Now & Then | Working Moms in Napa Valley

May 6, 2021

Hailey, Janet, and Lorenzo Trefethen

For three generations, the Trefethens have carefully tended to their land, employees, and customers, building a loyal following for their legacy of fine, age-worthy wines. Today, Napa Valley is hailed as a world-class epicurean destination, famed for its award-winning wines and Michelin-starred restaurants. But back in 1973, when John and Janet Trefethen were starting on the estate, the situation was a little bit different–especially for a young mom. With Mother’s Day on May 9th, we would like to share the remarkable story behind mother and daughter duo, Janet and Hailey Trefethen, and what it takes to be a working mom in the wine industry–now and then.


For Janet Trefethen, surprisingly, not much changed when baby Lorenzo was born in 1983. Back then, the Napa wine industry was still in its infancy, and Janet was a unique kind of working mom.


“It was easy for me to take Lorenzo with me wherever I went. So I would have a regular schedule. I would go to my meetings with him, and people just accepted it. I even had a cradle in my office that I attached a long ribbon to, and I could rock Lorenzo back and forth if he cried. I would hold the phone and do business with one hand and rock him with my other hand,” she chuckles.


As light-hearted as Janet is today, the truth is that her approach to motherhood in the workplace was pioneering, following so closely behind the women’s liberation movement. Thanks to Janet’s efforts and those before her, it’s now become widely accepted that women can have successful careers and be good mothers.


“I think back to my mother and mother-in-law. They were both empowered, educated women and great role models for me. It’s wonderful to see women today in all kinds of jobs–including Vice President of the United States!” shares Janet. “It’s taken decades of breaking down barriers that not so long ago felt impossible to change.” 


By the time Hailey came along a few years later, the children continued to be raised in the thick of things, even attending wine auctions in diapers. Despite the business demands, Janet always put her children first. She recounts the tale of a London wine tasting event that she needed to attend when daughter Hailey was just three months old: “I knew I had to go, and I was caught between being a good mom and helping with the business. So I made the trip in three days. You know it takes a day to get there and a day to get back. I did the tasting, and I just flew home. It was the longest trip I ever took to be away from my little girl like that,” she explains.


Hailey jumps in: “My mother’s dedication was endless. When I was a little older, before she went on one of her overseas trips, she would read one of my favorite books and record it onto a cassette tape so that I could still hear her reading before bedtime and turn the pages to my mom’s voice. That’s always stuck with me. I still have the book; it was ‘Third Story Cat.’ I have a hard copy and read it to my baby boy a couple of weeks ago.”

“My mother’s dedication was endless… I could still hear her reading before bedtime and turn the pages to my mom’s voice. That’s always stuck with me. I still have the book; it was ‘Third Story Cat.’ I have a hard copy and read it to my baby boy a couple of weeks ago.”


Over the next few years, Janet watched in fascination as her tiny baby grew into a little girl. She reflects on how Hailey was always a rational and independent child who thought things through–most of the time. One of her favorite memories is of 1-year-old Hailey at Christmastime: “Christmas at the Trefethen household was always a hoot. My father-in-law was ‘Mr. Christmas’, and my mother would dress up as Santa Claus. We were having a big Christmas Eve party, and so I’d dressed Hailey up in a gorgeous black velvet dress before putting her down for a nap in her crib. After about 10 minutes, I heard a strange sound, and when I went to go check, I found Hailey rubbing A&D ointment all through her hair!” laughs Janet.


The white ointment was stubborn, and according to Janet, just wouldn’t come out. Eventually, only the dish soap worked. 


Growing up on the estate, the Trefethen children had access to an abundance of exciting and bucolic activities, like playing hide-and-seek among the barrels or running in the vineyards. As the siblings grew older, Hailey says they’d still make appearances at wine dinners, going around and greeting the guests. “Everyone at Trefethen is my extended family,” she says. 


When describing her mother, Hailey lights up. “Driven. That’s my mom. She has an uncanny ability to have this love for life in terms of the business, family, and herself. She’s very balanced. She gets up and runs, then goes to work, takes a lunch break and rides her horse every single day, and then goes back to work before heading home to make dinner. And in the midst of this, she was also making us lunch and making sure we got off to school!” states Hailey. 


Interestingly, Janet has a real competitive streak as well and rides her horse nationally. During this interview, she’s just back from showing her horse in Las Vegas, Oklahoma, and Texas. She also taught her children to ride and take care of the horses, from cleaning the stalls to feeding them. “Lorenzo and Hailey would have horse races through the vineyards, and that scared me to death!” claims Janet.


There’s no doubt that Janet influenced Hailey’s approach to work. Having been raised by a self-starter and committed mother and businesswoman, Janet indeed forged a path. 


“I’ve been very fortunate to have this incredible role model, but it’s also huge shoes to fill!” laughs Hailey. Janet adds: “She’s doing such a fabulous job. Unlike what you may think, Hailey didn’t just fall into the wine industry. She first studied Biological Anthropology in Argentina and went through a long process to come to where she is today. I’m proud of that fact,” she ends. 


Now that Hailey is a mother herself, there are some key lessons from Janet that Hailey intends on forwarding to her children. Dedication is one, love of life is another. “As much as we are all dedicated to the winery, there are a lot of other things in life. Be it horses, or cooking, or your family, or travel, there’s so much to relish and enjoy,” says Hailey. 


When asked to share one of their recent favorite moments, the mother-daughter duo chuckle; “It was just yesterday!” laughs Hailey. “My mom was feeding my baby boy Gus some Cheerios, and when I walked into the room, I saw them sticking their tongues out at each other with Cheerios on them. It just made me smile.” 


At Trefethen, family is everything. We hope this journal reminds you to show your love and appreciation to the women in your life who inspire you, whether you’re celebrating together or miles apart.


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