Vineyard House seeks injunction over Constellation Brands’ To Kalon labeled wines

After an earlier lawsuit was dismissed this year, wine brand The Vineyard House has sought another injunction to prevent Constellation Brands from selling wines labelled under the brand name To Kalon Vineyard Company.

The Vineyard House, founded by Jeremy Nickel, launched a lawsuit against Constellation brands back in 18 March, disputing its rights to use the To Kalon name. This was dismissed by a federal judge in July, but Nickel was given the opportunity to amend his complaint.

He has now launched a fresh lawsuit, with a hearing scheduled for 7 January 2020.

The dispute centres around Napa’s To Kalon Vineyard, which was bought by Henry Walker Crabb in 1868 and has long been the centre of legal battles and trademark disputes.

Crabb initially bought 240 acres of land near Oakville in 1868, with a winery following in 1872. In 1881, he bought a further 119 acres of land next to his original vineyard, with the total area now amounting to 359 acres.

Disputes have arisen as to whether all of these 359 acres are the To Kalon vineyard, or whether a further 165 acres of land on higher ground, which Crabb acquired in the late 1880s and didn’t plant, should also be included.

Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville, owned by Constellation Brands, obtained a trademark for the “To Kalon” name in 1988 and “To Kalon Vineyard” in 1994.

Seven (including The Vineyard House) different entities now lay claim to ownership of parts of the vineyard, the principal owners, aside from Robert Mondavi, being Opus One and grower Andy Beckstoffer.

In its new lawsuit, The Vineyard House alleges that Constellation Brands “seeks to monopolise the name ‘To Kalon’ by claimed it as a registered trademark”.

The wine brand claims that the name To Kalon has “geographic and historic significance” and should not have been allowed “to be exclusively owned by Constellation Brands”.

The Vineyard House claims to produce wine from a portion of the original, historic To Kalon estate and seeks to use the name in connection with the wines sourced from these vines.

Constellation, however, is threatening to sue the wine brand if this goes ahead.

Commenting on the injunction, Nickel stated: “The legacy of H.W. Crabb and the iconic To-Kalon Estate represent a specific place within Napa Valley and a unique history that is well documented on my educational website (www.historyofto-kalon.com).

“Preserving the unique heritage and history that help to make Napa Valley such a special place has been a lifelong passion that was instilled in me by my father Gil Nickel. My father taught me the importance of place and history and the need to preserve that history for future generations so that they can better understand the pioneers like H.W. Crabb who forged the early history of the Napa Valley that we all love so much.”

A particular point of contention appears to be Constellation’s move from advertising its wines as sourced from the To Kalon Vineyard, and actually creating the To Kalon Vineyard Company in May 2019 under which it is selling wines. The first was a Cabernet Sauvignon which retails for US$200 a bottle.

The Vineyard House disputes the fact that all of Constellation’s wines under the To Kalon label are sourced from the historic site. It singles out its ‘I Block’, which it says was part of a parcel of land that Crabb acquired in 1891, but only owned for a week.

The Vineyard House also claims that Constellation is “misleading and confusing the public” and “diluting and diminishing the value of the To Kalon designation”.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Please note that comments are subject to our posting guidelines in accordance with the Defamation Act 2013. Posts containing swear words, discrimination, offensive language and libellous or defamatory comments will not be approved.

We encourage debate in the comments section and always welcome feedback, but if you spot something you don't think is right, we ask that you leave an accurate email address so we can get back to you if we need to.

Subscribe to our newsletters

Fine Wine Sales Executive

Roberson Wine
London, UK

Account Manager - London Trade Sales

Bancroft Wines Ltd
London, UK

Brand Manager

Elixir Distillers
Park Royal, London UK

Marketing Assistant

Speciality Brands
Park Royal, London, UK

Key Account Manager

MMI Maldives
Maldives

Financial Controller

London City Bond
Barking, UK

Duty Manager

The Whisky Exchange
Great Portland Street, London

Spirits Advisor

The Whisky Exchange
London, UK

International Sales Manager

Elixir Distillers
Park Royal, London, UK

Millésime Bio 2020

Montpellier,France
27th Jan 2020

Maisons Marques et Domaines Annual Tasting

London,United Kingdom
29th Jan 2020

Austrian Wine Tasting

London,United Kingdom
3rd Feb 2020
Click to view more