By IAN MUNRO
Daily News-Record 10/30/19
MOUNT CRAWFORD — As Saam Bakhtiar stood among barrels of wine in the new $1 million production facility of CrossKeys Vineyards, he was dwarfed by the high ceilings.
That’s the point.
“The goal is to have this whole place filled up with barrels,” said Bakhtiar, the director of operations at CrossKeys Vineyards.
The barrel room is only a part of the new 8,500 square foot building which also houses nearly two dozen stainless steel fermenting tanks, with eight for white wine and 11 for red wine.
The plant is temperature and humidity controlled and features some of the newest equipment in the wine-making industry, Bakhtiar said.
Construction began in late 2018 and some minor work on the site is still being done, he said, but production has already happened within its walls.
This year’s CrossKeys grape harvest was processed in the new facility starting in August, but the wine itself will not see the light of day until 2021, according to Bakhtiar.
Similarly, the new production facility itself was a long time coming, said Steve Monson, the winemaker of CrossKeys Vineyards.
“I have a hard time remembering the exact milestones because this has been germinating in all of our minds over the last three years,” Monson said.
CrossKeys’ first production facility opened in 2008, he said.
Now, that space is being converted into event space and where CrossKeys aims to produce their sparkling wine products, which it began tinkering with this year, according to Bakhtiar.
“We started to outgrow the space of the original winery and it started to limit what we could do with the processing of wine,” Monson said.
CrossKeys identified those constraints to resolve them in the new facility, he said.
“We designed the new facility with the thought of flexibility and the ability to adapt to the season, grape and changes for growth,” Monson said.
Features include an automated sorter for red grapes and a “state of the art”
pneumatic bladder press, he said.
And those high ceilings in the barrel room will multiply CrossKeys barrel capacity three of fourfold, Monson said.
But the goal of the new facility is not just to increase production of wine, he said, but the priority is to improve their product’s caliber.
Wine growing in Virginia is relatively young compared to other regions, such as the south of France, where evidence points to wine production beginning about 2,400 years ago, according to Wine Spectator magazine.
“What’s exciting, but also frustrating, about Virginia is we don’t have hundreds of years of experience growing here,” Monson said.
The new facility’s space and equipment will help build on the strengths of CrossKeys’ products, he said.
“It really allows me to make the decision that’s best for the wine,” Monson said.