What We Say 2006 Estate Chardonnay
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Mission Codename: The Gold Standard
Operative: Agent White
Objective: Infiltrate Trefethen Family Vineyards, a winery that shook the wine world to its core – by trouncing French wines in the 1970s. Return with their World-beating Chardonnay for our eager Operatives.
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Trefethen Family Vineyards
Wine Subject: 2006 Estate Chardonnay
Winemaker: David Whitehouse Jr., Winemaster
Backgrounder: 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 – Clear golden-yellow in color that extends to the edge of the glass with luminescent sparkles of honey and pale green hues and long slender legs.
Smell – Bold aromas of tart Granny Smith apples and ripe pears with hints of citrus, toasted oak and tiny components of butter and orange-blossom honey.
Feel – Slightly viscous, dry and smooth, this full-bodied white fills the palate and has surprising good structure
Taste – Tart apples and pears with a bright acidity backing with hints of citrus, honey and oak. Best of all is a slightly flinty minerality that continues through to the finish.
Finish – This wine finishes long and clean with lingering flavors of pears and citrus, a touch of creamy butter and oak and a mineral component that invites further exploration.
Conclusion – Tasting this wine reminds us why Chardonnay is the king of all the white grapes. This wine is not your typical flabby Chardonnay nor is it an overly oaked butter-ball. With all its components in balance, hints of minerality, layers of aromas and flavors that invite another sip, this wine is sure to please even the most discerning of white wine lovers. As it did in 1976, this Chardonnay sets the Gold Standard.
We are proud to feature Trefethen Family Vineyards today. For more intriguing Trefethen history, please enjoy the following report, and be sure to go and see the feature film, “Bottle Shock”, which opened yesterday. See our events page for more details
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
Awards & Accolades:
*_"The standard by which other California Chardonnays are judged."_ *- Robert Drouhin, Joseph Drouhin, Beaune, France, Vintage 1976
“BEST CHARDONNAY IN THE WORLD” – World Wine Olympics, Gault Millau Magazine, Paris, France, Vintage 1976
Five-Star Rating – Restaurant Wine, Vintage 2004
About This Wine:
Our Chardonnay is a pale gold in color, with enticing aromas of Golden Delicious apple, clover honey, baking spices, vanilla and light butter scents. On the palate, the wine is crisp and well structured, with flavors of apple pie and lemon curd following a refreshing minerality that persists throughout the wine’s long, clean finish.
The 2006 Vintage:
One of the longest growing seasons in our 40 years in Napa Valley began with a New Year’s flood and continued with an unusually cool, wet spring, then segued into a very mild summer punctuated by a record July heat wave. August and September were ideal with morning fog, mild afternoons and cool, crisp evenings, while October was dominated by unseasonably cool weather which slowed ripening, elongated the harvest and tried our patience.
Our 2006 Chardonnay makes a wonderful match for dishes with warm spices and rich flavors. Seafood, veal, pasta and succulent pork loin are just a few examples.
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. The marine influence of nearby San Pablo Bay allows our estate Chardonnay grapes to ripen slowly and evenly, developing concentrated flavors while retaining high levels of acidity.
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: 100% Chardonnay
Appellation: Oak Knoll District
Vineyard: 100% Estate – Main Ranch Vineyard
Harvest: Sept. 21st – Oct. 20th, 2006
Oak: 9 months in French Oak
Alcohol: 14.1% by volume
Barrel Fermentation: 60%
Bottled: August 2007