The 2014 Cave Ridge Traminette displayed the best of Gewurztraminer, particularly floral and lychee aromas, with bright acidity and a touch of sweetness.
The biggest surprise for me was the 2012 Syrah, a variety not commonly grown in Virginia. Meaty, with black fruit, pepper, and a long finish; it’s a fantastic Syrah. Unfortunately Cave Ridge’s Syrah vines didn’t survive the devastating 2013 winter and are being removed. Get it while you can.
While Cave Ridge excels with both Traminette and Syrah, Cabernet Franc seems to be the star. It’s the primary variety in both the 2011 Fossil Hill Reserve and 2010 Red Silk, both of which were at the top of my favorites list. The 2011 Fossil Hill Reserve consists of Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot, and Chambourcin. Pepper and black cherry extends from the nose to the long finish. It’s a beautifully balanced wine and a great value at $25.
The Red Silk label is only produced during exceptional vintages. The wine is 100% estate-grown Cabernet Franc, and the last Red Silk was produced in 2010. Similar to the Fossil Hill Reserve, black cherry is complimented by spices and a long, savory finish. This is Virginia Cabernet Franc at its best!
If you’re anywhere near the Shenandoah Valley, I definitely recommend you visit Cave Ridge. Better yet, make a weekend of it and rent a place at nearby Bryce Resort. You can golf or ski (you can do both for a few weeks out of the year if you’re lucky and the weather cooperates) in the morning, and visit nearby wineries in the afternoon. Cave Ridge is located less than ten miles from the resort, and Wolf Gap Vineyard, The Winery at Kindred Pointe and Swover Creek Farms Brewery (for the beer lovers in your group) are all located within a couple miles of Cave Ridge. Travel another ten miles to the north and you’ll find Shenandoah Vineyards and Muse Vineyards near the charming town of Woodstock. Although you won’t find a lot of fine dining options, you’d be hard pressed to put together a better weekend of wine tasting.