Our newest wine makes its long awaited debut

Virginia wine, Verdejo and ViognierWe never intended on making a Verdejo wine; the fruit was sold off to another winery because, quite frankly, we felt the wine to be uninspiring and rather bland. It so happened that when half our Viognier crop was lost due to the Easter Weekend frost in 2006, we kept the Verdejo fruit out of necessity, and so began one of our most successful and widely anticipated wines we currently produce. Such was the response to this unknown grape from Spain’s Rueda region, that we have increased our acreage thereof and see it is one of our most important wines moving forward.

If Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc had a baby, it would be called Verdejo.

The wine is sharp and focused with mineral accents and vibrant flavors of stone fruits with some salty undertones, yet it has a textural quality and richness I associate with Viognier. It is versatile with a variety of dishes, but easily enjoyed on it’s own during the warmer months. I have fallen in love with this grape and the wine and am very excited about the future.

In the harvest of 2012, following the rather challenging harvest that was 2011 [note the subtle sarcasm], we harvested perfectly ripe Verdejo. We also picked some Viognier intended for our entry level Les Vent d’Anges brand Viognier the same day. Harvest went well, the fruit was clean and 12 hours later the fruit was sitting in cold storage. I had a plan for processing and the press was prepped and cleaned for receiving the fruit the next morning; home time!

Do you ever get a feeling when something is not quite right, a feeling in your gut that the stars are just not aligned perfectly? Driving to the winery I had such a feeling, no reason why but just did not feel too good. I am pretty sure a refrigerated truck is supposed to cool fruit, imagine my surprise and few choice words when I discovered that our truck was actually heating the fruit and that the inside temperature was 88 degrees, LOVELY.

Previous processing plan out of the window, new plan: toss the Viognier and Verdejo fruit together into the press and then deal with it in the winery. And so ladies and gentleman, our newest addition, the  V², was born. Our intention with this wine was to try and mimic the previous Verdejo versions that were more Sauvignon Blanc in character, showcasing green apple and stone fruit tones. I think what ultimately saved the day was the fact that our LVD Viognier grapes are picked a little earlier and do not exhibit the floral and tropical aromas usually associated with the grape.

The blend came out at 51% Verdejo and 49% Viognier and after fermentation and racking, started to really grow on me. The problem with wine nowadays is that consumers want what they had previously and the challenge with this wine was to re-introduce and re-brand the Verdejo grape and wine. We decided to bottle this wine early since it was 100% tank fermented, thereby giving it a few months in bottle before releasing it. The name V² represents the two varieties that make up the wine and with much trepidation was released to the public in early April.

Instant success; you loved it! It was quickly snapped up in the tasting room and then we started getting asked “When will the next one be available?”. Oh No, no next one, this was a once off thing due to a mistake in the …, who am I kidding? The next one is being released next weekend the 14th of June. How do you deny your customers? You don’t. We make wine for people to enjoy and get excited about and if they loved the first V², they will love the latest version.

The blend is Viognier heavy this year, with only 19% Verdejo and as such the wine is richer and more complex. The Verdejo plays an important role in that it provides the acidity and minerality, that ultimately keeps the flashier Viognier in check.

The wine was fermented in tank and saw no oak. I used a South African yeast, widely used for Sauvignon Blanc production. After minimal handling, protein stabilization and sterile filtration, the wine was bottled April 5th 2014. After 2 months in the bottle, it makes its long awaited and much anticipated appearance in our tasting room. It is a different style than the previous version and each year the blend will differ slightly, what remains the same is that this wine is just good.

I love the V², I really do and my hope is that when you taste it, you will love it too.

Let me know what you think.


Stephen Barnard


Keswick Vineyards


The little grape that could

Since it’s debut vintage in 2006, our Verdejo has turned out to be one of our most popular wines.  Initially planted as a blender, little did we know this Spanish varietal would flourish here in Virginia as a stand-alone varietal.  In 2006 we had a severe Easter weekend frost that decimated the majority of our Viognier and all of our Chardonnay buds, leaving Verdejo to pull the weight of the 2006 white wine program at Keswick Vineyards.  And boy did it!

Our Verdejo quickly became a favorite of our staff, our guests, our wine club members, and our family (in fact, Stephen even served it at his own wedding in 2009, going through over 11 cases of it!).  It’s vibrant acidity and fresh clean flavors of green apples and gooseberries make it the perfect choice for summertime sipping out on the patio.

Megan J. Headley of C-Ville: The Working Pour recently wrote a great article on the history and styles of Verdejo, with a mention of ours at the end.  Read the full article here A Spanish white, Verdejo captures the summer sun, I’m sure you will enjoy it!

If that article gets you thirsting for a relaxing day sitting outside with a bottle of Verdejo- you’re in luck!  We are currently pouring the 2011 Verdejo in our tasting room and we have added a number of new shaded tables outside, as well as outdoor pouring stations, to make your visit as pleasurable as possible.

So grab your friends, a picnic basket and some lawn games and enjoy the summer with us!  Don’t forget to bring your dog too, or if you’re looking for a dog we have Yappy Hours every Sunday where local animal rescue groups bring dogs available for adoption.  If you need more reasons to sip some wine outside while enjoying views of the vineyards and mountains, a portion of the purchase price of every open bottle of wine sold during Yappy Hours will be donated to the visiting rescue group!

See you soon!

A early morning start, and exciting new service

There is something quite beautiful when you look up at 3:30 in the morning and all you see are the stars in the clear sky, with not a breath of wind to be felt. It also means that I am standing in our vineyard looking at the stars, cursing the fact that I am here protecting the vines against the spring frost that could potentially cause our vines serious harm.

With evening temperatures having dipped into the low 30’s sporadically over the last few weeks, the vineyard guys and myself have been here trying to raise the temperature of the vineyard using means such as wind machines, frost dragons and plenty of fires. Thankfully, other than a loss of roughly 5% of our Chardonnay during the first evening, we have gotten through this nerve-racking patch relatively unscathed and can now look forward to much warmer temperatures over the next few weeks.

The vineyard is a hive of activity at the moment, sprayers are visiting every other row, Merlot vines are being planted and growing shoots are being tucked into wires. One can almost say that the 2012 harvest has begun, in that everything we do from here on out will have a direct influence on the quality of the crop, which ultimately will determine whether the wines from 2012 will be special or forgettable. Personally, following a tough growing season in 2011, I have high hopes for 2012; time will of course tell.

The winery is fairly quiet at the moment, although we have just finished our second bottling. Fans of our Verdejo and Consensus wines will be relieved to know that the quality is high and that those wines will be coming to the shelves in the very near future, be sure to check our website for information on release dates. We have also made the follow-up wine to the hugely popular Signature Series Viognier, a style of wine that more reflects the palate of our owner Mr. Al Schornberg, and from what I hear, he finds this new one to be better than the last.

The biggest announcement, however, comes in the form of a service that we are offering starting this year. As you may know, we involve our customers and wine club members in a variety of ways when creating our wines. From the ever popular Consensus blending party to the Friended Franc (made using Facebook), we at Keswick Vineyards really try to get as many people as possible into the cellar as we believe our customer should have a say in what wines we are creating. Having been approached in the past, we have now decided to offer a custom crush service whereby we create a wine for the customer based on their specific needs and palates.

The customer can work directly with me to create a wine of your choosing. The level of involvement is completely up to you. If you trust my winemaking abilities, give me free reign or be as involved as you want and come learn the steps involved in making wine. We will offer a variety of choices, from grape variety, picking parameters, choice of oak and many others, all of which will have a definitive stylistic impact on your wine.

We will take care of all the details and ensure that you receive a quality product at the end of the day. We also have an amazingly talented artist in the form of our very own wine club manager Kris Schornberg. Pick her brains to help you design your label or simply do it yourself. Want to be a winemaker without the risk involved? HERE IS YOUR CHANCE!

Call the winery at 434-244-3341 or e-mail me directly at sbarnard@keswickvineyards.com for further details.

This year promises to be a special year, I have a good feeling.




Keswick Vineyards

The Verdejo is here

I love releasing a new wine to the public, after all the joy of wine is being able to share it with people. Tomorrow marks the official release of our new 2010 Verdejo, coinciding with Semana Santa [or holy week in Spain]. Normally found in the Rueda region of Spain, Verdejo has done surprisingly well in the climate of Virginia, but this grape has not always been a favorite at Keswick Vineyards.

Up until the 2006 harvest, the fruit was sold as we did not believe it made wines of a superior quality, but as luck would have it, the Verdejo survived a horrendous frost and since the Viognier was hardest hit, we decided to keep the fruit to make wine as we knew we would be short.

The juice reminded me a lot of Sauvignon Blanc, lots of acid, lower sugar levels and greener flavors of melon, pear and apple. And that is how I decided to make it: cold fermentation in stainless steel tanks, preserving the natural acidity by inhibiting  secondary fermentation and ensuring the wine is bone dry. We have played around with various percentages of Viognier to add some brightness in terms of aroma but resisted that temptation in 2010 and only blended 3% of Viognier into the final blend.

This wine has acid as sharp as a razor blade and flavors greener than Dublin on St Patrick’s Day. Apples and grapefruit flavors are dominant with underlying minerality creating a wine that is a perfect accompaniment to shellfish and a variety of salads, lthough quite enjoyable on its own in the sun. With only 221 cases made, this wine promises to sell out quickly so come on by and get it while you can!

I have to give a special mention to Sandy Dowling [our book keeper] who has long preached the quality of our Verdejo. She must know what she is talking about as the 2010 Verdejo has just been awarded a platinum medal at the San Diego International Wine Competition [given to less than 4% of the total wines entered].

As a side note, I did want to point out subtle changes we have made to our packaging. The 2010 Verdejo is bottled with what will be our new label and the bottle we are using is 200 grams lighter than the previous bottles which should minimize our carbon footprint.

Other than that, the wine is hopefully everything you have come to expect from our Verdejo, a great bottle of wine that is perfect for this time of year.

I hope you enjoy drinking it as much as I enjoyed making it



Keswick Vineyards

The Vineyard is Alive

It is so good to be back. After travels to England, Germany and South Africa [which was amazing], it is great to be back on the farm during what is the most exciting time [other than harvest]

Bud Break

Winter has been fairly moderate to say the least with some days reaching mid 70’s sometimes even the low 80’s. I have to admit I was fairly nervous being so far away as I would have put all my money on bud break commencing a lot earlier than normal, which for us is around April 10th. But snow and cooler temperatures set in and we are back on track and right on schedule.

But what exactly is bud break?

Well it is the first step of the annual growth cycle of a vine. The start of the cycle is signaled by the bleeding of the vine. This occurs when osmotic forces push water from the root system through the cuts from the pruning. Vines can bleed up to 1.5 Gallons.

Tiny buds [which have remained dormant during winter] use the carbohydrate reserves stored in the wood and start producing shoots. Within the bud there are normally three primordial shoots.  The shoots produce leaves and through the process of photosynthesis, produce energy to facilitate growth. With warm temperatures these shoots can grow almost one inch in a single day.

But these young shoots are extremely fragile and in this part of the world, very susceptible to frost damage which can occur up to Mid May. We have experienced our fair share of crop loss due to Frost, with our Viognier especially hard hit in recent years. We have taken every possible precaution for this eventuality. Our wind machines are ready to go, bales of straw are ready to be lit, and if there is anything we can do to prevent it, we will. Unfortunately [as was the case in 2007] with temperatures reaching 17 degrees, there is not much one is able to do.

Frost is only one potential hazard at this time of the year. Bud break also brings the threat of bud damage by the climbing cutworm. The name “cutworm” is applied to a large number of larvae of lepidopterous species. The moths are night flyers while the larvae are night feeders, with both stages hiding through the day. These cutworm feed on the young buds resulting in the loss of primary and sometimes secondary buds so early season control is important.

So far so good, no sings of cutworm damage; and with warmer temperatures being forecasted over the next 2 weeks we are in pretty good shape starting the 2011 growing season.  AS I write this, the rain starts belting down and the thunder is deafening, nicely done Stephen

Next Post – A video talking about our new 2010 Verdejo, set to makes its tasting room debut on Saturday.



Keswick Vineyards