2008 Keefer Ranch "Keefer Ranch" Barrel Samples + Lynmar Pizza & Pinot Party

Saturday, Traci and I joined our friends Tina and Glenn and headed up to Sebastopol and Graton to meet with Craig Strehlow of Keefer Ranch (his mother Marcy Keefer is the owner of the vineyard) and taste some of the 8 or so barrels of Pinot that he has for his own estate Pinot. Craig makes his wine at the Freeman Winery with the help of Ed Kurtzman and Ed’s asst winemaker at Freeman, Eric Buffington. I’ve known Craig the last few years when he started delivering Keefer Ranch to Kosta Browne and I discovered he’s an avid Mtn and Road cyclist. Been on a few hammer rides with him and his buddies. So as it went, the goal was to get up and check out the barrels before they get racked into the bottle tanks for bottling in 3 weeks.

Most of the 2008 Keefer Ranch estate Pinot will be from the Swan Clone of Pinot with a little 115. We tasted a most of the Swan Clone on a range of barrels, toasts, and forests. Cadus “Vouges”, Cadus “Allier”, Remond “Allier”, DAMY, and Darjaud & Jaegle (spelling?). It’s always fun to taste like this to see how the same clone, same block reacts to new barrels and varying degrees of neutral barrels.

Craig thinks the 08’s are the best wines yet and I have to agree. The Swan clones all exhibit this gorgeous red fruits - depending on barrel from cranberry to red cherry with lush baking spice notes and a little pine/underbrush. Good acidity, and a little oak tannin lending some structure to the wines. The 115 was picked a little later than Craig wanted (he wants to make sure his wines show more red fruit than black fruit) but still shows some red fruit albeit a little darker than most of the Swan. Rich, lush and with that gorgeous orange peel/citrus note that comes from 115. Nice mouthfilling barrel sample. We didn’t taste the final blend which will be around 41% new oak (Craig’s ultimate goal is about 35% new oak every year) but I look forward to tasting after bottling.

As a bonus, and before we headed out to Lynmar and Craig got back to his fantasy football draft party, he cracked the 2007 Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir. This wine saw less new oak than what would be his ideal leaving it a little more fruit forward than the 2008 will be. The wine has a gorgeous purity of fruit that screams Keefer Ranch. Red fruits, spice, underbrush, with that great CA fruit sweetness with enough acidity to keep everything together and fresh. The only knock was that we tasted in the caves at Freeman WInery where it was 60 degrees so the wine didn’t have a chance to warm up. I think more complexity would have been evident had it had a chance to warm a bit. Will definitely be a little earlier drinking Pinot but one that you should look out for. Very good!!! We bought 6 and said our goodbyes and headed the 5 minutes over to Lynmar WInery

On to Lynmar where we check in for the Pizza and Pinot party and are handed a glass of 2004 Quail Hill Chardonnay. We sip this as we head to the lower garden where 3 varieties of garlic fresh from their garden are being roasted in the outdoor pizza oven, along with 2 pizzas and some flatbreads. The pizzas were a roasted tomato sauce, organic chicken, cheese and herb pizza and a walla walla onion, edible flower, bacon, pesto, goat cheese. A simple salad of fresh greens and sunflower petals was also served. All the produce came from the Lynmar garden. Everything excellent and they even made a walla walla onion pizza without the onions for me!!! Rock on!

The Quail Hill Chardonnay was spot on…rich and crisp/lively with smoke, lemon curd/citrus, pear. Medium length finish. Terrific wine. The other wine they were pouring was the 2006 Russian River Pinot Noir. This was good but for me not great. Cherry fruit, earth and a little oak spice. Enough richness and acidity to hold your interest but ultimately a little simple. If i had to score both wines I would say the Chard was a 90-91 pointer while the Pinot was more like 88 Points. That being said, unlimited pizza, pinot and chardonnay for 2 hours on a warm sunny beautiful western Sonoma County afternoon with Traci and friends was awesome!!!

Great report, Tony. I’ve always been a fan of Keefer Ranch as a vineyard. Any frost there in 08? I can’t remember if that was the unaffected part … it was so hit and miss throughout the area.

Tom - we did talk to Craig about frost and they seemed to have been hit a little bit but avoided major frost damage IIRC.

Craig is a really nice fellow and i bought both the 06 & 07 Keefer Ranch PN but haven’t popped any of the 2007 corks yet. guess i’ll have to remedy this by summer’s end.

2007 Lynmar Bliss Block may be the best Sonoma PN i have tasted from this vintage.

I blame Brian Loring for introducing this wine to many of us in the other forum some time ago, and since that time, Marcy and Craig have supported Falltacular, as well as make a wine I really like and own. Tony, I appreciate the early notes on the 2008, too.

We had our next to last bottle of the 2006 last weekend and it is still a very beautiful wine. I only got three bottles of the 2007, but I’ll probably hold off opening one until the 2008 is about to be released.