Harvest season is one of the most exhilarating periods each year in Napa Valley — you can positively feel the air vibrating, tense with excitement. The whole Valley comes alive to bask in the hustle & bustle of bringing in the grapes. Tending to the grapevines is a year-round process, but this is the time when the vineyards and the wineries bustle with workers racing to pick grapes at their peak ripeness. It’s the culmination of a season of hard work.
Known as one of Napa’s great classic estates, Trefethen is a multi-generation family winery that originally started as just a vineyard, selling their grapes to other winemakers. Today they do it all: they grow the grapes, produce fabulous estate wines, and sell their extra fruit to other producers. True to their roots, however, the legacy lives on, focused around the idea that great wine comes from great grapes and the winemaking process starts in the vineyard.
If you’re looking for a truly memorable and unique experience in Napa, look no further: Trefethen offers a hands-on “Harvest Bootcamp” that showcases their grape-growing and winemaking process. I had the amazing opportunity to experience this a few weeks ago during their 2019 experience and it was by far one of the highlights of my wine blogging career.
We started the morning off in the vineyards, where we were shown how to correctly cut the grapes from their stems into the bucket. All of Trefethen’s grapes are hand-harvested to ensure grapes are in tip-top condition as they make their way back to the winery. Most often, these harvests start in the wee hours of the morning, like 2 or 3 AM to keep the grapes cool, preventing any acid loss. Thankfully we started our day around 10 AM… and admittedly we weren’t the most productive grape harvesters either (Eva couldn’t stop eating them!)
After spending some time harvesting our rows, Hailey Trefethen (third generation of the family) led us on an in-depth vineyard tour, explaining how the vines are pruned, the history of the land, and what makes successful grape growing given their unique land. The wine nerd in me was overjoyed with seeing everything I’ve read about in the vineyard come to life in front of me! Maybe now I’ll finally remember the names for the various pruning methods….
From there, we headed to an absolutely magical, ethereal lunch under the canopy of an ancient walnut tree in the center of Katie’s Acre. Surrounded by vines, wine was poured, friends were made, and delicious food was devoured. If you’ve never had the privilege of eating and drinking amidst the vines, let me tell you: this needs to be high up on any wine-lovers wish list. It’s a beautiful experience.
Post-lunch, we followed the grapes to the winery to see how they are pressed, fermented, and tanked. We got our hands dirty in some punch-overs and sampled wine directly from the tanks, learning about the winemaking process along the way.
Overall, the experience felt like the most magical kind of adult “field trip” you could imagine. It was educational, hands-on, and most importantly, FUN!
Trefethen offers a variety of hands-on experiences at their winery and around the country. Check out their event calendar here.