Robert Mondavi's To-Kalon Vineyard Sign

This carved, wooden sign stood on Highway 29 in Napa, California, to mark the Oakville AVA (American Viticultural Area), which was officially recognized by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms in 1993. AVAs refer to specific geographic areas where wine grapes are grown. AVA status is granted based on a petition that successfully argues a given area’s distinctive climate, soils, topography, and even its viticultural traditions—factors that influence the character of wine produced from grapes grown in that area. Since 1981, when Napa Valley was the first AVA to be recognized in California, as of 2010 there were 107 AVAs in the state.
This sign, however, is more than just a highway sign. It also identifies a specific, historically significant vineyard—To Kalon—at the Robert Mondavi Winery in Oakville. To Kalon was one of the first vineyards planted in Bordeaux varietals in the Napa Valley. Hamilton W. Crabb, a viticulturalist who moved to California from Ohio in 1853, purchased a 240-acre parcel of land in Oakville in 1868, where he planted a variety of vines, including Cabernet Sauvignon and other French varietals. His vineyard, originally named “Hermosa,” was changed in the 1880s to “To Kalon,” Greek for “the beautiful.”
Napa Valley vintner and innovative businessman Robert Mondavi became interested in the To Kalon vineyard in the 1950s. At the time, he and his brother and father owned Charles Krug, one of the oldest wineries in Napa. While looking for more land for growing grapes, Mondavi visited the To Kalon property and, heeding the advice of longtime vintner Louis M. Martini, Sr., eventually purchased a large parcel. Years later, when he selected the site for his own winery, he located it near the To Kalon site. In his autobiography Harvests of Joy (1998), Mondavi wrote, “Along with its reputation and grape quality, To Kalon’s physical beauty fit perfectly into another key element of my strategy: tourists. . . I wanted my showcase winery to be so lovely and welcoming that it would attract hundreds of tourists daily and entice them to drive in and taste our unique style of wines.” (p. 60)
See Robert Mondavi with Paul Chutkow. Harvest of Joy: How the Good Life Became Great Business (A Harvest Book, Harcourt, Inc.), 1998.
Charles L. Sullivan, A Companion to California Wine (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press), 1998.
American Viticultural Areas Located in California by Date (10/07/2012)
Image courtesy of Robert Mondavi Winery
Physical Description
wood (overall material)
sign: 12 1/4 in x 37 in x 1 3/8 in; 31.115 cm x 93.98 cm x 3.4925 cm
post: 74 in x 3 1/2 in x 3 1/2 in; 187.96 cm x 8.89 cm x 8.89 cm
ID Number
catalog number
accession number
Credit Line
Gift of Robert Mondavi Winery
See more items in
Work and Industry: Food Technology
FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Food: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000
Exhibition Location
National Museum of American History
Data Source
National Museum of American History


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