Kerr Cellars was founded by long time LPGA golfer Cristie Kerr (winner of two major championships and 18 titles) with the focus on sourcing fruit from some of Napa and Sonoma’s finest vineyards. Cristie is as serious about wine as she is about golf. She has already passed the level 1 curriculum while studying for the Court of Master Sommeliers.
Cristie was born in Miami and began playing golf at age 8. She turned professional in 1996 at age 18 directly out of high school. Her first LPGA victory was in 2002 and in the years following she became one of the top golfers in the world winning a number of LPGA events and other championships. By 2010 she was at the top of the leader-board in Women’s World Golf Rankings.
Founding winemaker of Curvature Wines, Sally Johnson (Cristie and Suzanne Pride’s premium label created to fund Breast Cancer research) was a classmate of winemaker Helen Keplinger when both were students at UC Davis. Sally introduced Helen to Cristie and Helen has made every vintage of the Kerr Wines since their inaugural release of 2013. Helen was born and raised in Ohio – and grew up with parents who enjoyed wine, travel and the outdoors. Helen recalls collecting wine bottles (empty ones) when she was a child. But her interest in wine did not come until later. After graduating from Smith College in Massachusetts she was on track to go to medical school. Working for nearly two years with researchers at Massachusetts General Hospital (Harvard Medical School) she found the work intriguing but it wasn’t a passion and considered the work more of a ‘job’. Discovering wines through one of the Big Y Wine stores in Western Massachusetts Helen began to explore a variety of wines from different regions around the world.
Needing a break from work she took a year off and moved to Thailand – teaching English to children in a small town well north of Bangkok. Upon returning to the states she began applying to a number of medical schools – and also applied for positions at several wine labs (although she never heard back from any of those). Her interest in wine was further piqued after reading M’Lady Vine, the memoirs of Baron Philippe Rothschild. Discovering the graduate program in Enology at the University of California Davis – Helen decided to abandon her medical school plans and applied and was accepted at UC Davis.
Helen’s first job in the Napa Valley was working in the lab at Mumm Cellars. She has since built a remarkable wine making career focusing her efforts on the Napa Valley. She was winemaker at Bryant Family Vineyards, Grace Family Vineyards among others and throughout her career has worked with some of the brightest winemaking minds in the valley including Heidi Barrett and David Abreu. She has been featured in numerous publications over the years and has been named “Winemaker of the Year” several times by Food and Wine Magazine. In addition to consulting for clients, she also operates Keplinger Wines in conjunction with her husband DJ Warner.
The 2016 Kerr Cellars Sauvignon Blanc is a “thoughtful wine” according to Helen, referring to the level of detail and attention that went into crafting this beauty. It is an intriguing wine on many levels and certainly is not a traditional Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc. The wine is a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Sauvignon Musque, Sauvignon Vert and Sémillon. The vineyard sources are varied and carefully chosen including from several historic sites (Tofanelli Family Vineyard & Nichelini Winery) to Stagecoach Vineyards and a vineyard in the Oak Knoll District. It is clear that this is a wine Helen enjoyed making – it is a wine she refers to as being “playful and serious at the same time, a wine that has both freshness but dimension along with weight and drive”. The wine was barrel fermented and aged for texture and freshness (no stirring of the lees). It is a wine that can age as well.
The wine is straw yellow in the glass – showing a depth of aroma including floral notes (honeysuckle), lime zest, citrus blossom and mineral notes. Silky and rounded across the palate with a pleasing textural appeal but without being heavy. Superbly balanced throughout the palate, this is a wine that is simply fun to drink by itself. Shows flavors of red apple and stone fruit framed by excellent acidity but no tartness that this variety is often associated with. Features a lively long finish.
The Kerr Cellars 2015 Pinot Noir is sourced from the Sonoma Coast (from cooler sites within this large appellation). Highly aromatic shows notes of dark cherry, orange peel, kumquat and earth driven nuances (Helen mentioned a peat type aroma). The bouquet shows plenty of bright fruit including raspberry along with hints of cedar. Balanced with depth on the palate – the tannins are noticeable but fairly silky in texture. We love the finish on this wine – savoring its length.
The Kerr Cellars 2015 Reserve Red is a blend of both Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot from two exceptional vineyard sites – the Cabernet Sauvignon (55%) comes from the Beckstoffer owned and managed Missouri Hopper Vineyard in Oakville (one of Beckstoffer’s six Heritage Vineyards in the Napa Valley – premium sites with history) and the Merlot (45%) is from the Nine Suns/Houyi Vineyard on Pritchard Hill. Dark ruby in the glass immediately offers darker fruit aromatics – it is somewhat savory, a garrigue quality perhaps from the contribution of the Pritchard Hill terroir and accompanying chaparral – dried herbs, sage and thyme. Shows plenty of fruit aromatics especially as it has time to breath including black fig and black cherry. The bouquet has depth and opulence; so does the palate. Balanced with polish yet big with power at the same time one of the palate’s most appealing characteristics are the feel of the tannins. Seamless and well integrated on the finish these fine grained rounded tannins complement the long lasting flavors of fruit.
The production of Kerr Cellars is small – usually around 1000 cases. The wines are available through the website and at select restaurants and country clubs and have been served on Emirates Airlines and at notable restaurants such as the French Laundry in the Napa Valley and Per Se in New York City. The wines have also been served at the White House.
For more information, to purchase wines from either Kerr Cellars or Curvature and to join their wine club, visit: www.kerrcellars.com and Cristie’s wine blog: www.cristiekerrgolf.com/category/blog/wine