What inspired your passion for wine?
My father did. He “married up” in society and found himself acclimating to the country club lifestyle, where he needed to know about the fine wines of Europe. My grandparents had a cellar full of wines from Burgundy and Bordeaux – and my dad took to them like a duck in water. He taught us kids about the joys of great wine.
Is your father the “Robert” in Robert Keenan Winery?
Yes. After 20 years of collecting the great wines, he got the itch to become a producer. He went to Napa in 1974 to look for mountain property in the “New World.” He bought the land when I was 16, we had our first harvest when I was 19 and we worked together that first year. After parting ways, I came back when he retired and took over the family business.
Your website mentions you have a “green winery.” How has your love for the environment shaped your business?
I grew up in the 60s and early 70s and Rachel Carson’s global environmental movement made a big impression on me. We were one of the first wineries to get the Napa Green Certification for sustainable farming and one of the first to become 100% solar powered. We also have our own water system, take care of a lot of our own waste and provide housing for key employees to eliminate commutes. With 130 acres of forest and 47 acres of planted grapes, we are also one of the rare wineries with more wild land than vineyard land – and I plan on keeping that healthy ratio.
Aside from being certified green, what else makes your wine unique?
The Old-World model of making wines that represent a sense of place. Most California wines are ripened a little further, have a higher alcohol content and sweeter profile, but they lose the subtle aspects that the terroir gives the wine. My father picked an amazing piece of property with great sun exposure and water resources and our wine has interpreted the terroir properly for the last 40 years.
What are you most proud of?
We were just named one of the Top 100 Wineries of the World for 2018 by Wine and Spirits magazine. Only 9 Napa wineries out of more than 500 made the list. To make the cut is just a wonderful honor.
What do you love the most about introducing people to Keenan wines?
The sheer pleasure of showing off what I do. And I love that people react to our wines in such a positive way. It’s just a happy love fest.
What are your most popular wines?
Our number one skew is Cabernet Sauvignon. Second is our Merlot. It’s my favorite varietal. We make more types of Merlot than Cabernet, and I think we have one of the best terroirs in the New World.
What are you most looking forward to on your river cruise with AmaWaterways?
I’m looking forward to moving slowly through the scenery and making a connection with the land through the river. Of course, I’m also excited to brush up on my wines from that region. The cruise will be a guaranteed great time!
Join Michael and Jennifer Keenan, owners of Robert Keenan Winery in Napa Valley, California, on our Medieval Treasures Wine Cruise on November 7, 2019 or learn more about our Wine Cruises.