Getting to the Summit – and in style.

Virginia Wine SummitYou know it is going to be a half decent day when your father in law tosses you the keys to his Maserati and says “drive”. Creeping out of the driveway at barely a crawl, Al’s instructions were clear, “drive like this and we will never get there”. Bye bye Miss Daisy, lets see what this bad boy can do! The destination? The second annual Virginia Wine Summit at the Jefferson Hotel in Richmond Virginia.

After successfully navigating rush hour traffic, and avoiding any object that could scratch the car and cause me to Virginia Wine Summitlose my house, we pulled into the parking area, having arrived on time for once. Heads were turned, sure one or two people were contemplating calling the cops seeing me get out of the car. I thought I was rather dressed up for once, having attended the meeting last year in jeans, wine stained t shirt and baseball cap. In my defense, the dress code said business attire and I would challenge anyone that thinks a winemaker dresses in a suit during harvest. Besides, chinos and flannel shirts go together like pork and beans or hotdogs and baseball, it is an ageless classic look, yet I was still very much the under dressed one of the bunch as per usual.

Virginia Wine SummitAll joking aside, the Summit is a yearly meeting of industry professionals and wine writers who talk and taste their way through a variety of topics pertaining to the Virginia Wine industry. A collection and collaboration of ideas and strategies to best promote and further our burgeoning industry. It is a day filled with informative wine tasting sessions moderated by some of the best sommeliers, wine writers and masters of wine in America. This meeting has been spearheaded by Governor McDonnell, who along with his lovely wife Maureen, have been tireless champions and promoters of this wine industry during his tenure in office. Many thanks need to be bestowed on their efforts and I am sure I speak for many industry professionals when I say that they will sorely be missed.

The day started off with a session about Cabernet Francs, aptly titled Franc-ly-Speaking. In this tasting, three Virginia wines were Virginia Wine Summittasted alongside two representations from France and one wine from the North Coast in California. In order we tasted the [1] Les Galuches: Jean Maurice Raffault 2011 [2] Fabbioli Cellars 2011 [3] Lang and Reed North Coast Cab Franc 2010 [4] Cedar Creek 2009 [5] Charles Joguet Varennes du Grand Clos 2010 and [6] Barboursville Reserve 2010. What follows is a personal opinion on the wines tasted and does not reflect the tasting of those in attendance, for, as you will later find out, opinions varied widely.

My favorite Virginia wine was the Fabbioli, a 2011 vintage that is well know among industry folk as a “crappy” year. This wine topped out at 12.5% alcohol and was matured in 25% new Hungarian oak. The nose was rather perfumy with touches of earth and spice. What made this wine impressive was the absence of the typical “vegetal” aromas that Cab Franc sometimes shows, something that you would definitely expect in a wet year like 2011. Hats off to Doug for a well crafted wine; complex, layered and could still age for 3-5 years in my opinion.

Damn that is a good one under those conditions. As far as the visiting competitors, in terms of drinking there and then, I would have favored wine number [1] but in terms of pure curiosity for the future, I gave the slight edge to the Joguet Varennes du Grand Clos. This style is not for everyone, the wine was dusty, austere, chalky and unapologetically big, needing at least 15-20 years in the bottle to truly open up, but even then it may be a surly wine. It was the most interesting though and I kept coming back to it, trying to figure it out but maybe that’s the charm of it, you cannot really put in a box, it almost stands alone.

Overall though, I favored the Virginia wines over their counterparts, proving once again that Virginia can indeed make world class Cabernet Franc. This is a well known fact amongst winemakers and writers alike, proven in a very fair tasting that we take no step back to any Cabernet Franc produced anywhere.

Virginia Wine SummitAfter a thoroughly enjoyable start to the morning, “drinking wines at 9:30 in the morning is a great way to start the day”, attendees had three break out sessions from which to choose. I chose the “Age is just a Number” session, focusing on wines with some bottle age on them.

In order, we tasted [1] Linden Avenius Chardonnay 2002 [2] Barboursville Viognier 2002 [3] Chrysalis Locksley Reserve Norton 2004  [5] Ingleside Pettie Verdot 2005 and [6] Williamsburg Winery Gabriel Archer 2003.

Both whites showed extremely well although there was some bottle variation in the Viognier from table to table. The Chardonnay was still vibrant and displayed some gorgeous palate weight and tertiary flavors from ageing. The wine is un-mistakingly made in a Burgundian style and still showed some minerality and flintiness I associate with those type of wines. Viognier on the other hand should not age, or so the opinion is, however my glass was very expressive with tropical fruit characters supported by brioche and toasty notes. I felt the moderate alcohol was starting to show a little, but Bravo to Luca for a wonderful Viognier that has truly aged beautifully.

I cannot believe I am going to say this but I favored the Norton over the other two red wines. Seeing how my opinion on Norton is well known within the industry, I almost had to choke back tears as I publicly announced that this wine was incredibly interesting and even though I wanted to hate it, I couldn’t. The wine showed showed a touch of Volatile Acid, but imparted a sweeter note to the wine and the normally tart malic acid had softened to allow some nice darker berry fruit to come through. Norton seems to showcase a certain charm 5-7 years after bottling, maybe to really give the wine it’s due, we need to allow these wines some time in the bottle. I am still not convinced that Norton is the grape to hang our Virginia hat on though. Although a true Virginian grape, customers are in the habit [for the most part] to drink wines young and while that is still the norm, Norton in my opinion will still be a polarizing grape in terms of love it or hate it. Props to Jenny though, me saying it was the most interesting of the reds is an endorsement in itself and the biggest compliment I could have paid that wine.

11 wines tasted by lunch time, how cool is this gig

Lunch included a glass of King Family Meritage and Trump Blanc de Blanc, beautiful wines, nice people, good winemakers and thoroughly enjoyed them both, “am I driving the Maserati home this evening?”

Keynote Speech by Mr.Oz ClarkeVirginia Wine Summit

I have sat on many panels and tasting seminars over the years and many times I think the “pretentious” tag given to  wine is a fault of the wine writers and professionals who use effusive terms to describe wines, where they should be getting people excited about wines and how accessible they are to anyone. Anyone who starts off a speech by saying ‘Never speak longer than you can make love to a woman” and then leaves the stage, demands attention and what a personality this gentleman turned out to be. This man knows wine, has an incredible palate, but has a way of communicating that just makes you fall in love with wine all over again. Watch You Tube and look up Oz and James drink to Britain to see what I am talking about. His speech was an impassioned plea to industry professionals to embrace our history and focus on wines that truly can stand alongside the world’s best. I got the impression that he really did taste and love many of our wines and was speaking from the heart when raving about the wines he had tasted thus far, top class guy.

The afternoon was again broken up into three sessions. Since Keswick has more Viognier planted than any other varietal, we decided toVirginia Wine Summit attend the Viognier Voyage session. Moderated by Andrew Hoover of the Wine Enthusiast magazine, three Virginia Viogniers were pitted against two examples from France and one from California.  Veritas, Pollak and Jefferson were the local champions of the grape and well made in albeit slightly different styles. The Jefferson Vineyards Viognier used Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Gris in the blend and the wine came in at around 1% residual sugar. Veritas also used blending as a tool with a small portion of Petite Manseng making it into the final wine, while the Pollak was a single varietal. My favorite of the bunch was the Veritas, made by winemaker Emily Pelton. Her hallmark seems to be one of balance and elegance, as was the case here. The wine had the typical floral and tropical aromas associated with Viognier, but enough acidity to keep the wine fresh and vibrant. Aging on the lees imparted a more viscous textural quality that I really like; so a very good wine indeed, Bravo!

My favorite wine of the lot though [and I was the only one] was the 2011 Guigal Condrieu, a full M.L 100% new barrel fermented wine. It was definitely a fatter, richer wine than the rest with a phenolic bitterness on the back end that I really liked. I honestly thought it was the most interesting of the wines but at $56 retail, I would get more bottles of the Veritas [or any Virginia Viognier] at the fraction of the price. I copped a bit of flack from some wine writers that thought I was not supporting the Virginia wines, but I had to be honest and vote for the wine I thought to be the most interesting. Here at Keswick we make 4 or 5 different Viognier wines on any given year and the hardest part for me is to make wines that are each unique in their own style. I have been told that our Viognier wines are a bit more French than most Virginia Viogniers, maybe that is why I leaned a bit to the Condrieu.

Virginia Wine SummitAfter some passionate talking points and a valuable discussion on the state Grape of Virginia, we retired to taste some locally made Ciders from Potter’s Craft, Foggy Ridge, Castle Hill, Albemarle Ciderworks and others, a perfect way to wash down the copious amounts of wine we had tasted through the course of the day.

Faced with a decision of going out to dinner with the rowdy marketing folk or heading back home, we decided to make the hour long drive back to Charlottesville and call it a day. Driving a six figure worth car is so much easier after a day spent tasting wines and I duly pulled into the winery without a scratch imparted onto the paint.

This is what makes wine and the wine community fascinating. We do not agree on everything and we each have our own style, but what a great passion we share, the passion of wine and more importantly making wine in Virginia.


Stephen Barnard

Winemaker at Keswick Vineyards and avid promoter of Virginia Wines.

Some Great Wines in the South

This year, my wife Kathy and I decided to take a trip filled with danger and unexpected challenges; a 36 hour journey with our 15 month old daughter to South Africa. With a semi-successful trial flight to Detroit, it was with some major trepidation that we boarded the Lufthansa flight to Munich from Dulles. The little monster turned out to be an absolute angel, having slept the whole way, but as soon as we touched the ground the little ball of energy woke up. Every inch of the airport was purveyed during our 10 hour lay over, with more than a few rides on the escalator. Another 12 hour flight to Cape Town with our little one fast asleep, travel bliss for mom and Dad.

The whole point of this trip was to introduce Aria to Grandpa, who had as of yet still not met our little one. Bonding was swift, as Aria was taken to a multitude of beaches and taught the intricacies of building sand castles. Grandparents were loving their new role, so Mom and Dad decided that the time was right to venture off and introduce our friend Aaron, who was also visiting from the US, to the offerings of the Constantia and Stellenbosch winelands.

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Our first stop was Groot Constantia, the oldest wine estate in South Africa established in 1685. It also happens to be the winery I first started working at in 1995, so I always try and make a point of stopping in and saying hello.  The Constantia area is located just a few kilometers from False Bay, with the influence of the sea breezes regulating the vineyard and ensuring that it is a relatively cool climate site. As such, Sauvignon Blanc does incredibly well. The wines tend to have vibrant acidity and range from pure grassy, grapefruit character, to a more flamboyant and flashy gooseberry and granadilla flavors; with wonderful weight and texture. Some winemakers are experimenting with small portions of oak fermented wine, back blended in with the tank for that added weight and complexity. Semillion is also making a splash, playing more than just a supporting role to Sauvignon Blanc; Groot Constantia blends 58% into theirs and was one of my favorites.  My favorite red wine was their Gouverneurs reserve, a Bordeaux blend showing an abundance of dark fruits on the palate, supported by big tannins with a hint of chocolate and mint on the finish. This is truly a beautiful wine that will only improve with cellaring of 5-8 years in my opinion.Groot Constantia Winery, Cape Town South Africa

JC LeRoux Winery, Stellenbosch South Africa

After a short 30 minute drive up the N2, we found ourselves in Stellenbosch, surrounded by the picturesque Helderberg mountains. Our first stop was at the house of J.C Le Roux, a winery that specializes in sparkling wines. The tasting room is contemporary and hip, with a vivid display of colors and little tasting nooks that lead out to decks with panoramic views of the mountains. Typically when one resorts to talking about the views at a winery you can infer that the wines do not warrant much of a discussion, but this winery creates an impressive portfolio of wines made both in the traditional and carbonated method. Kathy’s favorite was the Le Domaine, an off dry carbonated sparkler with 7.5% residual sugar, made up of a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and White Muscadel grapes. The wine is fresh, vibrant, easy drinking and sweet on the finish, no wonder it is the most popular sparkling

JC LeRoux sparkling wines, Stellenbosch South Africa

wine in South Africa. My favorite was the 2007 Pinot Noir, a traditional method sparkler with a drier finish, displaying red fruit character and a creamy finish which I imagine comes from the 18-24 months maturation on the lees. We also purchased their flagship wine, Scintilla which was not available for tasting. This blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay was drunk recently at a dinner party and did not disappoint. I found the wine to be a bit more citrus dominated, with typical bread and toasty character on the mouth, all in all a beautiful wine.

Next Stop Tokara, with once again gorgeous views of Stellenbosch, surrounded by beautiful mountains. South Africa has an abundance of natural beauty, it is truly breathtaking. Once again, we were very impressed with the wines, with my two favorites being the Director’s Reserve white and red, amazing how I gravitate towards the more expensive wines. The Reserve white, vintage 2011  is a Tokara Winery, Stellenbosch South Africabarrel fermented wine of Sauvignon Blanc 71% and Semillion 29%, matured for 9 months in French oak. This wine had an intriguing palate of almond and brioche, an extremely viscous and complex weightiness without sacrificing the brightness and citrus undertones that is Sauvignon Blanc.  John Platter rated this wine 5 stars and it is also regarded as one of South Africa’s top 100 wines; I would totally agree. The 2008 Director’s Red is a Bordeaux blend made up of Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Merlot and Malbec, matured for 20 months in 100% French oak, 83% of the oak being brand new. The oak is really integrated though, allowing the dark fruit character to shine through, while finishing with an almost espresso finish. What made this wine most intriguing though, was the underlying mint character in the wine. I wanted to ask where this character was derived from, but unfortunately the winemakers were hard at work with harvest and were not available. What is interesting to note, is that their neighbor Thelema actually makes a Cabernet wine called the mint, so it must be something about the vineyard or soil, all in all it makes for a very unique character.

Neil Ellis, was our next visit, and we were excited to see the winery since we get their Sincerily Sauvignon Blanc in our local South Neil Ellis vineyards, Stellenbosch South AfricaAfrican restaurant, The Shebeen, right here in Charlottesville. Kathy opted to taste their premium range  flight while I opted for the vineyard selection, swapping back and forth to get the full experience.  The 2009 Aenigma, a blend of Cabernet, Cabernet franc, Merlot and Shiraz really stood out for the spicy character with leather and earthy undertones. The 2012 Groenekloof Sauvignon Blanc was one of our favorite wines, being a touch more tropical than others, with good cut and chisel to the frame. This was one of the most elegant wines we tasted during the day. The stand out wines were definitely from the Vineyard Selection flight. I am always a bit skeptical when wineries bottle small lots under a vineyard designation, I feel that the wines are very similar to other wines produced and do not display enough of a varietal or quality difference to labeled as such, not in this case.

The Cabernet, Shiraz, Grenache and Sauvignon Blanc were all gorgeous. The Cabernet was an understated, focusing more on purity of fruit than raw power. The tannins were soft and supple, the oak well balanced and managed, beautiful. The Syrah was dominated by crushed black pepper with an almost jammy quality underneath, not in the sense of over extraction as once again this was an extremely well balanced wine. The Grenache was the most floral of the wines, with the fruit coming from bush vines in mountain vineyards of the Pieknierskloof.  The wine is medium bodied in structure, but is bright in fruit, supple in texture and extremely well made. My only criticism of this winery is the fact that I cannot get these wines in the U.S. and unfortunately space was limited in the suitcase, although I think I may have left a few clothing items down there to make some.Vineyards in Stellenbosch South Africa

Driving back to Cape Town, Aaron fortunately persuaded us to stop at Meerlust Estate. Established in 1756, this winery has been in the hands of the Myburgh family for 8 generations, it has history and charm which transcend to the wines. The 2010 Chardonnay struck me as being more Burgundian in style, with flinty and citrus undertones backed by a weighty and creamy frame. This is a wine I would put in the cellar for a few years, I believe this wine will be beautiful in 3-5 years. The Pinot Noir was an intriguing blend of mustiness and perfumed fruit, supported by bright acidity and supple tannins. The standout wine for me was the 2008 Rubicon, a blend of mainly Cabernet, with Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Petit Verdot. This is a fantastic wine displaying dark fruits, cigar box and underlying spiciness. I loved this wine, but unfortunately this wine shattered in my suitcase on the way back to the States. I sucked every drop out of any piece of clothing that absorbed this wine, dang it, as this was truly one of the iconic wines of South Africa. I will have to persuade Aaron to open up one of the bottles he brought back with me; I think this wine will be a blockbuster 10 years from now.

Groot Constantia vineyards, Cape Town South AfricaThis trip was more centered around family, but the wine industry and wines are truly remarkable. The Estates are gorgeous, the history of the industry is evident and you will be hard pressed to find more picturesque vineyards in the world. The wines are truly coming into their own and can compete on any international stage. Sadly, most of these wines do not make it to U.S shores, most of the wines are exported to the UK and German market and most of the wines mentioned in this blog will be impossible to find unless you visit. Hats off to the vineyard managers and winemakers, I know first hand the challenges in creating a fine wine, but this industry has proven to be up to the task, and I thoroughly enjoyed the efforts of your labor.

As for the trip back home, out little monster was wide awake for the trip from Munich back to Dulles, but those tales are to be chronicled in an other blog post. Unfortunately the wine on the plane was not up to the same standard as what we had just tasted, but it did help me deal with a very active toddler confined in a plane.



Winemaker and Vineyard Manager

Keswick Vineyards

Spicy Shrimp

Greetings my fellow food & wine lovers!

Sorry its been a while since my last post.  I have been busy with the holidays and learning new tricks of the trade.  The festive season may be over but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun food at home!  I came across this recipe by chance as my mom and I were digging through our old cookbooks for something different to take to a party.  Those old recipe books you haven’t cracked open in years may still hold some treasures!

Ok, so now for the recipe.

Tom Jones Shrimp     (Tidewater on the Half shell cookbook)

1 pound shrimp (fresh and unpeeled – try not to use precooked, frozen shrimp)

1 Tbsp. freshly ground pepper

1 1/2 tsp. salt

Juice of 1 lemon (or if you have the bottled lemon juice I used about 3 Tbsp)

1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

Several shakes of hot pepper sauce (I use Texas Pete – I don’t recommend using more than 3 drops.  If you do it will be too spicy and overpower the wine).

1 clove garlic minced

3 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp. butter

1 French bread baguette

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Wash shrimp, then spread in a single layer in a baking dish.  Mix all remaining ingredients (except butter) and pour over shrimp.  Dot shrimp with butter. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes , stir several times.  Serve shrimp in a baking dish and peel when cool enough to handle.  Slice bread into thin pieces for dipping into the sauce.

Wine: 2009 Touriga and/or 2009 Cabernet Franc; for me the Touriga became fruitier and Cabernet Franc’s peppery-ness was accentuated with this dish.

Again – don’t spice this up too much or you will not be able to taste your wine!  This dish is great for a cocktail or even over some basmati rice to go with your dinner.

Hope you enjoy!


Double Norton Brownies

We’ve had a lot of requests for the recipe for Kris’ brownies that we had in the tasting room last weekend, so here it is!  It’s really simple!

Just take a regular box of brownie mix (chocolate or fudge) and substitute Norton wine for the water and 1/4 of the amount of vegetable oil that the mix calls for with Norton chocolate sauce.  Mix it together and bake as directed.
The chocolate sauce will make a more fudgy texture so you can use less or more depending on how fudgy you want them.

To make an extra special treat, we topped them with strawberries dipped in whipped topping (we used equal parts mascarpone cheese and whipped topping, sugared to taste) and rolled in coconut and then drizzled the whole thing with more Norton chocolate sauce!



Greetings everyone!  I hope this blog post finds you hungry and well!
I happen to find that I watch TV stations such as the Food Network when I am hungry which is not always the best idea.  However, the Food Network does inspire me to go outside my comfort cooking zone.  This past week I thought I would try my hand at making Risotto.  While it was not that difficult, it does take some attention.  Let me tell you, it was well worth it!  The recipe  below is both filling and satisfying.

Wine Pairing: 2009Viognier
Recipe: Lemony Risotto with Shrimp and Asparagus
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 2 cups water (suggest replacing water with white wine)
  • 3/4 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
  • 1 1/4 cups Arborio rice
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • 3/4 pound medium shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup grated parmesan
  • 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley

Bring broth and water to a simmer in a medium saucepan. Add asparagus and simmer, uncovered, until just tender, about 4 minutes. Transfer asparagus with a slotted spoon to an ice bath to stop cooking, then drain (suggestion: grill or bake asparagus with some salt and pepper instead of boiling for extra flavor). Keep broth at a bare simmer, covered.

Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter with 1/4 teaspoon salt in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 1 minute. Add wine and simmer, stirring constantly, until absorbed.

Stir in 1/2 cup broth mixture and briskly simmer, stirring frequently, until absorbed. Continue adding broth, 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding the next, until rice is creamy and tender but still al dente (it should be the consistency of a thick soup), about 18 minutes. (There will be leftover broth mixture.)

Stir in shrimp and cook until just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes (suggestion: grill or sauté shrimp before adding to the rice for extra flavor) .

Stir in asparagus, zest, remaining 2 tablespoons butter, parmesan, parsley, and pepper to taste. (Thin risotto with some of remaining broth if necessary.)

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