The year was 2005, early March, and it was FRIGID (read that as -5 to 10°) in upstate New York. So we packed up and headed to Northern California for Premiere Napa Valley. I was a mere pup in the wine business, having a whopping 17 months under my belt, so this was an eye-opening experience for me to be sure.
I will skip through the first day and get right to day 2. We had appointments up Spring Mountain at Spring Mountain Vineyard and Keenan Family. Keenan was a request from me, as their 2003 Cabernet Franc had just received rave reviews from Robert Parker, and I plunked down $40 of my own money on a bottle… of Napa Cab Franc… and was enchanted. I had to meet the maker. If you have never been to Napa, Spring Mountain is reached via a fairly unmaintained single lane winding mountain road that I would caution anyone with a delicate stomach to avoid. At the time Keenan Family Winery was literally the penultimate winery on the mountain by elevation, and we stopped multiple times assuming we were lost before we finally found the estate.
The winery can easily be mistaken for a beautiful, rustic, millionaire’s summer home. There is about a 6ft downsloping berm, followed by a very shallow moat about 3ft wide and then you are in the vineyard. We were later told the moat was a way to keep aphids out, as they cannot cross water, and 3ft is too far to jump. We were met by both Robert and his son Michael Keenan and given a brief tour of the facility and the vineyards, followed by a deluge of winemaking and grape growing knowledge (once Josh told Michael that I was “learning”). As I was in the middle of my Wine Educator program, the timing could not have been better. I got to put my hands on all the things I was only reading about. I can never repay that kindness.
As if this was not a tremendous visit at already, they took us back into the winery lounge/dining room for ”lunch”. Lunch was laid out on a 10ft hand hewn dining table… and by laid out, I mean it covered the table! For for of us (Josh & I, Robert, Michael… and a couple of winery employees who joined). They grilled an entire beef tenderloin on a Santa Maria wood grill, there were tons of herbs from the estate and every side dish you would want with beef, all locally grown on the estate. Bear in mind, this was all for a couple of guys from a New York wine shop that was not yet a blip on the national radar, we were not even on Wine-Searcher yet!
Graciousness like that is never forgotten. Robert and Michael are true gentlemen farmers/growers and if through some unlikely happenstance either were to come across this blog, I hope that they understand what an impact they made in the life of a wine lover just getting started in this industry.
I salute both and cannot recommend their wines more enthusiastically.