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Screen shot 2014-04-01 at 7.40.07 PMBeing wine members of Keswick Vineyards for just about a year has really shown us that there is a lot to take in at this picturesque vineyard located just out of town of Charlottesville, Virginia. Recently, we had a chance to participate in a barrel tasting that gives you a preview of the up and coming releases. For only $15 a person for wine club members and $20 a person for non-wine club members, we were allowed to taste the 11 wines that winemaker Stephen Barnard has coming down the pipeline.

Stephen, himself, was there to both pour the wine and tell you the stories. It didn’t matter whether you studied wine or just was stopping by he would answer any questions you had both truthfully and honestly. Since there were 11, I want to share my favorites and highlight some of the stuff I think Stephen is doing brilliantly.

First the V2, made from both Viognier and Verdejo, this wine is an amazing dry white wine that can be enjoyed for almost any occasion. Stephen makes some of the best Viogniers and I have reviewed them on this site before. This wine is tank fermented and really has a great grape fruit vibrancy to it. Stephen says it is not done yet and with all of these he is tinkering, but we loved this wine and hope he doesn’t tinker too much.

Next up, (not next we tasted but next I am telling you about) we had a really delicious Norton Rose. For those who do not know the Norton grape, it is a native Virginian vine that produces acidic wines that pair well with chocolate. For me, regular red Norton’s are rarely enjoyable but many wineries in Virginia are working with them. Stephen has taken his Norton and created a beautifully color, lightly acidic dry rose. One that he says he might create a sparkling Rose in the future. I can’t imagine how many Virginians would come running for a chance at a sparkling Norton Rose.

Rounding out the whites and rose, our favorite, the Chardonnay Reserve. Stephen offered a future price on this wine that will be released in August-September time frame. 100% Chardonnay that was tank fermented and maturing in oak. This wine offers the expressiveness of fresh, as it is naturally fermented. Stephen was excited about the fruit and his minimalist approach and now we are excited about our future bottle in the early fall!

Now on to the reds, we have to give Stephen a five out of five on this one. No, not five out of five stars, but a five our of five reds that we will buy heavily and enjoy throughout. He created a Touriga, Chambourcin, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and for the first time since 2007 their flagship wine, the Heritage.

The Touriga and their Chambourcin were amazing. Dark and inky, as they are young, and fruit-forward and vibrant. With a little more time in the barrel these should mature to great beauties.

The Cabernet Franc, one of my personal favorite varietals, was also amazing. Stephen claims that this is not your average Cabernet Franc but you still get the spice on the palate. The fruit then comes behind it and smoothes it out for an enjoyable experience.

Excited as we can be the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Heritage were the other two wines we invested in futures with Stephen. It has been hard to grow Cabernet Sauvignon grapes in Virginia and from what I understand Stephen didn’t have good enough fruit to do a vintage since 2009. Sign us up for 2 bottles! This wine is amazing and I will look forward to drinking and cellaring.

Last but not least, the Heritage. A blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Petit Verdot, it has me singing “these are a few of my favorite varietals.” Okay, corny and it doesn’t rhyme but if you made it this far reading about these wines and this vineyard then you are already singing the same tune as me. The Heritage will not be released until Sept 2015 and we bought two bottles. With that much maturing, this wine is set to, and I predict, get in the Virginia Governor’s case for 2015. Wine so good and bought so early, should probably go in my will.

Overall, Stephen did a great job of involving everyone and getting true feedback from everyone that day. My wife and I enjoyed chatting it up with the winemaker himself and as long as he is at Keswick, we will be members. The only downside is it seems that every time I go to one of these events at a vineyard there is always someone their who is trying to show how much they know about wines or steal shamelessly from the great winemakers idea. Sometimes I just want to stop and say everything that I have heard about in the Virginia wine industry is that winemakers will help winemakers, so “dude” set up and appointment. I would have been gladly to pay double to get that guy out of this group. But to not end on a sour note because the wineries cannot help these people…

Thanks Stephen!