Wine Review: Virginia’s Stinson & Keswick

Posted by | Posted in Wine Reviews | Posted on 10-08-2016

If you haven’t yet explored Virginia wine, getting started can be a bit tricky. With more than 250 wineries, it helps to start with a few reputable wineries. I recently tasted through a few wines from two Virginia wineries I think produce consistently good wines.

Stinson Vineyards produces some Monticello AVA fruit and source grapes from other areas. The father-daughter duo (Scott and Rachel Stinson) control about seven acres of estate vineyards, planted to Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Petit Manseng, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Tannat. The wines are clean, vibrant, accessible, and I’ve noticed a strong consistency from vintage to vintage, something that can be especially difficult in Virginia.

Speaking of Virginia’s notoriously variable vintage conditions, during a recent online chat, Keswick’s winemaker and vineyard manager Stephen Barnard said, “The only consistency is that next year’s going to be different.” From frost to spats of torrential rain to heat spikes to looming destruction from tropical systems, Virginia winegrowers don’t have it easy. But he and other Virginia winemaker’s got a bit of a break in the exceptional 2015 vintage. A lot of reds are yet to hit the market, but based on the whites I’ve tasted and what I’ve heard from Virginia vintners, this is a vintage to check out.

Barnard, originally from South Africa, has been working with Virginia wines for about 15 years, the last 10 of which he’s spent at Keswick, garnering acclaim and doing his part to elevate the reputation of Virginia wine. Keswick has won awards at the annual Virginia Governor’s Cup wine competition several times, including their 2014 Cabernet Franc Reserve (included in this tasting), which won the 2016 Cup.

For a full re-cap on the 2016 Virginia Governor’s Cup winners, you can read my report here.

These wines were received as trade samples and tasted sighted.

2015 Stinson Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc - Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $24
Pale straw color. Smells of tart green apples and limes mixed with juicy pears and an impressive amount of chalk, white pepper and sliced jalapenos. Rocking acidity on the palate, which balances nicely with the  moderately waxy mouthfeel. This is a delicious but vibrant wine with limes, apples and peaches. The fruit is topped with mountain stream, honeysuckle, sea salt, chalk and sliced jalapenos. This Sauv Blanc has a little bit of everything rolled into its character. Crisp, refreshing finish. A consistently exciting and dynamic Virginia Sauvignon Blanc, vintage in, vintage out. Aged about 5 months on the lees in concrete and stainless steel. (89 points IJB)

2014 Stinson Vineyards Cabernet Franc - Virginia
SRP: $25
Bright ruby color. Aromas of red currants, juicy black cherries, lots of rose petals, tobacco, pickling spices and earthy-mushroom elements. The acid is bright and crisp, and the wine has an elegant feel to it, supported by light-level tannic structure, which makes it refreshing and ready to drink. Black cherries, raspberries, red currants — the fruit is tart and crunchy and laced with notes of broth, pepper, bay leaf, tobacco and some coffee and light cedar woven in nicely. Drinking very nicely now but could age well in the near term. Aged 9 months in 20% new French oak. (90 points IJB)

2013 Stinson Vineyards Tannat - Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $36
Vibrant purple color. Gorgeous dark fruit on the nose (plum skin, black currant) along with rich earth, graphite, anise and violets — lots of aromatic complexity that comes out with air. Full-bodied on the palate with structured tannins, but bright acidity keeps it from being heavy. Pretty but deep fruit (blueberry, black cherry, dark plum) topped with notes of violet petals, clove and wet earth. Impressive purity of flavor and an underlying elegance for a young Tannat. 2013 was a terribly rainy year, and I think that’s contributed to this wine being more accessible young than I would expect. Includes 12% Merlot, this is aged 22 months in 50% new French oak, but this wine can handle that level of oak like a champ. (89 points IJB)

2015 Keswick Vineyards Viognier Les Vents d’Anges - Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $25
Medium gold color. Aromas of papaya, lime, mango, floral perfume, a nutty and honeycomb aspect that is wonderful but not overwhelming. A full-bodied and waxy wine but not chunky, as the bright acidity sweeps it and keeps the wine fresh. Tropical (mango, papaya) with lime and apricot tang to it. A range of honeyed green tea, white flowers, nougat and cashew notes. Plenty of fruit and tropical goodness, but this is surprisingly vibrant as well. (88 points IJB)

2014 Keswick Vineyards Cabernet Franc Estate Reserve - Virginia, Central Virginia, Monticello
SRP: $50
Bold purple color. I love the spicy and herbal notes on the nose, along with violets and earth to coat the tart black cherries. Good grip to the tannins but the acidity is refreshing. Tart but juicy black cherries mix with campfire, earth, mushroom, black tea and bell pepper. Much more expressive on day two — this is a very nice Monticello Cab Franc that should age nicely. Aged 10 months in French and American oak. (88 points IJB)

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