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Crossing Vineyards and Winery: Thinking Outside the Bottle
Nobody realized in 1986 that Tom Carroll Jr. was onto something when he advised his parents to plant a vineyard at the family’s home in Pennsylvania. Then again, Tom Jr. was only 10 at the time, and Bucks County didn’t exactly fit the mold of wine country. After a few years, however, Tom Sr. and Christine realized that Tom Jr.’s suggestion had some real weight.
“Frankly, I brushed the comment off at the time and probably told him to eat his cheeriosCheerios,” laughs Tom Carroll Sr., co-owner and co-founder of Crossing Vineyards and Winery (Crossing). Crossing has since become a premier vineyard, winery and agri-tainment venue by producing wines that have racked up over 150 awards in just under a decade, which all started with that one comment planted in the Carroll family’s collective mind.
The business was no overnight success. In 1997 Tom Jr. graduated from Vassar College and headed west to California, where he was determined to learn everything he could about viticulture and enology until one fateful night in 1999.
“I got a phone call from Tom Jr. at three in the morning,” laughs Tom Sr. “He just said, ‘Dad, I want to come home, I want to establish these vines, I want to establish my roots, and that’s it.’” Within a few weeks a consultant was onsite to determine if the soil could support a vineyard, and by 2000 the green light was given and Crossing became an official enterprise. The first wine release came in 2002 and the family has not slowed down since.
Realizing a Dream
“We’ll enter our tenth year in October 2012,” says Tom Sr. “The amazing thing is that Christine and I all still very involved, very much a part of this journey and so fortunate to work for our son’s dream.,” he admits.
Quality has always come first and foremost at Crossing, permeating every aspect of the company’s operations. Though the Carrolls were quick to help Tom Jr. pursue his passion, Crossing represents lifetimes of work in reality. Tom Sr. had been a banker in New York before moving into the construction industry; Christine had taught English for many years and at one point owned a retail business of her own. Together the two boasted financial and marketing savvy to compliment Tom Jr.’s enthusiasm and green thumb.
Though today it’s a story full of smiles, Crossing’s success didn’t come all at once, especially because winemaking is a long-term pursuit of perfection. In 2003 everything came together. “I got a phone call from Tom Jr. one day, maybe three years into the business, and he told me to go to the window as quickly as I could,” recalls Tom Sr. “I kept looking for a fire or some kind of crisis, but he just said, ‘Dad, we have a vineyard in our backyard. We did it.’ And it was true.”
Putting Pennsylvania on the Map
Perhaps because Pennsylvania isn’t an established wine region, the Carrolls decided to make Crossing more than just a place where grapes transform to wine. With the help of Lucy and Ethel, Crossing’s state-of-the-art crusher and de-stemmer, the family is producing a little taste of heaven. There are no “oak-bombs” in Crossing’s portfolio. Vintner Tom Jr. tends to shoot for subtler flavors that open to reveal greater complexity, regardless of the varietal.
In addition to producing award-winning viogniers, chardonnay, merlots, vidal blancs and cabernet francs, Crossing offers event space and a summer concert series. The family didn’t stop there; Crossing also hosts a variety of classes through The the Wine Institute at Crossing Vineyards, which Christine developed and opened in 2004 to promote the enjoyment of wine and fine foods. The Wine Institute’s courses range from the cheekily named Dummies’ Guide to Wine Tasting to workshops on the wines of France, Italy and Spain, to name just a few.
Drawing a Crowd
“We’re all dummies when it comes to wine because there is so much to learn,” clarifies Tom Sr. “We just want people to understand that wine should be about enjoying life with those around you.”
Christine launched an international travel program in 2006 to expand the educational opportunities offered by The the Wine Institute. The most recent adventure brought six oenophiles on a 12-day tour of New Zealand’s and Australia’s wine- producing regions. Currently in the planning stages is a trip to South America in January 2013.
Crossing is on track to extend its reach even more in 2012 by opening Main Street Wine Cellar, a small wine shop in the up-and-coming Manayunk neighborhood of Philadelphia. The store will be the fourth retail outpost for Crossing, as the family sells from the vineyard and winery in Bucks County as well as from a gourmet wine and cheese shop at the Mohegan Sun Casino in Wilkes-Barre, Penn., and a wine store on Main Street in New Hope, Penn., which Crossing operates along with two other regional wineries.
Crossing was voted Best of Bucks County in both 2011 and 2012. To boot, the company’s summer line up of events includes more than one chocolate and wine pairing class and a host of musical attractions and mixers to give Pennsylvania natives and visitors alike a host of reasons to come and come back again. Crossing has managed to produce wines that can’t help but win awards, proving great wines can come from any place in the world. As Crossing Vineyards and Winery approaches its 10-year anniversary in 2012, the Carroll family will continue to dream and offer customers creative ways to make wine accessible and fun.