An Incomparable Pedigree
The name “Beckstoffer” carries serious weight in Napa but—despite his status as a living legend—Andy Beckstoffer himself is much more human. His standard uniform is Wranglers and a rodeo-sized belt buckle. If that doesn’t put you at ease, his warm, casual Southern drawl will.
Today, the next generation of Beckstoffers is getting ready to fill Andy’s cowboy boots, and son David taking the family a step further with Kata, an exquisite, concentrated Cabernet Sauvignon, which I’m thrilled to be sharing directly with you: The only wine produced by the Beckstoffers from start to finish.
The best part of my job is tasting and meeting stellar winemakers, and once in while I’m treated to a truly unforgettable moment. Most recently, it happened in a St. Helena farmhouse, sitting with Andy and Betty Beckstoffer, who I first met at a charity wine auction, and who have since become irreplaceable friends. The duo combines the incredible Napa insight you’d expect with an easygoing nature that makes learning about their wines an absolute joy. It was at that farmhouse where I first learned about today’s 96-point Kata, over Andy’s personal tequila stash and family banter.
Even those who recognize the Beckstoffer signature might not grasp Andy’s significance, so I will put it plainly: Andy Beckstoffer’s name belongs alongside a sacred few—the likes of Robert Mondavi and André Tchelistcheff—as representing nothing less than the bedrock of Napa Valley wine. Over the past three decades, Andy’s conscientious farming and acute attention to detail have made his vineyards Napa’s undisputed best. His family has turned Napa Valley grape-growing into an art: Their name graces an incredible 24 100-point Robert Parker wines from prestigious names like Schrader, Vice Versa, Paul Hobbs, Realm, and Carter.
The Beckstoffers’ continuity is just as impressive as their quality: In an age when countless family-run Napa enterprises are cashing in by selling to conglomerates, the Beckstoffers are staying the course.
That’s not to say that nothing has changed, which brings us to this Kata Cabernet Sauvignon.
In 2010, Beckstoffer Vineyards acquired the Bourn vineyard, a 12-acre plot planted with four acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and eight of Petite Sirah. In one way, Bourn fits right in with the Beckstoffers’ other parcels. Located atop well-draining gravel soils in western St. Helena, it is a slice of Cabernet heaven. But it is different, in ways that ignited David’s long-held desire to make a wine.
“Bourn was completely unencumbered—there were no contracts,” David told me. “So I spoke to my father about making a wine, and about becoming a client and purchasing fruit.”
Yes, you read that—becoming a client—correctly. David paid full price for his dad’s grapes, and the Kata label was born.
His first call went to his friend, winemaker Benoit Touquette, who had already proven to be a deft hand with Beckstoffer grapes: He has ushered four Beckstoffer wines to perfect scores, and is intimately familiar with the Heritage Vineyards. “What makes Benoit a special winemaker in that he has his certain style,” David said, “but with every vineyard, he knows what he’s got, and he has this ability to bring out each site’s potential. Each wine is distinct.”
David had planned to tear out the Petite Sirah in the Bourn Vineyard to focus on Cabernet, but in the first vintage, just for kicks, David and Benoit made a barrel of Petite Sirah.
“When we tasted it,” David remembered, “we were blown away. It was just fantastic. So we stopped the presses, and thought about blending it.” David decided to keep ten rows of the 60-year-old Petite Sirah. In the vintages since, Petite Sirah has become an integral part of Kata’s profile.
2016 was not only Robert Parker’s 98-point vintage, but the year that the Bourn Vineyard’s younger Cabernet plantings started making it into this bottling. The result is gorgeous: inky purple color, with tons of lifted aromas of chocolate, incense, and cassis, as well as savory herbs and anise. The Petite Sirah adds layers of rich and supple fruit that lends major approachability to the wine—something that will reward those who open it early, even though the wine has the structure and elegance to last until 2035.
This is a historic wine from the most dedicated and decorated grape growers in California. Today, I invite you to taste this incredible expression of Napa history and maybe, just maybe, have the same chills I did.