Wine of the week: Trefethen, 2016 Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley Dry Riesling


Bryan Kays is a Renaissance man of sorts.

“Making wine at Trefethen is the culmination of so many of my interests into one product — farming, fermentation, botany, chemistry, artistry to some degree … oh and luck,” Kays said with a laugh.

The winemaker is behind our wine-of-the week winner — the Trefethen, 2016 Oak Knoll District, Napa Valley Dry Riesling, 12.5%, $26. What makes this riesling outstanding is its texture. It’s nice and dry with a silky texture. It’s citrusy, with notes of lime zest and lemon peel, but it also shows lovely stone fruit, peach and apricot. The riesling has crisp acid and great minerality. It’s striking.

“I love high-acid white wines and this is one I often show people who are just being introduced to the winery,” Kays said. “It’s a great way to introduce people to our philosophy.

Kays said the winery has a farming philosophy and is in control of everything from vineyard to bottle, owning all its own grapes with 400 acres in vines on its Oak Knoll property.

Why is Trefethen making a trio of whites — riesling, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc — in a sea of reds in Napa Valley?

“We have a lot of flexibility in Oak Knoll because we’re on the cooler end of Napa Valley,” Kays said. “It’s a good temperature for growing white wines.”

The winery also makes reds — pinot noir and Bordeaux red varietals.

The farming mentality amounts to a dance of sorts with the light.

“It’s all about crafting the right light environment for the grapes to mature,” he said. “What we’re looking for is dappled light, pockets of light throughout the vineyard to get a little more protection from the sun so we can have brilliant, bright acidity and citrus-based flavors.”