Lokoya, high-end Napa mountain Cabernets, with winemaker Chris Carpenter

cabernet sauvignon california

Lokoya, high-end Napa mountain Cabernets, with winemaker Chris Carpenter

lokoya howell mountain
The WE Keyes vineyard in Howell Mountain 

Chris Carpenter, winemaker, introduced this tasting of the four Lokoya wines, after taking us for a quick tour of the beautiful WE Keyes Howell Mountain property that’s the source for one of them.

Lokoya is a ‘cult’ Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon label that is part of Jackson Family Wines. It began in 1995, and had its origins in Cardinale, Jackson Family’s high end Napa Cabernet that’s a blend now largely composed of mountain fruit. Cardinale had begun life as a high-end Sonoma blend that later became a Napa wine as the Jackson Family vineyard holdings expanded in the valley.


Blending was intrinsic to the character of Cardinale, but Carpenter says that each year there were a couple of lots from mountain vineyards that stunned the winemaking team: they couldn’t get over how good they were, and didn’t want to just blend them away.

So they approached Jess Jackson, and he liked the idea of doing something high-end and terroir based. Lokoya was born, with Greg Upton as the winemaker. As well as the existing sites, new sources were found. The current range consists of a set of four different ‘single mountain’ 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines (initially, it also included a Rutherford Cabernet, that was dropped in 1998). Sadly, Upton was to die before the inaugural release: the 1995, in October 1998. He was succeeded by Marco DiGiulio in 1997, and in 2000 the current winemaker, Chris Carpenter, took over.

Initially the wine was made at the Pepi winery in Napa, which was the first foray into Napa by the Jacksons in 1994, but since late 2016 it has had its own winery in Spring Mountain.


The sources:

  • Mount Veeder – William Hill Vineyard, purchased in 1994. 1800 feet altitude.
  • Howell Mountain – the WS Keyes vineyard, dating back to the 1880s. Purchased in 1995, 1800 feet altitude.
  • Diamond Mountain – four vineyards, first purchased in 1995. Rhyolite Ridge, Wallis Vineyard, Andrew Geoffrey and Reverie Vineyard. Elevation 1200-1800 feet.
  • Spring Mountain – the old Yverdon property (2100 feet), which is where the new Lokoya winery was opened in November 2016, Wurtele vineyard (1000 feet) and Spring Mountain Vineyard (1800 feet).

Carpenter uses an electronic sorter, and aims at doing wild yeast ferments, although some years, such as 2011, call for inoculation with cultured yeasts. He says he’s only had three stuck fermentations in recent years, and one year he had a lactobacillus bloom. Fortunately this was after lysozyme had become available, and so it was dealt with (an antibacterial enzyme).

The wines are all basket pressed, and he gets rid of the hard pressings. Carpenter uses microoxygenation during the vinification. The Lokoya wines spend two years in 100% new oak and are bottled unfined and unfiltered. They sell for $375 a bottle.

Lokoya Spring Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Napa Valley, California
Comes from the Spring Mountain Vineyard. Vibrant and juicy with sweet berry and blackcurrant fruit, with a touch of cedar and fine spices. It’s really fresh, but also quite ripe, with some woody notes under the concentrated, primary fruit. There’s a slight hint of pine freshness on the finish. There’s a touch of warmth on the finish. Still primary and unformed but with lots of promise. 93/100

Lokoya Diamond Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Napa Valley, California
Sweetly aromatic with sweet blackcurrant and red berry fruit notes, as well as a hint of cedar. The palate shows lush, sweet fruit with some cedar spiciness, and a touch of minty freshness on the finish. It needs time to integrate the sweet oak. Quite grippy on the finish with a sweet fruit profile. Some potential here. 93/100

Lokoya Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Napa Valley, California
Concentrated and primary, with intense, structured black cherry, blackcurrant and raspberry fruit. There’s some freshness to the fruit, although it is still very sweet. This is primary and at the moment the structured, slightly drying tannins, the oak, and the ripe (but balanced) fruit are finding it hard to achieve any harmony, but there’s promise for the future. 94/100

Lokoya Mount Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 Napa Valley, California
Concentrated and intense, this is a tight-wound Cabernet with incredible structure and presence. It combines sweet red and black fruits with some intriguing dry tannins and cedary oak. There’s a really grippy, primary character to this wine. Dense and primary with lots of promise for the future. So tannic but with lots of fresh, sweet fruit, too. This could be brilliant in a decade. 94/100

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