All notes courtesy MikeP
A group of eager wine aficionados gathered at Zoe Restaurant in Soho to cross sample some recent and past offerings from the famed To Kalon vineyard in Napa Valley. 430 acres owned mostly by Robert Mondavi Winery (over 311 acres), with the second part being Andy Beckstoffers (89 acres). The third ‘experimental’ vineyard being in the care of UC of Davies (20 acres). All this in the sub-appellation of Oakville.
The stories that accompany this land is the stuff Hollywood can’t make up. The wine though is the real deal.
We started with a mature and surprisingly nice 1996 Robert Mondavi To Kalon I Block Fume Blanc- nice deep straw color. Great balance. Some lemon and floral notes. No signs of age. Ultra pure and super enjoyable. A great example of an 11 year old sauvignon blanc. What I like to call ‘a good start!” 90/100
We also had an interesting bottle of Rhone white brought by Steve E. I am sure someone can note on it better than me. (there was the INTENSE Petroleum Jelly thing happening though). Thanks Steve.
I must mention Stephen and his staff at Zoe out did themselves. The food was top notch and the service perfect. An interesting wine pouring format evolved; The staff poured 2 ounces per glass, leaving almost a third in the bottle. This differed from dinners in the past where the bottle was shaken empty on the final pour. I like this format, as it gave the guests a chance to 're-visit' wines they liked, between flights while having the ability to actually taste wine #11, 12 &13 and still be being able to make conclusions and form lucid opinions on these wonderful wines. I myself have been to offlines where the last wine was WOTN, and I never even remember tasting it.
1993 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Reserve – Out of the gate this was somewhat funky on the nose. The palate revealed some decent fruit and the signature Mondavi mouth feel and acid level. Dark fruits of currant and black cherries. Some tar and cocoa. All in all a nice bottle that may be a bit past its prime. 4/5 years past its prime.
A gift to from Steve Gellman. Thank you Steve. 87/100
1998 Oakford Cabernet To Kalon – Very pretty on the nose. Nice mouth feel and balance considering it’s from the atrocious 98 vintage. In that context this is a winner. What is does not have is that ‘manufactured’ quality many 98s did/do. A great effort with very nice floral fruit. 89/100
1999 Behrens & Hitchcock Cabernet To Kalon – some VA right off the bat. The palate was a bit better. This was an ‘edgy grapey’ wine. N/A
2004 Provenance Cabernet To Kalon – I have always been a fan of Tom Rinaldi's wines. This is a very smooth sweet-fruited cabernet that fills a niche from time to time. I am not sure it’s a very food friendly wine tough. Nice currant/cassis and blackberry. Soft tannins and a nice finish. A very certain style that appeals to some and not others. Typically Rinaldiesque. 89/100
2004 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Reserve – When I put this dinner together I was conflicted on letting Mondavi Reserves in. I know in the past there has occasionally been a To Kalon designated Reserve in addition to the regular Reserve, or at least in place? I also know that most of the fruit is To Kalon (hell, 40-50% of the Napa bottling has Mondavi To Kalon fruit).
I am truly glad I relented. This is an amazing wine. There is a certain quality that this shows off, (please bear with me if you will); this has an underlying balance of fruit, or a ledge of fruit that climbs as the wine travels to the back of the palate, to well after 30 seconds of disappearance. A smooth but intense tannin level, and the signature Mondavi acid brought up a notch. Wow. This was showing some secondary qualities already! Wonderful depth and a long elegant finish that makes you want to seek the bottle for just a bit more. (I did :)). I would love to have a half dozen of these in my cellar. Elegant, stately, and sumptuous. Did I say WOW? 94/100
2005 Château Boswell Jacquelynn Beckstoffer To Kalon– The oak stood out of this, but it was not negative in any way (at least to me). Others found it too oaky though. I like the vanilla component it adds. When combined with the reddish fruits, this was a very sexy wine. There was some tobacco and tar and smooth clean ripe cassis. Great balance and a long finish complete the package. (my third, and the only vote in any of the top three) 93/100
2002 Realm Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon – This is a very 4 square wine; it’s correct, but a boxy & clumsy cabernet that may be resting a bit. Somewhat monolithic. One setup for the long haul. You can sense the ultra dark fruits, and amazing tight tannin weave. Maybe the elegance on the table wins out over the brutes. 5 years should do this wonder. 89/100
2004 Realm Cabernet Sauvignon Beckstoffer To Kalon – Not too dissimilar than the 2002, this had a bit more to give. Some more intense fruits as well as balance structure and poise. A little crossover of the styles on the table. This also needs time. (Decanted 12 hours). 90/100
2002 Karl Lawrence Beckstoffer To Kalon Reserve – This was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe the bottle? Some thought it was ‘off’. I may have to agree, or at least hope. It was hollow, and flabby in the middle. There was a diluted quality as well. N/A (but then again, it's the groups #4!).
2003 Paul Hobbs Beckstoffer To Kalon - Dark color, super deep dark fragrance of cassis and cocoa and leather. This had it all going on. A medley of wonder. Fantastic length. I would not mind securing a few. Just a stupendous wine. 92/100
2004 Schrader Cabernet To Kalon – Ben wanted WOTN, and got it. This is a stunning phenomenal wine. Great deep color, just like a black hole. Similar to the Hobbs but more showy and elegant (if possible). Amazing cabernet structure and a mouth feel that is out of the world. I have run out of…words. 96/100 Groups WOTN, My WOTN
WOTN 2004 Schrader Cabernet To Kalon
2nd place 2004 Robert Mondavi Cabernet Reserve
3rd place Paul Hobbs Beckstoffer To Kalon
In my best Gordon Ramsay voice: " Mikes To Kalon-athon tasting notes, stuffed with hot air and wrapped in pancetta.....DONE".