Keswick Vineyards 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon

Cabernet GrapesCabernet Sauvignon is revered as one of the most sought after wines in the world. Look no further than Bordeaux and Napa Valley and you will find a cult following for prestigious bottles produced in those regions. Cabernet Sauvignon is a cross of Sauvignon Blanc and Cabernet Franc. Other regions like Washington State and Australia are gaining momentum in the production of this classic grape, but what about Virginia?

Yes, you heard that right. Not only is Virginia coming into its own as a premiere wine destination, the winemakers here are discovering that red wines, particularly Bordelais varietals are doing exceptionally well in the Commonwealth, specifically in certain regions and microclimates.

For many years Virginia was gaining a reputation for crisp white wines and sweeter dessert style wines made most notably from Petit Manseng and Vidal Blanc, but pioneers like  Jim Law with Linden Vineyards and Rutger de Vink with RdV Vineyards in Northern Virginia have really pushed the envelope with Cabernet Sauvignon and their efforts and risk are paying big dividends for the entire industry.

While the clay-based soils in much of Central Virginia are more suitable for other red varietals and whites, it seems that Cabernet Sauvignon can succeed quite well when grown in rocky, shale and schist soils that are found in pockets throughout Central Virginia.

Keswick Winemaker Stephen Barnard and Crystal Cameron Schaad
Keswick winemaker Stephen Barnard sporting his Pokeman shirt for his daughter at the WCHV studios.

Enter Keswick Vineyards and winemaker Stephen Barnard. I had an opportunity to sit down with Stephen this week for my latest episode of Crystal Palate’s Wine Country which airs on Saturday mornings at 8:30am on Cville 107.5 and 1260 WCHV in the Charlottesville area. We tasted the newly bottled 2014 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon made from 100% Cabernet from two blocks of grapes with the highest elevation planted 550 feet above sea level.

I wish I had the opportunity to blind-test this gem, because quite frankly I don’t know if I would have guessed Virginia. For far too long, many wine consumers, even locals have had a rather negative perception of red wines grown in Virginia. My, oh my, have things changed! Investments in viticulture, technology, better management of disease pressures and older vines are finally bearing fruit for the modern Virginia wine scene. And wine critics around the world are taking notice.

The 2014 Cabernet Sauvignon will be released to Keswick’s wine club just in time for the holidays. Even though it’s quite impressive right now, a little patience will be rewarded. This wine will undoubtedly improve with 5-7 years of bottle age.

Tasting Notes

“Inky crimson hues indicate youth, but once you raise the glass and take in the multitude of complex and inviting aromas, you immediately understand that this is a serious and thought- provoking wine yearning to share its story.  Vibrant fruit aromas of summer ripe blackberries, currants and damson plum are woven together with floral notes of dusty violet, Herbs de Provence, sweet baking spices, Tahitian vanilla bean, chocolate-covered espresso beans and a hint of cedar and cigar box.

On the palate, cassis and plum take center stage followed by a crescendo of sweet spice, vanilla and toasty oak mid-palate.  This full-bodied, robust Cabernet has mouthwatering acidity, chewy tannins and a long lingering finish.” 

A pleasant 14% ABV provides wonderful FullSizeRender-9balance. The wine is aged in cask for nearly two years and sees 50% new oak and a hybrid aging regimen of French and American oak. It’s clear that this wine truly represents the Keswick family motto, “Born from the soil and soul of Virginia.”

Barnard only produces the Estate Cabernet Sauvignon in exceptional vintages. The first bottling dates back to 2007.

There is little use of commercial yeasts at Keswick, they believe that 95% of winemaking takes place in the vineyards. They rely on native yeasts for the fermentation process and take more of a hands-off Old World approach in the winery to truly allow the unique terroir to speak for itself.

While the 2014 won’t be available to the general public for a few more months, Keswick has the 2013 vintage available at the winery. You can also sample it in the tasting room. It retails for $74.95. Wine club members receive a 20% discount.

In addition to this stunning example of Cabernet Sauvignon, Keswick was awarded top billing in this year’s Virginia Governor’s Cup for Barnard’s 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve.

If you were one to write off Virginia reds years ago, I encourage you to come back and give it another try, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised. There’s no doubt Thomas Jefferson is smiling down upon his beloved Virginia and raising his glass to a job well done.


Christmas Pairings

Now that your Christmas shopping is “hopefully” finished, it’s time to turn your attention to the holiday feast.  As you plan your perfect meal, don’t forget about the wine! The right wine and food pairings can turn your meal from good to great! Since there are so many traditions this time of year, I chose some popular meals and provided some great Christmas pairings that will please even the pickiest palate at your dinner table.

Beef tenderloin with a Bordeaux reduction served with a side of lobster mac and Maytag blue cheese is a stable in our house for Christmas dinner. It’s the best surf and turf you will ever eat! Since tenderloin is a leaner cut of beef, you want to choose a wine with  moderate tannins. A wine too tannic will overwhelm the palate. However, the creaminess and higher fat content in the mac and cheese will give you a little more flexibility.  A left bank Bordeaux would be an awesome choice to play off the flavor notes in the reduction.  A Napa Cabernet Sauvignon with a little bit of age is also a perfect dancing partner for this dish (tannins mellow with age).  Some of my favorite California Cabs with this dish include Jordan, Cade, Pride Mountain and Stag’s Leap Artemis.  Other red options include a Syrah, Chateuneuf du Pape or even a well balanced Zinfandel like Grgich HillsRafanelli or Robert Biale’s Black Chicken out of California.  The Zin works particularly well if you do a pepper crust on the tenderloin. The Cab is amazing with an herb crusted tenderloin.

When it comes to ham, there are a few options that make outstanding pairings.
For white options, choose an off-dry Riesling or a Gewürztraminer. These options work particularly well with a maple glazed or honey ham. These varietals offer the perfect foil for the salty ham. The saltiness brings out the fruit notes in the wine and the vibrant acidity found in these two varietals is the perfect palate cleanser.  Adding a pinch of clove to the maple glaze will bring out some of the sweet spice notes in the Gewürztraminer. If you prefer red, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir are excellent choices.  The red fruit notes of both varietals play well off the sweet notes of the maple glaze. The Trimbach Gewürztraminer is a great choice and easy to find.  The Dr. Loosen “Blue Slate” Riesling  or the “Dr. L” out of Germany is a great value friendly selection. If your looking for something a little more elegant look for a Grand Cru Alsatian Riesling. When it comes to Cab Franc, Virginia is offering some great selections from Barboursville, Fabbioli and Chatham Vineyards or try a “Chinon” from the Loire Valley of France.

Braised short ribs with porcini risotto is another great holiday meal. Nothing says warm, cozy and satisfying like this dish. You want a hearty wine to stand up to this meal. Consider keeping with tradition and choose an Italian red like a Brunello, Chianto Classico or Barbaresco. The high acidity and high tannic structure in these wines provide the perfect counterpoint to the weightiness of this fabulous meal. Antinori, Banfi and Pio Cesare are all excellent producers of Italian wines.


Lamb chops or leg of lamb marinated with fresh herbs (rosemary  & thyme) and garlic is also an elegant option for Christmas dinner.  I like an earthy meaty wine like a Syrah or Cotes du Rhone from the Rhone Valley of France with lamb. You can also opt for a Barbaresco from Piedmont, Italy or you can’t go wrong with a classic Cabernet from Napa.

Again lamb is a leaner cut of meet, so look for wines with a little age on it for mellower tannins.

If you’re preparing venison for dinner, a Chateauneuf du Pape or Red Burgundy (Pinot Noir) is an excellent choice. And if you are opting for turkey, check out our Thanksgiving wine pairings for some great ideas under $30.

Once you have selected the perfect wines, make sure to serve them at the proper temperature and don’t forget to decant your red wines for 30 minutes to an hour before the meal! It will make a big difference in the flavor profile. Decanting will also mellow out the tannins.  Check out the 20/20 rule for achieving the perfect serving temperature.

So now that your shopping is done, presents are wrapped  and your menu is planned, kick back with a great glass of vino. You deserve it. Happy Holidays!





Filet Mignon & Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s time for a little steakhouse in your house! GorgonzolaFilet_CPOne of the classic steakhouse pairings of a filet mignon and Cabernet Sauvignon gets even better when the steak is topped off with a decadent gorgonzola cream sauce (recipe below).  Throw in some rosemary and truffle potato wedges on the side and you’ll bring the steakhouse experience to your house at a fraction of the price. With all the money you saved, why not splurge on an excellent bottle of wine and treat your loved one to a romantic night in.

My husband and I recently enjoyed a 2007 Stags Leap Artemis Cabernet with this dish. It made for an outstanding pairing!  There are several other wines that work well with this dish including Malbec, Merlot and Rioja. Here are a few other options from everyday value wines to some premium selections.

Recipe: Filet Mignon w/Gorgonzola Cream Sauce & Rosemary Truffle Potato Wedges


(4)  1 & 1/2 inch thick Filet Mignon, season with salt & pepper

4 cups half & half
6 oz gorgonzola
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. blk. pepper
2 tablespoons fresh cut rosemary (fine chop)

4 Yukon gold potatoes (sliced into wedges – 8 per potato)
1/4 cup truffle oil
1 tablespoon salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tsp. garlic powder
4 tablespoons fresh cut rosemary (fine chop)


Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Cut potatoes into wedges and place in medium saucepan covered in water and par-boil for 15 minutes. While potatoes are boiling, place cookie sheet in oven to preheat. The hot surface will help the potatoes crisp up. Drain potatoes and pat dry. Toss potatoes in truffle oil, salt, pepper, garlic powder & rosemary. Put in oven for about 30-40 minutes until golden on both sides. Flip half-way through.

When you place potatoes in the oven, place a cast iron skillet on the other rack and let pre-heat for 20 minutes. Take skillet out of oven and place over medium-high flame.
Place seasoned filet in the skillet, let brown for 2 minutes and sear on the other side for 2 minutes. Place skillet back in oven for 4-5 minutes for medium rare.
Let rest for 10 minutes.

Once the potatoes are in the oven, you can start the gorgonzola sauce. Bring half & half to a boil over a medium-high flame and let boil for 30 minutes stirring occasionally until sauce becomes thick. Remove from heat and add gorgonzola, salt, pepper & rosemary. Keep warm until ready to spoon over filet!
Dean and DeLuca

Roast Beef Crostinis & Cabernet Sauvignon

Looking for a simple elegant appetizer that’s sure to please any palate? Roast beef crostinis are always a crowd pleaser and oh so easy to put together. For this quick version, I used the Whole Foods Rosemary Garlic Roast Beef from the deli section. They roast their meats daily and it’s definitely a big step up from your typical deli meat and only a couple more dollars per pound. For a gourmet version, you can use slices of roasted beef tenderloin.  I recently made these delectable treats for an Opus One tasting event and they were the perfect partner with the 2006 Opus. Since that was quite a splurge, here are some other wine pairing ideas at every price point. These crostinis work best with Cabernet, Merlot, Bordeaux Style Blends, Syrah and Zinfandel. Grab your favorite bottle or try out one of these great selections below.

Recommended Producers

Recipe: Roast Beef Crostinis 

Ingredients (Makes 40 Crostinis)

1 lb Rare Roast Beef (thinly sliced) – Whole Foods Rosemary Garlic Roast Beef  or Boar’s Head 
8 oz Point Reyes Blue Cheese or Stilton
2 tablespoons Mayo
2 tablespoons Sour Cream
Baby Arugula (small bag)
White Truffle Oil


Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. Slice bread into 1/4 inch slices on the diagonal.
Drizzle w/olive oil and toast for about 5-7 minutes (turning once)

While the bread is toasting, mix the blue cheese, mayo and sour cream in a bowl. Set aside.

Once bread is toasted, spread blue cheese mixture on each crostini, top with arugula, roast beef, drizzle
with truffle oil and garnish with chopped chives. For a gourmet version, use beef tenderloin in place of the
roast beef.