February seasonal temperatures in Napa Valley can be remarkably cool and wet, especially in the Spring Mountain District, high above the town of St. Helena. The mountainside vineyard elevations are anywhere from 400 to 2100 feet and rainfall is usually abundant during the winter season, although much of California has experienced drought conditions the past three years. However, the northern part of the state, especially those areas north of the Golden Gate, have received a respectable amount of moisture this winter. Beginning with October of last year and measuring rainfall through February 2015, Keenan Winery has been blessed with approximately thirty inches of the wet stuff. And with the season not quite over, we’re looking forward to a few more inches before the rain is gone for good.
General Manager Matt Gardner reports that the moderate rainfall and warm, spring-like weather have encouraged early ‘budbreak’ in a few vineyards at the Keenan Estate, mostly Chardonnay, although there’s some evidence of new buds beginning to appear in the beautiful “Mailbox” Merlot vineyard just below the Keenan Wine Tasting Spot in Napa. Budbreak occurs when the new leaf shoots appear on the vine canes and traditionally signals the start of the grape growing season. It’s occurring a few weeks earlier in the year than growers usually experience and most vineyard managers ascribe this early beginning to the unusually warm weather. Matt also shared that the vineyard crews are wrapping up pruning throughout the estate, with mostly Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc vineyards left to finish.
In the winery in Napa Valley, cellar master Randy Kewell and the team are racking barrels of the 2013 and 2014 vintages, and reorganizing the cellar. Racking is the process winemakers use to remove spent lees from the bottom of barrels and is accomplished by moving the wine to an empty, clean barrel. The process is repeated a few times during the barrel aging phase of winemaking and helps to clarify the wines.
We began blending trials for all of the Keenan red Napa Valley Mountain Wines from the 2013 vintage in early February and will continue through next month. Then, beginning in May, the Syrah and Zinfandel will be bottled; the Merlot and ‘Mailbox’ Merlot Reserve, as well as the Cabernet Franc in July; and the Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve will be ready to bottle in August. The 2014 Chardonnay will also be bottled in May.
The Keenan winemaking team is also busy squaring away the cellar in preparation for bottling the 2014 Napa Valley ‘Summer Blend’ next week. Summer Blend is our popular and very delicious proprietary combination of (mostly) Chardonnay and Viognier, with an addition of a small amount of Albarino. A truly lovely and refreshing white wine, the 2014 bottling will be ready for sipping on warm afternoons and evenings this summer. In addition, we’re delighted to announce the very highly anticipated new release of the 2011 Mernet is now available for purchase in the Keenan Tasting room and on the winery website www.keenanwinery.com And look for the upcoming release of the Keenan 2013 Chardonnay soon!
Speaking of the Keenan Tasting Room – our renovation is complete and if you haven’t had a chance to visit our spanking new, gorgeous, and incredibly inviting new space, you’re really missing a treat! We’re extremely proud of the design work accomplished by Jennifer Walker Keenan and her father, renowned San Francisco architect John C. “Sandy” Walker. And our Hospitality Manager Laura March is eager to welcome visitors to enjoy their favorite Keenan wine at the new and spacious Napa Valley Zinfandel wine tasting bar, relax in comfortable chairs in front of the fireplace, take in the splendid view overlooking our estate Napa Valley vineyard from one of the new balconies, or marvel at the fascinating artwork on exhibit. We guarantee you’ll love it as much as we do!