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An off-bottle of 1977 Keenan, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley


I picked up a few bottles of 1970s Californian wine in England of all places.  Reid Wines to be exact, supplier of old Claret back during my Bristol University days.  Their wine lists easy spans a century’s worth of vintages, primarily in Champagne, Bordeaux, and Burgundy but other regions are sprinkled throughout, including a bottle of Keenan from Napa Valley, California.

The first vintage of Robert Keenan Winery was 1977 from a vineyard planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay in 1974.  Robert Keenan planted his vines on the 19th century Peter Conradi vineyard located on the Mayacamas mountain range in the Spring Mountain District of Napa Valley.  Joe Cafaro, the first winemaker, was a graduate of Fresno State University.  Also in his class of 1969 are Jerry Luper of Freemark Abbey Winery, Dick Arrowood of Chateau St. Jean, Mark Shouse of Gallo, and Phil Baxter of Rutherford Hill.

The wines of Robert Keenan were soon known on both coasts and in Europe.  The Chardonnay was released first and could be the reason my bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon found its way to England.  Frank J. Prial wrote in The New York Times during the summer of 1979, that some “of the best new chardonnays” came from such new wineries at Keenan.  That fall Robert Lawrence Balzer included Keenan in a list of one dozen unfamiliar wineries that “may have interesting significance tomorrow” in The Los Angeles Times.

The 1977 Keenan, Chardonnay was poured on George Washington’s Birthday at a wine tasting organized by the California Wine Institute and Les Amis du Vin, held at the United States Embassy in Paris during 1979.  Frank J. Prial recreated the tasting back in San Francisco where he found the Keenan one of the outstanding wines in an outstanding group of Chardonnay.  As for a connection to England, Frank J. Prial interviewed the English wine writer Cyril Ray in New York City.  Of the two Chardonnay’s they drank, one was the 1977 Keenan.

My bottle of 1977 Robert Keenan Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley had a fill in the shoulder which is why I opened it for myself.  A gamble for sure but worth it for the history.  There was that tell-tale roasted quality on the nose indicating the wine is not right.  It never cleaned up but in tasting the wine I can see how proper bottles should be satisfying.

1977 Robert Keenan Winery, Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Alcohol 14.2%.  Fill is in the shoulder.  Dark and deep in the glass.  A roasted aroma on the nose indicates this bottle is not ideal.  The flavors are better in the mouth though the roast note persists. Otherwise this is a full-bodied, savory wine with sweet fruit and a wood box flavor.  The amount of body is surprising but the wine is completely balanced.  Clean bottles should drink well for many years to come.  Not Rated.


Prial, F. J. (1979, May 09). Wine talk. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/120885774?accountid=14784

Prial, F. J. (1979, Jun 06). Wine talk. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/120838683?accountid=14784

By, F. J. (1979, Jun 10). Wine quality from california. New York Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/120840402?accountid=14784

Balzer, R. L. (1979, Sep 30). Wine connoisseur. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) Retrieved from https://search.proquest.com/docview/158960200?accountid=14784

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