True Chard

There’s a winery we know that isn’t exactly off the beaten path, but the path isn’t very obvious either. Truchard Vineyard ( is on Old Sonoma Highway at a driveway where the road bends a little. If you approach the winery from the north (the town of Napa) you might just catch a glimpse of a sign by the right side of road. But if you’re coming from Route 121 that runs across Carneros, the sign is facing the other way and you’ll probably drive right by Truchard. We have, every time we’ve visited this winery.

It’s worth the effort to find this little corner of Napa Valley that has seeming let time pass it by. There is no ornate “visitors center” here, just an old barn on one side, a home on the other and a patio out front leading to a classic stone entrance to their cave. The attraction of a Truchard visit is not going to be the architecture or the tasting room; it’s the people and the wines.

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Each time we’ve been at Truchard, we have met Jo Ann Truchard who, with her husband Tony, followed a crazy dream and became grape farmers and winemakers when nobody saw the potential for developing vineyards in their neck of the Carneros woods. Mrs. Truchard is quite voluble about their history (alas, we’ve never met Tony) which you can read on their web site or let her tell you when you stop by. It is an inspiring tale of grit and artistry that’s worth reading or hearing.

When we first visited, we met Mrs. Truchard in the barn, where she explained the vineyard history and offered us a glass of Chardonnay. On that occasion, we had only a little time and said (as we often do) that we’d like to focus on red wines only. She remonstrated that we had to try this white wine, because after all it’s a “true chard”. With a smile on our faces, we tried some and liked it enough to buy some. She then led us into the cave, where there were bottles open all around. What a selection! Truchard makes all the wines you’d expect, leading with the aforementioned Chardonnay and a Pinot Noir we really like. Those are the grapes normally grown in Carneros. But Cabernet (both Sauvignon and Franc)? Zinfandel in the coldest, wettest part of Napa Valley? Rousanne? Tempranillo? The Truchard family seems to be fearless about what they grow. We enjoyed their wines so much that we joined their wine club on that first visit.

In a more recent visit, we only tasted in the barn, because the 2012, 2013 and 2014 harvests were so enormous that there was no room left in the cellar. It was very much like California wine tasting in the old days. You just stand around; somebody pours; you taste…and taste…and taste. Seriously, be careful about consumption when you visit Truchard.

Most of Truchard’s production is sold to other winemakers, including Frog’s Leap, Nickel & Nickel for their Chardonnays; Robert Mondavi uses some for their Cabernet Sauvignon; and Conn Creek and ZD buy Truchard’s Sauvignon Blanc. So you might have tasted Truchard grapes without knowing it. We were told that only 5% of their grapes are bottled under their own label.

You really do need an appointment to visit Truchard and they don’t offer many. If you can find the time on your schedule, this winery is a welcoming little corner of the Napa Valley of yesteryear.

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