Fruity, spicy Chardonnay is tops

  • The palate zings with bright acidity%2C unveiling ripe apple and pear fruit%2C with lovely tropical and pineapple flavors.

A great Chardonnay - vintage after vintage - is from Trefethen Vineyards.

And, the 2013 Chardonnay from Napa is no different, it's simply amazing. I have an 11-year relationship with this winery and they seem to always hit the right mark.

The winery, constructed in 1886 by a Scottish sea captain, Hamden McIntyre, was originally Eshcol. McIntyre designed it as a gravity-flow system: a horse-drawn affair which brought grapes to the third floor of the three-story structure for crushing: gravity carried the juice to the second floor for fermenting: and, eventually, the wine descended to the first floor for aging.

Marco Porto this week suggests delving into the merits of Trefethen Chardonnay.

Other McIntyre wineries include Greystone (now The Culinary Institute of America), Far Niente and Inglenook.

During the last quarter of the 19th Century, Napa Valley was a thriving viticultural community with nearly 140 wineries. However, in the late 1890s, phylloxera, a root louse that destroys grapevines, brought wine production in Napa to a crashing halt. Growers soon recovered with re-planted vines, but in 1920, Prohibition arrived, driving a stake through the heart of the wine business.

The old Eshcol facility survived by making sacramental wines, but by 1940 was dormant. When the Trefethen family purchased the property in 1968, the winery had fallen into serious disrepair. So, John and Janet Trefethen committed themselves to restoring the building to its former glory. Their efforts were recognized in 1988 by the department of the Interior, which placed the winery on the National Register of Historic Places as the only 19th-century, wooden, gravity-flow winery surviving in Napa County.

Today, Trefethen boasts a state-of-the-art fermentation facility and 13,000 square foot barrel cellar, but the McIntyre remains integral to the winery's operations. The first floor is still used to age wine and also houses the winery's estate tasting room and wine Library. The second floor, which displays the Eshcol winery's original de-stemmer/crusher, is a barrel-aging cellar for its Bordeaux variety wines.

It was never clear how the Trefethen's adventure was going to turn out in the late 60's the family started to grow grapes in Napa Valley, there was no one to show them the way. There was plenty of advice, to be sure, but in truth no one had started a successful Napa vineyard since Prohibition. They were, in a word, crazy.

A pairing suggestion is chicken breast with whipped potato, artichokes and meyer lemon sauce.

Their lunacy was infectious, however, and a few other enterprising souls joined the gambit: Tony Baldini, their first viticulturist; David Whitehouse, the first "real winemaker; Richard DeGarmo, Mr. fix-it; Mary Ware, queen of the office and everyone's schedule.

A quote you will always here around the winery and publications: "One family. One Estate. One Passion. This is who we are."

The Trefethen 2013 Chardonnay has fruit aromas of white peach and Fuji apples that fill your nose along with brioche toast and a touch of spice. The palate zings with bright acidity, unveiling ripe apple and pear fruit, with lovely tropical and pineapple flavors.

It's classic Trefethen Chardonnay with a round creamy "mouth feel" that finishes with a crisp and clean finish.

The wine can be found on chop239 list for $13 a glass and $52 a bottle. Pair this beauty with the chop239 chicken with the Meyer lemon sauce and artichokes.


Marco Porto is owner of chop239, and a wine connoisseur. Along with Laura Owen of CJ's on the Bay and Adamo Serravalle of DaVinci's and Marco Prime, he is a regular contributor to this column.