Wine Destination Experiences: A recent visit to Napa Valley

At The Wine rack

with Christopher Reckord

Thursday, June 21, 2018

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This, my first guest-writer column, is done by my dear friend Debra A Taylor, trade development manager for wine and spirits importer Select Brands Limited. She told me that she was attending a wine certification event in Napa Valley called the Modavi To Kalon (pronounced “TOW kalon”) Certification. My Google skills helped me to learn a little bit more about what this four-day, luxury Robert Mondavi Winery experience was all about. The information I found assured that this was the signature event for Robert Mondavi Winery, only available by invitation to the wine trade. (It is my hope to be invited someday.) During this event at the Robert Mondavi Winery in Napa Valley, participants are exposed to the history, terroir, and great wines from this legendary vineyard while tasting superb wines from around the world. To top off this exclusive experience guests are treated to a balloon ride over Napa Valley, a bike ride tour through the historic To Kalon Vineyard, a panel tasting with To Kalon Vineyard winemakers, wine-tasting seminars, and much more. Taylor shares her experience:

To Kalon: Robert Mondavi's expression of Terroir

On receiving the news that I was chosen to go on the Robert Mondavi Winery To Kalon Certification experience, I trembled with excitement and joy as the Napa Valley is one of my favourite wine regions to visit.

The very involved course was led by Master of Wine Mark de Vere and Genevieve Janssens, director of winemaking at Robert Mondavi Winery, and the essence of it was to illustrate that the To Kalon site produces wines that stand proudly among the reputed great wines of the world. It is indeed a bold step to illustrate this through being on the site, listening to the historians, feeling the soil, walking and biking through the vineyards, getting an aerial view of the valley and its topography from a hot air balloon, going step by step through the winemaking processes, and of course, tasting wines at their various stages of production.

It was invaluable to spend time with Genevieve and Mark along with all the other industry giants of the To Kalon region and gain some of their insights, history, and one truly gets to understand and feel the sense of place expressed in these wines.

To Kalon (ancient Greek for “the highest beauty”) is a historic vineyard that lies in the shadows of the Mayacamas mountain range on the western side of the Napa Valley and was established in 1966. The site still provides the winery with grapes for its finest marks — Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve, Oakville District Cabernet Sauvignon, and Fumé Blanc Reserve.

Robert Mondavi famously said, “It was a vineyard with a distinguished history and a magical nature. Ideal soils, sunlight, and rain — to my eye, the vineyard was a treasure.” 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 exceptional quality I could not describe, a feeling that was almost mythical. The place just seemed to radiate a sense of calm and harmony, of peace and serenity. As I walked, I felt a powerful, inexplicable connection to this land, and some root intuition inside said, 'Yes, this is the place.'

The experience was informative, educational, fun and rewarding and has given me the confidence and indeed the drive to continue promoting the wines of Robert Mondavi so they take their rightful place on the wine lists of the elegant resorts on the island, are among the collections of wine enthusiasts, and are enjoyed by those who can and will appreciate these finely-crafted wines.


Debra A Taylor is trade development manager for wine and spirits importer Select Brands Limited

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