Friday, April 15, 2016

Saving the Grapes

Keswick Vineyards Preparing for the Cold
During our recent early April weekend to the Charlottesville, Virginia, area; home to the Monticello AVA, we discovered the extreme measures to which vineyards resort in an effort to save the vines in advance of freezing temperatures.
Fire Breathing Machine

All too often, we as wine drinkers forget that wine making is agriculture and as such the growers are subjected to the extremes of the environment and the weather. When adverse weather arrives, without intervention, the crop might be lost. That would be catastrophic for many wineries. In that case, desperate measures are adopted. 

Propane Windmill
Helo over Keswick Preparing for Nightfall
As oenophiles become more knowledgeable about the difficulties facing grape growers, we can appreciate the final product more and understand that great wine is neither an assured outcome nor an accident.

On the Battle Lines Combatting the Freeze
We want to thank Keswick Vineyards for giving us the insight into the hard work that it takes to try to protect the vines from frost damage. The owners and staff pulled a number of "all-nighters" as did the owners and staffs of many other wineries in the region to save the wines. 

We found it interesting that just 90 miles north, bud break had not occurred and the vineyards were not particularly worried about the cold weather. What a difference a few miles can make.

Hopefully the too cold weather is over and we will be able to enjoy some very nice 2016 vintage Monticello AVA wines in the future.

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Finding Consensus

Cindy Schornberg Holding the
Virginia Governor's Cup for the Best Wine in Virginia for 2016
The time for the annual trek to Keswick Vineyards to compete in the 2015 Consensus blending event arrived last weekend. Our intrepid team gathered at the vineyard during Saturday's late morning hours to blend an award winning wine. You may be wondering why it is the 2015 Consensus blending event and not the 2016? Because the wine will be a 2015 vintage.

Steven Barnard the Winemaker
Helping the Teams

Blending wines from raw material is both a fun and sometimes frustrating experience. This year's selections were all 2015 wines from Keswick and consisted of Merlot, Chambourcin, Touriga, and Norton. There were limits, however, the final blend could contain no more than 20 percent Chambourcin and 25 percent Norton. The Merlot and Touriga were unlimited.

There were 11 teams competing on the last day of the six days of competition. The winning wine of the day will compete against the other five daily winners to become Keswick Vineyards 2015 Consensus Wine.
Our Team

Of course, the first requirement of blending is to taste and describe the raw ingredients. Each of the wines were tasted and our team assessed its strengths and weaknesses. As a group, all of the wines this year had good color--and obtaining a nice, deep color was not a problem as it had been in other years.
The Formula Sheet

The next decision was what to use for the base. Our team decided upon the Merlot and based upon the flavors we decided to use Chambourcin to help improve the Merlot. These wines together were a bit acidic and we added Touriga for balance and some Norton at the end to increase the whole mouth experience. The team's final blend, after only two hours of blending was 77% Merlot, 15% Chambourcin, 6% Touriga, and 2% Norton. I know the image would suggest that a different blend was the final winner, but that was a final check before deciding to go with an earlier blend.

The team took a slight detour and worked with a Touriga base for a couple of blends, but decided that the Merlot based wine was a better approach.

Our Team in the Barrel Room
Our final blend was very nice. It was a medium-bodied wine with a light fruity nose showing hints of summer berries and contrasted by some smokiness and cherries on the tongue. It had a persistent finish and a well balanced full-mouth feel. It was bit acidic but there were some mild tannins supporting the experience. This was not a wine to be cellared for many years, but to be enjoyed tomorrow, although a year or two in the bottle would have certainly helped it all blend together. We liked it.

Suffice it to say, our wine did not win the competition as we had hoped. A Touriga-based wine was the winner of the blind competition. The winner was very dark and full-bodied with the ability to be cellared for a few years. Interestingly, the winner was our teams lowest rated wine.

On this Saturday, our team was reminded that creating a wine that we like is no assurance that others will appreciate it.

While we did not win the day, we had a lot of fun being together and continuing to expand our knowledge of wine making.

-- Bob and Christina Doan, Elkridge, MD

Cross post from A Bob's Life