Over the last twelve months, Wine & Spirits tasted 535 American cabernets. Nine cabernet sauvignons received the strongest praise from our critics.
The Keenan 2002 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon.
Mountain-grown tannins give this a superrich feel, the flavor black and exotic with a deep, primary feel. For lamb or game sausages. (280 cases) 94 Points
"Top 100 wineries of the year".
Driving into the Mayacamas Mountain between Napa and Sonoma is kind of like throwing the hand brake in the fast lane. All the whirring light and urban noise of the bay's cities abruptly halt and disappear. It's a sudden removal that has attracted settlers to these mountains since the 19th century, and occasionally you can glimpse remains of old vineyards and some stone buildings like those that Robert Keenan found when he started his winery on Spring Mountain in 1974.
By the mid-1980s, Keenan was producing intense mountain-grown cabernet and merlot when the winery hit a snag with its lead distributor. Keenan's difficult patch continued through phylloxera, which forced the winery to replant its vineyards between 1995 and 1998, making wine from contracted grapes in the meantime.
Keenan's son Michael came to the winery in 1998 determined to change this course. With the help of cellarmaster Randy Kewell, manager Matt Gardner and consulting winemaker Nils Venge, the younger Keenan has been largely successful: The replanted estate vineyards came online with the 2001 vintage, and as the vines age, the wines continue to improve. His '02 Napa Valley Cabernet, for instance, is dense and savory, its austere tannins balanced with more generous fruit from valley-floor vines. The '04 Spring Mountain Chardonnay shows the austerity of mountain-grown fruit, here balanced with rich, spicy baked apple flavor.
The wine that best capture Spring Mountain's terroir might be Keenan's '02 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon, from a selection of estate vines planted at 1,700 feet. The immediate hit of black-peppercorn spice alone reflects the power of its mountain-grown fruit; its deep, juicy core of fruit furthers that impression, black as vocanic soils the vines grow in. It's a wine that makes it clear that Keenan is back on track. - W.M.W.