For 37 years the Virginia Wineries Association has recognized the best wines produced in Virginia. The Governor's Cup has become one of the most rigorous competitions in the United States. On February 26th, Keswick Vineyards was honored to bring home 15 medals, 2 Gold Medals, 10 Silver Medals, and 3 Bronze Medals. Keswick Vineyards has participated in the Virginia Governor's Cup wine competition every year since 2004 and in that time has won at least one gold medal fourteen of the fifteen years; winning the Cup itself twice in 2009 and 2014. Winemaker Stephen Barnard is one of the few in Virginia who hold the title three Governor Cups having won in 2005, 2009 and 2014, all using Keswick Vineyards fruit.
The medal winners from the 2019 Virginia Governor's Cup are:
2016 Signature Series Cabernet Franc
2017 Touriga Estate Reserve
2017 Cabernet Franc
2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve
2017 Chardonnay Estate Reserve
2017 Petit Verdot
2017 Petit Verdot Estate Reserve
2017 Trevillian White
2017 Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve
2016 Signature Series Chardonnay
2017 Signature Series Viognier
Keswick Vineyards 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve, the 2016 Governor's Cup winner, appears on Channel 12 NBC news.
Mary Greblunas presents Virigina Wine Expo and all the great events happening this weekend!
Check it out the video here:
Read more about the Wine Expo and the events here:
When is the best time to drink a Keswick Wine? Between 5 and 7pm of course. Seriously though, this has got to be the hardest question for me as the winemaker because I simply do not have a good answer. As a consumer you want to drink a wine at it's peak or at its full potential but very few wines are made with the intention of seeing 5-10 years in a bottle. I would rather someone drink our wine and realize that it still had a few more years of ageing potential versus wishing they had opened it years before.
It is true, I think there are certain wines we make that require some time to evolve and fully develop; but how much time is a bit of a mystery. It is a part of our winemaking process that I do not fully understand and one that I intend on studying and researching dilligently. This is how I at least justify the copious amounts of wine I drink to my wife, that the endeavor is a pursuit of knowledge and that I owe it to our customer base to give them accurate and detailed information. I do not think she buys that explanation at all!
It is also the way in which I make sense of purchasing 6 bottles of wine instead of just one. The idea is to drink a bottle every one to two years and track the evolution of the wine. To go back and look at all the factors involved in the growing of the grapes and making of the wine, and perhaps one day be able to answer the question with some level of assurance or confidence.
There are a lot of factors that can influence a wine's ability to age or rather should we say improve, namely vintage, varietal, acidity, extract and phenolic composition to name a few. In Virginia, the vintage is by far the most important of these factors in my opinion. Vintages like 9,10,14 and 17 will make wines that will age far more than those made in 3,11 and more notably in 18.
After two and half years in the bottle, I decided it was time to re-visit one of my favorite wines I have had the privelage of making here; our 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve.
2014 was a wonderful vintage. The winter was notably cold and the spring notably wet, but following that, the sunshine was plentiful and the evening temperature cooler than normal, which allowed us to fully ripen our fruit as well retain some natural acidity which we often lack.
Looking back my initial notes, we harvested the fruit September 24th through the 28th at an average of 24.5 brix, all hand picked into small crates or lug boxes. The fruit was chilled for 24 hours before being de-stemmed and sorted, and then transferred to open top fermentation tanks. Fermentation occured naturally [without the addition of commerical yeast], and lasted 19 days with 4 daily punch downs. The free run and press wine was added together, settled for 48 hours in tank before being transferred to oak of which 52% was new. Maturation lasted 22 months and the wine was lightly filtered [7 micron] before being bottled with a free sulfur level of 35ppm.
More importantly my tasting notes indicated that this wine needed at least 3-5 years in the bottle and I boldly suggested that the optimum drinking window was 8-10 years and perhaps the wine would be fine up to 15 or so. Typical descriptors included darker fruits on the nose [plum, black currant and blueberries], I mentioned the tannins were soft but pronounced and that the acidity of the wine was higher than normal which suggested some ageing was necessary. Interestingly I made a side note that perhaps I could have dialed back the oak a little and I was eager to see how integrated the wine would be with time.
So, how is the wine doing after a few years in the bottle?
As I write this I have another glass on my desk [purely for inspiration purposes], although some might frown that it is only 7:30am in the morning. The wine is incredibly inky and uniform throughout the glass and there is no visual suggestion that the wine is showing any signs of premature ageing.
The nose is still intensely aromatic but I would add that there is a really interesting mint, violet or eucalyptus component which I find quite intriguing and pleasant. Of note, I do not pick up any green, vegetal or any pyrazine notes that might indicate slightly underripe fruit. There is a still a fair amount of oak on this wine and I get a big dose of tannin, but not bitter, chalky or astingent. Rather the tannins are quite soft and supple, but I still can taste the wine 2-3 minutes after I have swallowed, [should I be spitting?]
The fruit is there for sure and the wine is still quite primary although there is a bit of cedar, cigar box or almost pencil lead like character on the finish. Plenty of fruit, still very much dominated by dark fruit as opposed to red fruit.
I have always loved this wine and think that this wine should definitely see that 5-8 or 10 year window. Some questions remain about 10 years and beyond but with a case still tucked away, I will be sure to taste it and get back to you. Thank goodness I bought more than one bottle.
As a side note, I have attached a review by Robert Parkers wine advocate of the 2014, tasted 3 months after the wine was bottled
The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon Estate Reserve was aged in French oak (52% new, with the remainder three years old or older). It comes in at 14% alcohol. Beautifully wrought, with some intensity of fruit flavor on the finish and velvety texture, this Cab has a hint of herbs on the nose. Its finish lingers nicely, the fruit showing both complexity and flavor. This is nicely done. The remaining question is how it will age and develop. 90 points.
Kind and Pleasant Drinking.
An important step and sometimes overlooked part of the vineyard cycle is dormant or winter pruning. This theoretically can be done as soon as the vine enters a stage of dormancy. Dormancy is a phase in a grapevine growth cycle which occurs after the grapevine drops it’s leaves and ends in late winter to early spring. Dormancy phase helps vines to tolerate cold winter temperatures and has an important influence on grapevine flowering and vegetative growth in springtime. During the dormant phase, vines need to be exposed to enough hours of chill temperature for the bud break and normal spring growth to occur during the next season.
Grapevines at Keswick Vineyards are pruned in one of two ways, either cane or cordon, also referred to as spur.
In cane pruning, a permanent trunk is established, and each year two to four one-year-old canes are selected from the head of the vine, where the trunk and trellis wire intersect. These canes are tied or clipped to the wires out to opposite sides of the trunk, up to two per side, extending halfway to the adjacent plants. Each cane will carry approximately 8 to 10 buds. All other canes will be removed, save one or two renewal spurs four to six inches below the fruiting wire carrying one or two buds. These will provide fruiting canes for the following season.
In a cordon system, permanent arms, or cordons, are trained to extend from either side of the trunk extending from plant to plant. These will remain as the base for the one-year-old spurs that arise from various points along the cordon. These spurs will be pruned to approximately two to three buds long, evenly along the cordon, with all excess growth and unevenly placed spurs then removed.
In years past we have always spur pruned our vines but have noticed a high incidence of phomopsis [dead arm] on our canes. Phomopsis is a disease caused by a deep-seated wood rot of the arms or trunk. Early in the growing season, the disease can delay the growth of the plant and cause leaves to turn yellow and curl. Small, brown spots on the shoots and leaf veins are very common first symptoms of this disease. Soil moisture and temperature can impact the severity of symptoms, leading to a systemic infection in warm, wet conditions. As the name of this disease suggests, it also causes one or more arms of the grapevine to die, often leading to death of the entire vine. As such, we have been laying one-year old canes down and cutting out the established cordon. Early signs hint that this is a helpful tool in minimizing the incidence of phomopsis; which leads to a healthier cane and better vine balance. Although more labor intensive, I foresee us adopting more cane pruning in the coming years.
In an ideal world I would prune as late as possible, but with almost 70 acres of vines to prune we must start in December to be able to finish before bud break; which usually occurs around the first or second week of April. Our approach is to prune oldest to youngest and leave our best blocks for last [usually our Cab Franc and Cab Sauv]. The amount of buds we leave is based on the variety as well the weight of the pruning material we remove. Our intention is to create a uniform and balanced vine, too many buds could lead to over cropping and poor fruit quality and too few buds could create a dense canopy which in turn could lead to higher disease pressure.
With only 6 more weeks to go before the onset of Spring, we are frantically trying to get the remaining vines pruned. Canes still need to be tied down to the wire, soils need to be limed and then hopefully mother nature plays her part and blesses us with a mild Spring and warmer temperatures. Never a dull moment on a farm, and that is just how we like it.
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.