Cedar Creek Winery (VA) Review
Address: 7384 Zepp Road Star Tannery,Virginia 22654.
Phone Number: 540-436-8394
Tasting Hours: Apr-Nov: Fri-Sun 11:00-5:00
Reviewer: Brian Yost
Review Date: 7/19/2014
Reviewer: Brian Yost
There are a few wineries in Virginia that have raised the bar for other winemakers. These wineries are producing one or more wines of such quality that it actually defines what is possible for a particular varietal. Cedar Creek Winery is one of these.
Depending on the route you choose, getting there can be a small adventure. The winery and tasting room are on the western edge of the Shenandoah Valley, tucked into a smaller valley in the “hill and valley region” of the Allegheny highlands. When I visited, the tasting room had only recently begun opening for regular hours, so there was no state sign. On Zepp Road, not far south of the village of Star Tannery, I found a small winery sign and a flag marking the gravel drive that leads up the mountain. The narrow lane winds up the steep climb until it breaks out of the trees, passes the vineyard and ends at the small building that houses the winery and tasting room.
Following a career in law enforcement, Ron Schmidt purchased seventy-seven acres on the western slope of Little North Mountain. He came upon winemaking almost by accident, when a colleague pointed out that his property might be perfectly suited to viticulture. A short time later, in 1999, Ron planted five acres of Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc. He spent the next nine years learning the craft of vineyard management and sold his fruit to other wineries. During this period, he made wine for personal consumption. He also spent this time studying winemaking at other Virginia wineries and took a few courses to prepare for the next step. In 2008, Ron produced his first vintage.
Cedar Creek only produces Chardonnay and Cab Franc from estate grapes. No outside fruit is ever purchased because Ron would rather skip a vintage than compromise on quality. He understands that excellent wine begins in the vineyard, and he personally manages his vines and agonizes over the tending of each row throughout the growing season.
I found the tasting experience at Cedar Creek to be particularly educational. Each visitor is treated to a tour of the winery, which is followed by a vertical tasting of the Chardonnay and Cab Franc. I believe the program is excellent and has something to offer oenophiles of every level, but it is perfect for anyone trying to learn about Virginia wine.
I tasted two Chardonnays and four vintages of Cab Franc. The Chardonnays were full of apple and tropical notes. They both had a nice mouth feel and nice crispness. They were excellent wines and expertly crafted, but for me the Cab Franc was the main event. There was no runt in the litter. Each was amazing in its own way. Even the 2011, which may be the worst year in the history of Virginia wine, was superb. These are easily among the best Cab Francs in the state and, by extension, the entire east coast.
There are not a lot of frills at Cedar Creek. There are no bands playing, no sangria bar and no gimmicks. Following the tasting, you can sit on the newly added balcony, sip a glass of wine, look out across the vineyard and admire the view of Paddy Mountain. That’s about as good as it gets, but that’s pretty darn good. The view is fabulous and the wine is definitely worth the drive.