Sharing Family Traditions

December 17, 2020

In the early 1990s, Janet was thrilled (and a little nervous) to welcome Julia Child and cook a holiday meal on national television!

With the holiday season upon us after a very eventful year we look forward to taking solace in cherished family traditions. Linking past generations and hopeful futures, these customs offer meaningful ways to relate and connect with one another. For our last journal post of the year, we sat down with 3rd generation Trefethen vintners Hailey and Lorenzo to learn about their favorite family traditions and what makes their Christmas holiday feel special. 

It Runs In The Family

“Our grandfather, who Lorenzo and I affectionately called Granddaddy was Mr. Christmas. It was definitely his favorite holiday,” says Hailey. 


As children, Hailey and Lorenzo would spend Christmas Eve at their “Nana and Grandaddy’s house” (that’s Catherine and Eugene Trefethen to you and me), which was a particularly significant event for the whole family. The entire house and front yard would be full of incredible handmade motorized decorations that Eugene collected. “When I was little, one of my favorite displays was a bear in overalls balancing a spinning red ball on his nose. That was Christmas for me!” recalls Hailey, her eyes sparkling with nostalgic delight. 


Lorenzo smiles and adds: “It’s not surprising that Grandaddy loved Christmas so much. He was a great philanthropist and the joy of giving was core to who he was. Tutu, our Mom’s mom, really gave Grandaddy a run for his money, though!” he continues. “I have a very vivid memory of Tutu dressing up as Santa Claus and bouncing all the grandchildren on her knee and giving out presents. She really brought that festive cheer!”


Clearly, that festive cheer continued straight down through the bloodline. Hailey shares: “Our mom does an amazing job of bringing the Christmas spirit each year – no matter where we are in the world. I remember one year when we were on vacation in South Africa, and Mom still managed to find a little tree that she decorated with ornaments and placed on the table!”


While it has been several years since “Mr. Christmas” and “Tutu” have been around to celebrate, their remarkable Christmas spirit is certainly not forgotten on the estate. Many of the decorations on display in the Villa (which was Eugene and Catherine Trefethen’s home when they lived on the estate) are still the original ornaments used by Mr. Christmas himself – true family heirlooms. To this day, in non-COVID years, the Trefethen team gathers around in the Villa, wearing their cheesiest Christmas sweaters and playing fun games. 


“For us, Christmas at Trefethen gives us a moment to honor our grandparents,” says Lorenzo. “It’s also an occasion when we can spend quality time with our extended family – our team.”

“For us, Christmas at Trefethen gives us a moment to honor our grandparents,” says Lorenzo. “It’s also an occasion when we can spend quality time with our extended family – our team.”

A Very Trefethen Christmas

For Hailey and Lorenzo, family traditions are small, treasured slices of time bookending each year.


Christmas is one of the only times when all the Trefethens get together for a small, intimate family dinner and preparations for the feast start early on Christmas Eve. All morning, everyone does individual prep work in their own kitchens. “I’ll do a salad or dessert, while Lorenzo will do his famous potatoes,” divulges Hailey. “We then come together in the late afternoon at our parent’s home for dinner and presents.”


Christmas Eve dinner at the Trefethen home is a relatively formal affair, on Janet Trefethen’s special request. “Mom always asks us to dress our best and to wear Christmas colors of red and green. My husband even wears a bowtie! But we’re more than happy to indulge her because she’s the one that makes the annual Christmas goose!” laughs Hailey.


Lorenzo’s eyes light up. “Mmm, the goose! It’s a tradition passed along from our Mom’s Dad, a rice farmer and avid duck (and occasionally goose!) hunter. Mom roasts it, much like you would a turkey, and she adds quince from the garden. It’s magical, and always finished in one sitting,” shares Lorenzo, looking a bit hungry. 


Of course, great wine is a must for a family of winegrowers, and the Trefethen family often dig into their cellar to unearth and share special old bottles. “HāLo is always on the table, though,” notes Hailey. “It’s a beautiful pairing with the Christmas goose!” 


As farmers and foodies, it should come as no surprise that the Trefethen seasonal traditions are deeply connected to food. Following a rich and indulgent home-cooked Christmas dinner, Christmas Day starts on a slightly sweeter but equally tasty note. 


“On Christmas morning, we typically do a yeast cake breakfast followed by opening stockings. The special recipe came from our Mom’s great aunt. The pancakes are a lot smaller than your average pancake and have a little sourness to them from the yeast. Balanced with the savoriness of the bacon and the sweetness of the maple syrup, it’s a little gift in and of itself on Christmas,” says Lorenzo.

For the Trefethens, the traditions finish with the opening of stockings, which adorn the fireplace mantle. Each year, in each stocking, everyone is gifted with a tangerine. Lorenzo explains, “This serves as a reminder that our Mom’s Dad grew up during the Great Depression, and if they were lucky, they would get a single tangerine for Christmas. We have so much to be grateful for!” 


This year, whether you find yourself together or apart from those nearest and dearest to you, we trust you will rejoice, as Gene Trefethen did, in the joy of giving, and cherish all there is to celebrate. The Trefethen family and team wish you good health, good spirit, and above all, a festive season filled with an abundance of family traditions. Merry Christmas! 

Check out this vintage video of Janet, Hailey, and Lorenzo Trefethen cooking Christmas specialties with renowned chef Julia Child!