CrossKeys Vineyards has long been known as a destination for its award-winning wines. What visitors may not know is that it’s also a destination for exciting international cuisine. For dance lovers they also have regular salsa dancing events under the stars to pair with their delicious food and exceptional wines.

crosskeys vineyard cuban inspired vineyard dinner

CrossKeys Vineyards’ Gold Medal Wines

CrossKeys Vineyards has award-winning choices in every category. Their 2019 Ali dessert wine took home a gold in the 2023 Virginia Governor’s cup, as did their Blanc de Noir, a sparkling Pinot Noir. An additional six wines—Chardonnay, Joy White, Petit Verdot, Joy Red, Cabernet Franc and the Fiore blend of Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin—took home silver medals in the competition.

The 2019 Ali is a blend of Vidal Blanc and Traminette grapes, produced in a traditional Eiswein style and aged for a year in neutral oak barrels. This stunning dessert wine offers a sweet finish to a wonderful meal. The Blanc de Noir—made entirely from Pinot Noir—is produced in a traditional sparkling wine method. Because the fruit is picked early in the morning and cooled and pressed quickly, a white juice is extracted from the red grapes. With notes of passionfruit, raspberry, almond and toasty gingerbread, the wine’s acidity is balanced by a sweet peach finish.

Don’t overlook the CrossKeys silver medal winners from the 2023 Virginia Governors Cup. These six vintages are sure to please a variety of palates. The 2021 Chardonnay, fermented in a combination of stainless steel and new French oak, is bright with aromas of peach. The 2022 Joy White—a Vidal Blanc and Traminette blend with flavors of peach and pear—is a light alternative for hot summer days.

Another great choice for a hot summer day is the 2022 Fiore, a rosé blend of Cabernet Franc and Chambourcin with luscious fruit flavors and a hint of vanilla. The 2021 reds that took home silver range from a classic Old World Cabernet Franc with a dense palate of raspberry jam and lavender enlivened by thyme and sour cherry to the smooth, fruit-forward 2021 Joy Red with hints of nutmeg that make it a great match for pasta dishes.

The 2021 Petit Verdot boasts an opaque eggplant color and bold aromas of violet, cola nut and dried figs, with notes of hazelnut and leather. This rich vintage has round tannins, a velvety mouth feel and a long smoky finish. If you’re a collector and like to age your wine for a few years, the Cabernet Franc has a six to eight year range.

Reservations are not required for wine tastings but are suggested for winery tours. These tours take place Monday-Thursday. Advance reservations are required for an exceptional behind-the-scenes private tour and tasting that includes both red and white wines accompanied by a cheeseboard.

Food at CrossKeys Vineyard in the Shenandoah Valley

Chef Leo Velazquez has combined his worldwide culinary experience with his commitment to the slow food movement to create the unique menu at CrossKeys Vineyards Bistro. Many of the ingredients for his Mediterranean-inspired dishes come from within a few miles of the vineyard. He sources beef from Frieden Farms, heavy cream and butter from Mt. Crawford Creamery and ice cream from Smiley’s. A devoted member of a sustainable oyster trade group, he has also added a Virginia oyster sampler to the Bistro menu.

Chef Leo has worked in restaurants throughout South Asia including Sri Lanka, Singapore and Malaysia. He also has experience at prominent U.S. resorts like Disney World and Hershey. His global experience and passion for slow food inform the Bistro’s menu. Diners will find items like Baba Ganoush, Patatas Bravas and Chicken Pibil Tacos alongside more traditional continental offerings like Brie Fondue and Steak Frites.

Many of the menu items like the Mediterranean plate, lamb and chicken kebobs and the Shawarma sandwich with peri peri chicken pay homage to the Iranian heritage of CrossKeys’ owners, Bob and Nikoo Bakhtiar. The eclectic menu features cuisine from around the world from Brazilian Picahna steak salad to iconic British fish & chips. American standards include a burger with locally sourced beef and a Nashville hot chicken sandwich. Velazquez, who is Cuban-American, also gets to improvise some of his favorite Latin-inspired dishes on Salsa nights.

Elegant Dining at the Crosskeys Ballroom

The Bistro at Crosskeys offers cosmopolitan cuisine in the bucolic Shenandoah Valley countryside. The elegant dining room—popular for wedding receptions, special events, and private dinners—boasts views of the rolling countryside through the many windows and wide French doors.

With such diverse menu selections, it can be a challenge to choose the right wine pairing. Luckily, the Bistro menu not only contains tasting notes for each of their wines but also offers pairing suggestions. Chef Velazquez’ favorite wine is Meritage and he recommends pairing it with the Picanha Steak Salad. The gold medal winning Blanc de Noir pairs perfectly with the CrossKeys Caesar Salad and would also go well with the Arctic Salmon or lamb kebobs. Chardonnay is the preferred choice with the Mediterranean plate. Chef Leo recommends Joy White to accompany the Chicken Pibil Tacos, while Viognier is perfect to pair with the calamari. Bistro manager Emilia Velazquez is a fan of the Petit Verdot and recommends it alongside the Smokey Baba Ganoush. Try the Cabernet Franc with a burger or the Touriga with a prime rib sandwich, while the Joy Red will be perfect with the gnocchi. And the gold medalist dessert wine, Ali, is a winner again paired with the carrot cake.

Sunday brunch selections include a salmon avocado toast, chicken and waffles, biscuits and gravy and a French toast burger, in addition to several of the Bistro’s regular menu favorites. Both menus include options for vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and dairy free diet restrictions.

Casual Dining at Virginia’s Crosskeys Vineyard Patio

There’s nowhere quite like CrossKeys’ spacious courtyard patio for outdoor dining. The expansive patio and courtyard offer spectacular panoramic views of the Shenandoah Valley. This is the perfect place to enjoy their award-winning wines, as well as lunch, dinner or Sunday brunch. Often the location for outdoor events such as their anticipated Salsa Nights, the courtyard is set up for fine weather to complement their fine food and fine wines.

crosskeys vineyard cuban inspired vineyard dinner

The patio has a European flair with stone walls and a flagstone floor. Comfortable outdoor seating allows visitors to relax and enjoy the award-winning, estate-grown wines. Order delicious Bistro dishes to the patio table, or opt for flights from CrossKeys’ tasting room paired with a classic charcuterie spread. During cooler months there’s nothing quite like gathering around one of the inset fire pit tables while enjoying your meal.

Whether visitors choose to eat indoors at the Bistro itself or enjoy their time outdoors under the expansive Virginia sky, they are sure to enjoy views of the verdant hills surrounding the vineyards. Chef Leo’s perfectly paired dishes and the winery’s expertly curated wine selections can only enhance the sensory experience.

Courtyard Dining on Salsa Nights

For dance lovers, attending CrossKeys’ Salsa Nights is a must. These popular special events feature Latin Jazz music and beginner Salsa and Bachata lessons. The DJ plays tunes perfect for the Merengue, Mambo and ChaCha during the open dance segment of the evening. Salsa Nights take place in the Courtyard during good weather and in the ballroom if the weather is not cooperative. These exciting evenings also give Cuban-born Chef Leo Velazquez an opportunity to improvise with seasonal ingredients. He creates Latin-inspired dishes for a playful and spontaneous menu. Advance tickets and table reservations are available online, so keep an eye on our event calendar for these unique evenings at CrossKeys Vineyards. If you can’t make Salsa Night, you can still enjoy live music from local performers at the regular Finally Friday celebrations or relax to soothing jazz at Sunday brunch.

crosskeys vineyard cuban inspired vineyard dinner

When the Bahktiars planted their first grapes in 2001, their vision was to create a gathering place for both locals and visitors in the gorgeous landscape of the Shenandoah Valley. Inspired by the historic Cross Keys Tavern from the early 19th century, the couple created their logo of two crossed golden keys symbolizing their goal of offering excellent hospitality, exquisite wines, delicious food and stunning events. The award-winning wines of CrossKeys Vineyards and the unique culinary offerings of The Bistro are the results of those goals. They continue to strive to offer guests a truly one-of-a-kind experience at every visit. ~

GINGER WARDER is a freelance writer specializing in arts, entertainment, travel with pets, and European destinations. Author of Fido’s Virginia and Fido’s Florida (both Countryman), she is a member of the Society of American Travel Writers and  lives in Richmond, Virginia with her German Shepherd, Lola, and her cat, Gizmo.

R. L. JOHNSON is our Co-Publisher and Creative Director. Bethke studied at the prestigious ArtCenter College of Design and began her career as a professional photographer in Los AngelesShe moved into graphic design and art direction when she relocated to Charlottesville in 1994. As our company’s co-founder and visionary, she enjoys all aspects of storytelling.

Virginia Wine & Country celebrates elevated living in Virginia Wine Country. Virginia Wine & Country Life is a semi-annual luxury print magazine with a full digital presence. The Virginia Wine & Country Gold Book is an annual guide to the top award-winning wines, wineries and experiences in Virginia Wine Country. The annual Virginia Wine & Country Wedding Planner is an art book of elegant Virginia weddings. Virginia Wine & Country tells the stories of Virginia wineries, the farm-to-table movement, luxury travel, entertaining, art and the elegant country lifestyle. Ivy Life & Style Media also provides branding, web design and PR services for the wine industry.