by Fred McMillin
for November 13, 1997

Trefethen's Great Grapes


  • Trefethen Cabernet Sauvignon, with pronounced berry flavors, increasingly bids for the limelight.

    ..."The Wine Atlas of California," Bob Thompson

  • The Trefethen Cabernet had surprisingly ripe fruit flavors with tastes and aromas of cassis, black currant and spice.

    ...California Wine Atlas, James Halliday

  • Trefethen has made some suprisingly good Cabernets since they started producing them in the 1970's.

    ..."California's Great Cabernets," James Laube

The Rest of the Story: The Trefethen property's success started long before the '70's. It was first planted in 1852 by J. W. Osborne, who brought "Zinfindal" and other varietals from his Massaschusets nursery. He named the vineyard Oak Knoll. His grapes won top awards at the State Fair until a former employee murdered him in 1863.

Napa bankers James and George Goodman bought Oak Knoll in 1886. They built a large wooden winery that is still standing. Oak Knoll became Eshcol, the brook where, at the direction of Moses, the Israelites found enormous grape clusters. Eshcol wines also proved highly successful.

A century later, Kaiser President Eugene Trefethen (treh-FETH-en) had changed the name to Trefethen Vineyards and chalked up a huge success of his own. In France, Trefethen placed FIRST in an international tasting in Burgundy, France. with over 100 acres of Cabernet vines in the Napa Valley, it's no suprise that the winery's Cabs are drawing ever more critical acclaim. My panel just tried the '93; big but smooth, it garnered a Highly Recommended rating from the ten tasters.

The Wine:
1993 Cabernet Sauvignon, Napa Valley
Trefethen Vineyards
Phone (707) 255-7700

Postscript: About that Chardonnay, I recently tried the '95 at Wolfgang Puck's Postrio Restaurant in S.F. It had a wonderfully calming effect on my spicy sesame Chinese chicken salad. ($6.50 for a generous glass)

Note: For more about Trefethen, see the June 3, 1997 WineDay.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

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