When Decanter Likes Our Wines

October 12, 2020

“When Decanter likes our wines, we get really excited,” opens Hailey Trefethen, her eyes gleaming.


Adding a silver lining to a challenging year, Trefethen’s performance at the recent 2020 Decanter World Wine Awards was nothing short of exceptional. We are thrilled to announce that our estate grown wines were awarded the following honors:

Best in Show & 97 pts:

2017 Trefethen Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon


Platinum Medal & 97 pts:
2018 Trefethen Family Vineyards Chardonnay

While the wine world includes a veritable sea of prizes, trophies, medals, and points, here’s why the Decanter Awards are particularly meaningful to third generation vintners, Lorenzo and Hailey Trefethen.

Understanding The Decanter World Wine Awards

Now in its 17th year, the Decanter World Wine Awards is the world’s largest and most prestigious wine competition. Based in London, this year 16,518 wine entries were blind tasted over 28 consecutive days in August (under strict COVID safety guidelines) by 116 of the world’s top wine experts, including 37 Masters of Wine and 9 Master Sommeliers.


Both the Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay finished in the top 1% of wines tasted. In a field of over 16,000 wines, only 178 Platinum Medals were awarded (with our Chardonnay being the only Platinum-winning wine from the USA.) The tasting’s top honor, “Best in Show” was awarded to just the best 50 wines, including our own Cabernet Sauvignon.


What makes these results particularly significant to both Hailey and Lorenzo is the fact that all 16,518 wines were tasted blind. In a blind tasting, the judges are presented with a flight of numbered glasses of wine. While they may be presented with basic facts about the wines they are tasting, such as vintage and varietal, they never see the bottle or the label until they’ve made their judgement. This method strips away any preconceived notions about a wine – all the judges have to go on is the wine itself, and how it compares to the others in the flight.


For the Decanter World Wine Awards, the judges were aware of some things, like variety, vintage, and price point, but they never saw the label while they were judging the wines. More importantly, the ‘Platinum’ winning wines were tasted four times, while the ‘Best in Show’ wines were tasted 5 times, reinforcing the validity of the awards presented.


“These results are hugely significant for Trefethen! As far as I’m concerned, it means more than any 100-point score in a non-blind tasting, because these awards did not come in a vacuum. We went up against the world, and in the largest head-to-head blind tasting anywhere, our Cabernet Sauvignon won the highest award. And our Chardonnay nearly did the same, emerging as the best white wine from North America,” Lorenzo explains.

“These results are hugely significant for Trefethen! As far as I’m concerned, it means more than any 100-point score in a non-blind tasting, because these awards did not come in a vacuum. We went up against the world, and in the largest head-to-head blind tasting anywhere, our Cabernet Sauvignon won the highest award,” Lorenzo explains.

The Thrill Of The Win

When it comes to the Trefethen family history, this is not the first time they have received a notable award from Decanter. Of all the Trefethens, Hailey remembers this story the best:

“Our 2002 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon won the Best Bordeaux Red Variety in 2007. So I actually spent the night of my 21st birthday on a plane with my family to go and receive the award in London. It was such a big deal for our whole family!” she recalls, laughing.


When reflecting on whether winning prestigious awards such as these impact the winemaking approach for the Trefethen team, Lorenzo is quick to answer:


“While we’re still digesting these incredible results, part of this process includes looking over the fellow winning wines. The trend I have found is that all winning wines are made in the same way – they come from a very specific place and are a pure expression of it. The reason I believe our Signature wines did so well is that we make all of our wines in this way. Every Trefethen wine comes from our estate and is made by real people in an authentic way with integrity. To me, this is an indication that we are doing things the right way,” he shares.


Indeed, the judges’ notes from the Decanter World Wine Awards point very clearly to the value of sub-districts and creating wine with a strong sense of place. Awarded a remarkable 97 points and Best in Show, the 2017 Cabernet Sauvignon is described as proof of “just how different the Valley’s sub-districts can be, something that this wine from Oak Knoll makes admirably clear.”

Wines To Stand The Test Of Time

When it comes to the winning wines themselves, Lorenzo points out an interesting anecdote regarding the Platinum Award Chardonnay.


“The 2018 vintage was the first wine released under our new label, and I think it points to an external reflection of an internal evolution that occurred at Trefethen.”


To expand here, Trefethen has been making wine for three generations, however, recent years have seen a shift back towards working more in harmony with the vineyards themselves to achieve the best possible results.


“I feel like our 2018 vintage is more like the wines our parents made in the 1970s, and that means it came out the way we wanted it to. We’re not trying to shape the vineyards as much as amplify the pedigree of the vineyard. It’s taken us 50 years to know how to do this, and it’s an unending process but it is great to get affirmation in such a clear way,” Lorenzo continues.


As the team takes a moment to celebrate their new accolades, Hailey and Lorenzo give thanks to the people who made it possible. To them, every hand that touches the wine deserves recognition, and that means every member of the Trefethen team. Yet, an extra special nod of respect must be given to Trefethen winemaker, Bryan Kays, who has been at the helm of the cellar since 2015.


“He paid so much attention to pick dates, acidity levels – every single aspect behind these winning wines. He really is the embodiment of our winemaking intent,” says Hailey.


Lorenzo nods in agreement and adds: “Bryan has always said that there is something deeply special about our wines from the 1970s. He keys in on the specific vintages and remarks how he wants to reflect the vineyards with the intention of ensuring all Trefethen wines can stand the test of time just like the originals do.”


For Trefethen Family Vineyards, the momentous Decanter Awards received are a testament to their continued efforts.


“We’ve been proud of all our wine from the very start, and this special recognition reaffirms our confidence in both this place and what we are doing with it,” concludes Hailey.