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The Boss

TO KALON VINEYARD STANDS OUT AS A NAPA ICON

 

 

 

WHEN ROBERT MONDAVI BROKE AWAY FROM his family to start his own winery in the Napa Valley, he made himself at home in one of the region's historic vineyards.

Located in Oakville, California, the To Kalon Vineyard was regarded as one of Napa's fi nest almost from the start, when pioneer Hamilton Walker Crabb planted it in 1868. The 130 acres of vines included more than 400 grape varieties, featuring cuttings of noble wine grapes that Crabb had brought in from Europe.

Crabb named the vineyard To Kalon, adopting a Greek word that means "the good" or "the highest beauty," but was also known to refer to it as the boss vineyard. Mondavi was so taken with the site that he systematically began reassembling the old Crabb estate, building from his original purchase of 11.6 acres. Today, Robert

Mondavi Winery owns 450 acres of To Kalon. Its neighbour, Opus One, which was created by a partnership between the Mondavi family and Baron Philippe de Rothschild of Bordeaux's Château Mouton-Rothschild, controls 83 acres and independent grower Becksto er Vineyards farms 89 acres of the vineyard.

"We're close to celebrating Mr. Mondavi's legacy with this exceptional vineyard" GENEVIÈVE JANSSENS

The Oakville Station, an outpost of the University of California at Davis, possesses 40 acres of the original estate for its clinical trials and research.

To Kalon has shaped and informed winemaking practices at Mondavi winery since the beginning, but it's only recently that the team has looked to take full advantage of the vineyard's potential.

In 2001, the state-of-the-art To Kalon Fermentation Cellar was unveiled. Among its many winemaking tools and toys are 56 largeformat oak fermenters used exclusively for Mondavi's reserve and vineyard-designated Cabernet Sauvignons. The oak helps to produce more elegant and polished wines than stainless steel or concrete tanks.

More recently, the varieties of grapes planted have been reduced to those that make the very best wine from To Kalon, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc. Viognier, Syrah and other cultivars were systematically pulled out.

Geneviève Janssens, who has served as director of winemaking at the winery since 1997, says the goal is to produce the iconic Robert Mondavi Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve exclusively with grapes from the To Kalon Vineyard.

"Mr. Mondavi always wanted the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve to reflect the best barrels of the vintage," she explained, referring to the celebrated wine that retails for $150 per bottle in Canada. "We now believe that we're getting to the point that this special vineyard represents the best."

As Janssens said, as the winemaking team was finalizing the blend of the 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, there was a strong possibility that the finished wine could be done as a To Kalon single vineyard.

"Maybe the 2011… maybe the 2012," she said. "We are getting there. We're close to celebrating Mr. Mondavi's legacy with this exceptional vineyard."

 



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