France has the Cote d’Or and the United States has, well, To Kalon. Like any well respected terroir, the prizes California locale neo-appellation system is the center of constant controversy and numerous legal wrangling. However, a federal judge just resolved one major case involving To Kalon.
Judge Gonzalez Rogers ruled against plaintiff Jeremy Nickel of The Vineyard House following a full-on trial.
Rogers issued a permanent injunction forbidding Nickel’s from using the To Kalon name. The judgment against both of Nickel’s claim also maintained Constellation Brands’ (via their Robert Mondavi subsidiary) grip on the coveted title.
The center of Nickel’s first claim was fabled vintner Hamilton Walker Crabb. Crabb established the original To Kalon vineyard (and name) in 1872. Nickel contended that his ‘Baldridge property’ was part of Crabb’s OG vineyard and therefore could be labeled as ‘To Kalon’.
However, Rogers found no historical facts to support that assertion. “The evidence overwhelmingly confirms that [Crabb] did not [plant a vineyard on the Baldridge property], at least not with any commercial value,” she wrote.
The second portion of the suit focused on Mondavi’s trademark on the To Kalon name in 1988. Nickel argued that Mondavi originally used fraudulent tactics to acquire the trademark and that Constellation continued the trend with underhanded use of the trademark in marketing.
Rogers also dismissed this theory. She argued that while Mondavi did not create To Kalon, the region’s fame is the product of his work more so than Crabb’s legacy. The judge’s finding sets an important precedent for another area vineyards seeking to label themselves as To Kalon wine.
Constellation VP Alexandra Wagner released a statement. “As we’ve maintained throughout this process, Constellation Brands has owned the exclusive rights to the To Kalon and To Kalon Vineyard trademarks for many years, and we continue to operate in accordance with the rules and regulations associated with those rights. We are pleased with the court’s ruling to that effect and to have this matter resolved.”