Spring / Summer 2020, from The President's Desk - Keenan Winery
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Spring / Summer 2020, from The President’s Desk


2005 Side by Side: A second day wine is a simple enough concept. In an industry that’s saturated with impenetrable and often times inexplicable terminology, this one is fairly straightforward. A wine that is better the next day. A wine possessing enough focus, structure, and complexity such that the following evening you have a wine that has continued to delicately evolve, giving you a brief but exciting glimpse of its full potential. This very cool and interesting concept is more traditionally known as ‘opening your wine too early’.

Sure, it’s all fine and good to open wines when they’re peaking. It’s defiantly chill to do your research, read the professionals, and suss out when is the perfect moment to pop the cork. What is also very normal is to become impatient, as I do, all the time. If and when you do find yourself opening a wine too early or too young, try and find the time to spend a couple days with it. Send the kids away, turn the phone off, grab the house slippers and hold that bottle close as I did two nights ago with a bottle of Side by Side.

Side by Side is an ultra small production single vineyard designate that we have been producing every year since 2005. Evenly split between merlot and cabernet franc, literally growing side by side, this is our St. Emilion, our Cheval Blanc. Located within the Upper Bowl Vineyard, sitting at just under 2000 ft on a rugged Spring Mountain hillside with an odd west by northwest exposure, this may be our most unique vineyard site. To appropriate a common expression used by chefs and oenophiles alike: “What grows together goes together” and these two grapes were meant for each other.

The initial approach of the 2005 Side by Side is lovely, and to be expected. Heady aromas of raspberry and blueberry intermingle with a soft carpet of mocha and cedar oil. The palate is front-loaded and the finish is all tight-grained tannin and acid. This bottle is just screaming to be put down and left alone, but I persist. 20 minutes in and the welcoming committee of perfumed red and blue fruits seem to be considering a full retreat. With the preliminary fruit components routing hard I’m left with only minerality. A wall of hard iron and crushed gravel has firmly planted itself between me and any other discernible elements of this wine. It’s gone straight off a cliff. This is a great sign.

The following evening I return to the bottle. As is often the case with a wine of this age that’s been open for 24 hours, the initial aromas coming out of the glass are much more savory. Largely driven by mushroom, forest floor, pine needles and other vegetative qualities. “Sous Bois” as the French call it. This is only temporary, perhaps a brief glimpse into what this wine could be in another 15 years, because the warm sweet caress of the fruit components and the unctuous spice elements come roaring back. The mentholated chocolate and the mineral licorice completely envelop what was once a tight and firm tannin has given way and dissolved into sweet lush structure with laser like focus. The finish just goes and goes, acid for days. This is the very definition of a second day wine and certainly one that has a very exciting future. 100 cases produced.

–Reilly Keenan



If you had asked me on 3/17, the day the Shelter in Place order went into effect in the Bay Area, what I thought the next two months would bring for our business and our family I would have painted you a pretty bleak picture. Never before in either of my careers had I witnessed such a sudden and seismic shock to my business.

For the last 22 years the majority of my time and effort has been spent on developing and nurturing our wholesale markets. We make more wine than we can sell out of the tasting room and wine club so we need a healthy wholesale channel.

I was very proud of the extensive and vibrant network that I had created and suddenly in the blink of an eye it all just vanished. All of our restaurant accounts all across the country were now closed; all of our distributers were suddenly scrambling to stay in business, wondering whom they could keep on their sales team. Our number one wholesaler went from selling 56 cases a week to selling 6.

In week two of the lockdown our daughter Maddy came home. By just the luck of the draw her fourth and final year of Medical school had just finished and now she had a two and a half month window to spend with us before her residency would start in Denver on 6/11. Our son Reilly, who works with us and lives at the winery, has also been here the whole time. I haven’t been home for 12 straight weeks since the end of the previous century!

Strange as it may seem, this pandemic has given our family a chance to be together in a way we have never experienced. A slower pace, plenty of time to plan meals, walk in the garden, walk in the vineyard and really to go a long period of time without being in a rush to go somewhere else.

And I think the whole winery team has had much the same experience. Everyone has been healthy and has enjoyed this period of quiet at the winery with just ourselves. I think for all of us the reality of just how beautiful an environment the winery is has been reinforced by this period of quiet.

That being said, I think we are all ready to share again… Cheers to us all being together again in the very near future!

–Michael Keenan


Mild temperatures and minimal rainfall totals were the theme for this winter and spring. Our reservoir never did fill, and there were days in February that felt and looked more like summer than the middle of winter!

The first rain of the season came at the very end of November, but the rain gauge topped less than an inch. December brought some welcome rain storms which allowed our cover crops to green and begin to grow. January was quiet in terms of rainfall, though, and February was a zero! That’s right – no measurable rainfall for the month of February. January, February and March are the months to fill the reservoir and replenish the moisture levels in the soil. So very unusual to have a February that was bone dry.

March did supply many rainy days, but the storms were not very strong and didn’t provide much precipitation. The March storms did rejuvenate our cover crops and a couple inches of rain in early April were a welcome surprise. Most of April was dry though, and things seemed to be running in slow motion. Vines slowly moved through bud break and continued to grow at a relatively leisurely pace.

A number of robust storms developed in May and were interspersed with perfect growing conditions. The vines responded to the conditions with a vigorous growth spurt. By late May, vines were flowering energetically and the cover crop was three to four feet tall in many blocks. The vines transitioned quickly from flowering to set, and we’re now seeing the berries begin to swell and take on size.
We’ll see what happens next… cheers!
–Matt Gardner

SATURDAY, August 22
11 AM – 3 PM

  • Wine Tasting and Appetizers
  • Current release wines, library wines and secret wines!
  • Taste barrel samples and purchase wine futures
  • Tour our historic cellar and meet the winery staff
  • Enjoy the views from our mountainside winery

, beginning at 11 am on Saturday, August 22nd.

Taste current releases as well as library wines, and even sample some of our young wines still aging in oak barrels. Appetizers will be served to com­pliment our award-winning wines.

This event is by invitation only, and is free to Wine Club members, however $40 per adult will be charged for non-Wine Club members. Please RSVP with the number of guests in your party by Monday,
August 10th.

Please note: we will be capping attendance this year at 300 guests.



Robert M. Parker Jr., The Wine Advocate, December 2018
91+ Points
“Made of 100% Cabernet Franc from the Spring Mountain District, the medium to deep garnet-purple colored 2016 Cabernet Franc offers up roses, cedar and forest floor with a core of raspberries, cherries, earth and mulberries plus nuances of pencil shavings and cinnamon. The palate is medium-bodied, soft and juicy with grainy tannins, finishing long and perfumed.”- Lisa Perrotti-Brown

Robert M. Parker Jr., The Wine Advocate, December 2018
90 Points
“The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon is deep garnet-purple colored with a plums, cassis and baked berries nose with violets, cedar, cigars and earth. The medium to full-bodied mouth is firm and grainy with decent concentration and an earthy finish.”– Lisa Perrotti-Brown,

Robert M. Parker Jr., The Wine Advocate, 11/2019
“The 2018 Chardonnay features notions of applesauce, honeydew melons and warm apricots with touches of brioche, chopped almonds and cedar. Medium-bodied, the palate has a refreshing line lifting the toasty/savory flavors, finishing on a fruity note.”- Lisa Perrotti-Brown

Antonio Galloni, Vinous, December 2018
96 Points
“The 2016 brings together dense, unctuous fruit and terrific freshness. A classically built medium-bodied wine of the style that are seldom found in Napa Valley today. Hints of sage, lavender, espresso and menthol add aromatic intrigue, but it is the wine’s balance and sense of proportion that I find most alluring today. This is a fabulous showing from Robert Keenan.

Antonio Galloni, December 2018
92 Points
“The 2016 Merlot Reserve Mailbox Vineyard is powerful, deep and resonant, and yet also retains a striking sense of classicism in its structural feel. Savory and floral notes add aromatic intrigue to this deceptively medium-bodied wine. Graphite, mint, lavender and black cherry are some of the many notes that develop as the 2016 opens up in the glass.”


2018 Chardonnay Spring Mtn. Dist.

Keenan’s 2018 Chardonnay was hand harvested, de-stemmed, then gently pressed. The juice was fermented and aged in French and American oak barrels. The wine was left on the lees and the barrels were stirred weekly. No secondary, or malolactic fermentation was carried out, leading to the crisp, citrus character of this wine. The wine was bottled after approximately seven months of aging in the cellar.

The finished wine shows citrus, ripe pear and green apple in the nose. Hints of lush white peach are noticed as the wine opens up. The sur-lie aging has added richness and complexity, and a touch of toasty oak returns on the finish. Like all of Keenan’s wines, this Chardonnay is a food worthy wine whose crisp acidity and medium body will accompany a wide variety of cuisine.

2016 Merlot Napa Valley

The 2016 Keenan Merlot is composed primarily of Keenan Estate Merlot. The remainder comes from the Napa Carneros region. After hand harvesting, the grapes were de-stemmed, then inoculated with Montrachet yeast. Fermentation ranged from ten to fourteen days.
The ‘15 Merlot has been aged in thirty-three percent new French and American oak barrels for eighteen months. The resulting wine shows intense aromas of black cherry, blackberry, and cassis. Complex nuances of cocoa and coffee bean emerge as the wine opens up. This is a “big” Merlot that will age for many years to come.

2016 Zinfandel Napa Valley

Keenan’s 2016 Zinfandel is made up of grapes grown primarily on Keenan’s Spring Mountain District estate. The Estate Zinfandel imparts structure, ripe black fruit and complex earthy nuances. Zinfandel grown in Calistoga makes up the remainder of the blend and supplies spice and briary red fruit aromas.
The finished wine shows intense black cherry and raspberry fruit in the nose, while hints of black pepper and vanilla add complexity. This is a rich, full-bodied Zinfandel that will accompany a wide array of foods, but we suggest gamey meats, grilled as a great match for the Keenan Zin.

2016 Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley

The 2016 Cabernet Sauvignon is composed primarily of grapes grown on Keenan’s Spring Mountain District Estate; the remainder of the fruit was harvested from Pope Valley, a grape growing region located in the eastern portion of Napa.
The blend was assembled just before bottling. The Estate grown Cabernet imparts amazing concentration and remarkable structure, while the portion of Cabernet
harvested from Pope Valley adds complex aromas and a balanced mid-palate.

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