Our job as winemakers is to reflect in a glass how and where the grape was grown. This concept of terroir encompasses all the variables of soil type, climate, rain, sunshine and the management of those factors. If we manage to grow the perfect grape, then at least we have the opportunity to make the best wine possible.
This is our mantra, along with the belief that our best wine is yet to be made and that we can always improve.
As of writing this, we are not quite done with our 16th harvest here at Keswick Vineyards, a harvest that will be looked back at in a few years as possibly being one of the best, if not the best of the last 15 years.
Making good wine is no longer acceptable to us, we need to make wines that are emotive, intuitive and are full of character and that all starts in the vineyard.
Our vineyard is special; it has proven to be so having produced grapes for 3 Governor’s Cup winning wines in the past 12 years. The most outstanding of those grapes are the Bordeaux ones along with Viognier and Chardonnay. We are privileged to be stewards of this wonderful piece of wine real estate. After some careful research about our soils and elevation, we decided to expand our Bordeaux planting by 50% with new vines of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot being planted this past spring. It will take a few years before they start producing fruit and probably another 5-10 before they mature and really start producing the quality we are hoping for.
Some of the changes we have implemented have been to  increase the vine density per acre and  introduce multiple clones within the block to ensure a variety of flavors to work with
In the past we had 800 vines per acre and now we have 1200 vines per acre, which means that each vine has to produce 1/3 less fruit for us to achieve the desired tons per acre. We believe that by asking the vine to produce less, the quality of the grapes can only be improved which will result in better wines.
Clonal diversity is also important since each clone of the same grape can produce wines that are completely different. To use our Cabernet Franc as an example, we selected clones 214 [violet, raspberry, tannic with less herbaceous character] and clone 327 [more structured and brighter acidity]. Ultimately the goal is to create diversity that can be managed and vinified accordingly, creating more interesting and profound wines.
Thankfully we received adequate rainfall during the months of May and June; the young vines thrived in these conditions with very little need on our part to water.
Leading up to harvest, the growing season was pretty typical. We were spraying every 9-12 days as needed, disease pressure was kept in check and the Japanese beetles were testing our patience to the limit. Netting was put up to deter birds and deer and veraison started late July, into August.
Harvested started August 22nd which is about one week earlier than normal. Our Chardonnay is always the first to come off and that was taken off with mechanical harvester in the early hours of the morning. Our Chardonnay has been the white that has received the most attention since we are constantly trying to define our style. This year the juice was fermented in tank before being transferred to neutral French Oak barrels for ageing. We did experiment by using a new yeast and by not feeding the ferment as we normally do, favoring reductive winemaking instead, which is a style more common in Burgundy. Reduction in whites is gaining notoriety and things like flinty are a common association with this style of wine. For me, the Chardonnay is far more interesting, the palate is pretty tight and the nose complex. I also believe that this style will favor more time in the barrel and will warrant additional time in the bottle. This might be the best Chardonnay we have produced but for those that love oak and butter, this is not it. Ours is definitely leaner, showing more acidity than normal, the oak is subtle imparting more weight and texture versus primary oak character. Time will tell and our consumers will no doubt be the benchmark for how we rate this wine but I am pretty excited.
In years past we have produce up to 4 viognier wines, with Viognier also used in the V2 and Syrah blends. This year we have made a decision to produce only 2. Our viognier harvested in front of the manor house will comprise the regular estate bottling, and the block on the side of the property will make our Signature Series Viognier.
We have always found it hard to really make 4 distinctive wines, but we do have 2 distinctive blocks of Viognier. One is planted on clay and the other on schist and shale. They ripen differently and taste remarkably different, so we decided to express each wine individually. Our front viognier was machine harvested and has been tank fermented and will be tank matured. The Signature Series Viognier was hand harvested in 3 passes and while tank fermented, is now ageing in tank, stainless steel barrels as well as neutral French Oak barrels. The tank portion will retain the acidity of the Viognier, while the neutral oak will give the wine some texture. The Stainless steel barrels are equipped with interchangeable heads which allows us to introduce a small amount of oak and determine the type of oak used. This is the first time we have used these barrels and the results thus far are enthusing.
Our Signature Series this year is dynamite while the Viognier more than holds its own and is more typical of the wines produced in this area.
The whites this year are very elegant and focused, very clean and very pretty. They will offer immediate enjoyment and the Signature Series wines will reward some cellaring if you have the patience to lay those down.
We are mostly excited about our reds though.
Virginia experienced a drought during harvest which meant we are able to hang our reds and pick them at optimum ripeness. Ripeness is not just a measurement of sugar. We define ripeness by the color of the skins, the color of the seeds and how those tannins taste. We were fortunate enough to be able to pick all our fruit based on these parameters versus racing against the clock to beat the normal rains we get.
Merlot was the first red grape off the vine September 14th, followed closely by the Touriga. Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot grapes were only harvested October 8th, which is about 2-3 weeks later than normal.
All our Bordeaux reds were hand harvested and sorted before being transferred to either stainless steel tank and or T bins for fermentation. We made some subtle changes to the way we make our reds. Fermentation temperature rarely exceeds 88 degrees, punching down or pumping over the cap is occurring less often and the must is again starved of Nitrogen. Yeast selection is based on the  ability to ferment all the sugars  produce little VA or H2S and  require little Nitrogen to do its job.
All of these changes have resulted in wines that are a bit more fruit forward, slightly more interesting due to the fact that they are again in a reduced state. All our fermentations finished without any problems and pressing off was done directly to barrel, allowing us the opportunity to separate the press fractions. This will allow us the ability to track each fraction as they mature and give us more flexibility to blend later.
Most of the wines are now comfortably resting in barrel, just starting to go through the secondary fermentation, where the malic acid turns into lactic acid. These wines are dark and inky, the tannins are quite soft and supple and I think will turn out to be the best we have done so far.
Look out for the stellar Cabernet, PV and Merlot wines, they are all superb.
I get asked a lot of time about barrels and how we use them. We see oak in terms of salt and pepper for food. If you have a great protein you might add some spices to bring out the flavor of the protein and that is what we require from our barrels. We have moved to larger format barrel and use very little new oak. We do not want to mask the purity of these wines; we want you to taste the fruit of the Merlot, the spice of the Cabernet Franc and the licorice of the PV. The oak has to hold that all together without being too dominant.
It might be a bit too early to really gauge the strength of the vintage and quality of the wines, but all signs hint that what we have in the winery right now is quite special. Virginia has gone from strength to strength and I would like to think that Keswick is doing the same.
Lastly, I have quite a few people to thank as the success of the harvest is directly the product of hard work of many people.
Firstly I would like to thank Al and Cindy for allowing us the freedom to craft these wines and to go a little crazy and indulge our need for pushing the envelope, without their support we would not be able to progress.
To my wife Kathy, she holds everything together and is by far the most understanding, supportive and beautiful human in this world; I love you and will see you soon.
To Danny, Lewis, Gerardo, Izzy and Luis - Their work is crucial to these wines and I could not do it without them and thank them for their dedication.
Thank you to Chris Hill who has been instrumental in helping us get better
To Shannon, Kerry, Joan, Alease, Marina, Mr.Rich Stover and all of our wine club members that have helped us pick or sort, we really appreciate all your support.
And to the rest of our amazing staff, Brian, Karen, Meghan and others, our success is shared and we look forward to keep growing and getting better.
And to all our customers, we thank you for your continued support. We promise to continue striving to make the best wines possible and hope that these new 2017 wines will not disappoint. Wishing everyone a joyous Thanksgiving and blessed holiday season!
Stephen Barnard and the entire Keswick Vineyards staff
Wrapping up our third wedding this week end we celebrated the marriage of Lyndsay & Shawn on Sunday, October 1st. What better way to begin the month of October then to have florals just loaded with fall colors and using pumpkins as vases. The vibrant colors of the brides bouquet just popped against her dress.
I just loved what this couple used for their guest book. They had a canvas that had some silk grape leaves on it. Guests would sign purple wood circles and then stick them to the canvas to create a grape cluster. Afterwards the couple will hang this in their home. Pretty creative huh?
I also thought it was a great idea to have little cards that had the flavors of each cupcake. They were held up with corks like you would do escort cards. This way everyone knew which flavor of cupcake to take. I also like how they didn’t forget their dog Ginger. Ginger couldn’t physically attend their wedding so they had a ceramic piece of Ginger on display at their dessert table along with a photo of the three of them. I just love those little personal touches!
Finally, the food. You can’t go wrong when you have Exchange Events under the direction of Jaclyn catering your wedding here. I couldn’t pass on the shrimp and grits and I know the bride and her guests couldn’t get enough of the hush puppies! Also, each guest had a box of New Jersey taffy waiting for them at their table. And to finish off the night the couple had a s’mores bar for guests to help themselves to. What a great way to finish off the evening.
The following photos were taken by owner Cindy Schornberg, to see the professional photographer's photos check the link at the bottom of the page.
Special thanks to the following vendors: Keswick Vineyards as their day of coordinator, Officiant Dave Norris, Exchange Events Catering, Desserts by Passionflower Cakes, DJ Mark Allen, Photographer Jodi Gray, Hair & Make-up by Zaheda Rahman, Colonial Florist, Rentals provided by MS Events and lighting by Skyline Tent Company.
Check out Jodi Gray's Photographs Here!
One of my favorite things about hosting weddings at Keswick Vineyards is being able to witness different cultures and their wedding traditions. On Saturday, September 30th, Katie and Ben were married surrounded by their family and friends.
The day started out with the Chinese tradition of a tea ceremony. The events that led up to the tea ceremony were so much fun for everyone to watch. It started with the groom and his groomsmen skipping their way to the pool gate. On the other side were the bridesmaids. Ben had to convince them that he was worthy of Katie’s hand in marriage. So, the bridesmaids had several games he had to pass in order for them to grant him access to her.
For the first game the groomsmen strapped an empty Kleenex box around their waste. Inside the box was jingle bells. They had to shake their boxes so the bells would come out for the groom to catch in his box. The amount of bells caught would represent how much he wanted to marry Katie. He passed that test!
For the second game the bridesmaids figured out a way that Benjamin would never forget how to spell Katie’s name. Each groomsmen had to put on a diaper. With a sharpie in their mouth, they had to each write a letter on the back side of a diaper to spell out her name. He also passed this test!
Finally, Ben had to practice on his groomsmen how to make Katie’s toes curl. The bridesmaids would direct different locations for Ben to lick whip cream off of each groomsmen. Ben and his groomsmen were all very good sports and he passed this test also which proved he was cleared to marry Katie.
From that point, the formal tea ceremony started. Each set of parents were presented with some tea from the couple as they kneeled and received blessings from their parents. Now, a quick bit to eat and it was time to get ready for the Western American ceremony.
Katie & Benjamin chose to be married closest to the vineyard with the mountains in the back ground. The weather was just picture perfect. As they exited the ceremony guests blew bubbles to join in the celebration. While the couple went to take some more photos, guests enjoyed cocktails and appetizers.
Once under the tent, dinner and dancing was on the schedule to last the rest of the evening. If you will notice, they decided to change the color of our up lighting in the tent to purple. To finish off the evening, Katie and Benjamin enjoyed taking some funny photos in the photo booth.
Thanks to the following vendors for making this cultural wedding day one to remember by all who attended: Catering by C&O, Wedding Planner Anh Dang, Chandler’s Bakery, DJ Dennis Payne, Videographer Emotion Pictures, Photographer Kelly of Kay Pea Photography, Hair & Make-up by Transformations Artistry, Flowers by Willow Branch, Photo Booth of Charlottesville, Rentals by MS Events and Transportation by Richmond Limousine.
The marriage of Amanda & Evan on Friday, September 29, 2017 started a three wedding week end at Keswick Vineyards and what a beautiful day it was! Amanda and her bridesmaids spent the afternoon in our bridal suite getting their hair done while enjoying some wine. The guys all relaxed in our “man’s cave” while watching football, playing pool and of course, enjoying some refreshments. What a great way to have everyone in one space to begin the celebration.
For their ceremony, Amanda and Evan did the sand tradition. With that, they each have a bottle with a different color of sand in it. One at a time they pour a little of their sand into a container. Each color of sand represents their two separate lives. Then, once they both have done that, they both pour at the same time their bottles of sand into the container to represent that the two of them are forever blended together and cannot be separate any more. They will then keep that glass container on display in their home to always remind them that they are inseparable.
Some of their décor I really loved. 1st, the making of a bar using 2 wine barrels and a wood table top. They added an extra feature of hanging a frame from the center of it to give it that little personal touch. Next, their table numbers which they made. Using wine bottles, they put number stickers on the wine bottles, spray painted them, then removed the number stickers and put some lights inside the bottle that were attached to a cork with an on/off switch. LOVED them! And finally, the 3 picture frames used to mark their 1st day, the yes day, and the best day. How cute is that?
Thanks to the following vendors for doing such a fantastic job: Karissa Coffey as their wedding planner, Catering by Goodrich Gourmet, Officiant Rev. Ed Martin, Desserts by Natalie Mongold, DJ Andy Wilfong of Party Masters, Videographer Christy Stevens, Hair by Lauren Perkins, Flowers by Zoie, Transportation by Camryn Limousine and tent lighting by Skyline Tent Company.
What a wonderful way to wrap up a triple wedding week end with Kim & Mike’s wedding on Sunday, September 24, 2017. Kim’s day was off to a great start when her BFF Bridal Crew arrived at the bridal suite at Keswick Vineyards with robes, balloons, food & drinks for everyone! I’m so happy that I was in the room when they arrived to capture that special moment. You could see the total delight on Kim’s face. I knew her wedding day was off to a great start!
While all the bridesmaids enjoyed the treats brought by the BFF Bridal Crew, Make-up/hair artist Jeanne Cusick began to work her magic making each girl a princess. I just love a table full of make-up!
Outside Barb Wired, the event planner for this Virginia vineyard wedding, was busy tending to the details. I just loved how they made a personal wine label for their table numbers. I’ve never seen a wine bottle used exactly this way before and I thought it was a perfect fit for a vineyard wedding. I also liked how they used Keswick Vineyards corks to hold each escort card. On one side the names were hand written while on the flip side was the table number. Again, just a little winery detail to tie the wedding decorations with the venue
I often get asked what a wedding looks like that is smaller in size at Keswick Vineyards. Well, you can see for yourself. Kim & Mike had 60 people attending their wedding which made it very intimate for all. They decided to divide the Sperry tent to allow one side for dining and the other as a lounge for later in the evening. The bar and rented lounge furniture from MS Events was just the perfect touch for the other side of the tent. Guests were able to hang out in a relaxed atmosphere while enjoying some award-winning wines and music.
Special thanks to the following vendors for making sure every detail was just perfect for this wedding: Event Planner – Barb Wired, Caterer – Harvest Moon, Desserts – Passionflower, DJ – Derek Tobler, Photographer – Rachel Haggerdy, Florist – Secret Garden, Rentals – MS Events, Tent Lighting – Skyline Tent Company, Hair & Make-up – Jeanne Cusick
Lauren & Spencer’s wedding day was finally here! On Saturday, September 23, 2017, family and friends celebrated their joyous occasion in style! Guests were transported from local hotels to Keswick Vineyards by large motor coaches. Guests made their way along a brick walk way lined with hydrangeas, through a wood pergola to the protégé to sign the guest book. For the guest book guests would leave a thumb print on a canvas and then sign it. This canvas will be framed and hung in the home of the couple as a constant reminder of their wedding day.
Lauren & Spencer chose what we call our “fall” location for their vineyard ceremony. This location has no bad view to it! Depending on the angle you choose, you can look at the estate, the fountain, the vineyard or the mountains. It has such a panoramic view that just stuns all that see it.
After the vineyard ceremony guests enjoyed some appetizers and drinks while the wedding party and couple spent some time getting photos taken. I love the soft pink colors that the bridesmaids wore. One of my favorite photos was one I snapped of the couple back by the pool. The reflection the lighting was providing was just perfect!
After a delicious dinner guests made their way just outside the wedding reception Sperry tent to enjoy a bourbon and cigar bar. To make that area even nicer the couple had bistro lights strung to cast an ambient glow overhead. Back under the tent guests danced the night away under the 30 Asian lanterns hung throughout the tent.
Again, special thanks to our superb vendors that worked so hard that evening: Event Planner-Keswick Vineyards, Caterer-Harvest Moon, Photographer-Corey Hammons of Altamiria Film Company, Florist-Hedge Fine Blooms, Lighting-Skyline Tent Company, Officiant-Kirk Nave, Desserts-Favorite Cakes, DJ-Andy Wilfong, Transportation-Ambassador Limousine, Hair & Make-up-Anna Breeding.
What better way to celebrate the first day of fall then to have an all outdoor wedding in Virginia and that’s what Melissa & Andrew did on Friday, September 22, 2017 at Keswick Vineyards. The floral colors they chose were just perfect for such a day with white, yellow and orange hues adorning the bouquets and floral decorations. What made these floral arrangements extra special was that they did them themselves! Yes, take another look at my photos. Can you believe they ordered these flowers from Costco and then made everything themselves? Take a look at their escort cards. They also made them! I just love the little stickers that were placed on each name card.
Guest had a wonderful time at this wedding. Immediately at cocktail hour they feasted on sour dough pretzels with cheese sauce and some brie wrapped in phyllo dough along with some other cheeses and fruits prepared by Bavarian Chef. As guests enjoyed some food and wine they could also play some yard games; corn hole of course.
Dinner was served buffet style with so many choices. Speaking of choices, what about those cupcakes? They were displayed on a wood tower that was a piece of artwork. Pictures really don’t capture was a magnificent piece of wood this tower was made from and boy was it heavy! To work off some of those calories guests danced the night away under the direction of DJ Fit.
Special thanks to the following vendors: Logan Powell as their wedding planner, Officiant Dave Norris, Catering by Bavarian Chef, Desserts by Sweethaus and Chandler’s Bakery, DJ Nathan Fit (DJ Fit), Photographer Ashley Eiban and Transportation by UTS.
The love between Cinthya and Brandon was solidified with their wedding at Keswick Vineyards on Sunday, September 17, 2017. The blessings these two had to make their wedding day just perfect was over whelming.
First, Mother Nature. Once again, she provided the most perfect weather with a slight breeze and just enough cloud coverage to make their photographer ecstatic! With no harsh sun to have to worry about, taking photos anywhere was possible.
Secondly, their family & friends. Cinthya and Brandon’s wedding cake was made by her girlfriend. She did such a beautiful job decorating it and by the way guests ate it up, I would say it tasted just as good as it looked! Their sister-in-law did an AMAZING job with their flowers. The bouquets were so beautiful and I loved how she decorated the aisle and our wood pergola with tulle and flowers. Cinthya also had her friends Colleen and Zoila do hair and make-up and one more friend provided all the linens. I just loved the dark purple linen she used on her cake table. All guests were lead in hymn during the ceremony yet by another girlfriend that had an amazing voice! And it doesn’t get much better then to have your Pastor deliver such a personal touch to the ceremony.
And finally, the vendors. Cinthya and Brandon had an amazing team of vendors that worked seamlessly throughout the entire day/night to make this day a dream come true for them. I really liked how she had the linens on her hi-top cocktail tables tied. Special thanks to: Keswick Vineyards as their Day of Coordinator, Blue Ridge Catering, DJ Derek Tobler, Ward Photography, Videographer Franco, Barnswallow Blooms, Pastor Eric Saunders and rentals by MS Events.
Congratulations to Gina & Douglas who were married at Keswick Vineyards on Saturday, September 16, 2017. Once again, Mother Nature provided us with a gorgeous day laying the perfect backdrop for this Virginia vineyard wedding.
This couple went all out on making sure their guests would be in awe throughout the entire wedding. To start off they had champagne at their pre-ceremony refreshment stand while a quartet played in the background. Guests enjoyed that time to mingle amongst one another while enjoying the breathtaking mountain and vineyard views Keswick Vineyards has to offer. As guests found their seat they noticed that Gina & Douglas had hired a live painter to create a canvas oil painting of their ceremony. Gina was then escorted down the aisle by her Mother and Father.
After the ceremony guests went to cocktail hour where they immediately saw the hard work Gina’s father had done by creating these large ivory boards that had table assignments displayed on them. He made two of them so they framed the entrance to the reception tent. Once again, Gina had an eye for detail and hung garland and drapery at the main entrance of the sailcloth Sperry tent just to set the stage for the rest of the evening. She also had jazz guitarist Peter Richardson to entertain guests during cocktail hour.
Once under the tent guests couldn’t help but notice the large greenery chandelier hanging over the dance floor with little bulb lights hanging down from it. It was definitely the focal point while everyone enjoyed the delicious plated dinner prepared by Harvest Moon. Afterwards there was cake and dancing until it was finally time to send the couple off with a sparkler departure.
Special thanks to the following vendors for making Gina & Douglas’s dream wedding come true: Wedding Planner, Brousseau Events; Caterer, Harvest Moon; Cake by Sweethaus; DJ Max Powers; Perfect Harmony Quartet; Jazz Guitarists Peter Richardson; Videographer, B. Sandridge Wedding Films; Hair by Elle Style Studio; Make-up by Nicole Laughlin; Florist, The Proper Petal; Lighting by Skyline Tent Company, Officiant, Reverend Dr. Ronald A. Rinn; Photographer, Corrine Kensington; Transportation, Blue Ridge Tours & Central Virginia Wine Tours and Rentals by MS Events, Classic Party Rentals, Sweetwater Cuisine & The AV Company.
Congratulations to Shannon and Jason who were married at the beautiful Keswick Vineyards located just outside Charlottesville on Saturday, September 9th. With the couple living in New York, planning from a distance was something they had to do. Shannon was very fortunate that her parents lived locally and spent a lot of time helping to ensure that their daughter had her dream wedding.
As Shannon was about to leave her bridal suite to head to the ceremony location I saw her father waiting in the man’s cave. I asked if he had seen his daughter yet? He replied, “no”. Well, I knew this was one of those moments that we just had to take a time out and make it happened. I quickly got Shannon situated so when her father opened the door to see her, he simply couldn’t believe his eyes. His reaction was priceless and I only wished I could have snapped a picture of his reaction. It’s those moments that make doing weddings so special. You can see by my photos just how beautiful Shannon was in her dress. Her bouquet was definitely my favorite feature of this wedding. It was the perfect compliment to her dress.
Shannon’s Mom is Jamaican so it was important to incorporate some of her heritage into the wedding day and what better way to do that then with rum. Family members made Jamaican Black Cake cupcakes and a Rum Cake besides the couple having a traditional wedding cake. Hey Mon, it was delicious!
Guests danced the night away under Asian lanterns hung over the dance floor. And what better way to end the night then with a sparkler departure to their get away car.
Thanks to the following vendors for their exceptional service: Event Planner, Keswick Vineyards; Caterer, Harvest Moon; Cakes by Rachel, DJ John Garland, Photographer, Robert Radifera; Florist, Secret Gardens; Officiant, Rabbi Annie Bornstein; Musician, Eve Watters; Hair & Make-up, Charlottesville Makeup Artist; Transportation, A Goff Limo and Lighting by Skyline Tent Company.