Last Wednesday afternoon, my husband and I stepped from the air conditioning of the San Francisco Airport into the warm, bright sun of California and waited at the curb for our ride into Geyserville. A spritely blonde pulled up in her white Toyota SUV, hopped out, gave each of us a big hug, and helped us load our bags. It was our sponsor Denise Trione, and if there is a model of what you think a California Wine legacy should be, she would be it. Friendly, high-spirited, healthy, and immensely hospitable, she embodied it all. As we piled in, we noticed the children’s books in the back seat pockets, and she lovingly told us about her husband and three young children. We casually shared stories about the trials of traveling, with or without our children, and the discussion soon turned to why we were there.
Denise humbly spoke of her family’s history. She explained how her father, Mark, and Uncle Vic cultivated and developed prime acreage in Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast, and Alexander Valley under the name Vimark Vineyards in 1970. This was before AVAs, before Wine Spectator and Robert Parker, before the hype. Eventually, in 1982, the brothers bought Geyser Peak Winery and Home Ranch in the Alexander Valley. For over a decade, the Trione family ran Geyser Peak and made it a sought-after household name. Denise told us how her family grew tired of the upkeep of such a large winery in the late 90s and sold Geyser Peak, retaining land holdings throughout Sonoma and the Home Ranch estate. At the time, she was growing her business as a banker, and though successful, she always missed walking the vineyards with her family. At this point in the conversation, I spoke up and admitted that I had just tasted through the Geyser Peak wines, now owned by Fortune Brands, and was quite impressed with the Sauvignon Blanc. She coyly smiled and said, “Those are our grapes. I love the Sauv Blanc, too! I use it for parties all the time.”
We stopped for lunch at the famous In and Out for burgers, and Denise was the last to order. I had remembered to order my burger with onions, but when I heard Denise order her burger animal style, I knew I wasn’t dealing with a soccer mom. The longer we stayed, tasted and delved into the history of the Trione family, the more apparent it became that Denise got what she wanted and worked hard to get it. When she went to her father in the mid-2000s and told him she wanted to get the family back into the wine-making game, he was less than enthused. She told him how it would differ from Geyser Peak and how they would stay small and focus on producing high-quality wines that would only be sold in the finest markets. By the time she was finished, she had convinced her father, uncle and Vimark Vineyard’s vineyard manager and long-time friend, John Tankersley. They recruited winemaker Scot Covington, whose education had taken him around the world, training with Merry Edwards, Sonoma-Cutrer, and Gallo Family Estates. The winery became even more family orientated when Denise’s husband Kris Hicks became vineyard manager. Working together, Scot and Kris pick the top 3% of grapes available to them to put into Trione wines. The other 97% of the 700 acres go to a couple of wineries you may have heard of, such as the aforementioned Geyer Peak, Sonoma-Cutrer, Duckhorn, and Kendall-Jackson.
Nino’s is proud to carry the whole line of Trione wines. Here are my notes from our tasting at the winery:
Trione Sauvignon Blanc Sonoma County 2012
Minerality and exotic fruits are present on the nose, with expressive, ripe citrus; mango; and passion fruit on the palate. Crisp and clean, the weight is light- to medium-bodied, and the finish is refreshing.
Trione Chardonnay Russian River Valley 2010
Scot’s Sonoma-Cutrer influences are apparent in this medium-bodied, silky Chardonnay. Aromatic, with baked apple and buttery notes, the palate is reflective of the nose, with juicy stone fruit and nice acidity on the finish.
Trione Pinot Noir Russian River Valley 2010 Bold nose of black cherry, earth, and spice. It’s full-bodied with velvety tannin, black cherry, red plum, and baking spice. Acidity is medium-plus, with a long finish.
Trione Syrah Russian River Valley 2009 Ripe and rich, this Syrah has smoke, black plum, and baked blackberry notes. Medium in weight, this wine screams for lamb crusted with herbs.
Trione Red Wine Alexander Valley 2009 My favorite of the line, this is a classic Bordeaux blend. Black flower notes from the Petit Verdot, red raspberry from the Malbec and balanced pepper from the Cabernet Franc all add layers and complexity to this Cabernet Sauvignon driven wine. Scot shines here. The toasty oak is present but takes a backseat to the rich, dark fruits. Tannins are integrated yet youthful and convey decent ageability. If you are looking for a great gift or special wine that doesn’t break the bank, this is the wine for you!
Trione Cabernet Sauvignon Block 21 Alexander Valley 2009 To say that I tasted a lot of Cabernet on this trip would be putting it mildly. This Cab is memorable. Like Orson Welles, this cab is larger than life and complex. It will age well but is best enjoyed youthful. Black-and-blue pie fruits coat your mouth with layered baking spices, such as clove, allspice and cinnamon. There is a beam of acidity and an earthy red fruit component that comes through once you open it. Though big, it still has balance and will complement steak or even duck.
Denise Trione has a tenacious spirit, and the pursuit for quality is apparent in these wines. It was a joy to meet the Trione family, winemaker and staff. Nino’s is excited to carry such limited and artfully crafted wines. I hope the next time you set off to California, you stop by this beautiful winery and taste these amazing wines overlooking the family’s palatial vineyards. Nino’s will carry these selections after June 1st. So, stop by the store and pick up a bottle.
Have you been out to California? Which are your favorite wineries to visit? Let me know at@Ninoswineexpert.