A New Generation of ‘Old-School’ Vintners

by Stuart Harrison on May 4, 2017

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As you may have read elsewhere on this website, the 2012 vintage will be our last. It follows that this will be our final blog. We’ll miss the opportunity to reflect upon today’s wine business, often in contrast to the one we grew up in 40 years ago.

We’ve been on our soap box over the last decade, advocating small, focused properties, closely tied to specific vineyard sights… and wines with moderate alcohol and an emphasis on balance over concentration.

During our decade in business, we’ve been part of a small group of similarly minded vintners, mostly (like ourselves) individuals who began in the wine business three or four decades ago. For many of us, it was coming back to our winemaking (and stylistic) roots.

We were delighted recently to attend the opening of a new Napa project, called Pilcrow. Their first release is a standout, and a model for those of us who believe that focus and moderation are important ingredients in both the vineyard and cellar. What’s encouraging is that its proprietors, Jonah and Sara Beer, are not part of our generation of ‘well aged’ winemakers, but rather from a new generation of enlightened producers.

There’s no connection, of course, between the introduction of Pilcrow this year and the retirement of Trivium. We’re delighted, nonetheless, to see that balanced winemaking and site-centric focus are alive and well amongst today’s Napa trendsetters.

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The Changing Face of Napa Valley

by Stuart Harrison on April 5, 2016

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This will be the first of a series of blogs on the subject of the changes in the Napa Valley over the last 40 years. The partners of Trivium have the distinction of tenures that go back well into the 70’s. Here’s the first of our reflections on our dramatic transformation.

In recounting our 40 year metamorphosis, one should start with the landscape of Napa Valley, both figuratively and literally. Those who visited the Napa Valley in the seventies know there was only one serious hotel in the Valley. The only other lodging was a modest motel in St. Helena, and the dated spas in Calistoga. Napa Valley had clearly not yet been discovered.

And neither had its wine business. In 1975, there were only 25 wineries in Napa Valley, whose production was dominated by 6 producers… Robert Mondavi, Louis Martini, Charles Krug, Beringer, Beaulieu and Inglenook. Today, there are 450 distinct winemaking facilities (complete with tasting rooms) well over 1000 brands, and well over 6000 distinct bottlings!

And back in the 70’s, the glitz and glamour of Napa’s wineries had not yet surfaced. Robert Mondavi’s Oakville facility and its hospitality focus was a breakthrough in this regards. The Mondavi facility (and Sterling Vineyards five years later) were in stark contrast to the production-focused and functional facilities of the time. Tasting rooms, in many cases, were located in dank cellars or refurbished barns. I remember well my first tasting at Louis Martini winery in the 70’s… where we sampled his highly touted Cabernet Reserve out of plastic cups! And Sutter Home’s tasting room at the time was a rustic barn along Highway 29. Perhaps most startling… tastings back then were free!

The landscape of the 70’s was a reminder that Napa Valley, just 40 years ago, was still in its infancy. We had just begun. It’s amazing how far we’ve come.

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