The True Value Of Wine
September 23, 2020
If 2020 has shown us anything so far, it’s that Mother Nature is always in charge. With this year’s harvest season falling smack-bang in the middle of a global pandemic and devastating California wildfires, one might say that perhaps there’s cause for panic in the vineyards. Luckily, that’s not the case for the Trefethen team, especially third-generation vintners Hailey and Lorenzo Trefethen, who have taken heed from Mother Nature as their teacher and learned some of their greatest life lessons from the vineyards themselves.
Just Keep Going
“There is something incredibly rhythmic about the work that we do. It’s always really refreshing and grounding to be out in the vineyard,” reflects Hailey. “After all, when it comes to grape growing and agriculture, neither of these things stop for anything. For me personally, it’s a great reminder about perseverance and the importance to just keep going.”
Of all people on the Trefethen team, Hailey certainly knows the fierce power that nature can unleash when you least expect it. On August 24, 2014 a 6.0 magnitude earthquake struck the heart of Napa Valley at 3:20 a.m, knocking the historic 1886 Trefethen Family Vineyards winery second floor four feet to the west and leaving the structure leaning precariously. “At that moment, you have to think ‘What do we do?’. But then you look at the vineyard and it’s still standing and you realize it’s going to be okay,” she smiles. “The vineyard has taught me how to think about other things in life – to not get caught up in your own world, but rather celebrate the little milestones as and when they arrive because you never know what’s around the corner.”
Following on in his sister’s line of thinking, Lorenzo adds in: “We move in cycles – in the vineyards and in life. My newborn baby has a cycle that I’m currently learning to work with, and it’s all about adapting. I think it’s about finding a way to make your mark in this world but to also learn to move with the flow of things, rather than fighting it.”
A Choreographed Challenge
Having grown up on the estate, both Hailey and Lorenzo relish being outdoors and working with their hands, but this year has been a little different. As new parents to the 4th generation of Trefethens and remote work being a new reality, the team has had to learn to choreograph their harvest activities in an entirely new way. The good news? It’s working.
Following a dry winter with little moisture in the soil and warm summer weather, harvest began early in mid-August. It’s now mid-September, and the vineyard team has been very busy in the heart of harvest. The white varieties, including Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, and Chardonnay, have already been picked, as well as the Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc. The team is currently finishing up Merlot and Malbec, and will move onto the late-ripening cultivars of Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot soon. With some of the early fermentations already moving along, Trefethen’s winemaker Bryan Kays is excited about what he’s been tasting in the young wines – concentrated flavors, balanced chemistry and the signature Trefethen brightness.
This said, while harvest operations may be well underway, there are new challenges to overcome and lessons to learn all along the way. “It is no secret that this year’s harvest is an extremely interesting one,” says Hailey. “We are proud to rely on our own full-time employees, and due to COVID-19, we’ve restructured how we group our crews.”
While historically, crews at Trefethen are grouped according to skill and speed (so they don’t end up with people at different parts of the block and really spread out), this year, the Trefethen team decided to keep family units together. “If you’re part of a family or carpooling together, you’re going to be on the same crew so that we are keeping these ‘bubbles’ and hopefully decreasing the risk of spread. There were some concerns at the beginning, but just reminding everyone that we are all on the same team has been really valuable. I think the same can be said for how we will get through this pandemic. It’s about helping everyone so we can all move forward at the same pace,” Hailey adds.
Clearly, through struggle comes strength, and some of these newfound lessons will no doubt be taken into the years ahead.
“Our winemaking philosophy is rooted in the vineyard. We believe in our land, the property, and where we are in the Oak Knoll District. That drives all our decisions and gives us what we get.” – Hailey Trefethen
Winegrowing, Not Winemaking
With harvest set to end in October, Hailey and Lorenzo take a moment to reflect on their winemaking philosophy and what they hope each vintage will bring across. “For me, it’s hard to talk about winemaking without talking about the vineyard, so my preferred term is ‘winegrowing’. When people taste Trefethen wine, they should taste not only the highest quality wine, but we want them to get a sense for the place and the people that crafted that wine,” explains Lorenzo.
As a 100% estate grown winery, the Trefethen family has been farming the same land for over 50 years, using the cellar in order to highlight the best of the vineyard. “Our winemaking philosophy is rooted in the vineyard. We believe in our land, the property, and where we are in the Oak Knoll District. That drives all our decisions and gives us what we get,” adds Hailey.
The True Value Of Wine
At the start of the pandemic, Trefethen Family Vineyards was fortunate enough to be designated as an ‘essential business’, being agricultural in nature. Lorenzo contemplates this, saying: “Given the upheaval that the whole world is experiencing, we had to sit back and ask ourselves ‘How are we adding value to everything happening?’.”
Yet, this isn’t a question that he needed to answer, as the answer was revealed to him.
Longtime Trefethen supporters have been ordering their favorite wines online, and stopping by the Tasting Room. For so many people, whether it’s a Zoom call with friends or enjoying a socially-distanced family gathering, wine can offer welcome relief in the midst of the madness. “This period of time has really emphasized that it remains important that our wines are from a real place made by real people. It is an honor to be able to bring a little bit of joy and release during all of this hardship, and if our wines are able to do that, then our efforts are worth it,” Lorenzo ends.