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Trefethen Family Vineyards
Kathy Sullivan

Trefethen Family VineyardsSummary: The Trefethen Family Vineyards facility has a long history. Built in 1886, it is now on the National Register of Historic Places. Jon Ruel is the viticulturist expert and promotes the use of sustainable practices in both the vineyard and the large onsite organic fruit and vegetable garden.

The entrance to the winery tasting room takes one on a leisurely drive through sustainably farmed vineyards. From the parking area, visitors pass through an arched covered entryway to a brick covered landscaped area and patio. The sienna colored brick matches the sienna colored wood of this three-story building.

The Trefethen Family Vineyards facility is located in the Eshcol Winery building built in 1886 and is now listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Hamden McIntyre constructed the building with a gravity flow process. It is one of the first gravity flow wineries in California. McIntyre also constructed Greystone where the legendary Culinary Institute of America is located. The winery was closed down during Prohibition. In 1968 Gene Trefethen purchased the winery and began growing grapes. By 1973 he was producing wine.

Trefethen Family VineyardsIn the past the crushing of grapes was done on the top level and fermenting on the second level. Aging took place on the bottom level. Today the first level is where the tasting room is located. Visitors are immediately greeted as they enter the facility. There are two tasting areas in a large room. Barrels, tables, and comfortable chairs separate these tasting areas making each more private.


Today the vineyards consist of 440 acres located in the Oak Knoll AVA of Napa Valley. Varieties growing include Chardonnay, Riesling, Viognier, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc. The vineyards are close to the San Francisco Bay. In the morning the fog covers the vineyards and the sun shines in the afternoon followed by a cool breeze in the late afternoon. In the vineyards, organic principles are followed such as planting legumes to increase nitrogen in the soil. The vineyards are certified fish green; only safe sprays are used in the vineyard. Owls are encouraged in the vineyards.

Trefethen Family Vineyards

Green Initiatives

The winery uses recycled water to reduce its total water needs. Solar panels provide 25 percent of Trefethen’s energy needs and they plan to increase that amount. The winery belongs to Napa Green and the Fish Friendly Farming Program. They were one of the first wineries to become part of Napa Green.

Trefethen Family VineyardsLa Huerta

Jon Ruel, Director of Viticulture & Winemaking, established “La Huerta,” a large organic truck farm, on the property. It benefits the employees and friends of the winery. Employees are pleased to receive a box of food harvested from the garden with their paychecks. Vegetables and fruits are included depending on what is available. Everyone we met at the winery is enthusiastic and it is obvious that everyone enjoys working at Trefethen Family Vineyards.

After our tour of the winery, vineyards and gardens, we tasted and enjoyed several wines from the comfort of leather chairs. Barrels stacked behind us added a nice ambiance to the area.

Trefethen Family VineyardsWhite Wines

Dry Riesling 2008 offered an aroma of floral and mineral notes with a taste of roses with hints of peach. The finish was dry and fruity and yielded to minerality. Harmony Chardonnay 2007 is produced only during vintage years. The aroma had nuances of oak, apple and caramel. There were apple and pear notes on the taste. The crisp finish was fruity with nuances of oak.

Red Wines

Merlot 2006 had a black cherry aroma. The taste was fruit forward with black cherry notes. The finish was fruity with tannins. Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 offered an aroma of black fruit especially black cherries. The taste had notes of black fruit and coffee. There were bold tannins on the finish with fruit and coffee notes. OKD5 2007 was a blend of 65 percent Petit Verdot, 21 percent Malbec, 9 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 4 percent Cabernet Franc and 1 percent Merlot. The aroma was of dark fruit and the taste had black berry notes. The fruity finish had bold tannins that did not last long. Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon was a dark purple color. The aroma was of dark fruit. The taste was of blackberries, plums and black cherries. The fruity finish had bold tannins that were long lasting.

Enjoy visiting Trefethen Family Vineyards where you will discover quality wines, friendly people and a winery and vineyard that practices sustainable methods.

Trefethen Family Vineyards
1160 Oak Knoll Ave.
Napa, California 94558

GPS: N38º 21.606’ W122º 19.977’

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