Last Thursday we decided to take full advantage of the wonderful Spring like weather and beautiful Autumn colors and hit the Monticello Wine Trail. We were eager to visit several wineries for the first time, and since discovering that Keswick Vineyards had just opened their new tasting room, Keswick Vineyards was our first stop.
The town of Keswick, for those unfamiliar, is in Albemarle county and about ten miles east of Charlottesville . The drive on route 231 leading to the winery takes you through green picturesque rolling hills, horse farms, and spectacular views of the Keswick countryside.
We arrived at the newly opened tasting room and found it inviting and attractive. We browsed the wine and merchandise area and also watched several minutes of a short video illustrating the steps from vine to bottle at Keswick. We were then warmly greeted by tasting associate Kelley, who would guide us through our tasting. Before our tasting, Kelley entertained all of our questions about the new winery and told us all about Keswick Vineyards, past, present and future.
Gracious tasting associate Kelley pouring Keswick fine wines
The following wines were offered for the regular tasting, most of which have already won numerous awards: Rosé 2005, Chardonnay 2004, Viognier 2005, Les Vents d'Anges Rives Red ( a blend of 31% Merlot, 24% Tannat, 24% Cabernet Franc, 18% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Norton), Touriga 2005 and Norton 2005. We also opted for the reserve tasting for $3 more which included the following wines: Viognier Reserve 2005, Syrah 2004, Heritage Reserve 2002 ( Bordeaux styled blend containing 60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc and 10% Touriga), Syrah 2004, and Nektar 2004, an ice styled dessert wine made from Viognier and Tramminette grapes.
All of the wines tasted were very pleasing and by the end of the tasting, we had a difficult time trying to decide what not to take home. From the dry and refreshing Rosé, to the well made and fruit filled Norton, we enjoyed them all. To note a few, the Viognier 2005 was very nice, displaying a medium tropical nose with lush tree fruit flavors on the palate. The reasonably priced Les Vents d'Anges Rives Red blend displayed soft dark fruit flavors and would be a nice accompaniment to pizza or red sauce dishes. We were also informed that for each bottle of the Rive Red blend sold, that $2 would go to the American Lung Association, making the deal even more meaningful. The Heritage Reserve 2002 is the fuller and voluptuous of the red blends, and is well balanced, concentrated and awaiting those hearty red meat dishes. I can praise all the wines tasted, but for readers that have not yet visited Keswick Vineyards or tasted their wines, I recommend you visit and sample these tasty wines for yourself.
Following our tasting, we chatted with Kelley and moved to the barrel and production room for a tour of where the wine is made and aged. During our discussion, we were pleased to meet with Stephan Barnard whose name I recalled from Rappahannock Cellars. Stephan hails from Cape Town, South Africa , where he also made wine and is currently the winemaker and general manager of Keswick Vineyards. Stephan is the passionate winemaker responsible for the acclaimed Rappahannock Cellars Viognier 2005 that won a Gold Medal in the 2006 Virginia Governor's Cup. It was a pleasure conversing with Stephan and he was kind enough to allow us to sample some of the 2006 red and white delights that were barrel aging. We tasted a youngish Viognier that showed great promise and we eagerly await its maturation and release. This Viognier is surely an award winner in waiting. Stephan also let us sample several of the young reds including a Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Chambourcin and Cabernet Sauvignon. I was quite impressed with the depth of color in these wines and the fullness in body, but more emphasis on the nice colors he was able to extract; they were full of youth and looked wonderful. Maturity in the barrels shall suit these wines well, rounding out the edges and imparting flavor nuances and complexity. We will certainly follow up with Stephan to track the development of these red and white delights in the near future.
Chatting and sampling with Stephan, Kelley
In closing, if quality is a requirement, I strongly suggest readers look to Keswick Vineyards to satiate your palate needs. The tasting room is nice and comfortable with seating to enjoy select light fare that is available for purchase in the tasting room while enjoying your favorite Keswick wine. On more pleasant days, like when we visited, there is an outdoor picnic area and a charming front porch lounge area with comfortable seating. Membership is currently free, so take advantage of the benefits and sign up soon.
Keswick's charming front porch
Readers, when you do decide to visit Keswick Vineyards be sure to tell them you read about them on Virginia Vine Spot!
Keswick spectacular views
Stay tuned as I have much more to share with you from our 2 day hop on the Monticello Wine Trail!