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Courtwatch: To Kalon Again, The Vineyard House seeks order to cancel the trademark

by Kerana Todorov
March 21, 2019

A Napa Valley winery is suing Constellation Brands in federal court in order to be able to use the name of the historic vineyard To Kalon name – a trademark that has been the focus of court disputes over the years.

Constellation Brands owns Robert Monday Winery in Oakville, which obtained a trademark for “To Kalon” name in 1988, more than a decade before it was sold to Constellation.

The plaintiff, The Vineyard House, which owns 17 acres of To Kalon vineyard, seeks a court order to cancel the trademark, according to the complaint.

The Vineyard House accuses Constellation of allegedly making misleading statements to market its wines, according to the court filing.

“Constellation’s advertising and promotional materials, including its website, create the false and misleading impression that it is the only owner of the historic To Kalon estate and that all of its wines can be designated To Kalon, even though such wines may not have originated from the original To Kalon estate,” according to the complaint.

Beckstoffer Vineyards owns 89 acres of the vineyard pioneer winemaker Hamilton Walker Crabb established in 1868, according to the grapegrower’s website. The land was placed in a conservation easement in 2007.

The Vineyard House sits on 43 acres on nearly Oakville Grade. That includes the 17 acres that “clearly dates back to Crabb and the original To Kalon estate comprised of land which Crabb owned at the time of his death,” according to the complaint.

Constellation owns 188 acres of the 526-acre original Crabb vineyard referred as the “To Kalon,” according to the complaint. The company also owns another 361 acres which is not part of the original To Kalon property, according to the court filing.

Constellation’s ‘To Kalon Vineyard’ includes land that was not part of the original estate, according to the complaint.

The complaint alleges Mondavi’s use of To Kalon trademarks is “geographically deceptively misdescriptive,” according the court filing. Consumers who buy Constellation’s wines “are likely to believe that they originate in the historic To Kalon estate when in fact, they could actually be made from grapes grown in far off places such as Nairobi,” according to the complaint.

A spokeswoman for Constellation on Thursday denied the allegations included in the complaint.

“These allegations are without merit. Constellation Brands is committed to operating with the highest degree of ethics and integrity and in full accordance with all applicable laws and regulations, as we have for more than 70 years,” spokeswoman Alexandra Wagner said Thursday in an email.

Beckstoffer and Robert Mondavi Winery have fought in court over the use of the vineyard name. Wines produced with fruit from the vineyard have labels that read “Beckstoffer To Kalon Vineyards.”

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