February 2007 – “Sleeper”
We flipped back and forth as to whether we should give the January 2007 Sleeper accolade to the 2003 Robert Keenan Cabernet Franc or the 2003 Robert Keenan Mernet (a blend of Merlot and Cabernet in both the name and the wine). In the end, we decided on the Cabernet Franc because we liked the prospects of the upcoming 2004 vintage a little better than that of the Mernet. But this is just another reason why Robert Keenan as a winery on the whole needs to be looked at again as it may have fallen off the radar.
In 1974, Robert Keenan bought property on Spring Mountain that was to be his winery and vineyard. His goal was to make a Bordeaux style wine that would compete with First Growths. The winery originally employed dry farming and maximum stress much like its Bordeaux counterparts and made wine that was austere and took a long time to come around.
Flash forward 30 years later, Robert’s son Michael is now firmly at the helm and in charge of a new style of winemaking at the winery. He has famed winemaker Nils Venge to consult. Michael focuses the winery’s energy on tannin texture management, moving away from the harder style of his father. But this is not about a quick fix to appeal to what is popular or fashionable. Michael strives for expression of appellation and not too high alcohol in his wines. Production is kept low and farming has moved to using sustainable measures. This is a wholesale change in attitude and the wine shows off these benefits.
While we have not had any older vintages prior to Michael’s changes, the wines we had showed a lot of promise, overall being big on the backend and silky on the front end. We firmly believe you should be putting Robert Keenan back on your radar.