Kata Wine was founded in 2011 by proprietor David Beckstoffer (of Beckstoffer Vineyards, a management company long associated with managing a sizable vineyard portfolio in the Napa Valley, Lake and Mendocino Counties).
Six vineyards in the Beckstoffer Vineyards portfolio have been identified as Heritage Vineyards; these are special for a variety of reasons including terroir, viticultural history and a solid pedigree of producing exceptional fruit over the years. These six vineyards (all in the Napa Valley) are To Kalon, Bourn, Dr. Crane, Georges III, Las Piedras, Missouri Hopper and To Kalon.
David came to Napa for the first time at 8 years of age, following his father Andy Beckstoffer who moved his family to Napa from the East Coast in 1969. David lived in the Napa Valley through high school and then left the valley for college – with no inkling to return to farming or the business that his father had since established. Rather, he moved in a different direction – earning a BS and MS in Structural Engineering at Stanford. Continuing his education he earned an MBA from Wharton School (Philadelphia) and eventually took a job much closer to his family – at Bechtel in San Francisco.
In 1997 he returned to Napa joining his father at Beckstoffer Vineyards. Today his is president of the company.
When the Beckstoffers acquired part of the historic Bourn Vineyard in St. Helena in 2010 it was planted to eight acres of 60+ year old Petite Sirah vines and four acres of Cabernet Sauvignon. Nearly all the Petite Sirah vines have since been replanted by the Beckstoffer’sto Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyard sits on slightly sloping valley floor bench-land from soils drained off over thousands of years from the nearby Mayacamas Mountain range.
While the Beckstoffer family has long been associated with growing and managing premium wine grapes they have never produced their own wine from their own managed vineyards. At the time they purchased the Bourn Vineyard David approached his father with the idea of making wine – they jointly decided David would make this wine on his own – separate from the family business.
As a result David decided he wanted to keep some of the old Petite Sirah and ultimately preserved 10 rows of vines with the caveat he would become a client of Beckstoffer Vineyards and buy the fruit from these vines every year. The old head pruned training of the vines was preserved; as some of the older vines succumb to disease new vines are planted with exactly the same root stock and clone as the old vines.
The Bourn Vineyard dates back to 1872. Founder William Bowers Bourn II was among the fortunate/lucky who made his money in the California Gold Rush of 1849 directly from the mines. He owned Empire Mine (one of California’s most famous gold mines). Bourn’s son, also William was an architect who was responsible for building the giant stone building that now houses the Culinary Institute of America in St. Helena. Today the descendants of the Bourn Family, the Haynes still live in the area and grow grapes.
The focus of Kata Wines is to create a wine that is elegant, lower in alcohol yet shows the robustness of both the site and the varietals. Petite Sirah was not the first varietal that David thought of when considering a wine of this style and he admits he wasn’t sure this varietal would fit into his wine portfolio. As it turns out, both the Petite Sirah and the Cabernet Sauvignon blend together harmoniously and have created a delicious wine.
The first vintage of Kata was from 2011, merely 150 cases – each year the production has grown slightly until reaching about 500 cases. The vision is to keep production around 500 cases and continue to offer it direct-to-consumer through a mailing list. Well-regarded winemaker and Bordeaux native, Benoit Touquette has made every vintage.
The name ‘Kata’ has multiple meanings; David has long practiced martial arts – the term Kata refers to a series of choreographed movements one does between graduating to the next level of difficulty (between belts). It is a term that has a broad concept in Japan referring to focus, repetition and experience where difficult techniques or practices in one’s life can become more like second nature, mastery if you will. In this sense, Kata refers to David’s dedication to farming and accrued family viticultural experience and knowledge. In addition, tracing back the local linguistics of the Wappo Indians who lived in the Napa Valley – Kata means five, also representing the five vineyard blocks in the Bourn Vineyard.
David describes the wine as very layered; given time in the glass these layers are peeled back to reveal additional complexities, both aromatically and on the palate. Each year the blend percentages vary slightly with Cabernet Sauvignon usually comprising about 80% of the wine. Each harvest has been a learning curve to match the types of oak used during the fermentation as well as a balance between tank and barrel fermentation.
The 2012 Kata is noticeably dark in the glass. The aromas are elegant showing dark fruit, blackberry and boysenberry with the bouquet revealing a sweet note as it opens – black licorice. Almost a savory quality at times. Also there are notes of mineralities and cigar smoke deeper into the bouquet. The feel on the palate is smooth like velvet but well layered with a perceptible dustiness of tannins that starts on the front of the palate and lingers delicately on the finish for some time. This wine drinks very well young.
The wine comes in bamboo boxes – elegant packaging to match the quality of the wine and perhaps a nod to David’s own interests in wood working.
The wine has been selling out via their mailing list and is available in limited quantities. Plans call for a very limited second wine (Ghost Dog) with production only around 100 cases – only available to mailing list members.
NOTE: as of 2019 we heard that Kata Wines has now become part of the Realm Cellars portfolio of wines. We will update, archive or merge this review into our review of Realm Cellars once we have more details. May 2020, website is now offline.