A 93pt Answer to a Question Unanswered
We were growing by leaps and bounds, quickly becoming the largest single-day seller of fine wine America has ever known. But even as WineAccess exploded, we were digging a hole. For some, it was a hole we'd never climb out of.
From 2008-2010, much of Napa Valley was teetering on the edge of solvency. After dodging Wall Street's bullet for six months, the Silverado Trail finally fell victim to the plights of Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers and AIG. As most of you recall, our job became a cakewalk, funneling thousands of cases of highly-rated Cabernets to our membership at bargain prices.
In a single year, WineAccess tripled in size as Cabernet lovers with fairly modest budgets were able to sock away cases of Robert Parker collectables. Sixteen wines that earned scores of 91 points or more would be gobbled up for less than $50/bottle. 782 members purchased more than once per week over that period of time, lighting up our scoreboard with a plethora of 4- and 5-star ratings and reviews.
But, as the economy rebounded, many of the blue-chip names on Highway 29 and the most coveted mountain appellations suddenly found themselves with too LITTLE inventory. After the excellent and copious 2007 vintage, 2008-2011 were tiny harvests, down between 20-40% from the highs of '07. The 2007 media hoopla had blown the storm clouds away from Howell and Spring Mountains, sucking these cellars dry. Now, with supply cramped and demand surging, prices spiked. Bargain hunters were out of luck.
Since 2011, hundreds of members who had feasted upon those high scoring bargains of the crisis years continued to read our daily missives but stopped buying. When we asked why, there was plenty of consensus. "Why spend $75/bottle for 92-point Cabernet when I have cases of them in my cellar for which I paid just $45?"
It was a fair question, one for which we had no answer. Until today.
In Robert Parker's three-vintage 2007-2009 trifecta, the finest back-to-back-to-back harvests in Napa Valley history, Parker described the similarities between the 2007s and 2009s. Both vintages featured mild summers with few heat spikes. Both were very dry. At harvest, the fruit quality was similarly pristine, with clusters of evenly-sized berries infused with high sugar content and excellent natural acidity. Still, there were two events that most distinguished the two vintages, each providing clues to why Michael Keenan's 2009 Spring Mountain Cabernet outpointed its 2007 counterpart.
First, a 2009 spring frost trimmed yields nearly 30%. While 2007 would be one of the larger Keenan harvests of the decade, 2009 would be one of the smallest. That small crop size accelerated the maturation cycle, paying handsome dividends in the first week of October.
Second, the Indian summer of 2007 was glorious, offering turquoise skies right up to harvest. 2009, on the other hand, was punctuated by a stormy exclamation mark. On October 11, the rain began to fall on Spring Mountain. The less rigorously farmed properties were obliged to wait before harvesting. But, Keenan, mindful of Nature's late season caprice, was well ahead of the curve. Michael's crew took to the nosebleed mountain rows in the early morning hours. Sugars were sky high, but even more importantly, the seeds were brown, the skins absent any sign of shrivel. The tannins of 2009 would be the most supple Keenan had seen in 25 years on the mountain.
Robert Parker rated the 2007 Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon 92 points. Offered at $50/bottle, it would be one of the great bargains of 2010. But this 2009, with its more silken texture and voluptuous ripe tannin backbone, takes it up a notch. Parker came in at 93pts -- making Keenan's lavish 2009 the most highly scored under-$40 Napa Valley Cabernet in more than two years on WineAccess!
Deep purple to the rim, with plush aromas of black fruit and violets, laced with new wood cedar. Parker's Wine Advocate called it "rich and voluptuous, total(ly) saturating the palate from start to finish." Massively concentrated on the attack, loaded with black fruit preserves, laced with flashy creme-de-cassis, it's the finish that so sets the 2009 apart. Plush, supple tannins beautifully offset all the hedonistic opulence, arguing gracefully for a 10-year stint in a cool cellar.