Keller Estate Winery & Vineyards Review
Address: 5875 Lakeville Highway Petaluma,California 94954.
Phone Number: 707-765-2117
Tasting Hours: By appt. Fri-Mon 10:30-4:00
Region: Sonoma Coast AVA, Sonoma County, California
Reviewer: Tom Riley
Review Date: 7/19/2014
Reviewer: Tom Riley
For more than 20 years, on my way to visit family members in Petaluma and points west, I’ve seen the Keller Estate sign on Lakeville Highway. And for years my impression of the winery, based on nothing more than the look of the sign and its location in the flatlands north of the San Pablo Bay, was, well, less than impressive. I imagined that, should I follow the sign, I would find a simple, run-down, peaked-back-in-the-’70s establishment, more than deserving of its out-of-the-way spot on the border of lower Sonoma County.
Recently I had the chance to put my shallow and illogical impression of Keller Estate to the test. As Bugs Bunny was wont to say, “what a maroon!” After all those years driving by the winery, I could not have been more wrong. Really, there is just no measuring how wrong I’ve been.
Now celebrating its 25th anniversary, Keller Estate is one of Sonoma’s hidden treasures. The estate comprises 800 acres, with only 90 acres planted to grapes. Perched high above those aforementioned San Pablo flats on the southeastern end of the Petaluma Gap, the expansive front deck offers majestic views of the surrounding hills blanketed in pasture and vines. But the views at Keller are not limited to natural vistas.
Other visual treats in the winery courtyard include a sculpture of a Formula One auto racer and several large, complex stained-glass doors, also in racecar motif, all in homage to the founder, Arturo Keller, and his passion for cars and his history in the international automotive business. In the tasting room, visitors can also view original lithographs by Marc Chagall, the renowned Russian artist. On occasion, cars from Mr. Keller’s extensive private collection are on view for winery visitors to enjoy.
I was greeted in the tasting room by Yvette, who, I learned, is a dual-citizen of France and the United States, and is now in California to continue the wine education she began in France. Because it was a beautiful day, warm and blue-skied, she suggested I do my tasting under one of the umbrellas out in the courtyard.
Instead of the popular Classic Tasting (four wines, $20), I opted for the more elaborate Estate Tasting (seven wines, $40), as I was now very curious about Keller Estate. I wondered if the wines, all made from estate fruit, could be as beautiful as the place where they were grown and made.
Over the course of nearly an hour, Yvette brought me samples of three chardonnays — two 2010s and one 2007 that had been vinified in two distinct styles. The “Oro De Plata” is fermented in stainless steel and aged in neutral oak, giving it a more European profile, with an emphasis on fruit, acidity and minerality. The “La Cruz” and “Precioso” bottlings offer more traditional California flavors, with an emphasis on rich, creamy texture and a long, oak-driven spicy finish.
These impressive wines were followed by three pinot noirs two 2010s and one 2006. Each wine showed typically robust California fruit, which was balanced with an elegance and a restraint found only in the best iterations of this finicky grape. While approachable now, all three, especially the beautiful and delicious 2009 “El Coro,” are built to age.
I finished up with a 2010 “Rotie,” a well-intentioned nod to the great syrah-dominated wines of the Northern Rhone Valley’s Cote Rotie. A few sips of the elegant blend (95% syrah, 5% viognier) and you’re transported immediately to south of France. As a special treat, Yvette brought me a surprise not listed on the day’s menu, a taste of Keller’s delightfully off-dry pinot gris. I enjoyed all the wines, and found several of them to be very good to exceptional. Even better, a few of them offer tremendous value for the dollar. The wines were, indeed, just as beautiful as the land from which they sprang.
If you plan a visit to Sonoma, there’s not a better place to begin your trip than Keller Estate. Don’t make the mistake of driving by and wondering what you missed.