• Beauty & the Boss: 2017 MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon

    Beauty & the Boss: 2017 MacDonald Cabernet Sauvignon

    Oakville's To-Kalon is arguably the most hallowed vineyard in all of California, planted in the 1870s. Most notably, it's been the main component of Robert Mondavi's Reserve and To-Kalon cuvées. Mondavi also buys fruit from the MacDonald family, whose parcel sits at the desirable westernmost part of the vineyard at the Mayacamas Mountain Range base. For 60 years, the family farmed their head-trained Cabernet Sauvignon and sold all the grapes to Mondavi.

    Graeme MacDonald has an impressive resume: He studied wine at UC Davis, then worked at Opus One, Colgin, Kongsgaard, and Scholium Project. But his most difficult task was convincing his family to let him farm and produce wine from their sacred To-Kalon vines. After all, they could sell the grapes to Mondavi for $20,000 per ton. Graeme and his brother, Alex, negotiated with their family to harvest a small portion of the vines, and their inaugural release was the 2010 vintage.

    While To-Kalon translates to "The Highest Beauty," its first owner, Henry W. Crabb, was fond of calling it "The Boss Vineyard." MacDonald's Cabernet is both beauty and boss. It's incredibly structured with hints of black olive, bitter chocolate, and graphite. While the fruit spectrum is dark, vivid raspberry and violet tones point to Graeme's insistence on preserving freshness and avoiding the overripeness that has permeated Napa in recent decades.

    Graeme's philosophy is as old-school as the 19th-century photos on his small farmhouse's walls. The rare California Sprawl vine-training allows the canopy to shade grapes, prevent sun damage, and preserve freshness. As neighbors tear out vines that aren't capable of giving six tons per acre, Graeme is taking steps to ensure the oldest vines continue to thrive. The unique location of Macdonald's parcel is over 90% gravel, which allows the vines to travel deep below for water and nutrients. In the context of Grand Cru To-Kalon, MacDonald's parcel sits in the sweetest spot.

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    Posted by Max Kogod