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Historic Wineries of California Wine Country
Item 10 of 14
Trefethen Family Vineyards was established in Napa in 1886 by Captain Hamden McIntyre, a Scottish sea captain. McIntyre originally named this vineyard and winery "Eschol." In addition, he also designed several other wineries in Napa during the late nineteenth century. These included Inglenook, Far Niente, and Greystone, which later became the Culinary Institute of America.

  • Trefethen, c. 1890
  • "Eschol," the original name of the winery designed by Captain Hamden McIntyre
  • The winery at Trefethen Family Vineyards
  • The winery at Trefethen Family Vineyards
  • The winery building in the late 1960s/early 1970s before restorations
  • Historic plaque on site at the Trefethen Family Vineyards

Captain Hamden McIntyre immigrated to Napa from Scotland in the 1880s. He purchased a property with plans to open a vineyard. By 1886, he had planted his first vines, naming the property "Eschol."

McIntyre also designed a winery building with a gravity flow system, in which grapes were transported by a horse drawn winch to the third floor of the winery building for crushing. Afterwards, the juice from the crushed grapes would flow via gravity down to the second floor, where fermentation occurred. Finally, the grapes reached the first floor where the wine was kept for aging. 

In addition, McIntyre built several other vineyards and wineries in the region, including Inglenook, Greystone, Beaulieu, Far Niente, Chateau Montelena, and Frog's Leap. In 1886, Eschol was designated a "model farm" by the Napa Register.

Just two years later in 1888, Eschol's Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauterne wines won the top prizes at the California State Viticultural Convention. This helped to establish Eschol's reputation, as well as Napa reputation within the state as an important wine-producing region. In 1889, at the Paris Exhibition, Eschol won more that half of the top prizes at this prestigious competition. This further established Napa Valley as a significant wine-making location.

Like many of Napa's other wineries, however, Eschol suffered from the phylloxera invasion (a microscopic pest that invades the roots of the grape vines). After overcoming this challenge, Eschol faced Prohibition in the 1920s, which forced many Napa wineries to close their doors. Some, like Eschol, simply became grape farms, selling their grapes to families for home consumption (often for making bootleg wines) or for producing sacramental church wines.

In 1968, the Trefethen family purchased the property with a plan to revitalize the vineyard. They restored the buildings, including the old cupolas that had previously been damaged or removed. The Trefethens also cleaned up acres of overgrown vines. After historic restorations to the property were complete, in 1973, the Trefethens leased the second floor of the winery to Moet and Chandon. In addition, the Trefethens debuted their own commercial harvest. They produced what was deemed the "Best Chardonnay in the World" at the 1979 Wine Olympics in Paris, also winning again the following year in the Wine Olympics held in Burgundy, France.

In 1987, Trefethen Family Vineyards was awarded a designation on the National Register of Historic Places. More recently, the winery building was again restored in 2014, while also being outfitted for seismic protections against future earthquakes. The original historic character of the building was fully preserved. Today, the Trefethen Family Vineyards emphasizes a holistic approach to their entire winery eco-system.

"The Historic Winery", Trefethen Family Winery. Accessed August 22nd 2020. https://www.trefethen.com/learn/place/the-historic-winery/.

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Trefethen Family Vineyards

Trefethen Family Vineyards

Trefethen Family Vineyards

Trefethen Family Vineyards

Trefethen Family Vineyards

Trefethen Family Vineyards