AWG Correspondent

Tom Riley

Truchard Vineyards Photos

Truchard Vineyards Review

Regions: Napa Valley AVA, Los Carneros AVA, California

Reviewed: May 28, 2014 by Tom Riley
Published: June 9, 2014

For years I've been driving through Los Carneros – that rolling strip of vineyards and farms hugging the bottom of the Napa and Sonoma Valleys – without really understanding what it was I was looking at.

Then I spent an afternoon at Truchard Vineyards. Now I get it.

The Truchard family helped to pioneer this area in the late 1970s, when much of the land was orchards or dairy farms. Starting with their purchase of 20 acres of prune trees in 1973, Tony and Jo Ann Truchard have been leaders in the transformation of Carneros into a world-class wine-producing region. When they began, locals insisted the hilly terrain butting up against the San Pablo Bay was simply too cool to grow quality grapes, much less ones you could make decent wine from. Since its modest start, Truchard has grown to comprise 400 acres, with 280 of those acres under a variety of vines: chardonnay, roussanne, pinot noir, syrah, merlot, zinfandel, cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, tempranillo, and petit verdot. For years they've been supplying grapes to some of the finest producers in Northern California, and they joined that same group in 1989 with their own labels. Not only are they accomplished farmers, they make some mighty fine wine as well.

For all their groundbreaking work in Carneros, for which they are justifiably proud, the most important value at Truchard is family. It is in the very fabric of the place. When you turn off Old Sonoma Road past the Truchard sign, it's easy to think you've made a mistake, because instead of arriving at a winery, you have the distinct impression you've pulled into someone's driveway. And, of course, you have. The winery sits in Tony and Jo Ann Truchard's backyard. That is, if you can call stunning hillside caves and acres of rolling vines a backyard.

Anthony Truchard III, general manager, greeted me near my car and led me towards "the back yard." At most wineries you are greeted inside the tasting room by members of a large, rotating, part-time staff. Truchard has only two tasting room staffers, and you are as likely to be taken care of by them as you are by a member of the Truchard family. And, because all tastings and tours are by appointment only, visitors are greeted by name when they arrive.

While I stood near the doors of the winery's caves, Anthony reappeared and handed me a friendly pour of their most recent chardonnay. "Let's take a walk," he suggested, as though we had known each other for ten years, not ten minutes.

Our first stop was at the top of a short hill, below which were hidden the winery's caves. From this modest elevation I got a real sense, not only of the Truchard property, but also of the topography and exposure in the heart of Carneros. The Truchards knew what they were doing when they decided on this prime parcel. It's no surprise that so many top producers want their fruit.

Out of the sun and into the cool of the caves, we strolled among the barrels, the curved walls and ceilings, with Anthony explaining the winery's history, the grape varieties they sell to local wineries and what they themselves vinify. The day I visited was warm and clear, so instead of tasting in the caves, Anthony led me to an elevated gazebo in the corner of the yard, where we could enjoy several wines al fresco.

The diverse menu – cabernet sauvignon, zinfandel, pinot noir, chardonnay, cabernet franc, and tempranillo – was an impressive line-up, a testament to what is possible in the cooler parts of Napa. Their flavors were varietally true but the wines were lighter, more restrained, with greater acidity, than similar bottlings found in other parts of the valley. A refreshing change from the powerful productions one often associates with this part of California. What's also refreshing about Truchard wines? Their prices, a notch, or two in some cases, below the going Napa Valley rate. These prices, combined with their quality, make Truchard wines an exceptional value.

Other guests were arriving as I began to take my leave from what has to be the most relaxed and enjoyable winery visit in quite some time. I left Truchard with the memory of a wonderful day in the sun. But I wasn't sure if that memory would be enough to sustain me in the weeks and months ahead. So, as a precaution, I made sure I had a six-pack of their delicious wine to take with me as well.

Address & Contact Information: 3234 Old Sonoma Rd. Napa, California 94559. Telephone: 707-253-7153, website: Tasting Hours: By appt. Mon-Sat.

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