Chris Kenefick Named CEO & Second-Generation Proprietor of Kenefick Ranch
Son of the Late Founder Dr. Tom Kenefick to Oversee All Vineyard Operations and Brand Development
Napa Valley, CA – (July 2021) – Kenefick Ranch Vineyard & Winery, a family-owned and operated winery in Calistoga, today announced the appointment of Chris Kenefick, son of the late founder Dr. Tom Kenefick, as CEO & Second-Generation Proprietor. Chris, along with his sister Caitlin, grew up visiting and working on the ranch, and watched their father build the award-winning vineyard and winery from the ground up.
“Caitlin and I are very committed to the property, the brand, and the continued success of what our dad started,” said Chris. “I’m looking forward to continuing to build off what our dad accomplished and take the vineyard and brand to the next level.”
Established in 1978, the 250-acre ranch is located in the region’s northern most American Viticultural Area (AVA). In its beginnings, the vineyard primarily sold grapes to multiple prestigious labels, including Caymus, Joseph Phelps, Shafer and Pride Mountain. In 2002, Kenefick Ranch began producing and selling its own portfolio of award-winning wines. Chris and Caitlin have witnessed the property’s evolution over the years and helped move the brand forward while holding family values close.
Previously Vice President of Sales for Kenefick Ranch, Chris joined the winery full-time in 2016 after working in hotel management in San Francisco where he gained invaluable experience in hospitality and food and beverage. Over the past five years, Chris has been extremely involved in the day-to-day operations, from the winemaking process, working meticulously to oversee production, to distribution and marketing.
“I’m honored to take on this new role and look forward to continuing my dad’s legacy of dedication and love for winemaking,” said Chris. “As we look to advance the brand, I’m pleased to share several exciting developments in the works including new vintage releases in the coming months and the construction of our tasting room set to open in the near future.”
Kenefick Ranch's Calistoga Cabernets Demand a Closer Look
The Kenefick family's estate wines are commanding attention from those in search of great Napa Cabernet buys
[Kenefick Ranch's Calistoga Cabernets Demand a Closer Look] Kenefick Ranch vineyard has become one of Calistoga's leading Cabernet sites. (Jason Tinacci)
Mar 8, 2021
One of the great advantages to blind tasting is that without the influence of the label and price, you’re forced to focus exclusively on what’s in the glass. When you pull the bags off afterward, you make some great discoveries.
In the short time I’ve been covering California Cabernet, I’ve noticed the name Kenefick Ranch popping up on labels from the likes of B Cellars, Quivet Cellars and Nickel & Nickel. Looking back at my notes, I see a common thread. The vineyard delivers wines with a deep and loamy profile, featuring notes of juniper, apple wood, cassis and blackberry. They’re lush but focused in feel, delivering a tug of warm earth along the way.
In today’s single-vineyard designate game there are vineyards with much more name cachet—To Kalon, for example. In that case though, with so many wineries using the vineyard, there tends to be more differentiation based on winemaker style than there is a common thread based on the terroir. But with Kenefick, I was digging the sense of place the wines delivered despite being made by different wineries. And after tasting Kenefick Ranch’s own wine from the site, I made a point of visiting.
Located in Calistoga on Pickett Road, Kenefick is directly across the street from Eisele, and it even shares some of the same alluvial sandy loam. The 250-acre ranch has 120 acres of vines spread just about equally over three main soil types. There's iron-rich, red clay Aiken soil and a patch of volcanic soils flanking the sandy loam.
Tom Kenefick, a wine-loving neurosurgeon from Minnesota, moved out west in 1969. On weekends he found himself coming up from San Francisco to tool around in Napa. He fell in love with the area and bought a vineyard, then sold it, and used the proceeds to buy this Calistoga property in 1980. At the time it was planted to a hodgepodge of Italian varieties and, steadily over time, he went about shifting to Cabernet Sauvignon and other blue-chip grapes. Most of Kenefick’s grapes were sold to other wineries until 2002, when the family decided to start doing making a little wine of their own.
Today, Tom’s son Chris, 33, is managing the estate. His sister Caitlin, 35, has spent the past year on the property helping out as well. Winemaker Kent Jarman, 45, formerly of Duckhorn, has been making the wines since 2007.
Kenefick Ranch's annual production totals only about 3,000 cases, headlined by Cabernet Sauvignon along with small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc and a few others. The family still sells the vast majority of their grapes to the aforementioned wineries, along with the likes of Caymus, Cade and others. It’s an arrangement that works logistically.
“Ramping up to do the whole production would mean 40,000 cases annually,” says Chris. “That would be a bit difficult. We have a history of growing fruit for others and we’re proud of that.”
Most of the Kenefick Ranch vines top out at 25 to 30 years of age, and there’s a slow but steady replanting program in place.
“It’s not that we just rip out at age 25,” says Jarman. “Virus issues and dealing with declining quantity are the factors, along with maximizing row alignment, replaced outdated trellis systems. We even have some AxR rootstock (which is not phylloxera resistant) in some spots. So we’re dealing with that all bit by bit.”
The 2020 Glass fire cost Kenefick its production when the winery facility they were using was lost. They’ll find a new custom facility for 2021 and have plans to finally build their own winery on-site.
For now, though, the pipeline includes the Kenefick Ranch 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon Calistoga Chris's Cuvée, typically a 90/10 blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. It’s full of plum cake and steeped currant fruit backed by a telltale warm earth note. It has the slightly softer midpalate of the vintage but still has length, with the fruit echoing nicely while anise and vanilla accents linger.
The 2018 Chris's Cuvée shows the power of this nascent vintage, densely packed with plum and currant fruit, it’s broader and deeper than the ’17, and with a long tug of warm, loamy earth running throughout.
The wine retails for $65, about as square a price as you can find for outstanding Napa Valley Cabernet these days. And it’s not a flamboyantly toasted, hyper-rich styled wine either. Rather it seems quietly confident in its combination of classic Cabernet notes allied to a terroir-driven backdrop. Jarman uses just 70 percent new oak for the aging and medium toast only.
“I like fruit,” he says matter of factly. “Wine needs oak, but too much and then you don’t get the fruit. And I like the fruit of this vineyard. That’s what I want to show in the wine.”
May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light
May good luck pursue you each morning and night..
- Irish blessing
Happy New Year from our slice of paradise to yours! Thank you for your continued support and we look forward to a fabulous year with you.
Here's to 2020!
Tom, Caitlin, Chris, and the entire Kenefick Ranch team
May your pockets be heavy and your heart be light,
May good luck pursue you each morning and night.
Happy St. Patrick's Day!
The Kenefick family enjoys celebrating all things Irish and St. Patrick’s Day is no exception. The family originated from the County Cork and they still have strong ties to their Irish roots.
We raise a glass of Kenefick Ranch wine to you and wish you many blessings.
Another year is closing and while the days quickly pass, one thing we always remember is how grateful we are for you all. Our family, our friends and supporters of Kenefick Ranch Vineyard. We wish you and your loved ones a wonderful holiday season and the very best in 2019!
We will be sending out an email in January with some of the exciting events we have planned in 2019. In the meantime, may you all be surrounded with love, laughter, and of course, great wine.
The Kenefick Ranch Family
One of our favorite pairings with St. Patrick’s Day celebration food is the Cabernet Sauvignon, Chris’s Cuvée, with Irish Beef Stew. Our cabernet sauvignon really pairs beautifully with the flavors of beef, spices and hearty vegetables. In fact, we also use the cabernet in the recipe.
Save prep time by prepping the onions, carrots, and potatoes while the stock with beef is simmering in step 2.
Transfer stew to serving bowls. Add more salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and serve along with a glass of Kenefick Ranch Cabernet Sauvignon, Chris's Cuvee.
-lovingly adapted to Kenefick taste from Simply Recipes
Happy New Year!
We are looking forward to what 2018 will bring and are pleased to say goodbye to 2017. While the 2017 harvest was smooth and steady, the year ended with the scary and in some cases, tragedy, caused by the multiple wildfires in October. Calistoga and the entire Napa Valley has been recovering and are ready for your visit.
Now on to Vineyard Happenings..
This month the stellar and amazing crew have been pre-pruning the vineyards.
Left side of image shows unpruned vines; the right side pre-pruned
Each year, the vineyard team works through the entire 125 acres of estate vineyards and starts the pruning process. They work block by block. The prepruning helps not only the crew to make a more precise cut with the final pruning, (by removing the extra cane), but also helps to prevent eutypa. This is an airborne virus that attaches itself to the open cout and works into the cane of the vine. The process of movement through the cane is slow and does not reach its ultimate target - the branch, before the final pruning. With the final pruning, we also seal the new cut to prevent any further progress. Another plus for breaking up the pruning process is that the final pruning sets back budbreak, which can give you about two more weeks of frost protection. And with the weather not always being certain, this definitely helps!
Preparation Time 27 hours
The Next Evening
We have seen quite the flurry of activity in the last month on the property with California receiving a record setting amount of rain! The good news is that we managed to stay as dry as possible and even with all the flooding in the Valley, we received no damage on our property in Calistoga. We did have quite a bit of standing water in certain places in the vineyard, however this drained off fairly quickly and we saw no damage to the vines. The good news is that now all of our reservoirs are full so we will have plenty of water to irrigate for the whole year ahead.
After harvest, we seed every other row with a soil erosion mixture, which is a fast growing grass like rye, and the alternative rows are seeded with soil builders (legumes) to add nitrogen and potassium back into the soil. With all the rain, these soil additions are growing quite rapidly and we will soon mow them down and disk them into the soil. During this time of year, we are also checking all of our wind machines to make sure they are ready for frost protection.
Currently on the vineyard, we have just finished our pre-pruning and we are getting started on the actual pruning process. There are many reasons why we like to pre-prune our vines, but mainly it gives our crew the opportunity to clean up the vineyard and to make the pruning process a little easier. By pre-pruning, it also cuts down on the amount of time that the trimmed vine is exposed which, if exposed too long, could lead to disease getting into the vine. When our crew goes through to do the actual pruning, they are able to concentrate more on the small section of vine that is left to make sure they are making a proper cut.
The winery has seen a great January as well. Kenefick Ranch had the opportunity to welcome in the newest member to our family, Kristina King. Kristina came to us with an immense background in the Direct to Consumer market and will be overseeing our Wine Club as well as being the main point of contact in the office. Chris Kenefick made a long road trip into the Rockies to visit Sun Valley and Jackson Hole during a large snow storm in both locations. Although the trip went well and the wine was well received, Chris had to make sure he bundled up as he encountered temperatures that reached 16 degrees Fahrenheit. He sure was happy to make it back to warm California with all his fingers and toes!
Good day from beautiful Calistoga!
We are thrilled to say that our 2016 harvest is completely over and it was another very successful year for us at Kenefick Ranch. For the 2016 harvest we hit over 400 tons and its all tasting great! Now that harvest is over, this is the time that we look to put the vineyard to bed for a few months. Currently we are spreading compost, lime, and gypsum over the entire vineyard. This will help to improve our already outstanding soil profile long term. Once this has been completed, we will seed the vineyard with cover crop and put straw on top of that to prevent soil erosion. Once all the work has been done around the property, many of the vineyard workers will take some time off to vacation to Mexico before returning in January to start with pre-pruning the vineyard.
This time of year is also one of the busiest times for our Sales and Marketing. Patrick Chapman has been traveling all over California promoting the wine and opening up new accounts in all areas of the state. Be sure to ask your local store when they are getting some Kenefick Ranch Wines in if they don’t have them already! Chris Kenefick recently came back from a road trip through Texas where he visited with Spec’s sales representative and on premise representatives in Dallas, Houston, and Austin. Chris then went to Omaha, Nebraska where he and cousin Peter Kenefick hosted dinners at the Happy Hollow Country Club and Spencer’s Steakhouse. The dinners were a great hit and the pairings that each restaurant had were both fantastic! Early next month, Chris will also be heading to Denver, Colorado for a few days of marketing and then finishing with a wine dinner at the politically themed restaurant Capitol Cellars in Boise, Idaho.
The end of October brings a sad but exciting opportunity for Kenefick Ranch. We will officially be closing the doors at Up Valley Vintners and moving all of our tastings to Fairwinds Estate Winery (4550 Silverado Trail N, Calistoga, CA, 94515). This move brings with it the next chapter for Kenefick Ranch. Fairwinds Estate is the location where we have always made our wine and the facility will bring new opportunity to showcase our product by providing tours of the facility as well as barrel samples of some of the current wines in progress.
To celebrating the great 2016 harvest and to the future of Kenefick Ranch, Salud!