The Discoverer appeals to the world traveler in all of us; a modern travel guide. Their most recent blog post features ten United States wineries to visit this spring from all over the country including a Virginia vineyard, Keswick Vineyards.
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
~ Keswick’s Winning Vintage Joins 11 Other Virginia Wines to Comprise 2016 Governor’s Cup Case ~
RICHMOND – Governor Terry McAuliffe tonight awarded the 2016 Virginia Wineries Association’s (VWA) Governor's Cup to Keswick Vineyards for its 2014 Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve, a pure Cabernet Franc varietal. This award marks the second Virginia Governor’s Cup for Keswick Vineyards, who received its first in 2009 for its 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon. The Governor’s Cup was awarded Monday evening, February 22 at the Hotel John Marshall.
Speaking at the Governor’s Cup awards ceremony, Governor McAuliffe said, “I am honored to award the 2016 Governor’s Cup award to Keswick Vineyards’ winemaker Stephen Barnard and owners, Al and Cindy Schornberg. Their work at Keswick Vineyards embodies those characteristics that are imperative for Virginia farmers and winemakers: an entrepreneurial spirt, a drive to excel, a healthy tolerance for risk, and a desire to see what Virginia’s land and terroir can do. It no secret the Commonwealth’s wine industry has experienced tremendous growth both in quality and quantity in recent years. Such growth has an enormous impact on Virginia in terms of economic development and job creation, especially in rural areas, and the craft beverage industry as a whole is playing a key role in helping build the new Virginia economy. I offer my congratulations to Keswick Vineyards and its 2014 Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve – a beautiful 100% estate-grown wine."
The Keswick 2014 Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve is a 100% varietal Cabernet Franc. According to the winemaker’s tasting notes, “this wine is light and graceful, but also powerful – dense with black pepper and exotic spices that turn into darker fruits as the wine is aerated. The wood tannins are firm, yet are well balanced with ample acidity and fruit. The palate is savory with accenting mocha, brambleberry, and bitter chocolate tones that are punctuated with a long finish.”
“It has always been my dream to make a great red wine from the soils of Virginia, and my wife and I settled here to establish Keswick Vineyards,” said Al Schornberg, proprietor of Keswick Vineyards. “Thomas Jefferson noted that cultivators of the earth are the most virtuous and independent citizens, and so I am very proud to be honored with our second Governor’s Cup win for our 2014 Cabernet Franc. I am grateful for our team at Keswick Vineyards, our son-in-law and winemaker Stephen Barnard, and the entire wine community in Virginia for turning my dream into reality.”
Stephen Barnard, winemaker at Keswick Vineyards commented, “The 2014 vintage will stand out in the years to come, I believe, as one of Virginia's finest. With clean ripe fruit harvested, our intention was to stand back and let the soul of the vineyard shine through in the wine. As we taste the wines developing in bottle, I am happy that we achieved what we set out to do. These wines are authentic and communicate the spirit of our winery, vineyard, and souls.”
"I join Governor McAuliffe in congratulating Al, Cindy, Stephen and the entire Keswick family for their achievement, one that will help bring more attention to Virginia's vibrant craft beverage industry," said Todd Haymore, Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. "The development of the wine industry over the last decade has made it one of the fastest growing sectors of Virginia's agricultural economy. Today, there are more than 275 wineries in Virginia and 360 vineyards that cultivate more than 3,500 acres of grapes. The Governor's Cup winners show that advancements in Virginia wine quality are helping to grow the industry's footprint in the Commonwealth and its reputation in the global marketplace."
The 2016 Virginia Governor’s Cup Competition was conducted over four weeks of preliminary tastings, held at the Capital Wine School in Washington, D.C in January. The final round of tastings was held at The Jefferson Hotel, in Richmond in early February. The Governor's Cup award winner was selected from the 2016 Governor's Cup Case, a selection of the top 12 scoring wines chosen from 432 entries of both red and white wines, from 95 wineries. The esteemed panel of judges, including Jay Youmans – one of only 138 Masters of Wine (MW) in the U.S. – had the difficult task of ranking each wine based on aunified scoring system.
In addition to Keswick Vineyards’ 2014 Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve, the other 11 wines included in the 2016 Governor’s Cup Case are:
Barboursville Vineyards, 2014 Vermentino
Bluestone Vineyard, 2014 Chardonnay
Cardinal Point Winery, 2014 Clay Hill Cabernet Franc
Fabbioli Cellars, 2012, Cabernet Franc
Glen Manor Vineyards, 2013 Hodder Hill
Granite Heights Winery, 2010 Evening Serenade
Horton Vineyards, 2014 Petit Manseng
Michael Shaps, 2014 Petit Manseng
Naked Mountain Winery, 2012 Petit Verdot
North Gate Vineyard, 2013 Meritage
Stone Tower Winery, 2013 Hogback Mountain
This year's results show a wide variety of wines, highlighting the diversity of grapes growing with distinction in Virginia’s climate and soil. Two wines hail from the Shenandoah Valley, five from Northern Virginia, and five from the Central Virginia area. Several wineries are making their inaugural showing this year in the Governor's Cup case, including Naked Mountain Winery, Stone Tower Winery, Granite Heights Winery, and Cardinal Point Winery.
Now in its 34th year, the Virginia Governor’s Cup competition was revamped in 2012 to become one of the most stringent and thorough wine competitions in the country. The competition is a result of a partnership among the gubernatorial-appointed Virginia Wine Board (VWB), the Virginia Vineyards Association (VVA), and the VWA, which owns and manages the competition. Any wine made from 100% Virginia fruit was eligible for the competition, while ciders and fruit wines had their own category and medalists. All entries included an affidavit with a certification of 100% Virginia fruit and vineyard particulars, including grower names and location, as well as information on alcohol, acidity or basicity (pH), and residual sugar.
Both the Governor's Cup Competition and the resulting Governor’s Cup Case boost the visibility of the state's highest-scoring wines through various programs and exposure to top industry critics and tastemakers. Wine included in the Governor’s Cup Case will be used by the Virginia Wine Board Marketing Office for marketing purposes in Virginia, across the country, and around the world. A number of cases will be shipped to select wine media, promoting Virginia wines to a larger national and international audience. The award-winning wines will be used for education purposes at Virginia winemaker roundtable discussions to improve overall quality of Virginia wines. Governor’s Cup Case wines will also be used by Governor McAuliffe on select domestic and international marketing missions and other events designed to promote Virginia’s burgeoning wine and winery tourism industries.
For interviews and photo requests, please contact Annette Boyd at 802.402.1896 or Annette.Boyd@Virginiawine.org. For a complete list of previous Governor’s Cup winners and information about the Virginia wine industry, please visithttp://www.virginiawine.org/governors-cup/awards/ or call the Virginia Wine Marketing Office at 804.344.8200.
According to a 2012 economic impact study, the Virginia wine industry employs more than 4,700 people and contributes almost $750 million to the Virginia economy on an annual basis. Nationwide, Virginia is in the top five states in number of wineries and wine grape production. In 2015, Virginia wine sales reached an all-time high of more than 524,000 cases or nearly 6.3 million bottles. More than 1.6 million tourists visited Virginia wineries in 2015.
We are so excited to find out that two of our wines were awarded Gold Medals at this year's Virginia Governor's Cup Wine Competition- our 2013 Signature Series Cabernet Franc and our 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve!
And great news for our Keswick Select Wine Club Members- the 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve is one of the featured wines in your February wine club shipment!
If you aren't a member of our wine club, find out how to join here.
Read the full press release here.
"This is mostly a miscellaneous collection of wines in the interest of timeliness. Some highlights include the new Keswick releases, one of my favorite Virginia wineries from the first report, and the first notes on some Georgia wines. The reds were interesting, but that Petit Manseng was lovely. Give them a try."
Keswick Vineyards' 2012 Signature Series Viognier received a 91 point score and was named "Best of East Coast" by Mark Squires on eRobertParker.com! This is a huge honor for this fantastic Virginia wine, which can be enjoyed for another 5 years. Take a look at his whole report here, and order it online before it's gone!
We are pleased to announce that our 2014 Estate Reserve Chardonnay has been awarded a Double-Gold at the 2015 American Wine Society's Commercial Wine Competition! We are very pleased to see Virginia wines rank so highly in this national competition! Stay tuned for its release...