Keller

Staking out the Petaluma Gap – Iconic Sonoma Coast Terroir

 

Pinot Noir and Petaluma. 40 years ago, the received wisdom was that California Pinot Noir would never achieve the subtle brilliance of Burgundy and that Petaluma, home to dairy and chicken farmers, was far too cold for vineyards. Funny how things change. Indeed, California Pinots get better each year, and Petaluma may one day soon produce the very best. And that future may not be far off if the young Keller Estate continues down the path it is following.

 Keller Estate produces estate-grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (as well as Syrah and Pinot Gris) on a 650-acre property located southeast of Petaluma – near the borderline of the Sonoma Coast and Carneros AVAs. In these rolling hills, cooled by the fog that blows in through the Petaluma Gap as well as from San Pablo Bay, early ripening, “cool climate” grapes are the obvious choice. In the early 1980s, Arturo Keller, an auto engineer from Mexico, and his family founded the estate. They planted vineyards but sold the first vintages of Chardonnay to other wineries. Impressed by the quality of their fruit, they began making wine under their own label from 2000. Today every detail in the vineyards and winery is overseen by Arturo’s daughter, Ana, a trained bio-chemist.

 Keller Estate’s vineyards are planted in soils that show all the complexity of being a former seabed. The complexity of the wines is enhanced further by the 9 different clones of Pinot Noir, 4 clones of Chardonnay, and 2 clones of Syrah planted in the vineyards. The wines are crafted carefully and naturally in a stunning gravity-flow winery. 

But the key to understanding Keller Estate’s wines is their extreme cool-climate location. Though many vineyard areas in Sonoma and Napa Counties are cooled by fog and ocean breezes, in the Petaluma Gap the fog rolls in a bit earlier and out later; the temperature drops so rapidly, the grapes retain much more crisp acidity even as they ripen and develop rich, fruit flavors. Currently, the Petaluma Gap is within the Sonoma Coast AVA. But if the Kellers and other winegrowers continue to demonstrate the uniqueness of the microclimate and soils, it may become one in the future.

Wine Maker

Julien Teichman

Country

USA

Region

California


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Wines from this Winery


2019 Casa Petaluma Gap Chardonnay

Casa is Keller Estate’s new second label that happens to be sourced entirely from their prized La Cruz vineyard in the Petaluma Gap AVA in Sonoma County. Casa is home in Spanish, and the Petaluma Gap is where Keller Estate has proudly made its home for over 20 years. And because it’s so affordable and food-friendly, Casa Chardonnay is also a wine that’s eminently suited for drinking in our homes. Though it sees a bit of oak before release, Casa exudes all the character of a beautiful unwooded Chardonnay. The nose expresses fresh garden pears, accented with white blossoms, while the palate offers a full-bodied rush of grapefruit citrus, green apple and a bare hint of pineapple wrapped in a creamy texture. At the table, Casa Chardonnay would pair well with salmon or halibut or even roast chicken and pork dishes. 

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¥4,070 (incl. tax)
2020 Casa Petaluma Gap Pinot Noir

Casa is a sister winery of Keller Estate that focuses on producing exciting yet affordable wines from one of Northern California’s newest AVAs, the Petaluma Gap. Because of its unique geography, marine air is funneled through the Petaluma Gap throughout the growing season, keeping temperatures cool, even on sunny days, and maintaining the acidity needed for making Pinot Noir in a  bright, refreshing and flavorful style. Sourced entirely from the estate’s organically-farmed La Cruz vineyard, the fruit is fermented on natural yeasts, and the wine made with minimal intervention so as to bring out the qualities of the terroir. This wine has everything we expect from an exceptional, cool-climate Pinot Nor: a translucent amethyst color; aromas of red cherry, pomegranate, and baking spices; and mouthwatering berry flavors, framed by polished tannins. A versatile wine, it would go well with grilled salmon, a coq au vin, or even spicy Latin fare. 

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¥5,500 (incl. tax)
2018 Keller La Cruz Vineyard Petaluma Gap Chardonnay

The Petaluma Gap is a narrow swathe of southern Sonoma County between Bodega Bay (on the Pacific Ocean) and San Pablo Bay (the upper reach of San Francisco Bay). Because of the orientation of the hills and valleys, the winds are stronger and the fogs hang around longer than in the areas that surround it. The Petaluma Gap AVA was established in 2018 in order to recognize the effects (such as low yields and small berries) these harsh conditions have on the vineyards there and the wines they produce. The organically-farmed La Cruz vineyard is planted to diverse clones that provide a palette of distinct aromatics, flavors, or textures with which to assemble the blend. The winemaker then uses 100% barrel fermentation, sur lie aging, and complete malolactic fermentation. The result is a fine Chardonnay with bright acidity, lively fruit and spice notes, and a creamy texture. Allow the wine some time in the glass to reveal layers of citrus, apple, floral notes, and vanilla. 

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¥6,820 (incl. tax)
2016 Keller La Cruz Vineyard Sonoma Coast Pinot Noir

The wide-open landscape of southern Sonoma County is one of rolling hills, with pockets of live oak, eucalyptus, and the occasional barn dotting the cattle pastures and ever-expanding vineyards. Surprisingly, only in the last few decades did winegrowers catch on to how this region’s unique combination of sunshine, wind, and fog could produce world-class Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In Keller’s La Cruz Vineyard, four clones of Pinot Noir (primarily Pommard) planted in the mineral-rich clay soils contribute to the complexity of this seductive wine. Each clone is harvested and fermented separately in order to compose a final blend that truly expresses the vintage. In 2016, ample winter rains were followed by a mild summer and a significantly later harvest. The wine starts with a lovely translucent ruby red, and follows with fragrances of dried cherry, cranberry, and notes of Asian spice and earth. It’s a pinot that sparks the senses and remains alive and delicious to the last drop. Having aged a few years, tertiary notes are beginning to develop, making the wine more complex than it was at first release.

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¥8,250 (incl. tax)