Trefethen Family Vineyards
1160 Oak Knoll Avenue, Napa, California 94558
Hours: 10am to 4pm daily
Tasting Fees: $25 Classic Tasting ($35 Reserve Tasting)
Wines currently offered: Dry Riesling, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Rose, Pinot Noir, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Dragon’s Tooth (Red Blend)
Appointment necessary: Reservations required, but same-day appointments may be available
Picnics: Sorry, no outside food is allowed on property.
Pets: Dogs are welcome on the patio.
Children: Unable to accommodate anyone under the age of 21, including infants and children
If you’re looking for a comfortable, yet stunning Napa Wine Country experience, try Trefethen Family Vineyards. Positioned on prime real estate in the Oak Knoll District, the estate offers tasteful relaxation amidst the natural splendor of Napa Valley.
Purchased as a 600-acre parcel in 1968 by Eugene Trefethen and his wife Catherine, the couple originally intended only to sell their grapes, since there were fewer than 20 operational wineries in Napa Valley. However in 1973, their son John Trefethen, along with his wife Janet, helped create the family’s first commercial wine. Soon after, Trefethen vintages earned international acclaim, putting the young winery on the map. Today, the vineyards cover nearly 500 acres.
Perhaps Trefethen Family Vineyard’s best-known feature is its historic winery, a stately, terra-cotta red-and-brown structure. Constructed in 1886 by Hamden McIntyre, it was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1988, as the building is the only surviving example of a 19th century, three-story, wooden gravity-flow winery in Napa County. Currently undergoing repairs following damage from the 2014 earthquake, the winery is planning a grand re-opening in May of this year.
Tastings now take place in “Villa Trefethen” the past residence of founders Catherine and Eugene. Built around 1910-1920, the house is lovingly constructed, with elegant woodwork and low ceilings giving way to an undeniably homey atmosphere. Visitors can gather around the fireplace, or sit on the Villa’s covered sun porch, which overlooks the gardens and vineyards beyond. The porch is where we begin our reserve tasting, starting with a 2015 Dry Riesling as a welcome wine. It’s delicate and light, with a slight honey taste and crisp feel.
Secondly there’s the 2014 Harmony Chardonnay. “Chardonnay is our foundation wine, it’s what we’re known for,” says Michael Baldini, the Visitor Center host conducting our tasting. This one is gentle with a bright, citrus taste. It’s nice and smooth, neither spikey nor bitter, making evidently clear why it’s been such a crowd pleaser.
Next up we’re treated to a slightly-off-the-menu special, sampling the 2016 Quandary, a small-lot wine. Made from Riesling, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc, it’s definitely the sweetest so far, with fresh tropical tastes of kiwi and pineapple, making itself my firm favorite of the afternoon.
The 2013 Pinot Noir is another surprise, tasting of plums and cherries. It isn’t too heavy on the palate and is marked by a juicy finish. The 2014 OKD Four, a blend of Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon, has a rosy nose, with a rich, dark flavor and a particularly soft finish.
The 2013 FHB Merlot has a blackberry nose, with silky tannins and a slightly smoky finish. Last up, the 2013 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon is lighter than you might expect, while still combining flavors of cherry and chocolate.
“This is a special place. We’re blessed to work here,” reflects Baldini. “Napa has a diversity of soil types and microclimates, and when you work with the same piece of ground for so long, you begin to understand its nuances.” Baldini would know, having worked at Trefethen Family Vineyards in one job or another since the age of 13. His father, Tony Baldini, was the Vineyard’s first viticulturist. “In the wine business, in our business, you want to communicate the natural expression of the fruit. With winemaking, you have more of Mother Nature’s influence and you want to bring that to the table.” If that’s the task, consider the product at Trefethen Family Vineyards evidence of a job well done.
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