A brief history
Kitoko Vineyard, named for the Congolese Lingala word for “beautiful,” is a 14.2 acre vineyard high on Atlas Peak, planted to Cabernet Sauvignon in 2000 and 2003. The vines are today entering their prime.
The soils here are extremely rocky, dry, and poor, quite similar to Pritchard Hill to the north, studded with fractured andesite rock and boulders. The proximity to the San Pablo Bay brings persistent winds which—along with the heat and arid soil, cause the set of very small berries and loose bunches, and consistently delay ripening each year. Dry farming is not possible here, and the vines are watered for brief stretches to optimize ripening. “It’s a pile of rocks,” says Philippe. “The vines suffer.”
Philippe, a master viticulturist, works this hill with the help of one vineyard worker, meticulously training the vines. Green harvesting is not necessary, because the vineyard’s natural parsimony yields only 2 tons per acre (30 hl/ha) in a good year. Yields this low make truly memorable wine possible.
In his time at Château Clarke, Philippe learned the importance of small but critical enhancements in the vineyard. Optimum quality is achieved using a series of small operations that build upon one another, all working towards vineyard health and completely ripe fruit.
Philippe believes that understanding a vineyard is an ongoing process, a closed feedback loop that takes years to understand. Each year, he learns something new that he can use to achieve a better result the following vintage. “This will go on for years until I get the best out of this specific vineyard,” he says.
Langner’s perfectionism is seldom more apparent than at harvest time, when individual rows are picked incrementally, at the point of optimum ripeness, then fermented in separate lots.