Paul Hobbs

Searching for the truth behind Napa’s Grand Cru: To Kalon

Various maps of To Kalon that I compared while researching the site

As soon as you start reading about To Kalon, you know you’re in complicated territory. This is a site that commands a serious premium. And so much has been written about it. Many would argue that, at its best, it’s the greatest site in Napa. But, and here’s the hitch, where does it start and finish? Where is the best part of it? Who gets to use the name? Did the fruit actually come from the vineyard, whatever the label says? And is even asking these questions sensible?

For anyone interested, GuildSomm’s legendary feature on the vineyard by Matt Stamp, tracing its history, is an incredible read, and it was absolutely one of the sources I used when trying to put some thoughts on the site onto paper. But trying to look beyond To Kalon’s storied past, I turned to some of the region’s leading winemakers – Andy Erickson, Tor Kenward and Paul Hobbs – to dig into what really makes it special today. I delve into the history, the wines and why it’s deemed a “Grand Cru”.

Read my full article on


Feeling the burn

Photo by Daniel Salgado on Unsplash

“What’s the alcohol?” I asked. Paul Hobbs looked rankled. He replied with a slight sigh, “14%.”

I was struck by how light the wine in question felt, his 2019 Goldrock Estate Pinot Noir, I’d guessed it was lower. When I expressed my surprise, Hobbs said something interesting – the sort of thing that doesn’t often come out of a group Zoom tasting of the latest releases from X or Y estate. But Hobbs clearly isn’t your average winemaker, with a depth of knowledge that is profound, and a clear desire to dive into the nuances of each wine he makes.

He’d said that there was much more to alcohol than a number. That it was so much more complex. That no one talked about it. Obviously, I wanted to know more.

I ask about alcohols a lot more than I used to, a result of needing to nail them blind in an MW exam, and knowing that they can provide an essential clue for a wine’s identity. Of course we know that it’s easy for alcohol to be masked by other elements in the glass, but Paul offered a fascinating eye into how climate change doesn’t just mean that there’s a little more alcohol in a wine – but is changing the very nature of the alcohol produced.

Read the full feature on