Sonoma Coast AVA
One of the gems of Sonoma County's Petaluma Gap AVA
More than thirty years ago, Arturo Keller and his wife Deborah made their way through a scenic section of lower Sonoma County and came upon a most picturesque piece of land. It then served as a dairy grazing farm, but taken by the natural beauty of the place, the Kellers bought the 650 acres with the intention of turning it into vineyard land.
Following the suggestion of wine experts, Arturo and Deborah planted their first twenty acres to Chardonnay in 1989. They named the vineyard La Cruz after their Mexican heritage. Over time, they added more acreage to include Pinot Noir and began making wine for family and friends. The wines were extremely well received and the Kellers decided that the vineyard's unique terroir produced rich, aromatic wines that should be shared with the rest of the world.
The Kellers called upon their daughter Ana who had studied Chemistry at the University of Mexico, and invited her to join in their new wine venture. Ana's educational background and respect for terroir would prove to be an extremely beneficial addition to Keller Estate.
The Kellers released their first vintage in 2001, of just under 2,000 cases of Estate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The label design on these wines displayed the Keller Family Crest, which has been a part of the family for generations and actually originated in Switzerland. The key depicted in the center of the crest represents the cellar master's key, as he is the guardian to the cellar. The name Keller literally means 'cellar' in German, and was a special place where valuable commodities were kept and passed on from family to family.
The winery itself was designed by renowned Mexican architects and was completed in 2003. The grounds are spacious and include limestone quarried from the bed of the Yangtze River, a gravity flow state-of the-art winemaking system, various sculptures and statues, and a stunning tasting room where visitors can enjoy an array of paintings and unique works of art.
This month's feature comes from the Keller's El Coro Vineyard, which sits high on the property's ridge-top where the vines are more exposed to the winds that bring the Pacific maritime air and fog through the Petaluma Gap. The Pinot Noirs from El Coro are very expressive, with beautiful aromatics and great structure that shine through.
Keller Estate has now become one of the gems of Sonoma County, with one of the most distinctive, exciting collections of estate-grown wines in the region. We hope you enjoy one of their latest winning releases. Cheers!
Map of the area
Ana Keller - Estate Director, Winemaker & Daughter
When Ana Keller learned that her father Arturo intended to enter the wine business in 1989, she literally jumped in with both feet. Brought up in Mexico, Ana was the recipient of degrees from both the University of Mexico (biopharmaceutical chemistry) and a Masters in Pharmaceutical Development from the prestigious King’s College in London. The city of London proved to be a pivotal spot for Ana when she took her first formal wine tasting lessons while attending school there.
Now a youngish 42, Ana Keller is all about the winery experience. Having spent nearly 25 years in the wine industry, she speaks a wine veteran’s lingo with great enthusiasm and vigor.
Her most rewarding experience?
“It is definitely sitting in a restaurant and the table next to me orders a bottle of our wine without knowing who I am,” she related. “It is instant gratification when they take the first sip and express their enjoyment. I wouldn’t trade the experience for anything.”
Ana’s first brush with wine came early in life when she spent her holidays in France’s Loire Valley harvesting grapes from the vineyards.
“When my father asked me to join him in establishing Keller Estate, I was overjoyed,” she related. “We have accomplished much of what we initially set out to do and it’s up to me to continue to make sure our quality never fluctuates.”
Ana has insisted on a unique way of insuring that quality tradition continues. “We always bring out 6 or 7 of our prior vintages to taste right before we sit down for the final blending of our wines. This process really confirms the fact that the new wines really relate to the terroir of our estate. We are dedicated to the utmost quality we can achieve with each vintage, and that is the promise of our winery.”
Ana Keller is also heavily involved in the effort to make her property part of a proposed new AVA (American Viticultural Area) that would be called the Petaluma Gap AVA.
“When you consider what the winds of the gap do to the area and to the grapes themselves, it seems to be a no-brainer. The winds force our grapes (Pinot Noir) to develop thicker skins and that in itself changes the equation. The Petaluma Gap has become a world-class growing area, and I’m hopeful it will be soon recognized. When we first started, this was all Sonoma County AVA. Then the Sonoma Coast AVA became a reality, and now it’s time for even further recognition. I hope our efforts will reach fruition sometime either late this year or next,” she added.
Ana Keller devotes 100 percent of her time to Keller Estate and confided that her parents are still active in the business. “Whenever my father is available, he sits in on our meetings and tastings. He is still quite active and his passion for cars takes up a great deal of his time. He cares a great deal about the winery since it is still a relatively small family operation.”
While the Keller Estate is comfortably positioned around the 8,000 case annual production level, Ana Keller has developed a three-year plan that will increase Keller Estate’s production another 30 to 40 percent to around the 12,000 case level. “We grow enough great quality grapes to support the plan,” she finalized. “With the excellent support we have from our loyal customer base, all we need do is continue with our quality. Our assistant winemaker Alex Holman is responsible for that aspect of our business and he is really good at what he does.”
Ana Keller is unique to the wine industry in that her first passion was for plants. This passion turned to vines and then to wines. She has utilized modern technology to its fullest, but still remains true to a minimalistic approach to winemaking, not an easy task in today’s winemaking world.
We salute Ana Keller and her wonderful wines as we introduce them to you as our Gold Wine Club feature. We know you will enjoy these excellent wines from this emerging wine producing area.
About the Vineyard
The Keller Estate 2009 La Cruz Vineyard Pinot Noir is comprised of fruit from the Keller family’s estate vineyard, characterized by the intricate stone cross sculpture that boldly stands over the vines, and named to represent the family’s Mexican heritage.
The majority of the La Cruz Vineyard, where Keller Estate grows all of their Chardonnay, Syrah, Pinot Gris, and slightly over half of their Pinot Noir, resides on the lower hills of the property. The soils here are multi-layered, mineral-laden clays there were once San Pablo Bay seabeds. This mineral character comes through in the wines and is very much a part of the Keller Estate’s unique terroir.
Higher up on the Keller Estate property lies the 20-acre El Coro block that is home to several different clones of Pinot Noir. Here, the vines are more exposed to the winds that bring the Pacific maritime air and fog through the Petaluma Gap.
The expansive Keller Estate property allows the team to select the ideal growing area for each clone and varietal, and the result is an incredibly diverse line up of expressive, Sonoma Coast wines.
Alex Holman - Winemaker
A California native born and raised in San Francisco, Alex Holman is the award-winning winemaker behind Keller Estate's wines. His philosophy to winemaking is that a natural and minimalist approach is the best way to create distinctive, elegant wines that highlight the diversity of the terroir on the estate. With this approach, coupled with cutting edge technology, he is able to craft small lots of wine that truly allow the Keller Estate to shine.
Alex Holman has degrees in Chemistry and Enology from Fresno State University. Before joining the team at Keller Estate, Alex gained valuable experience working at Paul Hobbs Winery, Dry Creek Vineyard, and J. Rickards Winery. He has proven to be an excellent addition to Keller Estate.
Dear Platinum Wine Club Members,
It is our great pleasure to introduce you to the inaugural vintage of the Rôtie, Northern Rhône blend! Rotie pays homage to Côte Rôtie, the northernmost appellation of the Rhône Valley in France. Côte Rôtie is famously translated to “the roasted slope,” referring to the long hours of sunlight that grapes receive on these steep slopes. We created our Rôtie according to the same appellation rules; co-fermentation of Syrah and a maximum of 20% Viognier (ours having 5%) in the same tank. The earthy characteristics of Syrah are naturally balanced out by the natural floral notes in Viognier, leaving you with a brighter, more aromatic version of our La Cruz Syrah.
This traditional blend combined with sustainable farming practices creates a wine that is powerful, yet elegant. Soft floral notes penetrate through the minerality on the nose with hints of exotic spices. The palate reveals dark fruit dominated by blackberries and plums, finishing with velvety tannins on a long, smooth finish. Our goal at Keller Estate is to produce wines exclusively from fruit grown on our family run estate. Our unique micro-climate in the Petaluma Gap provides a cool climate that allows for a more restrained, elegant style Syrah. We believe that wines like our Rôtie are a wonderful representation of what Syrah-based wines from Sonoma should be. Keller Estate invites you to enjoy the 2010 Rôtie with a variety of red meats or wild game, or simply by itself. No matter how you enjoy this wine, we trust it will be a memorable experience.