“The wines I’m making right now, I’m assuming a good number of them are going to outlive me.”
The fanatic. The fantasist. Rules by equal part instinct and equal part logic. A willful revisionist, meticulously blending, over and over until he gets it right.
“To me, one of the most enjoyable parts of the wine business is the challenge – when the heat’s on and there is pressure. You’re trying to work out the timing. All of those stressful things have become part of the enjoyment for me. It used to bother the hell out of me – I wanted to get everything perfect, perfect, perfect. And now it’s – you still want to do the same thing, but you realize you’re not totally in charge.”
I have been a Napa Valley vintner for nearly 50 years. The first 27 years were with Beringer Vineyards helping build a wine company known to collectors for its reserve and single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignons and Chardonnays. I retired in 2001, and with my wife, Susan, started our dream: TOR Kenward Family Wines. Our plan was simple. Our wines would come from only the best blocks in great vineyard sites I knew and revered. All our wines are hand-made in every sense and in very small quantities.
My first three decades in the Napa Valley laid the foundation. I had extraordinary mentors all willing to openly share their knowledge and passion. Robert Mondavi, André Tchelistcheff, Warren Winiarski, Ed Sbragia, Maynard Amerine and many others encouraged me to learn and experiment. We tasted together and exchanged information. Beringer also sent me to travel and walk Europe’s most renowned vineyards, talk and taste with other winemakers, taste more, kick the dirt where world class wines are grown, and listen.
Our winemaking is driven by what I heard and learned making small experimental lots of wine at Beringer. Great vineyards deserve respect, and experience has taught me that in winemaking, less is more.
About my name: I am often asked, What does TOR mean? According to The American Heritage Dictionary, a “tor” is “a lofty pinnacle, a peak of bare rocky mountain.” The honored California poet, Robinson Jeffers, names his beautiful stone home in Carmel the TOR HOUSE. My dad was a writer and my mother a painter and respected (stage) thespian, which may explain this oddness to a certain degree.
“Having known Tor for over 15 years, I know that he is the consummate connoisseur of many things, including music, wine, and food, so it is not surprising he is able to translate his passion and discriminating taste into an impressive portfolio of wines.”
—Robert Parker, Jr., The Wine Advocate