Sitting on the again porch ingesting a good looking glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, the sundown painted the sky with colours of saffron and gold; there, a veteran wine producer in Napa Valley took within the latest disaster that destroyed a lot of his group whereas he contemplated the luck of no lack of human life within the catastrophe, and fewer importantly, that 5 of his greatest barrels of wine survived. Rapidly the tune “That Previous Black Magic” began to play in his head, and he knew “Black Magic” could be the right identify for these particular barrels of wine because it was a “black second” for his vineyard as they misplaced loads of wine but on the identical time these barrels have an “aura of actual magic”.
That second occurred after the 2014 huge 6.0-magnitude Napa Valley earthquake that violently destroyed wineries, constructions and catapulted folks out of their beds round 3 am. The victims have been randomly chosen as “some wineries misplaced the whole lot; some none,” in response to the outline that’s specified by Tor Kenward’s ebook Reflections of a Vintner. Tor, an iconic winemaker with virtually 50 years of expertise in Napa Valley, has witnessed Napa’s fashionable wine business from its starting with lower than 50 wineries within the mid-Seventies to the over 400 that exist right this moment which might be open for tastings and round 1,700 registered wineries in response to the Alcoholic Beverage Management of California.
After the 2014 earthquake, Tor was on his porch, processing disturbing photos of the horrible occasions of such a pure catastrophe blended with the heartwarming emotions of seeing the Napa group come collectively when he was impressed to label these surviving barrels of nice wine from the 2013 classic at his TOR winery, “Black Magic”. Destiny had undoubtedly been merciless as Tor misplaced 20% of his purple wines throughout that classic; that was compounded by the actual fact he did not have earthquake insurance coverage on the time, lower than 10% of Napa wineries had it, in response to Tor. The “Black Magic” wine comes from plots positioned within the Vine Hill Ranch Winery, on the southern border of western Oakville in Napa. The wine would ultimately garner 4 100-point scores for the 2018 classic, changing into generally known as their 400-point wine.
Tor, who loves mixing wine from an “distinctive” single-vineyard, was capable of work with the extraordinary Vine Hill Ranch due to a relationship that spanned a number of many years and is how he will get most of his stellar Napa fruit. This specific winery has displayed its greatness prior to now in Beaulieu Georges de Latour Personal Reserve bottlings made by the legendary André Tchelistcheff.
The 2013 TOR “Black Magic” mix is comprised of 99.5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 0.5% of Petit Verdot as a result of Tor likes the horny “mineral” observe and aroma of “sizzling, moist granite” that comes out of the extra “fruit-driven” Cabernet Sauvignon when a contact of Petit Verdot is added to the ultimate mix.
However for the 2016 classic of Black Magic, Tor mentioned that he and his longtime winemaker, Jeff Ames, determined to enter one other unconventional course with the wine, one which he labels as “a criminal offense of the century”. 2016 is taken into account by most wine critics, in addition to Tor, to be considered one of Napa Valley’s best. Serendipitously, the Cabernet and the Petit Verdot ideally ripened on the identical time and so Jeff had the seemingly ludicrous concept to co-ferment collectively the Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot as it might match completely right into a four-ton tank and it’d “be attention-grabbing”, leading to a 55% Cabernet Sauvignon and 45% Petit Verdot mix. This gamble, which was extremely unorthodox for just a few causes – co-fermentation and such a excessive proportion of Petit Verdot was exceptional in Napa – and it concerned playing with grapes that value “north of $100,000”.
Tor was afraid that it might be a Frankenstein form of wine as he had by no means tasted one other that attempted such an unthinkable observe. In addition to, being a small wine producer with no company cash to cushion such a probably costly failure may very well be detrimental to his enterprise. He additionally risked making a large number out of outstanding plots inside an awesome winery, which might look like a disrespectful act. But as different winemakers got here to the protection of Jeff’s concept, Tor lastly caved, and conversely, it made an ideal wine in Tor’s opinion and it modified the way in which they made wine at TOR vineyard.
The 2016 “Black Magic” was scored extremely with 98-point scores from high critics however the 2018 classic, a classic recognized for its excellent expression of terroir, acquired 4 100-point scores from Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate, Antonio Galloni’s Vinous, Jeb Dunnuck and the Worldwide Wine Report; and many individuals have mentioned to Tor that it’s a unbelievable solution to finish a journey though Tor feels just like the journey is simply starting for TOR Wines.
Reflections of a Vintner
And one can’t assist however marvel at Tor Kenward’s journey when it’s skilled by means of his ebook Reflections of a Vintner. He was born to bohemian dad and mom who all the time had inventive individuals who weren’t afraid to dream coming out and in of their Los Angeles home as his dad was a author and his mother a painter. At one level, his household lived with the actor James Cagney (recognized to Tor’s household as Jimmy) for a time after they misplaced their residence “to fireplace and flood”. Tor’s identify, in addition to the names of his siblings, got here from characters in a play that his dad and mom liked and regardless of his father and mom doing little to form their youngsters’s lives as adults, Tor felt the inspiration for him had already been constructed by the amazingly passionate individuals who surrounded him very early in life. In some ways, he and his siblings had lived extra life earlier than the age of 18 than most individuals get to expertise in a lifetime.
After Tor got here again from the Vietnam Warfare, working in hospitals, he based a jazz membership with just a few different music fanatics that led to them internet hosting occasions at varied areas all through California with a number of the greats and alongside the way in which, he was launched to nice French wine, which might have a long-lasting impact on his life, in addition to the Napa new youngsters on the block. In 1976, one of many largest upsets within the wine world, the Judgment of Paris the place French judges in Paris picked Napa Valley wines over high French wines in a blind tasting, impressed Tor to observe his ardour for wine. He might by no means think about that 45 years later he would win the 2021 Judgment of Napa Tasting together with his pal and iconic grape grower, Andy Beckstoffer, with their 2016 TOR Beckstoffer To Kalon.
Tor ended up working for Beringer for 25 years, and he relishes the time he spent with a “core group of dreamers” throughout these adolescence there, and for essentially the most half that group stayed intact. Throughout that point, he took winemaking programs at U.C. Davis and he spent loads of time with a number of the better of the perfect within the wine and meals world. Later in her life, Tor grew to become the fixed escort for Julia Little one and he marveled at her steady enthusiasm to repeatedly be taught as she was all the time selecting the brains of passionate, youthful individuals who had totally different viewpoints about meals and wine. Like many different winemakers in Napa, he was significantly influenced by the all-inspiring Robert Mondavi who by no means shied away from exclaiming that Napa made wines that have been simply as nice as a number of the high wines of the world. Mondavi was a much-needed supply of inspiration for Tor and plenty of others because the Napa crew would get tons of destructive pushback from European-centric wine-loving sommeliers in New York Metropolis when Napa was first making an attempt to make a reputation for themselves.
In the future within the late Seventies stands out in Tor’s thoughts as being extraordinary, when he was invited to a lunch that included Robert Mondavi, Louis Martini, André Tchelistcheff and some different skilled winemakers, the place Tor stored his mouth shut so he might take within the knowledge. A debate began about which qualities make a wine nice and provides it longevity. Tor remembers phrases equivalent to tannins (within the purple wines), acid (within the white wines), pH, terroir and steadiness as being introduced as solutions on this energetic dialogue. However then, lastly, André Tchelistcheff, generally known as America’s most influential post-Prohibition winemaker, gently mentioned together with his Russian accent, “No, it’s the flesh – it’s the flesh within the nice wines I’ve made that appears to offer them grace with age.” Tor provides the 1947 Cheval Blanc and 1959 Domaine de la Romanée-Conti and La Tâche (DRC) as basic examples of the place he was capable of expertise wines that had “flesh” that assisted them of their sleek ageing like André Tchelistcheff had mentioned that day.
For many years, Tor had all the time admired how the best producers in Burgundy centered on specific blocks inside a winery and he was fortunate sufficient to drink loads of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti to help in his training. And so Burgundy was the mannequin for his personal vineyard, TOR Wines, which he began in 2000, and its focus has been on single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay wines with every bottling made in small portions.
Fifty Years of Napa Valley in Two Hours
Again in April, Tor led a tasting for a small group in New York Metropolis to showcase his virtually 50 years of being concerned within the Napa wine world however he couldn’t assist however carry just a few Napa gems from his cellar that went again to 1945 – a fiercely concrete solution to present that Napa wines can have an extended life. It was a solution to viscerally perceive Napa’s wine historical past and a glimpse into Tor’s wine profession with lots of the wines related to lengthy relationships with winegrowers equivalent to with the legendary Andy Beckstoffer.
Tor has recognized Andy Beckstoffer for 4 many years, and so they share the mission of preventing the great combat of maintaining agriculture on the heart of Napa Valley. Andy has even arrange his will so every of his historic vineyards can by no means be offered by relations and every winery can solely be used for rising vines. Napa has modified dramatically since 1968, famous Tor, and he and Andy combat battles yearly to maintain shortsighted vineyard tasks from taking away what’s on the soul of nice Napa wines – extraordinary vineyards.
As soon as everybody obtained to the 2018 TOR “Black Magic”, 400-point wine, on the tasting he held in NYC, Tor prefaced the wine by saying that individuals both liked it or hated it. That will look like an odd assertion a few wine that garnered 100 factors from 4 high wine critics however maybe that’s only a testomony to Tor’s gratitude for his life. At the moment, with out vital monetary backing, it might be unattainable for somebody to start out any vineyard in Napa and have alternatives to purchase a number of the greatest fruit, not to mention a vineyard specializing in small bottlings of single vineyards and with such monetary backing comes limitations. The co-fermented “Black Magic” would have by no means occurred if massive company cash had been concerned as a result of the board would have by no means allowed Tor to take such of venture.
Tor has all the time gotten to be the dreamer he was raised to be and that’s all that issues, so if somebody comes alongside and negatively shoots down his “Black Magic” wine, he has already received at dwelling… or perhaps he simply is aware of that it’s an excellent wine.
Present Launch of TOR Wines:
2019 TOR Cabernet Sauvignon, Oakville, Napa Valley: Black cherry preserves balanced by pencil shavings and sizzling glowing wooden embers that has tons of vitality on the palate with layers of zingy purple cranberry fruit mixed with blackberry compote that has tannins with broad shoulders to help it. Solely 375 instances made and recommended retail value of $110 per bottle.
2019 TOR Cabernet Sauvignon, Beckstoffer To Kalon Winery, Oakville, Napa Valley: A reasonably, perfumed nostril with mixture of wildflowers and baking spices that has notes of crushed rocks and recent raspberries within the background that finishes with finely pixelated tannins. Actually elegant! Solely 250 instances made and recommended retail value of $300 per bottle.
2019 TOR “Pure Magic” Vine Hill Ranch Winery, Oakville, Napa Valley: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Petit Verdot from Vine Hill Ranch Winery like the unique 2016 “Black Magic”. Damaged earth and recent tree bark instantly carry a robust sense of place to this wine with boysenberry fruit and darkish chocolate notes coming after just a few hours of decanting. The feel of those co-fermented wines are all the time a WOW issue as they’ve the correct quantity of flesh mixed with elegantly structured tannins that give instant hedonistic pleasure whereas additionally making a drive and focus that refreshes the palate and makes it too simple to drink the entire bottle. Solely 100 instances made and recommended retail value of $350 per bottle.
The Fifty Years of Napa Valley In Two Hours Tasting led by Tor Kenward in New York Metropolis on April thirteenth, 2022:
1945 Beringer Property Pink, St. Helena, Napa Valley: Tree bark, thyme and marked acidity – mild and nimble. Notes by Tor Kenward: “This wine got here from plantings across the Beringer St. Helena property. Primarily based on outdated maps from the Nineteen Forties, it consists of Cabernet Sauvignon and blended black grape varieties standard on the time. It was saved in a nook of the unique Beringer caves for 40 years. We labored laborious to seek out the wine’s true identification – nobody alive actually is aware of. The Bordeaux bottle hints principally to Cabernet Sauvignon.”
1958 Louis Martini “Mountain Cabernet” Monte Rosso, Napa Valley: A stupendous delicacy to this wine with floral and raspberry aromas – a heady wine. The well-known Monte Rosso Winery is in Sonoma Valley however again within the Fifties it was labeled as Napa. Notes by Tor Kenward: “That is my final bottle. I’ve loved sharing this gem over time. Basic “Martini” type – mushy, good core of fruit, lovely fragrance. Wonderful classic.”
1969 Heitz Cellar, Cabernet Sauvignon, Martha’s Winery, Napa Valley: Combination of eucalyptus and recent sage with crunchy cranberry on the lengthy, vibrant end. Notes by Tor Kenward: “I purchased this wine in 1975 on a visit to Napa. Joe Heitz would not promote me the 1968. I by no means opened a bottle of Joe’s Martha’s bottling from the Sixties and Seventies that I’ve not liked. Martha Might, proprietor, is an effective pal.”
1977 Beringer, Cabernet Sauvignon “Personal Reserve” Napa Valley: Very nice weight on the mid-palate with silky tannins and blackcurrant leaves and a contact of black cherry. Notes by Tor Kenward: “This was the primary wine from the Lemmon/Chabot winery, and it was Beringer’s first Personal Reserve wine. I used to be a decide on the Orange County Honest and I took shiners of the wine to see the way it carried out. My pal, Richard Arrowood, informed me it was his favourite wine of the present. I went again to Beringer and inspired the crew to make this our first Personal Reserve bottling. It was a straightforward promote.”
1988 Kenward, Cabernet Sauvignon “Residence Cuvee” Napa Valley: A number of juicy black fruit with construction giving it form and recent end. #1 Pink Wine Winner at California State Honest (Tor’s selfmade). Notes by Tor Kenward: “From 1981 and for 20 years, Beringer allowed me to make small numerous wine on the west aspect of the St. Helena property with tools I purchased and free labor – principally pals, writers, commerce, and dreamers. 1988 was an excellent classic, misplaced behind the legendary 1987, and with half the crop. I saved the California State Honest ribbon I acquired – an enormous ribbon saying, “Greatest Pink Wine of Present.” Buddy and Congressman, Mike Thompson, despatched me a congratulatory letter which I additionally saved.”
1990 Kenward, Cabernet Sauvignon, State Lane, Napa Valley: Spherical tannins with ripe strawberry flavors and a few baking spice with a contact of gravelly earth within the background. Notes by Tor Kenward: “That is our selfmade wine from a property that’s now owned by the Kapsandy household. The 2 vineyards that battled it out for the early Beringer Personal Reserves have been Chabot/Lemmon and State Lane. We marveled why the latter, close to the Napa river, carried out so nicely yearly till we dug with backhoes and located extra rock than wealthy alluvial soil.”
1991 Kenward Cabernet Sauvignon “Chateau La Tor” Napa Valley: Savory rosemary with candy stewed cherries balanced by upheaved earth. Notes by Tor Kenward: “David Abreu and I planted our property – a small winery with 4 totally different clones – subsequent to his Madrone Winery. First classic, nice yr for Napa. The winery taught me many classes about grape rising within the Napa Valley: clones and plant materials matter.”
Then transitioned into youthful vintages, first beginning with a few Chardonnay wines:
2020 TOR Chardonnay, “Cuvée Susan”, Hyde Winery, Carneros Napa Valley: A fascinating nostril of saline minerality and acacia with white peach flavors and hints of blanched almonds on the end. Notes by Tor Kenward: “Our Hyde Cuvée Susan is from two blocks, one planted to the very shy bearing, shot cluster Wente – the opposite to the fuller cluster however fragrant Calera clone.”
2020 TOR Chardonnay, Torchiana Beresini Winery, Carneros Napa Valley: General magnificence with aromas of honeycomb and salty lemon confit with moist stones. Notes by Tor Kenward: “The Beresini winery is planted to a different Hyde Wente choice that’s planted within the mom blocks at Hyde and go into the wonderful Hyde and Villaine Commandant Chardonnay. Steve Beresini’s outdated vines are a testomony to his farming, maintaining these 30 plus yr outdated vines alive and nonetheless producing a small however distinctive wine that has constructed an awesome following inside our TOR circle.”
2003 TOR, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cimarossa Winery, Howell Mountain, Napa Valley: Dominated by blueberry and plum fruit with hints of graphite and lilacs with a wealthy textured physique. Notes by Tor Kenward: “Cimarossa means “purple hilltop” in Italian and that aptly defines this particular hillside winery. Elevation is 2,100 ft the place the soils are predominately purple volcanic rock and dirt. This was our first classic labored from three totally different blocks.”
2009 TOR Cabernet Sauvignon, Beckstoffer To Kalon “Previous B” Oakville, Napa Valley: Full throttle on the entry with lush cassis flavors and savory spice with advanced notes of tar and smoldering earth with advantageous tannins and a reasonably floral end that was all finesse on the finish. Wonderful wine! Notes by Tor Kenward: “A coveted block in Beckstoffer To Kalon which Andy made accessible IF I picked at 24 Brix. Everybody within the winery picked a lot riper that decade, and Andy liked the outdated BV Reserves picked nearer to 24 Brix. An anomaly for To Kalon, the classic was wonderful.”
2016 TOR “Black Magic” Vine Hill Ranch Winery, Oakville, Napa Valley: First time Tor co-fermented a wine; 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Petit Verdot from Vine Hill Ranch Winery. Deep ruby colour with multi-layered black and blue fruit and hints of turmeric and curry leaves on the nostril because it expands on the palate with blackberry liqueur and espresso notes… and what an awesome texture! Full physique that has the correct quantity of pressure balanced by, dare I say, flesh. Incredible wine! Notes by Tor Kenward: “This was the primary yr Jeff talked me into co-fermenting our small Block of Petit Verdot with Block 7 Cabernet Sauvignon from Vine Hill Ranch Winery. It is in contrast to any wine we made as much as that point and have become a mannequin for future Magics.”
2018 TOR “Black Magic” Vine Hill Ranch Winery, Oakville, Napa Valley: 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 16% Petit Verdot co–fermented and 4% Cabernet Franc blended. This wine obtained loads of enthusiastic reward from everybody within the room as it’s only a wine that blows one away. The wine seduces from the second one smells it because it has numerous juicy and wealthy fruits singing and it’s multifaceted with reference to advanced flavors and textures; cigar field, unique spice, stony minerality and trace of graphite with numerous vitality, finely etched tannins and extraordinary size of taste. Wow, wow, wow, wow! Really feel fortunate to expertise it!! Notes by Tor Kenward: “Slightly little bit of the whole lot in our toolbox is on this wine. Co-ferments, greatest barrel choice, Vine Hill Ranch Winery, Beckstoffer To Kalon, and a touch of Pritchard Hill Cabernet. We labored on this wine to the very finish when it “magically” got here collectively. It garnered 4 100-point scores from main critics.”
2019 TOR Cabernet Sauvignon, Beckstoffer Dr. Crane Vineyards, St. Helena, Napa Valley: A beautiful floral high quality to the nostril intermixed with cumin seed and cocoa powder that has scrumptious cassis flavors laced with a minerality that was sustained throughout the lengthy, expressive end. Notes by Tor Kenward: “Our first ever from this iconic website was fermented in a single four-ton closed high tank for 20 days. We have been supplied blocks from this winery beforehand, however waited till a block subsequent to the quarry close by was supplied. All Clone 6. Not a typical Crane, distinctive fragrance, nicely well worth the wait.”
Myron Nightingale’s Previous Solera Sherry, St. Helena, Napa Valley: Golden apples and walnuts with touches of butterscotch and zing of ginger. Notes by Tor Kenward: “This was hand bottled by Myron Nightingale and given to pals in 1980 from one barrel saved within the outdated Beringer caves. Very outdated Solera Sherry whose “mom” would possibly date again to the 1800s from a Palomino winery on Spring Mountain, St. Helena, planted by Charles and Olga Beringer.”