No need to fear, Teresa & Jason's super hero wedding is here! Closing out our three Memorial week end weddings was Teresa & Jason being married on Sunday, May 24th. Once again the weather was picture perfect! Everyone in their wedding party was a super hero. All the girls had a garter that was a super hero and all the guys wore a super hero t-shirt under their suits. Even a superman figure made its way onto their wedding cake that was topped with the words, "To Infinity and Beyond". Teresa & Jason brought a little bit of their Chinese heritage into their wedding by having hand fans for guests to use during the ceremony and then each table setting had a little red satin bag with treats inside. Instead of guests signing a guest book, they had painted on a piece of wood a tree with leaves that each guests would sign. What a beautiful keepsake they will be able to hang in their home. Guests were treated to an amazing dinner which featured a whole roasted pig! A delicious dessert table was on hand also to complete the feasting. What I loved the most from this wedding was how the guests applauded all during the ceremony. When the parents were seated, they would clap. When the groom and the groomsmen came out, they clapped. When they saw the bride, they stood and clapped. As the couple left, they clapped. Even when the parents left, they clapped. I wish more wedding would do that. It was just so nice to see how they appreciated every moment of that ceremony. Not sure if that is a Chinese thing or just how these guests were but I LOVED it! Special thanks to the following vendors for doing a great job: Events by Elizabeth Palmer as their event planner, Caterer BBQ Exchange, Desserts by Amanda Robinson of Sweet Fix RVA, DJ Andy Wolfing of Party Masters Entertainment, Photographer Tyler Corvin, Hair & Make-up by Jennifer Saunders MUA, Black Creek Flowers & Sweets, Albemarle Limousine for buses and get away car, Photo Booth by Andrew Yanz of Yanz Events, Rentals by MS Events and Officiant Richard Galarza.
Our second wedding on this Memorial week end was Stephanie & Mhamed who were married on Saturday, May 23rd. Again, the weather was just perfect! Just like yesterdays wedding, Stephanie & Mhamed did something different during their ceremony. Being from two different cultures, they chose at the beginning of their ceremony to have guests stand up and greet the person next to them and embrace them with a hug if they were comfortable with that. Stephanie & Mhamed wasn't real sure how this would go over but it went better then they could of imagined. I saw families going from one side of the aisle to the other to introduce themselves and become one family at that moment. It was the perfect thing to do to break any cultural differences. Stephanie ended up wearing three different dresses which all had special meanings to her. Her first dress that she wore for her ceremony was the same dress her Mother wore at her wedding! How special is that? Her Mother-in-law brought her a yellow dress from Morocco to represent their family heritage. Finally, her third dress was one she could dance the night away in! Stephanie and Mhamed have such a loving and caring nature to them and it was evident by them donating to charities in their guests names versus having any favors for them. The orchids in Stephanie's bouquet and floral arrangements were amazing! My favorite part had to be the delicious sweet table created by Sweet Haus but my daughter really enjoyed the Henna artist that was their through out the evening for the guests. Thanks to the following vendors for making this wedding so special: Caterer & Event Planning by Roadside Chive, Officiant Julie Trump, Desserts by Sweet Haus, Photographer Eric Lee from George Street Photography, Hair & Make-up by Atlas Salon, Flowers by Verde Natural Florals, The Henna Lady and DJ Ran Henry.
Memorial Day week end is always a very busy wedding week end at Keswick Vineyards. Starting off our triple wedding week end was Lauren & Alex's wedding on Friday, May 22nd. Being from Texas, Alex had each of his groomsmen wear a Texas flag bow tie. Alex, of course, wore his cowboy boots as a true Texan would. Lauren and her bridesmaids looked so glamorous is their champaign colored dresses. Lauren & Alex chose the side lawn of Edgewood Estate at Keswick Vineyards to host their ceremony to take advantage of the whole view of the Estate, the fountain, the vineyard and the mountains. Truly the most spectacular view! Lauren & Alex did something really neat during their ceremony that I have never seen before. At the beginning of the ceremony the officiant took some time to introduce each member of the wedding party so the rest of the guests attending would know a little bit about them and how they new the couple. Really personalized their ceremony and the guests really enjoyed it. Another very personalized and touching moment was the father/daughter dance. Lauren's father had been writing a song since Lauren was born incorporating all those significant moments like birth, first day of school, college and then marriage into it. He and Lauren had prerecorded the song with the two of them singing it. At the end of the song it requested that everyone join them on the dance floor to celebrate this special day. Wow, hard to beat that one huh? Alex's father also had his moment to shine that evening. He took center stage to use a saber to open a bottle of champaign! It was perfect! Lastly, the groom and his groomsmen really stoled the night when they surprised Lauren with a perfectly choreographed dance finishing with the guys lifting her in a chair. Alex, you really did an awesome job! So, as you can see, this wedding was definitely done BIG but what else would you expect from some Texans? Congratulations and thanks to the following vendors: Wedding Planner Becca Bee's Events, Caterer Caroline Street, Officiant Charlie Parker, Photographer Rebecca Keeling, Hair & Make-up by Jeanne Cusick, Colonial Florist, Desserts by Sweethaus and Easy Riders for transportation.
Congratulations to Amy & Brent who were married amongst the vineyard vines for their wedding at Keswick Vineyards on Saturday, May 9th. Nothing can be more beautiful then to have picture perfect weather for an all outdoor wedding. Amy & Brent had such luck! Taking full advantage of all the outdoor, landscaped areas surrounding Edgewood Estate, Amy & Brent rented furniture to create mini "living rooms" for guests to hang out and relax. To make sure the guests could continue to enjoy these social gathering areas in the evening, bistro lights were hung in the lawn area to create this beautiful "living" outdoor space equipped with a cigar bar and Carpe Donuts! Boy did their guests have a great time! Between the outdoor living spaces to the lively, non-stop dancing under the tent, what more could one ask for? Perhaps some delicious food? Yep, they also had that. C&O Catering did an outstanding job not only with delicious, gourmet food but with superior service. Topping off the night was a beautiful sunset that the couple took full advantage of by leaving their reception for a little while for some photos during that magical hour. Highly recommend that if your timeline will allow for it. How do you finish off a perfect wedding? By doing a sparkler departure into a vintage car with driver waiting for you. Amy & Brent really knew how to throw a great party and thank you for choosing Keswick Vineyards to be a part of it. Special thanks to the following vendors for doing such an amazing job: C&O Catering, DJ TD Layman of Sound Enforcement, Photographer Nikki Santerre, Hair & Make-up by Moxie Hair Lounge, Green Flamingo Florist, Carpe Donut Food Truck, Paisley & Jade for furniture rentals, Officiant Derek Straw, Luke Gray String Quartet, Albemarle Vintage Limousine, Buses by Easy Riders and Keswick Vineyards as Day Of Coordinator.
Check out Nikki Santerre's Blog for more pictures from this wedding!
Well, Stephanie & Dan definitely hit the lottery when it comes to gorgeous weather. On Saturday, May 2nd, Stephanie and Dan were married amongst the blooming vineyard at Keswick Vineyards. The skies were so blue with puffy white clouds scattered throughout providing just a little breeze to keep everyone comfortable in the sun. It has been a pleasure to work with Stephanie and Dan over the past year. They and their families were such a delight to be around and we all had such a great time at their wedding. Their ceremony was definitely one to remember. You definitely could tell that the Reverend had known Dan and his family for some time and he put that personal spin to it which makes it so much more touching and meaningful. Stephanie chose eggplant purple for her bridesmaids and Dan went with charcoal grey suits for him and the groomsmen. What a beautiful color combination accented with green & white bouquets. Dan had all his groomsmen wear matching patriotic socks which were a big hit. Thanks to all our wonderful vendors who week after week do such an amazing job for our weddings: Caterer Harvest Moon Catering, DJ T.D. Layman of Sound Enforcement, Photographer Tyler Corvin, Hedge Fine Blooms as Florist, Albemarle Limousine for transportation, Photo Booth of Charlottesville, Cake by Cake I Do!, Officiant Reverend Michael Catlett and Keswick Vineyards as Day Of Event Planner
On Saturday, April 25th, Catherine & Will said their I Do's to each other in front of family and friends at Keswick Vineyards. Unfortunately, the weather was less then perfect for their wedding day. Virginia was experiencing a cold front and rain that day:( So, what do you do when you have planned for an outdoor wedding and the weather doesn't cooperate with your plans? You make sure you have a good back up plan and at Keswick Vineyards, we do so the wedding went off and they were married and everything worked out at the end. If you are going to choose to get married outdoors, you need to make sure you have that personality that can just go with the flow if Mother Nature decides not to grant you perfect weather. As you will see from my photos, everything still turned out picture perfect. Instead of the ceremony being outdoors near the vineyard, it was brought inside under the Sperry tent. The dance floor is used to seat about 30 guests while everyone else takes a seat at a table set up for the reception. A formal aisle is present on the dance floor and the alter is set up as originally planned. On this day, the clear sides of the tent were kept on to keep the heat inside the tent since it was so cold outside. After the ceremony guests enjoyed cocktail hour under the tent while Catherine, Will and the rest of the wedding party went outside for photos in covered areas. While they were out for photos, the tent was arranged back to the "reception" lay-out and the rest of the evening went as planned. Special thanks to all the vendors that had to work a little extra for this wedding but I'm sure Catherine & Will appreciate it as much as I do: Caterer C&O, DJ John Garland, Photography by Tyler & Ashley of The Herrintons, Videography by Sarah & Justin of Lovell Productions, Blue Ridge Floral Design for flowers, Photo Booth of Charlottesville, Albemarle Limousine for transportation, Wedding Cake by Favorite Cakes, Officiant Reverend James Cobb and Musicians for ceremony/cocktail hour provided by Piedmont Chamber Players. Click here to see more photos by The Herrintons and read their blog.
I personally can't think of a better day to get married! Marianne & Tiko were married at Keswick Vineyards on Saturday, April 18th, which is also my wedding anniversary, hence the best day to get married comment. I love that Marianne's song she walked down the aisle to was "our" wedding song also. Definitely brought back some memories. The weather was just perfect for their all outdoor wedding. The men wore black tuxedo's while the bridesmaids gowns were a soft blush color. Gold was an accent color used throughout the tent mixed with the soft blush color. Marianne looked amazing in her wedding dress! Instead of the traditional guest book, Marianne & Tiko had a board with the state of Virginia on it along with their wedding date for guests to sign and leave a note. What a special keepsake they will have to display in their new home. Special thanks to the following vendors for doing a wonderful job: White Birch Events with Cinda Hoege as wedding planner, Catering by The Local, Rentals by MS Events, Officiant Tom Leland, Wedding Cake by Sweet Fix, DJ TD Layman of Sound Enforcement, Photographer Tyler Corvin, Make-up & Hair by Rachel Schrader, Black Creek Florist, Photo Booth of Charlottesville and Ambassador Limousine. Click here to read and see photos by Photographer Tyler Corvin.
Featured Weddingon Borrowed & Blue
Congratulations to Laura & Justin who were the first couple to get married at Keswick Vineyards for 2015! They really hit the jackpot with the weather that day. The skies were clear & blue with the sun shining and a slight breeze. Wish I could clone that weather for every wedding here. Unlike the beautiful weather they had, both Laura & Justin had the flu prior to their wedding day. For the past 4 days they really hadn't eaten and were kept away from everyone else. Everyone was feeling much better at the rehearsal but not so much the next morning. Laura's Mother woke up to the flu! Can you believe that? What horrible timing. I don't think anyone plans on that happening and how do you trouble shoot that? Her Mother rested that morning while everyone else handled the details for her. When she did arrive she looked amazing! She ended up going to the doctor that morning and got a shot to stop the nausea feeling, some other meds, and she was good to go! Thank God! Speaking of God, these two families have a very strong faith in God and it was present throughout the day. Justin's brother played the guitar during the ceremony while beautiful hymns were sung. I especially love how the men came together just before the ceremony to say a prayer for Laura & Justin. It's nice to witness a wedding that emphasis the importance of God in their ceremony. My favorite part of this wedding: I LOVE the bridesmaids bouquets! They were just baby breath and looked so elegant. What a wonderful idea. Special thanks to the following vendors for doing such a wonderful job: Eric Stamer Catering, Barb Wired Event Planning, DJ Andy Wolfing of Party Masters, Photographer Ali Williamson of Alisandra Photography, Floral Designs by Jacquelyn, Camryn Limousine, Rentals provided by Festive Fare, Officiant Chris Attwell, Desserts by Tamara Fare, Hair & Make-up by First Look Artistry & The Photo Booth Co.. Click here to see Alisandra Photography blog.
Featured Wedding on Borrowed & Blue
As we enter the first official day of Spring, we generally reflect on the harvest that was and evaluate the wines as they continue to age or, in our case, finish their secondary fermentation in barrel. It allows us as winemakers to take a critical look at the wines and to judge if harvest decisions and processing protocols were beneficial and if the wines are truly reflective of the vintage as we hoped they would be. I spent a great deal of time with the wines this past weekend, evaluating not only the different varietals, but also the barrels they were in to see how the oak was impacting the wine. I am very pleased to state that I am thrilled with how the wines are developing, and how much more developed they are at this point than they normally are. To understand the strength of the vintage, you have to understand the growing season we had in Charlottesville, Virginia. The key point for me was the much cooler than normal May and June. With evening temperatures in the 50's the fruit was able to retain a lot of its natural acidity, reflected in the harvest chemistry. Acidity for me is a key component in wine, and is arguably one of the things I focus the most on. In cooler growing seasons as was 2014, I find the aromatics of the wine to be that much more pronounced and the wines tend to have a focus and juiciness as opposed to warm vintages. The other benefit is that we deal with lower pH must or juice, which is perfect for us since we ferment most of our wines without the addition of any commercial yeast. This low pH [higher acidity] environment makes it much harder for bacteria to grow and makes it much easier to ferment wines to dryness with the native yeast in the winery. I often get asked why we tend to go this route and the answer is quite simple. As a winemaker, I am aiming to reflect in a glass the manner in which the fruit was grown as opposed to how it was manipulated or made in the winery. I am a firm believer in the notion that the best fruit makes the best wine, while also making wine that is unique and special. My job therefore is to respect the character given to me by the vineyard, and not interfere too much.
Starting off with the whites 2014 Chardonnay: It is not that I do not like the occasional buttery, oak driven Chardonnay. I think there is a time and place for such wines. I truly believe though that the market place is shifting towards more fresher styled wines, wines that showcase minerality or steeliness as opposed to weight and rich textures. Our Chardonnay style is driven by our fruit and the soil on which it is grown. Our Chardonnay grows on fragmented rock, with shale and limestone littering the parcel. If you crack those rocks together, you almost get a saltiness in your nose, it is this character that I want in our wines. We have moved away from barrel fermentation, opting to ferment in tank where fermentation temperatures can be controlled and thus drawn out to about a month before they completely use up all the sugar. By extending the fermentation period upwards, we can essentially create wines that are more linear and focused, while creating aromatics that are clean and more subtle. Our oak regimen is that we exclusively use French oak, but are working more with larger format barrels. Essentially we do not want you swallowing a 2 x 4 when you taste the wine, we want the oak to lift or support the fruit, integrating with those stony fruit, apple and tangerine flavors. Our 2014 is everything we hoped it would be; fresh and vibrant with wonderful acidity, and just a kiss of oak that elevates the fruit and keeps everything in balance. Earmarked for August bottling, this might be the best Chardonnay we have ever produced.
2014 Viognier: The state grape of Virginia, that has come under fire of recent time due to its struggles in the vineyard. Highly prone to frost and bud damage, our 16 acre took quite a hit and we ended up with a minuscule amount of fruit. The positive is that the quality was amazing, and we were able to pick clean fruit that was wonderfully ripe. Viognier is such an intoxicating wine, and you immediately get loads of tropical aromas as you press the fruit. With such little fruit, we did not have the ability to experiment and this year we opted for a tank fermented, barrel matured version. I felt that the acidity of the wine could stand up to some three-year old barrels, and we could build up some nice texture on the palate. There is a lot of discussion among winemakers as to what the exact style of Viognier should be, many choosing to use more tank fermented wines in their final blend, sometimes with just a touch of sweetness, Our version is bone dry, has the typical aromas of the grape but will also be able to see a few years in the bottle due to the influence of oak. At a recent tasting of some of Virginia's finest Viognier wines, I favored ours that were 4-5 years old, proving to me that our wines are built to last. In the world of accessibility and the drink it now mentality, the 14 will offer immediate gratification, but will reward patience for those that can wait and prove to be a stunning wine in a few years.
The big Reds It is hard not to get excited about red wines when you get fruit that is ripe, clean and picked whenever you wanted. Other than Merlot, I was extremely happy with the quality of fruit across the board, especially for the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot. 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon: Arguably the king of reds and one that cannot ripen in Virginia if you believe conventional wisdom. Many believe the focus should be given to Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot or Tannat. The beauty of theories is that there will always be exceptions to the rule and in our case, we more often than not can get ripe Cabernet Sauvignon into the winery. The winemaking process after that is relatively quite simple. The fruit is meticulously hand sorted, ensuring that only the best berries make it into the fermentation tank. We painstakingly discard all under ripe fruit, stems and leaves that may have passed through the de-stemmer. As with all our high-end wines, we choose to allow the fermentation to begin and finish naturally. We monitor the wines very carefully, punch the cap down judiciously and frequently to extract as much color as possible and we pay careful attention to the way in which we press the skins. It is well know that there is a qualitative difference between free run and press fraction wine. In years gone past, we would just set the press to a program and allow the press to do its thing. We now however run the press manually and press over a longer period and more gently. By tasting the press wine, we can determine at which point the various lots should be separated and how they should be aged. Our two lots of Cabernet received a fair amount of press wine this year, since the tannins were so ripe, supple and silky. The press wine gave the wines some serious backbone which for the style we make is somewhat needed. I am so excited about the 14 vintage Cabs. One lot is in 100% French oak barrels, all manufactured by Mercier and what a huge blockbuster of a wine. Dark and inky, with lots of blue and purple fruit on the nose. The oak is there but it is meshing nicely with the fruit of the wine and there is an underlying acidity to the wine that keeps the wine quite light on its feet which I find really attractive. This is not a wine that will see a bottle soon, earmarked for bottling in 2016 after 22 months in oak. I predict that it will need at least five years in the bottle before it realizes it's potential. BY FAR, the best Cabernet we have ever made in my opinion, and we have made some good ones recently.
Our second lot of Cabernet is maturing in slightly older barrels, since this wine is historically always the most aromatic of the two. With blending of the two lots common, the first lot is the structural backbone of the wine, while this sucks you in with gorgeous aromatics. Hard to pick a favorite of the two since they are both so good, albeit for different reasons.
Traditionally a blending grape in the world of wine, but taking quite the center stage in Virginia. I sit on the fence with this one a little since I still see its value in blends versus a stand alone varietal wine. It has great tannic structure and dark flavors but sometimes lacks the finesse I search for in wines. If however, you are one of those that does not mind laying these wines down for a few years, PV can be quite the charming wine. Our 14 will be a bit too much for some in its youth, incredibly tannic and dry at this point in time, it will require some bottle time to soften up and reveal itself. We have used some tight grain French barrels for this wine, two to three years old to respect the fruit. I was playing with the idea of American oak but decided that it did not need more sweetness which American oak sometimes imparts. But my word, this wine is rich and dense and unapologetic-ally big. Plan on having this with a cigar or steak, you are going to need it.
I am always highly critical of this varietal, partly because I am still learning how to make it since it is mainly used in blending. I am not a big fan of herbaceous flavors in red wines, and too often I find Cabernet Franc wines that quite frankly have been either picked too early, or have been badly managed in the fermentation stage. The tannins can be quiet astringent and chalky, leading to flavors of bell pepper and wet leaves, devoid of any fruit. It is a style I try not to make so we really try to hang our fruit as long as possible to mask those greener flavors if we can. Quite often, this grape comes in late September and this year we were able to let it hang 10 days longer than our historical average. I was really looking for a change in tannins and flavors, not really worried about sugars and acid. The point at which the flavors are more spicy, with black pepper is when we pick. Thoroughly sorted we have a different approach to fermentation versus the other Bordeaux varietals. I like to ferment a little cooler and most often we press off prior to fermentation being completed, trying to manage the tannin extraction or more specifically the type of tannins we extract. Our barrel regimen focuses more on American oak, using the natural sweetness of the barrel to mask or cover up the slightly greener tannins you can get. I do have two brand new French oak barrels in the program this year for research purposes and I really like them. They will blended back into the final lot but it would be interesting to see if those barrels would have such a positive influence in a greener or wetter year. With this wine earmarked for early bottling and release, we need to ensure the wine is ready for the market place, so we will be paying careful attention to the oak influence and how big the wine can become. I have to say it is the best version we have ever made though, if you like spicy wines showcasing more red fruit characteristics.
Overall Assessment: WOW, from what I hear from other producers the 2014 will certainly rank as one of the finest in recent memory and consumers can look forward to these wines as they start making their way onto tasting room shelves. Since our philosophy is to allow the fruit to dictate the direction of the wines, our wines are highly extracted, rich, lush and will require some ageing for them to fully develop. I am not saying that they will not be good immediately, they will be, but they will be incredible with some time. These are the wines you should stockpile your cellar with, I know I will be. I almost forgot, I did also taste our 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon wine as it enters its 16 month in barrel. Holy moly this wine has come along beautifully. It is very similar to our 2009 version, with a core of dark fruit but built on a frame that exudes finesse and elegance as opposed to sheer power and strength. I feel like a stuck record but again, this wine will delight in its youth but will blow you away with some time in the bottle. Virginia definitely has its ups and down when it comes to wine and vintage variability. I am glad to report that 2014 is definitely an up year, just wish we had more wine. But hey, do not take my word for it, come taste the wines with me at our May 9th and 10th barrel tasting. Call our tasting room and join me for an in-depth tasting of some of the finest wines we have ever produced. Space is limited so call now to reserve your space.
I lastly want to thank my guys in the vineyard for working so hard and getting this vintage done. to Jeremy, Lewis, Luis and Steve, I owe you a debt of gratitude for all your time and effort, hopefully these wines make you proud and justify all your hard work. Also to my wonderful wife who keeps things ticking in my absence and supporting me throughout, I love you and could not do this without you, I'll try to be home a touch more before the next harvest starts.
My fellow wine lovers, I greet you after what has been an exhausting harvest here at Keswick Vineyards. Even as I write this, we still have fermenting wines that need close monitoring and ultimately pressing off to barrel. Hopefully at this point we should be done in the next few weeks.
The big question from our customers and wine club members is, “How was the Harvest?” Well I am happy to report that all signs point to it potentially being one of the best yet! I am especially thrilled about the quality of the red wines and have already publicly stated that I believe the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon will be even better than the Governors Cup Winning 2007, and the multiple gold winning 2009 and 2010 wines. I said that about the 2013 Cabernet that is still aging in barrel, but the 2014 wine has me really excited. I tend to be rather reserved about the wines at this stage, knowing that there is still a lot of developing they have to do before we can really assess the strength of the vintage; but rarely have I see our wines to be this explosive so early in the process.
The biggest question is how to keep improving on these wines and what factors have led to such a wonderful harvest. The answer lies in three important factors  Mother Nature  The actual vineyard and  The wine-making process.
 Mother Nature:
We are at the mercy of all things weather, the rainfall, the sunlight, and length of the growing season. It is ultimately the quality of the growing season that determines the potential of the wines. Great wines can not be made from poor fruit. Think of Bordeaux and the great vintages of 2000, 2005, 2009 and 2010, where the growing season allowed the winemaker to make incredible wines.
Bud break at Keswick Vineyards occurred April 7th, which is quite typical for us. With bud break comes the threat of spring frosts and we negated three frost days through the use of fans, fires and spraying. Unfortunately, our Viognier took quite a pounding from the nasty winter and we already knew that our crop would be considerably less than normal. The great news is that all other varietals were in great shape, buds were healthy and fruitful. Through the course of the season we dealt with moderate temperatures, adequate rainfall and very little disease pressure. This allowed us to cut our sprays down to 11-14 day intervals while spraying the least amount of material in order to be the most effective. The evenings were cool which preserved the natural acidity and kept the fruit firm and intact, another factor in fruit surviving late season rains.
 The Vineyard:
Our vineyard was planted in 2000 and is now reaching some sort of maturity. After 15 years in the ground, we should really start seeing some quality fruit come off the various blocks. Initially young vineyards are very vigorous, producing not only a tremendous amount of foliage, but potentially a big heavy crop too. Sounds good unless the fruit is not quite ripe and leads to herbaceous, vegetal wines. Since we are in the wine growing business, our ultimate goal is find the right balance between amount of fruit and quality of fruit, with more emphasis placed on quality. We are now at a point where the vines are balanced, roots are deep and established and the vines healthy. We can now start assessing the various flavor profiles, the subtle nuances between the rows, elevation differences and exposures. Instead of dealing with macro climates [general area like Albemarle] or Mesoclimate [difference between various blocks] we have now focused on the Microclimate [the differences within the actual row itself].
Is there really a huge difference between East facing and West facing fruit, or vines that are at elevation differences? ABSOLUTELY! Factor in the soil variances, the changing topography, the tree line and the effect of sunshine on the canopy, what you essentially get is a difference in chemistry and flavor profile. We measured the sugar of Cabernet Franc at one end of the row at 21 and at the other end we got 18, that is a huge swing and you could taste the difference too. In years past, we would just pick the Cabernet Franc, now we pick certain vines, certain sections are allowed more time to mature, certain vines get more leaf removal or get pruned a different way. In the winery we get more components with which to work, wines are assembled piece by piece and although they will eventually be 100% of a certain varietal, may consist of 6 different components.
If “Terroir” refers to a sense of place, then it is our responsibility to identify what it is about our vineyard that is unique. We then also need to ensure that we communicate those differences in our wine, preserving the notion that great wines indeed are an expression of the vineyard versus the hand of the winemaker.
Over the course of the vineyards young life, we have identified various blocks as producing better quality fruit than others. Anecdotally, we have tasted wines that are just better and year after year, fruit from various parcels have been kept separate or vinified as a Reserve or designated to be a higher quality. To better understand why this might be, with the help of a company called Resource Reconnaissance we have been using drones to map our vineyard, to identify the various soil types and to photograph the ripening process from the air. After months of data collection, we discovered that all our perceived highest quality blocks were planted on a very unique soil: residuum from sericite schist, phyllite, or other fine-grained metamorphic rocks. These soils are incredibly well-drained and are mainly found on slopes of 10-20 degree gradients. Our vines planted on these soils have incredibly deep root systems, have better tolerance to climatic variations, and, most importantly, produce high quality fruit albeit in lower quantities. This discovery is significant in that it proves what we always thought, that there is a factor in why this fruit is infinitely better than others. It also allows us to search for this soil for future plantings.
 The Winemaking:
While the essence of a wine can be traced back to the vineyard, the fact remains that the winemaker has to ensure the quality of the fruit is reflected in the finished product. Luckily for me, I had the privilege of working with amazing fruit. Our reds in particular were stunning which certainly makes the winemaking part a little easier. It is no secret that I tend to favor a hands off approach and this year allowed to me do just that.
As always, we sorted our fruit after de-stemming to remove any leaves, stems or berries that were un-desirable. This is an investment in time with roughly an hour spent sorting half a ton of fruit. With 7 tons of Cabernet in the refrigerated truck, that is many hours spent on the sorting table. So why do we do it? If we can improve the quality of fruit by just 5% that goes into the fermentor, the resulting wine can only be that much better. We feel that since we get one shot a year at this, it is worth it. We have followed a very basic philosophy of no sulfur, natural fermentations and punching down the cap where possible although we backed off how many times we punched per day. We continue to ferment a little cooler in years gone by and we do no post fermentation maceration. I felt that the wines tended to show a coarse edge, requiring a great deal of barrel and bottle time to fully integrate. As such, we pressed all our wines off after fermentation and separated the free and press sections as deemed necessary. Since most of the wines have no sulfur whatsoever, we are inoculating for secondary fermentation by adding Lactic Acid Bacteria.
The wines are a little shy at the moment and fairly tight, they will need a few months in barrel before they reveal their true potential and characteristics. What I can reveal at this stage is that the colors are deep and inky and the wines are extremely well-balanced. They are showing a lot more texturally than in the past, with tannins well-integrated with fruit at this early stage. I will have to be careful not to over oak the wine. Along with the Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc all look exceptional and point to being some of the best ever produced at the Estate.
If they turn out how we feel they will, thank mother nature and our amazing vineyard, for that is where the wines were truly made this year. My job was just to not screw it up.
One last note:
I would like to take this opportunity to thank my entire crew who have worked tirelessly with me to ensure this harvest went off as smoothly as possible. Their hard work and dedication is very much appreciated and I hope I can do them proud by making wines that are reflective of their passion. To Jeremy, Lewis, Luis, Dakoda and Steve, thank you very much for everything, you guys have been a pleasure to work with and you have made my job a lot easier.
A big thank you to all our wine club members and customers who keep supporting us and allowing us to make these wonderful wines.
Stephen Barnard and team
Winemakers and Vineyard Managers at Keswick Vineyards