I visited Trinchero Napa Valley in St. Helena this week and tasted several wines poured by Michael Stopka, who was about as good as a winery representative gets – friendly, knowledgeable, and happy.

The Trinchero Napa Valley Tasting Room

For those of you unfamiliar with the Trinchero name, you have probably seen, tasted, or bought one or more of the wines made by the Trinchero family. Most famously, as I wrote in January, the Trinchero family owns Sutter Home and Bob Trinchero is generally credited with being the first to make White Zinfandel as you know it.

I also wrote about another Trinchero wine that I had with Christmas dinner, and pointed to as what wine can and should be, delicious, readily available, and affordable; the 2008 Menage a Trois from Folie a Deux winery.

From Bandit in the 1 Liter Tetra Pak to Australia’s Angove wines, from the ubiquitous Sutter Home White Zinfandel to Montevina and Terra d’Oro in the Sierra foothills, the Trinchero family are as important a name in California wine as any.

Wine Spectator honored Bob Trinchero for “having introduced more Americans to wine on the table than anyone else in history.”

The wines of Trinchero Napa Valley are the pinnacle of the family’s offerings. These are premium wines of limited production, hand crafted from single Napa Valley vineyards.

Built on the site of what had been Folie a Deux, Trinchero Napa Valley is surrounded by Mario’s Vineyard, named for the winery founding family patriarch, Mario Trinchero.

Mario’s Vineyard, St. Helena

Coincidentally, the winemaker is another Mario, Mario Monticelli. Monticelli’s father Marcello was the winemaker for the largest winery in the world, and at the age of 14, a young Mario was making wine in his father’s garage. Monticelli grew up in vineyards, learned about wine from vine to glass from his family, attended the University of California at Davis (the nation’s premier school for Enology and Viticulture), worked at the Antinori wine estates in Italy, and then at Quixote Winery before coming to Trinchero Napa Valley.

These are the wines Stopka poured for me:

2009 Trinchero Napa Valley Sauvignon Blanc, Mary’s Vineyard, Calistoga $24 - This is the only white wine made at Trinchero Napa Valley. 100% Stainless Steel held, not shy, varietally correct. Stone fruit, lemon, grass/hay, and I hate to say this because people freak out, but cat pee. This is a normal and appropriate aroma for the varietal, if I didn’t mention it, you wouldn’t notice it; oddly it is not off putting, and this is a great tasting, refreshing Sauvignon Blanc. Absolutely delicious, the best I have tasted in a long time. 13.5% alc., 1,480 cases.

2007 Trinchero Napa Valley Merlot, Chicken Ranch Vineyard, Rutherford $35Biodynamically farmed. Really round, nice cedar cigar oak tannin, great smooth round fruit, dark cherry berry and herb. 14.2% alc., 1,420 cases.

2007 Trinchero Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Chicken Ranch Vineyard, Rutherford $35 - Biodynamically farmed. Dark purple perfume, cocoa, cherry, cassis, really nice structure. Rutherford dust. 14.2% alc., 3,330 cases.

2007 Trinchero Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Mario’s Vineyard, St. Helena $50Lush, delicious. great floral perfume. Purest blackberry note ever. Elegant. 15.3% alc., 950 cases.

2007 Trinchero Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, Clouds Nest Vineyard, Mt. Veeder $50 - Expressive. Inky, rich, smooth. Cherry, earth, herb. Super fine  chewy tannin. 14.2% alc., 760 cases.

2007 Trinchero Napa Valley Meritage, Napa Valley $50 79 % Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 7% Petit Verdot, and 1% Cabernet Franc. Blackberry, blueberry, cherry, rose perfume, tobacco, cedar. The complete flavor palette for your palate. . Really gorgeous balance. 14% alc., 1,770 cases.

The winery is Bordeaux focused, and the combination of great grapes, great vintages, and great winemaker allowed me to enjoy one perfect wine after another. Tying the wines together was the winemaker’s choice to let the grapes be the star; showing finesse and grace, with fine tannins, perfect balance, all were smooth, round, and easy to enjoy, while positively full of flavor; but complex and layered, displaying subtlety rather that the explosive fruit bomb all too common elsewhere. Terrifically integrated. These are grown up wines.

The grounds of Trinchero Napa Valley

In addition to daily tastings from 10am – 5pm at $15 and $20, the tasting room offers special seminars by appointment.

On Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday, guests can experience “A Taste of Terroir,” a horizontal tasting and evaluation of four Trinchero Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignons; Atlas Peak, Mt. Veeder, Rutherford, and St. Helena. $40 per person.

On Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, guest can take part in “The Sensory Challenge,” featuring a test of your nose as you try to correctly identify aromas present in wines using the Le Nez du Vin aroma kits. Also included is a sit down tasting of currently released wines. $35 per person.

Both appointment seminars include a tour of the brand new state of the art winery and last about 90 minutes.

The state-of-the-art Trinchero Napa Valley Winery, tour by special appointment

Trinchero Napa Valley is located at 3070 N. St. Helena Highway in St. Helena, CA. The wine club is called the Legacy Club, and members receive a 20% discount on wine and merchandise purchases from the winery, and the phone number for information or to make a seminar experience appointment is (707) 963-1160.