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California vineyard: a star that still shines

VINTAGE POINT

Trefethen thrives after 35 years

VintagePoint

May 05, 2004|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN WINE CRITIC

Despite the somewhat spotty reputation of the vintage, Trefethen's 2000 Napa Valley merlot and cabernet sauvignon have both turned out well.

The merlot ($30) delivers penetrating black-cherry fruit with nuances of chocolate and shows better structure than most of its breed. The cabernet ($42) is even better, with black currant, plum and earthy flavors following an enticing cedary aroma. There's plenty of structure, but the tannins are soft, making this a wine you can drink now or in 20 years.

A notch up is the 1999 Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon from the Oak Knoll District ($75). Made primarily from Trefethen's hillside vineyard, this concentrated wine offers big, luscious blackberry and black-currant flavors with nuances of chocolate, bay leaf and thyme. This is a wine that can compete with the best cabernets of the valley - many of which command twice the price.

Janet Trefethen said the winery has greatly improved its red wines in recent years - aided in no small part by the root louse phylloxera. During the 1990s, the vine-destroying pest forced an expensive replacement of the vineyard and also Trefethen to re-evaluate its plantings, growing techniques and use of irrigation, she said.

She said similar improvements have come in the winery, where Trefethen has reduced the filtration of wines.

Trefethen said the winery may add a few new varietals to its product line but has no plans to look beyond its property for grapes except for the second label.

"The biggest thing is focusing on what we do well and doing it even better," she said.

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