Virginia Has a New Winery with Spectacular Mountain Views

Owned by Arlingtonians Tom and Deanna Herrity, Crimson Lane Vineyards is a labor of love.
Sunset At Crimson Lane Greg Powers

Sunset at Crimson Lane Vineyards in Linden, Virginia (Photo by Greg Powers)

It’s a perfectly cloudless, late October day at Crimson Lane Vineyards in Linden, Virginia, and the last grapes of the harvest have passed through the de-stemmer. Now vineyard manager Rumaldo Chavez and his crew are standing beside a jittering sorting table, meticulously removing detritus—leaves, green berries, wayward stems—from the fruit as it heads toward the crusher. The grapes are destined to become part of a flagship Bordeaux-style blend called Parral, named after Chavez and his team’s hometown in Mexico.

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Owners Tom and Deanna Herrity at Crimson Lane Vineyards in Linden, Virginia (Photo by Greg Powers)

Owners Tom and Deanna Herrity opened their winery to the public in March, unveiling a stunning, 11,000-square-foot tasting room in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains. Designed by California-based Backen & Backen Architecture—whose portfolio also includes Larkmead Vineyards and Kenzo Estate Winery in Napa Valley, and Ram’s Gate Winery in Sonoma—the cedar-clad structure has the rustic look of an agrarian farmhouse or mountain ski chalet, with vaulted ceilings, exposed beams and a double-sided fireplace inside. 

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The tasting room at Crimson Lane. Courtesy of Crimson Lane

Like the property’s three vineyards, the tasting room faces south, framing spectacular vistas through large picture windows. “The mountain that we look at on the other side of the valley is Rattlesnake Mountain,” Tom says. “To the east, we have great views of Little Cobbler and Big Cobbler mountains.” 

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Sunset views from the tasting room (Courtesy photo)

The vision for Crimson Lane (named for the rural road that leads to it) began in the 1990s. The Herritys—he’s 60, she’s 52—met when Deanna was working for Democracy Data & Communications (DDC), a public affairs company that Tom co-owned at the time. (Today, she is an interior designer, while he owns NextWave Advocacy and Global Telesourcing, both based in Arlington.) They started dating and visiting Virginia wineries, exploring a shared passion for viticulture.

After marrying in 1998, they began looking for property to start their own winemaking venture. 

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A private tasting room at Crimson Lane (Courtesy photo)

It wasn’t completely unfamiliar terroir. Deanna grew up in southern New Jersey, where her Italian family made wine in the basement of their home. Her older brother, Dominick Fioresi, a network engineer who moved to Arlington in 1995 to direct network operations for DDC, would ultimately switch careers to become Crimson Lane’s winemaker. 

Still, turning an oenophilic hobby into a professional venture took some training. Dominick and Tom enrolled in distance learning with the University of California, Davis, and completed two years of classes at Piedmont Virginia Community College (PVCC) in Charlottesville, earning certificates in viticulture and enology in 2007.  

The Team At Crimson Lane Greg Powers

Vineyard manager Rumaldo Chavez (far right) and the crew (Photo by Greg Powers)

“PVCC classes were taught by industry people—vineyard owners, managers—so it was an immersion in the Virginia wine community,” Dominick says. He subsequently apprenticed with Jim Law, owner of nearby Linden Vineyards, whom many consider the guru of Virginia wine. “I showed up in a Mercedes wearing a suit,” he recalls. “Everyone chuckled at me.” He was there for 2 ½ years.

In 2014, the Herritys bought the 134-acre Fauquier County property for $1 million after consulting geological and vineyard experts, including renowned Virginia viticulturist Lucie Morton, and determining that the land had the proper attributes (elevation, drainage, soil conditions) for winemaking. Two years later, Dominick purchased and added another contiguous 32 acres to the operation.

Dominick Fioresi Greg Powers

Winemaker Dominick Fioresi (Photo by Greg Powers)

They started by planting Bordeaux varietals (cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot), as well as chardonnay (Tom is a fan). 

“As our learning curve evolved, different whites—Albariño, Petit Manseng and a Loire-style sauvignon blanc—came into the fold,” Dominick says. Since then, they’ve also begun cultivating Nebbiolo, Syrah and Petit Verdot. 

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Sorting grapes heading for the crusher (Photo by Greg Powers)

The largest of the three vineyards, nicknamed “Higher Power,” occupies the highest elevation on the property and borders St. Dominic’s Monastery, home to the Cloistered Contemplative Nuns of the Order of Preachers. Intent on being good neighbors, the Herritys ran their plans past the nuns before construction began and continue to keep them abreast of the winery’s doings.

“The prioress grew up in Long Island and loved the vineyards there,” Tom says. “When I email her, she always says they pray for our success.” 

Those prayers may come in handy. There’s an adage in the trade: To make a small fortune in the wine business, start with a large one. Crimson Lane’s first harvest was in 2018—the wettest year to date in that part of Virginia, and not optimal for grapes. Dominick nevertheless managed to produce a one-and-done red blend and a chardonnay that year. 

It was a small yield, to be sure, but Tom says they’re keeping their ambitions in check. “We want to stay a boutique, all estate-grown vineyard,” he says, “making no more than between 5,000 and 6,000 cases a year.” 

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Winemaker Dominick Fioresi takes a barrel sample to test the wine as it ages (Photo by Greg Powers)

Today, he and Deanna divide their time between Arlington’s Ashton Heights neighborhood, where they raised their four children (now grown), and the five-bedroom house they built on the vineyard, overlooking the undulating mountains and hillsides of grapes. (Falls Church architect Charles Moore designed their vineyard home and also did the construction drawings for the tasting room.)

How many millions have they sunk into their passion project so far? On this point, Tom demurs. 

“When the site revealed itself as a place we could grow really great grapes, and Dominick could do something special, we needed to build a place that scaled to that quality,” he says. “I spent twice what I thought I would and I’m happy I did. We’re going to give people an experience.”

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An aerial view of Crimson Lane Vineyards (Photo by Greg Powers)

If You Go…

Visits to Crimson Lane Vineyards’ tasting room are by reservation only. Through Tock, guests can reserve a seat at the tasting bar ($25), at a table with snacks ($35 per person, up to six guests) or in one of two private tasting rooms ($75 per person, four-to-six guests max), where premier wine releases are paired with nibbles such as charcuterie, dips, empanadas and cheese. Guests who purchase a case of wine annually (during one visit or over the course of several) automatically become members of the Crimson Collective for that year. Those who join the Founder’s Club receive two six-bottle shipments—one in spring and one in fall. 

In addition to the opportunity to sample and purchase small-batch single varietals not available to the public, Founder’s Club and Crimson Collective members can visit the vineyard whenever they like, during hours of operation, via a members-only reservation system. The winery’s 50-space parking lot includes three EV charging stations.

Crimson Lane’s current release includes four whites (a 2020 Albariño; 2020 sauvignon blanc; 2018 chardonnay; and 2019 barrel-aged chardonnay) and four reds (2019 Petite Verdot and three cabernet merlot blends: 2018 Prelude; 2019 Collina and 2019 Parral). Prices range from $32 to $65.

David Hagedorn is Arlington Magazine’s dining critic. 

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