Saturday, April 20, 2013

Trefethen Family Vineyards Napa Valley Estate

Trefethen Family Vineyards Napa Valley Estate

Located in the Oak Knoll District at the cooler, southern end of Napa Valley just north of the town of Napa straddling highway 29 as one enters the checkerboard of vineyards sits Trefethen Family Estate Vineyards and Winery, one of Napa Valley’s few remaining family wine estates.

Eugene and Catherine Trefethen moved to Napa in 1968 from the Bay area after purchasing six small farms and the historic 19th century Eschol Winery, creating a 600-acre wine estate. At that time, there were fewer than 20 operating wineries in Napa Valley.

After graduating from Stanford University, John Trefethen and his new bride Janet began producing Trefethen Vineyards’ wine in 1973. Three years later, the winery’s 1976 Chardonnay earned “Best Chardonnay in the World” honors at the 1979 Gault Millau World Wine Olympics in Paris. That accolade combined with the famous Judgement of Paris won worldwide acclaim for Napa Valley wines.

After two decades developing their vineyards, Trefethen embarked on a major replanting of twenty thousand vines of disease resistant rootstock. Today, Trefethen grows nine different grape varieties; Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Riesling, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, and Viognier. These are planted in 63 distinct vineyard blocks comprised of 10 different types of rootstock and 49 different clones including 13 of Chardonnay and 10 of Cabernet Sauvignon.

We first discovered Trefethen in the late eighties in our early days of discovering Napa Valley wines but really took notice when we were introduced to their flagship Trefethen Halo in the late nineties at wine tastings at the Downer's Grove Wine Shop. Our wine buddy Bill C (left with Beth, Will, Kate, L) is a fan and collector of Halo and earmarked Trefethen for our Napa Valley Wine Experience 2013. This was fitting since our custom in recent years has been to focus on but one appellation at a time and we were also scheduled at another Oak Knoll District winery this trip, and, our group were staying just down the road at the nearby Napa Valley Marriott.

Amazingly, we've driven past the Trefethen Estate literally dozens of times and never stopped there. We were all pleasantly surprised by the extensive estate with its scenic drive past the vast vineyards against the backdrop of the backdrop of the Vaca Mountains in the distance to the east, and the nearby Mayacamas Range and Mt Veeder to the west. The vineyards are signposted according to the year they were planted.

Upon reaching the wine house there are picturesque grounds and gardens with fountains and an outdoor tasting area. Inside there is the usual tasting bar, several more formal tasting tables and personal tour tasting rooms, and a do it yourself tour of the barrel storage room with displays of the ranch, vineyard maps, and displays of the soil topology from the different sections of the estate.

They offer an estate and a reserve tasting, which is shown below:

Trefethen Napa Valley Pinot Noir 2010

Rather uninspiring and light, slightly astringent with modest cherry and red berry and currant fruits with a modest cola tone and layer of dusty earth.

RM 86 points.

Trefethen Dragons Tooth Napa Valley Red Wine 2010

This wine is a tribute to the winery's matriarch Catherine Trefethen. who was from Welsh ancestry. A blend of Malbec and Petit Verdot, this 100% Estate wine is sourced from new plantings from the rockiest part of our vineyard where obsidian flakes occasionally remind us of the toothy smile of Y Ddraig Goch (The Red Dragon) guardian and symbol of Wales.

This is the the third vintage of this distinctive blend, medium bodied, deep purple in color with aromas and flavors of black currant, blackberry and cinnamon turning to tones of plum, cherry and mocha and hints of spice, finishing with nicely balanced but structured tannins.

RM 90 points.

Trefethen American Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Trefethen Hungarian Oak Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2010

Another example of the proliferation of labels we saw time and again during this trip. In this case, here is the same wine with two distinct variations of oak - American and Hungarian. This approach was popularized by Dave Del Dotto in his branded Connoisseur Series starting around the millenium. Del Dotto offered the same vintage cabernet with as many as eight to ten different oak variations. We conducted a vertical tasting of the 'Series' a couple years ago. It was fascinating to see the influence of varied nuances of different Ameican and French oaks on the same wine. Neither the breadth or depth of that experience is present here - these two variations are subtle and modestly distinctive - not necessarily worthy of the investment of all it requires with this approach. This was a more modest cab with the American oak being perhaps slightly sweeter and the Hungarian introducing modest tones of spice on the black berry fruits.

RM 88 points.

Trefethen Reserve Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Medium bodied with subtle blackberry and currant fruits with layer of plum, hints mocha and nutmeg turning to moderate but smooth approachable tannins on the finish.

Blend of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Petit Verdot, 3% Malbec and 2% Merlot
Estate vineyards - 74% Hillspring 26% Main Ranch

RM 91

Gallery -