Trespass Vineyard is an interesting name for a winery but this starts to make sense when one visits the actual vineyard location. It is a 5-acre vineyard accessed by driving through residential St. Helena streets. One enters the vineyard via a gravel road at the end of a residential street. This used to be just bare ground and nearby neighbors would walk their dogs or “trespass” over the property before owners Don (Donny) and Dana Gallagher purchased the property. The Trespass wine is made by accomplished winemaker Kirk Venge, conveniently at his own winery in Calistoga, Venge Vineyards.
The Venge’s have roots in the wine industry dating back to the 1950s when Kirk’s grandfather established a wine and spirits importing company. Today the Venge family also own and operate Saddleback Cellars in Oakville and Envy Cellars near Calistoga. Kirk’s father, Nils is well known in the Napa Valley and beyond for producing the first 100 point rated Cabernet Sauvignon when he worked at Groth Winery from Robert Parker.
The vineyard location is ideally located – surrounded by other vineyards in all directions with the nearby forested Mayacamas mountains to the immediate west of the property. Despite being so close to residential St. Helena, this really feels like one is in the country and certainly far from the traffic that often bottlenecks coming into and out of St. Helena.
Production has remained small from their inaugural vintage in 2000 of only 400 cases split between a Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc – although it has grown slightly and today is usually around 700 cases per year. The focus of their winemaking is on both small lot estate wines as well as wines from select vineyards elsewhere in the Napa Valley. The estate is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Kirk really enjoys the Cabernet Franc that comes from this property – so they planted additional Cabernet Franc vines more recently.
The vineyard was managed by Donny early on but today he employs the services of Clark Vineyard Management overseen by owner, Joshua Clark. While not involved in the physical labor of managing the vineyard as he once was, Donny still remains actively involved in the overall direction of the vineyard management. And like with the vineyard, for the winemaking, Donny leaves the day-to-day details with Kirk and his winemaking team, – but he and Dana are involved in important decisions such as blending and barrel selection.
The first vintage of Trespass dates from 2000 – the first two wines included a Cabernet Sauvignon and a Cabernet Franc. Trespass makes a delicious and balanced Cabernet Franc. We have noticed that this variety is slowly becoming more popular as a single varietal wine in the Napa Valley.
The 2005 Trespass Cabernet Franc (the variety they are most known for) is full bodied, smooth and features a delightful nose with aromas of berries and black cherry. It does not have the “vegetal” characteristics sometimes found with a less-ripe style of Cabernet Franc. In addition, it is interesting to note some background characteristics of this wine. The orientation of their vineyard rows and trellising exposes some of the fruit to the morning sun while some receives plenty of warm afternoon sunlight. As a result, parts of each row were fermented and aged separately until creating their final blend. This wine is 100% Cabernet Franc.
The 2013 Tresspass Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon shows an elegant nose initially focusing on fruit aromas rather than barrel characteristics. Sweet black fruit, cassis, violets and notes of ripe plum show. As the wine breathes secondary aromatics show including dessert spices and browned sugar. Young robust and grippy tannins hold to the finish for some time. Needs some foods with fat to help cut through the tannins. It drinks well now but should also age for many years.
Trespass also produces several non-estate wines including a rare old vine Zinfandel from 110+ year old vines from the historical Luvisi Vineyard growing just south of the town of Calistoga on Picket Road. Its location is a premium part of the valley – next door to the also historic Frediani Vineyard (both the Luvisis and Fredianis are related) and the vineyard is just down the road from the iconic Eisele Vineyard. Remarkably the Luvisi vineyard is still owned by the Luvisi family.
The 2016 Trespass Vineyards Zinfandel is deep ruby in color with strapping aromatics that envelope the glass. Aromas include a darker spiciness, notes of cracked peppercorn and a cedar influenced savoriness. As the wine breathes notes of mocha and espresso show. And big fruit aromatics including blackberry and plum. Sports flavors of ripe black cherry, and blackberry – rich flavors with a darker spice that lingers complemented by earthy granular tannins. A California style fruit forward Zinfandel but not jammy – nearly 16% alcohol.
The 2017 Trespass Sauvignon Blanc (100% varietal) is from the 129-acre Plumpjack owned Oso Vineyard – a spectacular piece of property in the hills of the Vaca mountain range on the backside of Howell Mountain – overlooking Pope Valley (formerly owned by Michael Mondavi Family). This wine is medium yellow in color with a fusion of pretty aromatics including pineapple, lychee, citrus blossom an orange zesty note and some mineralities. Features a light slightly rounded textural feel – but with a richness of flavor. Very balanced with flavors of nectarine, mandarin and lime. Fairly long finish. Very refreshing on a hot day. Was fermented in stainless steel, then transferred to neutral French oak where it aged for 7 months. Only 125 cases produced.
All of the Trespass wine labels feature an image of the property, and some have names such as Intrigue, Mayhem and Rendezvous – in tribute to as Don says, “what goes on in the vineyard at night”.
And Donny is also a partner in Encroachment Wines – a brand that Kirk Venge also produces but rather then wines from the Napa Valley – the focus is a single expression of Pinot Noir from a particular ranch in the Russian River Valley in neighboring Sonoma County.
All visits are private, for serious wine enthusiasts and are always conducted with either Dana or Don (tastings are not conducted at their vineyard). Sometimes Don will host wine dinners around parts of the country.
Collectors take note – Don has a limited selection of library wines and larger format bottles. To join the mailing list, to purchase wines online or for more information, visit: www.trespassvineyard.com
Tasting notes video from Wine Expedition, 2005 Cabernet Franc