A Visit to Keever Vineyards
I was first introduced to Keever Vineyards by a gentleman named Chilli Davis at a wine tasting in Scottsdale, Arizona and was immediately hooked, the wine was incredible. This past June while visiting Napa for the Taste of Howell Mountain Christine Piccin with Mackenzie Agency (PR) was kind enough to set me up with a private tasting (actually all the Keever tastings are private) on VERY short notice. Because of intermittent cell service I missed the confirmation of my appointment but Olga Keever was nice enough to leave me a phone message. I called back and a guy named Bill answered. He said he would wait for me.
I arrived an hour and a half past the original appointment time and was greeted by Bill. Bill Keever, owner. When I walked in the tasting room, which is actually a massive two story architectural marvel I noticed some wines set on the counter. Then I noticed a big card which read “Welcome Tim!”
Bill took me on an extended tour of the building, the production facilities, the cave, the vineyard and back to the tasting room for more wine. All along the tour I was able to ask questions and Bill answered freely.
One of the things I learned is that Bill graduated from Napa Valley high school and ended up becoming the CEO of Vodafone Asia region. His base of operations for most of his time overseas was Germany and the Netherlands and it was during this time that his exposure to wine occurred in a big way. They moved back to Napa in 1999 and Bill finally retired in 2003. Eventually they came across some property right next to the Veterans Hospital right near Yountville. If you’ve ever driven north on Highway 29 from Napa to St Helena, on the left hand side of the road just as you’re getting into Yountville there’s a big white building on the west side of the road, nestled up against the foothills of the Mayacamas range. The property was actually a horse training facility complete with a small outdoor arena. Bill said this was really convenient because all of the surrounding area has massive rocks in and on the ground that need to be removed prior to planting a vineyard. Luckily this had already been completed and also the land had been leveled out nicely as well.
The next step in pursuing the dream was to find a wine maker. Bill enlisted the help of a friend and well known Napa Valley consultant to find a top notch wine maker and eventually Celia Welch agreed to be their wine maker. For those of you not familiar with Celia Welch she was named Food & Wine Magazine’s winemaker of the year for 2008. She has been a consulting wine maker rock star for over 25 years. She stated with Staglin and currently works with Kelly Flemming, Scarecrow, Barbour, Hollywood & Vine and others. Celia has her own label, Corra wines as well. Celia helped the Keevers with more than just the wine making, she was instrumental in the layout and design of the facilities as well. In effect Celia manages them, not the other way around.
Bill poured me a glass of the Keever Sauvignon Blanc and we took a tour of the production facilities, which is one of the most pristine, clean and organized facilities I’ve ever seen. It’s as if there has never been any wine made there, spotless. This, in large part is Celia’s influence. She is a stickler for sanitary wine making conditions. This interesting interview from Wines and Vines goes into more depth on that subject: ( winesandvines.com ) The wine production area is gravity fed an interesting and unique feature. All of the open top stainless steel fermentation tanks are not bolted to the floor. They are movable. The fruit comes in on a mezzanine level above the tank room and goes thru the de-stemmer and is sorted and all the good fruit is then dropped through a hole into a waiting tank beneath. The tanks are switched out by forklift. Rather than bring the fruit to the tank, they do it the other way around, by bringing the tank to the fruit.
Next, we headed into the wine cave. Although not the biggest by any means, it extremely clean, and the tunnel itself is actually pretty wide. In the middle it opens up into a big room where there is enough room for a table and 100 of your closest friends. There’s even a wine vault at the end, with a little table for two behind the glass wall.
After the cave we walked back around the front of the property and took a look at progress of the grapes. Bill laughed that his granddaughter loves to eat the little grapes, especially as they become ripe.
We ended up back in the tasting house and I sampled through the Keever Vineyards current offerings ( I’ll be posting these reviews in future updates).
If you’re into high quality Napa wines and cabernets in particular you should definitely look into Keever. If you’re in Napa and want to visit be sure to make arrangements ahead of time as the vineyard is protected by a large gate, so you can’t just show up, all tastings are by appointment only.