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Introducing Napa's Philip Togni - resolutely traditional, benchmark mountain Cabernet
30 March 2023

The charming, unassuming yet legendary Philip Togni, now well into his 90s, arrived in California in the late 1950s, fresh from stints making wine in Margaux, Chile and civil-war-torn Algeria. He was initially employed by Mayacamas, then Chalone, and finally Chappellet, where he was responsible for the now legendary 1969 vintage – generally regarded as one of the greatest Californian wines ever produced. It is an incredibly storied life that stretches back to the very early days of what we know now as the Napa Valley – the time of Andre Tchelistcheff, very early Mondavi and before Cabernet Sauvignon was universally considered to be the future of the Napa Valley. It was both a pleasure and an honour to taste with him and his daughter Lisa, at the estate vineyard…

It was while at Chappellet on Pritchard Hill that Togni went looking for land, eventually settling on an undeveloped, hillside site across the valley on Spring Mountain. He and his wife Birgitta cleared the land, built a house and survived without electricity or water (they’re still not connected to mains water), planting the vines not once but twice (phylloxera hit in the late 80s). This was pioneering stuff and not for the faint hearted. The 10.5 acre estate vineyard was planted to 82% Cabernet Sauvignon with the remainder made up of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot “based on the proportions I was used to working with in Margaux” Philip explained. To this day, this vineyard produces around 2000 cases per year in corresponding varietal proportions to the original plantings. A second section of their vineyard, north and east facing, produces a separate wine called Tanbark Hill which, while 100% Cabernet Sauvignon, leans to more tenderness than the top wine and generally drinks earlier.

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