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Feb 13, 2020

Robert Mondavi Winery Sits in the To Kalon Vineyard. Its Owner Says There's No Such Place

Is To Kalon a vineyard or a brand? Constellation is fighting neighbors who want to put it on the register of historic places

In John Steinbeck's East of Eden, the narrator describes the land around California's Salinas Valley by noting that the first duty of 18th century Spanish explorers was to give everything they saw a name. "The names of places refer more to things which happened there, and these to me are the most fascinating of all names because each name suggests a story that has been forgotten," Steinbeck wrote.

The story of To Kalon begins in 1868, when Hamilton Walker Crabb, an Ohio native who had moved west in pursuit of gold, landed in Napa Valley and purchased 240 acres in Oakville. After farming a variety of crops, Crabb eventually turned his focus to wine grapes, and named his land Hermosa Vineyards. He bought two adjacent parcels, in 1879 and 1891. In 1886, Crabb renamed his winery and the vineyard To Kalon, Greek for "the place of highest beauty."

Today, To Kalon is perhaps the most famous vineyard in the United States, carrying with it a fabled chronicle of its legacy and ownership. Constellation Brands owns the lion's share of what is considered To Kalon land through its subsidiary, Robert Mondavi Winery. But it also owns trademarks established by Mondavi of "To Kalon," registered in 1988, and "To Kalon Vineyard," registered in 1994. Those trademarks have created a tangled web of problems that come down to one question: Is To Kalon a place or a brand?

The question is coming to a head as Constellation has begun more aggressively asserting its trademark rights. Last year, a nearby winery filed a lawsuit challenging Constellation's trademark. The case was dismissed. Constellation has also launched a new wine brand named To Kalon Vineyard Company.
Vintner, Jeremy Nickel's "History of To-Kalon"