Brief Napa reports: Trefethen
My second full day in Napa began at Trefethen, in the Oak Knoll district. It was another beautiful morning, and I was meeting with Jon Ruel – like me, another lapsed scientist (he'd done research on plant ecology in a previous life). John was a great host.
Trefethen is a large family-owned property of 440 acres of vineyard, planted on the valley floor. There's also a 40 acre property not far from the estate in the hills, called Hillspring. While the valley floor estate looks like one big vineyard, there are some quite significant differences in the soils. The more gravelly bits from alluvial fans are better suited to Cabernet, while Chardonnay prefers the more fertile sections with deeper clay loam soils. There's also a fair bit of Riesling here (some was still on the vine with botrytis, for making a sweet wine), as well as some Pinot Noir that is sold to sparkling producers.
The Hillspring property, tucked into the hills, has more rocky, less fertile soils and is also warmer by a few degrees. It's really beautiful.
Sustainability is a big issue for John, and he's working hard to make the vineyards as naturally farmed as possible. As well as a large compost heap, there's a large array of 572 solar panels supplying 20% of the winery's needs.
The wines? They're solidly good. The Riesling is attractive, fresh and lime, and the Chardonnay is restrained and appealing, with a light touch of oak. The Merlot is well defined and supple, while the Cabernet is a bit richer, but still made in a bright, digestible and fruit-focused style. There's no hint of over-ripeness or excess here, and the wines are better for it. The 2005 Reserve is largely from the Hillspring property and shows lovely rich aromatics with a concentrated, ripe forward palate. It's a big wine, but it shows restraint with it.