Umbra Winery Review
Address: 415 South Main Street Grapevine,Texas 76051.
Phone Number: 817-421-2999
Tasting Hours: Sun-Thurs 11:00-9:00, Fri-Sat 11:00-11:00
Reviewer: Becky Parr
Review Date: 3/19/2014
Reviewer: Becky Parr
*This review was produced prior to the winery changing its name from Crossroads to Umbra and moving to Grapevine.
If Crossroads Winery had a tasting room in a well-traveled area, its business would boom.
Even though it’s located in the unlikeliest of places, in a bit of an industrial district west of Frisco, it’s a fun experience. Crossroads has been around since 2005, but the winery was recently purchased by former chemical engineer John Wilson, who declared, “Making wine is a lot like making chemicals but it sure does taste better.”
The Place:  Location is really Crossroads’ only downfall. Driving west from Frisco, you really think you’ve missed it, but you haven’t. When you get to the series of green-painted, low buildings that look like warehouses, you think, “That can’t be a winery!” But lo and behold, one of those low green warehouse-looking buildings is indeed the winery. Suspend your suspicion it’s much cuter on the inside.
With a high ceiling, hard floors, tastefully scattered hanging lights, and a partial second floor overlooking the main floor like a balcony, Crossroads’ interior is the perfect setup for a great party. In talking to owner John Wilson, he told us about some weddings and parties they’d had at the winery, complete with live music. There’s a small gift shop area next to the tasting counter along one side of the large rooms, and barrels here and there to lend to the winery atmosphere. I even checked out the bathroom (ladies will understand why this is important) and I really wish my photo of the sink had come out! It’s a bowl sitting on top of a converted wine barrel. Totally clever.
The People:  When my friend and I drove up, John was sitting outside the door on a bar stool. It was a lovely day, so I don’t blame him! We got out of the car, and he grinned and said, “You’re going to make me do some work, aren’t you?” And yes, we made him earn his keep, by deciding to taste pretty much everything he had available. John has the perfect personality for a wine tasting room; friendly, chatty, affable, and full of stories. We were the only ones in the winery, but we stayed and chatted for quite a long time. We learned that John got married in 2013 (just like me!) and heard his stories of meeting his now-wife online and driving to the Dallas area from Longview to date her. When they married, the winery was apparently a good solution to the lack of chemical plants in their target residential area. Way to trade up, John!
Although the winery’s ownership has changed hands, the winemaker is still John Otis. John Wilson was excited to tell us about some of the varietals they have “coming soon.” Currently the website is announcing a pending release of Chardonnay, and a Pinot Noir is also in the works. I can’t wait to see what they come up with! We received a preview of the custom-designed, very cool artwork that will be used on some of the new bottles. I also learned a few things about the approval process for getting a wine named. I had no idea the government got so intimately involved in the process of naming wines!
The Wines:  Now, the best part! John apologized for not having a tasting notes sheet available to write on, but he did have a menu of wines for us to look at, complete with descriptions. I was extraordinarily sad that John was out of a couple of things, most notably the Tempranillo known as Temper Tantrum. (Is that not a great name for a wine?)
We started with the drier white, and instantly we had a hit. Just as a side note, I was with my best friend Michelle that day, and she and I do NOT agree on white wine. We can drink red together all day, but when it comes to white, I vastly prefer Chardonnay, and she vastly prefers the lighter whites such as Pinot Grigio. So it’s hard to split a bottle of white wine in the summer when it’s 100 degrees and red is just too heavy. Crossroads’ Speed Bump, however, hit the jackpot. It’s a Pinot Gris, but in my mouth it had more substance than many Pinot Gris/Grigio wines I have tried. Its heavier body made me like it. On Michelle’s side, it didn’t have the oaky flavor that she dislikes in Chardonnay. We each bought a bottle. Three weeks later, mine is in the refrigerator, armed and ready for drinking. Hers is gone.
Then we went through four reds, including some of Crossroads’ best sellers: Sangiovese, Merlot, Syrah, and CSM (Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot blend). Each was better than the last and that’s saying something, because they were all great! I’m not a huge Sangiovese fan, but this one was very pleasant. I think Merlot sometimes gets a bad rap (I’m not quoting the movie Sideways, you all know what they said about Merlot) but I was ready to buy this one. I really got the berries; and the website describes the tannins as subtle, and I’d totally agree with that. The mouth feel and finish were quite pleasant.
I said I WAS ready to plunk down my money for the Merlot but then I tasted the Syrah and the CSM, and I think I actually said a bad word, because I really didn’t want to buy ALL of them. I did end up buying both the Syrah and the CSM. My husband and I had the Syrah with green chili stew, and it was quite robust enough to stand up to the spiciness of the chili. It was a perfect pairing, frankly. John said the CSM is one of his most popular wines, and I can see why. It’s a great blend. Like the Speed Bump, it has won awards, and I had to take it home with me. It’s smooth and luscious and would be great with steak.
John poured us two Cabernet Sauvignons, the 2008 Reserve and the 2009. He said that until recently the 2008 had been the favorite among patrons, but recently the 2009 had taken over. They were both good, but Michelle and I both preferred the 2009. Apparently it has come into its time. If I was made out of money, I would have bought this one too and let it hang out for another six months.
The sweet wines came last, and I can’t do this article without mentioning My Cheeky Bastard. This is a blush of Muscat Canelli, and of course I found it too sweet, but I had Michelle along to judge, and she enjoyed it. It’s won numerous People’s Choice awards at our local Grapefest in Grapevine. I understand why it appeals to the sweet wine drinkers and has an awesome name!
The Experience:  Overall, this was a great day. It’s really too bad it’s not more convenient to where I live, because it might become a regular hangout if it was! The wines are really good, whether you like red, white, or sweet. (Can we have a sparkling, John? Just sayin!) The host was fantastic. Based on some hints John dropped, I think good changes are on the horizon for Crossroads, and I can’t wait to see what they do.