“There is Not Much of it, But it is a Beauty”
It’s no secret that Tor Kenward can sell all his wine — to his mailing list. But as Tor told me at a recent tasting, he loves our stories. Thanks to our clients’ enthusiasm and Tor’s generosity, we're able to offer another level of brilliance with this tightly allocated 2014 TOR Proprietary Red. Robert Parker praised the “fabulous intensity, low acidity and finely grained, integrated tannins” of “this deep, sumptuous, full-bodied wine” culled from To Kalon and Vine Hill Ranch vineyards. “There is not much of it, but it is a beauty,” Parker wrote, pinning on 95+ points. What I love about TOR is that although the wines have the quality and demand of the other cults, they are priced so sensibly by comparison, perhaps because Tor is such an avid collector himself and empathizes with fellow collectors. This wine is a stunning achievement, and one of the greatest Tor has released yet. Just 25 cases.
Toward the end of a enlightening tasting session at Tor Kenward’s home, the Napa veteran pulled out this bottle and began to relate the story of its improbable success. Late one morning in 2015, Kenward and winemaker Jeff Ames — the winemaking guru Wine Spectator deemed “one of Napa’s rising stars” — were tasting through barrel samples. They came to their small yield of To Kalon Oakville Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot from Vine Hill Ranch, another Oakville landmark vineyard located just south of Harlan. Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are angular Bordeaux varieties, and finding the right balance between the two in blending is typically a laborious, time-consuming endeavor.
But that day, on a lark they made a sample blend (nearly 50-50) of the two wines on the spot — and magic happened. “You wait your whole career for serendipities like this,” he told me. “The wine practically made itself!” After adding a dollop of To Kalon Oakville Cabernet Sauvignon, the result was “one of the most exciting wines we’ve ever made,” Kenward said.
It doesn’t hurt that the pedigree of the fruit is almost unparalleled in the region. Tor’s two blocks of Cabernet Franc at To Kalon — perhaps Napa’s most famous vineyard, one of California’s “First Growths” — yield ripe, concentrated berries that lend a powerful earthiness and vivid acidity to the blend. Vine Hill Ranch grows savory Petit Verdot full of spice and dark plum, while the To Kalon Cabernet Sauvignon contributes sumptuous black fruit and superb density.
The vineyards thrived in 2014, another miracle vintage whose Napa reds, balancing focus and firmness with terrific fruit purity and complexity, signal what James Suckling calls “a new era of classicism.” The critic didn’t hold back on the TOR 2014 Proprietary Red, pouring on 96 points and writing: “Lovely length and beauty. Such finesse.” Robert M. Parker Jr. gushed in his 95+ point review, calling it “deep, sumptuous, full-bodied” with “fabulous intensity, low acidity and finely grained, integrated tannins.”
At the end of our tasting, I asked Kenward how much of the 2014 Oakville Proprietary Red we could get. It wasn’t half as much as I’d hoped, but 25 cases will have to do for today. Do not miss out on this one!