A Fine Wine Tasting: Inside Napa's Iconic Lokoya Winery

Lokoya Winery at the top of Spring Mountain in Napa, a breathtaking drive on the winding Spring Mountain Road. Lokoya is the brainchild of Napa legend Jess Jackson who founded Kendall Jackson Winery back in the 1982. Jess had the idea of bottling specific vineyard sites from Diamond Mountain, Rutherford, Howell Mountain and Mount Veeder to express their unique terroir’s. The inaugural release was 1995.

Over the years, since first tasting Lokoya in 2000, these vineyard sites from 1995 to 1997 have been among my favorite Napa wines in the cellar. Their mountain fruit and Rutherford are spectacular, with the Mount Veeder becoming my favorite of the 4 sites. The wine critics have agreed, as all of these sites have been highly praised, and Robert Parker alone has given nine 100 point scores since 2001.

We started on the patio of the newly renovated winery re-designed by Howard Backen starting in 2014. Howard used the original 1968 building and added his unique finishes to create another stunning Napa masterpiece. Lokoya is now running their operation from this location rather than out of Cardinale, another Kendall Jackson project. We tasted their inaugural Chardonnay, 2020 La Jota which was very good and more acid driven with only 8% new oak.

Learning more about the journey of Chris Carpenter's journey from college football player to enologist to viticulturalist to winemaker was so inspirational! We were told he joined in 2000 and that he uses native yeast for his winemaking which can only happen by a winemaker who truly knows his vineyards and for the entire growth season. No wonder the critics love him and his wine!

The highlight of the visit was tasting their reds. Johna, our host noted they stopped making the Rutherford in 1998 to focus only on their mountain vineyards, and added the Spring Mountain to the portfolio in 2005. They poured their 2019s, 2 of which are Wine Advocate 100 points. All excellent and unique, I was partial to the Howell Mountain for its concentration and seamlessness.

We were excited to share 3 of the 4 inaugural 1995 Lokoya’s, the Rutherford, Mount Veeder and Diamond Mountain with the Lokoya Team. What a privilege it was to share such a meaningful experience with the team as they shared their knowledge and love for Lokoya's Terroir and passion with us. We were all blow away at how youthful they were showing and most of us felt the Mount Veeder would have been better with a little decanting, as it was so rich!

The consensus favorite was the Rutherford, as the nose was simply amazing and complex, with layers of fruit, spice and earth that carried through to a long finish. Johna shared about the mysterious "Rutherford Dust" and stated the 1995 Rutherford probably had another 15 years of great drinkability. And who said Napa wines can't age!

Thank you to Barbara Banke, the late Jess Jackson’s wife and business parter, who pulled strings to get us a visit, and to the Lokoya team for hosting us and generously sharing their time and wines!




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