Last Saturday night, sixteen of us tasted 15 vineyard-designate cabernets from the famous To Kalon vineyard (all but the Mondavi from Andy Beckstoffer’s 89 acres of the original To Kalon estate). It was a great chance to compare what different wineries do with grapes from the same vineyard, working with the same grower. The wines were distinct and universally high quality. There were 5 flights of 3 wines and all the wines were decanted for 3-4 hours before being served:
Behrens and Hitchcock flight
A mini vertical to start the night put things on the right track. I thought the ’99 had lost its fruit, but that the ’01 and ’02 were spectacular wines, and should be considered among the best cabs produced in Napa. Both were jammy with dark berries and dusty, well- integrated tannins. They are powerful and balanced, and just incredibly flavorful. Wow. I preferred the ’02 slightly to the ’01 and would give then 95 and 96 points. Votes from the crowd for WOTF were split in favor of the ’01. There were three votes for the ’99 for WOTF.
The Carter tasted like a hillside wine, pretty tightly wound with tobacco, pencil lead and leather. The Oakford was more valley floor, really approachable and fruit forward. I thought they were both 90 point wines. The Hobbs ’01 ToKalon is a remarkable wine. It is intense and full bodied and spicy with blackberry and tobacco in equal measure. A super long finish. Easily my and the group’s WOTF.
These wines were poured together in commemoration of the trademark lawsuit between Mondavi and Schrader over the TO KALON mark. Schrader won the lawsuit and I viewed this as a clear second victory. The Mondavi was interesting but had lost most of its fruit and character. It was drinkable but on the downward slope. There were a couple in the crowd who liked it, but most did not. The ’01 and ’02 Schraders were super rich, massive cabs with lots of character. Both are top quality, mid 90s wines that have the best qualities of CA cabs.. Didn’t really get a count of which was favored by the group. I again slightly favored the ’02.
These wines were just not up to the excellence of the wines from the ’01 and ’02 vintages. The Schrader was a good wine – 90-91 points for me – and it was interesting to see what a big difference the vintages make. Buy up those ‘01s and ‘02s where you find them.
New Release Flight
’04 Jacquelynn (from Chateau Boswell)
’02 Karl Lawrence Reserve.
This may have been my favorite flight. The Karl Lawrence was just released – they were fantastic enough to send my allocation a few days early so that we could have it for the tasting. Its a tightly wound, age-worthy wine. Very intense blackberry and currant flavors with firm, ripe and structured tannins. I won’t be popping the cork on another one of these for years.
I have posted notes on the Realm before. I really love this wine, with its sweet tannins, red and black fruits, spice and balance. Everyone who did not already know Realm became fans. None of us had tried Jacquelynn before and, for me, it was the revelation of the night. The ’04 is the first vintage they have make from To Kalon, It is opulent and powerful, with lots of smoke and chocolate. It was too late in the evening to get official votes – but these are three young but excellent wines.
What a fantastic tasting. A lot of credit has to be given to Andy Beckstoffer and all the folks making wine from his To Kalon vineyard. Behrens & Hitchcock, Paul Hobbs, Schrader, Realm, Karl Lawrence and Jacqelynn are all making wonderful To Kalon wines, which in good vintages rival the best cabs produced in California..