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Marcy Keefer & Craig Strehlow: Keefer Ranch

Keefer Ranch is located near the headwaters of Green Valley Creek, with gently sloping, well-drained, south-facing exposure. It was started in 1989 on the site of a former apple orchard in Sebastopol, California. Part of the Green Valley sub appellation of the Russian River Valley (officially now named “Green Valley of Russian River Valley”), Keefer Ranch is planted on Goldridge Loam which drains well and is thus particularly valued for its suitability for growing Pinot Noir. The Green Valley is defined by the fog and is usually the first place where the fog comes in through the Petaluma Gap, and the last place where the fog burns off, making it the coolest and foggiest part of the Russian River Valley. Many years ago the area was considered too cool for ripening Pinot Noir, but pioneering winegrower Warren Dutton’s early plantings (Chardonnay first planted in 1967) here proved otherwise.

The typical flavor profile of Green Valley shines through in the Keefer Ranch wines. Pinot Noir shows ripe fruit (cherry and cranberry), sweet spice, lively acidity, soft tannins, supple texture and beautiful structure. Chardonnay presents a clean, fresh, crisp, Gravenstein apple, complex citrus flavor profile, with a core of minerality, long finish, and great focus.

Keefer Ranch is farmed by Marcy Keefer and her son Craig Strehlow (pictured below with Craig’s wife, Julie, at Pinot Days, 2008). The clones are a nice mixture of Dijon 115, Pommard 5, Mariafeld (23) and Wädenswil (2A). For many years, Keefer Ranch Vineyard has supplied grapes to notable Pinot Noir specialists including most recently, A.P. Vin, Failla, Freeman, Kosta Browne, Loring Wine Co., Pali, and Siduri. Beginning in 2006, Marcy Keefer and her son Craig Strehlow launched their own Keefer Ranch label. Craig is handling the winemaking duties, and the inaugural release is quite impressive. I tasted through every 2006 Keefer Ranch vineyard-designate Pinot Noir and the following four were the most out-standing.

2006 Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., 143 cases, $42. · Light reddish-purple in color. The nose offers fresh savory herbs with red berries and cherries. Delicious delicate red fruits that are sweetly spiced and elegantly presented. Soft and silky like red lingerie. A delight to drink. Naomi Campbell on a Victoria Secret runway.

2006 Failla Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.1% alc., $45. · Confected cherries, exotic spices, and dried herbs fill the nose. Delicious and juicy black cherry flavor with a sidecar of anise and savory herbs. Silky smooth and seamless with diaphanous tannins. A little bigger than the Keefer Ranch label, but hard to choose between them.

2006 Freeman Vineyards & Winery Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.2% alc., $46. · Moderately deep ruby color. A cherry bombast on the nose. Saucy, fat and lush black cherry core. Appealing earthy touch. Clean, crisp and tangy finish that lasts and lasts. Naomi Campbell in hiking boots.

2005 Kosta Browne Keefer Ranch Russian River Valley Pinot Noir

14.9% alc., 117 cases, $62 · Medium light reddish-purple in color. Enticing aromatics offering Bing cherry, sweet spice, brown sugar, herbs and toast. Plenty of concentrated cherry flavor with wild herbs that leap out. Complimentary oak char. Nice finesse and lively acidity on a clean finish. The alcohol is submerged.

Keefer Ranch Pinot Noir is sold through a mailing list and on the website at 707-829-5950.

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