Through the Grape Vine

In Napa Valley, we have such interesting weather that I honestly believe the region stands amongst the best in the world for producing incredible wines. Our proximity to the Pacific Ocean allows for a distinctive climate during the growing season consisting of warm days and cool evenings. In the summer months we see heavy fog in the morning hours, which protects the fruit from dehydration during the hot days. Winter and spring rainfall levels determine the viticultural practices that are needed in each vineyard throughout California’s renowned wine country. But regardless of where the wine is produced, a complete and comprehensive relationship must exist between viticulturalists and winemakers to nurture the vineyards all the way up to picking.

Napa Valley vintages are evolving with time and each year I recognize superb qualities. Although I can’t claim an absolute favorite, I do have cherished memories that include the long, cool growing season we saw in 1991. This allowed winemakers the luxury to let the fruit hang and develop flavors in the skin. We had a long harvest season so it was a very rewarding vintage that tastes excellent today.

On the contrary, 1999 was the coolest year of the decade, until the end of September, when it became the hottest. The pace of the harvest that year changed from one day to the next, rapidly transitioning from slowly to very fast. We harvested 60 percent of our crop in only 10 days in late September, something that had never been done before.  We produced beautiful wines that are showing well right now.

In 2004, we had a moderately rainy, warm winter followed by a dry spring, giving an early start to the growing season. Temperatures throughout the summer were relatively mild with fog lingering until late morning. This condition fostered high quality grapes. The harvest finished earlier than usual with no bad weather events, again producing an outstanding tasting wine.

The beauty of our To Kalon vineyard is that it is located in Oakville Appellation, in the center of Napa Valley. It is a highly recognized region for producing great Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc.

Here are some of the standouts that I have been indulging in lately.

Genevieve Janssens
Director of Winemaking at Robert Mondavi Winery

Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve
Napa Valley

I adore all of the Robert Mondavi wines, but I must admit a special place in my heart for the To Kalon Vineyard varietals. With some vineyards that were planted in 1945, ’55, and in the ’70s, the age of the vineyard gives the grapes uniqueness in depth and complexity. This was one of Mr. Mondavi’s favorite varieties as well, and it leaves me with fond memories of the great master.

The 1999 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve tastes very fresh and young at the present time. It reflects the brightness of the vintage. It posses an engaging nose with a wonderful mature black olive and dark ripe blackberry aromas woven with hints of cigar ash and spicy notes.

The structure is very powerful with soft tannins adding breadth to the lengthy finish. The wine is also smooth and balanced, leaving a wonderful memory.

Fumé Blanc Reserve
To Kalon Vineyard

Quality is always my motto when considering my favorite wines. Mr. Mondavi’s recommendation was to “Follow your passion. Pour your heart and soul into it. And settle for nothing less than excellence.” For me, this Fumé Blanc Reserve is a perfect depiction of that motto. In 2000, we built a special cellar that houses both this wine along with the Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve.

It is a sophisticated wine that demonstrates the power and grace of To Kalon Vineyard’s terroir. It is a complex, multilayered interplay of floral-tinged fruit aromas and flavors supported by underlying minerality and crisp acids.

Cabernet Sauvignon
Oakville, Napa Valley

Overall, 2005 was significantly cooler than usual. This cool weather brought seductive aromas of juicy berries mingled with violets and earthy black truffle.

In the mouth, muscular tannins are sheathed in rich fruit–blackberry and plum interwoven with subtle oak and a touch of chocolate on the long finish. This is a wine of harmony and generosity with excellent density.