Saturday, October 17, 2009

Crossing celebrating birthday, awards

There's a party atmosphere at Crossing Vineyards in Washington Crossing, Pa., these days, and only part of its has to do with this weekend's sixth anniversary party. The Bucks County winery, founded by the Carroll family, will lure a who's who of local and state government officials and folks from the wine industry for a ribbon-cutting on a new energy-efficient warehouse. Meanwhile, there will be tastings, live music and a chance to enter a drawing for tickets to a Nov. 14 wine and food pairing sit-down as the birthday party runs today and tomorrow from noon to 6 p.m.

Actually, the toasting began a few weeks ago when word came back on the results from the Sommelier Challenge International Wine Competition that took place in San Diego on the last weekend in September. Of all the wines entered, 49 made it to the final round of voting for best of show in five broad categories -- sparkling, red, white, rose and fortified. All wines put forward by the judges for the best-of-show vote were elevated from gold to platinum. And when the final assessment was made, Crossing Vineyards' Merlot 2006 earned a platinum medal, Cabernet Franc 2006 scored a gold and the Viognier 2007 took a silver. That's half of the total number that Crossing entered.

Christine Carroll, who directs PR and marketing for the winery, said there was a particular appeal to entering that competition. "It was sommeliers from the country's top restaurants," she said. "And we thought, this would be fun. This is not really a wine judge, per se, but this is someone who's on the front line, selling wine, knowing what people are liking, and they're not with their head in the clouds so much. So we thought, this might be good, and this might be a real taste test of where we stand because it's not an academic who's cutting us slack but it's the guy who's selling it who's judging it."

Crossing's Cab Franc has won the lion's share of awards since the winery opened in 2003, so the gold medal simply added another trinket to the winery's trophy case. But the showings of the Merlot ("a sleeper") and Viognier ("a very elegant wine") did catch them a bit by surprise.
A nice pleasant surprise. "The platinum means that it won a gold medal and that any wine that was being considered for best of show was granted a platinum medal," Carroll said. "There were five best of show medals . . . so we would have been running with [California's] Cakebread [Cellars] for the best red in this competition."

I haven't tasted the wines yet, but hoping to tomorrow. Still, what I have seen is their list of events, from workshops and seminars to wine and food pairings to other events done in conjunction with the Bucks County Wine Trail. Carroll said there's a reason that Crossing ranks among the top two or three in the region, along with Chaddsford, in activities. "Here's the reason we do it," she said. "And it's not always about Pennsylvania wines. We're doing a new class this fall called Italian Wines. That is because people hold the Pennsylvania thing against us, they don't know what they're talking about, they've never tasted Pennsylvania wines. So they'll say, 'I don't like Pennsylvania wine.' Oh, well, whose wine have your tried? 'Well, I've never really tried it, but i don't like it.' Or 'I like California Cabernet.' Well, that's good, that's a start. Have you ever tried a Cabernet from Pennsylvania? 'Oh, no, I don't like a Cabernet from Pennsylvania.' Would you try. 'No, no, no, I don't need to try it because I already know what I like.' So this is what we're faced with. So I think with more . . . I think it's like when a person goes to college, her mind opens up. Educaton opens people's minds. And it's the same with wine as it is with anyone else. So we're trying to get people off the defensive. We're trying to get them on to the open-minded. And we'll always throw one of our wines in and we'll identify it. We're not sneaky. We don't even do a blind tasting. We'll say, 'Here's a Crossing Vineyards Viognier' if we're doing Rhone varietals. Try it. Tell us what you think about it in comparison.

"It's pretty ballsy, I'll give you that. But, again, we're a young winery and we want to get better. And if they hate us, we're going to get better next year, because we're going to figure it out next year."