The 1994 Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Estate exhibits a dark ruby/purple color, followed by a sweet, black-cherry, earthy, mineral-scented nose, and a fleshy mid-palate with depth and ripe fruit. Some rough tannin springs up in the finish. This wine will benefit from 4-5 years of cellaring and keep for up to 15. Winemaker/consultant Nils Venge has been brought in to try and flesh out these wines which have had a tendency to be too tannic and tough-textured. The Keenan wines, made from their vineyards on Spring Mountain, have always been ambitiously made, but largely without the mid-palate and intensity I would have expected from the lofty prices. The group of wines reviewed in this segment looks to be the finest Keenan offerings I have tasted. How encouraging it is to see this winery improve its quality.
A small, reliable producer in Napa, Keenan turns out refined cabernets at reasonable prices. In this 1994, fruit from the cool Spring Mountain appellation is paramount, as are the oak barrels to marry and age it in. Ripe aromas of cassis, sandalwood and rose oil lead into cherry, plum and roasted coffee flavors. While the tannins are silkly at the beginning, they are quire firm on the finish. Hold this one for a few years until the tannins are subdued, or tame them now with rich red meat or game dishes.
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