Napa Valley’s wines are frequently in the spotlight. The subtle details of the region’s land, grapes, varietals are often featured in colorful stories that create the urge to pick up a wine glass and start sipping. However, the most interesting and exciting tales come from the families and winemakers themselves, generations of untold stories divulging Napa Valley’s past and present.
That is why Cultured Vine has sought out some of the most notable winemakers in Napa to present its The Legends. Offering access to famed vintners including Tor Kenward, the fourth-generation Mondavi family sisters, and Kirk Venge, this series will share never-before heard stories from these masters accompanied by wine of their choice.
During your time, you’ll walk, taste and talk alongside renowned Napa talent as they share their most intimate wine secrets, stories of their greatest challenges, what they had to overcome to achieve success, who helped them along the way and most importantly, what makes their family’s wine so special.
Below, you’ll find some highlights of what makes each of these vintners a master of their craft. These award-winning winemakers await you in Napa; you decide who you’d like to stroll beside.
Package includes tours and tastings with one of the following vintners as well as lunch. Approximate time: 90min – 2 hours.
Tor Kenward - TOR Wines Napa Valley
A Napa staple, Tor Kenward has more than four decades of winemaking anecdotes to share. He started out as a vintner with Beringer and after 27 years of spearheading winemaking there, he retired in 2001 to start his own wine label, TOR Kenward Family Wines.
It was during his time with Beringer that the foundation was laid for TOR wines via three decades of mentorship under Napa’s top winemakers, who encouraged experimentation as well as traveling and exploring vineyards all over Europe to taste, talk, learn and listen to other winemakers.
By the time Tor started his own company, he’d walked almost every corner of Napa Valley striving to understand what makes a great wine. His takeaway: his wines would come from only the best blocks in superlative vineyard sites he knew and admired.
Today, he says, “I often feel I know few people luckier than I am when I look at our list of vineyard partners – Beckstoffer To Kalon, Vine Hill Ranch, Tierra Roja, Melanson, and Cimarossa.
With The Legends, Tor will take you through a tasting of select wines from the “grand cru” vineyards of Napa Valley. He will also lead you on a private and exclusive tour of locations like the renowned Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyard. Reflecting on his decades of working with wine around the world, Tor will share his passion for wine with you and entertain your group with his many stories and endless knowledge of the wine industry.
The Mondavi Sisters - Fourth Generation
Since 1966, Mondavi has been a staple name in Napa making standout wines which led to its recognition today as a global leader in California’s wine industry. The family’s tradition of excellence is carried on with the fourth generation, the Mondavi sisters, who are committed to producing outstanding hand-crafted wines just like the generations before them.
Starting at the spry age of 10, each sister – Angelina, Alycia, Riana, and Giovanna Mondavi – spent their summers learning the family business. A typical summer day for the girls entailed odd jobs throughout the winery, including schlepping hoses, cleaning tanks, soaking bottles, pulling samples, and running analyses. A family tradition of summer winery jobs led each sister to love the wine industry.
In 2005, the four sisters founded Dark Matter Wines, a 100 percent Zinfandel, and in 2017 purchased Aloft Wines, a 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon. For both, the fruit is sourced from their parents’ Howell Mountain property which sits 1,700 feet above the valley. You’ll take in the view from here during your tasting of the sisters’ masterful reds, a rare and special occasion as very few barrels are produced every harvest.
Spearheaded by winemaker Angelina, the sisters are committed each year to mastering the significance of hand-crafted wines with the same passion and devotion their forefathers passed down for generations. Let them tell you more as you converse over wines such as Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Kirk Venge - Venge Vineyards
Kirk Venge gravitated to winemaking at an early age. He grew up surrounded by wine and excellence as his father, longtime winemaker Nils Venge, was the first Napa Valley vintner, and American winemaker, to receive a 100-point Parker wine score, in this case on his 1985 Groth Cabernet Sauvignon, Reserve.
Throughout his career, Kirk has pursued to be as talented a winemaker as his father, making wines in his own style, with a vision to build on the family legacy. He knows the hard work and dedication required, and put the time and effort in by attending University of California, Davis to pursue a degree in viticulture and oenology. Simultaneously, he developed his craft interning with Mumm Napa Valley as experimental winemaker for five harvest seasons under the guidance of legendary sparkling winemaker, Gregory Fowler.
In 1999, Kirk left Mumm and decided to work alongside his father in developing a winery for the Venge Family Reserve wines. In 2008, Kirk achieved his lifelong dream and acquired full ownership of Venge Vineyards. Today, Kirk continues the Napa Valley heritage, focusing on select vineyard sites that produce fruit worthy of bearing the Venge family name. Venge’s fruit sources besides the Bone Ash Estate include “Beckstoffer, Sugarloaf, Stagecoach, Kenefick, Hyde and several others.
Join Kirk as he hand-selects from him personal collection to guide your taste buds on a wine journey. Drawing from his countless wine experiences near and far, Kirk will happily indulge in his knowledge accrued over the years and highlight how his positive attitude has led him to never give up and keep at it until the perfect wine is bottled.