is a region of the Napa Valley that is off the beaten path. It certainly
is not as heavily trafficked as 29 or Silverado trail and wine tasters
may never even take notice of this Napa/Sonoma shared AVA while visiting.
But Carneros reputation for cool weather Pinot and Chardonnay,
and long hanging fruit put this AVA on the winemaking map. It took
two pioneering Texans, a couple named Jo Ann and Tony Truchard, who
were looking for a decent price for land to help this AVA realize
its wine-growing potential. Tony
and Jo Ann grew up in small towns in south central Texas and Tony
gained his love of the land by working on his familys cattle
ranch. The interesting twist is that this land was only a cattle ranch
by accident. Tonys grandfather, a French national, meant to
have his very own vineyard on the land, but south central Texas was
simply too hot for wine grapes and his dream died.
Tony carried this memory from childhood and it developed into a strong
desire of his own after he and Jo Ann started learning and tasting
more wine. When wine became a great, shared passion, it was time to
plant a vineyard. We got into the wine business through the
vineyard business. We started growing grapes in 1974. At that time
Tony was a physician in the military on a 2 year assignment and he
wanted to plant a vineyard. Jo Ann explained. However, when
they went to seek out land and found Napa Valley was going for $4000-$5000
per acre they were shocked and dismayed.We were used to Texas
prices $400/acre! explained Jo Ann. (As a perspective-gaining
aside that same $4000 acre in Napa Valley in 1974 is now approximately
$100,000 an acre!) The Truchards realtor turned them on to Carneros,
the southern, undeveloped part of the Napa Valley.
After their purchase was in escrow, they consulted an expert who informed
them their land would be useless for vines. He said, There is
no ground water - you will not be able to water your vines here.
What the expert didnt consider was that the soil turned into
a heavy clay in the rain and that if you dug a pond, the rain water
would keep much like a giant clay pot. Bingo. Jo Ann and Tony installed
drip irrigation and the Carneros hills could now get water. In a very
astute move, they continued to buy neighboring properties and installing
drip irrigation. The Truchards beat the odds, Carneros was quickly
becoming very valuable land, and they had their own vineyard. They
currently own 200+ acres of vineyards. Most of their grapes are sold
to other wineries and they keep a very small portion for themselves.
In 1989, they decided it would be fun to have their own wine. They
tried their hand at winemaking by using a custom crush facility. By
1990, they transformed an old barn on their property into a winery
and officially bonded that year. The poetic coincidence is that the
old barn on property was almost an exact replica of the one Tony grew
up with on his grandfathers ranch, the logo on the label
is the original barn which looks like the original barn in Texas!
We didnt build either one. It is our good luck symbol.
Their first release was four wines: Cabernet, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir
and Merlot. At that time, Jo Ann and Tony were considering what to
name this new winery, Originally, because of our French name
Truchard, we were going to call it Chateau Truchard and that is what
we actually filed our application under but then we thought Chateau
is just a little too assuming for a barn. We think Truchard is a beautiful
name by itself," she said laughing.
In fact, there are very few California wineries that use French-influenced
naming conventions and in the case of Truchard, it speaks to the style
of the wine as well, as Jo Ann explains, we want our wine to
be very approachable. When we release them, they are ready to drink.
You dont have to cellar. Not to say they wont get better
with age they can. We want a very balanced wine from start
to finish and we think we achieved that. We have an excellent winemaker
in Sal Dioni.
Today, Jo Ann, Tony, Sal, and Linda run all winery operations with
some help from their six children. They have built a winery where
Jo Ann stresses "at Truchard everyone is family. That is
exactly what it feels like being there as a guest. Visitors not only
get to taste wine, but also get a personal tour of the caves, vineyards
(if the weather permits) and the winery. It is important to Jo Ann
to offer visitors a real appreciation of the process of winemaking,
We try to give people a really unique tour to give them a feel
of wine starting from scratch. When you open a bottle of wine it didnt
just start like coca cola. That is so true. In the case of the
Truchard family, it started with roots in France, vineyards planted
on land that was thought impossible and results in unique wine which
offers a wonderful expression of land and family in a bottle.