Perhaps our best vintage yet at Keswick Vineyards.

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This is what Cabernet fruit should look like, clean and ripe and ready to be made into wonderful wine.

As we enter the first official day of Spring, we generally reflect on the harvest that was and evaluate the wines as they continue to age or, in our case, finish their secondary fermentation in barrel. It allows us as winemakers to take a critical look at the wines and to judge if harvest decisions and processing protocols were beneficial and if the wines are truly reflective of the vintage as we hoped they would be. I spent a great deal of time with the wines this past weekend, evaluating not only the different varietals, but also the barrels they were in to see how the oak was impacting the wine. I am very pleased to state that I am thrilled with how the wines are developing, and how much more developed they are at this point than they normally are. To understand the strength of the vintage, you have to understand the growing season. The key point for me was the much cooler than normal May and June. With evening temperatures in the 50’s the fruit was able to retain a lot of its natural acidity, reflected in the harvest chemistry. Acidity for me is a key component in wine, and is arguably one of the things I focus the most on. In cooler growing seasons as was 2014, I find the aromatics of the wine to be that much more pronounced and the wines tend to have a focus and juiciness as opposed to warm vintages. The other benefit is that we deal with lower pH must or juice, which is perfect for us since we ferment most of our wines without the addition of any commercial yeast. This low pH [higher acidity] environment makes it much harder for bacteria to grow and makes it much easier to ferment wines to dryness with the native yeast in the winery.  I often get asked why we tend to go this route and the answer is quite simple. As a winemaker, I am aiming to reflect in a glass the manner in which the fruit was grown as opposed to how it was manipulated or made in the winery. I am a firm believer in the notion that the best fruit makes the best wine, while also making wine that is unique and special. My job therefore is to respect the character given to me by the vineyard, and not interfere too much.

soils in our Bordeaux block

Thanks to our groundhogs, no need to dig profile pits in the vineyard. look at that white dirt, lots of shale and fragmented rocks, the secret to our powerful and extracted red wines

Starting off with the whites

2014 Chardonnay:

It is not that I do not like the occasional buttery, oak driven Chardonnay. I think there is a time and place for such wines. I truly believe though that the market place is shifting towards more fresher styled wines, wines that showcase minerality or steeliness as opposed to weight and rich textures. Our Chardonnay style is driven by our fruit and the soil on which it is grown. Our Chardonnay grows on fragmented rock, with shale and limestone littering the parcel. If you crack those rocks together, you almost get a saltiness in your nose, it is this character that I want in our wines. We have moved away from barrel fermentation, opting to ferment in tank where fermentation temperatures can be controlled and thus drawn out to about a month before they completely use up all the sugar. By extending the fermentation period upwards, we can essentially create wines that are more linear and focused, while creating aromatics that are clean and more subtle. Our oak regimen is that we exclusively use French oak, but are working more with larger format barrels. Essentially we do not want you swallowing a 2 x 4 when you taste the wine, we want the oak to lift or support the fruit, integrating with those stony fruit, apple and tangerine flavors. Our 2014 is everything we hoped  it would be; fresh and vibrant with wonderful acidity, and just a kiss of oak that elevates the fruit and keeps everything in balance. Earmarked for August bottling, this might be the best Chardonnay we have ever produced.

first day of harvest 2014

August 28th 2014, first day of harvest with our 3 acre Chardonnay looking perfect. this was a sign of things to come for the rest of the fruit and vintage.

2014 Viognier:

The state grape of Virginia, that has come under fire of recent time due to its struggles in the vineyard. Highly prone to frost and bud damage, our 16 acre took quite a hit and we ended up with a minuscule amount of fruit. The positive is that the quality was amazing, and we were able to pick clean fruit that was wonderfully ripe. Viognier is such an intoxicating wine, and you immediately get loads of tropical aromas as you press the fruit. With such little fruit, we did not have the ability to experiment and this year we opted for a tank fermented, barrel matured version. I felt that the acidity of the wine could stand up to some three-year old barrels, and we could build up some nice texture on the palate. There is a lot of discussion among winemakers as to what the exact style of Viognier should be, many choosing to use more tank fermented wines in their final blend, sometimes with just a touch of sweetness, Our version is bone dry, has the typical aromas of the grape but will also be able to see a few years in the bottle due to the influence of oak. At a recent tasting of some of Virginia’s finest Viognier wines, I favored ours that were 4-5 years old, proving to me that our wines are built to last. In the world of accessibility and the drink it now mentality, the 14 will offer immediate gratification, but will reward patience for those that can wait and prove to be a stunning wine in a few years.

Cab Fran

Splash racking the Cab Franc, look at that color. An important step to introduce oxygen into the wine and ensure we take care of any reductive aroma’s

The big Reds It is hard not to get excited about red wines when you get fruit that is ripe, clean and picked whenever you wanted. Other than Merlot, I was extremely happy with the quality of fruit across the board, especially for the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Verdot.

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon:

Arguably the king of reds and one that cannot ripen in Virginia if you believe conventional wisdom. Many believe the focus should be given to Cabernet Franc, Petite Verdot or Tannat. The beauty of theories is that there will always be exceptions to the rule and in our case, we more often than not can get ripe Cabernet Sauvignon into the winery. The winemaking process after that is relatively quite simple. The fruit is meticulously hand sorted, ensuring that only the best berries make it into the fermentation tank. We painstakingly discard all under ripe fruit, stems and leaves that may have passed through the de-stemmer. As with all our high-end wines, we choose to allow the fermentation to begin and finish naturally. We monitor the wines very carefully, punch the cap down judiciously and frequently to extract as much color as possible and we pay careful attention to the way in which we press the skins. It is well know that there is a qualitative difference between free run and press fraction wine. In years gone past, we would just set the press to a program and allow the press to do its thing. We now however run the press manually and press over a longer period and more gently. By tasting the press wine, we can determine at which point the various lots should be separated and how they should be aged. Our two lots of Cabernet received a fair amount of press wine this year, since the tannins were so ripe, supple and silky. The press wine gave the wines some serious backbone which for the style we make is somewhat needed. I am so excited about the 14 vintage Cabs. One lot is in 100% French oak barrels, all manufactured by Mercier and what a huge blockbuster of a wine. Dark and inky, with lots of blue and purple fruit on the nose. The oak is there but it is meshing nicely with the fruit of the wine and there is an underlying acidity to the wine that keeps the wine quite light on its feet which I find really attractive. This is not a wine that will see a bottle soon, earmarked for bottling in 2016 after 22 months in oak. I predict that it will need at least five years in the bottle before it realizes it’s potential. BY FAR, the best Cabernet we have ever made in my opinion, and we have made some good ones recently.

Cabernet Sauvignon after many sorting hours

Cabernet Sauvignon after many hours sorting the de-stemmed fruit to remove any unwanted berries and stems. A painstaking task but well worth it when you taste the final product in barrel.

Our second lot of Cabernet is maturing in slightly older barrels, since this wine is historically always the most aromatic of the two. With blending of the two lots common, the first lot is the structural backbone of the wine, while this sucks you in with gorgeous aromatics. Hard to pick a favorite of the two since they are both so good, albeit for different reasons.

2014 Petite Verdot:

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Pressing the must. By tasting the wine at various press levels, we determine where they should go. Certainly been instrumental in improving our wines and learning how to handle our fermented wine.

Traditionally a blending grape in the world of wine, but taking quite the center stage in Virginia. I sit on the fence with this one a little since I still see its value in blends versus  a stand alone varietal wine. It has great tannic structure and dark flavors but sometimes lacks the finesse I search for in wines. If however, you are one of those that does not mind laying these wines down for a few years, PV can be quite the charming wine. Our 14 will be a bit too much for some in its youth, incredibly tannic and dry at this point in time, it will require some bottle time to soften up and reveal itself. We have used some tight grain French barrels for this wine, two to three years old to respect the fruit. I was playing with the idea of American oak but decided that it did not need more sweetness which American oak sometimes imparts. But my word, this wine is rich and dense and unapologetic-ally big. Plan on having this with a cigar or steak, you are going to need it.

Cabernet Franc:

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Some New 500L french Oak barrels ready for use in our Cab Program

I am always highly critical of this varietal, partly because I am still learning how to make it since it is mainly used in blending. I am not a big fan of herbaceous flavors in red wines, and too often I find Cabernet Franc wines that quite frankly have been either picked too early, or have been badly managed in the fermentation stage. The tannins can be quiet astringent and chalky, leading to flavors of bell pepper and wet leaves, devoid of any fruit. It is a style I try not to make so we really try to hang our fruit as long as possible to mask those greener flavors if we can. Quite often, this grape comes in late September and this year we were able to let it hang 10 days longer than our historical average. I was really looking for a change in tannins and flavors, not really worried about sugars and acid. The point at which the flavors are more spicy, with black pepper is when we pick. Thoroughly sorted we have a different approach to fermentation versus the other Bordeaux varietals. I like to ferment a little cooler and most often we press off prior to fermentation being completed, trying to manage the tannin extraction or more specifically the type of tannins we extract. Our barrel regimen focuses more on American oak, using the natural sweetness of the barrel to mask or cover up the slightly greener tannins you can get. I do have two brand new French oak barrels in the program this year for research purposes and I really like them. They will blended back into the final lot but it would be interesting to see if those barrels would have such a positive influence in a greener or wetter year. With this wine earmarked for early bottling and release, we need to ensure the wine is ready for the market place, so we will be paying careful attention to the oak influence and how big the wine can become. I have to say it is the best version we have ever made though, if you like spicy wines showcasing more red fruit characteristics.

Overall Assessment:

WOW, from what I hear from other producers the 2014 will certainly rank as one of the finest in recent memory and consumers can look forward to these wines as they start making their way onto tasting room shelves. Since our philosophy is to allow the fruit to dictate the direction of the wines, our wines are highly extracted, rich, lush and will require some ageing for them to fully develop. I am not saying that they will not be good immediately, they will be, but they will be incredible with some time. These are the wines you should stockpile your cellar with, I know I will be. I almost forgot, I did also taste our 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon wine as it enters its 16 month in barrel. Holy moly this wine has come along beautifully. It is very similar to our 2009 version, with a core of dark fruit but built on a frame that exudes finesse and elegance as opposed to sheer power and strength. I feel like a stuck record but again, this wine will delight in its youth but will blow you away with some time in the bottle. Virginia definitely has its ups and down when it comes to wine and vintage variability. I am glad to report that 2014 is definitely an up year, just wish we had more wine. But hey, do not take my word for it, come taste the wines with me at our May 9th and 10th barrel tasting. Call our tasting room and join me for an in-depth tasting of some of the finest wines we have ever produced. Space is limited so call now to reserve your space.

I lastly want to thank my guys in the vineyard for working so hard and getting this vintage done. to Jeremy, Lewis, Luis and Steve, I owe you a debt of gratitude for all your time and effort, hopefully these wines make you proud and justify all your hard work. Also to my wonderful wife who keeps things ticking in my absence and supporting me throughout, I love you and could not do this without you, I’ll try to be home a touch more before the next harvest starts.

Quality control, an important part of the job

Quality control, an important part of the job, and I take it seriously.

Take care

Stephen Barnard

Winemaker Keswick Vineyards

Last night I took a trip to South Africa and France

I love wine, I drink my weight in wine and if you have seen me lately you will know that I am saying I drink a fair bit. One of the most fascinating things about this elixir is that it transports you to another world, in that the wine you drink reflects the area or place in which it was grown. Why is a Chardonnay from California so remarkably different to one from Burgundy?

The concept of Terroir speaks to this notion, that due to a variety of influences [soil, elevation, row direction, planting density, cropping levels etc] a wine from distinctly different areas will always taste unique. No matter the influence of the winemaker, a Chardonnay grown in the Cote d’Or of Burgundy will taste remarkably different to one grown in the Russian River AVA of California. You could argue that there are stylistic similarities [full malo-lactic fermentation or the use of French oak], but the inherent differences in the wine will always take you back to the place where it all starts, the vineyard.

Thai food was on the menu last night, and I thought it the perfect opportunity to break open a few bottles of wine. I am beginning to see a trend between Asian inspired dishes and my need to open up really good wine.

Springfield Estate "Wild Yeast" Chardonnay 2008

Last nights trip of choice was to South Africa, with a gorgeous Springfield Estate 2008 Wild Yeast Chardonnay and France, with a 2005 Chateau Haut Bergeron from Sauternes.

The Chardonnay is made by winemaker Abrie Bruwer, and the estate is located in Robertson, South Africa. I have always been an admirer of this producer and if you get the chance, look for the “Life from Stone” Sauvignon Blanc and the “Methode Ancienne” Cabernet Sauvignon, you will not be disappointed. With many tools at a winemakers disposal nowadays, this winemaker tends to go back to basics and focus on the vineyard, producing world-class wines that reflect the sense of place. His wine making philosophy is one of minimal interference, fermenting wines with natural yeast, avoiding filtration unless absolutely needed and as the website quotes “let the wine make itself”.

The 2008 harvest was by all means a fairly tricky one, with cooler than average temperatures and higher than average rainfall. Many producers talk about the fight against fungal disease and the importance of picking at the right time. The biggest positive is that cooler temperatures lead to  retention of acid in the fruit and better phenolic ripeness. [Information taken from Angela Lloyds 2008 harvest report].

The Springfield Chardonnay is fermented entirely in stainless steel tank but is allowed to undergo 100% malo-lactic fermentation, and is furthermore aged on the lees for over a year prior to bottling.  The wine displayed gorgeous tropical aromas that followed through onto the palate, marked by vibrant acidity which ensured this Chardonnay was lively and focused. I have been pretty down on Chardonnay wines recently, but this wine will certainly change a few opinions and is a champion that Chardonnay still has plenty to offer the consumer. You owe it to yourself to seek this bottle out and give it a try; not withstanding it is from my home country, I really loved this wine!

From New World to Old World, a dessert wine from Sauternes finished the evening off.

Chateau Haut Bergeron 2005

This particular Sauternes is made up of 60% Semillion and 40% Sauvignon Blanc.

Many experts believe the Haut-Bergeron to be the best of the Non-Classified Sauternes. Part of their vineyards are in Barsac, with the remaining vineyards in Preignac [right next to the world-famous Chateau D Yquem].

The first thing you notice is the gorgeous color which is brilliantly gold, with amber tinges. The aromas are rich and luscious with apricots, honey and caramel tones. This wine is wonderfully textured, rich and lengthy and I suspect there is a fair amount of new oak in this wine [although I cannot confirm]. For all my praises;  my wife Kathy did not enjoy this wine at all, alluding to a smell that just did not agree with her. The beauty of wine is that we each have our own opinions. I thought this wine to be showing beautifully though and may still have a few years left in the bottle, although I would probably drink it in the next 2-3 years.

What a way to spend an evening, eating Thai food, drinking South African and French wine will sitting in Charlottesville US.  Life is good especially when you can share it with people you love.

This was one trip worth taking, and that for me is the ultimate beauty of wine. Tonight I think I might visit Australia.

Here’s to wonderful wines

Cheers

Stephen

Keswick Vineyards

Don’t forget about the bubbles

The common perception is that Champagne is reserved only for the finest of celebrations, that it is too special an elixir to consume on a Monday evening for no reason whatsoever. Well I am an advocate for bubblies and think they are fantastic wines to drink with a variety of foods or just for the heck of it.
Champagnes come in a variety of styles [Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Noir amongst others] as well as a variety of sweetness levels from dry [Brut Nature] to sweeter [Sec or Demi Sec].

Already it makes a strong case for consumers, as the range in styles really appeal to a wide variety of wine drinkers. You do not find too many sweet Syrah or Cabernet wines, so for the sweet tooth this is just not an appealing wine type. I may happen to think that Syrah and Cabernet represent the best of what wine can bring to the table, but someone just entering into the world of wine might not like the idea of feeling that they swallowed a desert.

Before we get ahead of ourselves, lets discuss Champagne and what it is all about. There are many sparkling wines made throughout the world, but the use of the word “Champagne” is reserved strictly for those wines made in the area of Champagne in France. The use of the word is actually protected by the Treaty of Madrid [1891] and reaffirmed in the Treaty of Versailles. The United States acknowledges the use of the term and only those producers who had permission before 2006, may continue to use the term although most do not. In other countries sparkling wine is known as Cava [Spain], Spumante [Italy] and Cap Classique [South Africa].

The traditional method in producing “Champagne” is known as Methode Champenoise, whereby a secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle trapping the by-product Carbon Dioxide [bubbles]. After extensive aging, the bottle is manipulated so that the lees [spent yeast] settles in the neck of the bottle, a process known as rumage. After a quick freeze of the bottle neck, the cap is removed and the pressure forces the ice and lees out of the bottle, after which some syrup is added [dosage] and the cork inserted to trap the Carbon Dioxide. Sounds pretty technical right? Well yeah it is, I have a great admiration for producers of this type of wine, it is not as easy as it looks. I do talk after having made one bottle of sparkling wine in my life, in preparation for my wife’s graduation. Silly me, I did not think it would take her 7 years to get her PhD and the bottle was less than fizzy, it would have been better had I used a Chardonnay and a bicycle pump. It will be the most memorable bottle of bubbly ever though. By the way, very proud of your Dr.Kathryn Schornberg.

It is true that you can make a sparkling wine out of any grape, I have had some wonderful bubblies made from Viognier in Virginia, Syrah from Australia and even a Cabernet Franc from Ohio. But for the purists though, “Champagne” is made from either Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. The particular style of the wines refer to the way in which the grapes were used; Blanc de Blanc [white from white], Blanc de Noir [white from red] and Rose whereby pigmentation is derived from contact with the skins of the dark skinned grapes.

Ever wondered why Champagne bottles are so freaking heavy? Well, since Champagne wines are made by trapping carbon dioxide in the bottle, the bottle has to be of sufficient strength to be able to withstand those pressures. They are so heavy and thick, they could make a wonderful self defense weapon.

So we have well established that there is a lot of finesse that goes into creating this extraordinary wine, but the real treat is in drinking these beauties. There is definitely a Champagne for everyone, from the cheap and fruity to the expensive and complex, the bone dry to the sweetest of the lot.
Champagnes are definitely food friendly, and are a great accompaniment to cheeses in the appetizer course, to shell fish and pork as the entree. Aged Gouda, Parmesan or Cheddar pair wonderfully with Blanc de Blanc, while pork and Rose Champagne is a wonderful treat. I have even heard that Champagne and eggs Benedict are to die for, you now also have an excuse to drink Champagne in the morning.
They do pair with desserts but try to stay away from sticky or overtly sweet dishes, try angel food cake or berries as a wonderful compliment to a demi sec.

Champagnes are vibrant and fun, with flavors ranging from green apples with beautifully focused acidity, to creamier versions with hints of biscuit and butterscotch. They can be smoky and elegant or tart and citrus driven. These are fun wines to drink. My prediction for 2012, more people will start drinking Champagne, just for the heck of it, and you know what? THEY SHOULD.

Some of my personal favorites include the
French
– Mumm Brut “Cordon Rouge”
– Piper Heidsieck “Piper”
– Krug “Grande Cuvee”
California
– Schramsberg J Schram and Mirabelle Rose [also my wife’s absolute favorite]
South Africa
– Pierre Jourdan Brut Sauvage
– J.C.Le Roux Pinot Noir
Australia
– Peregrine Ridge Sparkling Shiraz

AND OF COURSE VIRGINIA
– Thibaut Janisson Blanc de Chardonnay
– Kluge SP Blanc de Blanc
– Veritas Scintilla

And YES, at some point in time I have had every one of these bottles, and NO, I do not have a drinking problem!

Local versions are fantastic and there are many other great options out there and provide fantastic value for money
I constantly preach that we have to keep expanding our palates and try different wines, so what better reason than that to dive into the fascinating world of the wine with the bubbles, because today is Tuesday, and it is a special day.

For as Winston Churchill so graciously put it
“In success you deserve it, and in defeat you need it”.

Fun little fact [quoted]
Contrary to popular belief, Dom Perignon did not invent Champagne. The oldest recorded sparkling wine is Blanquette de Limoux, which was apparently invented by Benedictine Monks in the Abbey of Saint Hilaire near Carcassonne in 1531. Over a century later, the English scientist and physician Christopher Merret documented the addition of sugar to a finished wine to create a second fermentation six years before Dom Perignon set foot in the Abbey of Hautvillers and almost 40 years before it was claimed that the famed Benedictine monk invented Champagne.

Cheers

Stephen
Keswick Vineyards

Mother Nature Ruled 2011

After the 2010 vintage in Virginia [arguably the best in recent times], the 2011 growing season was going to struggle to reach the lofty standards of its predecessor. To say that 2011 failed miserably would be similar to saying that Drew Brees had an okay year [this makes sense if you know that he broke Dan Marino’s all time passing yards in a single season, 5084 set in 1984 when Marino played for the Miami Dolphins].

Mother Nature ruled this year and her awesome power was on display more times than any of us would wish for. From a devastating earthquake in New Zealand to the horrific Tsunami in Japan, 2011 was littered with catastrophic natural disasters. Closer to home, Tuscaloosa was hit hard by the April 27th Tornado and Virginia experienced a 5.8 magnitude earthquake on August 23rd, quickly followed by the August 27th appearance of hurricane Irene. 2011 was certainly unforgettable, but for all the wrong reasons.

The season started off well enough with a milder than normal winter, allowing us to get the vineyard pruned with time to spare. We started seeing some bud break around April 7th, which is fairly typical in the Chardonnay. We experienced no loss due to spring frost, which can be especially damaging to our 16 acres of Viognier, and all signs pointed to a decent growing year- at least we were off to a pretty good start.

Viognier during bud break

Flowering started 56 days after bud break and generally commences when daily average temperatures are between 58 and 68 degrees.  Fruit set occurred almost immediately after [when the fertilized flower produces a seed and a berry to protect the seed]. This stage is one of the most critical periods for the grape grower as it has ramifications for the potential yield of a vineyard since not every flower on the vine gets fertilized. Weather conditions play a significant role and stress conditions including lack of water, temperature and humidity can all play a role in significantly reducing the flowering and thus the crop.

Up until this point, we  were very optimistic about the potential harvest.  We had a full crop throughout the vineyard and everything looked pretty good.  Our vines were balanced, disease pressure was minimal and other than canopy management, weed control and trunk stripping, the season was pretty much going along as expected.

veraison

It was around veraison or the days before that we really started experiencing some rain. Veraison is the point in which green grapes turn red, due to Chlorophyll turning into Anthocyannins [red varieties] and Carotenoids [white varieties]. It is also the point in which sugars in the form of glucose and fructose are produced and the acid levels drop. The problem with rain, and as was the case in 2011 continuous rain, is the development of mildews and especially botrytis.  While botrytis [noble rot] can make some of the most sought after wines in the world, with continued wet conditions this rot can turn into a malevolent form [grey rot or vinegar rot].

This year I really got to know Ol Betsy [the faithful tractor] and Herb [the sprayer], because other than leaf pull, dropping infected fruit and praying, the only thing we could do was spray. This goes against all matter of principle in our grape growing and winemaking philosophy, whereby intervention is ideally kept to a minimum.  Unfortunately this year was one in which ideology was shelved and we did everything we could to ensure we produced decent fruit and ultimately decent wines.

So how did we fare in the winery?

Thankfully Chardonnay, Verdejo and some Viognier were picked prior to the major rains, albeit at lower than desired sugar levels. The promising aspect of these wines though is their incredible acidity, a component of winemaking I think needs more attention. Acidity ensures the wines are focused and bright and we worked really hard to reflect that in the wines we were producing. Pressing was done as gently as possible and the wines were made as anaerobically [devoid of any oxygen] as possible. Very few wines were barrel fermented, choosing instead to  ferment in temperature controlled stainless steel tanks. Having tasted these wines last week, I can honestly say that the Chardonnay is the best we have ever produced, and while the Viognier is not as bright in character as in recent years, it is still outstanding. They crackle with vibrant acidity and have a varietal character, which is fantastic.

great chardonnay

Reds were hardest hit, with later season reds such as Cabernet Franc and Petite Verdot feeling the force of the rain. It was a catch 22 situation for us as the fruit was not ready to be picked, sugars were low and tannins were green and under-developed- but in hindsight, if we had known that we would experience that amount of rain, we truthfully would probably have taken it all. At the end of the day, the Merlot, Touriga and Norton wines are fantastic. We managed to pick ripe Merlot and Touriga, and well Norton, that is a tough son of a gun and I was so impressed with how it fared, I even applauded it in a previous blog. What of the other varieties? We made an incredible Rose’ this year, a dry style that we have already bottled and are looking at releasing in the next few months. When the vineyard gives you lemons, you make lemonade, but it is great lemonade.

sorting Merlot

All in all though, I think we manged to dodge a bullet, in that it could have been far worse than what it was. I am thankful for having some experience in Virginia and after working the 2003 harvest, I was way more prepared this time round. I can only shudder and imagine what would have happened had this been my first vintage in Virginia. Overall I give the vintage a B+, the wines are developing character and should be fantastic. Although lighter in style than 2010, these are vibrant wines and will no doubt bring pleasure to many a wine drinker.

So while 2011 wraps up, we are already in the vineyard pruning for the upcoming growing season. After a challenging season, I am more focused and motivated than ever to ensure that 2012 goes down as one of our best season yet.

So what was the best thing I made all year?

That easily is my daughter Aria. A blend of 50% Kathy and 50% me, matured in amniotic fluid for 9 months. Released to the world on December 5th, she is showing signs of shock and will need some time to mature. She is already gorgeous but will continue to improve over the next 80 years and will provide joy to many.

Our 2011 creation

So I guess 2011 was really the best year ever if I really think about it.

From my family to yours, and on behalf of everyone here at Keswick Vineyards, I would  like to thank you for your continued support, and to wish you a joyous, blessed and prosperous New Year

Stephen

A vineyard update

Morning Everybody.

I hope you had a wonderful Easter and enjoyed the beautiful weather from yesterday.

All this is of course great for the vineyard, warm temperatures with plenty of sunshine, enough rain to support growth and a little bit of wind on the property to dry things out. We are starting to see some pretty serious shoot growth with the Chardonnay shoots already at 6 inches or so. Not all of the buds have broken yet, Norton and Cabernet Sauvignon have yet to break but with 80 degree days forecasted, I would imagine we will see them break towards the end of the week.

Viognier during bud break

As of yet, we have only found one climbing cut worm which is great news and as such I have not even bothered to spray for them which is quite unusual for our vineyard. Talking of spraying though, we have started with a light fungicide spray, all to control Powdery Mildew, Black Rot and Downy Mildew. Our spray regiment is roughly every 10-12 days, alternating different sprays, controlling all the various pests, and diseases that I expect we will see during the course of the growing season.

Powdery mildew is a fungal disease that affects a wide range of plants; and are caused by many different species of fungi in the order Erysiphales. It is one of the easier diseases to spot, as its symptoms are quite distinctive. Infected plants display white powdery spots on the leaves and stems. The lower leaves are the most affected, but the mildew can appear on any above-ground part of the plant. As the disease progresses, the spots get larger and denser as large numbers of asexual spores are formed, and the mildew may spread up and down the length of the plant.

Downy mildew refers to any of several types of oomycete microbes that are obligate parasites of plants. Downy mildews exclusively belong to Peronosporacae.

The most exciting part of this growth stage is that we can already the tiny grape clusters.

With no immediate threat of frost and all the buds looking fruitful, we are off to a great start in the vineyard, hopefully this spells the start of what will be another fantastic harvest in the state of Virginia.

Cheers

Stephen