2016 Keenan Chardonnay, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District, 40th Anniversary, April 2018
90 Points: “Spicy and savory, this oak-and-mineral-driven chardonnay delivers flavors of bacon fat and hominy. It carries its juicy, bold flavors into an austere, dry finish. Point it towards milk-braised veal”
2014 Keenan Merlot, Mailbox Vineyard, Spring Mountain District
94 Points: “This has the depth and complexity of fruit grown in the mountains, in this case, a northwest-facing hillside high up Spring Mountain. It’s powerful and concentrated, the flavors completely filling the structure with bright intensity. Oak age has smoothed some of the corners and edges, buffing the rocky tannins with mocha notes. The wine’s freshness will carry it for five years or more.”
2014 Keenan Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, February 2016
93 Points: “Totally savory, this wine smells like seashells and tastes like green lime pith. It’s a big wine, fat in the middle, held taut by the mineral acidity that keeps it fresh and refreshing. It ends as clean as a premier cru Chablis might, here with the firm, ‘grippy’ spice of a Spring Mountain white.” – An anonymous review for top rated wine vintages above 90 points.
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Spring Mountain District, April 2016
95 Points: “Michael Keenan believes there are two sides of Cabernet, one fruity, one savory and herbal. He works to balance the two in the grapes from his Spring Mountain vineyards, consistently growing one of the greatest Napa Valley Cabernet in his Reserve. The 2012 contrasts herbal notes of sage and forest floor with bright fruit that energizes the wine. That plump fruit creates a compelling texture against the stone-hard tannins, matching their austerity with silken grace. In the end, the flavors have the blackness of a well, mossy, stony, cool and deep. Compelling now, this is a top rated wine that will benefit from a decade in the cellar.”
2012 Keenan Mernet Reserve, Spring Mountain District, February 2016
93 Points: “Michael Keenan grows Merlot at his Mailbox Vineyard, a sloping block planted on rocky clay loam at 1,700 feet, blending it with Cabernet-Sauvignon and a little franc for Mernet. It’s a tightly structured Spring Mountain wine, tasting like a redwood grove—umami notes of black mushrooms and moist tree bark—dark, a little dank and earthy, with spice to sun it up. While the oak is a little prominent for now, that espresso scent will fade into the fresher, herbal character of the fruit as the wine ages.”
2012 Keenan Merlot Reserve, Mailbox Vineyard, Spring Mountain District, April 2015
93 Points: “A red-fruited Merlot, this has some blackness to the tannins that place it firmly in the Napa Valley hills. There’s a rocky sense to those tannins, along with hints of black olive and scents of conifer forests, coming together in a lasting, mineral-tinged flavor. The fruit is cool and full, integrating into the oak to create a luscious Merlot that needs plenty of time in a decanter to show best.”
2013 Keenan Chardonnay, Spring Mountain District, April 2015
92 Points: “Good Merlot can often seem workmanlike, this one satisfied to hit fragrant notes of ripe cherries with clarity. It’s not pushed, and though there’s plenty of oak present in the tannins, it frames the fruit well.”
2012 Keenan Merlot, Napa Valley, June 2015
91 Points: “Barrel fermented without having gone through malolactic conversion, this is a firm, completely savory chardonnay, gaining its viscosity from the richness of alcohol. The oak feels integrated, driving star-fruit flavors toward earthier tones of bitter almond. A full-bodied white for a veal chop.”
2011 Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Napa Valley, Spring Mountain District, June 2015
94 Points: “A finely tailored mountain wine, this proves the quality that could be achieved above the fog in 2011. It has the cool feel of the forest on Spring Mountain, the wine’s freshness portrayed in scents of violets, red apple skin, cedar and humus. Savory rather than directly fruity, this emphasizes the power and grace of its tannins, their cool briskness of crushed rock leaving the mouth feeling refreshed. It may be rich, but the flavors remain precise.”
San Francisco top rated wine competition judge; writes for Beverages & More, eCommerce Cellar-master.
Wine & Spirits 19th annual restaurant poll ranks Keenan’s Napa Valley Merlot as one of the top 10 most popular Merlot’s in American Restaurants.
2002 Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, December 2006
93+ Points: Over the last twelve months, Wine & Spirits tasted 535 American Cabernet’s. Nine Cabernet Sauvignons received the strongest praise from our critics. The 2002 Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve with mountain-grown tannins give this a super-rich feel, the flavor black and exotic with a deep, primary feel. For lamb or game sausages.
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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 top rated 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 cellar-master 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 top rated 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 volcanic soils the vines grow in. It’s a wine that makes it clear that Keenan is back on track. – W.M.W.