Estate Vineyards

The Estate Vineyards of Robert Mondavi Winery
by Megan Henderson, Wine Educator

The To Kalon and Wappo Hill Vineyards are two of Robert Mondavi Winery's best known vineyards. These two estate vineyards have produced some of the winery's prestigious wines - The Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve Fumé Blanc from To Kalon, and the Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc from Wappo Hill. Located within the Napa Valley, each has their own stories. The To Kalon Vineyard is over 150 years old, home to Robert Mondavi Winery, and is known worldwide to be California's finest first growth vineyard. The Wappo Hill Vineyard has been with the winery since 1969, when Mr. Mondavi purchased it. Previously it had been a dairy pasture and Mr. Mondavi replaced it with a vineyard.

To Kalon Vineyard

The 450 acre To Kalon vineyard lies on the west side of the Oakville AVA, in the geographic center of the Napa Valley. It is just south enough to be cooled by morning fog from the San Pablo Bay, but northerly enough to enjoy warm afternoon sunshine. Situated on the alluvial fan at the foot of the Mayacamas Mountains, the vineyard's low fertility and well drained gravelly clay loam soil allows deep rooting and the development of complex layers in the grapes.

It is these unique growing conditions that prompted Hamilton Walker Crabb, one of California's viticultural pioneers, to purchase land and plant To Kalon vineyard in the 1860s. The beautiful landscape and outstanding quality grapes that were produced from the ranch inspired Crabb to name the vineyard "To Kalon", Greek for "the beautiful".

Recognizing the great potential of the site to produce high quality fruit, Crabb planted hundreds of different varieties to determine which ones best suited the land, including Zinfandel, Petite Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Muscadelle. Before long, To Kalon vineyard became well known for producing high quality fruit; so much so, that Crabb used the name "To Kalon vineyard" as an authenticator of quality when selling his wines around the United States. To Kalon Vineyard wines even won gold medals in Paris and Bordeaux in the 1890s.

In 1996, another Napa Valley pioneer, Robert Mondavi, selected the site for his own winery. Robert said of the site, "This vineyard stood head and shoulders above those around it...it was a vineyard with a distinguished history and a magical nature. Ideal soil, sunlight and rain – to my eye the vineyard was a treasure."

Today, To Kalon's ideal location; varied clones, soils and microclimates; and the use of time honored cultivation techniques, produces fruit that makes expressive, complex wines with great structure and impeccable balance. And, these attributes are no more evident than in Robert Mondavi Winery's world-class Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and Reserve Fumé Blanc.

Wappo Hill Vineyard

The Wappo Hill Vineyard also has a rich history. Mr. Mondavi bought the property in 1969 as dairy pasture, converted it to a vineyard, and later built his home on it. The four hundred acre vineyard is named for the hill that sits in the middle of the vineyard – Wappo Hill. This hill is named for a group Native American tribes – the Wappo, who lived in the foothills and valleys of the Mayacamas until the 1800s. Early explorers called this group guapo, the Spanish word for handsome and brave, which was Americanized to Wappo.

The vineyard is located on the east side of Napa Valley at the foothills of the Vaca Mountain Range in the Stags Leap District AVA. In 1989, Stags Leap District became the first viticultural area in the United States to be specified as an appellation based on the distinctiveness of its soil. Mr. Mondavi and his son, Tim Mondavi, along with a few other producers, were integral in establishing this new Napa Valley Appellation System that first established Stags Leap and later other notable AVAs like Oakville.

The steep eastern hills retain and reflect the afternoon sun, causing afternoon temperatures to rise, while breezes from the San Pablo Bay maintain cool morning and evening temperatures. The afternoon warmth helps ripen the grapes - producing ripe fruit flavors, supple velvety tannins and cool morning and evening temperatures providing the grapes ample acidity. The soil consists of gravelly volcanic, clay loam soil, which retains less water, gently stressing the grapevines, resulting in small berries and intensely flavored fruit.

The Wappo Hill vineyard has traditionally produced the great Robert Mondavi Winery Stags Leap Cabernet Sauvignon and Stags Leap Sauvignon Blanc.


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