Friday, October 30, 2009

Chambourcin Galore!

So today we are going to focus on the Chambourcin. When I went to talk to the boys about what they were working on today the answer was the Chambourcin! Frankly, I have never had a straight varietal Chambourcin, only blended into wines. The Chambourcin is in both our 2008 Norton and our 2008 Touriga, and I love the flavor it gives to those wines.

So I decided to learn a bit about the Chambourcin and I found out that the grape was not even available until the 60s! It grows really well in the region because it is able to withstand fairly cold winters and the grapes sit far apart from one another which makes them less prone to fruit rot. The one thing I found interesting is that I typically describe our wines with Chambourcin in them as spicy, not like spicy hot spicy, but more along the vain of dried spices. I found a description of Chambourcin and one of the words they used was herbaceous... which is a much better descriptor then my "spicy".

We pressed down the cap of the 2009 Chambourcin grapes which I found out does a few more things then just ward off rot. It also oxygenates the wine as well as homogenizes the temperature of the wine. Apparently, it creates a better environment for the yeast when all of the wine is at the same temperature. This insures even fermentation and a fantastic wine at the end of it all!

All of this hard work pays off in the end and I'll let you know how things turn out!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Fall Colors

As I was driving to work today I had a sudden realization that the fall colors were in swing. I also did not realize the leaves on the vines would change so radically! Coming into work was a blur of yellows and orange... It looks like my first official fall is going to be a beautiful one!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

In Focus: Cabernet Sauvignon & Franc

So I just wanted to say I'm sorry for not posting in quite some time! I have been rather busy and I worked both days this weekend, which left me little time to catch up! Luckily, we had some exciting things happen today...

First, I came in this morning to a new facebook video and poll up online, which is always exciting. This time we are voting on which type of oak barrels we should put the Facebook Franc in. Apparently it is amazing right now, I have not had the pleasure of trying it, but I'll take Stephen's word on it! So good work thus far on making an amazing wine and keep up the voting!

We also racked off the Rosé today. This means it is going into barrel and it will be aging there for some time. It turns out it is 75% Cabernet Franc and 25% Merlot, both of which only sat on the skins for a limited amount of time to get a nice pale tint to the wine. I'm still unsure if Stephen has chosen to do a sweet or dry Rosé, but I am excited none the less. This is going to be the first time we are making a Rosé since 2006.

The Cabernet Sauvignon being pressed down and pink carbon dioxide bubbles forming over the cap

The other thing we did this afternoon was pressing off the Cabernet Sauvignon, which is amazing. According to Stephen it is going to be even better then the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, which won us the Governors Cup this year. I tasted the wine and it was great. It was very smooth which was unexpected to me because it is so young! I personally got a lot of pomegranate flavor from the wine, which I loved... So I am hoping that doesn't fall completely by the wayside as it ages. I think aging the wine in oak is going to give it much more depth so I am thrilled to see how this is going to turn out! 

cap - the layer of skins that sit on top of a wine (typically red) as it ferments. These caps need to be pressed down every few hours to keep the skins wet, so rot does not occur.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Harvest Complete!

Today the boys finished with harvest! ... Well sort of... They finished picking yesterday and today they finished processing the Norton and the Chambourcin. This included more de-stemming and putting the fruit into stainless steel tanks. Another good bit of news is that Stephen got his heater back! This means no more 87 degrees on the second floor of the barrel room (which was our temporary solution to heating the wines). This heater will now be connected to the last of the red wines to keep their temperature higher to make sure that the yeast is active and turning the sugars in the wines to alcohol.

Now the focus is going to be making and tending to the wines... I'll keep you updated on what happens with the wines as they change and develop!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Looks Can be Deceiving

Take a good look at this picture of our tasting room. At first glance nothing seems out of the ordinary, just a typical day at Keswick Vineyards... right? WRONG! Check out this huge wasps nest we found in the tree today... This thing must be bigger then a basketball, which kind of freaks me out... Oh the power of nature!

The End is in Sight

Yesterday and today are our last days picking for the season! The Chambourcin and the Norton are on their way into the barrel room and getting ready to be processed. I came in this morning and the boys were already hard at work, but they had a bit of extra spring in their step... They know that all of their hard work is paying off. But dont think this is the end of their work, they still need to process and tend to the wines to keep them in tip-top shape.

Norton on the vine... but not for long!
The Merlot and the Petite Verdot were put into barrels, so now the only wines left to deal with are both of the Cabernets (Franc & Sauvignon) and the Chambourcin and Norton. One little note about the Chambourcin grapes. I snagged a bunch when they boys werent looking yesterday and tasted them and I thought they were wonderful! It was later explained to me that the seeds were very "ripe". Apparently seeds can give seed tannins to a wine, which can sometimes leave the wine a bit bitter.. but the seeds in the Chambourcin will not do that because they are so ripe. If you look at them they are more of a chocolate color then the other seeds I've seen which are more like an oatmeal color.

Its a beautiful day at the vineyard, and today will (sadly) be my last day of serving freshly picked grapes in the tasting room until next harvest... so come keep me company today!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Grape Stomp & Cabernet Franc

Yesterday we had our first ever grape stomp and it was a lot of fun! In the morning the boys picked some of the grapes we still have on the vines and quickly de-stemmed them into three different bins. Once the event started we had some brave soles jump in and start stomping even though it was rather chilly outside...  Luckily we had some delicious tomato basil soup to warm people up after they got out of the bins of grapes. 

The Rock River Gypsies played some music to accompany the stomping and they were fantastic! They played for our Reds, Whites, and Bluegrass 4th of July event, but I was not working at Keswick Vineyards yet, so I had never seen them! They were amazing, so bravo to them! 

If I could do it all over again, I think I would try and plan the event when it was a little warmer, because the grapes ended up being so chilly! It is crazy how quickly the weather changed out here, just two weeks ago, it was nice and sunny and now it is getting cold... October in San Diego typically is still in the 70s so hanging out in 40 degree weather is a new thing for me!

Thanks to everyone who participated on Saturday! All of the pictures are on the computer at Keswick, so I'll try and post a few once I get back to work on Tuesday.

Oh and I almost forgot! We sold out of the Les Vents de'Anges on Saturday, so our 2008 Cabernet Franc was released today! It is fantastic, smooth with a nice lengthly finish... So come visit us in the tasting room soon to try it out!

Friday, October 16, 2009

Montpelier "Pouring" & Cabernet Sorting

I did not get a chance to finish writing my post yesterday because I was at Montpelier for the majority of the day. We went up there for an employee event that Dominion was having. We met up with Cooper Vineyards and had a two vineyard "festival" of sorts. We took our guests through our different wines and enjoyed the afternoon. It rained on us all throughout the event but luckily we were covered by a nice big tent!

Once we got back to Keswick I found the boys sorting through the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. Cabernet Sauvignon is one of my personal favorite varietals so I was very excited to try a one (or a few!). The grapes were rather small and only had a tiny seed in them. They were a lot less sweet then all of the other grapes I have tried throughout the season, but I thought they were great! I can't wait to see how the wine turns out!

Looks like we are going to have another busy day today... doing some maintenance to the wines and preparing for our grape stomp, so I'll keep you updated on what occurs in the next few hours.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Press v. Stomp

Today was a chilly day around the winery. I knew it was extremely cold when I stepped outside to check everything in the morning and came back into the tasting room and I thought it was warm! Normally I am freezing in the tasting room all day, but we have to keep the wines happy, so we keep it at 68 degrees at all times.

We also pressed off the Petite Verdot and the Merlot. They have been sitting in the stainless steel tanks for a bit and they have been fermenting away! The Merlot was at about 4% residual sugar when we pressed it off. This way it will continue fermenting and changing as it ages in the barrel. So the first thing we do is get a bin full of the free run juice. This is all the wine that has naturally separated from the skins and it sits on the bottom of the tank. We add a spigot to the tank and open it up and let the juice flow out. I was able to try a bit of the Merlot and it was very fruit forward, lots of berries.

After all of the free run juice comes out of the tank, the boys use a large shovel to get the rest of the skins out. These skins are then put into the press... We pressed off the Petite Verdot first and did not clean the press afterward. Then we added the Merlot on top of the Petite Verdot, so the Merlot got a bit of that fantastic flavor... A bonus percentage or two of the Petite Verdot!

The day ended with filling more barrels with Merlot and chatting about the first ever grape stomp at Keswick. We are having the stomp this Saturday starting at 1:00pm rain or shine! Tickets are $25 which includes some stomping, some music, and a glass of wine to enjoy. You can RSVP to Kris or give us a call for more information. We are going to be stomping the Norton grapes and then making a wine out of those grapes, which will be rather exciting! So come on in on Saturday to give us a hand (technically feet...) with some wine making!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

The Birds & the Bees

On my way to work today I saw some sort of bird walking around one of the neighboring horse farms. I wasn't exactly sure what it was but it seemed like it was either a small turkey, a grouse, or a female pheasant. I drove by it too quickly, so I couldn't get a good look at it. I'm still finding new flora and fauna around Charlottesville and Keswick that I am not used to seeing on a day to day, which is always exciting... I even saw a fox the other day!

As for the Vineyards we picked almost all of the rest of the grapes on the vines. We brought in the Chambourcin and the Cabernet Sauvignon... So that leaves only the Norton on the vine! Any time we bring new grapes to the crush pad the influx of bees begins again. I just cannot believe the boys do not get stung everyday with how many there are!

I've only been back there once, but this is a view of the back half of the property! I wish this picture did it justice... It is very beautiful back there. We have the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Chambourcin planted back there so the boys did most of their work in the back today.

This last picture is of Stephen adding the fruit into the "refir" truck. This is basically a large semi-truck with refrigeration capacity. This will keep the grapes cold and fresh for tomorrow when they will be sorted and de-stemmed. I did not get a chance to taste the grapes today so tomorrow when they are de-stemming I am going to grab some grapes to taste them, and let you know how they taste!

A Word on Pressing Down Caps

So I finally tried it... I tried to push down the caps formed on top of the wine in the stainless steel tanks. Lets just say it was a huge failure! I could not for the life of me do it. I tried using all of my weight to push the pole into the barrier of grapes, with little success... It was fun to give it a shot, but I think I should stick to the tasting room and leave the heavy lifting to the boys!

We're picking the last of our grapes today (the Cabernet Sauvignon and the Chambourcin) so I'll attempt to snag a bunch of each and let you know how they taste later today!

Friday, October 9, 2009

Caps, Acid, and Saying a Few Goodbyes

Today we finished up some fairly routine stuff, but still very important! We pressed down all of the red wines in tank. This means that we took a big metal pole with a flat square on the end and "stirred the pot". When the wines are sitting in the stainless steel tanks the skins and pulp tend to rise to the top of the must and create a cap of sorts. By stirring the tanks we are able to re-submerge the skins to allow more of the color to be imparted into the wine. When I watch the boys do this it seems rather labor intensive. I am going to have to get up there someday soon and let you know just how difficult it is to press through the cap that has been made by the grapes.

Today we also added sulfur to the Viognier barrels. By adding the sulfur we are able to kill off any bacteria that could be lurking about as well and neutralize the lactic acid. From what I understand there are many different types of acid but the two main acids are malic acid and lactic acid. The malic acid is that flavor you get from eating a granny smith apple, while the lactic acid is more of a yogurt flavor. We use the sulfur to reduce the lactic acid and keep the wine very crisp and clean, keeping the malic acid up front on the palate. Chemistry at work folks, chemistry at work! I had no idea that this much science was involved in wine making... I guess I thought a sprinkle of yeast and a dash of acid and a wine could take care of itself! Boy was I wrong...

One more point of interest, more on the tasting room side then the wine making side, but important none the less. We are just about sold out of our Les Vents de'Anges Viogner and our Cabernet Sauvignon... we have about 8 cases of each and I would be suprised if the LVD lasted through the weekend. So if you enjoy either of those two wines come in and snag them while you can. Personally, I am going to be so sad to see the Cabernet Sauvignon go... On the bright side though, the Cabernet Franc should be released soon! Either way you have an excuse to come in and keep me company during the day, so I'll see you soon!

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Birthdays & Barrels

We had a few exciting things happen around the vineyard today, we worked on some wines and we had a birthday! So happy birthday to Kris, our wine club manager! We had some cake at work to celebrate the day.

We also pressed off the Rosé. It looks like Stephen has not decided whether it is going to be a dry or off-dry Rosé. This has been sitting in a bin on the skins for 48 hours which gave it a nice light color. We were thinking about pressing off the Rosé yesterday (after only 24 hours) but the color of the wine was too light. During the pressing, we treated the grapes as white wine grapes and pressed them gently. 

At the end of the day I went to the barrel room and I almost ran straight into some freshly moved (and filled) barrels. Turns out those barrels are now filled with the Touriga.  The barrels have little toppers on them... I'm not sure of the technical name. If you watch the little toppers they bubble every once in a while, which is actually carbon dioxide being released into the air, without letting oxygen in to the wine. The carbon dioxide is released by the yeast as they turn the sugar to alcohol. 

Another thing we have started is the Facebook Cabernet Franc. Apparently the decision to let the native yeast act as the fermenting agent was passed on the Facebook poll and so that has just begun. The bins are going to be put outside to naturally heat the must and let heat and natural sugar encourage yeast multiplication. Make sure to friend us on Facebook, so you can vote on the next step for making the "Facebook Franc"... this way you can brag to all of your friends once the wine is released!

We are moving through harvest and we have a few more varietals to pick and a lot of wines to finish. I am excited to see what happens tomorrow... always something new with our grapes! 

Town Point Competition & Festival

About two weeks ago I send a shipment of our wines to the Town Point Competition in Virgina. We submitted our Viognier, Les Vents d'Anges Viognier, Touriga, and Norton to the competition. We got word yesterday that did rather well in the competition! Our Viognier was the best in show, which is an amazing honor. The Touriga and the Norton both took the gold in their category, which was also exciting. The only wine that did not win was our Les Vents d'Anges, but it was up against some tough competition (our other Viognier!)

The Town Point Festival is taking place October 17th & 18th from 11:00am to 6:00pm and we will be there showcasing our award winning wines. So come down to Norfolk and see us!

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Autumn Brings More than Falling Leaves

This morning I came into Keswick and worked my way around the tasting room, doing my daily chores. I went outside to water the flowers and I was rather startled when I saw a large branch of one of our trees had fallen on to our front lawn! It was rather windy this morning and it seems like one of our tree decided to shed more than its leaves! I cannot believe that a branch that must have been 10 feet long landed in such a perfect way that it stood up on its own!

We also did a lot with our Petite Verdot. We added the yeast today and we went about this a little differently then the Touriga... with the Touriga we heated the tank and wine and then added the yeast to begin fermentation. For the Petite Verdot we had to temper the yeast, just as you would with tempering an egg. The temperature for the yeast was much higher then the Petite Verdot, so it is important to slowly lower the temperature of the yeast to that of the Touriga. If we were to dump the yeast directly into the wine, it would shock the yeast and would not ferment correctly.

At the end of the night, we focused on the Touriga. As I said yesterday, it has completely finished fermenting. So the next step is to draw off the free flowing juice from the stainless steal tank. After that the boys shoveled out the rest of the grapes and they were moved into the press. Think of the press as a large cylindrical colander with a balloon inside. Once the press is turned on the balloon inflates and pushes the grapes to the sides and the juice falls through the holes on the outside and into the tub below. The press gently squeezed the rest of the juice from the grapes... The picture does not do the color of the Touriga justice!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Burnt Plastic & Fuchsia Wines

This morning I walked into the barrel room to find all of the doors open and huge fans blowing, turns out our heater melted overnight and which was a "nice" surprise for Stephen... We had a great bouquet of burnt plastic in the barrel room for part of the day, but the giant industrial fans helped take care of the issue...

After dealing with that, we de-stemmed more of the Cabernet Franc and we are planning on using this batch for our Rosé. We were up in the air about making one this year, but with the amount of Cabernet Franc grapes that were produced we figured we might as well make one. I am excited to see how this will be created. There are three major ways to make a Rosé, each of which require different times during fermentation, contact with skins, and blending. I'll be sure to talk to Stephen and find out how we are planning to make this wine and whether we are going to make a dry or off-dry Rosé. I believe we have only done one other Rosé in Keswick Vineyards history so I am excited to see how it goes!

The boys also had a lot of work to do with the whites today. As I mentioned earlier, the whites are finished and are now aging in the barrels. We do a few different things in order to keep them in tip-top shape... The first thing is to sulfur all of the wine in the barrels. Sulfur acts as an agent to keep wine from oxidizing as well as keep away the influence of bacteria. If this is not done, wine has a greater potential for spoiling, or turning to vinegar. The other thing we did to the white wines was to rack the wines off the dead lees. While the wine is aging, the lees settle to the bottom of the barrel and basically racking off the wine is done by using a hose to "vacuum out" the wine on the top of the barrel, leaving a bit of wine and the lees behind. 

One last thing to mention, the 2009 Touriga. It is completely done fermenting and it blows me away how quickly this all happens. On Saturday when I tried the partially fermented wine, it was rather sweet and just a mere three days later it is a full fledged wine. It is very fruit forward right now and it is almost fuchsia in color. But don't be expecting a bright pink wine next year, Stephen said that as it ages it will become a much darker wine!

Bouquet - classy wine terminology for the smell of wine
dead lees - inactive yeast

Monday, October 5, 2009

...and Saturday turns to Monday

It's Saturday and you know what that means? Its going to be a busy day in both the tasting room and out in the feilds...
The boys brought us some Cabernet Franc grapes this morning and....

That is about how far I got in creating a post on Saturday, and then things got busy! We had some big groups come in and a nonstop flow of customers all day. It was a great day, but now I feel like I neglected the followers of this blog... So lets try this again!

Saturday morning began with testing the Cabernet Franc grapes. It is important to test the brix in the grapes to see when they are ripe and ready to be picked. I got a nice big bunch for the tasting room to try and everyone was commenting on how much sweeter the grapes were then they expected. After tasting one myself, I found that the Cabernet Franc grapes had the smallest seed in them of all the grapes I have tasted in the past.

Later that day, the boys sorted through the Petite Verdot grapes. We even had a few wine club members get their hands dirty and help sort the grapes. Luckily, the boys did not have to stay well into the night on Saturday, like they did the previous night.

Also, my predictions were incorrect! In my last post I said that the Merlot was going to sit for a few days before the yeast was added, but it was actually added on Saturday. At the end of the day, Stephen brought us a large graduated cylinder full of the partially fermented Touriga. It was still very sweet because the yeast has not finished turning the sugars into alcohol, but it has a wonderful flavor. It reminds me of a Lambic, which is actually a Belgian beer, the difference was the lack of carbonation in the Touriga. The 2008 Touriga is one of my favorite wines we currently have, so I am very excited to see the 2009 Touriga develop!

I'll be back to Keswick tomorrow with some updates on what happened on my days off! I'm sure Stephen has been keeping busy... By the way, Stephen is our wine maker, I'll be referencing him a lot, so think of this as your official introduction!

brix - the level of sugar in a grape

Friday, October 2, 2009

Busy Day, Great Day

So I was right... it was an eventful day today. We started with adding the yeast to Touriga and the Syrah and then we moved to processing the Merlot. To process the red grapes the boys started by de-stemming and hand sorting the grapes. We have a great machine that does quite a bit of work, it de-stems and punctures the berries. From there the grapes move down an assembly line where they are hand sorted.

From the assembly line in the picture, the Merlot grapes fall into a large bins. After the bin was full Stephen added it to one of the stainless steel tanks in the barrel room. If this follows the same pattern as the Touriga did, then I can predict that the must will sit in the tanks for a few days and then the yeast will be added. I'll let you know if my predictions are true in the next few days.
After the tasting room closed today Anne and I decided we should help the boys out with the hand sorting and let me tell you it was quite a task! We blasted some music and got straight to work... The conveyor belt moved quickly and it was our task to get rid of all of the stems and leaves, but the one thing the boys did not mention was all the other things you might find among the grapes... I mindlessly grabbed on to what I thought was a stem and was surprised to feel a little spider grabbing my finger!

During a little break I was able to chat with Stephen while he topped off the 2009 Viognier barrels. He let me sample from one of the barrels where he was trying a new experimental strain of yeast, and it was fantastic! I'll be curious to see what he ends up doing with the wine...

We continued into the night sorting grapes and I did not leave work until 10:45pm... Like I said, busy day! But a productive day! I guess to conclude this post I would like to say I should not call the boys "boys" any more, they are men... no, supermen... They are working very hard this harvest and I know we are going to have some great wines as a result!

topping off - filling a partially filled barrel of wine with a bit more wine to make sure there is no room for oxygen in the barrel. 

Pancakes and Wine

I came in this morning to a lot of activity in the barrel room. I guess it is going to be a busy day for the boys! Stephen came into the tasting room this morning to say good morning and he had a whisk and a large bucket filled with what looked like pancake mix. But alas, we were not having a team breakfast at work... Stephen was actually about to add yeast to the Touriga and Syrah! They have been sitting in the large stainless steel tanks for the past few days and today is the day Stephen is adding the yeast... Let the fermentation begin! Stephen explained that he was heating the must before adding the yeast to the tank. This way the yeast are quite active and prepared to turn those sugars into alcohol.

As for harvest, we are officially at the halfway point... All of the whites have been picked and the reds are moving quickly! We have plans to pick the Cabernet Franc on Sunday and then we will only have Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, and Norton left on the vines.

And I'm not sure if I am supposed to tell you this in case there is some superstition behind it, but Stephen said that 2009 might be the best year Keswick Vineyards has seen thus far! I can't wait to see these wines age and develop... I'll be sure to keep you updated

It seems like a busy day today and I have a sneaking suspicion I'll be back with another update shortly. I heard some talk about processing the Merlot and Petite Verdot we brought in yesterday...  How exciting!

must - grapes and juice prior to or during fermentation

Thursday, October 1, 2009

A Post of Firsts...

This post has a general theme, firsts: This is my first official day as the Keswick Vineyards tasting room manager, this is our first blog post and this week we are pulling in the first of our reds!

To introduce myself, I am Lauren. I am originally from San Diego and after graduating from the University of San Diego in December I was itching to explore a different part of the country. I ended up moving out to Charlottesville three months ago. I drove cross country, with my car packed to the brim, intent on working within the wine industry. I started doing tastings all across the Monticello AVA and I fell in love with Keswick... So after a few months of training and learning everything I can, I am excited to be the new tasting room manager!

To focus on the blog, I am planning on using this as a tool to keep you informed about the goings-on at the vineyard as well as have you learn about the wine, as I work with them and learn about them. Any time I learn something new I'll post it for you. Since I learn something new every day, I'll be on here daily* keeping you just as informed as I am!

Our last "first" (but definitely not our least) is the 2009 reds we are currently harvesting. I am excited to let you know they are looking fantastic! We picked the Touriga and the Syrah at the beginning of the week and we picked the Petite Verdot and Merlot grapes just today. Some of our lucky tasters (including myself) got to try some of them fresh off the vine, and let me tell you they are marvelous! The Merlot grapes are a bit sweet, while the Petite Verdot are nice and tart... I was surprised to be left with an almost tannic feeling on my tongue with the Petite Verdot. Any time we are picking I always convince the boys to bring me a few bunches, so if you come in during a picking day, I'll have them for you to sample. So come in to the tasting room in the next few days while they are still picking so you can try some!

*disclaimer: Sunday/Monday are my days off...