Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir

The 2015 Pinot Noir Keefer Ranch is understated and classy, not to mention one of the most pedigreed, brilliant wines I have tasted from Keefer. Akiko Freeman did a terrific job in preserving energy and tension in the 2015. The red cherry fruit, blood orange and white pepper notes convey vibrancy and precision. What a pretty wine this is.

Freeman’s only other vineyard-designated Pinot Noir besides the Gloria and Yu-ki Estate bottlings comes from Marcy Keefer’s ranch located in the Russian River Valley, on Green Valley School Road. The Russian River Valley is a broad appellation in Sonoma County that includes quite a few areas of different microclimates. It is warm enough in the northern part for grapes like Zinfandel and Cabernet, but in its southern and western reaches, the climate is much cooler, and these parts of the appellation are perfectly suited for Pinot Noir. Keefer Ranch sits in the center of the Green Valley, which has always been considered one of California’s ideal spots for Pinot Noir. Here, Marcy and her small crew hand-farm the Keefer Ranch year round with no outside help at all.

While the yield in most Pinot Noir vineyards from which Freeman sources fruit was very small in 2015, Keefer Ranch was the one place where we did see a close-to-normal size crop. It was our fourth year in a row of the historic drought, and the vines got off to an early start in the warm, dry winter. May cooled down to well below normal, and most sites saw an uneven set. But Keefer’s Green Valley location was just enough behind the rest of the area in its flowering that, once the weather warmed up in June, their vines ultimately did set a decent amount of fruit. It was still below normal in terms of tons per acre, but we definitely see Keefer as a success for 2015.

The 2015 Keefer Russian River Valley Pinot Noir has a deep, dark ruby color with a purple rim—sign of a concentrated vintage. The nose is among the prettiest of all the Keefers we’ve made, similar to the 2004, 2006 and 2009s, with rose petals, ripe berry fruit and toasty oak. The palate is youthful and drinks more like a young Pommard than a Russian River Valley Pinot, with high acidity, moderate tannin, and notes of earth and briar. An elegant finish unfolds with time, revealing a wine that should last well into the mid to late ‘20s. We anticipate the drinking window to be between 2018 and 2028.

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Specs

Vineyards
  • 100% Keefer Ranch, Russian River Valley
Clones
  • 58% Clone 23
  • 42% Dijon 777
Barrel Aging
11 months in French oak
  • 26% new
  • 32% one-year-old
  • 21% two-year-old
  • 21% three-year-old
Bottling
August 3rd, 2016
Fermentation
Five-day cold soak in open-top fermenters, hand-punched down one to three times per day, free run sent directly to barrel, press wine settled and barreled separately
Production
  • 750 ml: 405 cases
  • 1.5 L: 15 cases

Scores

93 points
95 points (Cellar Selection)

Accolades

Last week, we met with Ken Freeman, proprietor with his wife Akiko of Freeman Vineyard & Winery, to taste through his new Chardonnay and Pinot Noir releases from the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. Ken and Akiko launched the winery in 2001 and today produce some 6 thousand cases of first-class Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Freemans source grapes from their Gloria Estate Vineyard, Yuk-ki Estate Vineyard and top neighboring vineyards in Russian River Valley and the Sonoma Coast. Akiko serves as winemaker, having acquired her knowledge of viticulture and winemaking by apprenticing with veteran winemaker Ed Kurtzman who now serves as consulting winemaker.

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