At the center of our wine and food experiences are The Villa and La Huerta. Eugene and Catherine Trefethen’s former home, The Villa, is an historic Craftsman house surrounded by five acres of gardens originally planted by Katie herself. The Trefethen family opened up this formerly private space to host guests for our wine and food pairings, featuring produce from La Huerta, our vegetable garden just steps from The Villa. Containing over 100 edible varieties, it turns out over 17,000 pounds of produce each year, providing the raw ingredients for Chef Kennedy’s pairings as well as food for our employees and their families.
When Eugene and Catherine Trefethen came to Napa, Gene set about one of the most significant plantings of new vines in the valley since Prohibition. Katie, meanwhile, turned her attentions to their new home, an old American Craftsman style house next to the historic winery. Greatly expanding the gardens surrounding it, she created something just as remarkable as the vineyard Gene planted, a five-acre botanical wonder that the National Wildlife Federation has recognized as Certified Wildlife Habitat. Katie, who lived out the rest of her years here, always with her hands in the garden, playfully referred to it as “Villa Trefethen”, and eventually just “The Villa”.
The house features elements characteristic of the Arts and Crafts movement, including beautiful exposed beams in the living room, exquisite built-in cabinetry, and delicate antique glass windows in the dining room where the Trefethen family used to celebrate holidays together. Katie redecorated throughout the 60s and 70s, and the joyous use of color and pattern throughout the home is emblematic of the time and her personality. From every room, there are views of the garden, Katie’s masterpiece.
A feast for the senses, there is something to treat the visitor throughout the seasons. Walking in through the garden gate, you enter a redwood grove, and on a hot summer day, the temperature drops. Towering over everything now, it is hard to imagine them as anything but giants, but Katie started them from saplings. Depending on the time of the year, you may pick up the scent of orange blossoms in spring, or jasmine a bit later, followed by the heady perfume of Osmanthus and lavender in late summer. Pears, apples, citrus, pineapple guava, and persimmons are sprinkled throughout the garden; birdsong is everywhere. And no visit to Trefethen is complete without a poke at the bark of the cork oaks framing the walkway to the winery.
Katie emphasized textures in her design of the garden and something is almost always in bloom or fruiting, bringing a pop of color into the picture. Hellebores appear first in winter, followed by the cherry blossom and shortly thereafter the wisteria throws out drapes of purple and white. Katie’s cherished irises soon appear, along with all matter of dogwoods. Roses have their own special part of the garden all to themselves, as do dahlias of every hue. It is no wonder that Katie picked out an abstract outline of a blooming flower to represent her new home. It would become the emblem of the Trefethen family in Napa, proudly adorning the capsules that cover the tops of our wine bottles.
Years ago, a few rouge tomato plants began popping up along the edges of our vineyard, complete with their own irrigation! Jon Ruel, today our CEO, was then Director of Viticulture and traced them back to a few plucky employees. He saw an opportunity to channel this energy productively and made space for our vineyard employees to plant some vegetables. The success of this program encouraged us to think bigger and Jon suggested expanding it to benefit the entire company.
This was a natural fit for the Trefethen family, who have always had a vegetable garden. Growing up, Lorenzo and Hailey Trefethen’s daily chores included helping out in the garden and harvesting vegetables for dinner. Creating a connection to the land is a goal of our winegrowing, and we wanted to take it further, to give our employees something from the estate that would literally nourish their families.
In 2008 we converted some land next to Katie’s garden to become “La Huerta”, which means garden or small farm. Now under the leadership of Hailey Trefethen, it yields an astonishing amount and variety of produce. Over ten types of chilies and tomatoes are planted each year, along with multiple varieties of squash, beans, and melons. There are artichokes, onions, kale, chard, broccoli, cauliflower, blackberries, raspberries, oranges, lemons, pomelos, kumquats, and kiwi, as well as countless herbs. La Huerta’s main purpose remains the provision of fresh, healthy produce for our employees and their families, and it now also supplies produce for Winery Chef Chris Kennedy’s exceptional wine pairings.