Destination Napa: The Valley’s Most Historic Winery You Didn’t Know About

Sitting around the tasting table listening to second generation Roger Trinchero reminisce on how he used to compete with his brother to sell $100 of wine a day so their father would reward them with $10 and a martini is a kind of reflection expected at any family gathering. Except, as I look past Mr. Trinchero, out to the rolling hills of vines and varietals, I know these family stories have a tad more history than the tales told at my family dinners.

They are the 70 years of history engraved as memories on the walls, showcased on the pages through the glass coffee tables and stacked in the private tasting room that comprise the recently renovated Trinchero Napa Valley Winery.

 

 

In 1948, Mario and Mary Trinchero packed up their New York City-life and moved cross country to settle in Napa with their three children, Bob, Roger and Vera. After immigrating from Italy in the 1920s, the Trinchero family aimed to water the roots of their ancestral wine heritage, therefore, Mario and his brother John purchased less than five acres of an abandoned winery in St. Helena–the Sutter Home Winery. It was here where the first-generation Trincheros laid the foundation of winemaking while the second generation became increasingly involved in the industry, from washing barrels and shoveling pomace, to eventually selling wines and taking over what had become a family business consisting of 200 acres of Napa soil and more than 45 labels.

As I stand in front of the Trinchero Napa Valley Winery, I’m told everything that happened between Mario purchasing Sutter Home to the winery’s construction in 2004, is reflected throughout the layout, design and the details. And as I step into face the words, “In loving memory of Mario and Mary we continue in the same generous spirit,” I can tell I am in for much more than your typical tour.

 

 

“We’re welcoming you into our home,” says third generation, Carlo Trinchero, as he hands over a glass of Mary’s Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, aptly named after the woman remembered on the wall. I nod my respects, take my first sip and wander into the room on my left where a speakeasy is revealed behind the wall I just turned; my first inclination that nothing can be expected here.

This idea is magnified as the designer behind the magic, Erin Martin, grabs ahold of the elaborately roped chandelier to attest to its shipworthy strength, a nautical theme inspired by Mario’s travel from Italy to New York’s Ellis Island in 1923. “Mix and match is the design here at Trinchero Napa Valley,” she emphasizes as she hops down and leaves the chandelier swinging in her wake as we head into the main hall. A place where the minimalistically modern, yet cozy design is as tastefully accented with leather and animal hide, as it is with trinkets from the family’s hobbies and winemaking history. Glass tables act as historic exhibitions, displaying loose cigars next to corks from “big crush” seasons, black and white family portraits, as well as log books dating from 1948 until the pre-digitalization era. I lag behind trying to take it all in–a room full of rich history, 70 years in the making takes more than minutes to appreciate.

 

 

But as we move into the dining room, there’s even more to take in. The words Zinfandel and garlic pop out in cabernet-red script to tease my taste buds as I learn the wallpaper is inscribed with Mary’s famous bagna cauda recipe; a warm, Italian dipping sauce that Mario and Mary used to celebrate the end of harvest; a tradition that is still very much alive today. The paper spans the length of the room until the floor-to-ceiling windows take over and draw my attention to overlook Mario’s vineyard (the original acreage) as well as where the patio opens up to that same sprawling view.

Taking the opportunity to move our tour outside, it’s here where I discover the oyster shell Bocce court and underground wine cave. It’s the cave that hides bottles of wine and port collected from the family’s visitors and importers throughout the years. It’s also where rare collections of the first Zinfandel that Bob Trinchero produced can be found; a tribute to his conversion of Sutter Home into a Zinfandel-only winery before buying up almost 200 acres of Napa soil in Mt. Veeder, Calistoga and Rutherford.

 

 

Onto the tasting room, I trade the light notes of Mary’s Sauvignon Blanc for the bolder flavors of Mario’s Cabernet Sauvignon to suit the tone of the room. We walk past a burning fire and patterned wall, that Carlo explains is comprised of the entire family’s zodiac signs, before we head into the heart of the tasting room, almost reminiscent of a secret library. Martin takes over as she recites, “birds of a feather, flock together,” gesturing to the vintage taxidermy birds across the wall. She explains the theme to span across the new generations of Trincheros, new life and new beginnings.

Although we take the rest of our tasting to the dining room, I stop to admire something unusual about the tasting counter. Just as I think I’m grasping it, Martin lets me in on the secret–books, not bottles, line the shelves of the counter–a nod to Mary’s passion for reading.

 

 

I take this last bit of family history in, as we head back to the dining room and sit down to listen to Roger’s stories first hand, over a humble tasting. “People say we should be selling this for ‘x’ but the price is not what we’re about,” he says over a swig of Sauvignon Blanc. “Our experience is real–authentic, loyal, classic.”

As Roger talks us through the years of memories, I’m able to attribute his anecdotes to the corks and ledgers in the glass cases, the writings on the wall, and the books behind the bar. My memory lingers on the very first room I entered, where the hidden wall of the speakeasy reveals a martini recipe–classic, yet polished with the Trinchero’s secret Vermouth. Only now realizing the significance of this drink, all the dots are connected as I recognize the beauty in the details at the winery, and the details rooted in the generations of Trincheros.

 


Photos courtesy of Trinchero Napa Valley

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