We never intended on making a Verdejo wine; the fruit was sold off to another winery because, quite frankly, we felt the wine to be uninspiring and rather bland. It so happened that when half our Viognier crop was lost due to the Easter Weekend frost in 2006, we kept the Verdejo fruit out of necessity, and so began one of our most successful and widely anticipated wines we currently produce. Such was the response to this unknown grape from Spain's Rueda region, that we have increased our acreage thereof and see it is one of our most important wines moving forward.
If Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc had a baby, it would be called Verdejo.
The wine is sharp and focused with mineral accents and vibrant flavors of stone fruits with some salty undertones, yet it has a textural quality and richness I associate with Viognier. It is versatile with a variety of dishes, but easily enjoyed on it's own during the warmer months. I have fallen in love with this grape and the wine and am very excited about the future.
In the harvest of 2012, following the rather challenging harvest that was 2011 [note the subtle sarcasm], we harvested perfectly ripe Verdejo. We also picked some Viognier intended for our entry level Les Vent d'Anges brand Viognier the same day. Harvest went well, the fruit was clean and 12 hours later the fruit was sitting in cold storage. I had a plan for processing and the press was prepped and cleaned for receiving the fruit the next morning; home time!
Do you ever get a feeling when something is not quite right, a feeling in your gut that the stars are just not aligned perfectly? Driving to the winery I had such a feeling, no reason why but just did not feel too good. I am pretty sure a refrigerated truck is supposed to cool fruit, imagine my surprise and few choice words when I discovered that our truck was actually heating the fruit and that the inside temperature was 88 degrees, LOVELY.
Previous processing plan out of the window, new plan: toss the Viognier and Verdejo fruit together into the press and then deal with it in the winery. And so ladies and gentleman, our newest addition, the V², was born. Our intention with this wine was to try and mimic the previous Verdejo versions that were more Sauvignon Blanc in character, showcasing green apple and stone fruit tones. I think what ultimately saved the day was the fact that our LVD Viognier grapes are picked a little earlier and do not exhibit the floral and tropical aromas usually associated with the grape.
The blend came out at 51% Verdejo and 49% Viognier and after fermentation and racking, started to really grow on me. The problem with wine nowadays is that consumers want what they had previously and the challenge with this wine was to re-introduce and re-brand the Verdejo grape and wine. We decided to bottle this wine early since it was 100% tank fermented, thereby giving it a few months in bottle before releasing it. The name V² represents the two varieties that make up the wine and with much trepidation was released to the public in early April.
Instant success; you loved it! It was quickly snapped up in the tasting room and then we started getting asked "When will the next one be available?". Oh No, no next one, this was a once off thing due to a mistake in the ..., who am I kidding? The next one is being released next weekend the 14th of June. How do you deny your customers? You don't. We make wine for people to enjoy and get excited about and if they loved the first V², they will love the latest version.
The blend is Viognier heavy this year, with only 19% Verdejo and as such the wine is richer and more complex. The Verdejo plays an important role in that it provides the acidity and minerality, that ultimately keeps the flashier Viognier in check. The wine was fermented in tank and saw no oak. I used a South African yeast, widely used for Sauvignon Blanc production. After minimal handling, protein stabilization and sterile filtration, the wine was bottled April 5th 2014. After 2 months in the bottle, it makes its long awaited and much anticipated appearance in our tasting room. It is a different style than the previous version and each year the blend will differ slightly, what remains the same is that this wine is just good.
I love the V², I really do and my hope is that when you taste it, you will love it too. Let me know what you think.
Congratulations to Terri & Drew who were married on Saturday, May 31st, at Keswick Vineyards. Once again Mother Nature provided us with perfect Virginia weather for this all outdoor event. Terri is a very detailed person and she had every detail of their Charlottesville wedding day specified. Her and Drew had heard a band perform at a street festival and knew they wanted them to perform for their wedding here. The Turpentiners, from Pittsburg, performed for the ceremony and cocktail hour. Terri & Drew had also hired a new caterer, L'etoile, that did an outstanding job. Their service was definitely the most memorable moment of this wedding for me. Terri & Drew decided on a plated dinner for their guests. L'etoile staff would come out circling the tent to arrive at the designated table, wait until all staff members were ready behind each guests and on cue, would present the plate to the females first and then wait a moment and present the 2nd plate to the gentlemen. The staff then would pause and then circle back out of the tent. What presentation that everyone their couldn't help but to stop and take notice of. Hats off to Vickie and the rest of the L'etoile staff for giving everyone that "WOW" moment. Terri & Drew had also brought in a cigar roller who prepared cigars on site as guests enjoyed them throughout the evening. And what better way to depart your wedding then to leave in a vintage convertible car! I think Terri & Drew thought of everything and more. Special thanks to all the vendors for doing such an awesome job: Event Coordinator Cinda Hoege of White Birch Events, Caterers L'etoile, DJ John Garland, Photographer Joe Brier from Happy Couple Wedding Photography, Musicians The Turpentiners, Hair & Make-up by Moxie Hair Salon, Florist Blue Ridge Floral, Pastry Chef Anita Gupta at Maliha Creations, Reverend Douglas Forrester, USA Bus Charter and Festive Fare for rentals.
Nicole & Steve finally had their vineyard wedding at Keswick Vineyards in Charlottesville, VA on Sunday, May 25th in front of family and friends. After an eleven year courtship, the day had finally come! Nicole is one of those brides that is into every detail. All her hard, creative work paid off for everything looked beautiful for this Virginia winery wedding. She chose Tiffany's blue to be her accent color mixed with purple. Instead of the traditional buffet dinner, Nicole and Steve had food stations for their guests. I love this idea for it prevents one long line and it gets your guests up and out of their seats and moving around and mingling with others while choosing the food station that is best for them. Groovin' Gourmet did a great job providing this service and included a delicious pastry table at the end of the night. One thing I saw at this wedding that I haven't seen done this way was Nicole created a book that had pages with envelopes glued to them. She then had cards that guest would fill out with suggestions on what makes a successful marriage. They would insert those cards into the envelopes and now Nicole and Steve had a book filled with great advice. Thanks to all the Charlottesville wedding vendors that night for doing such a great job and having fun while doing it: Groovin' Gourmet Catering, Barb Wired Event Planning, Photographer Ken Pak, DJ Stroud, Verde Natural Florist, Officiant Brian Purcell, Make-up Artist Anne Kibler of Charlottesville Makeup Artist, Pastry Chef Favorite Cakes, rentals by Festive Fare and Camryn Limousine.
Congratulations to Sarah and Han who had their Charlottesville, Virginia wedding at Keswick Vineyards on Saturday, May 24th. They chose a new location for their ceremony in front of the Edgewood Estate near the vineyard but in the middle of the main drive-way. I understand the reason for that selection was because life is a winding road and the winding drive-way represented that. Clever huh? As you can see by the photos, it is a beautiful vineyard wedding location. Han's is in the film industry so he found a way to incorporate that into their wedding. He made two helmet cams that guests wore throughout the day/evening recording every moment for them. I hope I get a chance to see the film he makes from that. Leo, their dog, was also part of their big day. This wedding had one guest that is extra special to us, the previous owners of Edgewood Estate! How neat is that to have the people you bought your home from come back 14 years later for a friends wedding? Pretty neat! Guest enjoyed an amazing dinner prepared by C&O Catering including chicken, fish, beef and many other dishes that were so flavorful. To finish off the evening after dancing, the couple drove away in our golf cart that was decorated for them. Thank you to the following Charlottesville wedding vendors to an amazing night of food & music: Catering by C&O, Wedding Coordinator Jennifer Hamlin from Events With Panache, DJ John Garland, Musicians Plum Blossom Trio, Photographer Koury Angelo, Hair & Make-up by Bristles, Florist Ted's Last Stand, Wedding Cake by Paradox Pastry, Officiant Randy Golliday and transportation by Albemarle Transportation.
OK, what a start to our triple wedding Memorial Day weekend. First off, thank you Mother Nature for providing us such a beautiful day for this Virginia wedding. Lauren & Joshua were married at Keswick Vineyards in Charlottesville, VA on Friday, May 23rd. The love shared between these two and their families could be felt by everyone attending. Let me start with Lauren's entrance. The entire wedding party and guests were waiting for the usual entrance of a bride coming from the back but not Lauren. Her and her father were driven up the vineyard drive way in a vintage 1940's Packard car! Such a classy entrance. I think everyone was taken by this. What a site to see the car slowly making its way to the wedding ceremony location, having the driver open her door, then having her father help her out to walking down the aisle. Doesn't get much better than that! Joshua's parents performed the wedding ceremony. Obviously, it doesn't get more personal and emotional than that! As Lauren and Joshua read there vows to each other, the tears were flowing. Such a touching moment to see Joshua' s father extend his hand on Joshua's shoulder to show support and then to see his Mother, her sister and even Lauren supporting each other through this very emotional moment. Was one of the moments that gives you goose bumps by witnessing such love and support. Another beautiful moment was including communion for all during the ceremony with both sets of parents and the couple serving it. This wedding was just one of those that you just couldn't help but feel the love by all. I've never seen both sets of parents being so connected to one another and so happy to be one family now. Thank you for allowing us at Keswick Vineyards to witness such a beautiful wedding and thank you to the following Charlottesville wedding vendors for their hard work: Catering by The Local, Event Coordinator Jennifer Hamlin of Events With Panache, DJ T.D. Layman of Sound Enforcement, Musician Joe Terranova, Photographer Tracey Sanders Photography, Make-up and Hair by Judy Hayward from On Location Bridal, Florist Kathy Forrest of Forrest/Sasser Floral Design, Albemarle Baking Company, Albemarle Limousine for the vintage car and MS Events for rentals. Click here to view photos by Tracey Sanders Photography. Click here to watch their video by Jeremy Michell's videos.
Well, it was a LONG day coming but it finally happened. Rachael & Tucker were married at Keswick Vineyards on Saturday, May 17th. The weather was just perfect with sunny, blue skies with big, puffy clouds. Rachael & her Mother spent a great deal of time planning this wedding and all their hard work definitely showed. I think the one who was most amazed by all their work was Rachael's father. I could feel his excitement through out the day as time for the ceremony got closer and closer. He hadn't seen his daughter yet and you could just tell how excited he was for that moment to see her. Realizing his excitement as he waited for Rachael to make her appearance, I decided to create a "first look" moment for the two of them. Just before walking her down the aisle, I had her father turn away while Rachael came from behind and tapped him on his shoulder. When he turned to see her, well, lets just say he had that moment every Father dreams about. Moments like that make my job so rewarding. That was definitely my most memorable moment from this wedding. Special thanks to the following vendors for making Rachael & Tucker's long awaited Charlottesville wedding day so special: Cater 2 Events Catering, DJ Rob Jefferson, Musicians Luke Saunders, Photographer Sarah Saunders, Makeup Artist Liz Allums, Pearls Bakery, Officiant Joe Marks and MS Events for rentals.
What a beautiful Charlottesville winery wedding Elaine & Jonathan had at Keswick Vineyards on Saturday, May 10th. The day started off not so great with rain. It definitely looked like we were going to have to use our rain plan for this day and we did. Fortunately, with Keswick Vineyards on-site Sperry Tent, the rain just provided more opportunities for a beautiful ceremony under the tent as you can see from the photos below. Guest either sat on the dance floor or at their tables and witnessed this beautiful union. The rain did stop just before the ceremony which allowed for beautiful photos afterwards. Elaine is Korean and Jonathan is Chinese so the blend of these two cultures was so lovely to see. I really enjoyed some of Elaine's family that had flown in from Korea and wore their Korean gowns. It was such a treat to see these ladies perform a Korean folklore song and dance later in the evening. The most memorable moment for me from this wedding had to be when Jonathan and his sister performed for everyone on their violin and cello. You could have heard a pin drop while they played. Not everyday you get to witness such talent. Oh, did I mention how much dancing went on???? These guests just couldn't stop dancing and boy did they have the moves! So many incredible, memorable moments from this wedding so thank you so much for allowing Keswick Vineyards to be part of your special day. Special thanks to the following Charlottesville wedding vendors: Caterer Harvest Moon, Event Planner Jane Maples from Amore Events, Photographer Ken Pak & his assistant John, Anthomanic florist, Albemarle Baking Company, DJ Pauly Madison, Officiant Rev. Bhagavan Metro, Photobooth of Charlottesville, Make-up and hair by Moxie Salon, Agoff Limousine for buses, MS events and Skyline Tent Company. Click here to read the blog from Anthomanic Florist.
We have vintages that allow you to make world class wines, and you have vintages where you have to use every resource and ounce of experience to make something palatable that will sell in the tasting room. Sometimes creating such a wine is the most rewarding experience, since I can be proud of the wine, knowing the origin and state of the fruit that I had to deal with.
So allow me to give an honorable mention to the 2003 Chardonnay, the only white wine to win a Governors Cup Gold medal in the 2004 competition. The 2003 growing season could only be described in one way: WET! Summer brought sunny, warm weather with only occasional rain., but that all changed when Hurricane Irene passed over the region in late August and the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee came just two weeks later. It helped that our Chardonnays are made in more of a French style, focusing on lower sugar levels and healthy acidity, so maybe the chemistry of the fruit helped to some extent. At any rate, this was a manufactured wine that I could be proud of, having known the growing difficulties and the state of the fruit when it came to the winery. Wine quality is judged by recognition by competitions and wine writers, and, more importantly, by your customers. So here follows in my opinion the best 5 wines I have made at Keswick Vineyards.
 2007 Chardonnay Chardonnay has been the one wine that we have tinkered with over the years, trying to hone in on a style that we think best represents our site. We now focus on tank fermented Chardonnays that are matured in oak for 8-10 months prior to bottling. I was delighted when I looked back at my notes and realized the 2007 was fermented in tank and matured in oak, 50% French and 50% American. I remember loving this wine off the get go, but had the chance to re-taste the wine in February at our Open That Bottle event. The 2007 showed the best of all the Chardonnay wines in the flight and was just gorgeous. The oak was so well integrated with the fruit and the wine had developed some gorgeous baking spice aromas such as cinnamon and clove. The hallmark of this wine though was the texture. The wine was layered and complex, but bright enough due to the acidity. After 7 years in the bottle, this wine has developed and and is reaching optimal drinking age. If you have the wine you could probably hold onto it for another year or two, but drinking it now will not be a disappointment. One of my top favorite white wines of all time here. Honorable Mention: 2008 Chardonnay Reserve and 2012 Signature Series [needs more time]
 2009 Viognier It is no secret that I think 2009 was one of the great vintages of the past 10 years, producing as equally impressive wines as the 2007 and 2010 vintage. 2009 was a growers dream- a long growing season with fruit coming in perfectly ripe and clean, recipes for great wine. When you have fruit of this quality, the job of the winemaker is to represent in a glass all the good things the fruit has to offer. We made this wine as naturally as possible, the fruit was gently pressed and the juice was settled in tank for 2 days prior to being transferred to neutral French oak barrels. Fermentation took place naturally [without the addition of yeast] and was completed in 10 weeks, after which the wine got it's first sulfur addition to block the secondary fermentation. Other than filtration and protein stabilization, nothing else was done to this wine. Viognier is a gorgeous aromatic wine, and this example just exemplified all those characteristics. The oak came across in a brioche or almond manner, the acidity kept the wine bright and light on it's feet. The flavors were tropical with anise and apple undertones and it remains just as beautiful today as it did back then. Viognier wines are typically not knows as wines that you can age, but we have quite a few examples that defy that logic. This remains one of my favorite Viognier wines ever made at Keswick. http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/43147 Honorable Mentions: 2002 and 2010 Viognier Reserve
 2007 Cabernet Franc Reserve I have never been the biggest fan of Cabernet Franc, I find many of them to be under ripe and and packed with green bell pepper flavors. Some like that style and that is quite okay, but for me it's not an attractive quality in wine. I do not get the opportunity to work with 25 brix grapes all the time and when the opportunity presented itself to me in 2007, we were not going to let it go to waste. We aged this wine for 22 months in brand new American oak barrels and bottled the wine unfined and unfiltered in August 2009. Re-visiting the tasting notes, I found notes where I just said "WOW"- enough said. Time in the bottle has only improved this wine. I recently opened the wine for my brother in law at my house, a huge fan of Cabernet Franc. When someone gets that giddy about a wine, you know you have something special. The wine is still massively huge, with sweeter oak kept in check by ripe tannins with the underlying spicy character of the grape in the background. The wine has a dominant coffee note on the palate but cracked black pepper and dark fruits are all there too. This wine is incredibly complex and can probably see another 3-5 years in the bottle, but it is hard to not open it now. Honorable Mention: 2013 Cabernet Franc from barrel [this wine will be incredible when bottled]
 2007 Heritage: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot Many consider 2007 to be the best vintage in Virginia, and it would be hard to argue with that considering the quality of the wines made here at Keswick Vineyards. We made a Heritage in 02, 04 and 06, so when presented with the chance to make another in 07 we jumped at the chance. Our Cabernet from that year went on to win the Virginia Governors Cup, but I always loved the Heritage. The blend was classically left bank Bordeaux, with a large portion of Cabernet dominating the blend, complimented by Merlot. We looked at Petite Verdot as a possible blender but thought less was more. Aged for 22 months in French oak barrels and then bottle aged for 15 months prior to release, this was a blockbuster of a wine. I implored customers to hang onto this wine, even though it was tasting wonderfully back then. So how about today? I have tasted this wine on a few occasions and I love it. It has developed a lot of that typical cigar box, leathery characteristics you get from aged Cabernet. The fruit of the Merlot is still lingering, although a touch more red than black. The wine is incredibly supple and dare I say it sexy, yes wines can be sexy. It was hard not to list this as my number one favorite wine of all time but it sure came close. Honorbale Mention: 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon [2009 Governors Cup Winning Wine]
 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon This is going to cause a bit of a ruckus for sure, but it wins as my favorite wine of all time for a few reasons. Firstly it is 100% Cabernet, made up entirely of Estate grown fruit. Virginia is not really known as Cabernet country, and it is used mainly as a blender or has other varietals blended into it. Matured for 22 months in New French oak barrels, this wine was always a beauty. Some wines evolve into something special, this wine always showcased it's purity of fruit and hinted at how good it would be. Coupled with the fact that this wine is a pure expression of our vineyard, it has to be my favorite of all time. It is everything Cabernet should be. It is muscular with great big tannins surrounded by a wall of drippy black fruit, with acidity keeping everything in check and ensuring the wine remains vibrant. It was one of only 22 double gold medal winning Cabernet wines at the San Francisco International Wine Competition, competing in a field of over 500, mostly produced in California. It hints at what Keswick can do in certain years and now it is up to me to ensure we do it on a more consistent basis. If you have this wine, thank your lucky stars that you do. If you have more than one bottle, lets talk because I am always int he market for more. This is not just good Virginian Cabernet, this is just good Cabernet period! Honorable Mention: 2010 Cabernet and 2013 Cabernet from barrel [might be better than the 09] Whatever your top 5, we have been fortunate to make a few that could quite easily and proudly be added, think 10 Merlot, Malbec and Syrah for example. I think we can be incredibly proud about the wines we have produced, and proud that they were produced in Virginia. The trick is now to do them consistently and showcase what Keswick and Virginia is capable of. With the 2013 wines developing in the bottle, my top 5 favorite wines of all time list is sure to change soon. I would be interested to hear what your favorite Keswick wines are! Kindly Stephen Barnard Winemaker
Congratulations to Maggie & Robert who were married at Keswick Vineyards on Saturday, May 3rd. Thank you Mother Nature for providing us such beautiful weather for this special Charlottesville wedding. Maggie's bouquet is what stands out the most for me from this wedding. Sandy, the owner of Verde Natural Florist, did an outstanding job with the flowers. The colors of the bouquet were simple magnificent! Maggie's mother had sewn wedding rings from other family marriages attached to her bouquet to represent the strength of marriages within that family. What a beautiful gesture. Maggie did most of the decorating herself including designing the arbor used for the ceremony. Thank you to all the vendors for doing such an awesome job: Catering by 20 South, DJ T.D. Layman of Sound Enforcement, Plum Blossom String Quartet, Photographer Cheryl Finnegan with Elisa B Photography, Hair & Make-up Artist Alison Harper & Co., Verde Natural Florist, Favorite Cakes, Officiant Brian Purcell, Rentals by Festive Fare, Carpe Donut, Albemarle Limousine and Real Southern Accents for making the arbor.
I get asked all the time, "What was the harvest like and how would you describe the wines?" My response for the most part is, "wait for the wines and decide for yourself". Bottling time for me is actually quite a stress free day, in that my involvement in the wine officially comes to an end. As the wines mature in the winery, there is always room for reflection and doubt about whether you did the right thing in finishing them off. Did I add too little acid, are my sulfur levels correct and should I have bumped the residual sugar up just a little bit more? Constant questions we ask ourselves leading up to bottling day. By the end of the day, with all the wines in the bottle, there is nothing let for a winemaker to do to manipulate the wine, it is what it is and customers will love it or hate it. It was with great relief that almost 1900 cases of wine were bottled without incident on April 7th and 8th of 2014. This was the first bottling of the new 2013 vintage wines, wines that are made for early consumption and for the hot and humid months that define Virginia in May and June. As I am writing this, I am looking at the grey clouds and the pounding rain splashing on the crush pad, go figure. Of the 5 wines that we bottled, I am incredibly proud of one of them, I may even go as far as to say it was the best wine I made last year. That wine, believe it or not, is our new 2013 Rosé, made up entirely of Norton. Hold on a second here, did Stephen Barnard just say that his best wine he made was a 100% Norton Rosé? The winemaker that actually hates Norton and is quite open with his disdain for the grape? Yes ladies you heard correctly, the best wine I made in 2013 was our Norton Rosé.
It is not the best wine in the winery, but it is the best wine I MADE! I am a big believer in the fact that the best fruit produces the best wine. As such, when you have wonderful fruit on your crush pad, all you really have to do is nurse it through the various processes and allow the grapes and their quality to be reflected in a glass of wine. Those wines ultimately turn out the be the best, reflecting the growing season and the terroir of the vineyard versus the hand of the winemaker. We are not in California, however, and Virginia has a way of keeping you grounded. We have our good years but then we have our fair share of challenging vintages and sub standard grapes.
As was the case with our 2013 Norton. With the usual suspects causing issues [rain, lack of sunshine and short growing season], we also had the pleasure of dealing with damage caused by animals. The biggest culprits last year were the squirrels and the starlings. I was eventually being called Noah, since I had 2 of everything on the property. The starlings really went to town on our Norton, and no matter how much netting we used we could not keep them under control. We were losing a fair amount of fruit and the decision was made to pull the fruit irrespective of the chemistry and try and do something with it in the winery. For those of you who know a little about Norton, you will be aware that it has an excessive amount of acid when picked at even ripe sugar levels.
Imagine for a second that you now are faced with 14 brix [measurement of sugar] grapes on the crush pad, and that the berries taste like a warhead candy. Time for the winemaker to dig into his bag of tricks and make something of this. Making a red wine was just out of the question, the fruit had no color and I was not confident of us making something decent. In hindsight, I should have made a sparkling wine, but at that point the only thing I could think of doing was to make a Rosé. At this point I would like to take a moment to thank our sponsors Domino for the use of their sugar. After de-stemming and then pressing, the brix of the juice was adjusted to 20.5 and then transferred to American oak barrels for fermentation. We inoculated the juice with a yeast that partially degrades malic acid and primary fermentation was completed without any incident. Unlike our other white wines and Rosés of previous years, we inoculated the finished wine to initiate secondary fermentation [allowing the malic acid to turn into the softer lactic acid] because we were so concerned with the acidity of the wine overwhelming any fruit and oak.
I think it was mid March, when I really started to get excited about the wine. Having been in South Africa for 3 weeks, this was the first time I tasted the wine in a while and I really liked it. Considering the quality of the fruit and the issues we had to deal with, this wine was not bad. The nose was quite aromatic, with lots of red fruits. The sweeter American oak was starting to come though and the acidity was there, but way more balanced within the context of the wine. Most importantly though, the wine was not screaming Norton, most thought it was a Bordeaux grape, BIG PLUS! So after three weeks in the bottle, the wine finally makes it debut in our tasting room this coming Saturday at our Run for the Rosé event. In celebration of the Kentucky Derby, we will have games, a hat contest, delicious food from Black Jack's mobile soul food truck and, of course, great wine including our new Rosé!
I hope it does well, despite the fact that it is a Rosé and made from Norton. I can honestly say it was the best wine I made last year, and will be a great addition to our portfolio of wines we are currently pouring. Let me know what you think of it.
Stephen Barnard Winemaker Keswick Vineyards