Trinchero Napa Valley – the “ch” is pronounced like a “k” as the Trinchero’s are Italian, not Spanish or Portuguese. The winery is located on 22-acres, on site of the old Folie a Deux Winery, a few minutes’ drive north of the town of St. Helena. This winery showcases the Trinchero’s flagship and premium limited production wines from their family-owned vineyards in Napa Valley. They own and manage six primary vineyards in Napa Valley (ranging from Calistoga in the north to the southern part of the valley – spanning both valley floor and hillside properties). They own more than 200 acres just in Napa Valley.
In addition, the family owns another approximately 700 acres from California’s Central Coast to north of Napa Valley. The company has grown so they are now one of the largest independently owned family wineries in the USA. It has been an impressive ride – and today there are more than 50 unique wine labels under the Trinchero Family Estates collection including some quite well-known such as Joel Gott Wines and Newman’s Own, along with Napa Cellars located just north of Yountville. Most of the brands that Trinchero Family Estate owns are not open to the public and do not have tasting rooms. They also own several non-wine brands which focus on rum, vodka and tequila.
The family roots in Napa Valley begin in early 1944 when Asti, Italy born John Trinchero (his father was a chemist in the Italian wine industry), and his wife purchased a small home on Spring Street in St. Helena. This transaction is listed in a short paragraph on page 4 of the January 21, 1944, edition of the St. Helena Star. In early 1947, John and a partner, Louis Carlesimo closed escrow on an old winery and property south of St. Helena. Rather than name the winery after themselves, the decision was made to keep the existing name, especially since “Sutter Home Winery” was still showing – painted on the sloped roof the barn (facing the Highway 29 side). Their first harvest and vintage of Sutter Home was in 1948.
Louis sold his half of the partnership in 1948 and at that time, Sutter Home became wholly owned by the Trinchero Family. John’s brother, Mario Trinchero, his wife Mary and their three children Bob, Roger & Vera moved to Napa Valley in 1948; both Mario and his brother John were winemakers – Mario having studying winemaking in Asti and also made Champagne in Epernay, France. Mario first voyaged to the U.S. on what was called France, a passenger ship serving the Le Havre to New York route. He arrived in New York on December 13, 1924 a day according to the Extreme Weather website had a high of 50 and a low of 37 – not a particularly bad weather day for December in New York.
An article dated September 24, 1952, from the Napa Register paid them a high compliment referring to the Trinchero family as “real wine people”. In 1956 New York restaurateur Gracie Altomonto, along with Mary Trinchero opened Sorrento, an Italian American restaurant at 1420 Main Street in St. Helena (Now site of the Wydown Hotel).
Eventually Mario and his son Bob Trinchero bought out John’s share of the business in 1960.
In the early years for Sutter Home, the Trinchero’s focused on larger production wines and did not own any vineyards. That changed when some of the second generation took over and they started producing single vineyard wines. It is still very much a family owned and operated business with family members actively working in the company. There is a 5th generation of Trinchero’s but as of now, they are still too young to be working in the business. For more details about the Trinchero family and their ownership and history in Napa Valley, visit our notes on Sutter Home Winery.
Trinchero Napa Valley originated with the early M. Trinchero Wines which were first released in 1995 to honor founder Mario Trinchero; however, the first vintage of wines bottled under Trinchero Napa Valley was from 2007. The winery north of St. Helena was completed in 2007. Founding winemaker Mario Monticelli made the wines for Trinchero Napa Valley until 2020; he is no longer their winemaker.
Longtime fans of Trinchero wines who visited their property years ago will remember tasting in a dated tasting room within an old house. This house is long gone; Trinchero Napa Valley has since built a contemporary and elegant hospitality center (nearly 11,000 square feet which opened in Spring of 2016) and a state-of-the-art winery. And in the spirit of Italian families, during one of our visits we noticed the Godfather films looping on video screens above the urinals in the men’s bathroom. Not sure if this is a feature in the women’s bathroom – we did not check. The commercial kitchen on site is mostly used for private events and for club member events.
Their total production is around 12,000 cases each year but some of their bottlings are produced in very small quantities. With that said, they have plenty of space between the winery, the barrel room and the cave. The winery was built large enough to house more tanks than they typically need during harvest. The inside of the tank room is designed to look somewhat like a train station, a nod to history when founders Mario and Mary arrived in Napa Valley on a train.
The property is fairly unique in that it is located in the “hourglass” of the Napa Valley where both the Vaca and the Mayacamas mountain ranges come within about a half mile of each other. Trinchero sits on a slight rise above the valley floor featuring excellent views to the north including of Mt. St. Helena (the tallest mountain in the area) from the patio located outside the hospitality center. Twelve acres of Cabernet Sauvignon are planted on site – appropriately named Mario’s Vineyard. Mario’s oldest son Bob used to live on a nearby knoll and from his home he was easily able to look across to the winery. Unfortunately this home burned to the ground in the devastating 2020 Glass Fire.
Guests can choose from one of a number of tasting flights and experiences and with numerous hospitality spaces spread throughout the property, it never really feels very crowded. The Winemaker’s Selection Tasting features their current release wines, a library wine selection along with their signature Cabernet Sauvignon. Their Signature Experience features single vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon wines from their own vineyards (the focus with this tasting and their wines in general is on single varietal wines). The Legacy Lounge tasting gives one a perspective on how select vineyards can produce completely different wines – both in aroma and flavor and includes food pairings (held in the Legacy Lounge but also includes a tour of the winery). And one can also choose from a Valley Floor flight or a Mountain flight. For couples, we recommend choosing one of each to compare and contrast the differences in terroir.
Most wines made here are only available direct from the winery; a visit to the tasting room is a good chance to try smaller production wines one will not find in retail outlets. For a more in-depth tasting experience, signup for their Taste of Terroir program. Over the course of 90 minutes or more a wine educator will tour guests around the property, discuss the Trinchero family history and then sit down to taste vineyard designate wines while highlighting the terroir differences between vineyards while you enjoy the wines with a small charcuterie plate. This experience is private for your party and usually limited to 6 guests or less (although they can host larger groups if necessary).
We have visited their tasting room spaces numerous times over the years and can sum up their feel as, rugged comfortable. The interior of the hospitality spaces were designed by St. Helena local, Erin Martin and in part, incorporate some of the history of the Trinchero family.
The 2021 Trinchero Mary’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is pale yellow in the glass; this wine smells like the variety with scents of lemongrass, freshly mowed lawn, lime, lemon zest, pomelo, citrus blossom and a flinty character. Its aromatics never become ripe or tropical unlike at least an earlier vintage we tried a number of years ago. This wine’s bright acidity dances across the palate, lively like an Argentine tango performance. It offers flavors of grapefruit, lime and lemon zest with a finish that is also citrusy. We recommend pairing this with seafood – perhaps oysters or clams, something to help temper the zippy acidity. Incidentally, this was the very first vineyard purchased by the Trinchero family in 1980; it is located in Calistoga.
The 2015 Trinchero Mary’s Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc is a young wine at the time of our tasting but it drinks easily without any harsh edges. This wine saw no oak and was fermented and kept in stainless steel until it was bottled. The bouquet is decidedly tropical in nature with notes of honeysuckle, citrus blossom, a hint of apricot – all together creating a very aromatic and appealing profile. The palate is balanced, invigorating and begs another sip. Easy drinking. This wine is made in honor of founder Mario Trinchero’s wife Mary and also the first vineyard the Trinchero’s purchased in Napa Valley, Mary’s Vineyard in Calistoga.
The Trinchero 2020 Vera’s Vineyard Unoaked Chardonnay is medium gold in color; the bouquet offers aromas of red apple, honeycomb, and pear and as it evolves in the glass it begins to flirt with notes of riper fruits including peach and mango. It also shows some sweeter dessert spices and notes of crème Brule. The palate offers a perceived sweetness upon entry showing a core of ripe fruit including peaches, apricot, pineapple, baked apples and tangerine along with a moderate brightness from acidity. Its texture is rounded and supple and supports richly flavored fruit, light notes of butter and a hint of lingering warmth on the finish from the alcohol.
The 2019 Trinchero Mary’s Vineyard Sémillon Calistoga (vin santo) is from a 1.5 acre block within this vineyard. This block produces the grapes exclusively for this bottling. This wine is deep gold/slightly amber in color; the bouquet offers honeyed and stone fruit aromatics including of honeycomb, apricot, ripe peaches and mango along with vanilla bean and toasted oak. Creamy and rounded across the palate, this wine shows flavors of apricot, yellow peaches in light syrup and honeycomb. Its not a viscous or heavy wine, but there isn’t the bright acidity to freshen the palate. This is an enjoyable dessert wine for those who enjoy sugar and ripe fruit flavors but not a lot of complexity.
Three wines one does not commonly find produced in Napa Valley as 100% varietal bottlings are Malbec, Petite Verdot and Petite Sirah. Trinchero produces all three as 100% varietal; these are big wines, built with mountain character and featuring block buster tannins.
The 2019 Trinchero Cloud’s Nest Vineyard 100% varietal Petit Verdot Mt. Veeder is deep ruby and opaque in the glass; the aromatics are attractive, showing blackberry, ripe plum, dark cherry, crushed anise seeds, violets, rose petals, dark chocolate, old cedar box which hasn’t been opened in a long time and some notes of mocha, espresso and cardamom. This is a highly enjoyable wine to smell with multiple aromatic layers. The palate is savory and dark, with flavors of spicy plum skin, crushed peppercorns, dried tobacco leaf, and a lingering woodsy note. The tannins are gritty and gravelly in texture with a noticeable persistent drying grip. This is a very savory showing. If we were to categorize a wine as either feminine or masculine and we rarely do so, this would certainly be a man’s wine. Enjoy in front of a warm fire paired with a rich beef stew.
The 2012 Trinchero Cloud’s Nest Vineyard 100% varietal Petit Verdot is from their vineyard on the upper slopes of Mt. Veeder. This vineyard is often one of the last if not the last in their vineyard portfolio to pick. It is typically above the fog line and takes plenty of time to ripen. This wine is inky dark in the glass with good viscosity. It shows spice notes on the bouquet including white pepper, and tobacco notes with sweet darker fruit aromas present. The palate offers flavors of blackberry tinged with mocha, especially showing on the finish. Robust, earthy and gripping tannins leaves one wanting to pair this with a well marbled steak.
The 2019 Trinchero Family Cloud’s Nest Vineyard Mt. Veeder Cabernet Sauvignon (100% varietal) is deep ruby with an amaranthine rim. This wine is focused on its fruit character, both on the bouquet and the palate with the oak aging a complementary characteristic. The bouquet initially offers several floral notes including of violets and rose petals accompanied by sage, dried tobacco leaf, plum, dark cherry pie and an extremely subtle herbal note which adds some complexity to its aromatic profile. This bottling reveals flavors of blackberry, blueberry and plum lingering with light toasted oak and a tobacco spice. It finishes with densely packed grainy and persistent tannins. As one friend at our tasting simple stated, “this is a ribeye wine”.
The 2018 Trinchero Family Central Park West Cabernet Sauvignon (named in homage of the family’s history in New York) is 100% varietal and is from a site located on the valley floor in the St. Helena appellation. This wine is dark ruby and nearly opaque in the glass. It offers highly attractive and dark fruited aromas of blackberry, dark plum and dust. As the wine evolves in the glass it reveals scents of chocolate and mocha. The palate is well-layered and mirrors some of the dark fruited characteristics on the bouquet with flavors of dark cherry, dark raspberry, currant, plum and tobacco spice. The several vintages of Central Park West we have tried, including this bottling feature rounded and supple tannins and as a result, is a more approachable wine in its youth.
The 2017 Trinchero Family Central Park West Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% varietal; this wine is deep ruby in the glass. The bouquet offers riper scents than the 2018 vintage including of blackberry, boysenberry and mulberry. The ripe fruit is complemented with a note of espresso and chocolate. This wine offers flavors of blackberry, plum, black raspberry and dark cherry. This is a very flavorful showing paralleled by a soft textural profile. The tannins are rounded, chalky and anchor a dusty finish. This wine was aged 18 months in French oak of which 73% were new barrels.
The 2018 Trinchero Family Haystack Vineyard, Atlas Peak Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% varietal. The name of this vineyard is in homage to the prominent peak which roughly resembles the shape of a haystack from a distance. We have stood at its base and from close up, in no was resembles a haystack. Haystack Vineyard is at an elevation of approximately 1,500 feet. This wine is deep ruby in color with dark fruited aromas of blackberry, black licorice, boysenberry and as it breathes, eventually opens to a note of toffee and dark chocolate. We also noted a scent of light creosote bush which reminded us of driving through the desert south of Albuquerque, New Mexico in the warming morning sun after a rain the night before. The palate is opulent and intensely flavored showing blackberry, boysenberry and Pakistani mulberry at the peak of its ripeness. This wine sports a lovely texture with grippy and long-lasting tannins which parallel the fruit for quite some time on the finish. It also lingers iwtha light woodsy spice and a note of dried tobacco leaf.
The 2016 Trinchero Family Signature Cabernet Sauvignon is 100% varietal but crafted from a blend of three different vineyard sites including from Mario’s Vineyard at the winery in St. Helena, Haystack Vineyard in Atlas Peak, Central Park West Vineyard and Cloud’s Nest Vineyard, both in St. Helena. This wine was aged for 22 months in 100% new French oak barrels. This bottling is deep ruby in color and nearly opaque. A friend who was also tasting this wine with us said, “this wine demands your attention and is one you need to take some time with”. Agreed. The bouquet is darkly fruited and deeply layered with aromas of blackberry, boysenberry, chocolate, blackberry pie, dark plum, baking spices and an herbal note including tea leaf. The palate is equally as layered as the bouquet and offers flavors of cherry, plum, currant and boysenberry. The bright finish offers a light woodsy spice, firm and grainy tannins. This is a robust wine but with balance and is a bottling that clearly has lots of life ahead of it with proper cellar aging.
Trinchero Family Estates owns outright or has some ownership connection to a number of wineries or brands based in Napa Valley or others with strong Napa Valley connections. As of our latest update these are: Menage a Trois, Sutter Home, Mason, Ziata, Neyers, Taken, Joel Gott, Pomelo, Napa Cellars, and Folie a Deux.
For more information about one of Napa Valley’s (and the nation’s) most successful and inspirational family-owned winery businesses, more details about their wines, to schedule a tasting, or to join their Legacy wine club, visit: www.trincheronapavalley.com
TRINCHERO FAMILY ESTATE NON-NAPA WINERIES
The following are Trinchero Family Estate owned wineries outside of the Napa Valley that we have personally visited.
Terra d’Oro Winery (Montevina) Amador County