We have all read about how great wine is made in the vineyards- that if all being equal, the best fruit will ultimately equate to the best wine being made. True enough, better fruit gives you the chance to make better wines, but there are a few steps in the middle between the harvest and the bottling.
So before you think this is about picking time, phenolic maturity, indigenous yeast and oak selection, let me offer you a different insight as to how we make great wine here at Keswick Vineyards.
May I present, 5 simple steps for a winemaker to be successful.
I think sub-consciously that I am trying to win a few points here, since my 4th year wedding anniversary is coming up and I still have no idea what to do. My wife Kathy [a.k.a the BOSS] is pretty understanding of what I do and puts up with me when most others would not. To be a winemaker means a lot of time spent at the winery, instead of being at home hanging out with the missus and the family. To be at your best, a winemaker needs a supporting [check], loving [double check] and understanding [mostly] wife who buys into your philosophy and passion about making wine. She does not mind waking up to grape skins in the bed and me spending money on obscure varietals such as Alvarinho and Molinara for purely “research” purposes. So to my loving wife, I say thank you for letting me do what I do, could not do it without your love and support and by the way, Happy Anniversary in advance for the 1st [in case I forget].
Okay, I admittedly work for my in-laws and they by law have to put up with me. Truthfully though, they give a fair amount of free reign to experiment and tinker in the winery and vineyard. Sorry Al, I know you prefer V.S.P but I really think the ballerina system is the way to go. It is easier to work for someone who shares your love and passion for wine, and sees the bigger picture. Al still has not bought into the notion of drinking his 50 year old first growth wines for research purposes on a Sunday evening, but I cannot get everything I want. Maybe I need to talk to his boss Cindy. Truly a big thank you to them for allowing me to do what I do.
As much as I have tried, I cannot maintain 45 acres of vines on my own, I have to delegate and rely on others. These are the guys and girls that deserve a lot of credit, working in 95 degree heat is not fun and they do it day in and day out for me. Virginia is not the easiest place in which to grow grapes and a lot of work, effort and sweat goes into producing them. I like to say that we are minimalistic in our approach to making wine, but it takes a lot of work to be that in the vineyard. You can only be hands off in the winery if you are hands on the vineyard and while I ask and demand a lot in the vineyard, my crew over delivers each and every year and deserves extra kudo’s. So kudo’s to you, Thomas and PJ, from me, thank you guys for a wonderful job.
 Have a great front and back office staff.
I think that what is in the bottle is only a small part of the whole experience when you visit a winery. A wine can be well made but the taste left in your mouth can be sour if the experience and customer service is not up to par. We put a lot of effort into training and I think we have an exemplary staff who do a wonderful job in presenting our wines to the customer through our tasting room and wine club. I am always proud to hear first hand from a customer that they had a wonderful experience, and more importantly, that they will be back in the future. No-one can tell your story better than you, and I am lucky to have a staff that do a great job in promoting not only our wine, but all of those made in the Commonwealth. In their hands, the future of our winery is a bright one. Thank you also to the back office staff, Leah for paying me on time [always appreciated] as well as to Brian and Kathy who tirelessly promote our winery.
The reason we pour heavily is to make people happy! Not quite true, but we are here to make the customer happy. Customer is king and we thank each and every person that has and will buy a bottle of our wine. We are blessed to have a loyal following and I believe the 4th largest wine club in Virginia, some that have been members since our tasting room opened in 2006. It is a great feeling to call a lot of them our friends and I thank everyone for their support. In return I am happy to take case orders for that endorsement.
Wine-making and farming is not an easy endeavor, but it does help when you have some of the finest people supporting you and having your back. This is a shout out to my wife, my family and all of my staff for making my job a helluva lot easier. Our winery success is in no small way directly attributed to them.
Personally, I thank everyone of them.
Winemaker for Keswick Vineyards
P.S – if my staff are reading this, please get back to work!