Like Father, Like Son | A Father’s Day Story

May 24, 2021

Lorenzo and John at the family home

Lorenzo Trefethen was raised by his parents John and Janet on their family vineyard in the beautiful Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. Growing up, the winery and gardens became his playground and the crew his extended family. As he matured from boy into young man, Lorenzo knew his dad was the one he could look to as a mentor–a pillar of strength, and one of his favorite people in the world. Now a father himself to baby girl Zora, and in honor of Father’s Day, Lorenzo reflects on what it was like to have a race-car driving, airplane-flying winemaker as his dad.

Lorenzo, John, Janet, and Hailey

“THE BIGGEST JUVENILE DELINQUENT I KNOW”

“I like to describe my Dad as the biggest juvenile delinquent I know,” says Lorenzo, smiling with a boyish grin. From very early on, Lorenzo recalls how John was a man of many hobbies. While he turned wine into his profession, he was also a fully-fledged adrenaline junkie with a penchant for fast machines like cars and motorcycles. According to Lorenzo, his Dad has achieved what many of us aspire to–a successful work-life balance.

“Ever since I can remember, Dad always made time to have fun, and I admire that,” Lorenzo affirms. This is most likely because John is one of the most curious people he knows, always interested in the world around him and never afraid to try something new. “I treasure the relationship with my Dad. He’s more than a friend, and he’s more than a father. I go to him for advice –especially if I’m in trouble!” Lorenzo laughs.

Janet and John at the Napa Airport

A NEED FOR SPEED

For many of us, as we grow up, our dad is the coolest person in the world. For Lorenzo, this turned out to be pretty accurate! At the young age of 16, John Trefethen got his pilot’s license for a single-engine aircraft. While in college, he started racing cars, including one memorable race at Daytona Beach. But, according to Lorenzo, things were a bit different back then:

“When Dad started racing, there were no roll cages or safety equipment. It was just you and the car driving on the course for 24 hours! It was so accessible – you could enter a car right off the street that didn’t require any track modifications. Safety wasn’t really something people were thinking about yet.”

Lorenzo and Hailey enjoying their Radio Flyer as they are towed in the vineyard garden

Lorenzo and Hailey enjoying their Radio Flyer as they are towed in the vineyard garden

“I’m living now where I was born and exactly where I spent the first few years of my life.” Lorenzo Trefethen

John’s passion for driving was seemingly hereditary. According to his parents, Lorenzo’s first word was “tractor.”

“I’m living now where I was born and exactly where I spent the first two years of my life. It’s a little cottage right next to the vineyard shop. So anytime a tractor starts up and goes anywhere, we know about it. I guess when I was a baby, this got my attention!” Some of Lorenzo’s happiest memories are of spending time with his dad while he worked the land: “ I remember one of the best days of my life was my first time in an excavator. I recall the cat tracks and the long arm with a scoop on the end. I was about four years old and sitting on my Dad’s lap. I thought it was just about the coolest thing ever.”

Then one day when Lorenzo was in high school, John returned to the family home with a modified BMW. John gave Lorenzo a sly look and said: “Let’s take her to the track!”. Lorenzo recalls the car fondly: “It was an E36 M3 that was modified by Dinan. We took the car to track days and drove around in circles -it was so much fun! At that stage, I was only 16 and had just gotten my learner’s permit.”

John and Lorenzo at the Fontana Winner’s Circle in 2015

It didn’t take long for Lorenzo to get his driver’s license, and that’s when the real fun began. On weekends, they would head out to the track and drive together–the ultimate father-son activity.

“We quickly learned why you do not track a street car. They break easily, and then you have to ride with the tow truck driver back home!” explains Lorenzo. By then, John was more passionate than ever about racing. He won the Driver’s Cup–an all amateur race performed at a very high level and presented by Porsche. The Trefethen family even headed to Stuttgart, Germany, so that John could receive his reward in person at Porsche’s headquarters.

When Lorenzo finished college, he finally had time to take racing more seriously. He says: “By that point, Dad and I started to have our own cars and were running in the same race group. I also started to beat him!” After that, Lorenzo leveled up– and impressively so. In 2015, he received an offer to drive for ANSA Motorsports, a professional racing team in the Pirelli World Challenge. It was a partially subsidized ride, meaning Lorenzo needed sponsorship. The opportunity came on the heels of the 2014 Napa earthquake, which had seriously damaged the Trefethen tasting room. And surprisingly, Trefethen decided to sponsor Lorenzo.

“My Dad’s rationale was that in place of a tasting room (which was being rebuilt), we would bring our tasting room around the country and advertise on my car,” smiles Lorenzo. “I got a few other sponsors, but the winery was the main one, and we had the prettiest car in the paddock. It was an art car with a bottle of wine splashing off it,” he says. The father and son collaboration paid off: Lorenzo won his first race at Mosport in Canada and finished 3rd in the championship. He was also awarded “Rookie of the Year” for his achievements.

Lorenzo and his daughter, Zora
John playing with his grandchildren

LIKE FATHER, LIKE SON

In 2020, Lorenzo became a father for the first time. As he reflects, he shares that one of his biggest realizations in fatherhood so far is that all dads are human beings–they make mistakes, love deeply, and learn as they go. In retrospect, what has really made an impression on him is how much time both John and Janet would make for their children. “When it came to Hailey and me, Dad was very generous with his time. I have a newfound appreciation for this now that I understand how busy they were every day. I think part of it was strategic; Mom and Dad started the winery and built it for ten years before they had kids. They were ready for us.”

He also admits that his parents’ approach was always in the back of his mind. As a young father himself, he wants to ensure he makes time for his children.“I know my Dad had a busy father, and he didn’t see him very much. That was very common in those days. That was a change that he wanted to make for his kids–and he did.”

While Lorenzo and his dad have had to spend a bit more time apart over the last year due to social distancing, the duo is still as close as ever. As Lorenzo forges his own path of parenting baby Zora, he ends: “Dad never insisted that we do anything specific. But when we discovered something that we liked, he was completely supportive. I want to offer Zora the same support my Dad offered my sister and me.”



More from the Journal

See All Posts