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Saturday, January 23, 2010


2010 Wow! The holidays are over and things are settling back to a normal routine. We have made a lot of changes here at the winery. The biggest is the opening of our winter tasting room. Looking around the farm sometimes can get a bit overwhelming. The "to do list" is very long! It puts it in perspective though, when I pull out the pictures of where we started; wow what a difference! I know some people thought we had lost our minds when we thought of using the barn as our tasting room. I am glad we did, this old barn has so much warmth and charm to it. I loved the openness of the summer tasting room but the winter tasting room is battling for top status. Its smaller of course so it feels more intimate. Sitting at a table sipping the wine while looking in at the barrels and tanks adds to the whole overall experience. Our musicians seem to enjoy it just as much as the summer tasting room as well. The acoustics are great and the smaller setting makes for a more interactive evening.

The excitement of entering our second season comes with a bit of shock at how quickly it all happened. Before we opened I remember looking at all the cases of wine and feeling a bit of panic take hold. "What if I can't sell it all? That's a lot of wine!" Now going into our second season the panic is different...."What if we don't have enough wine?" (some people would say I just love to panic but that's another story) I am proud to say in our first season we have sold out of 3 wines and getting ready to add a fourth to that list. I regret not holding back a bottle of each. But.... wine is made to be enjoyed and so it is! Our 2009 vintage is showing great promise with bottling just around the corner. And of course a whole new panic for me. I have spent the winter getting to know each wine. Some days they make me so proud I want to put them in the bottle now. And then other days I think something completely different. I have to remind myself that the wine will let me know when its time, no matter what I want. Just like during harvest, when its time its time.

Looking at the calender I can't help but get excited. The view out the window right now is brown dreary and mud. Winter has it's own beauty but it can't hold a candle to the charms of spring, emerald greens, dark purples, and pastel pinks. I guess winter is what makes spring so wonderful though. You have to experience the negative to fully appreciate the positive. My favorite part of spring is hearing the peepers for the first time. Sitting on the porch enjoying a nice warm evening, sipping a glass of wine and then you hear it.....always a cause for celebration. This will be our first spring as an open winery and I look forward to sharing those evenings. So keep in mind as we progress through these cold winter months, spring is coming, it always does.....and "Meet Me At The Barn". We can enjoy natures orchestra together!

Wednesday, October 14, 2009


Ahh the feel of fall is all around; Warm days, crisp nights, and golden sunlight highlighting mother natures beautiful canvas. Farming the land gives you a true appreciation for the ebb and flow of mother nature and just how much we depend on that ebb and flow. It's harvest time in the vineyard; the grapes are coming in by the tons plump and juicy. There is no real "schedule" to follow, mother nature says now and she sure means it. No matter what you "have" to do, if 2 tons of grapes are coming at 4 in the afternoon you can get a pretty good idea of what you will be doing for the next 8 hours no matter what time dinner is or for that matter bedtime. As crazy as this sounds, there is a calming, hypnotic feeling that takes hold of you at this time of year. There is so much to do and not enough time in a day to get it done; but you do. The grapes get processed and the barrels become full of their nectar, filling the barn with aromas of fermenting grapes. Oh if I could bottle that smell I could make a fortune! The anxiety and anticipation of next years vintage takes hold of your dreams. You wake in the middle of the night wondering if you mixed the yeast properly, if you left a tank open, or any other disaster you can conjure up to drive yourself crazy. Morning comes, the grapes are fermenting just fine in the tank (and not all over the floor), and then you taste the juice. Oh so sweet!! Sure that next years vintage is going to be out of this world...but what if I mess something up and ruin all of these tanks? So I have come to realize that my new job comes with new worries, new babies to nurture hoping they grow up to amaze the world! But I will settle for amazing the folks that visit our tasting room. In my previous life standing on the other side of the tasting bar listening to the winemaker passionately describe his wine; I had no idea where that passion stemmed from. I just knew I loved it. Now I know why. It is real. That is why people come to the wineries; to soak up some of that passion and fall in love with the wine. Not just grab it from the shelf. To truly "know it" and experience the process of turning sunlight into wine.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Our First Month Under Our Belt

Well, here we are with our first full month under our belt. It has been such a great experience! Our Saturday Night Music at the Barn functions have been a big success. We have been able to find some amazing local talent to play. The intimate setting coupled with the outstanding acoustics of the barn makes for a very enjoyable experience. We have been lucky to not have too many hot evenings. As always the barn has such a great breeze coming through it that even those hot days were not unbearable. A little wine and song and it's amazing how great a summer evening can be!

The wine has been very well received. So well that we are down to our last case of the Traminette! We knew it would be enjoyed but had no idea it would go so fast. We have gotten a lot of feedback from our customers that we will keep in mind this year at harvest. It seems most of our customers like a dry to semi dry wine for the most part. We have had some requests for a slightly sweeter wine. Looking forward to crafting wine this year with a customer base in mind, it will feel like a more personal expression. Last year we were crafting wine with no customer base so it was basically if I liked it then that was it! Not a bad deal for me :-) but it will be fun to start letting our customers taste in the barrels and give us feedback.

The vineyard has done wonderfully this year! No disease, no pests, and TONS of growth. This has been a hard year for those that are expecting crops but for our new vines they have just soaked up the rain and really matured. Our Seyval has matured so much that we may even be able to take a harvest next year. The Chambourcin has made up for what damage we sustained last year. We dropped most of the fruit that started this year but left a few on the vines for our own entertainment. It's funny how excited I can get over just a few grapes! They have great flavor!! I have pondered making some jellies out of them. As good as the season has been to our vines, we know that in the next few weeks we face some challenges in the wine making department if the weather doesn't dry up a bit. For the vineyards that have been able to get by disease, a good run of hot dry weather will be well received. We are crossing our fingers and anticipating harvest.

We have had some interesting visitors to the winery this month in the form of the local farmers cows. Not the kind of patrons we are looking for. They are not very graceful when walking by my gardens, not to mention the "treasures" they leave behind. They did wander to the vineyard but luckily grape vines don't seem to interest them much. I guess we can mark them off our list of vine pests. I think the trellis system resembles a fence so they were not too interested. The biggest casualties were my horse statues by the fish pond. They broke the nose and legs off of them and trampled the solar lights. The farmer was very cooperative and has agreed to work with us in replacing these items. Just another example of you never know what you have to deal with when it comes to farming!

The next few months are going to be very exciting both at the winery and in the vineyard. October is Virginia Wine month and we have some great events to help celebrate. We have bonfires, a harvest party, and even a Halloween Party! Keep checking the website for details on these events, they should be loads of fun!

Thanks for taking the time to read this blog, I really enjoy writing it and am amazed to hear that people actually read it! I have enclosed a video this time to honor the first full month of our business. It tells the story above in pictures. Amanda Wilkins is singing the song you hear in the background. If you haven't heard her, her album is available on iTunes; or you can find her playing at many local venues. Another great example of the talent found here in the Valley.



Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Beyond Our Wildest Dreams!

We did it! Saturday, July 18th we had our grand opening. Wow! What a day is all I can say. Several times throughout the day I stood and just took in the sounds and faces, thinking of all the times I had seen it in my mind. It took me back to a cold February day when 6 friends stood on the ridge and said "yep, we are going to do it!" We had no idea how but we just knew we would. Call it faith or insanity, it really doesn't matter, it has been the most amazing ride. To say we were all proud of ourselves on Saturday is a serious understatement. The best part of the day was to hear people confirm our vision. We all thought we had something unique to the valley but to hear that other people saw it too was the icing on the cake. Our wines received some very good reviews as well. I am excited for this years harvest and the process of creating next years vintage.

We had several road bumps in the week of preparation, but on the big day the three families pulled together. We worked as a team with smiles and jokes all day. It was so nice to see the kids and the adults excited in the work and proud of the results.

Now to keep it all going! It is just beginning. Several people throughout the day expressed their excitement about our Friday and Saturday evening hours. Guests that visit Bryce resort as well as people local to this part of the Valley are really in need of more things to do on summer evenings. In this economy it is not only important for our mental health to disconnect and reconnect to friends and family, but also do it in an affordable setting. That is the goal for our winery. To give people that place and keep it as affordable as possible. We have set up badminton and two horseshoe pits as a start. We need to give the horseshoe thing a try...wondering how wine and throwing metal objects is going to mix! Hopefully people will be safe and put them down if the wine starts to flow too much. Maybe only the designated drivers will play. :-) We also have plans for Saturday evening concerts, old movie nights, mystery dinners, barn dances, book clubs, and the list goes on. Check the website under events for current happenings. Feel free to send us your ideas of things you would like to see. Until then....
"Meet Me At The Barn!"

Friday, June 26, 2009

"In Wine One Views the Heart of Another....."

What is it about this business that makes us love it? You grow the grapes at the mercy of mother nature. At any given time she can take your harvest and destroy it...hail storms, drought, insects, deer, disease,and the list goes on. At harvest you feel like you have beaten the odds when you are standing there looking at lugs full of beautiful luscious grapes that you are sure will make the "best wine". That wine becomes a personal expression and extension of yourself. I laughed one day speaking with Sharon from Barrel Oak when she said "Once a wine gets on my bad side, I never seem to recover from that, I will always dislike it. Even though others can taste it and love it, I still remember it when...." We recently went to our first wine festival at the Frontier Culture Museum. I will come back to elaborating on the festival because it is certainly worth a mention. For now I need to stay with this thought.This was our biggest exposure to the public. I fretted about my wines. I love my wines. Being face to face with others and seeing one possibly pour it out was something I just didn't know if I could bear to watch. I never waste a glass of wine. Probably more because I know what went into making it than anything else. If you have the privilege of talking personally with a winemaker at a winery you will certainly come to appreciate and become involved in the wines and view them as much more than a beverage. After all, that is the attraction to visiting wineries. Anyone can buy a bottle at the store take it home and enjoy. But to drink a bottle at a winery comes with an experience and a memory of those you encountered that day. While pouring at the festival I began to get over my fear and really enjoy the personal interactions. I loved hearing others perception of the wines. Everyone was so friendly and enthused; I began to believe they loved wine as much as I did! At the end of the day my tongue and brain began to fail but no one seemed to care; they enjoyed it all the same. On the way home, exhausted and exhilarated at the same time, we reveled in our day. Not counting our dollars but counting our accomplishments and satisfactions. Our "children" had been exposed to others and behaved beautifully. The drive up 81, as the sun was beginning its descent and the valley was aglow, I had an overwhelming sense of "things are going to work out just fine". There will be trials and tribulations to be sure, but I was very fortunate to find something that I can truly apply the saying" do what you love, love what you do." Some search a lifetime for that, I know I have found it and am thankful.

Ok, now about the festival. Mark your calender for June 12, 2010. This is the date for next years Shenandoah Valley Wine Trail Festival to be held again at the Frontier Culture Museum. They did a wonderful job as the host this year. The setting is very intimate, the music was perfect, and the logistics were well planned. They offered shuttle service to those who did not want to walk from the parking lot to the event. They kept all of us wineries in ice all day. Not an easy task considering it was a hot day. They made wine pickup easy for the consumers. The food and vendors were well matched to the event. I saw smiling faces all day and heard very little in the way of complaints. My hat is off to all at the museum for their hard work and I look forward to next years event. And if you have not visited the museum ( I had not) you really need to do so. It is a really neat place. The history of the valley is laid out through walking trails that really make you feel like you are experiencing the valley as it once was. Try a "staycation" this year and uncover something really neat in your own backyard. Stop and see us too!

"Meet Me at the Barn"

Monday, June 8, 2009

Wine and Song, benefit to feed the hungry

It has been a month of many changes here at Crooked Run Cellars. We have planted grapes, lost a vineyard manager, found a vineyard manager, nursed the vineyard manager back to health, prepared for a benefit concert, and finally hosted the benefit. So I guess I should start at the first and bring you to the later.

On May 12th we planted the next variety of hybrids in the lower vineyard, 750 Seyval grapes. If you are familiar with this grape you will understand why I am excited to work with it in the cellar. I have tasted several different styles and blends and can't wait to create one of my own. As far as in the vineyard, this grape is known to produce very high yields without loosing flavor and structure in the wine.

Now to our vineyard manager mishap. If you have been reading the blog from the beginning you will remember being introduced to our vineyard manager Rowdy the Border Collie. If you haven't I will save you from scrolling down looking for an explanation of who he is. Rowdy was adopted from the shelter to assist us in our efforts to convince the deer they are not welcome in the vineyard. Last year the deer did a number on our Chambourcin grapes even with our deer fence. So after a bit of research we thought the vineyard dog seems to be a pretty cost effective way to control their access. I tried to keep this more of a business relationship since I already have 3 labs that are attached at the hips to me. Rowdy had other plans. He stole my heart very quickly. Well long story short he went on a chase one morning and didn't come back. We searched the woods behind the vineyard for 3 days all the while my heart becoming very heavy. It just didn't seem possible that we could open the winery without Rowdy there to witness it. It amazes me how dogs can weave themselves into the fiber of your life. On the third day I began to lose hope and prepare myself for the reality he would not be coming back. Mike sprayed early that day and decided to take a drive through the woods on the tractor before putting it away for the day. He found Rowdy in a thick wooded area stuck in a fence...we had been within feet of him many times and he never made a sound. He was stuck by his back foot and severely dehydrated. When we got him to the vet it was apparent he was going to lose part of the foot and maybe even the whole leg if the nerve damage does not prove to be too extensive. So our little Rowdy is now on work comp disability for awhile and becoming very found of living in the house with me. With a bit of reluctance I can say the feeling is mutual. He has been a great patient. You can just tell by the look in his eyes he is grateful to us once again for saving his life. It may be time to convince my labs they have to do more then sleep on the front porch and eat. So far the deer are still thinking Rowdy is managing the vineyard so we haven't sustained any damage. We have vines this year over 6 foot tall and two feet spreading on the cordon wire. I really need to spend some time photographing the vineyard.

And now to the Benefit Concert. I can honestly say I have not worked so hard for something and felt such pride when it came together. It truly was a testament to the old saying "do what you love, love what you do". I have stood in that barn several times and visualized what it would be like to see it full of people but to actually see it happen was at times overwhelming. I thought I would be really nervous the morning of but when it all started I just had this sense of peace, like I was doing what I was really meant to do and it all came together. I remember my first customers. They did a tasting of the wine (we only had two ready for the event) and bought a bottle. Our very first customers! Doesn't seem like much to most but it was everything to me! After that the day got even better! The turnout was not what we had expected but the generosity to the farm was more then we expected. It was truly a testament to community and what makes this country great. It's in the difficult times that we really get to experience the American spirit. Great weather, fantastic music, happy people doesn't get any better then that.....oh wait I forgot the WINE! :-)

Friday, May 15, 2009

It's Official..We are a licensed Class A Farm Winery

It's becoming more and more real. In a matter of weeks we will have people tasting our wines, lazing around the courtyard drinking in a taste of the simple life. We have been putting in long days and nursing sore backs but we have no doubt it will all be worth it.

The vineyard has been keeping us busy this spring, but it's been more the darn grass then the grapes. We have had rain rain rain! Our little grapes are growing very well but the grass and weeds in the vineyard are a constant struggle. We are trying to strike that perfect balance between ground cover and grape vines. We hate to just kill everything off and expose the soil completely but it appears at least some exposure around the vines is where the balance lies. We are thinking of a 2 to 4 foot span. Our Chambourcin really had a hard first year so our goal is to optimize growth this year as much as possible, maybe even allowing them to get a bit "wild" in leaf production. Unfortunately that does require removing any form of competition surrounding the vines. Next year should be a harvest year which will allow us to let the ground cover move back in to a moderate degree.

To top it all off we have new babies in the vineyard! This week we planted 750 Seyval vines. We feel much like parents do with the birth of their second child, confident in our knowledge we have gained from the first child, but also realistic in the fact each child brings their own two are the same! We had four people planting and it took us about 6 hours. Not a bad days work. I was happy with the soil composition in this block and look forward to tasting the fruits of our labor. Mike made sure to allow a good span of vegetation free space which we will vigorously maintain for the first two years. Last year we fought weeds, Japanese Beatles and deer. This year we are ready for those and feel confident we will prevail.

The tasting room and cellar have really come along! Mike has done a very nice job designing the layouts of the tasting bar and cellars. He made a very nice square wrap around tasting bar that will comfortably accommodate quite a few people. No need to squeeze in to allow everyone a taste. If we have to squeeze you in at this bar we shouldn't be pouring a taste for you, we can't possibly give it the attention that a good tasting requires. We have put a lot of thought into the feel of the winery that we are trying to create and maintain once we open. Years of visiting Virginia wineries has given me a very good perspective from a patrons point of view. The places that I remember and frequented the most, took the time to create a welcome personal experience. When you walked through the door you felt the essence of the place and wanted to stay and experience it. The ones that I decided I would not return to are the ones that just poured the wine and look for the sale. I can go to a wine shop for that. My oldest son and I were talking the other day about the winery and it's opening. Now for anyone that knows my oldest son, or for that matter has a teenage son, any time something that feels similar to a compliment comes out of his mouth I believe it is a miracle! Well he actually gave me a miracle the other day when we were discussing the winery. He said it had a really neat feel to it, very laid back. He said its the kind of place that makes you want to stay for awhile and relax. Now not being one that goes to many wineries (although he did practically grow up at them when I could still force him to spend time with me) it made me feel very good to hear he was getting the "feel" I was trying to create. If I can reach him I can reach anybody!!!