My last name ends in a vowel, and I am a bona fide sucker for stories of Italian immigrants like those in my family, arriving in New York City in search of their dreams. In the case of the Trincheros, that journey took them through the glamourous Grand Central Station and then out west, to the rolling hills of Napa to capitalize on their strong wine-making skills from back home. The estate now owns Folie a Duex, Napa Cellars, Sutter Home (where for better or worse, one of the Trinchero sons is credited for creating White Zinfandel, still a huge seller), and Trinchero Napa Valley, where we visited on this trip having an amazing time at Benziger and Robert Mondavi. Sutter Home was the family’s original, which they purchased in 1948. At first, they sold wines to their neighbors, who would drop by with their own barrels, bottles, jugs (or whatever else was lying around). But after Prohibition, everything really took off. These days, there is a much different scene at the more mass market Sutter Home and the brand-new hospitality center and tasting room at the Estate’s highest-level winery, Trinchero Napa Valley in St. Helena. The 22-acre site is an ode to the family’s history, down to the loads of personal photos, mementos and letters — and the men’s and women’s room labeled only “Mario” and “Mary,” after the late patriarchs.
Yes, Benziger certainly has the acres and acres of rolling green hills that wineries in Sonoma are known for, but they were also groundbreakers when it came to “green” wine-making tactics. The winery is famous for becoming the first in the area to be named Demeter-certified Biodynamic, the highest level of organic farming. To get there, the family-owned affair rotates crops, balances vines with olive trees, creates eco-systems that control insects instead of killing them with pesticides, and recycles a whopping two million gallons of water a year through ponds. No wonder Tiffany and I had an extra pep in our step! After an amazing kick-off at Robert Mondavi, we loved the gorgeous ride out to Benziger — and then when we got there, we were rewarded with sun and lengthy tour outdoors in all of that pesticide-free fresh air.
Domestic, I am not. Maybe that’s why I’ve never married? I travel, am up for anything, drink fine wine, and am adventurous when it comes to food. But a natural in the kitchen? Come ON. Leave it to Trafalgar Tours to show me the ways. On our recent journey through Napa, I was expecting a delicious adventure through some of my favorite wineries, after, of course, visiting San Francisco’s Chinatown, Farmers’ Market, and Napa’s Oxbow food market. Instead? Our first stop required me to MAKE some wine. When it comes to the vino, I know a lot about what I like. But I never really put much thought into just how the powers at be decide on how much of each varietal to put into a blend. Visiting wine country wineries such as Ravenswood in Sonoma makes wine tasting packages special — and that’s before you’ve even begun to roll up your sleeves and take a class. Math first-thing in the morning? Sure! Bring it on. No buzz can be ruined by a few percentage equations… right?