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
Jennifer and Dan had one fun Charlottesville vineyard wedding on Saturday, April 26th, at Keswick Vineyards. I've never seen such a fun, dancing group of guest as I have from this wedding. With Jennifer's family being from the Dominion Republic, guests danced the night away to Spanish music and brought that rhythm with them. The energy coming from that dance floor was amazing! I don't think I ever saw Jennifer not dancing. Did I mention how beautiful Jennifer looked? Breathtaking is all I can say. There was a moment when she was coming down the stairs heading out to the ceremony when the sunlight hit her just right to create one of those moments. Wish I would of gotten that one with my camera. Southern Inn Catering did a great job creating food stations for the reception. I love how they used shadow boxes to display the desserts for the evening. Jennifer's sister Newsy did an amazing job acting as her wedding coordinator. Newsy's daughter was one of the flower girls who wore the cutest dress. What a great job she did! Special thanks to all the Charlottesville wedding vendors for making this wedding an unforgettable night: Southern Inn Catering, DJ Ran Henry with Blue Mountain Weddings, Photographer April Bennett & Aaron, Videographer Ian Atkins, Flowers by Whimsical Floral Design, Cake by Paradox Pastry, Photo Booth of Charlottesville, Officiant Brian Purcell, UTS Charters for buses, Hair & Make-up by Moxie Lounge and Skyline Tent Company. Click here for a sneak peak at some photos by April Bennett. Click here to view video by Ian Atkins. Click here to see this wedding featured on Borrowed & Blue.
I just love it when couples with two different ethnic backgrounds get married at Keswick Vineyards. It is such an experience to see wedding ceremonies of another culture. For Mary Beth & Sameer, it was a combination of American and Indian traditions. The day started with the Hindu ceremony. MS Events did a beautiful job building a staged wrapped with fabric and garland with flowers by Verde Natural Florals. Mary Beth and Sameer looked beautiful in their traditional Indian attire. I find this ceremony so fascinating to watch with all the symbolism they use through out the ceremony. It starts with a cloth separating the couple from seeing one another. Once they have seen each other Sameer applies a red powder to Mary Beth's parting hair as a symbol of her married status. Sameer then adorns her with a sacred black beaded necklace symbolizing his love for her. A fire is then lit with prayers being offered. They then walk around the fire 4 times to symbolize the four goals of human existence. Towards the end, they both step on a stone and offer a prayer for their mutual love to be firm and steadfast like a stone. Finally, they take seven steps together which represents the Hindu belief that they will remain lifelong friends. Isn't that a beautiful ceremony??? After that ceremony, guests enjoyed some refreshments prepared by Harvest Moon Catering while the wedding party did a quick change for the American ceremony. Pastor Brian Purcell lead the American ceremony. I love how Mary Beth & Sameer wrote love letters to each other that were placed in a box, along with a bottle of Keswick Vineyards wine, that is locked until their 1st anniversary. Those letters will always remind them of the reasons why they love one another so much and why they chose to get married. After that ceremony guests enjoyed a few more refreshments while pictures were taken. I just love Photographer William Walker. He really gets into his work. He needed to show Mary Beth & Sameer a look he wanted for a photo so he quickly grabbed his wife who is also his second shooter, Jessica, to give a quick demo (see my photo below). So glad I was able to capture that fun moment. Dinner was then served buffet style by Harvest Moon Catering. Guests were then treated by one of those spectacular Virginia sunsets that are just amazing to witness. How special was that????? Once under the Sperry tent for the evening, DJ TD Layman kept the dance floor packed while guests danced the night away. Mary Beth & Sameer's entire day was flawless under the direction of Barbara Lundgren and her Barb Wired team.
None of this would be possible without the teamwork of the following vendors: Harvest Moon Catering, Barb Wired Event Planning, DJ TD Layman of Sound Enforcement, Photographer William Walker and his wife Jessica, Verde Natural Florals, Favorite Cakes, MS Events, Pastor Brian Purcell, Hair & Make-up Artist Marci Corle with A More Beautiful You and UTS Buses.
Saturday, April 5th, started Keswick Vineyards 2014 Charlottesville wedding season with the marriage of Brooke & Matt. It was hard to believe that just a week earlier we were still getting snow! Thankfully, Mother Nature welcomed this wedding day with a beautiful Virginia Spring day. Brooke and her family made sure the day was filled with plenty of personal DIY details that were just perfect for a winery wedding. Everyone loved Brooke's centerpieces; she glued together 3 wine bottles, wrapped some ribbons around them and put a card holder down the center to hold the table numbers. Verde Natural Florals added a few flowers into each wine bottle and that was it. She set them on top of a piece of wood just to add a little something extra to the look. Brooke & Matt also made a cork board to display the names for the seating at each table. Her father made several wood signs to put through out the property including one that showed how many different locations people traveled from to attend this wedding and how far away each one was. The wedding party looked so sharp with the bridesmaids being in a light pink color and the groomsmen in a charcoal grey suit. Guests enjoyed cocktail hour while listening to musician Peter Richardson play his guitar. Afterwards guests were seated under the Sperry tent to enjoy a buffet dinner prepared by Southern Inn Catering. Thanks to the following Charlottesville wedding vendors for doing such a great "opening day" wedding: Caterer Southern Inn Catering, DJ Mark Allen, Photographer Jamie Kay, Florist Verde Natural Florals, Pastry Chef Albemarle Baking Company, Officiant Ryan Thompson, Hair by Kimberly and Musician Peter Richardson. Click here to see photos by Charlottesville wedding photographer, Jamie Kay.