After more than three decades of offering wines, Chateau Morrisette plans to soon add cider and eventually craft beer to its palette.
The family-owned Chateau, located south of Floyd off the Blue Ridge Parkway, is slated to begin serving its own three ciders in August in an effort to meet growing interest in craft beverages.
The winery, a regional wine tasting destination since it opened in 1982, has also filed for a beer license with the Virginia Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control as part of long-term plans to establish its own brewery.
“We’ve seen the growth and popularity of cider and craft beer. Growth in those products have been exponential over the past couple of years,” said Chateau spokesman Keith Toler.
Much of the growing interest in craft beverages is being pushed by millennials — a roughly defined demographic group of adults aged between 20 and 40 years old — “who want to experience new products, new tastes and new flavors,” Toler said.
“Honestly, we feel that if someone enjoys cider, they might move to sweet wines and upgrade their palate to higher-end wines,” he said.
Chateau began considering a brewery operation last year, but the infrastructure to make and sell beer is still another one to two years away, Toler said.
“It hasn’t been on the front burner. The cider opportunity appeared, so we decided to go with the cider route first,” he said. But “you see the popularity of craft beer now, and we just felt it was something we needed to look at.”
The winery’s beer license application, which is still pending, was filed in February 2015.
It created a company called Chateau Morrisette Cider Works to represent its cider operations, and it plans to start its offerings with 3,200 12-ounce bottles of each kind of cider: a cherry ginger cider, a chai cider and barrel-aged dry cider, each with an alcohol content of no higher than 7 percent.
The ciders will be made with apples picked from the Silver Creek Orchards in Nelson County.
Chateau will exclusively sell and sample its ciders on site before determining if it wants to roll the beverages out on a much larger scale. Toler said the winery is in discussions about potential cider distribution.
Although the ciders themselves will be made at the winery, the bottling and carbonating will occur at Chaos Mountain Brewing in Franklin County.
The number of operating breweries in the U.S. grew by 15 percent in 2015 to 4,269 breweries, according to the latest report from the Brewers Association, a trade group that represents small and independent American craft brewers. The group described that number of breweries as “the most at any time in American history.”
The Brewers Association also described the South as one of the fastest growing regions, noting Virginia as among the four states that each saw a net of increase of more than 20 breweries.