Estate of Grace
A breathtaking family estate in Petaluma celebrates the 25th anniversary of its vineyards.
Photography by Matt Edge
The winding roads that canvass Petaluma’s rolling hills typically deliver visitors to rustic ranches and pastoral farms. But arrive at the Keller Estate winery, and you immediately recognize the diamond in the rough.
Not only is this vast property visually captivating, with vineyards blanketing 90 of its 800 acres, but its history and exceptional wines make it Sonoma Coast’s best-kept secret—until now.
Arturo Keller and his wife, Deborah, bought the estate 32 years ago to enjoy with their four children. While the vineyards weren’t planted, a small batch of chardonnay grapes took root in 1989, which they sold to Rombauer Vineyards. Ten years later, the Kellers took the plunge into Pinot Noir, releasing the first under their own label in 2000. They opened the doors to the public in 2010, offering winery tours and tastings.
Now, their daughter, Ana, who lives on the grounds with her own family, manages operations as director of winemaking. “I started coming to Wine Country when we bought our family property,” Keller reminisces, before leading our tour. “I was about 17 years old, and Petaluma was much slower then.”
While their family lineage originates in Switzerland and is rooted in wine (Keller is German for “cellar”), Keller and her siblings grew up in Mexico, where her father made his mark in car manufacturing.
Other siblings also play a role in the winery. “My sister is an artist and designed the stained glass,” Keller says, pointing to massive sliding doors encircling the winery’s courtyard. Each set of doors is a tribute to one of the four seasons, with one illustrated with a vintage car—a nod to her father’s world-renowned automobile collection. Keller appreciates her sister’s symbolism. “I always want our visitors to feel that they learned something new about my family and our desire to show what a true estate is. As a family, we are present in many details that you see.”
On our way to the caves, an arched tunnel eventually funnels us into a state-of-the art tank room featuring gravity-flow technology, where a domed skylight cheerfully illuminates an otherwise sterile space. Keller was bitten by the fermentation bug early and studied biochemistry. Ever the scientist, her passion spills over as she discusses her labor of love.
“Being a trained chemist, I am always trying to understand science. I guess that is why we have a comparative tasting. I love seeing eyes light up when people understand malolactic fermentation, and how it tastes.
“Some people feel wine is an art while others believe it is all the result of science,” she says, maintaining that a balanced wine is truly an art form.
Making our way back to the tasting room, Keller shares that the winery’s design was a collaboration involving the internationally esteemed Mexican architect Ricardo Legorreta, whose strutctures span the globe. We conclude our tour by toasting Keller’s 25th year of grape growing and tasting the two Chardonnays—our favorite being the 2009 Oro de Plata—both superb in structure and finish.
Wine production at the estate totals only 5,000 cases, under the supervision of consulting winemaker Alex Holman, whose résumé includes a stint at Paul Hobbs. While the production is limited, Keller notes that allocations of both varietals are reserved for the Peninsula Hotels group, as a private label offered on its wine lists worldwide.
Though her father is unable to join our tour, Keller notes how his encouragement has aided her success in putting this once-private estate on the award-winning Wine Country map.
“My father is my inspiration, as he continues each day to make it better than the previous one. Knowing that I have his support, eyes, patience, and guidance has helped me be a better person, who understands that life is better lived if you love what you do.”
The tasting room at Keller Estate is open Friday through Sunday. 5875 Lakeville Hwy., Petaluma, (707) 765-2117, kellerestate.com.