A well-respected Northern Virginia brewery is adding something different to its menu come Memorial Day Weekend: low-intervention wines. Crooked Run Brewing will start serving two bottles of its own wine — a rosé and a Merlot piquette, a low-ABV sparkling wine — at its Sterling location this weekend.
Jake Endres, a co-owner and production manager at Crooked Run, says the brewers all enjoy wine and have already been making a lot of mixed fermentation sours and saisons using local fruit. Crooked Run began incorporating grapes in its products during the pandemic, including in a cider collaboration that uses fruit from Walsh Family Wine’s farm in nearby Purcellville.
“Because we were making these beers that were very wine-like, we were thinking we’d like to try our hand at some winemaking,” Endres says. “A winery license in Virginia is pretty inexpensive, and it’s not too difficult to obtain.”
Endres prefers the term “low-intervention” to natural wine, but both can be used to describe fermented grape juice that mostly eschews additives such as sulfites, naturally occurring chemical compounds that winemakers often use as a preservative. Endres says Crooked Run is not using the term “natural wine” because it’s not using certified organic grapes.
“It is low-intervention in the sense that it is spontaneous fermentation with no added sulfites. So all our wines kind of fall under that umbrella,” he says.
For the uninitiated, those factors can produce wines that “taste drastically different than what most people are used to,” Endres says, cranking up tartness and stone fruit flavors with lots of lactic acid and “bacteria-driven” notes.
In addition to working with Walsh Family Wines, Crooked Run is also bringing in grapes from Stone Tower Winery and Fabbioli Cellars, both in Leesburg. Adding its own wine label helps Crooked Run cater to customers who might not be that into beer, Endres says. The brewery also started producing a line of seltzers.
Crooked Run plans to start out by selling wine by the bottle for consumption on or off the premises. Visitors to the brewery over Memorial Day weekend will get to sample the wine before purchasing a bottle. Depending on how well it sells, they could expand to wines by the glass, too.
“We don’t want to have to throw away bottles that have a glass of wine left at the end of the night,” Endres says.