DECEMBER 28, 2005 / Issue 157
"With 50 acres under vine on Spring Mountain, this producer has fashioned its strongest lineup to date. The Keenan Family, backed by consulting winemaker Nils Venge, has hit home runs in 2001 and 2002. Moreover, some of the unblended barrel samples of 2003 look promising as well. As for the stuff in bottle, for starters there is a very Chablis-like 2003 Chardonnay, a wine that is primarily from the estate and not put through malolactic, with about 20% of it aged in stainless steel and the other 80% barrel-fermented and aged in neutral wood. A wine with good lemon oil notes intermixed with a hint of pear, white peach, and orange rind, this nicely textured, crisp, minerally Chardonnay has good acidity and a very nicely textured, zesty mouthfeel. Drink it over the next 1-2 years."
"The red wines have soared in quality. For starters, the 2001 Merlot 25th Anniversary is a deep ruby/purple-colored effort with a big, sweet, chocolatey nose intermixed with black cherry, curranty fruits, a succulent mouthfeel, and admirable fruit purity in the finish. It is a wine meant to be drunk during its first 7-8 years of life. The 2001 Cabernet Sauvignon 25th Anniversary has a dense purple color and a sweet nose of crème de cassis intermixed with licorice, graphite, and subtle, smoky oak.Dense, medium to full-bodied, with sweet tannins, and a long, heady finish, this is an impressive as well as realistically priced Napa Cabernet. Drink it over the next 10-15 years. The 2002’s look to be even better as they are more flamboyant and display an even stronger inner core of fruit and concentration. The 2002 Merlot exhibits a dark ruby/purple color along with a big, sweet nose of mocha-infused black cherries and currants intermixed with a hint of espresso roast. Deep, rich, chewy, and medium to full-bodied with outstanding balance, this is a beauty to drink over the next 10-12 years. Another knock-out wine is the 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon, which tastes like pure crème de cassis. Beautiful purity of fruit, a deep ruby/purple color, a restrained use of oak, and a stunning finish with moderately high tannin make for an impressive Cabernet Sauvignon that should hit its prime in 2-3 years and last for 12-15. Sadly, there are only 200 cases of the gorgeous 2002 Cabernet Franc. The wine offers a tremendous perfume of red and black currants intermixed with notions of blueberries, menthol, and minerals. Dense ruby/purple, medium-bodied, with beautiful elegance, a layered mouthfeel, and a singular personality, this is a dazzling Cabernet Franc, but there is so little of it. It should drink well for 10-12 years."
"There were roughly 275-300 cases of the Reserve cuvees, so very little of this wine makes it into the public domain. The deep ruby/purple-hued 2002 Merlot Reserve offers up aromas of melted licorice, smoky espresso, black currants, cherries, and licorice. This dense, succulent wine boasts terrific concentration as well as purity, and a long, full-bodied, rich finish. Anticipated maturity: now-2015. The 2002 Mernet Reserve, a proprietary blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot, is the finest wine Keenan has ever made! The wine has considerable complexity and all the elegance and nuances of a grand cru Bordeaux allied with the ripe, concentrated, saturated fruit that Napa and particularly Spring Mountain provides. Gorgeous aromas of crème de cassis, licorice, espresso, and acacia flowers are followed by a profoundly rich wine boasting medium to full body, elegant, sweet tannins, and enough acidity to provide definition and vibrancy. The finish goes on for a good 40-45 seconds. This beauty is a persuasive example of what Keenan has been able to accomplish over the last few years. Drink it over the next 15+ years. Lastly, The backward 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve exhibits a saturated purple color, and a big, sweet nose of blackberries, black currants, earth, and smoky oak. Impressively endowed, well structured, with high but well-integrated tannin, decent acidity, and a long finish, it requires 2-3 years of bottle-age. It should evolve for 15-20 years. This beautiful winery, located in Spring Mountain in the Mayacamas Range, seems to be making the best wine of its 25-year history, and much of the credit must go to the tireless efforts of Michael Keenan who has done so much to resurrect the fortunes of this winery."