Wine: Articles

Keswick Vineyards: There’s a Virginia Viognier for Everyone

January’s Virginia Wine Chat (#VAWineChat) hosted by Frank Morgan of Drink What YOU Like took us to Keswick Vineyards for a comparative tasting of Viognier, the state’s official white grape. Frank sat down with winemaker Stephen Barnard to talk wine, winemaking, Virginia and more.

Stephen hails from Cape Town, South Africa. In 2002 after studying wine, he came to America’s East Coast after the suggestion of many and talk of it as an up and coming wine region wine. Then he met a girl and went into her family’s business, Keswick Vineyards.

Keswick Vineyards is a family owned and operated vineyard on the Monticello Wine Trail outside of Charlottesville, Virginia on the 400-acre historic Edgewood Estate. They have 43 acres under vine and are producing about 5,000 cases per year only available  in their always lively Tasting Room and online.

Stephen is a down-to-earth guy, with a great accent. His winemaking philosophies…”What you smell and taste in the glass should be a product of the vineyard and vintage, not the winemaker’s hand.” And “If you grow it right, it will taste great right off the press.”

Of their 43 acres, 16 acres are Viognier, the focus of our evening’s chat and tasting. For those of you not too familiar with Viognier, it’s a challenging grape to grow but doing pretty well in Virginia. Stephen thinks it’s growing in popularity as it’s different.

We tasted three wines, all estate grown, 100% Viognier and each one distinctive in it’s own way.

  • 2012 Keswick Vineyards Viognier: Their house label is 70% tank fermented 30% neutral French oak.
    • Aroma: Apricot & herbal
    • Taste: Nice tropical notes with a balanced acidity and creaminess
    • Price: $24.95
    • Thoughts: As Stephen said this is “classic, text book Viognier.” A great stand alone wine.
  • 2012 Viognier Estate Reserve: Whole cluster pressed and fermented in neutral French oak barrels.
    • Aroma: Tropical fruit
    • Taste: Pineapple, mango, white pepper and vanilla
    • Price: $27.95
    • Thoughts: This wine has more body / texture from the oak. The group agreed this is a better food wine.
  • 2012 Signature Series Viognier: The Signature series is Stephen’s risky wine making. This is whole cluster pressed with nothing done to it, it’s naturally fermented in 70% French oak, 30% new oak.
    • Aroma: Pineapple and peach
    • Taste: Honey, vanilla with toasty citrus and herbal notes.
    • Price: $34.95
    • Thoughts: This wine is a great combination of the first two. And neat to taste what happens when you just let the wine do it’s own thing.

My personal favorite of the three was Keswick Vineyards Viognier…I like Viognier with only a touch of oak for a bit of creaminess.

The tasting was a great way to show that as Stephen said, “there’s a Viognier in Virginia for everyone.” And the best way to evaluate a wine, “do you like it or not.” “Know what you like, drink what you like…it’s made to be enjoyed

Thank you Frank, Stephen and Keswick Vineyards for a great evening!

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Lodi, California: Historic Zinfandel Capital

When you hear California wine, you most likely think Napa and Sonoma. But there’s a great wine region that’s been flourishing for 150 years not too far from there…Lodi, California.

Lodi is one of California’s major wine growing region, located 100 miles east of San Francisco. It’s characterized by a rural atmosphere and farms run by 4th and 5th generation families workign with new vintners who have brought fresh creative new things to the region.

Unlike many U.S. wine regions, Lodi actually prospered during Prohibition and as such has been a continuous source of wine grapes since the 1850s.

 The Lodi AVA has about 100,000 acres of winegrapes, farmed by more than 750 growers, many of whose families have grown grapes for a century or more. The region’s annual yield of nearly 600,000 tons of grapes in 2011 was valued at $325 million and comprised 17% of California’s total wine grape production.

Lodi is predominately a red wine-producing region, with approximately two-thirds of the acreage dedicated to red varieties. However, with over 75 varieties in commercial production, Lodi offers a vast portfolio of interesting wines. Lodi is the self-proclaimed Zinfandel Capital of the World, producing over 32% of California’s premium Zinfandel. Many of the region’s most distinctive wines come from the thousands of acres of “old vines”—some dating back to the 1880s. An estimated 2,000 acres are unique pre-Prohibition own-rooted vines. Cabernet Sauvignon is prevalent along the eastern edge of the Lodi appellation.

I was introduced to the region through a lively and informative Twitter wine tasting before Thanksgiving. Today, there are approximately 85 wineries and tasting rooms, over 750 growers and more than 100,000 acres planted to vineyards. We tasted five lovely wines to paint the picture of the Lodi region…

My personal favorite of the five…

2011 Klinker Brick Winery Bricks & Mortar Cabernet Blend

  • Region: Lodi, California
  • Variety: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Petite Sirah, 10% Old Vine Zinfandel
  • Aroma: Currants, plum, mint and thyme
  • Taste: Cassis, smokey and spiced cedar
  • Price: $30
  • My thoughts: Love this grape blend that’s created a rich, silky wine. My husband said “it was like a Christmas tree” on the nose. Therefore I’d say a perfect wine for the holiday season. :)

In 2004–2005, the Lodi Winegrape Commission created the standards for the state’s first third-party-certified sustainable winegrowing program, known as Lodi Rules™. This program promotes practices that enhance biodiversity, soil health and water cleanliness and further encourages responsible farming by focusing on the community through land stewardship, employee training, and 2 safety initiatives. About 20–25% of the acreage in Lodi, and some outside the area, is now certified.

Lodi is definitely a wine region worth exploring virtually through their wine and in person.

Cheers to Lodi wine and tradition!

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Bubbles in Virginia: Trump Winery

Virginia now has eleven wineries producing sparkling wine and Trump Winery is making two great examples.

Last week #VAWineChat featured Trump Winery, their Sparkling Winemaker Jonathan Wheeler, and the SP Blanc De Blanc 2008 and SP Rosé 2008. Jonathan shared with us some background on Trump Winery, formerly Kluge Winery, and their sparkling wines…

  • Their Sparkling vineyards, planted with Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, were chosen because of their unique microclimates in the Monticello AVA.
  • Largest planting is 95 acres of chardonnay. 50% of vineyard production is dedicated to Sparkling.
  • They hand pick all the fruit for Sparkling by night and gently press to retain the fruit’s best qualities.
  • They are only making vintage Sparkling wine which is very different than others in Virginia.
  • Their Sparkling wines are made in the true tradition of Champagne using Méthode Champenoise.
  • Trump Winery has the capacity to produce and finish over 100,000 gallons of wine a year. The 2008 Blanc de Blanc produced 8,000 cases while the 2008 Rosé was only 1,200 cases.

While the 2008 Blanc de Blanc is delicious…100% Chardonnay and aromas / tastes of cooked apple & pear pastry…the Rosé was my favorite.

SP Rosé 2008

  • Region: Monticello AVA in Charlottesville, Virginia
  • Variety: 95% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Noir
  • Aroma: Raspberry and strawberry
  • Taste: Crisp red fruits with hints of toast
  • Price: $29
  • My thoughts: The gorgeous color and delicious taste make this a great every day or special occasion sparkler.

Trump Winery continues to receive accolades and awards for their work, building on what Kluge Winery started helping put Virginia wine on the map. Most recently Trump Winery’s 2008 Blanc de Noir was named Top Ten American sparkling wines by Gayot. And their Tasting Room is a beautiful place to visit.

Cheers to bubbles in Virginia!

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Exploring the Wines of South America

At our November Fine Wine Divas event, we explored the wide variety of South American wines tasting from Chile to Uruguay to Argentina. It’s a vast country of wine regions to explore. This great map from Wine Folly is perfect guide for finding your way around.

As we learned, the South American wine industry is booming. Now 6th in worldwide wine production, South America (and their wineries) are taking major strides to improve the sustainability of their wine industry practices. In fact, the Chilean government has committed millions of dollars to promoting “Wines of Chile” in the United States. Additionally, Chile has launched the most comprehensive sustainability initiative covering agricultural, environmental and energy conservation practices and social responsibility towards its workers ad communities.

The white and red wine line-up included…

  • NV Alma Negra Misterio Rosé (Argentina)
  • 2013 Legado Torrontes (Argentina)
  • 2012 Tabalí Viognier Reserve (Chile)
  • 2010 Luca Chardonnay (Argentina)
  • 2011 Bodegas Carrau Pinot Noir de Reserva (Uruguay)
  • 2011 Terra Andina Carmenere (Chile)
  • 2010 Bodega Colomé Estate Malbec (Argentina)
  • 2011 Undurruga Sibaris Riserva Especial Cabernet Sauvignon (Chile) 

The favorites for the evening? Two very distinct Malbecs…

Alma Negra

NV Alma Negra Misterio Rosé

  • Region: Argentina
  • Variety: Malbec (Sparkling)
  • Aroma: Strawberry, rose petals
  • Taste: Intense strawberry, licorice
  • Price: $24.99
  • My thoughts: Delicious sparkling Rosé that would make a perfect apertif for your holiday meals.

Colome Malbec

2010 Bodega Colomé Estate Malbec

  • Region: Argentina
  • Variety: Malbec
  • Aroma: Blackberries, cherries, violets
  • Taste: Black cherries,  blackberries, velvety mouthfeel
  • Price: $23.99
  • My thoughts: Full bodied smooth and elegant alternative to a Cabernet Sauvignon.

Another great thing about South American wine is the price points. While the two favorites above were over $20, the others ranged from $13 to $15.

Cheers to the great things happening in South American wine!

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Stack Wines: More Wine to Take with You

I know…do we need another on-the-go wine packaging?!? But this one caught my eye recently at World Market (which, by the way, has a nice new Wine Department design at my local store in Arlington, VA).

Stack Wines…Take It With You™ was  “innovated for simple style, top quality taste, and ultra convenience for the home, the park, or the arena. Just Zip, Snap, Sip!” It’s a convenient back of 4 pre-filled 187ml plastic glasses snapped together and ready to open. It comes in Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Charisma and Cabernet Sauvignon, all from California. I bought the Stack for $11.99.

Love the packaging…perfect for a game, picnic, Halloween trick or treating. The pre-filled glass is very sturdy and classy looking.

How is the wine? I tried the Pinot Grigio, and while it isn’t the best Pinot Grigio I’ve ever had, it isn’t the worst, especially not for ‘on the go’ wine. It has a crisp aroma with grassy notes on the taste. I’d try the red wines for sure.

Cheers to the continued innovation in wine to go!

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