Finding the Best

Grapes & BinsThere are a decent number of topics that will get us wine geeks into a good debate. It could be the significance of ratings, methods to effectively arrest yeast during fermentation, the plethora of winemaking techniques that may or may not be better for certain varieties, or a laundry list of other topics that get us fired up… because… We. Are. Nerds.

Over the last couple months the topic that has recurred a few times has been:

What is the best vineyard site in the Napa Valley?

I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as “the best” when it comes to wine. There are too many amazing vineyard sites in Napa to make that kind of statement for any one vineyard. With wine being such a subjective beverage how do you figure something like that out?

The debate took us down the road of multiple producers sourcing from the same site and the accolades that came along with them. The first on that list was Beckstoffer’s Cabernet Sauvignon that comes off the To Kalon vineyard. There probably isn’t a single vineyard that a dozen or more different producers have utilized that receive as many high ratings, reviews and command a high price point like that (although the price is built into vineyard contract at either $18,000 per ton OR 175 times the retail price, whichever is higher, with a minimum purchase of $45,0001). To put that into perspective the average price for Napa Cabernet in 2015 was roughly $6,3002.

MTA_0415Other candidates were the Three Palms Vineyard, Hyde Vineyard (since it is on the Napa side of Carneros) and so on. It basically included those that have had some sort of storied history and well-known prestige as a single vineyard.

So with price point, ratings and reviews in mind does that make Beckstoffer’s To Kalon Napa’s best vineyard? My argument would be no BUT that doesn’t mean that vineyard doesn’t kick ass. There is plenty of proof to show that the vineyard is in the upper echelon of vineyard sites in Napa. If we are looking at ratings, reviews, price point individually or some combination therein To Kalon would probably be at the top of the list. My only issue, and I think it is a big one, is that there are so many other vineyards that don’t do the normal rating and review thing. There are also plenty of vineyards that are quite a bit smaller that you would not have multiple producers utilizing.

If we really wanted to judge what the best vineyard site in Napa is you would have to standardize the competition. Have the “best” winemakers, likely judged by the same criteria, make Cabernet Sauvignon from every Cab vineyard in the county and have them rated, reviewed and priced accordingly. In essence you have to standardize everything about the process except the vineyard to make a remotely reasonable comparison. As soon as that is possible I will let you know…but don’t hold your breath.

I would argue that Beckstoffer’s To Kalon is probably the most consistent in the valley. There are obviously some great things happening in that 89 acres that allows numerous producers to make ridiculously good grape juice.

I will stand by my opinion that there is no such thing as the best when it comes to wine. That doesn’t mean that a vineyard, and its managing crew, cannot be insanely awesome at what they do.

-Manderson

1 – Yarrow, Alder. “At What Price, To Kalon?” JancisRobinson.com. N.p., 16 Apr. 2015. Web. 10 May 2016.

2 – Fitchette, Todd. “Napa Grape Yields down Significantly in 2015.” Western Farm Press. N.p., 21 Apr. 2016. Web. 10 May 2016.

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