When Katie and Gene came to Napa in 1968, the majority of the valley was planted to something other than grapes. Part of the land that they purchased was planted to walnuts. Gene set about transitioning these orchards to vineyards, but he ran into some unexpected opposition when considering one specific part of the property.
Inconveniently located in the middle of a hayfield was a massive walnut tree. Though not quite as tall as the centuries-old oak trees that towered over the historic winery, the breadth of its canopy was astonishing, shading nearly an entire acre of land. Land that was set to become vineyard.
Catherine Trefethen, however, was captivated by the majesty of the tree. She turned to her husband and said, “Don’t you dare touch that tree.”
“Don’t you dare touch that tree.” – Catherine Trefethen
Eugene Trefethen, the legendary businessman, the man who had turned gargantuan projects like the Hoover Dam and the San Francisco Bay Bridge from pipedreams into reality, protested, pointing out the inefficiency of leaving the tree in place. This grape farm needed to be productive, if their investment was to be worthwhile. Leaving an acre – an entire acre! – to a tree that was so old it didn’t even produce many walnuts anymore, was not part of his plan.
Katie, however, was persistent, and Gene wisely relented and the tree stayed. New vineyard was planted around it.
Living in harmony with the vineyard, the tree continues to provide perches for hawks and owls, who survey their surroundings from its branches. Bluebirds make a home here, too, and all these natural predators control pests in the encircling vineyard, which was replanted again in 2005. This special block now features four unique clones of Chardonnay, including one called “Hens and Chicks”, and it is the sole source for our Harmony Chardonnay, one of three wines that make up our Legacy Collection.
Katie’s Acre, as the space dedicated to the tree is now called, has also become a place of celebration and community. When we host our annual harvest party in the vineyard, we gather all of our employees and their families under the immense branches of this special tree. In its shade, surrounded by vines in every direction, there is a strong connection to the vineyard and to our legacy. It is the perfect place to celebrate the vintage.
In 2019, Lorenzo Trefethen was married here, imbuing the space with even more family history. In preparation for the festivities, some tree work was done, and a curious arborist reached out to the California Big Trees Registry. Katie’s tree is now recognized as a Champion Tree – the largest known living example of a Paradox Walnut.
Families stay in touch.
We won’t forget to write.