The Most Powerful Grower in Napa
on 21/03/11 at 4:55 pmWine
The Napa Valley has been a little short on legends lately. Not legendary wines—there are still plenty of those—but legendary figures. It’s almost three years since the last legendary man, Robert Mondavi, passed away and much longer since he was the one man most synonymous with this great California wine region.
According to Napa grape grower Andy Beckstoffer, the time of legendary men may be over. “The vineyards are the next Robert Mondavi. The vineyards are what matters,” he said.
One could argue that this position was either born of great knowledge or was rather self-serving, since Mr. Beckstoffer owns 1,000 acres of vineyard land in Napa.
Unlike many growers, Mr. Beckstoffer only sells grapes to other wineries; he doesn’t make wine himself. “That’s an entirely different business,” he said. It simplifies matters and reduces expenses and also answers the inevitable question about growers who also make wine from their grapes: Don’t they keep the best fruit for themselves?
The Beckstoffer holdings (which also include a couple thousand more acres in Mendocino and Lake Counties) are not only notable for their size but their pedigree. They include some of the top Cabernet Sauvignon vineyards in the state.
The greatest of these vineyards is unquestionably To Kalon. Planted in 1868 by Hamilton Crabb, one of the Valley’s earliest pioneers, To Kalon (which means beautiful in Greek) was made famous by Mr. Mondavi, who laid claim to the To Kalon name—he even trademarked it, though he didn’t own the entire vineyard. Mr. Beckstoffer purchased part of To Kalon (89 acres) from Beaulieu Vineyards in 1993, and after some wrangling with Mr. Mondavi, he was granted the right to use the name To Kalon in conjunction with his own—Beckstoffer To Kalon a name that all winemakers who buy grapes from this vineyard are entitled to use. (The Mondavi winery uses the To Kalon name for its Fumé Blanc I Block and Cabernet.)