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Stephen Barnard
November 5, 2017 | Stephen Barnard

Harvest to be excited about at 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 [1] increase the vine density per acre and [2] 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 [1] ability to ferment all the sugars [2] produce little VA or H2S and [3] 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

Time Posted: Nov 5, 2017 at 6:22 AM
Cindy Schornberg
October 20, 2017 | Cindy Schornberg

The Sweetest Thing!

It’s hard to beat the beauty of a fall October day in Virginia.  Anyone who works in the wedding business knows how crazy busy it is for us.  On top of having triple weddings every weekend in October, I have numerous birthdays in our family.  This year, our youngest was turning 16.  I happened to mention it to this bride, Lyndsey, when she did her final walk thru.  I mentioned how long her wedding weekend would be for me because not only did I have 3 weddings, but also had a Sweet 16 birthday to celebrate.  So, what did Lyndsey do the day before her wedding as if she had nothing else to do?  She baked my daughter her favorite flavor of cupcakes with whip cream frosting (her favorite again) and brought them to her rehearsal along with a card.  Wow!  Do I not have the best couples and families getting married here?  I couldn’t believe she remembered something I just mentioned as small talk and then took the time to make my daughter’s birthday even more special.  Thank you so much Lyndsey for your thoughtfulness! Its the sweetest thing!

Lyndsey & Rick were married on Friday, October 20, 2017 at Keswick Vineyards.  The weather was something a couple would pray for.  Simply perfect!  Lyndsey and Rick chose to get married in what we call our “fall” location.  We nick named it that because of the panoramic views you have and in the fall, they are hard to beat.  Accentuating the view, Lyndsey’s father made these doors that were used as a backdrop for their ceremony.  After the ceremony, they were moved to the reception to be placed behind the couple chairs.

Lyndsey & Rick decided to do the “wine box” tradition during their ceremony.  Rick added his personal touch to what was included in the box.  Most people place a nice bottle of red wine in it.  Not Rick.  He is a bourbon guy so besides the bottle of wine he also added a nice bottle of bourbon!

For the reception, a chandelier was hung just over the dance floor.  This is one of my favorite looks because it is so pretty to see the couple do their first dance under it.  A very long head table with farm tables was also used.  And, one of my favorite little detail from this wedding, pretzels that were decorated to be a bride and groom were at each place setting.  They are adorable!


Another successful wedding thanks to the magical team of:  
Event Planners:  Keswick Vineyards
Catering:   Goodrich Gourmet Catering
Wedding Cake:  Cakes by Rachel
DJ:   DJ Fit (Nathan May)
Photographer:   Nichole Haun and her husband Scott see their photos here!
Florals:  Foxtail Cottage Floral
Hair & Make-up:   Jennifer Saunders
Photo Booth:  Grinnin Photo Booth
Transportation:   Easy Rider Bus Company
Rentals:  MS Events and Skyline Tent Company

Time Posted: Oct 20, 2017 at 7:15 AM
Cindy Schornberg
October 15, 2017 | Cindy Schornberg


Wrapping up our 3rd wedding for this weekend was the marriage of Melissa & Marcin on Sunday, October 15, 2017 at Keswick Vineyards.  The weather was just beautiful for them!  With Marcin’s family visiting the United States for the first time from Poland, I was so happy they got to experience a beautiful Virginia fall day.

Melissa & Marcin had their dog Leo be their ring bearer.  He did such a great job!  Isn’t he adorable?  I just love the “family” photo I took of them.

Melissa & Marcin had so much fun on their wedding day.  I always love it when Photographer Robert Radifera is here.  We have such a fun time working together.  What I love about Robert is he will show the couple a sneak peak of some of the photos he has just taken of them.  I always try to capture that moment.  It is a great thing to do because the couple gets a glimpse of how beautiful they are looking and it just makes taking more photos so much easier because the couple is liking what they are seeing and want more.  So, we gave them more by taking photos in the vineyard, in front of the Estate, by the pool, in front of the fountain, I could go on and on but I think you get the point.  LOTS of photos with numerous back drops.

Guests were able to help themselves to a delicious buffet dinner prepared by Harvest Moon.  Afterwards there were plenty of desserts to satisfy any sweet tooth!  But for those that might not have a sweet tooth, no worries.  The couple had a bourbon bar ready to go in the gazebo for the final night cap. And to finish out the evening guests dance the night away and then sent the couple off with a sparkler departure.

Special thanks to the following vendors:  Day of Event Coordinator – Keswick Vineyards, Caterer-Harvest Moon, Officiant – Bhagavan Metro, Desserts-Cakes by Rachel, DJ-DJ Fit (Nathan May), Photographer-Robert Radifera, Hair & Make-up-The Spot Beauty Shop, Florist-Foxtail Florist, Tent Lighting-Skyline Tent Company, Transportation-Easy Rider Buses and Musicians-Charlottesville String Quartet


Time Posted: Oct 15, 2017 at 11:22 AM
Cindy Schornberg
October 9, 2017 | Cindy Schornberg

Prayers Answered!

 must say, I’ve done over 300 weddings at Keswick Vineyards and this ceremony was definitely one that I will remember.  I always love it when the person marrying the couple has a personal connection to them.  So, on Monday, October 9th, Ashleigh and Paul were married at Keswick Vineyards by the grooms father.  Doesn’t get much better than that!  The praise they were giving to God and his greatness was awesome!  They Included scripture readings and hymns that just took the ceremony up a notch to me.  Ashleigh and Paul wrote their own vows and the love these two share for each other was so obvious.  The looks they would give each other were just adorable and they just couldn’t stop holding each other hands and kept whispering to one another throughout the ceremony.  I don’t think there was a dry eye when they spoke of the love they had for each other.  I am so blessed to be able to witness these moments weekly.

At the end of their ceremony they did something I had never seen or heard of.  They did the salt covenant.  The covenant of salt is an ancient covenant mentioned in the old testament.  The couple puts salt in their spouse’s mouth to solidify their promise they made to each other and God.  They will then keep the container the salt was stored in as a daily reminder of that promise.

And, as if the ceremony wasn’t beautiful enough, the reception and how the tent was decorated; over the top!  This is the first time I have had a couple put greenery on the center support poles under the tent.  Adding a chandelier over the dance floor and more greenery on each table; amazing!  Pictures really don’t capture how beautiful it really was.

Thanks to the following vendors for helping to create this beauty: 
Catering by The Catering Outfit
Katy Hood as their wedding planner
Maliha Creations for their cake
DJ Joseph Robinson
Ceremony music by Treesa Gold String Trio 
Photographer Elisa Bricker
Videographer The Herrintons         Click Here to see their video!
Hair by Brianna Adams
Make-up by Michandra Myles 
Mallory Joyce for Florals
Skyline Tent Company for the chandelier.

Time Posted: Oct 9, 2017 at 6:47 AM
Cindy Schornberg
October 8, 2017 | Cindy Schornberg

Two-Player Mode . . . Start!

What a beautiful fall day they had. They had just enough overcast to keep the heat down from the sun yet giving them the perfect lighting for the best photos with no shadows. There was no limit on where they could go for photos and they took advantage of that, doing a lot of photos in the vines! 

Jennifer and Gregory enjoy video games so they found a way to add some of that to their wedding décor. Take a look at their guest sign in book; instead of the traditional book they had a canvas made that looks like the start of a video game! Each of the guests would then sign their names to each of the little hearts! Also, they had a wagon pulled for their ceremony that had some of “their children” in it. These children were stuff animals that obviously meant a lot to them. After taking photos, Jennifer changed out of her wedding dress and into a red formal dress. She looked stunning, and she definitely stood out on the dance floor!

Special thanks to the following vendors: Wedding Planner, Barb Wired; Officiant Dave Norris;
Caterer Hot Cakes; Musicians for ceremony, Quiet Fire; DJ Derek Tobler; Photographer Jeff
; Videographer Ian’s Creation; Hair & Make-up by Jeanne Cusick; Floral Designs by
Jacquelyn Collmus; Transportation Buses by University Transit Service.

Time Posted: Oct 8, 2017 at 7:09 AM
Cindy Schornberg
October 7, 2017 | Cindy Schornberg

High School Sweethearts

I’m sure Lauren never thought when she was 15 years old that she would end up marrying the boy who sat behind her in French class that would put paper wads in her hood.  But guess what?  She did!  And on Saturday, October 7th, Lauren and her high school sweetheart Cody were married at Keswick Vineyards.

They chose to be married in front of Edgewood Estate with the fountain, vineyard and mountains as their back drop.  What a beautiful day Mother Nature provided them with a soft cloud cover and gentle breeze to keep every guest comfortable for this outdoor wedding.

During the ceremony they did a unity candle.  With that, both Mothers come up to the alter and light individual candles.  They then hand them off to their respective child (the bride or groom) and then the couple light one “unity” candle to symbolize the joining of two families into one.

After the unity candle the couple proceeded to do the wine box.  For the wine box the couple picks one of Keswick Vineyards award winning wines to be placed in a box that won’t be opened for 1 or more years.  Besides the wine in the box the couple write love letters to each other that neither have read before.  They are sealed in this box.  This wine box is to remain sealed until a designated time like their first anniversary or fifth or tenth anniversary.  At that time, they will enjoy the bottle of wine while reading these love letters that they wrote on their wedding day.  If the couple hits a bump in the road and are having some doubts about each other, they are to open that box at that time, have some wine, read those letters and hopefully that will re-lite the marriage.

Thanks to the following vendors for all their hard work:  Southern Inn Catering, Pearls Bakery, DJ Fit (Nathan May), Photographer Tyler Corvin, Foxtail Cottage Florist, Albemarle Limousine and Rev. Bhani Moore.

Time Posted: Oct 7, 2017 at 7:03 AM
Cindy Schornberg
October 6, 2017 | Cindy Schornberg

JMU & Rock-N-Roll Weddings Ties

Starting off our four day wedding weekend is Brittany & Joe’s wedding on Friday, October 6th.  Thankfully, they did the old southern tradition and buried a bottle of bourbon to ensure beautiful weather for their fall vineyard wedding.  As you can see by the photos, it worked again!

  Brittany and Joe did a few unique things at their wedding that I haven’t seen before.  Lets start with their flowers.  Instead of each bridesmaid having a bouquet, Brittany had each bridesmaid “wear” their flowers.  Some had a collar, a ring, a bracelet, hair piece, etc.  No one had the traditional bouquet.  For the boutonniere, the guys had shot gun shells to hold their flowers.  Why shot gun shells you ask?  Well, they love Guns –N- Roses and thought this was a great way to bring a piece of that rock band into their wedding.

  For their guest book they had a hand drawn map of the local area featuring Keswick Vineyards and other favorite spots of theirs and had guests sign the matte around it.  To continue the “map” theme was a framed map that had states that the couple had visited to assign which table each guests would sit at.  Versus having table numbers, the tables were a state and had a picture of the couple at that state to give it that extra personal touch.

  But the highlight for this wedding was definitely when the JMU mascot Bulldog arrived and helped escort the couple under the tent for the reception!  The couple even got to share their first dance with the bulldog.  It was just the cutest thing to see the mascot bulldog dance with one of their flower girls.  Precious!

  Thanks to the following vendors for making this night a night to remember for all who attended:  It’s Your Day wedding planner, Officiant Josh B. Klotz, Caterer Roadside Chive, DJ Derek Tobler, Photographer Katie Lea Photography, Make-up by The Studio, Hair by Adrienne, Blakemores Flowers and A&A Limousine for transportation.

Time Posted: Oct 6, 2017 at 6:28 AM