Wine in the Napa Valley has come a long way in the last forty years. Many, however, feel that the accompanying stylistic evolution has gone too far. Some long for the way it was, when wines were less ripe, extracted and laden with alcohol.
That’s Trivium----three partners putting their money where their palates are---Jack Stuart, Doug Wight and Stu Harrison. They are making a wine---now in its seventh release with the 2011 vintage----the way wine was made when they launched their wine careers in northern California wine country in the early seventies.
“We remember the style of Cabernet Sauvignon during the first years of the California wine renaissance,” says Jack Stuart. “The best wines had grace as well as depth,” he says, “and they tasted like the place they were grown and the variety they were made from. When we decided to create Trivium, we set out to make a wine in the spirit of the renaissance years when we first got in the business.
Stu Harrison continues: “When we all got into the business, wine making dictated style. We had no idea then how much wines could be ‘elevated’ by technical means. But today, the winemaking pendulum has swung. Stylistic considerations are now dictating winemaking. The results in many instances are spectacular. But we’ve given up something in the process. A wine aged in 100 percent new French oak was virtually unknown in Napa in the sixties and seventies. And back then, more often than not, a wine labeled Cabernet Sauvignon was made from 100 percent Cabernet.”
Doug Wight adds: “It’s a bit of a gamble. In an age where fine wine is becoming much more of a homogenous commodity, consumers and critics clearly gravitate toward gigantic blockbusters.” How does Trivium ‘practice’ what it ‘preaches?’ Trivium is among the first to pick Cabernet from Wight’s family’s vineyard, the Lewelling Ranch, often a week before Lewelling’s other clients. Trivium, therefore, starts out with a per cent or two lower sugar, ripe but not overripe, and continues that restraint throughout the winemaking process.
Rich & deep? Yes. “Our Saint Helena bench location guarantees us those qualities. Trivium demonstrates that rich, flavorful wine doesn’t have to be overpowering or manipulated,” Stu Harrison says.
The real deal----Cabernet from a historic vineyard in the heart of the Napa Valley. “It’s a little like plastic surgery,” adds Harrison. “Post-surgery results can be spectacular, but often there’s a sense that the improvements are a distortion, rather than the genuine article. There was a more basic approach back when we started that we think is worth revisiting”.