Michael Keenan is one of my favorite people in the business. His passion for wine, his winery, and life itself not only shows up when you meet him, but it comes through in his wines. I’ll be featuring Michael and wines from the Keenan winery this coming Wednesday, September 14, 7PM, at the Vestry, inside the Chapel, in San Francisco. Not only will you experience amazing food and wine, but you’ll get to hear how the wine was made, and why it was paired with each course. Click HERE to see the menu prepared by chef Elaine Osuna, and get tickets. You’ll get inside the secrets of the trade, while having your mind blown by such delicious fare. Don’t miss this event next week! Seating is limited.
Robert Keenan, Michael’s father, fell in love with Bordeaux wines by drinking a lot of them at the dinner table with his family. Not only were they delicious, but the rich history of wine production in Bordeaux came through in the wine as well. He was so inspired that he decided to break ground on Spring Mountain, in Napa, in 1974, to make Bordeaux style wines that had brilliant fruit, balanced acidity, complexity, and longevity.
Robert had an understanding of terrior, and picked a spot with eastern sun exposure in a place that gets really hot in the summer. A vine’s placement in relationship to the sun is critical. Normally southern sun exposure would be preferable, but mountain fruit have a different set of needs. The sun and temperature during the day really bake the grapes, producing huge amounts of sugars (sugars turn to alcohol), and limiting potential acidity. This eastern exposure produces lots of morning sunshine. For the rest of the day, the grapes cool off, producing Bordeaux-like acidity, and keeping the fruit in balance. I find this to be an anomaly in Napa, where Cabernet Sauvignon lacks the grace of Bordeaux, and Chardonnay becomes a cocktail wine.
In 1998 Michael Keenan took over the reins, and has continued the tradition of making wines of grace, and style. He replanted much of the property, with an eye for improving the quality of the vines. His eye for sustainability grabs my attention, too. He had huge solar panels built to produce enough electricity for everything on the property, including several residences. They also have a pond on the property that collects rainwater to irrigate the vineyards.
My favorite Keenan wines will be featured at the wine dinner September 14. I’m pretty sure they’ll rock your world, as they did for me!
Keenan Summer Blend 2015, Napa Valley
A blend of Chardonnay from the estate with small amounts of Albarino and Viognier purchased from the Napa Valley floor. I particularly love the aromatics from both the Albarino and Viognier, and the fresh peach fruit with bangin’ minerals.
Keenan Chardonnay 2014, Estate
I’ve featured this wine for years at Venus Restaurant in Berkeley. I stayed in the, now extinct, “Love Shack” right on the Chardonnay vineyard. I loved walking the vineyard at night until a fox started to get protective of his home, and scared me away! Staying up there can really change your perception of Napa from a Highway 29 perspective. It’s really wild! The acidity, stone fruit, almond extract, and earthiness are all balanced out by lovely acidity and sexy texture.
Keenan Merlot 2012, Carneros
Keenan vineyard manager Peter Nissen also manages the Ghisletta Vineyard in Carneros, where this fruit comes from. I love Carneros Merlot. The proximity to the San Pablo Bay brings out softer tannins, rounder fruit, and and lighter style. The AVA has the longest growing season in Napa, similar to that of Saint Emilion in Bordeaux. I love the complex nose of licorice, plum, campari, menthol, dill, and vanilla. It finishes wonderfully tense, with tart cranberry, firm tannins, and well balanced acid.
Cabernet Franc 2012, Estate
Perhaps one of my five favorite wines of the last year, this wine delivers with elegance, power, and the yin/yang I love in a well balanced beauty. It comes from the highest elevation on the property at 1900 feet. These vines only produce 2.5 tons per acre, creating an amazing amount of fruit quality per grape cluster. A great balance between Bordeaux and Chinon with notes of violets, cherry, plum, earth, and minerals. The acid remains vibrant with pencil lead earthiness and structured tannins.
Zinfandel / Merlot / Cab Franc 2012, “Nod to History”, Estate
Only available at the winery (and at this wine dinner because Michael likes me!), I love Zinfandel when made with balance. It is California’s noble varietal as talked about in one of my recent blog posts HERE. The Merlot and Cabernet Franc give the wine structure to go with the brilliant fruit of Zinfandel. With only 10 cases released total, you won’t be able to try this wine anywhere else. I love the brambly notes and rich texture. If you come on Wednesday, you’ll get a chance to try it with Filet Mignon!
It is impossible to know everything about wine. Let’s keep learning.