Lorenzo Trefethen of Trefethen Family Vineyards
For three generations, Trefethen Family Vineyards have been crafting exquisite wines from the Napa Valley, practicing sustainable farming and only using fruit grown on their own estate.
Lorenzo Trefethen is one of the third generation and his role is to travel to promote the company and also work with the marketing and finance departments. He visited us four years ago and hosted a fantastic wine tasting dinner that is still talked about by those that attended it, such is the charisma of this man.
We asked him about the six wines that changed his life....
Wine 1 - Royal Tokaji Mézes Mály 6 Puttonyos Aszú 2008 When I was a tiny person, my mother didn’t slow down. She just trucked me, cradle and all, to her next meeting. If I ever got too fussy, she would always have a bottle of dessert wine in her purse and would occasionally give me a drop off of her finger in order to settle me down. Perhaps as a result, I’ve always had a bit of a sweet tooth, and am a huge fan of sticky wines. Wines affected by the noble rot, in particular, find my favor. Many years ago, our friend Hugh Johnson, who helped start Royal Tokaji, hosted my family for dinner in his wondrous backyard garden in London, and capped off the meal with this single-vineyard Aszú from a Great First Growth vineyard. It’s stuck in my memory ever since.
Wine 2 - Petrus 2003 This wine was formative for me, marking the beginning of my professional journey into wine. One summer evening in Napa, between high school and college, our friends, Christian and Cherise Moueix, generously extended an offer to work for them in Bordeaux. I went off to college with no idea of what I wanted to do with my life, but I knew that I would take French. Two years later, I joined a small group of summer interns for the harvest in Pomerol and Saint-Émilion. I had the time of my life. I returned to college and, upon turning 21, took over instruction of the wine-tasting course sponsored by the French department. Over the course of a year, I built it into the most popular class in school. Those early experiences, of working in the Moueix vineyards, and then eagerly learning enough about wine so that I could teach others about it, would eventually lead me back to the family business. Years later, Christian and Cherise gifted me a bottle of this wine that I helped make. I still have it in my cellar, unopened.
Wine 3 - Trefethen Chardonnay 1976 This wine changed everything. Before its release, my family was trying to do something that no serious wine drinker took seriously: make fine wine in California. Today, many people refer to my parents and grandparents as "visionary"; we still just refer to ourselves as "a little bit crazy." Our early venture into wine in the Napa Valley, though exciting, was certainly not guaranteed success, and every sale we made was celebrated. Then, much to our surprise, our ’76 Chardonnay was declared "The Best Chardonnay in the World" at the Wine Olympics in Paris in 1979, at the time the largest wine tasting the world had ever seen. In 1980, it repeated that success at the rematch in Burgundy, and we were off to the races. Partly as a result of these tastings, Chardonnay came out of nowhere to become America’s favorite grape, Napa Valley was suddenly and firmly established on the wine map, and Trefethen Chardonnay became one of its first cult wines. Some years ago, we shared a few bottles of this wine at a special tasting with wine luminaries in London in celebration of our 50th When we arrived at the ’76, the room went silent. In an instant, everyone’s impression with regards to the ageability of California Chardonnay was knocked back by a few decades. Even today, this wine is still dancing to her own unique rhythm, still changing minds with regards to what is possible.
Wine 4 - Dom Ruinart Blanc de Blancs Brut 1973 I adore Champagne, and old Champagne most of all. The nuttiness, the softness of the bubbles, the depth of the acidity … when an evening starts with the subtle pop of an older bottle of Champagne, great things are in store. I found this particular bottle in my Grandmother's cellar, and made a birthday gift of it to a girl that I was quite taken with. We enjoyed it that night at Sons & Daughters in San Francisco, where it was the capstone of a very memorable date. That girl is now my wife, this bottle stands on our mantle, and we have a small but growing collection of Champagne that we are only somewhat successfully trying not to open.
Wine 5 - Giacomo Borgogno & Figli Barbaresco Riserva 1964 Once engaged, my wife and I planned to skip the pomp of a wedding and just elope. Then we went to our friends’ wedding in Italy, where they brought their guests into their love story, treating us to a moveable feast through some of their favorite places. At a remarkable dinner in a Villa on the shore of Lake Como, some extraordinary wines were shared, none more memorable than this Barbaresco. Thank you, Brady and Emmy, for changing our understanding of what a wedding could be, and for inspiring our own wedding in Napa. And thank you to our mutual friend, Walker Wine, for sourcing this exquisite bottle and cementing my love affair with Barbaresco.
Wine 6 - Diamond Creek Gravelly Meadow Cabernet Sauvignon 1979 I take advantage of any and every chance I get to taste Napa Cabernet from the mid and late 70s. In my experience they are, without exception, mind-blowing. Our winemaker and I talk frequently about the 1977 Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon, and how we can make wines today that will taste like that wine in 40 years’ time. For my birthday earlier this year, some dear friends put together a dinner at The Charter Oak in St. Helena, and worked with the sommelier to bring something special to the table that night. Outside, in a private area, as they uncorked a mystery wine, my three year-old daughter put her fingers on her forehead in an imitation of bulls’ horns, and ran around the table, under napkins that we held out like matador capes, giggling ecstatically the entire time. Upon the first sip of this wine, we all connected with our inner toddler, as the awe of existence dawned freshly upon us. When we learned what it was, my impression of 70s Napa Cabernet was confirmed in the most profound way. We spent the rest of the evening in a vain attempt to find something in the cellar that was its equal.
If I could share only one of these with three people, real or fictional, living or dead, which would it be, and who would they be? I hope that I will, in fact, have this experience someday. When my daughter is older, I dream of sharing the 1976 Trefethen Chardonnay with her, her grandfather, who made the wine, and her mother, who has yet to experience it. At that time, the wine will be more than 60 years old, and my father will be into his 90s. I expect the wine to still shine, however, and for my father to still be the consummate storyteller. I can picture my wife enjoying this wine; the physical way she expresses her pleasure with flavor is one of the many reasons I love her. I imagine our hands knitted under the table, relaxed and watching with great satisfaction as my father weaves the story of the vintage, of the challenges they faced building this business, and the serendipity and surprise of winning the Wine Olympics, my daughter perched on her grandfather’s every word. It is a perfect vision.