One of the true, New Age winemaking phenoms is Helen Keplinger, 2012 Food & Wine magazine “Winemaker of the Year”. Although for some, she seemed to have come out of nowhere, she has worked at some very considerable wine projects–“Since 2004, I have been the winemaker for some exciting projects, including Cellers Melis (Priorat), Kenzo Estate, Fort Ross, Sarocka, Scullly, Arrow & Branch, & Bryant Family Vineyards”.
Keplinger is her sole focus now.
Here are the two wines which has arrived to the Islands.
Keplinger “Sumo” Red 2014–a lavish, rich, deeply flavored red with near decadent opulence & a dense, hedonistic mouthfeel. Still, despite its heft, the 2014 is still wonderfully delicious, juicy & well textured with a stoniness in its core. “Sumo is a Cote Rotie twist on Petite Sirah – Petite Sirah co-fermented with Viognier, and blended with a small amount of Syrah. The 2014 Sumo is a blend of 84% Petite Sirah, 13% Syrah, and 3% Viognier, all from Shake Ridge Vineyard. The Petite comes from three blocks, one is 80% rock and produces small, thick-skinned berries with intense aromatics and dense structure. The second Petite block also has very rocky soil with a western exposure – the berries are ever so slightly larger and the skins slightly thinner (remember this is still Petite!), bringing a juicy elegance to the blend. The third Petite block is at the bottom of a north-facing block, and is all about vibrant, fresh fruit – the lifter of the trio. The 2014 Sumo was aged in a mix of barriques, Muids d’Oc, and Demi Muids – all French Burgundian cooperage – 75% of which was new. 290 cases produced“.
Keplinger “Lythic” Red 2014–another intriguing, deeply flavored red–in 2014–“a blend of 32% Grenache, 36% Mourvedre, and 32% Syrah – all coming from Ann Kraemer’s incredible Shake Ridge Vineyard, 1700’ in the Sierra Foothills of Amador County. Farmed to perfection, the extraordinary Sierra uplift soils, loaded with quartz, basalt, soapstone, and shale always combine to create wines of great purity, richness, and minerality. The Grenache, Mourvedre, and Syrah blocks are all on rock-filled slopes with excellent exposure and drainage. The blocks were harvested for optimal ripeness on five different dates, and combined into small co-fermented wine lots, each with a different percentage of whole cluster grapes. The wine was aged in once-used and neutral French Demi Muids for 16 months before being bottled without fining or filtration. 250 cases produced“.
I could spend a very long time speaking of the merits of Ann Kraemer’s Shake Ridge Vineyard up in the Sierra Foothills. The soils are mesmerizing & seemingly everchanging from parcel to parcel & from hill to hill. And, Ann is one heck’uv a farmer, that’s for sure. That is also a big reason why these wines are so darn good!
And, just to give you history, here is what Antonio Galloni wrote about last year’s collection from this winery.
VINOUS: 2014 Sonoma and Points North: New Releases, Parts 1 & 2 (Feb 2016) by Antonio Galloni
These are without question the finest wines I have tasted from Helen Keplinger. The 2013s and 2014s are simply captivating across the board. Over the years, Keplinger has refined her approach, which includes a greater reliance on large format oak as well as important investments in equipment. The result of those significant sacrifices are very much in evidence. Readers will find a few new wines in the range, all of them welcome additions. As good as the 2013s are, the 2014s have the potential to be even more compelling. I can’ t say enough good things about these wines and the daring spirit they embody. Full Review
2013 Hangman’s | 95+
2013 Diamond Bar | 95
2013 Sumo | 95
2013 Lithic | 94
2013 Fuego y Mar | 93+
2013 Caldera | 93
2013 Basilisk | 93
2013 Mars | 93
2013 El Diablo | 92
2014 Eldorado | 90