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August 18, 2013

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In John Steinbeck’s East of Eden, the narrator describes the acreage about California’s Salinas Basin by acquainted that the aboriginal assignment of 18th aeon Spanish campaign was to accord aggregate they saw a name. “The names of places accredit added to things which happened there, and these to me are the best alluring of all names because anniversary name suggests a adventure that has been forgotten,” Steinbeck wrote.

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The adventure of To Kalon begins in 1868, back Hamilton Walker Crabb, an Ohio built-in who had confused west in afterward of gold, landed in Napa Basin and purchased 240 acreage in Oakville. Afterwards agriculture a array of crops, Crabb eventually angry his focus to wine grapes, and alleged his acreage Hermosa Vineyards. He bought two adjoining parcels, in 1879 and 1891. In 1886, Crabb renamed his winery and the acreage To Kalon, Greek for “the abode of accomplished beauty.”

Today, To Kalon is conceivably the best acclaimed acreage in the United States, accustomed with it a fabulous account of its bequest and ownership. Constellation Brands owns the lion’s allotment of what is advised To Kalon acreage through its subsidiary, Robert Mondavi Winery. But it additionally owns trademarks accustomed by Mondavi of “To Kalon,” registered in 1988, and “To Kalon Vineyard,” registered in 1994. Those trademarks accept created a circuitous web of problems that appear bottomward to one question: Is To Kalon a abode or a brand?

The catechism is advancing to a arch as Constellation has amorphous added aggressively asserting its cast rights. Aftermost year, a adjacent winery filed a accusation arduous Constellation’s trademark. The case was dismissed. Constellation has additionally launched a new wine cast alleged To Kalon Acreage Company.

And in a little-noticed move, aftermost March the aggregation filed a address to accept To Kalon Creek, which runs through the property, removed from the U.S Lath on Geographic Names (BGN) account of registered places. Their reasoning? The brook name could abuse their To Kalon trademark.

The being best amenable for allotment the brook is Graeme MacDonald. MacDonald grew up on his family’s acreage at the bend of the Robert Mondavi property. MacDonald’s great-grandparents purchased the acreage in 1954. At the time it was buried to cherries but had already been allotment of To Kalon Vineyard. On the admonition of Robert Mondavi, the ancestors tore up the copse and buried vines. Afterward a handshake deal, they accept awash grapes to Robert Mondavi Winery back its founding in 1966.

MacDonald now lives in a tiny cottage on the property. He and his brother Alex acreage 15 acreage of some of the oldest Cabernet accouterment in Napa Valley, befitting a baby bulk for their own 400-case brand, MacDonald.

Graeme has additionally become the citizen To Kalon historian. In 2004 he started researching the acreage while accessory the University of California at Davis. Fascinated by his findings, MacDonald connected his afterward afterwards graduation, belief the history that surrounds his house. In 2017, he auspiciously abiding the BGN to clearly name the brook abreast his home To Kalon Creek. He backed the allotment with endless records, references, maps and photographs from the backward 1800s that acclaimed the creek’s name.

In accession to petitioning to accept To Kalon Brook removed from the BGN list, Constellation has additionally challenged MacDonald’s efforts to accept To Kalon Acreage added to the National Annals of Celebrated Places. A vote on that angle was adjourned because of the added acknowledged battle, the accusation adjoin Constellation by The Acreage House, a winery endemic by Jeremy Nickel, son of the backward Far Niente freeholder Gil Nickel.

The Acreage House’s clothing claimed that Robert Mondavi fraudulently acquired a cast of To Kalon and has marketed it deceptively. A federal adjudicator afterwards absolved the lawsuit, but Nickel filed for an admonition to anticipate Constellation from affairs its To Kalon Acreage Aggregation Cabernet Sauvignon Oakville Accomplished Adorableness 2016. The admonition appeal was denied aftermost month. Constellation has filed a cast contravention complaint adjoin The Acreage Abode afterwards the winery appear a wine with To Kalon on the label.

“This agitation should be about preservation, not exclusion,” MacDonald told Wine Spectator. While winemaking is his day job, MacDonald has fabricated history his passion. In March 2019, he completed a address on To Kalon for the Celebrated American Landscapes Survey (HALS), which was added to the Library of Congress.

Constellation has not consistently against his efforts. Less than bristles years ago, the aggregation solicited MacDonald to present the history of To Kalon Acreage during their bi-annual To Kalon Certification affairs and at added contest for employees, journalists and industry professionals.

Learn added about Constellation’s To Kalon Acreage Aggregation project. Chief Editor James Molesworth visited the acreage and met with winemaker Andy Erickson to allocution about what makes the acreage special.

In 2016, back MacDonald approached Constellation about accepting the brook named, he says he was recognized, accustomed and acclaimed by admiral at both Constellation and Mondavi for his work. The aggregation drafted a letter of support, and MacDonald connected his research.

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He was abruptly disconnected in August 2019, back he apparent that while he was applying for allotment addition brook on the property, Constellation was accordingly animate to annul the allotment of To Kalon Creek. “I acquainted like I was abacus amount to the To Kalon story, and afresh the rug got pulled out,” said MacDonald.

Constellation angrily declares that To Kalon is a brand, not a place, and believes that the accomplishments acquired by their neighbors (both MacDonald and Nickel) are abrasion their admired cast and acceptance of To Kalon on assorted wine labels. From their perspective, the aggregation and Robert Mondavi Winery accept spent decades architecture the To Kalon brand.

“Constellation is committed to administering all its business with the absolute integrity, including accomplice relations, as we accept for over 70 years,” Alex Wagner, chief administrator of communications for Constellation, told Wine Spectator.

However, MacDonald and abounding added locals abhorrence that the adventure of this allegorical acreage may one day be abandoned or beneath because of these trademarks. As MacDonald able to avert his work, he recalled the words the backward Margrit Mondavi inscribed to him in his archetype of her memoir: “For Graeme—Please adore the adventure of my activity and accumulate the To Kalon adventure alive.”

The amount of the name To Kalon has never been fixed. It has been admired at times and about abandoned at others. During its heyday, beneath Crabb, the To Kalon acreage was about 500 acres. In the 100 years that followed, several would lay affirmation to the acreage to capricious degrees. Those claims are not simple.

Crabb buried his aboriginal vineyards in 1868 and bound became one of the best arresting grapegrowers in California. By 1880, Crabb was the third-largest ambassador of wine in Napa County.

Crabb awash off the 1891 bindle in 1893. Afterwards his death, the actual acreage was sold. E.W. Churchill took control of that acreage through a accessible bargain but died a few years afterwards Crabb. Afterward Prohibition, pieces of acreage afflicted hands. It wasn’t until San Francisco agent Martin Stelling purchased 337 acreage of To Kalon acreage in 1943 that the acreage was active as a vineyard. Stelling pulled out old accouterment and buried new varieties. Stelling awash 90 acreage of it to the owners of Beaulieu Vineyard, who dubbed it Beaulieu No. 4.

A year later, Stelling acquired addition 1,700 acreage of land, including the 1891 bindle and a ample acreage south of Oakville Grade, which became accepted as the “Stelling Extension.” But he died in a car blast in 1950, and his added awash off the acreage in pieces.

When Robert Mondavi founded his namesake winery, he amid it abutting to To Kalon. The aggregation would afterwards cast the name. (Courtesy Robert Mondavi Winery/Chris Leschinsky)

In 1962, Cesare Mondavi and his sons, Robert and Peter, bought 429 acreage of To Kalon acreage and Stelling Addendum acreage for their winery, Charles Krug. Back Robert Mondavi addled out on his own, a advancing balloon over advantage for Robert’s years at Krug disconnected the family, and the admired land. Back the case was acclimatized in 1977, Robert added Krug’s 429 acreage to the absolute 246 acreage he had purchased alone for his winery.

Today, Robert Mondavi Winery owns about 328 acreage that never belonged to Crabb, but were allotment of the Stelling extension. Even so, Mondavi consistently batten of it as allotment of To Kalon. Tim Mondavi already explained it by citation how acreage boundaries advance in Bordeaux: Back one château buys its neighbor, that acreage becomes allotment of the estate.

For a abrupt time, the acreage forth the Napa River surrounding Opus One was additionally included on centralized Robert Mondavi To Kalon Acreage maps, but was afterwards removed. Today, eight owners affirmation a allocation of the vineyard, according to its celebrated boundaries: Mondavi, Opus One, MacDonald/Horton, Detert, Andy Beckstoffer, U.C. Davis, Wilsey/Traina and the Napa Basin Grape Growers. (Jeremy Nickel’s acreage already belonged to Crabb, but his acreage is non-contiguous and, according to MacDonald’s research, there is no affirmation that it was buried to wine grapes until 1980.)

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But according to Constellation’s claim, alone Robert Mondavi Winery should accept the appropriate to use the To Kalon name.

Nobody knows bigger about the cast action than Andy Beckstoffer. One of Napa’s best acknowledged acreage owners, Beckstoffer purchased a allocation of To Kalon Acreage from his ex-employer, Beaulieu, in 1993. In 2000, he began affairs the bake-apple as To Kalon to vintners, including Fred Schrader, who has back fabricated some of the best admired and big-ticket Cabernets from Napa Basin application Beckstoffer’s grapes. Mondavi sued Schrader Cellars in 2002 for putting To Kalon on its labels. (Further convoluting To Kalon’s status, Constellation bought Schrader in 2017).

Beckstoffer countersued, arguing that Mondavi was ambiguous consumers by including grapes from vineyards that were not allotment of the aboriginal To Kalon Acreage in wines with the name on their label—grapes from the Stelling extension. The parties eventually acclimatized the case, acceding Beckstoffer rights to use To Kalon on wines from his allocation of the vineyards.

Beckstoffer has bound a letter of support—one of many—to the BGN to accumulate the To Kalon Brook name. In it, he cites that alluvial admirers and creeks are important to advice ascertain specific areas aural an appellation and that allotment To Kalon Brook conveys actual and cultural value.

Stay on top of important wine belief with Wine Spectator’s chargeless Breaking News Alerts.

Beckstoffer says that he hopes to annex allotment for a affairs to actualize a annals of celebrated vineyards in Napa Basin based on celebrated maps to anticipate added acreage trademarks. “This is bigger than the business,” said Beckstoffer. “MacDonald has done the abundant research, and it’s important that he prevails, and add backbone to its name.”

If To Kalon is a cast (protected by cast laws), accepting a brook alleged To Kalon is a problem. Constellation asserts that there is no abode alleged To Kalon. Yet history suggests otherwise.

In MacDonald’s altercation to the BGN board, he states that there are dozens if not hundreds of references to To Kalon as a abode in actual records, including acknowledged annal afterward Crabb’s death, advertisement To Kalon Acreage beneath “real estate.”

MacDonald added credibility to the Robert Mondavi Winery website, which references the To Kalon Acreage assorted times, including the winery’s breadth at 7801 St. Helena Highway at the bend of the To Kalon Vineyard. The website additionally has a adduce that reads, “When Robert Mondavi chose the To Kalon Acreage in west Oakville as the home for his new winery in 1966, he remarked that ‘It was a acreage with a acclaimed history and a bewitched nature. Ideal soils, sunlight and rain—to my eye, the acreage was a treasure.'”

Constellation has declared that beneath law, they accept the acknowledged appropriate to alarm any wine fabricated any abode in the apple To Kalon, behindhand of whether it is sourced, either wholly or in part, from Mondavi’s vineyards.

In 2009, Calistoga became Napa Valley’s newest American Viticultural Breadth (AVA) afterwards a six-year action amid two wineries and AVA petitioners. The Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) initially capital the petitioners to change the name of the AVA so they didn’t accept to booty abroad the names of two absolute brands, Calistoga Cellars and Calistoga Estates.

Andy Beckstoffer helped baby-sit allotment of To Kalon for Beaulieu Vineyard, afresh bought it back he addled out on his own. (Photo by Colin Price)

Carol Kingery Ritter, who counsels audience on the accumulation of AVAs through the TTB as a managing accomplice for Dickenson Peatman & Fogarty law firm, says that back wine businesses name their brands based on a geographic feature, they run a accident that it could become allotment of an AVA name.

“The circle of trademarks and AVAs is article we’ve debated a lot,” she says, analytic how to abstracted the cast and cast issues from the AVA issues. “The two agencies [TTB and U.S. Patent and Cast Office] rarely coordinate, and assignment apart from anniversary other,” addendum Ritter. That creates a abeyant for disputes and demography of cast rights, which accept value. But she believes that the TTB shies abroad from demography a position on removing cast rights from a wine company.

Both wineries were ultimately blocked from application Calistoga as a cast name, and Calistoga’s AVA cachet was awarded. Allotment of the acumen abaft the accommodation was that neither winery acclimated grapes from the Calistoga breadth and there was a anguish that the brands would adulterate Calistoga’s acceptability and abash customers.

According to the U.S. Patent and Cast Office, trademarks should not be accustomed if the name is acclimated primarily as a geographically anecdotic agent of the goods. A wine cast is annihilation that classifies the maker of the wine, such as the winery name, or the characterization design.

To many, Constellation’s affirmation that To Kalon can be sourced from anywhere weakens the cast and acutely alters the acceptation of To Kalon. Carlo Mondavi, grandson of Robert and son of Tim, credibility to Inglenook as an example. It was one of the celebrated estates of Napa.

After its auction to Heublein in 1969, the association badly added production, sourcing grapes from all over and axis Inglenook into jug wine. (Constellation acquired Inglenook in 1994 from Heublein. In 2011, Francis Ford Coppola acquired the brand, reuniting it with the estate, which he had bought in 2011. He has back repositioned it as a exceptional producer.) “It would be a abashment if To Kalon aback was fabricated from vineyards all over California,” said Carlo.

Carlo Mondavi wrote a letter of abutment for befitting the To Kalon Brook name, and he says he has annihilation to win in acknowledging this, but a lot to lose, because Constellation about owns his ancestors name. “My antecedent acknowledgment is that we accept to assure our bounded areas,” he said, citation the Burgundy model. “If I accept a acreage there, you can detail the village, for example, Chambolle-Musigny, and afresh added focus on the acreage area.” If the acreage changes easily with time it is consistently Musigny, or To Kalon in this case. “Nothing will anytime change how appropriate To Kalon is, but what makes it so appropriate are the bodies that accept been demography affliction of it.”

Constellation claims that competitors such as Nickel and MacDonald are aggravating to account from the use of To Kalon, by siphoning off the amicableness Constellation has created in the brand. To MacDonald, this is comical, because Robert Mondavi Winery purchases about 75 percent of MacDonald’s grapes anniversary year to accommodate in Mondavi’s To Kalon Acreage wines.

Late aftermost year, MacDonald sat bottomward with Constellation’s acknowledged aggregation at Robert Mondavi Winery above-mentioned to a annual California Advisory Committee Affair on Geographic Names (CACGN), area he hoped to accomplish the case to bottle his research. MacDonald told Wine Spectator that during the affair Constellation’s aggregation offered him the rights to administer To Kalon to his characterization in barter for acknowledging the abatement of the To Kalon Brook name at the accessible CACGN meeting.

MacDonald says that, in a moment of clarity, his acknowledgment seemed actual simple. “Our candor is not for sale,” he told the lawyers.

In 1979, Tim Mondavi wrote to Napa wine historian William Heintz about the achievability of authoritative To Kalon its own AVA. This was able-bodied afore Oakville itself was accustomed as its own AVA. They concluded up abandoning the plan because they begin out that Mondavi’s acreage south of the Oakville Grade Road, the Stelling extension, had not been allotment of To Kalon pre-Prohibition. It had been allotment of Far Niente.

Today several association altercate that a To Kalon AVA could be the answer. “Constellation potentially has a lot to account from MacDonald’s work, and announcement the site,” said Carlo Mondavi. “If they could catechumen the cast into an AVA for what the absolute To Kalon is.”

History and the allotment of To Kalon Brook add to the possibility. “When you’re basic a address for AVA status, footfall one is name recognition,” said Ritter, citation that the aboriginal abode bodies attending is the USGS maps and the USGS account of geographic names. MacDonald’s allotment of the brook has back advance to its admittance on the USGS geographic names list. “If we accept a To Kalon Brook on the geographic names list, petitioners could use that as one allotment of affirmation in a anatomy of name affirmation support,” said Ritter.

The MacDonald ancestors has been on this acreage for generations. (Photo by Paige Green)

Whether To Kalon becomes a accustomed appellation or charcoal a cast sets a antecedent for American wine. “If To Kalon doesn’t accept integrity, it casts aspersions on the accomplished basin and how we present ourselves,” said Beckstoffer, pointing out that Napa Basin fabricated a cogent about-face at the alpha of the 2000s to focus on single-site expressions. “I’ll say afresh what I said in 2004: To Kalon is a vineyard, not a business concept, and it’s important that we authorize it as a place.”

Rulings on To Kalon’s admittance into the annals of celebrated places and the abeyant abolishment of the brook allotment are accepted this year.

For MacDonald, he wonders if armoring a acclaimed place’s name with trademarks set a alarming precedent. MacDonald fears that To Kalon and added acclaimed areas may be rendered inauthentic in the minds of consumers. “I grew up there and I feel answerable to avert the place,” he said. “History is in our favor in cogent this story.”

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