Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

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Roy Piper
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Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#1 Post by Roy Piper » September 11th, 2019, 2:30 pm

When I think of “terroir” in Napa, the vineyard that most comes to mind is ToKalon, in Oakville. It is clearly one of the best vineyards and certainly the biggest name. No one doubts its quality. A bottle of wine with the name “ToKalon” on it carries consistently higher prices than any other large vineyard in the valley.

It is the premium economics of that vineyard that has now embroiling several parties in lawsuits and acrimony. These lawsuits are challenging not just the boundaries of that vineyard, but also setting the stage for legal challenges to the whole concept of “terroir” and “branding” that could change American wine forever, in my opinion.

Andy Beckstoffer and Mondavi Corp (now owned by Constellation Brands) had a legal battle in 2002 over the name use of ToKalon. After a lot of back and forth they settled upon each of them using the name, even though Mondavi owned the trademark. But there was another part of their agreement announcement, now forgotten…

“As part of the settlement, Mondavi will join Andy Beckstoffer in his efforts to establish a Registry of Historic Napa Valley Vineyards that maps out and distinguishes the local vineyards originated by various Napa Valley pioneers. The registry, according to Beckstoffer, will pay homage to Napa's agricultural history and make certain that disputes like this won't happen in the future.”

As far as I can tell, they never followed through. And this has set the stage for an end-game dispute just getting underway involving several parties with wide-ranging implications.

Gil Nickel, the founder of Far Niente Winery, the gorgeous winery/cave/tasting room on the Stelling alluvial fan in south-Oakville, is as responsible for the turnaround in super-high end wine as anyone in Napa. He restored the old winery, built the first new Napa caves in generations, and was a great friend to the valley. Far Niente was, in my opinion, the first modern winery that set the stage for ultra-high end estate wines that are commonplace now; estate fruit, beautiful facility, history, good people, high prices.

When he died in 2003, the winery ownership proceeds were distributed to the Far Niente employees and his family. Jeremy Nickel received a portion of the epic Stelling Vineyard in Oakville. Anyone who has ever driven to Harlan Estate has driven right by it, as it is surrounded on three sides by Harlan vineyards.

Jeremy named his new property “The Vineyard House” and started his own brand in 2005 on its 43 acres, 17 of which he deems to be “ToKalon.” Earlier this year, Nickel began a lawsuit against Constellation Brands over the use of the trademark “ToKalon.” In the lawsuit documents (which are available publicly) he claims….
Screenshot #1.png

Jeremy has maps showing his property was once labeled as ToKalon, as it was owned by Crabb. Yet in the National Registry nomination, which he opposes, it is pointed out his property was never planted and thus should not be included in the boundary:

“Aerial photography from 1942, 1948, and 1958 and a 1950 Stelling Vineyard map show no vines planted on this parcel. The first vines on this parcel were planted by Doug Stelling and his business partners circa 1980.”

Also, ToKalon is an entirely different soil from Stelling, from a different river and a different alluvial fan. They are not contiguous. ToKalon is flat. Nickel’s part of Stelling is on an upward slope. Stelling is nothing to sneeze at, btw. Parts of it are world class. If it were me, I would be trying to promote the Stelling name rather than add any parts of Stelling to ToKalon. Stelling is a great vineyard long-overdue for increased promotion. In the end though, my view as a spectator is not a legal argument.

For Jeremy to win, he will need to convince various government agencies that ToKalon (TK) should not be a “trademark” at all, but a historic location once under a former owner, which includes his property. And that all parts of that historic location, whether unified or broken into pieces, whether under original ownership or not, whether under vine or not, have the right to carry the name ToKalon.
Screenshot #2.png

Constellation’s legal view is that TK has never been a location at all, but has always been a brand name and nothing more, as their complaint below indicates…
Scrrenshot #3.png

Jeremy is against the National Register nomination Graeme MacDonald is working on to identify the boundaries of historic ToKalon because he believes a portion of his own property should have been included in the historic boundary.

Then again, some of what is currently Constellation’s TK was also not part of the original boundary. They are also opposing the National Register nomination, even though when they settled with Andy Beckstoffer, Mondavi Corp had promised to do this very thing.

Jeremy has been busy with the trademark office regarding ToKalon, as well. Below is a list of his proposed trademarks. Not only are there many proposed trademarks using the TK moniker but other vital terms such as “First Growth” and “Grand Cru” in association with it. Constellation is fighting this, of course.
Trademarks.png

Nickel has even started a ToKalon Farms designation. In Florida. Calling it a “Napa Food & Wine Experience”, he is bringing the Napa lifestyle to Florida, via The Vineyard House brand. ToKalon keeps getting bigger and bigger. Below is his video.



I see longer-range issues to all of this. If Nickel gets the Constellation trademark overturned, I can see a similar outcome eventually to what happened with the Stags Leap District, and more than anything, this is what worries me personally.

Originally, SLD was meant to be a small portion of the current AVA boundary, but many other vineyards claimed in court they were also SLD based on general geography and soils, so by the time the dust settled, the courts just allowed anyone who petitioned to use the name Stags Leap, regardless of terroir or wine quality from the areas in question. Courts do not understand concepts like “terroir.” So if Nickel wins, then think of the other properties between Constellation’s TK and Jeremy’s portion that might contemplate the same argument? This might have no end.

Caught in the middle is Graeme and his family. MacDonald does not use the TK name on its label and as far as I know does not intend to, but he has soils that are unequivocally original ToKalon going back since the 19th century. No one doubts that. But that does not mean he would be allowed to say that, should Constellation decide to go to the mattresses.
screenshot 5.png

Mondavi (now Constellation), who since 1966 has used the majority of the grapes from the family vineyard in its Reserve and ToKalon Cabernet wines, has not sued Graeme, but is opposing the boundary proposal with The State Preservation Office, requiring Graeme to expend a lot of time and energy on legal petitions. I have no idea how that, or this whole argument, will end.

Yet if Constellation wins I also see issues, as a name associated with a place and certain quality will now be their sole domain to do with what they please.

Where will this go?

Right now I can’t go a day without seeing a new commercial from Constellation. Using an actor who looks like Robert Mondavi, it shows him in the TK cellar and in the TK fermentation room, happily fermenting away. But the commercial is for Woodbridge, their million-case everyday brand, mostly from The Central Coast. No ToKalon fruit has ever gone into Woodbridge, as far as I know. Robert Mondavi, who spent most of his life supporting and promoting Napa, is now mostly an image being used to sell a $5-10 brand made from outside Napa. See for yourself.


This has all happened before. In the 1960s Heublein bought Inglenook. By the 1970s Inglenook ceased to be a “place” in Rutherford. It became a giant brand, mostly of lower-priced wines. It took Francis Ford Coppola decades to turn that image of the old Inglenook estate around and even now it is an uphill struggle.

Constellation owns the old Heublein, btw.

And what does Constellation say in their complaint about how they see ToKalon? And what might become of it if they win?
Screenshot #4.png

I for one do not look forward to the possibility of seeing ToKalon “Central Coast Pinot Noir,” $5.49 at Target, or ToKalon “Languedoc” Red Wine, $9.99 at Costco, in my future. They claim they have the right to do this, quite explicitly, although they also say in the very next sentence they have “no plans to produce ToKalon wines anywhere other than their Oakville facility.” But that wording has two big loopholes. First, “no plans” means no “current” plans. It makes no promises about the future. Second, they could easily import the grapes from somewhere else and make them in Oakville. So theoretically, they could make a ToKalon “ToKalon Vineyard” Red Wine, Lodi, if they wanted.

Would they actually do this? If it were Robert Mondavi answering the question, I think the answer would certainly be “No.” But Constellation is a large public company with $3 billion in wine sales that reports quarterly earnings and sales. If TKWC starts off as a high-end brand and is successful, the temptation to “grow the brand” may become irresistible. After all, look at Inglenook. Or Woodbridge.

I worry if this sets precedent, we may see many more names we associate with Napa (and even non-Napa) terroirs become brand names, instead of places, with lawyers suing anyone who dares discuss terroir (outside their legally approved and protected) definition. What will be left of The Napa Valley when it ceases to be a place and instead becomes a brand, devoid of any link to soil or geography? I worry we may someday find out.
Last edited by Roy Piper on September 11th, 2019, 4:32 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon

#2 Post by mark rudner » September 11th, 2019, 2:50 pm

thanks for the awesome info and the effort it took to post that roy [cheers.gif]

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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#3 Post by Markus S » September 11th, 2019, 3:11 pm

Thanks for that lengthy and well put-together post. I think this is the kind of thing that turns people off of Napa. It just seems money-begets-money and it's all about pumping up the marketing.
Funny you mention Inglenook, as I always thought of them as a marketing tool of lower-priced (and not very good) wines, never realizing they had a great heritage that was squandered until later.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#4 Post by Alan Rath » September 11th, 2019, 3:23 pm

Informative post, Roy, but is it really so important to those of us here? None of use are buying (or would buy) $5.49 ToKalon Central Coast Pinot. I don't buy anything with a "ToKalon" name, and frankly, at this point I would hope that smart growers and marketers would actually steer clear of that name just because of the confusion brought on by the corporate battles you outline. Two of the prime producers at the center of ToKalon don't even use the name (Detert and MacDonald).

I don't like the idea of mega-companies trademarking meaningful local names for their sleazy marketing purposes, but it happens (witness Delaware North claiming the Ahwahnee name, along with others - thankfully rescinded recently). I hope it doesn't happen in this case, but in any event, it won't change the actual source of what's in a bottle. Educated buyers will pay more attention to what producers tell us about the land, the vines, and the wine, than to the name on a label.

When Napa allowed "The Prisoner" to establish a large, prominent presence right on Highway 29, it gave up any claim to market itself as a region of unique and highest quality wines.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#5 Post by Jason T » September 11th, 2019, 3:32 pm

Incredibly insightful, if frustrating.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#6 Post by Roy Piper » September 11th, 2019, 3:38 pm

Alan, I think it is important for several reasons...

1. It could lead to Constellation taking action against anyone (other than itself) from using the ToKalon name, even in marketing conversation, maybe even in print, even if the land was known as ToKalon long before the company ever existed.

2. They could do to the name what Heubelin did to Inglenook. Take the greatest name in Napa and dilute it to the point where no one remembers it was ever great.

3. Could lead to other companies doing the same with their vineyards, thus making terroir a brand instead of a place.

4. Could lead to many other vineyards claiming they are ToKalon. I can see two or more square miles of Oakville making a claim on this.

I think this does affect people here. How much Schrader ToKalon do people on this board have in their cellars? Millions worth? What happens to the value of those bottles if/when the name is associated with all sorts of things and places? And is "terroir" not an issue to people here?

I disagree that Napa "gave up any claim to market itself as a region of unique and highest quality wines" when they allowed The Prisoner to set up shop. First, how exactly could they stop them? Reject it because all the wines are not from Napa? Some of The Prisoner wines are from Napa and seven of them price over $40 and one over $100. Not sure that argument legally or logically holds water. There is a LOT of Bordeaux for sale out there between $10-19, less than the price of The Prisoner.
Last edited by Roy Piper on September 11th, 2019, 3:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#7 Post by Craig G » September 11th, 2019, 3:41 pm

Interesting. Just a few hours ago I received a letter from Alex and Graeme detailing their discussion with Constellation on this topic. Apparently they were offered the opportunity to use the name ToKalon if they agreed that it was not a place, and they rejected it. Their take was “Our integrity is not for sale.”

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Well...

#8 Post by TomHill » September 11th, 2019, 3:53 pm

Well...along these lines..I’ve been telling Carole that she & Steve should TM Tribidrag. At one time, HopKiln had the TM to Primitivo.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#9 Post by Alan Rath » September 11th, 2019, 4:33 pm

Roy Piper wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 3:38 pm
Alan, I think it is important for several reasons...

1. It could lead to Constellation taking action against anyone (other than itself) from using the ToKalon name, even in marketing conversation, maybe even in print, even if the land was known as ToKalon long before the company ever existed.

2. They could do to the name what Heubelin did to Inglenook. Take the greatest name in Napa and dilute it to the point where no one remembers it was ever great.

3. Could lead to other companies doing the same with their vineyards, thus making terroir a brand instead of a place.

4. Could lead to many other vineyards claiming they are ToKalon. I can see two or more square miles of Oakville making a claim on this.

I think this does affect people here. How much Schrader ToKalon do people on this board have in their cellars? Millions worth? What happens to the value of those bottles if/when the name is associated with all sorts of things and places? And is "terroir" not an issue to people here?

I disagree that Napa "gave up any claim to market itself as a region of unique and highest quality wines" when they allowed The Prisoner to set up shop. First, how exactly could they stop them? Reject it because all the wines are not from Napa? Some of The Prisoner wines are from Napa and seven of them price over $40 and one over $100. Not sure that argument legally or logically holds water. There is a LOT of Bordeaux for sale out there between $10-19, less than the price of The Prisoner.
I understand, and am sympathetic. I obviously hope that Constellation doesn't prevail in this. But I also wonder if the ToKalon name has already been diluted by so much overuse. The few small producers who could or would use it should have enough of a story to tell that a name in and of itself should hopefully not make that much difference. If it were me, I would see the writing on the wall regardless of the outcome with Constellation, start moving away from the name, and focus on the history of the land and its vineyards, the people who established those vineyards, the vines, and the wine itself. I don't buy Detert because it's "ToKalon", I've bought because it's Detert, and the family history, the vines, the wines, mean something to me.

This article, linked in the recent Detert thread, is useful to have here:

https://www.guildsomm.com/public_conten ... n-vineyard

It's all a bit confusing, frankly.

And, once again, I hope that Constellation doesn't prevail, it would be a travesty to use such a historical name for their newly intended purpose, regardless if it is attached to a particular plot of land, or was always a broader label.

And I still think having "The Prisoner" prominently greeting you along 29 is an embarrassment ;)
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#10 Post by Roy Piper » September 11th, 2019, 4:39 pm

Constellation now owns The Prisoner too. And they own Franciscan, who occupied it previously.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#11 Post by Alan Rath » September 11th, 2019, 4:48 pm

Kind of my point.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#12 Post by GregT » September 11th, 2019, 5:17 pm

I don't see how they can ever claim that To Kalon was just a brand and had nothing to do with place. Mondavi and Beckstoffer did not argue because of a brand. It's a place, even if the current owner of the name wants to debase it. A court does not need to understand terroir to understand that.

However, determining the exact boundaries is another issue. Is it all the land that Crabb owned or just what was originally planted or what Mondavi and others planted or anything that could be planted within the old boundaries?

It won't matter to the price of any Schrader in anyone's cellar if the name becomes akin to Woodbridge. People who buy that wine won't really care and if they do, they're pretty dumb.

As for Mondavi - he was indeed instrumental in promoting not only Napa, but wine itself in the US and for a small guy is nonetheless a towering figure. But Woodbridge is what made him a lot of money, and he wasn't so proud that he wouldn't produce a wine for the masses.

The dispute doesn't help anyone though. The name only matters to the people who care. For the mass market, Constellation could start a brand called Constellation and within a few years that would probably be worth as much as To Kalon. "The Prisoner" didn't have any antecedent and it seems to be doing OK. Seems dumb to devalue something that matters to the wine people who care. Those people won't be tempted by the name plastered on something else, whereas the people who don't know it will have to be instructed. Just seems like a dumb waste of a corporate asset.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#13 Post by Bdklein » September 11th, 2019, 5:26 pm

Alan Rath wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 3:23 pm
Informative post, Roy, but is it really so important to those of us here? None of use are buying (or would buy) $5.49 ToKalon Central Coast Pinot. I don't buy anything with a "ToKalon" name, and frankly, at this point I would hope that smart growers and marketers would actually steer clear of that name just because of the confusion brought on by the corporate battles you outline. Two of the prime producers at the center of ToKalon don't even use the name (Detert and MacDonald).

I don't like the idea of mega-companies trademarking meaningful local names for their sleazy marketing purposes, but it happens (witness Delaware North claiming the Ahwahnee name, along with others - thankfully rescinded recently). I hope it doesn't happen in this case, but in any event, it won't change the actual source of what's in a bottle. Educated buyers will pay more attention to what producers tell us about the land, the vines, and the wine, than to the name on a label.

When Napa allowed "The Prisoner" to establish a large, prominent presence right on Highway 29, it gave up any claim to market itself as a region of unique and highest quality wines.
I’d buy the $5.49 ToKalon wine!!!
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#14 Post by Markus S » September 11th, 2019, 5:42 pm

Roy Piper wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 3:38 pm
Alan, I think it is important for several reasons...

1. ... even if the land was known as ToKalon long before the company ever existed.
This doesn't seem to be a problem in the real world, remember California used to be called "Mexico" and Israel, "Palestine". Seems once an entity takes over a place they can do whatever they want with it without repercussion.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#15 Post by Anton D » September 11th, 2019, 5:50 pm

Alan Rath wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 3:23 pm


When Napa allowed "The Prisoner" to establish a large, prominent presence right on Highway 29, it gave up any claim to market itself as a region of unique and highest quality wines.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#16 Post by Anton D » September 11th, 2019, 5:50 pm

Bdklein wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 5:26 pm
Alan Rath wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 3:23 pm
Informative post, Roy, but is it really so important to those of us here? None of use are buying (or would buy) $5.49 ToKalon Central Coast Pinot. I don't buy anything with a "ToKalon" name, and frankly, at this point I would hope that smart growers and marketers would actually steer clear of that name just because of the confusion brought on by the corporate battles you outline. Two of the prime producers at the center of ToKalon don't even use the name (Detert and MacDonald).

I don't like the idea of mega-companies trademarking meaningful local names for their sleazy marketing purposes, but it happens (witness Delaware North claiming the Ahwahnee name, along with others - thankfully rescinded recently). I hope it doesn't happen in this case, but in any event, it won't change the actual source of what's in a bottle. Educated buyers will pay more attention to what producers tell us about the land, the vines, and the wine, than to the name on a label.

When Napa allowed "The Prisoner" to establish a large, prominent presence right on Highway 29, it gave up any claim to market itself as a region of unique and highest quality wines.
I’d buy the $5.49 ToKalon wine!!!
It's gotta be great, right? I mean, it says To Kalon on it!
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#17 Post by Anton D » September 11th, 2019, 5:54 pm

I've posted him before, but...

This is our dog, To Kalon, guarding some fine Roadhouse wine from the pesky coyote. Can he keep the name?

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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#18 Post by Jud Reis » September 11th, 2019, 6:22 pm

That is an awfully cute dog!

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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#19 Post by AlexS » September 11th, 2019, 6:29 pm

Roy Piper wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 2:30 pm
When I think of “terroir” in Napa, the vineyard that most comes to mind is ToKalon, in Oakville. It is clearly one of the best vineyards and certainly the biggest name. No one doubts its quality. A bottle of wine with the name “ToKalon” on it carries consistently higher prices than any other large vineyard in the valley.

It is the premium economics of that vineyard that has now embroiling several parties in lawsuits and acrimony. These lawsuits are challenging not just the boundaries of that vineyard, but also setting the stage for legal challenges to the whole concept of “terroir” and “branding” that could change American wine forever, in my opinion.

Andy Beckstoffer and Mondavi Corp (now owned by Constellation Brands) had a legal battle in 2002 over the name use of ToKalon. After a lot of back and forth they settled upon each of them using the name, even though Mondavi owned the trademark. But there was another part of their agreement announcement, now forgotten…

“As part of the settlement, Mondavi will join Andy Beckstoffer in his efforts to establish a Registry of Historic Napa Valley Vineyards that maps out and distinguishes the local vineyards originated by various Napa Valley pioneers. The registry, according to Beckstoffer, will pay homage to Napa's agricultural history and make certain that disputes like this won't happen in the future.”

As far as I can tell, they never followed through. And this has set the stage for an end-game dispute just getting underway involving several parties with wide-ranging implications.

Gil Nickel, the founder of Far Niente Winery, the gorgeous winery/cave/tasting room on the Stelling alluvial fan in south-Oakville, is as responsible for the turnaround in super-high end wine as anyone in Napa. He restored the old winery, built the first new Napa caves in generations, and was a great friend to the valley. Far Niente was, in my opinion, the first modern winery that set the stage for ultra-high end estate wines that are commonplace now; estate fruit, beautiful facility, history, good people, high prices.

When he died in 2003, the winery ownership proceeds were distributed to the Far Niente employees and his family. Jeremy Nickel received a portion of the epic Stelling Vineyard in Oakville. Anyone who has ever driven to Harlan Estate has driven right by it, as it is surrounded on three sides by Harlan vineyards.

Jeremy named his new property “The Vineyard House” and started his own brand in 2005 on its 43 acres, 17 of which he deems to be “ToKalon.” Earlier this year, Nickel began a lawsuit against Constellation Brands over the use of the trademark “ToKalon.” In the lawsuit documents (which are available publicly) he claims….

Screenshot #1.png


Jeremy has maps showing his property was once labeled as ToKalon, as it was owned by Crabb. Yet in the National Registry nomination, which he opposes, it is pointed out his property was never planted and thus should not be included in the boundary:

“Aerial photography from 1942, 1948, and 1958 and a 1950 Stelling Vineyard map show no vines planted on this parcel. The first vines on this parcel were planted by Doug Stelling and his business partners circa 1980.”

Also, ToKalon is an entirely different soil from Stelling, from a different river and a different alluvial fan. They are not contiguous. ToKalon is flat. Nickel’s part of Stelling is on an upward slope. Stelling is nothing to sneeze at, btw. Parts of it are world class. If it were me, I would be trying to promote the Stelling name rather than add any parts of Stelling to ToKalon. Stelling is a great vineyard long-overdue for increased promotion. In the end though, my view as a spectator is not a legal argument.

For Jeremy to win, he will need to convince various government agencies that ToKalon (TK) should not be a “trademark” at all, but a historic location once under a former owner, which includes his property. And that all parts of that historic location, whether unified or broken into pieces, whether under original ownership or not, whether under vine or not, have the right to carry the name ToKalon.

Screenshot #2.png


Constellation’s legal view is that TK has never been a location at all, but has always been a brand name and nothing more, as their complaint below indicates…
Scrrenshot #3.png


Jeremy is against the National Register nomination Graeme MacDonald is working on to identify the boundaries of historic ToKalon because he believes a portion of his own property should have been included in the historic boundary.

Then again, some of what is currently Constellation’s TK was also not part of the original boundary. They are also opposing the National Register nomination, even though when they settled with Andy Beckstoffer, Mondavi Corp had promised to do this very thing.

Jeremy has been busy with the trademark office regarding ToKalon, as well. Below is a list of his proposed trademarks. Not only are there many proposed trademarks using the TK moniker but other vital terms such as “First Growth” and “Grand Cru” in association with it. Constellation is fighting this, of course.

Trademarks.png


Nickel has even started a ToKalon Farms designation. In Florida. Calling it a “Napa Food & Wine Experience”, he is bringing the Napa lifestyle to Florida, via The Vineyard House brand. ToKalon keeps getting bigger and bigger. Below is his video.



I see longer-range issues to all of this. If Nickel gets the Constellation trademark overturned, I can see a similar outcome eventually to what happened with the Stags Leap District, and more than anything, this is what worries me personally.

Originally, SLD was meant to be a small portion of the current AVA boundary, but many other vineyards claimed in court they were also SLD based on general geography and soils, so by the time the dust settled, the courts just allowed anyone who petitioned to use the name Stags Leap, regardless of terroir or wine quality from the areas in question. Courts do not understand concepts like “terroir.” So if Nickel wins, then think of the other properties between Constellation’s TK and Jeremy’s portion that might contemplate the same argument? This might have no end.

Caught in the middle is Graeme and his family. MacDonald does not use the TK name on its label and as far as I know does not intend to, but he has soils that are unequivocally original ToKalon going back since the 19th century. No one doubts that. But that does not mean he would be allowed to say that, should Constellation decide to go to the mattresses.

screenshot 5.png


Mondavi (now Constellation), who since 1966 has used the majority of the grapes from the family vineyard in its Reserve and ToKalon Cabernet wines, has not sued Graeme, but is opposing the boundary proposal with The State Preservation Office, requiring Graeme to expend a lot of time and energy on legal petitions. I have no idea how that, or this whole argument, will end.

Yet if Constellation wins I also see issues, as a name associated with a place and certain quality will now be their sole domain to do with what they please.

Where will this go?

Right now I can’t go a day without seeing a new commercial from Constellation. Using an actor who looks like Robert Mondavi, it shows him in the TK cellar and in the TK fermentation room, happily fermenting away. But the commercial is for Woodbridge, their million-case everyday brand, mostly from The Central Coast. No ToKalon fruit has ever gone into Woodbridge, as far as I know. Robert Mondavi, who spent most of his life supporting and promoting Napa, is now mostly an image being used to sell a $5-10 brand made from outside Napa. See for yourself.


This has all happened before. In the 1960s Heublein bought Inglenook. By the 1970s Inglenook ceased to be a “place” in Rutherford. It became a giant brand, mostly of lower-priced wines. It took Francis Ford Coppola decades to turn that image of the old Inglenook estate around and even now it is an uphill struggle.

Constellation owns the old Heublein, btw.

And what does Constellation say in their complaint about how they see ToKalon? And what might become of it if they win?

Screenshot #4.png


I for one do not look forward to the possibility of seeing ToKalon “Central Coast Pinot Noir,” $5.49 at Target, or ToKalon “Languedoc” Red Wine, $9.99 at Costco, in my future. They claim they have the right to do this, quite explicitly, although they also say in the very next sentence they have “no plans to produce ToKalon wines anywhere other than their Oakville facility.” But that wording has two big loopholes. First, “no plans” means no “current” plans. It makes no promises about the future. Second, they could easily import the grapes from somewhere else and make them in Oakville. So theoretically, they could make a ToKalon “ToKalon Vineyard” Red Wine, Lodi, if they wanted.

Would they actually do this? If it were Robert Mondavi answering the question, I think the answer would certainly be “No.” But Constellation is a large public company with $3 billion in wine sales that reports quarterly earnings and sales. If TKWC starts off as a high-end brand and is successful, the temptation to “grow the brand” may become irresistible. After all, look at Inglenook. Or Woodbridge.

I worry if this sets precedent, we may see many more names we associate with Napa (and even non-Napa) terroirs become brand names, instead of places, with lawyers suing anyone who dares discuss terroir (outside their legally approved and protected) definition. What will be left of The Napa Valley when it ceases to be a place and instead becomes a brand, devoid of any link to soil or geography? I worry we may someday find out.
Why do you hate the free market? ;)

Awesome post tho, Roy - fantastic read and very much appreciate you taking the time!

[cheers.gif]
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#20 Post by Chris H. » September 11th, 2019, 6:36 pm

Really informative and thoughtful post Roy, I appreciate it!
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#21 Post by Ian S » September 11th, 2019, 7:10 pm

Could I plant a vine in my backyard and call it To Kalon East? deadhorse
Anton D wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 5:54 pm

This is our dog, To Kalon
Do you call him Toke for short? [snort.gif]
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#22 Post by brigcampbell » September 11th, 2019, 7:20 pm

Nickel was producing crap from tench, that's hard to do.

Seems like a money play.

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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#23 Post by Craig G » September 11th, 2019, 8:07 pm

Jud Reis wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 6:22 pm
That is an awfully cute dog!
That dog is crying out for a mullet.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#24 Post by Matt Mauldin » September 11th, 2019, 8:20 pm

Great post, Roy.

Just splitting hairs, but I think Woodbridge is mostly Central Valley fruit, not Central Coast. The two get crossed up in conversation more than one would expect.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#25 Post by ncostanzo1 » September 11th, 2019, 10:28 pm

Great post Roy! Thank you for taking the time to put it out there for everyone not in the know at this time.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#26 Post by George Chadwick » September 11th, 2019, 10:58 pm

I dunno, when I think of Bordeaux I think of the Chateaux, not the boundaries of St. Estephe. All I need to know about MacDonald is that it's MacDonald, from MacDonald grapes. If I owned a vineyard surrounded on three sides by Harlan I'd call it Chadwick, and that's all I'd put on the label. Monastery Block is Monastery Block whether or not there's a $6 Lodi Pinot called To Kalon. I don't see this issue affecting the great To Kalon wines. Roy, terrific well written and generous piece.

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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#27 Post by T. Williams » September 12th, 2019, 6:40 am

Anton D wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 5:54 pm
I've posted him before, but...

This is our dog, To Kalon, guarding some fine Roadhouse wine from the pesky coyote. Can he keep the name?

Image
I can’t wait to see you post a picture of the cease and desist letter from Constellation!

[rofl.gif]
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#28 Post by Jim F » September 12th, 2019, 8:14 am

I can only imagine all of the subplots vis a vis TK. I happened to notice last winter, perusing the PNV lots for fun, a lot for auction identified as Schrader Monastery Block. Same brand and wine maker, different grape source from Beckstoffer to what was/is what I thought was considered one of the best Mondavi blocks in TK, and from which their PNV lot often sourced from. How will the Schrader wine show, e.g., differently? What happens to Mondavi Reserve?, e.g., flesh it out more with non TK(vineyard) fruit?
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#29 Post by Richard Albert » September 12th, 2019, 8:31 am

Pipe dream time:
I was thinking of offering a one hit pipe branded "Tok Alone"
Now I am concerned there may be a lawsuit.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#30 Post by Hank Victor » September 12th, 2019, 9:29 am

I had to stop the Jeremy Nickel video half way it was so cringe worthy. If somebody had to ask what is wrong with wine and the industry I would show them that video. Coincidentally, I had a bottle of Nickel & Nickel Stelling Vineyard 03 this past April and it was great lol.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#31 Post by Chris Seiber » September 12th, 2019, 10:23 am

This is a minor point in the context of Roy's impressive post, but I don't really think anyone would want to use ToKalon to brand cheap bulk wine.

That name has zero meaning to 99% of people who buy cheap bulk wine, and the 1% who do know the name would know not to be confused by its usage on $8 Central Valley Merlot.

And as a brand name, it would be a terrible choice. Nobody would know how to pronounce it, it looks and sounds awkward, it sounds like it might be a pot reference, etc.

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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#32 Post by larry schaffer » September 12th, 2019, 10:34 am

Chris Seiber wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 10:23 am
This is a minor point in the context of Roy's impressive post, but I don't really think anyone would want to use ToKalon to brand cheap bulk wine.

That name has zero meaning to 99% of people who buy cheap bulk wine, and the 1% who do know the name would know not to be confused by its usage on $8 Central Valley Merlot.

And as a brand name, it would be a terrible choice. Nobody would know how to pronounce it, it looks and sounds awkward, it sounds like it might be a pot reference, etc.
Good points . . .

But a smart marketing company can 'create' the wonderful 'illusion' that any product associated with the name means that product is 'tied', directly or not, to some of the oldest and 'grandest' vines in Napa Valley, arguably the 'pinnacle' of wine production in the US . . .
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#33 Post by Jason T » September 12th, 2019, 12:31 pm

Hank Victor wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 9:29 am
I had to stop the Jeremy Nickel video half way it was so cringe worthy. If somebody had to ask what is wrong with wine and the industry I would show them that video. Coincidentally, I had a bottle of Nickel & Nickel Stelling Vineyard 03 this past April and it was great lol.
Was it the part where guys on horses were jousting?
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#34 Post by Michael Francis » September 12th, 2019, 1:51 pm

Chris Seiber wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 10:23 am
This is a minor point in the context of Roy's impressive post, but I don't really think anyone would want to use ToKalon to brand cheap bulk wine.

That name has zero meaning to 99% of people who buy cheap bulk wine, and the 1% who do know the name would know not to be confused by its usage on $8 Central Valley Merlot.

And as a brand name, it would be a terrible choice. Nobody would know how to pronounce it, it looks and sounds awkward, it sounds like it might be a pot reference, etc.
I think it is just the concept is cause for concern. What if Constellation made a wine 60/40 To Kalon, but did not discuss percentages, 40/60 or 20/80. It is more concerning to believe and assume wines are made with grapes from an elite vineyard when they are not. At what point are educated wine buyers getting duped? This is the bigger concern than the 5.99 To Kalon Coastal. We can all say we'll only buy what we like, but at a restaurant or a one off purchase etc., the To Kalon designation could be a falsely labeled decision maker. When anyone here sees To Kalon on the bottle, we've historically trusted the source of the grapes. Apparently, that may not be an accurate or reasonable assumption.

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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#35 Post by John Morris » September 12th, 2019, 2:20 pm

FYI, the suit was flagged back in March in another thread (Looks like the To Kalon Trademark saga continues... new lawsuit against Constellation/Mondavi), though with nothing like the detail Roy has provided.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#36 Post by BenjaminL » September 12th, 2019, 3:10 pm

Bat Country! Did you see what God did to our To Kalon, man?

COPY OF A LETTER I RECEIVED FROM CONSTELLATION:

Hi ,

Thank you for your interest in our wines. As we continue to build out our website we will notify you of new information as it becomes available. The first wine in our portfolio, Highest Beauty, will be available for sale beginning in September 2019.

Crafted from the 2016 Vintage and grown in gravelly soils nestled in the Mayacamas foothills, Highest Beauty is an excellent wine. Dark, rich, and indulgent, the wine combines 150 years of tradition with a modern aesthetic under the expert hand of renowned winemaker Andy Erickson.

Please feel free to email us with any questions you may have as we are here to help.

Sincerely,

The Team at To Kalon Vineyard Company
ToKalonVineyardCompany.com
707-225-9398
Last edited by BenjaminL on September 12th, 2019, 3:53 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#37 Post by John Morris » September 12th, 2019, 3:44 pm

Ben -- The etiquette on Berserkers is to not pitch one's own products in the way you just did. We have a number of people in the business -- winemakers, retailers, importers -- who lend their knowledge, but they're very good about avoiding the kind of shameless pitch you just made. But I realize you haven't posted a lot, so you may not have realized the culture here.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#38 Post by Tom G l a s g o w » September 12th, 2019, 3:46 pm

John Morris wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 3:44 pm
Ben -- The etiquette on Berserkers is to not pitch one's own products in the way you just did. We have a number of people in the business -- winemakers, retailers, importers -- who lend their knowledge, but they're very good about avoiding the kind of shameless pitch you just made. But I realize you haven't posted a lot, so you may not have realized the culture here.
He forgot the ITB label too.

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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#39 Post by BenjaminL » September 12th, 2019, 3:53 pm

Hey John,
Sorry, that wasn't my product, it's a letter I received from constellation. I don't' work for them. I should have outlined that more specifically. I've edited the OP.
Last edited by BenjaminL on September 12th, 2019, 3:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#40 Post by John Morris » September 12th, 2019, 3:54 pm

Ah! Really not clear! Try the quote function in the future!
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#41 Post by BenjaminL » September 12th, 2019, 4:04 pm

John Morris wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 3:54 pm
Ah! Really not clear! Try the quote function in the future!
Try to give a guy the benefit of the doubt next time.

How's this?
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#42 Post by Jason T » September 13th, 2019, 7:52 am

BenjaminL wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 4:04 pm
John Morris wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 3:54 pm
Ah! Really not clear! Try the quote function in the future!
Try to give a guy the benefit of the doubt next time.

How's this?
Benjamin, thanks flor clarifying. I had the same reaction John did. It’s nothing personal. From time to time over the years we have had people plug for a product without identifying themselves as being ITB. I think that’s therefore the most logical conclusion many long-time members of this forum would have drawn.

Again, no ill intent, and thanks for contributing.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#43 Post by David Crow » September 13th, 2019, 7:54 am

Historically the Mondavi Reserve Cabernet was a blend of vineyards. I believe To Kalon always served as the core part of the blend, but I think they also may have incorporated grapes from other vineyards. Either way, the Reserve was never a vineyard designate. That changed starting with the 2011 vintage when, for the first time, they added "To Kalon Vineyard" to the Mondavi Reserve label.

It's not clear whether this was actually a change in winemaking practice to truly make the reserve a vineyard designate wine or rather this was Mondavi exercising their trademark of the To Kalon Vineyard to add that designation to any wine. I've assumed that they do follow the vineyard designate rules since changing the label, but since they have the trademark I don't think there is anything requiring them to do so.

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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#44 Post by Adam Frisch » September 13th, 2019, 12:37 pm

Hank Victor wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 9:29 am
I had to stop the Jeremy Nickel video half way it was so cringe worthy. If somebody had to ask what is wrong with wine and the industry I would show them that video. Coincidentally, I had a bottle of Nickel & Nickel Stelling Vineyard 03 this past April and it was great lol.
Have to agree. That event looks like the worst of rich people in Napa.
Last edited by Adam Frisch on September 13th, 2019, 12:47 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#45 Post by Joe B » September 13th, 2019, 12:45 pm

brigcampbell wrote:
September 11th, 2019, 7:20 pm
Nickel was producing crap from tench, that's hard to do.

Seems like a money play.
I thought that was just my palate.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#46 Post by Marc Hauser » September 13th, 2019, 1:00 pm

Adam Frisch wrote:
September 13th, 2019, 12:37 pm
Hank Victor wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 9:29 am
I had to stop the Jeremy Nickel video half way it was so cringe worthy. If somebody had to ask what is wrong with wine and the industry I would show them that video. Coincidentally, I had a bottle of Nickel & Nickel Stelling Vineyard 03 this past April and it was great lol.
Have to agree. That event looks like the worst of rich people in Napa.
I don’t begrudge anyone on how they want to spend their money, but the jousting is kinda anomalous. I’m a relatively new Napa resident, but I haven’t seen jousting here. Not sure what they’re recreating in Florida. Maybe it’s like how Medieval Times has a jousting show, they’re trying to recreate Napa in the Middle Ages?
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#47 Post by Hank Victor » September 13th, 2019, 1:31 pm

Jason T wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 12:31 pm
Hank Victor wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 9:29 am
I had to stop the Jeremy Nickel video half way it was so cringe worthy. If somebody had to ask what is wrong with wine and the industry I would show them that video. Coincidentally, I had a bottle of Nickel & Nickel Stelling Vineyard 03 this past April and it was great lol.
Was it the part where guys on horses were jousting?
That was the EXACT moment I shut it off.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#48 Post by D@ve D y r 0 f f » September 13th, 2019, 2:49 pm

I don't know WTF is wrong with you people. There's a lot to scorn in that ridiculous video, but jousting ain't it. Name one event you've ever been to that wouldn't have been improved by a good round or two of jousting - High School graduation, Grandmother's funeral, sister's wedding, ribbon-cutting for the new city park, baptism of a new Corleone baby, harvest festival in your favorite wine region - see? You can't! [berserker.gif] [berserker.gif] [berserker.gif]

Even professional video gaming, which I understand is now a thing, would be better with a little Joust!


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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#49 Post by blarmston » September 13th, 2019, 6:39 pm

The only interesting thing about that video was the blond at the 1:39 mark.
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Re: Fear And Loathing In ToKalon Vineyard

#50 Post by BenjaminL » September 14th, 2019, 9:54 am

Jason T wrote:
September 13th, 2019, 7:52 am
BenjaminL wrote:
September 12th, 2019, 4:04 pm
Benjamin, thanks flor clarifying. I had the same reaction John did. It’s nothing personal. From time to time over the years we have had people plug for a product without identifying themselves as being ITB. I think that’s therefore the most logical conclusion many long-time members of this forum would have drawn.

Again, no ill intent, and thanks for contributing.
I think context is everything- in a conversation regarding the To Kalon name, vineyard, trademark infringement, and Mondavi/Constellation being childish, a shameless marketing ad from Constellation regarding their new To Kalon Vineyard prefaced with a HST quote should have been clear. More time was spent crafting a holier-than-thou insult to a Newb than analyzing the content of my post.
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