IN THE PRESS
Robb Report: The Man Who Helped Turn Napa Valley Into a Premier Culinary Destination Is Still Making Some of Its Best Wine
When origin stories of wine regions are discussed, it’s usually in the context of ancient or distant history, such as colonization by the Romans or vineyards planted by Cistercian monks. However, in the case of Napa Valley, whose grape-growing history extends back to 1839, one of the pioneers of the current tourism, hospitality, and culinary landscape is not only still on the scene but is making coveted, age-worthy wines from some of the valley’s finest vineyards. Napa icon Tor Kenward is known for the high-scoring wines he and his wife, Susan, produce alongside winemaker Jeff Ames at their Tor Napa Valley winery, which they established in 2001. Tor’s 2018 vintage received seven 100-point scores, five 99-point scores and ten 98-point scores, including four 100-point scores from different scoring publications for Tor 2018 Napa Valley Black Magic, a Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blend.
Grapes for this fascinating Chardonnay are grown in a single three-acre vineyard that produces clusters much smaller than average, but the winemaking team feels that they make dense and rich wines because of the high skin to juice ratio. The team maintains that this produces “wines with structure wrapped around a core of dense fruit.” We couldn’t agree more—the wine is bright gold in color with intense aromas of white citrus blossom, white peach, and dried dandelion. It is full bodied with flavors of lemon curd, egg custard flan, and toasted hazelnut with a persistent velvety finish. Drink now or lay down for three to five years.
Henry and Vanessa Cornell purchased 240 acres of land tucked away in the Mayacamas Mountains and planted 20 acres of vines. They hired Francoise Peschon and Elizabeth Tangney as winemakers and in 2015 invited the winemaking team, vineyard crew, and their families to live on the property year-round. Their 2018 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon is composed of 98 percent Cabernet Sauvignon with one percent each of Petit Verdot and Malbec. It is aged for 20 months in 62 percent new French oak barrels. The wine has alluring aromas of cassis, purple flowers, and black plum with flavors of dried cherry, vanilla, and mocha. It has bold tannins and a touch of Indian Curry powder in the finish.
The 17-acre property on Azalea Springs Way, at the base of Diamond Mountain and a neighbor to Checkerboard Vineyards, was formerly owned by Norman and Norah Stone, a wealthy San Francisco–based couple with a prominent art collection. The property dates to the 1880s and had been purchased by the Stones in 1991. They renovated the two original houses on the site and put in vines by 2001. The 2020 wildfires took one of the houses, but the second still stands. Also on the property is a 5,750-square-foot hydro-heated cave built specifically to house fine art.