Trefethen Family Vineyards
2004 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Cabernet Sauvignon • Oak Knoll District
California: Napa Valley
What we say
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Mission Codename: No Second Guessin’ Trefethen
Operative: Agent Red
Objective: On news of Trefethen winning a Gold Medal award at the 2008 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, Agent Red was immediately dispatched to the winery to recover a supply – before a run on the winery cleans them out
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Trefethen Family Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2004 Estate Cabernet Sauvignon
Winemaker: David Whitehouse Jr., Winemaster
Backgrounder: Trefethen is a Wine Spies favorite winery. One sip of any of their wines reveals why. The Trefethen Family, with the help of winemaster David Whitehouse, has been making incredible wines for decades.
In 1976, Trefethen rocked the wine world by beating out French Chardonnays in the now famous Judgment of Paris. The French were outraged, and in 1979
they organized the World Wine Olympics where, they were certain, a French wine would win. Trefethen won the top award, earning “Top Chardonnay in the World”. Today, the Trefethen Family continues to make wines of distinction and remarkable quality. Read Agent White’s tasting notes, followed by his mission report, below.
Chardonnay is arguably the greatest of all white grape varietals, showing its influence in the legendary sparkling wines of Champagne, the great whites of Burgundy and of course its expression as ‘the’ white wine of California. Chardonnay represents over 50% of the planted white grapes in California with nearly 100,000 acres planted. With such a great number of wines made from this grape, it stands to reason that finding wines of immense quality would be hard, but look no further. In this wine, we have found perhaps the ideal expression of the California Chardonnay.
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Dark burgundy, with deep concentration of color to the edges and right through the inky heart of the wine. When swirled, this wine appears tight and bouncy and it settles fast. When it settles, it leaves behind thick legs that run down the glass at varying speeds. Some legs take a long time to appear and then they movedown the glass slowly
Smell – Deeply layered with smoky dark fruit of plum, blackberry and black cherry, cola, black olive and pepper followed by secondary notes of mushroom, soft earth and oak
Feel – Bright, light and medium round up front, very soft on the mid-palate, and then velvety tannins grip the edges of the tongue and pucker the lips. This wine almost hovers at first, that moves across the palate with a lightness and a speed that you might not expect from a Napa Cabernet Sauvignon
Taste – In a brilliant mix of balanced light/dark flavors, this wine first presents raspberry jam, dark chocolate, blackberry and smoky currant – and is then joined by a mid-palate tartness with bigger and more densly extracted flavors of dark plum, black cherry, cola and burnt blackberry tart
Finish – The bright flavors are replaced by smokey and more dark flavors that linger for a long time, with a slight dryness that makes your mouth water.
Conclusion – An incredible wine that reminds us why we love Trefethen so very much. This wine has a unique feel for a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon and we find it hard to resist taking sips of varying volumes in order to experience the wine from different angles. The layers of rich flavors also have us holding the wine in our mouths for an extended period – in order to find each of the myriad flavors present in the wine. This wine is an experience and a real pleasure to drink. We enjoyed ours with an unlikely pairing: Grilled teriyaki tofu cutlets with white rice, angel hair cabbage salad with cherry tomatoes and Japanese dressing. The wine was the perfect compliment to the meal. With its bright acidity, we think that it would be the perfect compliment to most meals!
_Agent Red reporting – _
The moment my assets on the ground fed my the intel that Trefethen was going to garner the Gold medal at the 2008 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles, I hopped in the Spy Car and headed straight to Trefethens estate in Napa Valley.
I knew that I had to secure an allocation for our eager Operatives before the wine became scarce – or worse, unavailable. Winning a gold medal or receiving a perfect wine score can have an alarming effect on availability and pricing.
My asset at the winery was happy to see me and happier, still, that they had once again won Gold. Trefethen, is humble about its winning streak, but also very proud.
The winery was happy to assign a decent-sized allocation, and I was thrilled. Today’s wine is a spectacular and original example of Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. Make sure you grab some up – before there is a run on the winery and its all gone.
What follows is our original mission report, from our first visit with Trefethen. Read it to learn more about Trefethen’s intriguing history.
_Agent White reporting – _ Finally, I get a mission to Napa Valley. Not just any mission mind you, one to Trefethen Family Vineyards.
Trefethen is a record-breaking, rule-breaking, innovating and inspiring winery.
I had the pleasure to spend an afternoon with Loren Trefethen recently and we toured the vineyards, tasted some grapes, enjoyed some wines and had a great conversation about the family’s rich history in the wine business.
What follows is a partial transcript of our lively discussion.
AGENT WHITE: A big thanks for hosting The Wine Spies today, LOREN. Our Operatives have been anticipating this for a while now.
LOREN TREFETHEN: My pleasure, Agent White. When do I get my own agent name?
WHITE: How about, “Agent Victorious”, in honor of the wine wins that your family has racked up over the years.
LOREN: (laughs) Sure, but only if its an agent name that I can share with my family. We’ve all been in this together since my grandfather purchased this land in 1968.
WHITE: That makes this year the 40th anniversary of your family’s estate. Impressive.
LOREN: Yes, and you know what? In 40 years we have never purchased fruit from any other vineyards in order to make our wines. In fact, today we are still the only American producer that is 100% Estate-only.
WHITE: My informants tell me that this land once belonged to another winery, Eshcol, in the 1800’s.
LOREN: They are right! This is the very site where Eshcol made wines. In 1890, Eshcol won a gold medal for their wine at the states first ever statewide viticultural fair. It was that fair, and Eshcol’s win, that first established California as a legitimate winemaking ‘region’.
WHITE: Until prohibition intervened, right?
LOREN: Exactly! Thereafter, Napa was home to mostly apricots, prunes and walnuts!
WHITE: Fast-forward a few years, and tell me about how your family got started in the wine business.
LOREN: Well, after Grandad purchased the land, he started growing grapes. My dad was in business school, but learning winemaking from a U.C. Davis winemaking textbook. Not the most traditional approach, but neither were his early winemaking experiments.
WHITE: Legend has it that he made his first wines in your grandmother’s basement? In steel garbage cans?
LOREN: Yeah. I remember my Dad telling me about forgetting that he left a lid sealed onto a can for a little too long…
WHITE: Oooh! KABOOM!?
LOREN: Indeed, KABOOM! He was scrubbing away pieces of grapes from all corners of that basement – for a long time!
WHITE: That was the early 70’s. Tell me about his first commercial wine.
LOREN: That came about in 1973. My Mom, a newlywed at the time, suggested that we call the winery, “Trefethen”. Everyone thought it was a terrible idea. even today, people struggle with the name, but it stuck.
WHITE: What happened in 1976?
LOREN: Just a little even that shook up the wine world! In ’76, Steven Spurrier, a British wine shop owner, living in France, visited America. Here, he found incredible wines, of course. He brought these back to France and organized a competition called, The Judgment of Paris. Our Chardonnay took gold…
WHITE: And that must have really pissed off the French!
LOREN: To say the least! They were infuriated, and insisted that the competition was rigged or set up to be too heavily in favor of the California wines. There were a few more Cali wines represented, but…
WHITE: But, three years later, the French organized a rematch!
LOREN: Yes. The World Wine Olympics were held in 1979. This time, French wines were ‘better represented’, and even outnumbered those from California. We had no plans to enter our wine this time around but found out that a friend had entered our Chardonnay.
WHITE: That’s when the French REALLY got mad!
LOREN: Too true. Our Chardonnay – a wine that was just our fourth vintage of Chard – ended up winning, and was declared the “Best Chardonnay in the World”.
WHITE: Quite something. That really stoked the fires back home, I’ll bet.
LOREN: All around the world, actually, but ours was really the first ‘cult wine’ in America. The wine was in such demand that we were actually asking for wine back from our distributors.
WHITE: Merci, Paris!
WHITE: I just heard that your Cabernet Sauvignon just took Gold at the 2008 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. Quite an achievement, congratulations.
LOREN: Thanks! We’re very proud of all of our wins. Mondial was a great one for us. 5,800 wines were judged by 240 International judges. To win among a field of so many other superior wines was humbling – and exhilarating!
WHITE: We’ll have to send Agent Red by to taste the 2004 with you!
LOREN: We look forward to meeting him.
WHITE: Thanks, again, for the tour, Loren. I’m sure that our Operatives will love having a chance to enjoy your wines.
LOREN: Thank you, White!
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the Trefethen Family Vineyards can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the winery says
Trefethen Family Vineyards, Member, Napa Valley Vintners
Awards & Accolades:
Gold Medal – 2008 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles (one of the most prestigious international wine competitions in the world).
90 Points – Connoisseurs’ Guide – “Ripe enough for its cassis and cherry-like fruit to be nicely concentrated and taking on attractively rich notes of créme brûlée and caramel… its solid structure and ample depth will hold it in good stead for four to six years.” – To California Wine, April 2008
About This Wine:
Deep ruby in color, this complex Cabernet Sauvignon exhibits luxurious nose of blackberry, black cherry, plum, black currant, black pepper, cola nut, and chocolate with a hint of black pepper and olive. The tannins are ripe and velvety, leading to a richly textured palate. The wine’s fresh, rich raspberry jam, blackberry, currant, and chocolate flavors lead to a long persistent finish of cherry and toasted oak vanilla.
The 2004 Vintage:
An unusually warm, dry spring led to early budbreak and set the stage for an early harvest. Summer temperatures were seasonably warm, with early September bringing a memorable heat spell. The early season heat-stress resulted in smaller grape clusters and berries with intense, concentrated aromas and flavors.
Delicious with beef, lamb and game dishes, especially those incorporating oregano, thyme, mushrooms and black pepper.
Our Estate Vineyard:
Our primary estate vineyard is located in the heart of the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley AVA, which occupies an ideal climate zone between Napa’s warmer up-valley districts and its cool southern tip. Our Cabernet Sauvignon is grown in the northwest quadrant of the vineyard, where gravelly soils warm quickly in the spring, ensuring the fruit ripens fully while retaining its characteristic bright, complex character.
In 1968, our family purchased seven farms surrounding a magnificent, but run-down, 19th-century winery in southern Napa Valley and created Trefethen Family Vineyards. At the time, there were fewer than 30 working wineries in Napa Valley. True to our original vision of creating a classic wine estate, we have never purchased a single outside grape. Instead, we lavish extraordinary care on our two sustainably farmed estate vineyards in the Oak Knoll District of Napa Valley. Controlling all viticultural practices allows us to produce grapes with pure, intense flavors beautifully reflecting our unique terroir.
Varietal: 90% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 1% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc
Appellation: Oak Knoll District
Vineyard: 100% Estate – Main Ranch Vineyard
Harvest: Sept. 23rd – Oct. 14th, 2004
Oak: 16 months in French & American Oak
Alcohol: 14.1% by volume
Acid: 0.62 grams/100 ml