“The 2011 vintage growing conditions were not ideal. Cooler, wetter conditions slowed the grape ripening process to a snail’s pace, but with grit and a little finesse, we were able to produce some fantastic wine. During some of those challenging moments, I realized how fortunate we were to be walking in the footsteps of early viticulture pioneers like Frederick Hess.
“Hess had the vision to plant on Howell Mountain because it reminded him of the great winegrowing areas of Europe. Its unique terroir of cool nights and warmer mornings gave him the clues that the difficult mountain farming would be worth it.”
Winemaker Chris Carpenter, May 2012
“The wine has aged incredibly gracefully. It displays espresso bean, blackberry, and a hint of herb. The weight is killer and the finish long and profound.”
Winemaker Chris Carpenter, March 2021
Antonio Galloni, Vinous, November 2013
This wine, made to honor Howell Mountain vineyard pioneer W.S. Keyes, comes from some of the most highly prized Merlot vineyard land in the country. Winfield S. Keyes first planted grapes in this rugged vineyard in 1888, noting that the rocky, shallow soils here reminded him of Mediterranean islands near Sicily. Very much like his neighbor, the La Jota Vineyard Co., he was convinced that Howell Mountain’s high altitude and abundant sunlight could produce wines of great depth, complexity and ageability.
The W.S. Keyes Merlot shows ripe tannins coat the mouth with boysenberry, black cherry, mocha, espresso, and cardamom characters that capture the classic La Jota combination of intense fruit and complexity. The finish is structured with a well-balanced acidity.