Always happy to travel the world and find new and exciting wines for you to enjoy, your ABC wine team tastes through thousands every year to find the right ones at the right price. In the course of these explorations we come across many excellent wines, but even beyond this, once in a while we come across an estate that strikes us as being very special.
This is what happened last year when your wine team spent some time in Sonoma and Napa. We found many real gems and added over 70 new wines to our portfolio from these two AVAs. But speaking personally, there was one estate whose wines and whose location struck me as being truly important and exciting. This was a visit we made to Keller Estate in the Petaluma Gap in Sonoma County.
Petaluma Gap has not yet achieved the distinction of being an official AVA (the wines are currently labelled as Sonoma Coast), but that should be changing soon and Keller Estate will have a lot to do with that change. It is an area with a distinctive terroir and two major maritime influences – the San Pablo Bay whose breezes cool the vineyards, and - coming from the northwest - the fog from the Pacific Ocean. Both of these influences allow for a long, cool growing season and make the Petaluma Gap perfect for cool climate grapes such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as a Syrah that is definitely and deliciously Old World in style. The grapes are sustainably farmed and the estate is heading toward organic.
The Keller family is of Swiss origin but moved to Mexico in the early 1900s. Arturo Keller, the founder of Keller Estate, was a supplier to the automotive industry with a passion for vintage automobiles. It was while driving through the winding roads of Petaluma that he found the property that was to become Keller Estate. The first vines – Chardonnay - were planted in 1989 in what became their La Cruz Vineyards. The harvest was immediately bought by Rombauer. The first Pinot Noir was planted in 1999, and in 2000 Keller Estate became a reality.
Arturo’s daughter Ana Keller, a biochemist, came to the property in 1998 where she became Estate Director, and it is her passion and dedication that brought out the finest expression of these wines. “From the beginning,” Ana says, “we decided we were only going to make wines from fruit that we could grow on our property. At the time, I don’t think we realized the commitment. It’s a little like having kids: You know they are going to be hard work, but reality always surpasses your imagination!”
Ana continues: “Sometimes when I see friends who buy fruit from different vineyards, I feel a bit of jealousy: they can go out and find the aromas and flavors they want! For us, we are stuck with ourselves. In order to make different wines, we need to look for the diversity within our vineyard. Sometimes, the different vineyard blocks and their clones are enough, however we have to be very specific on our pick dates, so that gorgeous fruit-forward strawberry that we find in Pinot Noir clone 777 is just right. And then we must make sure that the opulent 828 gets a bit more time to mature so that we get very intense, ripe cherry flavors. That…is a luxury. From that luxury we begin to make wines just how we envision them. After that, winemaking takes its course, gently guiding the fruit through native fermentations and a gentle process until they arrive to the carefully selected barrels for that specific clone of Pinot Noir. The barrel must complement the fruit, never overpower it. With time, we’ve learned, and each year we continue to fine-tune this matchmaking.”
ABC currently carries three wines from Keller Estate –
Oro de Plata Chardonnay ($32.99) is bright and mineral driven, fermented in stainless steel, aged in neutral oak, and with no malolactic fermentation, enhancing its bright citrus appeal.
The very delicious El Coro Pinot Noir ($51.99) comes from the highest point of the Keller Estate, a vineyard that is constantly buffeted by maritime winds. It is aged in French oak (27% new) and was awarded 92 points from Wine & Spirits.
Then there is the Rotie ($49.99) – an amazing blend of Syrah and 6% Viognier and named after the famous wine from France’s Rhone Valley. This gorgeous sipper is soft and elegant and a pleasure to know, as indeed are all of the wines from Keller Estate. It was awarded 93 points by Wine Enthusiast.
Treat yourself to all three of these wonderful wines soon!
Bill Stobbs, ABC Wine & Spirits Sales Manager
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