What if the To Kalon Vineyard became a California AVA?

Esther Mobley Piece - SF Chronicle

Don’t think we need any more AVA’s in Napa.

I already don’t pay attention to AVA, so color me apathetic, I guess.

What if To Kalon were Mini-Ditka and the rest of Napa was the Giants?

Mini-Ditka 31 Giants 14



What if To Kalon was Chuck Norris, and the rest of Napa was Mike Ditka?

Chuck Norris 3,562
Mike Ditka 0

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I think Hurricane Ditka would take this one

Better than how it is now.

Chuck Norris defeats all- FACT

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to be serious for a moment, aren’t AVAs supposed to reflect actual geography, not what some guy planted in the 19th century?? This is not like the Stags Leap controversy.

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Bruce Lee says hello

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Jim Laube thought it should be a decade plus ago. Different souls, different micro climate, etc. It has more production than Ribbon Ridge in Oregon and he thought more distinctive characteristics.

Um, do you mean Stag’s Leap or Stags’ Leap? [stirthepothal.gif]


How about the Carl vs Warren controversy??

Marcus, you must be a geezer too!!

I remember trying to sell Warren some barrels and found Carl hanging around Warren’s winery. I should have known something was up.


I agree with Mel in #8 as to what an AVA is all about. I also remember what a character Carl was and hopefully is, not having seeing him for 3+ yrs. Will there continue to be icons as wine becomes more commoditized?

Remember Max Weber and his theories about charismatic leaders?? You start out with Jesus and 12 Apostles and you end up with a bunch of bishops making rules.
There are plenty of flamboyant characters in the wine world but it’s harder and harder for them to afford Napa.

I feel as though what is happening to baseball will happen in the in our business. Some equation will tell us to blend ToKalon fruit with Thompson Seedless from Fresno and tell us where to sell it and for how much. Some huge drinks business based in Lichtenstein will put together a mathematically perfect conglomerate of oddly related companies. The baseball manager and the winemaker will study data mining.

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That’s why Gordon brought this up - you need all those bishops:

Jim Laube thought it should be a decade plus ago. Different > souls, > different micro climate, etc. It has more production than Ribbon Ridge in Oregon and he thought more distinctive characteristics.

But as far as reflecting actual geography, here I thought the purpose of an AVA was to protect the established producers within the boundary. Mel - I had no idea that they were developed by thoughtful, impartial people. Quelle surprise!

I should come clean in that I sold Robert Mondavi 56 185 HL Taransaud tanks for the To Kalon Room and still wear my To Kalon 2001 Project baseball hat and have guarded carefully my To Kalon Room hard hat.

I finally read the Chron piece in the paper today and discovered that if you can propose anything reasonable as a sub of an existing AVA.

It does seem to me that twenty years ago people talked more about ‘Oakville Bench’ or ‘Rutherford Bench’ than To Kalon.

I’m a little bit with Anton in that French AOC rules deal with permitted grape varieties, yields, ripeness, etc. American AVA says ‘this wine comes from X’…that is all.

I think that if Pope Valley can be part of the Napa Valley then anything between the French Laundry and the El Bonita can be To Kalon…providing the vineyard is west of the Silverado Trail.

“Jim Laube thought”.

I disagree.

Dan Kravitz

Dan, I sense a certain amount of negativity on your part regarding Mr Laube.

I must say I trashed our AVA system perhaps too sarcastically. What I meant to say was that I hope this controversy sparks great sales of Oakville and To Kalon cabernet etc by The Robert Mondavi winery so they buy more barrels from us.

I wrote down some thoughts about west Oakville and To Kalon in particular based on a decade of making wines in top sites out that way. I’ll leave my thoughts below, just a perspective to color the palate of opinion. Cheers!

"Without a doubt, west Oakville is the best place I’ve found for Cabernet to grow. I’ve made wines in almost every Napa AVA, I always come back to west Oakville. East Oakville, at its best, will be more alluring, aromatic, complex and intellectual than west oakville wines.

East Oakville is more difficult to dial in both on the vineyard side of things and in the fermenter. There is a narrow space where things are optimal and it seems as if each row is its own vineyard whereas west oakville has a much wider “perfect” window of opportunity and the wines are unbelievably good in the fermentor. I’ve never seen wines that taste like finished wines while still fermenting except in certain spots in west Oakville.

The best sites I’ve personally worked with in west Oakville are Vine Hill Ranch and To Kalon. I’ve made multiple wines from many different blocks in each site AND “Co-Fermented” wines from both vineyards as well.

Yes, certain blocks in To Kalon deserve the praise and almost mythical status they have in the marketplace. I know there is a lot of controversy over that site, but there is some truth to all the legend.

Without a doubt, Vine Hill Ranch is the most impressive site I’ve worked with, it’s not even close.

There’s a long list of special sites we’ve made wine from besides these two: Dr. Crane, Melanson, G3, Missouri Hopper, Las Piedras, Hyde, Ritchie, Farella, Hudson, Hershey, Cimarossa, Panek, Weitz, Herb Lamb and many more.

All possess fascinating characteristics and have their place among the best but To Kalon and Vine Hill are at the top.

Vine Hill is a little further south on the West Oakville side and so tends to be more aromatically expressive and flirtatious. Those wines go into barrel tasting good and get better and better over time. To Kalon will go into barrel tasting like a wine ready for bottle, it’s impressive to see.

Vine Hill represents more of a journey, and so there is a romantic nature to it. To Kalon is like dating the prom king or queen.


To Kalon is all about the blocks, they might as well be different vineyard sites. There are these ribbons of old river beds underneath To Kalon that tell the true story of these great blocks. Those who have worked extensively in the site know exactly where they are and who has those blocks (of course they tend to be the blocks that do not turn over much)

One of the best I’ve worked with is the older clone 337 vines in B block. We tended to blend or co-ferment them with clone 6 cab from D block (another great block) because they play so well together. D block brings the perfume and blue fruits. B block brings the dark fruits and graphite, the shoulders and unbelievable length of flavor.

In Vine Hill, The northern Blocks with older vines and rocky soil make some of the best pure cabernet, block 7 in particular. Block 4 in the middle is a workhorse and some of the younger blocks further south are expressive and powerful. One of the best wines we ever made came from Co-Fermenting Petite Verdot from those southern blocks with younger cabernet. That wine actually became the 2016 “Black Magic” and would later become “Pure Magic” Probably the wine I love the most of all.

West Oakville really is a wonderful palace for Cabernet, if you had to bet long on a site, bet on Vine Hill, it will stand the test of time and although it’s respected I don’t believe it gets the credit and notoriety it deserves. "
-Dave Grega


No way Bruce Lee beats Chuck Norris. Chuck was actually a competitive fighter and very good. Bruce would never fight Chuck.