A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit brought by Napa winery The Vineyard House against Constellation Brands over the To Kalon Vineyard trademark. Constellation’s motion to dismiss was granted June 27 by U.S. District Court Judge Yvonne Gonzalez Rogers, though The Vineyard House, led by Jeremy Nickel, has the opportunity to amend its complaint.
The Vineyard House claims that Constellation subsidiary Robert Mondavi Corporation fraudulently obtained a trademark of To Kalon and that Constellation has marketed it deceptively. Nickel, son of the late Far Niente founder Gil Nickel, also contends that a portion of The Vineyard House property is part of the original To Kalon Vineyard, planted by Hamilton Walker Crabb in the 19th century, and thus should be entitled to use the name for its own purposes.
Historic documents suggest that The Vineyard House sits on Crabb’s estate, but not on the original To Kalon Vineyard.
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Meanwhile, Constellation is launching a new high-end Napa wine under the To Kalon brand in September. That adds to the tension between To Kalon as a brand and as a historic vineyard.
Robert Mondavi trademarked "To Kalon" in 1988 and "To Kalon Vineyard" in 1994. In 2000, vineyard magnate Andy Beckstoffer, who owns a portion of To Kalon Vineyard, began selling the fruit as To Kalon to vintners, including Fred Schrader. Mondavi sued Schrader Cellars in 2002 for putting To Kalon on its labels.
Beckstoffer countersued, arguing that Mondavi was misleading consumers by including grapes from vineyards that were not part of the original To Kalon Vineyard in wines with the name on their label. Beckstoffer also claimed that Mondavi had fraudulently obtained the trademark. The case eventually was settled, and Beckstoffer was granted rights to use To Kalon on wines from his portion of the vineyards.