You know the saying “if it was snake, it would have bitten you” when you don’t see something right in front of you. That is exactly the way I felt after spending some four and a half hours with John and Janet Trefethen. How this day came about was through a bid for a Prostate Cancer Research charity, in memory of Derric DesMarteau who lost his life to prostate cancer in August, 2009. This event is sponsored by Hooked on Driving owners David and Brynne Ray, local friends, neighbors and fellow wine aficionados.
We met at Trefethen Winery and proceeded on a fascinating tour of the winery. It started out in the gardens describing the historical context of the building. The Trefethen family just recently celebrated their 50th year in Napa producing wine. One of the many things learned this day, was that approximately 600 acres are planted and they have not from the beginning purchased grapes “off the property”. This means that they have had complete control of the vineyard management with recorded data from the inception.
During the Napa 6.0 earthquake on August 25th at 3:20 am, the winery suffered some unbelievable damage. I have attached two pictures from the San Jose Mercury Newspaper showing the exterior damage.
The interior was damaged beyond recognition! After 33 months of renovation and construction, the building once again shows its historical significance proudly. They kept one of the post and the clock which broke during the earthquake as a reminder. Truly a phoenix project.
So today and back to wine, I have been involved in visiting, tasting and purchasing wine for over 40 years but had never visited this facility. What a revelation getting to understand the history, terroir and wines. We moved from the main tasting facility to the original family home for a private tasting. Here we enjoyed an opulent home to taste the wines.
(picture of John Trefethen, the original home and proof reader Susan Kelly).
The four wines selected were Chardonnay, a red blend, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon. Special food pairings were presented with each one to savor, enjoy and compliment the wine. Starting with the 2018 Harmony Chardonnay with 0% malolactic fermentation and barrel fermentation, it was light pale straw coloring, with distinct aromas of apple, pear and honeysuckle. The acidity was strong but flavorful and perfect with just about any fish. It was paired with petite Gem lettuce with tarragon Goddess dressing, parmesan & cured egg yolk. $26 is the retail price.
The second wine was the 2017 Dragon’s Tooth (red blend) comprised of 54% Malbec, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, 16 % Petit Verdot and 5% Malbec. The story goes as the land was being developed, a large unplanted plot next to the long driveway to the winery, the family constructed a cardboard dragon popping in and out of the ground for some almost 500 yards. It ended in a rocky field, designating the dragon’s teeth (tooth). Today it is planted with various vines. This was such a wonderful blend of estate wines providing a refreshing mouth filling sensation. The dark fruit was countered by violet flavors and vanilla notes. It was accompanied by a truffle potato croquette with crispy leeks. $60 is the retail price.
The third wine enjoyed was the 2016 The Cowgirl and The Pilot. This is a reference that I later deduced was a description of John (a pilot) and Janet (a distinguished rodeo horse cutter). This is a 100% Merlot which is a stable of the Oak Knoll AVA. This wine provided soft and rounded flavors of dark blackberries and black cherries. A soft vanilla pipe tobacco was lingering in the background. This was paired with roasted mushroom tartlet with black garlic & wild arugula. Perhaps one of the best pairings this afternoon. The retail price is $90.
The final wine presented to us, was their crème de la crème, 2015 Halo. This comes from the hillside estate and is 100% Cabernet Sauvignon. This wine has its own style and characteristics as John stated from the beginning when he said the vineyards produce a lower alcohol levels and less intrusive that heavy oaked Cabernets from Napa Valley. This surely was spot on with cherry and raspberries. The nose with bright red fruits, this wine could be sipped by itself for evening. This was paired with a Cabernet braised beef short ribs and Spooner rice congee. Retail price is $220.
If this wasn’t enough time drinking elegant wines, having stimulating conversations and enjoying gourmet appetizers, we adjoined to Bottega Napa Valley restaurant in Yountville. Here we began a culinary feast of appetizers, entrees and wines at the Chef’s table. We started out with Hamachi sashimi with a pear placed on a solid Himalayan salt block. Next was Pasta Fritta Con Prosciutto, a crispy bread, served with thinly sliced prosciutto, Lambrusco poached pears, and espuma. The last appetizer was Gnocchi Di Ricotta Della Nonna, a bed of “ricotta “pillows” with old hen tomato sauce and Pecorino Romano.
For an entrée I had the Branzino Alla Griglia, a wood grilled whole Branzino with charred marinated eggplant and heirloom tomato panzanella salad. This was exquisite and refined.
And yes we had a few more wines to enhance the dining experience! This included the 2015 Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs to start the meal. It was then followed by the 2018 Archineri Pietradolce Etna Bianco from Sicily (100% Carricante grapes) which paired wonderfully with the Hamachi and Bronzino. The first red wine of the evening was a 2016 Le Serre Nuove dell’ Ornellaia, which again was a superb pairing with the prosciutto and Gnocchi. This was a blend of Italy of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. And the last wine was a elegant 2016 Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon for those having various meat dishes. I want to thank and compliment Janet Trefethen for selecting these wines which brought out and finished off a most delicious meal.
What a memorable afternoon and evening with two of the pioneers of Napa Valley. My apologies for not having stopped and savored your wines in the past! Mea culpa, mea culpa! Add to this our leaders of the band, David & Brynne Ray for arranging this visit and working diligently for early prostate cancer screenings.
In conclusion, two remarkable things stand out from the day. First, please be diligent about getting a prostate exam for early detection. Secondly, don’t make the mistake I did, just outside of Napa, off Highway 29, take a right turn to visit the hospitably, warm and lovely winery Trefethen Family Vineyards for a memorable experience.