For a number of years consumers and members of the wine trade have urged Keenan to produce a proprietary red blend… So we did. Blending trials began in June of 2001, with separate lots of 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot; it didn’t take long to decide upon the two lots that fit together. The favored Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from grapes grown in Oakville, and shows immense structure, dark inky hues, and complex, robust flavors. The Merlot was grown in the Napa Carneros region and supplies soft velvety texture with concentrated ripe berry nuances in the nose.
Last night was a good night. Because of work, I stayed at my parents’ house in Vermont. To my surprise, when I arrived for dinner, my father had a few ribeye steaks and a bottle of 1999 Keenan Reserve Mernet ready to go. We pulled the cork and decanted an hour before dinner. Despite some decent age, the Keenan contained very little sediment, retaining a vibrantly rich, garnet appearance of a younger wine, dark to the core, with only subtle hints of brick red age. From the start, a seductive mixed-berry bouquet rolled from the decanter, promising to break the lengthy (and expensive) streak of under-performers my father and I have been plagued with over the last year.
The Keenan Mernet has an incredible bouquet, controlled and blended. Soft black fruit aromas partner with black pepper and cigar box spices, rising brightly, lingering in the bridge of the nose, and tingling the sinuses without a hint of astringency. A truly regal quality, defined enough for both my father and I to make a note of it individually.
The Keenan’s bouquet as its own entity is a sensory indulgence, an oenophilic sachet in a glass, which spent as much time against our noses as it did our lips. But in this case, and as it should be with any great wine, I consider a fabulous bouquet to be a prerequisite for an even better flavor and textural experience.
Elegant, controlled, and black fruit driven, the cracked pepper and cigar box spices found in the nose were equally represented in the Mernet’s flavor profile. The addition of cedar and leather adds depth and complexity to an already elegant wine. Elusive undertones of caramel adds a unique, and pivotal flavor characteristic, as well as a crucial sweet, textural component. The body has a silky mouth feel, reminiscent texturally of the flesh of a perfect peach.
In March, the folks at Keenan released the 2005 Mernet, the 6th consecutive vintage since its debut in 1999. Of the 2005 Keenan lineup, the ’05 is currently the highest rated wine by Robert Parker, and priced at about $100, it is also one of the most expensive. Unfortunately, the ’99 Keenan was limited to only 300 cases, so last night may have been my first and last brush with the ’99′s greatness.