Trefethen Vineyards

January 10, 2008

Sheri and I had a real treat last weekend when we visited the Trefethen Winery and Vineyards.

Their wines are absolutely fantastic, so wonderful that we joined Club Trefethen. If you aren't familiar with Trefethen, it is one of the oldest Napa vineyards, originally established in 1882; and reinvigorated by Eugene and Catherine Trefethen in 1968.

As much as we enjoyed the wines, that's not what made the visit so special. We were treated to the an amazing tour by Michael Baldini, who has worked there for decades, ever since he was a child helping his father develop and evolve the vineyard.

Michael started the tour by showing us a series aerial photos of the property and the different blocks of plantings, starting in 1968. This is a Google satellite view of the property with my rough outline of the boundaries:


Michael explained how he, his father and brothers worked to develop the winery's infrastructure over nearly 40 years. This was followed by an amazing overview of how heat, cold, fungus, bacteria, and a variety of insects (including phylloxera) have affected the varietals planted over the decades. Even more interesting were the creative ways the growers worked to overcome these challenges. After the lesson in theory, we walked a small section of the vineyard, while Micheal gave us another course in how the vines are managed, pruned, staked, and trained.

I was interested to hear that, unlike many vineyards, Trefethen employs a full-time staff of farm-workers who are busy year round from pruning to harvest. As we wandered the rows, we were educated on the pros and cons of mechanical vs. hand picking, yields per acre, differences in rootstock, and a myriad of highly technical wine-growing facts. With few to no seasonal workers; I can only image how roughly 50 people harvest nearly 1,000 acres of grapes each year!

Overall, I came away inspired and awed by how this man has spent a lifetime nurturing and shepherding the land to produce grapes that make wonderful wines for our enjoyment.