If you've noticed a proliferation of highly rated Napa Cabernets, here's one reason why: The subdivision of Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard in Oakville has become the source of more and more Cabernets and, consequently, more and more highly rated wines.
The 81-acre vineyard was the grape source for 18 different bottlings in 2008, and likely 19 in 2009. In 2001, only four wines carried the To Kalon designation.
Robert Mondavi Winery is the largest owner of the original To Kalon property. Mondavi vineyard designated its Reserve Fumé Blanc, and has made a To Kalon Cabernet on occasion. But most of the time the Cabernet goes into the Mondavi Reserve Cabernet bottling, which can range from 50 to 80 percent To Kalon grapes.
To Kalon is the source of some of Napa's highest-rated wines. All but two of the 2008 bottlings were rated 90 points or higher, and a handful eclipsed 95 points. No less than nine To Kalon 2009s have earned classic ratings thus far. Schrader is the largest buyer of To Kalon Cabernet, using about 10 acres of the vineyard and producing five different bottlings in most years.
To Kalon Cabernet is expensive, to be sure. Vintners pay 100 times their bottle price per ton of grapes, so a $175 bottle means the vintner paid $17,500 a ton. Paul Hobbs once paid $28,500 a ton to make a $285 bottle of Cabernet.
The parceling of the Beckstoffer Georges III vineyard in Rutherford is undergoing a similar subdivision. This year owner Andy Beckstoffer expects 11 different Georges III designations. The property, named after Georges de Latour, the founder of Beaulieu Vineyard, was once one of BV's top vineyards. It's 270 acres planted to Cabernet, with 20 percent, or 54 acres, of what Beckstoffer calls "sweet spots," where quality rises above other portions of the vineyard.
Beckstoffer, among others, expects that Napa's best and largest vineyards will continue to be further parceled into small-lot wines. When the quality reaches the level of the sweet spots, it pays for both the vineyard owner and the vintner.
It's a trend that is growing among Pinot Noir vineyards as well. And it explains why the number of high-quality bottlings of California wine will continue to rise, whether the number of acres under vine does or not.
Mike Gries — Cedar Rapids, Iowa — August 24, 2012 1:23pm ET
James Laube — Napa, CA — August 24, 2012 1:33pm ET
John Percun — Sevenhills, Ohio USA — August 24, 2012 5:21pm ET
Jeff Ames — Napa, ca — August 25, 2012 11:45pm ET
Eric Hall — Healdsburg, CA — August 26, 2012 5:23pm ET
Louis Robichaux — Highland Village, Texas — August 27, 2012 1:52pm ET
David Nelson — CA — August 27, 2012 3:40pm ET
Jeff Ames — Napa, ca — August 27, 2012 5:07pm ET
Jeff Ames — Napa, ca — August 27, 2012 5:16pm ET
David Nelson — CA — August 27, 2012 6:54pm ET
Brad Paulsen — Saratoga, CA — August 29, 2012 7:04pm ET
Andy Beckstoffer — rutherford,ca — September 5, 2012 3:59pm ET
Debra Patterson — Libertyville, IL — September 7, 2012 9:37pm ET
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