96-Point Majestic Spring Mountain Reserve Red
In his 96-point Vinous review, Antonio Galloni raves: “The 2014 Red Blend Mernet Reserve is a total knock-out.” He gushes over the “striking mid-palate sweetness and overall depth (that) add to the wine’s unmistakable personality.” A mere 20 barrels of Mernet, a classic Bordeaux blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, are produced each year. Most are snapped up quickly by the Keenan mailing list. Offered from the winery at $100, thanks to our years of partnership with this pedigreed Napa property, Wine Access is offering it today at $84.99.
High up above the fog line, emerging from a deeply wooded stretch of Spring Mountain, Robert Keenan Winery is the kind of place you have to tear yourself away from. Last week on my visit, I sat in the plush tasting room overlooking the estate vineyards while proprietor Michael Keenan finished up a blending session. When Michael was ready to show me around, I almost didn’t want to leave. Little did I know, he had something even better in store for me. We walked down a flight of stairs and eventually into the cellar with its 3-foot-thick stone walls, built in the 1800s.
There stood two glasses and a bottle of the 96-point 2014 Mernet Reserve, the wine Antonio Galloni called “a total knock-out.” I had to agree. Michael’s super-cuvée is a 50/50 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, made entirely from Spring Mountain estate fruit.
Michael Keenan is calm, collected, and zen-like. Since taking over for his father in 1998, Michael has propelled the estate to greater and greater heights. A master of mountain winemaking, he has focused on letting the natural qualities of his fruit sources emerge through his wines. In doing so, he successfully threads the needle of combining Napa ripeness with Bordeaux refinement, texture, and succulence. In the Mernet Reserve, Keenan harnesses the best of two worlds once again: Cabernet’s mountainous dark-fruit purity and power meets elegant, wildly aromatic Merlot, yielding an incredibly rich, complex, yet refined offering.
The Spring Mountain AVA is the coolest and wettest of Napa Valley. In most years, summer afternoons are cool, tempered by waterfalls of fog that billow over the western ridge and down through the canyons. In the evening, as cool air settles over the valley floor, warm air is pushed up into the mountains. The combined effect of cooler days and warmer nights allows Bordeaux varieties to ripen more slowly than elsewhere, resulting in greater flavor complexity — accents of cracked pepper and sage — along with superbly balanced sugars and acids.
As Spring Mountain tends to get 10 to 15 inches more rain than St. Helena down below, it’s in the dry, mild years that Keenan often shines brightest. 2014 was just such a vintage. Meticulously managed vines yielded intensely concentrated berries with deep flavor and color. Michael’s translation in the glass was spectacular. It’s no wonder Robert Parker wrote that Keenan “has been doing an impeccable job of winemaking for a number of years now, and they continue to show a Midas touch across all varieties they work with.”
I must say, the whole team also did an incredible job of making me feel at home. If you ever find yourself in Napa, don’t miss a stop at 3660 Spring Mountain Road. In the meantime, lock in a few bottles of the 2014 Mernet and enjoy.
Adam Lapierre MW
Master of Wine