Winegrowing

Introducing Beckstoffer Bourn Vineyard

September 2nd, 2019

Folding Kata into the Realm portfolio

The Story

Beckstoffer Bourn Vineyard sits on the west side of St. Helena, a 12-acre parcel that is part of a larger vineyard site dating back to the mid-19th century. The site was originally planted in 1872 by William Bowers Bourn II, considered one of the last “bonanza kings” of California due to his ownership of wildly successful gold mines in California and Nevada and his business ventures in the booming city of San Francisco. It is said that Bourn was one of the first to plant European vitis vinifera in Napa Valley vs. the more commonly grown Mission grape. When Andy and David Beckstoffer purchased the parcel in 2010 it consisted of four acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and eight acres of head-trained, old-growth Petite Sirah. Due to its history, Bourn is designated as one of Beckstoffer Vineyards’ six “Heritage” vineyards in Napa Valley.

Benoit has worked with grapes from Bourn since 2011 when David Beckstoffer asked him to make wine for his new boutique brand, Kata. David had been toying with the idea of making a small amount of wine from his family’s vineyard holdings and thought Bourn, with its location, size and promise of quality, was the ideal candidate. A martial arts practitioner, David chose the name Kata, a term that describes a system of training exercises learned in order to progress through successive belt levels. “These moves go back centuries,” says David. “With training, repetition and focus you can take any technique and make it like second nature.”

Although the Beckstoffers’ initial plan was to replace the old Petite Sirah vines with more lucrative Cabernet Sauvignon, when Benoit and David tasted through the 2011 lots they were blown away by the quality of the Petite Sirah. The 60-year old vines yielded grapes that, when blended with the Cabernet, brought beautiful floral aromas, elegance and a softness that balanced the structure of the wine. The Beckstoffers kept ten rows of the Petite Sirah, and it has comprised up to 20% of the wine each vintage since.

Realm has a relationship with the Beckstoffer family reaching back to 2002 when we first purchased grapes from To Kalon Vineyard. In 2018, when David was struggling to balance the demands of the Kata brand with his responsibilities as president of Beckstoffer Vineyards, Scott, Benoit and David worked out an arrangement for Realm to take the fruit that had gone to Kata and develop a Single Vineyard Cabernet from Beckstoffer Bourn.

Beckstoffer Bourn expands Realm’s reach into west St. Helena, with Single Vineyard Cabernets coming from Bourn, Dr. Crane and Levensohn Vineyard. “It’s an interesting neighborhood with a lot of small parcels,” says Scott. “There’s something about this area’s fruit in Benoit’s hands that brings it to a new level; it’s well suited to his style of winemaking.”

The Vineyard

When Andy and David Beckstoffer had the opportunity to purchase the 12-acre parcel of Bourn Vineyard in west St. Helena, they already knew the area well. The site is within a few blocks of two other Beckstoffer “Heritage” vineyards, Dr. Crane and Las Piedras. An investigation of the site revealed what they knew in their gut: the well-drained, gravelly loam soils – known as Cortina – are ideally suited to growing high quality Cabernet Sauvignon. As David notes, Bourn is not as loamy as Dr. Crane, nor is it as rocky as Las Piedras; it’s somewhere in between. And the vineyard is very homogenous, without the soil streaks that some vineyards display. The vines reflect these soils, steady and uniform. The vineyard is undergoing a gradual replant, and eventually it will consist primarily of Cabernet Sauvignon (Clones 8 and 337) along with a few rows of the 60-year old head trained Petite Syrah.

“Revealing the capacity of the site will take time,” says Benoit. “I’m excited to see where this vineyard can go.” As for David: “I’m excited to see Realm carry on the spirit of Kata and take the vineyard’s potential even further. Our relationship has become closer through this partnership; it’s like watching your child move on to college.”

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