Three family-owned wineries in California, Chile and Italy worth getting to know
BY BOB HOSMON
In a world in which once-family-owned wineries are becoming properties of big corporations (Robert Mondavi is just one example), it’s gratifying to know there are still places where family has and does continue to matter. There’s a certain comfort knowing there are family-owned-and-operated wineries, where the owners take personal care and familial pride in everything they put into a bottle.
Trefethen Family Vineyards
When Eugene Trefethen, a retired construction company executive, and his wife, Catherine, moved from San Francisco to Napa Valley in 1968, they also bought vineyard property, intending to sell grapes, but never to make wine. Their son, John, however, had different plans, and the first commercial bottling of a Trefethen wine was released in 1973. Then in 1979 the 1976 Trefethen Chardonnay was deemed the “Best Chardonnay in the World” at the Gault Millau Wine Olympics in Paris, and the rest was history.
Today John and his wife, Janet, together with their children, Loren and Hailey, continue to deliver winning wines every vintage. Particular favorites include their memorable Trefethen Family Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon and a Merlot that is one of the best of its kind out there. Serious wine connoisseurs will also want to sample their Reserve Cabernet and the Dragon’s Tooth Red Wine, a Malbec-based blend that begs to be enjoyed with grilled steaks or baby-back ribs.
Viña Koyle Family Vineyards
When I visited Chile in the early 1980s, Undurraga was on my “must visit” list. For generations the Undurraga family had been producing award-winning wines, first for domestic consumption and then for export. In 2006 the large, extended family decided to sell the winery, which allowed Alfonso Undurraga Marimon to start a new family tradition.
Having worked for Unduragga winery as the commercial manager, Alfonso had also attended the University of California at Davis to learn more about the technical and marketing aspects of the wine producing business. So, he, acting as commercial director, joined with his father (serving as president), brother Cristobal (technical director), sister Rebeca (financial manager), and brother Max (director) in the creation of a new “family” winery in Chile called Viña Koyle.
The result of their efforts is an inventory of red Chilean wines destined to become some of the most sought-after wines in the market. The 2007 Koyle Royale Syrah, produced from grapes grown in the highly regarded Colchagua Valley, is a Rhone-style organic red that can be enjoyed now with lamb or beef. The first vintage, organic 2007 Koyle Royale Cabernet Sauvignon, an old-world style red that, in a blind tasting, could be mistaken for a premium French Bordeaux.
Since 1385 the Antinori family has been making wine in Tuscany. But it was current patriarch Piero Antonori’s decision in 1971 to create a wine, with 20 percent cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc grapes in the blend, that revolutionized wine making in Tuscany. He called that wine Tignanello, a “Super Tuscan” that, because of its blend, was not allowed to be labeled “Chianti Classico.” As a result of Tignanello’s phenomenal success, in 1978 Antinori created Solaia, a red with 80 percent cabernet sauvignon in the blend.
Today Piero works closely with his three daughters, Albiera, Allegra and Alessia, the first women in 26 generations to have important roles in the family winery. And, make no mistake, they work, from the vineyards to the cellars, from their properties in Tuscany and Umbria to their newer property in Napa Valley.
For the Antinoris, the Trefethens, and the Undurragas, everything about their wine business is truly a family affair, and caring consumers are the beneficiaries.
PHOTO ABOVE: Albiera, Alessia and Allegra Antinori, with their father, Piero