I t’s great fun when a famous winemaker comes to Augusta to show off his latest wines. When Dr. Tom Kenefick showed up this week, he had a number of fans at two wine shops.
I met him at the Vineyard Wine Market in Columbia County before he went to the Ninth Street Wine Shop in downtown Augusta. He looked like a man who knew he made good wines and was pleased that other people knew it.
Dr. Kenefick is a retired San Francisco neurosurgeon who came west after graduating from the University of Minnesota Medical School in 1969. He started visiting wine country on weekends and became interested in the business.
He bought some land, went to school at night to learn about wine making, and as his interest grew so did his investment. He bought his current 125 acres in Calistoga in 1978. Over the next 25 years he replaced all the Italian varietals on the property with Bordeaux varietals.
In 2000 he quit his medical practice to devote full time to growing grapes, and two years later he decided to make his own wine.
Now his vineyard grows some of the most sought-after fruit in the Napa Valley. He sells to such wineries at Etude, Merryvale, Behrens & Hitchcock, Joseph Phelps, Shafer and Caymus.
Dr. Kenefick said he decided to make his own wine because sometimes it was hard to convince the other wineries just how good his fruit was.
“A lot of the other wineries were just blending it in with other people’s fruit, and it took a few years to convince them to make wines from just this vineyard,” he said. “Then a couple of wineries decided to go in another direction and use only their own fruit. I knew this was good land and we could make good wine from the grapes.”
Although the Cabernet Sauvignon is the big gun in Dr. Kenefick’s arsenal, he is making some terrific wines with the other Bordeaux varietals, particularly the Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Both are powerful, full-bodied wines loaded with tasty fruit.
“Our Cabernet Franc may very well become our signature wine or the thing we’re known for,” he said.
The winery also makes a Picket Road Red, a blend of four Bordeaux varietals that Dr. Kenefick said allows the winemaker to be creative and show some style. They also have a fantastic Sauvignon Blanc.
Other ventures include a white blend of Viognier, Marsanne, Grenache Blanc, and Sauvignon Musquet.
All of the Kenefick Ranch wines are made from grapes grown on the estate. Eventually Dr. Kenefick said he would like to build a winery and bottle all his own wines.