High in the Mayacamas Range, at an elevation of 1,700 feet above the Napa Valley floor, sits Spring Mountain and the Robert Keenan Winery and vineyards.
This area was first identified as prime vineyard land in the late 19th century, when 100 acres of Zinfandel and Syrah grapes were planted.
In 1974, Robert Keenan purchased 180 acres of forest on a defunct winery site. No vines remained.
Only the crumbling walls of the former winery and a few old broken tanks told of its history, but Robert was certain the mountaintop vineyards would be perfect for an estate winery.
He replaced tree stumps and rocks with rows of Cabernet and Chardonnay, hired an engineer to redesign the original winery structure and brought in a contractor to begin construction.
The winery was made operational just in time for the harvest of 1977.
From that time on, Keenan has earned a great reputation for producing wines of intense character and renowned acclaim.
Keenan focuses on three varietals: Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It produces nearly 14,000 cases per year.
Combining the dedication of experienced winemakers with a commitment to excellence, the Robert Keenan Winery has distinguished itself as a maker of exceptional wines.
While the beauty and history of the land are appealing, it is the richness of the soils that makes the hillside perfect for an estate winery.
These soils are, in great measure, responsible for the dramatic intensity of the fruit associated with the ultra-premium wines produced at Robert Keenan Winery.
The winery recently completed a solar power system on its property.
The system will supply all of the winery's power needs. The estate wines will carry the "Solar Powered and Sustainably Farmed" phrase on the label.
Keenan reclaimed nearly 50 acres from the mountain forest.
Three areas of hillside are planted with Cabernet, Chardonnay and Merlot grapes. The winery carefully controls and finesses the abundant flavors of the hillside-grown grapes, producing wines of unparalleled complexity, richness and elegance.
Chardonnay was the first Keenan wine released and it immediately established the winery as a leading producer of Chardonnay.
The Cabernet grapes came into leaf and the resulting Cabernet vintages were an immediate success.
The 1978 was voted the best California Cabernet of that vintage.
The 1986 Cabernet was acclaimed as the 42nd best Cabernet in the world by Wine Spectator.
In 1978, Keenan purchased a small volume of Merlot grapes as a way to also acquire some desired Chardonnay grapes.
The resulting Merlot proved extremely popular and Merlot became a permanent part of the winery's selection.
The reputation of the Keenan Merlots was solidified in 1988, when tastings of the Keenan Merlots against the world-famous Chateau Petrus in Bordeaux resulted in a virtual draw.
Michael Keenan is the son of founder Robert Keenan.
He is the president of Keenan Winery and brings the same love of Spring Mountain and its wines as his father.
Michael has been associated on and off with the winery since he was a child.
This makes him a vital member of the team and a man who can be counted on to continue the heritage and quality which people have come to trust when they drink Keenan wines.
Michael Keenan will be traveling to the Savannah area in early March and will host a wine dinner at Ruth's Chris Steak House on March 4.
Menu and cost for this four course food and wine pairing are still being determined.
To find out more about this dinner or to make a reservation, call 912-721-4800.
Douglas Snyder is a certified sommelier with the Court of Master Sommeliers. He has more than 20 years' experience in the wine, spirits and hospitality industries. He is the wine director and general manager at Ruth's Chris Steak House in Savannah. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.