On the blogby Alfred
November 30 2019

Cabernet Traveler

by Hugo Duchesne

On Wednesday October 23rd 2019, Le Coureur des Bois hosted one of the most sublime thematic tastings in the wine world. To this end, the renowned Californian estate Robert Mondavi was in Beloeil with the aim of bringing to life a sequence of wines that will long be remembered by some thirty passionate enthusiasts of the Quebec industry.  Welcome to To-Kalon on the road, a tasting hosted by Mark de Vere, Master of Wine and Commercial Director of Robert Mondavi for over 20 years, whose noble mission was to highlight the To-Kalon vineyard, the most famous parcel in Oakville, a sub-region in the Napa Valley, and by the same token, to initiate an anonymous tasting of Mondavi’s Cabernet Sauvignon compared to the best Cabernet Sauvignons from around the world. Quite the program!

Let’s talk about To Kalon for a moment.  It is a vineyard that is above its neighbours, with a memorable history and a magical nature. This plot is delicately laid in the heart of Napa Valley.  The surrounding mountain ranges developed through the north-south movement of the San Andreas fault. Its soils are intimately linked to abundant light and have slowly been agglomerated by the actions of mountain debris, volcanic eruptions and floods from the Napa River and San Pedro Bay.  

Oakville is a sub-region of Napa that was recognized in 1993, located between the Vaca and Mayacamas mountains that is also known worldwide for its renowned Cabernet Sauvignon. The To Kalon vineyard is mainly planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, but also has a few rows of Sauvignon Blanc for the Fumé Blanc Réserve, a signature vintage of Robert Mondavi since 1968.

It is with the 2017 Fumé Blanc that the “On the road” session began, bringing guests together for gourmet entrées prepared by Le Coureur des Bois. Then, the magic happened, making this tasting an unspeakable privilege. All in front of Mark De Vere, the first session started with the theme: Cabernet Sauvignon around the World.  A first blind trio set the tone with its differences and typicities: it was actually a Saint-Estèphe 2014 from Château Calon-Ségur, a McLaren Vale Gigglepot 2017 from Mollydooker and, as if by magic in order to finish the sequence, a Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 from Robert Mondavi. Despite the price differences and prestige differences that have devolved upon them, all the wines were received well.

The 2nd part of the session, still a blind test, pitted 5 wines against each other, 5 Cabernet Sauvignon from the United States, including 3 from Napa Valley, one from the Central Coast and one from Washington State; in order: Paso Robles Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 by Daou, a Red Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 by Col Solare, then the 3 Cabernet Sauvignon by Napa, Mount Veeder 2015 by Mount Veeder Winery, Stag’s Leap District 2015 by Cliff Lede and, magically, Oakville 2014 by Robert Mondavi. A certain unanimity regarding the quality of the wines and the maturity of the grapes marked this segment.  

A first intermission under the sign of generosity and elegance delighted the group: Champagne Brut Grande Cuvée, Krug, rarely has the tension been so lengthy.

The second session pitted the distinctive features of To-kalon against each other, whether it be the varied soils from “block” to “block” composed of silt richly enhanced with gravel, harmoniously mixed with fine clay contributing to the refined and concentrated flavor as well as the unequalled texture of fine tannins. On the menu were served, nothing less than: Château Margaux 2011, Penfolds Bin 707 2010, then a series of 2 To-Kalon in a rather symbolic side-by-side as shown by Mondavi’s Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2015 followed by Cabernet Sauvignon To Kalon Beckstoffer 2014 performed by Paul Hobbs. These distinctive features of To-Kalon ended with the Stag’s leap District Cabernet Sauvignon Hillside Select of Shafer 2014.  A whole session of concentration and finesse to compare the To-Kalon vineyard with the best Cabernet Sauvignons in the world.

Mondavi’s Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve To-Kalon is harvested by hand and the grapes are harvested at their peak, then destemmed and pressed “block” by “block”.  The vatting is done by gravity, the wine is left to rest for 6 months in casks, then ages an additional 12 months in French barrels from the Taransaud cooper.

A second intermission allowed the group to taste a Robert Mondavi Oakville Fumé Blanc Reserve To Kalon 2015 by remembering some Margaux and Penfolds flavors, incredible!

The 3rd segment was intended to be a time and endurance segment, with the ambition residing in the length of the performance, a segment, entitled “To-Kalon through time”. The sequence was intended to confirm the care, longevity and quality related to the evolution of the wines of Robert Mondavi’s To-Kalon vineyard. In order, have challenged the time: Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005, Napa Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 1996, 1980, 1975, then, finally, the Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve To-Kalon 2015, just to be a witness of his time. 2005 exhibiting a perfect balance, 1996 evolved to the undergrowth, 1980 tertiary to the marrow, 1975 between dried meat and smoke, then 2015, with ripe black fruits and more exotic spices.

This tasting at the highest level will have necessarily set a precedent for all tastings to come, namely this evidence of having no flaws. As much as it has leveled up the quality of service, hospitality, and let’s say, the privilege of tasting wines according to a theme, we were rather privileged for a quiet and simple Wednesday.

Knowing all of this, we would like to find ourselves on the road to To-Kalon more often!

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