To Kalon: Famous Vineyards and Wineries Of The World

When a person goes shopping for a bottle of wine to take to a party, there can be a lot of uncertainty on what to bring to appease the host’s palette.

With so much selection out there nowadays we normally find ourselves reaching for a bottle of what you may call “Old Faithful”, a tried and tasted wine that you know you enjoy and that most people will know.

wine signage

As let’s face it, There are certain brand names when it comes to Wine shopping that are recognisable instantly to most people – You can’t walk into a wine store without seeing a bottle of Australia’s Jacob’s Creek or Portugal’s Mateus Rosé.

So, Exactly what does one have to do to become a household name as a winery?

In this series we will be taking a look at some of the world’s finest and most recognisable wineries from all over the globe, and learning about their history, the vineyards that bear their fruit and what it is that makes them so special.

First of all, what exactly does it take to make great wine?

Wine making is a labor of love. It takes a truly passionate and dedicated winemaker at the helm to create a delicious bottle of vino. But just as a painter would be nothing without their canvas to paint on, a winemaker would be nothing without a sublime vineyard and with premier vines to produce their grapes.

vineyard at daytime

It takes a blend of elements to make a great vineyard, but location and the method in which the grapes are grown have a profound effect on what we taste in the wine, this gives each region a unique style of wine.

This is known as Terroir. Each wine making region of the world has a unique terroir – a french term meaning ‘Sense of Place. Terroir is what distinguishes a Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley from one from Chile, This ‘sense of place’ is what makes up the uniqueness and subtle nuances of a wine, by affecting its aromas and flavors.

Terroir is typically acknowledged as being composed of 4 main components – Climate, Soil, Terrain, Flora and Fauna. This is what makes each Vineyard’s produce unique.

What Vineyard and Winery will we look at in this Article?

In this article we will be delving into the rich history of the Napa Valley, to discover what has recently been voted the 7th Best Winery in the world and how its Terroir influences the exquisite wine that comes from this winery.

The Vineyard

Undoubtedly the most famous Vineyard in California, many claim it to be the best in the United States, is To Kalon in the Heart of Napa Valley, Home to the renowned Robert Mondavi Winery.

History of the Vineyard

Back in the 1860’s a prolific experimenter H.W. Crabb acquired 240 acres of land near Oakville, California. Crabb planted a plethora of vines in this stunning location deep within the Napa Valley,  transforming the estate into a pioneering and prestigious vineyard.

To Kalon

Vineyard in Oakville California

The vineyard was soon filled with bountiful trees bearing fruit and vines loaded with grapes. Crabb was so entranced by the beauty of the vineyard that he named the wine made with the grapes ‘To Kalon’ which means ‘Highest Beauty’ in Greek.

Crabb quickly became one the top producers of wine in the area, this was the first generation of Wineries in the Napa Valley. As a keen businessman, Crabb distributed his wine nationwide and this established both his own reputation and the Valley’s as a top wine region.

About the Area and this Particular Vineyards Terroir:

While the Valley might be small it is certainly mighty!

The entirety of the Valley is approximately 30 miles long from the southernmost point up to the northernmost, and around 5 miles wide. That being said the diversity across this area is quite impressive, there are many types of soil as well as a ton of diversity in locations. This means there are many different kinds of wine crafted here, ranging from crisp sparkling whites to luscious tannin heavy reds.

To Kalon is the perfect location to make glorious and unique wine that is representative of the Napa Valley but also unique, as it is nestled in between the shelter of the Vaca and Mayacamas mountain ranges in the heart of the Valley. This makes way for soil rich with gravel, meaning great drainage, allowing the roots to delve deep into the ground and find precious moisture and rich nutrients.

Another big factor is of course the weather. Napa Valley goes through some quite broad temperature shifts throughout the day but there is always a reliable mixture of sun and wind with some crisp pacific fog sprinkled in. This creates an environment that is ideal for growth as well as rest and allows those complex flavors to truly come to life.

All of this makes To Kalon the perfect location to create fruity and opulent red wines, as well as stunningly expressive whites.

The Winery that Uses the Vineyard Today:

The Robert Mondavi Winery

About the Wineries Founder

Born into an Italian Family that moved to the USA, Robert Mondavi was raised in a family with a love for great wine and food. After Prohibition came into effect his Father would travel to California from their Minnesota home at the behest of his Italian club who were desperate to get their hands on grapes to make their own wine. They eventually moved to California where his father was purchasing grapes by the ton and shipping them all over the States, Robert worked for his father packaging grapes.

Shortly after Prohibition was repealed and after graduating university, Robert began working in one of his father’s associates, Wineries. Robert’s father believed that California had a bright future in the wine industry, and so Robert Mondavi dove in and began learning everything there was to learn about the trade.

After a couple of years, The manager passed away and Robert took over the production of the wines.This is what really began his love affair with viticulture, in particular he wanted to focus on fine wines in bottles.

To Kalon

Wine cellar

In 1943, upon hearing about Charles Krug winery going through some hard times Robert convinced his father to buy it. He and his younger brother Peter ran the winery together, but behind the scenes operations were fraught with tension. The brothers could not agree on many things and they majorly clashed over the quality of their products. In 1965 Robert quit Charles Krug winery.

The following year, Mondavi had a vision to create Napa Valley wines that could stand up against some of the best wines in the world. So alongside his elder son he established his namesake winery after falling in love with To Kalon vineyard. Speaking of his first time visiting To Kalon Mondavi said: “Walking through To Kalon, admiring its contours and vines, smelling the richness of its soil, I knew this was a very special place. It exuded an indefinable quality I could not describe, a feeling that was almost mystical.”

The opening of the Robert Mondavi Winery was particularly significant as it was the first one of a substantial size to open since prohibition ended 33 years prior.

The Wines they create and Their Signature Wine:

After establishing his winery, Mondavi immediately got to work making his vision come to life. He wanted to make wines on the same level of excellence as classic French wines – and taking inspiration from them, he focused on single varietals (this is exceedingly common today but back then it was done by only a handful of local producers).

He also had the difficult task of educating quite a skeptical audience. People were not sure Napa Valley could stand alongside other titans in the wine world, but Mondavi, through his determination and fantastic wine making abilities, soon changed their minds. He focused majorly on quality in his vineyard and was a true pioneer in innovative techniques in his wine making.

To Kalon

Grape farm

While Mondavi of course makes sumptuous Cabernet Sauvignon that the Napa Valley is synonymous with, The most famous of this winery’s products is definitely the world famous “Fume Blanc”. He took the single varietal approach with serious passion and determination, to change the perception of this grape.

While it is hard to believe based on the fantastic dry Sauvignon Blancs you find today, back then in the U.S it was a sweet wine that people generally found to be unpalatable.

There was a real demand from people for dry wines to accompany their dinner and Sauvignon Blanc was certainly not at the top of the average consumers list, but Mondavi quickly changed all of that.

He blended almost 100% Sauvignon Blanc with a hint of Semillon after being struck by inspiration in France’s Loire Valley.This is where the name Fume Blanc comes from, Pouilly Fume is a wine created in the Loire Valley using 100% Sauvignon Blanc. Fume means Smokey in French, and Mondavi believed the grape had a certain Smokey quality to it, alongside the freshly cut green grass aromas.

Today there are a couple of Fume Blanc wines created at Mondavi, but their signature is without question their Reserve Fume Blanc.

This stunning bottle is made from grapes grown on some of the oldest vines in To Kalon Vineyard. There is a single block known as “I Block” in the Vineyard that is believed to have vines that are over 60 years old. The Reserve Fume Blanc is created using a small amount of these grapes which results in what is said to be the oldest Sauvignon Blanc in the country.

This extremely special wine is a true embodiment of everything Mondavi envisioned when he began his career, undoubtedly showcasing the region as tremendously special and capable of taking on other world famous wine making regions.

With levels of complexity, notes of ripe tree fruits, zesty citrus and exotic mango, this wine absolutely bursts with flavor on the palette. Oakiness shines through and is complimented by its subtle herbaceous qualities.

This wine is a show stopper through and through.

two wine glasses

The Winery Today

In the last 50+ years, Mondavi has been a leader and a pioneer in California’s wine industry. Their wines are critically acclaimed and have charmed their way into the hearts of some of the most accomplished sommeliers and consumers alike.

Also read:

If you have not had a bottle of a Mondavi Wine we strongly encourage you to head out and grab one!

The beauty of Mondavi is also that they have an expansive portfolio, ranging from affordable but still luxurious wines all the up to extremely special vintages that you’ll want to save for a special occasion.

Cheers to discovering new wines to put on your must-try list!

Want to read more? Try these books!

Categories: This Day in Wine History | ArticlesBy Published On: April 16, 2023Last Updated: March 19, 2023

Share This Story, Choose Your Platform!