2014 Harvest Report from Keswick Vineyards

My fellow wine lovers, I greet you after what has been an exhausting harvest here at Keswick Vineyards. Even as I write this, we still have fermenting wines that need close monitoring and ultimately pressing off to barrel. Hopefully at this point we should be done in the next few weeks.

The big question from our customers and wine club members is, “How was the Harvest?” Well I am happy to report that all signs point to it potentially being one of the best yet! I am especially thrilled about the quality of the red wines and have already publicly stated that I believe the 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon will be even better than the Governors Cup Winning 2007, and the multiple gold winning 2009 and 2010 wines. I said that about the 2013 Cabernet that is still aging in barrel, but the 2014 wine has me really excited. I tend to be rather reserved about the wines at this stage, knowing that there is still a lot of developing they have to do before we can really assess the strength of the vintage; but rarely have I see our wines to be this explosive so early in the process.

The biggest question is how to keep improving on these wines and what factors have led to such a wonderful harvest. The answer lies in three important factors [1] Mother Nature [2] The actual vineyard and [3] The wine-making process.

[1] Mother Nature:

We are at the mercy of all things weather, the rainfall, the sunlight, and length of the growing season. It is ultimately the quality of the growing season that determines the potential of the wines. Great wines can not be made from poor fruit. Think of Bordeaux and the great vintages of 2000, 2005, 2009 and 2010, where the growing season allowed the winemaker to make incredible wines.

we have bud break

we have bud break

Bud break at Keswick Vineyards occurred April 7th, which is quite typical for us. With bud break comes the threat of spring frosts and we negated three frost days through the use of fans, fires and spraying. Unfortunately, our Viognier took quite a pounding from the nasty winter and we already knew that our crop would be considerably less than normal. The great news is that all other varietals were in great shape, buds were healthy and fruitful. Through the course of the season we dealt with moderate temperatures, adequate rainfall and very little disease pressure. This allowed us to cut our sprays down to 11-14 day intervals while spraying the least amount of material in order to be the most effective. The evenings were cool which preserved the natural acidity and kept the fruit firm and intact, another factor in fruit surviving late season rains.

Keswick Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon

A potentially amazing crop

[2] The Vineyard:

Our vineyard was planted in 2000 and is now reaching some sort of maturity. After 15 years in the ground, we should really start seeing some quality fruit come off the various blocks. Initially young vineyards are very vigorous, producing not only a tremendous amount of foliage, but potentially a big heavy crop too. Sounds good unless the fruit is not quite ripe and leads to herbaceous, vegetal wines. Since we are in the wine growing business, our ultimate goal is find the right balance between amount of fruit and quality of fruit, with more emphasis placed on quality. We are now at a point where the vines are balanced, roots are deep and established and the vines healthy. We can now start assessing the various flavor profiles, the subtle nuances between the rows, elevation differences and exposures. Instead of dealing with macro climates [general area like Albemarle] or Mesoclimate [difference between various blocks] we have now focused on the Microclimate [the differences within the actual row itself].

soils in our Bordeaux block

soils in our Bordeaux block

Is there really a huge difference between East facing and West facing fruit, or vines that are at elevation differences? ABSOLUTELY! Factor in the soil variances, the changing topography, the tree line and the effect of sunshine on the canopy, what you essentially get is a difference in chemistry and flavor profile. We measured the sugar of Cabernet Franc at one end of the row at 21 and at the other end we got 18, that is a huge swing and you could taste the difference too. In years past, we would just pick the Cabernet Franc, now we pick certain vines, certain sections are allowed more time to mature, certain vines get more leaf removal or get pruned a different way. In the winery we get more components with which to work, wines are assembled piece by piece and although they will eventually be 100% of a certain varietal, may consist of 6 different components.

If “Terroir” refers to a sense of place, then it is our responsibility to identify what it is about our vineyard that is unique. We then also need to ensure that we communicate those differences in our wine, preserving the notion that great wines indeed are an expression of the vineyard versus the hand of the winemaker.

first day of harvest 2014

first day of harvest 2014

Over the course of the vineyards young life, we have identified various blocks as producing better quality fruit than others. Anecdotally, we have tasted wines that are just better and year after year, fruit from various parcels have been kept separate or vinified as a Reserve or designated to be a higher quality. To better understand why this might be, with the help of a company called Resource Reconnaissance we have been using drones to map our vineyard, to identify the various soil types and to photograph the ripening process from the air. After months of data collection, we discovered that all our perceived highest quality blocks were planted on a very unique soil: residuum from sericite schist, phyllite, or other fine-grained metamorphic rocks. These soils are incredibly well-drained and are mainly found on slopes of 10-20 degree gradients. Our vines planted on these soils have incredibly deep root systems, have better tolerance to climatic variations, and, most importantly, produce high quality fruit albeit in lower quantities. This discovery is significant in that it proves what we always thought, that there is a factor in why this fruit is infinitely better than others. It also allows us to search for this soil for future plantings.

[3] The Winemaking:

While the essence of a wine can be traced back to the vineyard, the fact remains that the winemaker has to ensure the quality of the fruit is reflected in the finished product. Luckily for me, I had the privilege of working with amazing fruit. Our reds in particular were stunning which certainly makes the winemaking part a little easier. It is no secret that I tend to favor a hands off approach and this year allowed to me do just that.

Cabernet Sauvignon after many sorting hours

Cabernet Sauvignon after many sorting hours

As always, we sorted our fruit after de-stemming to remove any leaves, stems or berries that were un-desirable. This is an investment in time with roughly an hour spent sorting half a ton of fruit. With 7 tons of Cabernet in the refrigerated truck, that is many hours spent on the sorting table. So why do we do it? If we can improve the quality of fruit by just 5% that goes into the fermentor, the resulting wine can only be that much better. We feel that since we get one shot a year at this, it is worth it. We have followed a very basic philosophy of no sulfur, natural fermentations and punching down the cap where possible although we backed off how many times we punched per day. We continue to ferment a little cooler in years gone by and we do no post fermentation maceration. I felt that the wines tended to show a coarse edge, requiring a great deal of barrel and bottle time to fully integrate. As such, we pressed all our wines off after fermentation and separated the free and press sections as deemed necessary. Since most of the wines have no sulfur whatsoever, we are inoculating for secondary fermentation by adding Lactic Acid Bacteria.

pumping over the tank of fermenting Touriga

pumping over the tank of fermenting Touriga

The wines are a little shy at the moment and fairly tight, they will need a few months in barrel before they reveal their true potential and characteristics. What I can reveal at this stage is that the colors are deep and inky and the wines are extremely well-balanced. They are showing a lot more texturally than in the past, with tannins well-integrated with fruit at this early stage. I will have to be careful not to over oak the wine. Along with the Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc all look exceptional and point to being some of the best ever produced at the Estate.

If they turn out how we feel they will, thank mother nature and our amazing vineyard, for that is where the wines were truly made this year. My job was just to not screw it up.

future winemaker in training

future winemaker in training

One last note:

I would like to take this opportunity to thank my entire crew who have worked tirelessly with me to ensure this harvest went off as smoothly as possible. Their hard work and dedication is very much appreciated and I hope I can do them proud by making wines that are reflective of their passion. To Jeremy, Lewis, Luis, Dakoda and Steve, thank you very much for everything, you guys have been a pleasure to work with and you have made my job a lot easier.

The boys

The boys

A big thank you to all our wine club members and customers who keep supporting us and allowing us to make these wonderful wines. One last thank you to my wife Kathy who is my rock, and allows me to do what I love. I love you tremendously.


Stephen Barnard and team

Winemakers and Vineyard Managers at Keswick Vineyards

Racking the Wine and Stirring the Lees

First and Foremost, a belated Happy New Year to all! I trust and hope that 2014 will turn out to be a very special year filled with happiness and all resolutions being met and exceeded.

At Keswick Vineyards, most of the work is centered on the vineyard, ensuring we get all the pruning done before bud break in early April, but the wines and the winery still need some attention. The harvest that was 2013 was challenging to say the least, with a spring frost, a cooler than normal growing season and wildlife of biblical proportions testing the growers and winemakers across the state. I started calling myself Moses since I had 2 of everything on this farm eating the grapes.

Spur pruning the Bordeaux block

Spur pruning the Bordeaux block

For us, we had to be very careful with how we managed the vineyard and as such decided to bring fruit in a little earlier than hoped, choosing to be a touch more proactive in the winery than we would generally like to be. Since the fruit was not optimally ripe, sorting was critical and many hours were spent on the sorting table, eradicating anything unsatisfactory. We also stayed true to our philosophy of natural fermentation where possible and 50% of our wines were fermented without the addition of commercial yeast, normally we are in the 80-90% range. Although the intention is to ferment wines naturally, under certain conditions of poorer fruit quality, we will add a commercial yeast in order to better control the fermentation and winemaking.

Sorting de-stemmed red fruit

Sorting de-stemmed red fruit

Fermentations all finished [thankfully] and managing the tannin extraction was critical  in ensuring the wines remained balanced, since we were dealing with elevated acid levels and slightly greener flavors. Much is made of yeast choice, fermentation temperatures and other cellar practices but we pay special attention to a rather mundane task of extreme barrel stirring. We believe that barrel stirring really has a softening affect on the astringency of our wines, as well as creating a textural component which for us is also important.

Once fermentation is completed, the yeast that converted the sugar into alcohol dies, and settles with time to the bottom of the vessel [either barrel or tank]. At this point a lot of winemakers will employ a racking, whereby most of the wine is removed from the layer of this yeast, essentially clarifying the wine to a certain extent. This process also serves the purpose of introducing oxygen into the wine, ensuring the wine does not become reductive or start smelling like rotten eggs. Others, like myself, employ a vigorous program of stirring each and every barrel of wine to ensure the yeast remains in suspension.

Dead yeast at the bottom of the tank after racking

Dead yeast at the bottom of the tank after racking

The practice of leaving the wine in contact with lees dates back to Roman times, the chemistry behind this phenomenon was not clearly understood, but the positive effects of this practice were noticed.

When wine is left in contact with lees, enzymes start to break down the cells, producing mannoproteins and polysaccharides which are released into the wine. Through a metabolic pathway, enzyme substrates [beginning molecules] are turned into some eventual product, in this case the proteins and sugars which in turn lead to fuller bodied wines with better mouthfeel.  These products also react with phenolic compounds, reducing the astringency and bitterness of tannins, which in 2013 was a concern due to slightly under ripe fruit.

same wine taken out of barrel, pre and post stirring

same wine taken out of barrel, post and pre stirring

There is no formula or yardstick by which we measure how often we should employ these stirrings, at the moment we are doing it once a week and then tasting the wine to see if there are any distinguishable changes, either positive or negative. Negative flavors could be the reducing conditions discussed above, resulting in smells reminiscent of rotten eggs, which could reduce further, leading to potentially greater problems in the wine. At this point, a racking would be the simplest form of treatment, discarding the yeast in the vessel. Thankfully, the wines are showing a positive change and are definitely showing a richer texture than when we started so for now we will continue to monitor the wines and keep stirring. The Chardonnays are displaying a creamier texture with an almost brioche like flavor, a great counter play to the acidity and minerality that has become a hallmark of our wines. The reds have fleshed out a little bit, the wines are not as disjointed as they were a few months ago and there is a better balance between the acidity, fruit and tannin structure of the wine.

Sometimes the simplest things have the most profound effect on the wine, in this case just stirring the wine constantly.

Quality control, an important part of the job

Quality control, an important part of the job

The bright spot is that after a year with one challenge after the other, the red wines are amazing and we expect to release a Heritage [our Bordeaux estate blend] for the first time since 2007 as well as a varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, both of which look superb. The whites, as always, are consistent and showcase a character that we see each and every year. Still plenty of time to let these wine evolve and develop, but I am liking where they are right now and look forward to seeing where they will end up.

Stay tuned


Stephen Barnard


Keswick Vineyards


Two “NEW” Virginia Wineries

The joke is that you have to have a large fortune to make a small fortune in the wine industry, well if that is true than Trump Winery and Early Mountain Vineyards will be just fine.

Owned by Donald Trump and Stephen and Jean Case, respectively, both these Virginia wineries are experiencing a re-birth of sorts and the future looks bright.

No more plastic cones!

Trump Winery, formerly known as Kluge Estate, was purchased by the Trump family and garnered some serious press, with everyone in the industry wondering what was going to happen with this estate. To find out, my wife and I visited their tasting room twice in the past couple of weeks to check it out. Truthfully, I was a bit let down in the past, not so much in the quality of the wines but more in the lack of personal service and the fact that plastic snow cones were just dropped off at your table with your wines.

As a winemaker, I believe that stemware really does play a role in your tasting experience and could not wrap my head around the notion of an expensive wine served in plastic.

On a gorgeous Sunday, we arrived at the tasting room and were greeted by none other than Billy Koenig, their new tasting room manager. I have had the pleasure of meeting Billy through his wife Tara, who was involved in distributing our wines while working at J.W.Sieg. Billy is a charming man, very enthusiastic and clearly very passionate about what he does, great way to be greeted at the door I must say.

After being shown to our seats, Kath decided to taste the sparkling wines and, true to form, I tried them all. I was pleasantly surprised right off the bat with their new Sauvignon Blanc, hands down my favorite white varietal in the world. I thought the wine to be well made displaying grapefruit and green apple flavors, a perfect wine for the summer months.  My favorite red wine was the New World Red, with it’s dark flavors offset by smoky oak and dusty tannins. I think this wine may not appeal to everyone, but I really loved it.

Delicious food at Trump Winery

While the still wines are good, I have always been a fan of their sparkling wines. Kath agreed, favoring the Blanc de Blanc [a gold medal recipient at the Virginia Governors Cup]. They also pour a Rose’ and Blanc de Noir, both are good and might be your favorite depending on your personal preference. Billy explained the wines as they were poured and answered all my annoying questions with aplomb.

We decided to stay for a while longer and we ordered some of the light fare they offered, Kath got the mushroom quiche and I the caprese salad. The food was fantastic and only served to enhance our experience.

The Trump brand is a juggernaut and they know how to do it, but the changes, although significant, were done in a very low-key elegant way, creating a tasting environment that is both relaxing and inviting. As for the plastic snow cones: GONE. Glasses ladies and gentleman, I mean real glasses! I cannot tell you how excited I am to have tasted Trump wines out of a glass, it adds so much more to the tasting experience.

We also bumped into Don Rhodes, who possesses a larger than life personality and is responsible for marketing. He let us in on some future developments and with this kind of passion and enthusiasm, I see nothing but a bright future for Trump Winery. There is definitely a new buzz in the air, something that was missing on previous visits and I can honestly say that we had a great time. Folks you need to get out there, I know you will not be disappointed.

A big thank you to Billy and Don, keep up the great work and best of luck for the future!

The other winery high up on the list was Early Mountain Vineyards, formerly known as Sweely Estate.

Set on Wolftown-Hood Road off highway 29, this is a gorgeous looking estate with the tasting room on the right and winery set off in the distance.

Comfortable & cozy seating at Early Mountain

As we entered the tasting room, the changes were immediately evident. A new tasting bar on the left leads to ample seating areas, with a little wine market on the right. Since our 7 month old daughter Aria was with us, we decided to find a secluded corner in the back.

Early Mountain Vineyards offers three tasting flights, a white, a red and then a combination of the two. What is interesting of note, is that they are offering wines from other well known producers such as Barboursville Vineyards, King Family Vineyards, Linden Vineyards and Thibaut-Janisson Winery. Kath once again opted for the white flight and I decided to stick with red wines.

Kath loved the Thibaut-Janisson sparkling wine with its biscuit and yeast notes, while my favorite was the King Family Meritage. This Meritage is dominated by Merlot and is made by Matthieu Finot, a talented young winemaker who hails from France. The wine was dominated by berry notes with strong mocha and oak driven flavors. This is definitely a wine for the cellar and I believe it will be fantastic in 3-5 years, but definitely has the stuffing to age beyond.

Yes, that is a hammock you see- you’ll know where to find me!

Taking a walk around the back, I think the philosophy of this winery is easy to figure out. With ample deck chairs, hammocks and fire pits, I believe the emphasis is on the enjoyment of wine with loved ones. No need to rush, take your time and soak up the moment. With gorgeous views of the vineyards and comfortable chairs, you will need little persuasion to let the hours pass you by as you savor the fruit from the vine.

I also had the distinct pleasure of meeting Michelle Gueydan, a sommelier who hails from New Orleans. Clearly this lady knows her wines and is on hand to help customers with selections and general wine related questions.  Very passionate about wine, I have no doubt she is a wonderful asset to the Early Mountain team.

I guess the only negative comment [and it is far from negative] is that you will have to wait and come back to taste the full range of Early Mountain vineyards wine, as they only poured two while we were there. We were told that new vineyards were being planted and that well known consultant Jeanette Smith was advising. Early Mountain Vineyards also possesses one of the most state of the art wine cellars in the state of Virginia, and under the guidance of winemaker Franz Ventre, I am eager to see their new wines come on board in the coming months.

So lovers of Virginia Wine, I can highly recommend visiting both Trump Wineryand Early Mountain Vineyards.

Both wineries have a renewed energy and optimism for the future and, based on our experience, their futures are nothing but bright.

Welcome back




Keswick Vineyards

The New Addition to the Family

It is sometimes said that for a winemaker, wines are his or her kids. If that is true, I have accumulated quite a few over the 10 vintages that I have worked in the U.S. It is also true that I do not like all of them [the horror]. Some have matured beautifully and I am proud of those and some, well lets just say that I would deny knowing them if asked the question.

If the wines are the kids, then the vintages must be the wives. 2011 is my divorced ex-wife, one I never hope to see again. She left me, took everything I had and expected me to turn out some wonderful wines [for the sake of the analogy, lets just say kids]. I did the best I could and fingers crossed that they turn out half decently.

The first of the new additions is a wine that is well-known to lovers of Virginia wine and is one of the workhorses of the Keswick Vineyards portfolio, Viognier. With 16 acres of Viognier out of the 43 total acres planted, Keswick Vineyards makes up to six different styles of this varietal on any given year. For the 2011 vintage, we scaled that down to only three: Signature Series, Les Vent D Anges and regular Keswick bottling. We de-classified the Reserve this year as we felt that while the wine is good, it just did not quite meet and exceed the quality of the 2010 vintage.

What made the 2011 vintage so challenging was the amount of rain we received just prior to harvest. Since quality wines almost always start with the quality of the fruit, we were always behind the eight ball with this harvest.

To give you a sobering idea of the vintage variation, in 2010 we harvested our Viognier at 26.5 brix, in 2011 the most we got was 20.5. Brix is a sugar measurement of the two main sugars glucose and fructose, the fermentable sugars. The first issue was that at 20.5, the fruit is really under ripe, and with Viognier that means not making wine that has all those pretty floral aromas that consumers have come to love. Odorous compounds, found mainly in the skin and layers of cells underneath it, intensify as the fruit ripens, so under ripe fruit also reflects a lack of intensity for the resulting wine.

All is not lost however for there is still one major factor that can save the day, the winemaker. The winemaker get’s no respect [Dangerfield accent here for effect], a fantastic wine is definitely made in the vineyard and a bad wine, well that is all winemaking or the lack thereof. While 2010 was a dream vintage, 2011 was challenging and the winemaker’s craft played a major role. Time will tell if I did a good job or not.

On the 25th of June we bottled our Keswick Vineyards Viognier, a 100% varietal that admittedly is slightly different from the previous vintages. While the 2010 Viognier is aromatic and bold, the 11 is more understated and elegant. The major positive this year was the acidity of the juice, something that judges of Viogniers tend to complain about. Acidity keeps the wine fresh and focused, without which the wine can seem a bit heavy and oily, in the wine world FLABBY. Imagine calling one of your kids flabby, the nerve of it.

We tried to retain the acidity and build the wine around this core. This is 100% barrel fermented in neutral French oak. Neutral means that the barrel has been used many times previously and as such, does not impart many of the flavors derived from oak. We inoculated most of the wines this year, a practice that is not too common here anymore as we prefer to ferment the wines naturally without the addition of cultured yeast. We had no problems getting the wine dry [all the fermentable sugars have been converted to ethyl alcohol], and chose to prevent the onset of secondary fermentation.

We aged the wine sur lie [on the dead yeast] and stirred the barrels vigorously over the course of 8 months. Batonage [the actual stirring of the barrels] is a stylistic tool we employ that enables us to build palate weight and texture to the wine. What we tried to do is create a balance between the acidity or freshness of the wine and the weight and overall complexity. To that end I feel we were pretty successful.

I tasted the wine last night and my overall impression was that it is still in bottle shock and pretty tight. It started opening up after an hour or two and I got some really pretty floral tones, with melon and pear aromas. Although the wine did not show too much, the acidity is definitely the hallmark of this wine with bright granny smith apple flavors on the front, but it definitely has some palate weight and complexity. I am hoping that with some time in the bottle, the new Viognier will flesh out a touch more and show some more of the tropical and stone fruit characters that are a hallmark of our Viognier vineyard.

Considering how challenging the 2011 vintage was, this new Viognier I would say shows some promise, but it is still too early to really judge it. We hope to age it a few months in the bottle before releasing it to you, the public. I look forward to hearing what you have to say about it.

Remember though, you are talking about my kids, and I am very protective of them.


Stephen Barnard


Keswick Vineyards


Wine from my Homeland

It is the 25th largest country in the world, has a population of roughly 50 million, 9 provinces and 11 official languages. It is home to the world champion Springboks [rugby team], has great white sharks that breach the water, penguins and monkeys,  is one of the most beautiful countries in the world, and also happens to make some pretty darn good wine.

Of course I am talking about South Africa. Cape Town as seen from Table Mountain

I am from Cape Town, the oldest city in South Africa, and as such is known as the mother city. It is the second most populous city and is also the legislative capital of South Africa. It is located on the shore of Table Bay and was established as a supply station for Dutch ships sailing to East Africa, India and the Far East.  Jan Van Riebeeck’s arrival on 6 April 1652 established the first permanent European settlement in South Africa.

Jan Van Riebeecks's castle in the city center

The first recorded wine was produced on the 2nd of February 1659 and in 1685 the Constantia Estate was established by then Governor of the Cape, Simon van der Stel. This estate was large [1850 acres], but after the Governors death, it fell into disrepair until it was revived in 1778 by the Cloete family. South Africa has a long history of making wine and today, the Groot Constantia Wine Estate still produces some of the Capes most exciting wines, along with neighbors Klein Constantia and Buitenverwachting.

Groot Constantia also happens to be the first winery where I ever worked.

entrance to the tasting room

For much of the 20th Century, South Africa received very little international attention, its isolation was exacerbated by the international stage boycotting the products of South Africa in protest of the Apartheid system. It was not until the abolition of Apartheid, that South African wines began experiencing a re-birth of sorts, being able to export their wines to overseas countries. In essence, South Africa, despite a rich history in winemaking, was one of the new kids on the block. 

The Cellar at Groot Constantia

Most of the wine regions are located next to coastal influences of the Atlantic and Indian oceans. These regions have mostly a Mediterranean climate, marked by intense sunlight and dry heat. Winters tend to be cold and wet, with annual rainfall between 10 and 60 inches. Harvest tends to occur between late January and early April, with Stellenbosch, Constantia and lately the Swartland leading the way in terms of quality.

As of today, South Africa is 9th in terms of wine production [although I think Chile might possibly be close to overtaking that].  In the early 1990’s only 18% of the vineyards planted were of red varieties, today that number is closer to 45%. Cinsaut was the most widely planted red grape, today Cabernet is King, with 12% of the total acreage of grapes. It is however the second most widely planted grape, the number one position is held by Chenin Blanc [locally known as Steen]. South Africa has more Chenin Blanc planted than anywhere else in the world combined. Along with Shiraz and Sauvignon Blanc, I think Cabernet Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc gives South Africa the best chance to compete with international wines in terms of quality.

Vine de Constance Cellar at Klein Constantia

But what of the Pinotage grape [cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut], well lets just say that I have the same opinion of Pinotage as I do of Norton. It does represent roughly 6% of the total acreage and is used in blends known as “Cape Blends”. Still I think that fad is waning and more attention is given to Shiraz and Cab [rightly so in my opinion]

View from Rustenberg in Stellenbosch

The only problem with South African wines, is that they are extremely hard to find in the US, most of the wines exported are to Europe. Familiar names on shelves are the Sibeka, the range of “Goat” wines from Fairview, Mulderbosch and Herding Cats, all fairly good quality at a very reasonable price point. But South Africa does so much more, may I recommend Chenin Blanc from Raats, Eben Sadie’s “Columella”, Hamilton Russel Pinot Noir, Neil Ellis Sauvignon Blanc or any of the Vergelegen wines made by Andre Van Rensburg. The range of wines are as diverse as the country they are made in and I hope that in the near future you will get to try them and love them as I do.

For those in Charlottesville, try the Shebeen restaurant for a wide range of wines, or send me a list as I will be travelling to South Africa in April along with my wife.

In my opinion, it is one of the best keep secrets, but hopefully not for too long



Stephen and Friend

Wine with Ribs and Fries

Sunday evenings are mostly about taking it easy, throwing something on the grill and having a decent wine to drink. This past Sunday, like most others, my wife and I headed to the in-laws for dinner with a bottle of wine from a nearby vineyard.

After the cordials, I asked if he would like to try the Meritage, “No” he says, “this evening I would like to try something different, why don’t you open the Petrus”

Hang on a moment, did you just say Petrus, that bottle of wine I have bugged you for 8 years to open. The bottle we did not open after we won the Governors Cup, the same bottle we did not open when I married your daughter? Okay, who died, who’s pregnant and how hard did you bump your head?

Cindy, Al’s not feeling too well, he told me to open the Petrus and we are only having ribs and fries. My hearing is good, that is what he said and I was not going to be asked twice. Afterall, we are talking about one of the most famous wines of the world, located in the Pomerol appellation in Bordeaux’s right bank. It is a wine that is made predominantly from Merlot with a touch of Cabernet Franc blended into it, the year 1999.

Rated 90 points by the wine spectator and 94 points by Mr. Robert Parker, retail price? Well let’s just say you could buy a lot of Keswick Wines for the same amount.

How was it? Does it really matter, we had it with ribs and fries for crying out loud, for the sole reason that Al says I am doing a good job at the winery. Okay, it was pretty darn good and many years from now I will remember this bottle of wine and what we had it with. This is what wine is all about, opening some crazy bottle of wine for the heck of it, sharing it with cool people and creating memories, easy to say when you drink someone else’s Petrus.

To let everyone know, I am still looking for someone who will open their 2000 vintage  Haut Brion for me to taste, I suggest the pairing of hotdogs. I will even write about it on my blog if that will persuade anyone out there

Thanks Al, I appreciate you saying I do a good job and thanks for the wine, it was awesome.