In a just a few short weeks, we will be sitting down with family and friends to share a bounty of delicious food and wine to celebrate our blessings. We are very thankful for a great harvest, the dedication of the Kenefick Ranch family and your continued support.
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!