With Lokoya, Jackson Family Wines has a new Napa estate to go with its high-end wine

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Since its founding by Jess Jackson in 1995, the Lokoya luxury wine brand has never had a true home to showcase its cabernet sauvignon varietals from the mountain wine regions around Napa County.

But as of Tuesday, customers of the brand now have a place to enjoy Lokoya in one of the most unique and picturesque settings in Wine Country -- at the old Yverdon estate on Spring Mountain, northwest of St. Helena, overlooking vineyards on the 77-acre property.

Backen, Gillam & Kroeger Architects helped turn a more than 50-year-old, stone-and-concrete building that was originally constructed by Italian masons into a modern, 21st-century edifice. Gone are stained-glass windows and a walled-off fireplace. In are new glass windows to showcase natural light, an outdoor terrace and a long, temperature-controlled glass cabinet, which holds the first three vintages of the brand.

The new estate aims to reward longtime customers as well as new wine lovers who are looking to experience luxury cab in an estate setting, said Kelley Jones, president of Jackson Family Wines’ Spire Collection, which houses Lokoya. Visits are by appointments only.

“It’s for someone who comes here at 10:30 in the morning and is figuring out what they are going to do for the rest of the day, or maybe at the end of the day it’s like, ‘Hey, Let’s go to Lokoya.’ So it’s always like they feel at home and can feel very comfortable, especially for those people who helped us get where we are today,” Jones said.

With a suggested retail price of $375 a bottle, Lokoya certainly qualifies as a luxury brand and is out of reach for most wine customers. It makes about 2,400 cases annually, though the final amount is at the discretion of winemaker Christopher Carpenter based on the quality of the grapes.

But Jones noted that in Napa’s “cult cab” category, including such brands as Screaming Eagle and Harlan Estate, Lokoya is relatively affordable. Some brands have approached the $1,000 per bottle level.

Jackson Family Wines of Santa Rosa is the ninth largest wine company in the country, last year producing 5.6 million cases, according to Wine Business Monthly. It is more well known for it Kendall-Jackson chardonnay and La Crema pinot noir, but has been growing its high-end segment globally, with recent purchases of Capensis in South Africa and Zena Crown in Oregon, as customers have been trading up.

And it’s not just Jackson. Last year, French fashion house Chanel Inc. bought Rutherford’s St. Supéry Estate Vineyards & Winery for an undisclosed sum. A report issued earlier this year by Silicon Valley Bank predicted that fine wine sales will end 2016 with growth between 9 and 13 percent, though it would be a slight decline from the roughly 14 percent sales growth in 2015.

“American wine consumers are moving up... I tend to say wine is sold from the top down,” said Barbara Insel, president and CEO of Stonebridge Research Group, a winery consultant. “The top brands put a halo on the overall brand.”

Insel compared the phenomenon to luxury cars, noting how German luxury brands such as Porsche have helped carry the Volkswagen Group’s more affordable namesake models and provide them with the cachet of German engineering expertise.

While the Napa Valley floor still garners the most attention, with celebrated vineyards in districts such as Oakville and Rutherford, Lokoya’s emphasis is the opposite.

It’s all about mountain cabernet for Lokoya, which now has estate vineyards in all four Napa mountain regions: Diamond Mountain, Howell Mountain, Mount Veeder and Spring Mountain, where it has 25 planted acres on the Yverdon estate. Each region gets a separate bottling; the Mount Veeder wine has become known for its taste of violets and blue fruit with strong tannins, while Spring Mountain has more deep-red fruit flavors and smooth tannins.

“In each one of the areas that we are sourcing from, there is a signature flavor of texture and resonance in each one. And my job is to create those lines so they speak to that place without my influence really taking over the expression of the wine,” Carpenter said.

Lokoya has been crushing grapes on the Yverdon property for the last three years. The winemaking process is more hands-off. The wines are fermented with native yeast, almost all are aged in new oak barrels, then bottled unfiltered and unfined.

In recent years, Carpenter has noticed other Napa vintners beginning to follow in Lokoya’s footsteps, focusing on cabernet sauvignon from each of the four mountain regions.

“I think Lokoya was one of the wines that help to give people the understanding that these mountain vineyards are something special, and introduced a lot of critics and a lot of wine drinkers to the idea of the exceptional quality of vineyard properties in the mountainsides,” Carpenter said.

You can reach Staff Writer Bill Swindell at 521-5223 or bill.swindell@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @BillSwindell.

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