The Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) recently added documentation for the historic To-Kalon Vineyard of California’s Napa Valley (HALS CA-139) to its Library of Congress collection. The documentation project leader and historian was Graeme MacDonald (wine-maker and grapegrower). Drawings were created using ArcGIS by Dr. Sarah MacDonald (Envision Geo LLC). Geologic documentation was produced under the direction of Dr. David Howell (USGS retired and Stanford University). Chris Pattillo, FASLA, Janet Gracyk, ASLA and Carol Roland Nawi members of the Northern California Chapter of HALS reviewed the draft. Documentation commenced in 2017 and was completed in 2018. The HALS CA-139 historical report and drawing is available for public download at the following url: http://loc.gov/pictures/item/ca4339.
HALS is a federal program to document historic landscapes in the United States and its territories through measured and interpretive drawings, written histories, and large-format photographs. Documentation is critical to preserving these significant sites for the benefit of future generations. Like its companion programs, the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER), HALS produces written and graphic records used by educators, land managers, and preservation planners as well as the general public. The National Park Service (NPS) administers the planning and operation of HALS, standardizes formats and develops guidelines for recording landscapes: www.nps.gov/hdp/standards/halsguidelines.htm. The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) provides professional guidance and technical advice for the program through its Historic Preservation Professional Practice Network. The Library of Congress (LOC) accepts and preserves HALS documents and makes records available to the public: www.loc.gov/pictures/collection/hh/.
Historical significance of To-Kalon Vineyard (excerpted from the HALS CA-139 historical report): The To-Kalon Vineyard has played a pivotal role in the establishment of Napa Valley as a world renowned grapegrowing region. Original proprietor H. W. Crabb established the vineyard in 1868 and during his lifetime performed viticultural research and varietal experimentation, which led to significant advancements in the American industries of wine and grape production. His extensive collection of grape varieties was considered to be the largest in the United States and credited for greatly improving the California stock.
Crabb’s recommendation that Cabernet Sauvignon was one of the highest quality grapes suited to the Napa Valley predated that realization by almost a century. His 1884 varietal labeled Cabernet Sauvignon was described as “historical” and was one of the first commercial Cabernet Sauvignon wines produced in the Napa Valley.
As a winemaker, Crabb helped establish the reputation of California wine throughout the country and abroad. To-Kalon was the first winery to market and sell wine through their own sales agencies located throughout the United States. Crabb was also an innovator in winemaking techniques and credited as the first winery to mechanize grape processing. Under his guidance the To-Kalon wines are thought to have garnered more awards than any other winery in the pre-Prohibition era.
In 1890, the Chicago Herald praised Crabb’s contributions to California wine when they stated, “…it must be understood that Crabb is the most prominent vine grower and wine producer on the Pacific coast. His name is inseparably a part of the growth of the wine production of California. No one has done as much as he toward raising the purity and high standard and the consequent popularity of the native wines of California…His practical experience of over thirty years has placed him justly at the head of the wine trade of this country, and has made the brand of his vintage familiar to every table where good wine is served.”
The decimation of the California wine industry in the late 1800s due to the root louse phylloxera placed To-Kalon at the forefront of the search for a resistant American rootstock. Crabb ultimately prescribed Vitis riparia, which was not widely adopted but has since become a primary breeding component of the most popular rootstocks in modern day viticulture. After Crabb’s death, To-Kalon experienced additional periods of historical significance under subsequent ownership.
The E. S. Churchill family purchased a portion of the To-Kalon Vineyard from Crabb’s estate and continued wine production throughout prohibition. The continuation of Crabb’s research inspired the United States Department of Agriculture to establish the Oakville Experiment Vineyard on the Churchill property in 1903, making To-Kalon one of the most important research vineyards in the state. In addition to continuing Crabb’s viticultural legacy the Churchill’s crowning enological achievement came in 1909 at the Alaska-Yukon World’s Fair when To-Kalon wines received five gold medals. In 1966, Robert Mondavi established his namesake winery on historic To-Kalon land. Over time, Mondavi purchased additional portions of the historic To-Kalon Vineyard from the estate of Martin Stelling Jr.
To-Kalon Vineyard is a historic agricultural landscape spanning 825 total acres of which 678 are planted to vines. Historically, the To-Kalon Vineyard encompassed approximately 500 acres. The historic boundaries included all vineyard land west of State Highway 29 bordered by the base of the Mayacamas Mountains to the east, its southern edge being the Oakville Grade Road and northern boundary at the division between the Oakville and Rutherford American Viticultural Areas.