2. Robert Keenan Winery Estate Wines
Keenan has a long tradition, since 1974, and currently produces 14,000 cases. The estate vineyards are focused on just three varieties—Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot—and this is their particularly impressive single vineyard Merlot. The Napa appellation bottling is number 10 on this list.
Dark red violet color; nice herbs, tart black fruit nose; tight, tart black fruit, herbaceous palate; medium-plus finish. (20 months in French oak; 14.3% alcohol) 93+points
Dark ruby color; lovely, ripe plum, berry, ripe currant nose; tasty, rich but poised, ripe currant, plum palate; medium-plus finish. 92+ points
Barbara Richards is the proprietor here and son Sheldon Richards has been the winemaker since his father Jim passed away in 2009. They make this benchmark California Merlot from 15 acres of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon on their property at the top of Spring Mountain. The Merlot is always rich, balanced and remarkably complex.
Medium dark red violet color; intriguing, lifted, ripe currant, plum nose; plush, complex, plum, ripe currant palate with subtle oak spice; needs 2 years; medium-plus finish. 93 points
Dark ruby color; tart plum, black fruit, baked plum nose; tasty, poised, tart black fruit, tart plum palate; will go 15 years; medium-plus finish. (with 15% Cabernet Sauvignon) 92+ points
Berry, black fruit nose; tasty, black fruit, berry, eucalyptus palate; medium-plus finish. 92+ points
4. Seavey Vineyard
In 1979, William and Mary Seavey purchased the historic estate originally founded by the Franco-Swiss Farming Company in 1881. By the time they bought the property, it had been a cattle ranch for several years, but Mary, who ultimately passed away in 2008, set about restoring the property and planting new vineyards. The winemaker is Jim Duane, who previously worked at Stag’s Leap and Robert Mondavi. These are complex Merlots that sell for about $45.
Very dark red violet color; appealing, tart black fruit, herbs, tobacco nose; tart black fruit, espresso palate; approachable now; medium-plus finish. (with 10% Cabernet Sauvignon; 50% new French oak) 93 points
Eugene Trefethen, Jr., a wealthy industrialist, purchased the property that formed the basis of the Trefethen estate vineyards in 1968. The family owns 475 acres of vineyards, all located in the Oak Knoll appellation, on two different sites. For an estate this size, there is a large winemaking team, led by winemaster David Whitehouse. The quality is generally high here and the wines are underrated.
Medium dark ruby color; ripe berry, blackberry, oak, vanilla nose; ripe black fruit, berry, black plum, violets palate with depth; medium-plus finish. (91% Merlot, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon; 17 months in oak, 90% French, 5% American, 5% Hungarian, 45% new; 14.1% alcohol) 93 points