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Posted September 2006

Virtual Tasting Room Visit — Keller Estate

By Thom Elkjer, Wine Editor

The Sonoma Coast appellation usually generates one of two reactions from those in the know: either they groan about how vast, shapeless and meaningless the appellation is, or they coo about the wines from the far western slice of it. At last we can get a fresh perspective with a visit to Keller Estate. It’s officially in the Sonoma Coast appellation, but the location off Lakeville Highway is closer to San Francisco Bay than to the Pacific Ocean. Keller also exemplifies one of the most important climatic factors of the entire appellation: strong, cooling wind that flows from the coast to the bay through the Petaluma Gap. The estate winery is a successful fusion of the old world and the new, which is fitting because it was created by automotive manufacturing maven Arturo Keller, who is Swiss-Mexican. The winery is finally open by appointment (707-765-2117, www.kellerestate.com), and there’s plenty to see. In addition to the vineyards and the views, there is the unusual cellar and extraordinary antique car collection. Then there’s the wine: the same cool-climate varietal wines you find out near the real coast, with a style and verve all their own. Here are four to look for:

Keller Estate Pinot Gris Sonoma Coast La Cruz Vineyard 2005 ($20): two of Arturo Keller’s four daughters asked him to make Pinot Gris, and he did not disappoint them – or us. The wine fills your mouth with sweet stone-fruit and lychee flavors and balances them with good grapefruit, mineral and spice qualities to keep the texture lively and your taste buds refreshed.

Keller Estate Chardonnay Sonoma Coast “Oro De Plata” 2005 ($22): this is a rare and welcome confluence in California Chardonnay: a single clone of the Chardonnay grape (Wente, for you history buffs) fermented and aged entirely in stainless steel (for everyone who prefers their wine without wood flavors). The wine offers classic Chardonnay aromas and flavors of green apples and ripe pears, shot through with bracing minerality and bright acidity. Delicious.

Keller Estate Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast La Cruz Vineyard 2003 ($30): it’s hard to find Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir at this price with this much personality. The latter is due to artful blending from nine different Pinot clones in seven different vineyard blocks. The former is probably temporary, so take advantage of it while you can.

Keller Estate Syrah Sonoma Coast La Cruz Vineyard 2003 ($36): I don’t usually describe wines this dark as “lovely,” but I can’t help it: the black cherries and berries mingle seductively with black coffee and dark chocolate accents, and polished ripe tannins give the wine a fine European glide to go with its firm American grip on your tongue.

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