Trinitas Cellars Blog
Part IV: Larose to New Orleans
It was bittersweet to leave Larose this morning. Betsy and I enjoyed a nice breakfast with our friends, Karrie and Todd and loaded up our car to head back to New Orleans. We made good time and checked into our hotel early and met one of our distributor reps, Kevin to begin a day of exploring the city and showing off some Trinitas wine!
Our first stop was Herbsaint on Saint Charles Avenue. The menu looked delicious featuring authentic Southern cuisine with a French and Italian influence. We enjoyed tasting through the Trinitas wines there and can’t wait to return for some cuisine!
Next we ventured over to Palace Café. The rain started coming down and parking was a challenge, so Kevin so kindly dropped us at the curb so we did not get too soaked! Palace Café has this great outdoor seating area right there on Canal Street which is perfect for people watching and many were out there enjoying a morning cappuccino and pastry while watching the rain. We loved that you could peek into the kitchen from the restaurant and see the chefs working on the fresh baked pastries and breakfast! Yum!
After visiting Palace Café, we headed over to a great little lunch spot, Chef Susan Spicer’s Mondo. We enjoyed a delicious meal there; I had the fish tacos which paired very nicely with our 2010 El Dorado Zinfandel. The menu featured a lot of great flavors and variety!
After lunch, we ventured into the French Quarter to stop at a historic building, the Royal Sonestra Hotel. Inside of this beautiful hotel is an amazing restauarant called R’evolution. We were immediately awed by the meat fridges displaying the charcuterie that is prepared in house and the beautiful display kitchen where you can watch the chefs at work while you are enjoying your cuisine. We were excited to get a sneak peak of the restaurant because actually I had already planned to come here for dinner based on a recommendation from one of our friends and Wine Society member.
Staying inside the French Quarter, we ventured over to Muriel’s Jackson Square, a great little spot on the corner of Chartres Street with another delicious menu of creole and other authentic Louisiana fare. The building itself was full of history and tells a great story of Louisiana as it was once a “grand residence” due to its prime location and beautiful architecture.
After visiting Muriel’s, Betsy and I had the great opportunity to meet Tim McNally and join him for his daily, Dine, Wine and Spirits radio show on WGSO990. We enjoyed chatting with Tim and could instantly tell why he is so popular in the city of New Orleans! He made us feel right at ease and it was a blast chatting with him and learning about New Orleans through him and introducing him to our wines.
Check out our broadcast here, fast forward to 1:01:45 to listen to our segment:
Funny enough, Tim is actually headed to Destin at the end of the week too, so I will be reconnecting with him Friday for another radio show. Stay tuned!
After we left Tim’s show, we headed back to our hotel to freshen up before we walked back down to the French Quarter via Bourbon Street. Betsy and I returned to R’evolution for our 8:15 pm dinner reservation. It was a full house on a Monday night which was fun to see and we were excited to check out the menu as we had received several recommendations of what to order.
For our “appetizer”, Betsy and I split the “Death by Gumbo” which was a roasted quail stuffed with sausage and rice and then covered in gumbo. Absolutely delicious. Next, we ordered the “Pig Out Board” which was a sampling of all of the in-house charcuterie. This board brought Betsy and I right back to our travels to Italy and made us wish we had brought some of our Trinitas Amarone with to pair! We didn’t have it too rough though, as Betsy had picked out a bottle of our 2012 Martin Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon to enjoy with our dinner.
For the main course, you know me, I couldn’t resist and had to order the Bone-in Filet and Betsy was kind enough to share some of her scallops and Foie Gras with me. Wow, what cuisine! We tried to escape without overindulging on dessert, but the pastry chef provided us with a fun little box of sweets including some delicious chocolates and bites.
After our delicious meal, it was time to walk a little bit to digest. We took a stroll down Bourbon Street just to see what all was going on. For a Monday night, it was pretty darn busy! Lots of live music, dancing and drinking! We wandered around and came back to Bar Vin, a quieter little wine shop recommended to us by our friends who are part of the Krewe of Cork. We enjoyed a night cap before calling it a night and heading back to our hotel!
My six-year-old niece is learning to write, and one of her assignments at school on Monday was to write about what she did over her spring break vacation.
Her teacher sent us this and we couldn’t help but laugh out loud.
Day 3: Lettsworth to Cajun Country
Waking up this morning was tough… we slept a little too well after such a fun day with Brandy and Kevin! These Louisiana folk sure know how to throw a party!
We loaded up our car and started the drive down to Larose, which we were informed is officially “Cajun country”. Larose is about an hour south of New Orleans and out on the Bayou. We were excited to head out that way to be reunited with our friends Karrie and Todd who we had the pleasure of meeting at Masters & Makers in Napa in February 2014 and seeing again at this year’s Masters & Makers with many of their friends.
The drive wasn’t too bad and we fueled up on coffee and headed South, keeping an eye out for gators and other swamp creatures as we headed down to the south end of the state. Once again, we learned that Google Maps does not know where things are in Louisiana and we drove a little too far, ending up in Cutoff, Louisiana and having to turn around to find Karrie and Todd’s house.
We arrived to a beautiful house that Todd and Karrie built themselves… talk about the most amazing wood work and crown molding and attention to detail! We also quickly saw that Karrie and Todd were ready to give the Meritage banquets team a run for their money in terms of hospitality and entertaining! Karrie had hot gumbo on the stove waiting for us and wow was that a treat!
Garrett and I had shipped some wine ahead of time and Karrie and Todd had invited many of their friends over for a little wine and cheese party at 2 o'clock! We were awed by the beautiful presentation of cheeses and snacks and the most delicious Brie cheese covered with homemade pecan praline preserves and fig preserves. Talk about an amazing pairing!
Right on time, guests started arriving and we met some new friends and saw some familiar faces, including Wayne and Jerrie, who also had visited us back in February in Napa! What a joy to be reunited and share some laughs over our last adventure together.
Garrett and I had a lot of fun introducing everyone to Trinitas wines and poured quite the spread, although still only a small sampling of our 24+ wine portfolio! We poured the 2008 BB, 2012 Sauvignon Blanc, 2012 Carneros Chardonnay, 2011 Pinot Noir, 2012 Old Vine Zinfandel, 2011 Mysteriama, 2009 Meritage, 2012 Martin Vineyard Cabernet, 2012 Malbec, 2012 Merlot and 2012 Cabernet Francis! I don’t think that anyone went home thirsty!
The weather got a little rainy outside, but nobody seemed to notice because were having too much fun sipping and chatting away inside. While I am still working on my Cajun accent, I learned that Cajun French is a little bit different than the French that I learned back in high school in California, so Karrie shared her Cajun dictionary with me so that I can study up!
After the “wine tasting” portion of the evening ended, we shared a wonderful dinner with Karrie, Todd, Wayne and Jerrie and of course, drank out of our Riedel glasses that we learned about at the Shape of the Glass tasting at Masters and Makers! The glass matters! So proud to see the influence that Napa has had on how people across the country enjoy their wine!
After maybe too much wine… we decided to call it a night.
Too much fun tonight… this trip just keeps getting better!
Laissez les bon temps roulez!
Day 2: New Orleans to Lettsworth
Betsy and I woke up well rested and ready to go for our first full day in Louisiana. What’s the best way to start a day in Louisiana? Crawfish for breakfast! We both got omelettes with crawfish before heading out for the drive to Lettsworth.
Where the heck is Lettsworth? Yes, most people in Louisiana probably don’t even know… it’s about an hour Northwest of Baton Rouge. Why visit Lettsworth? Well, this weekend also marks the 7th anniversary of our winemaker Kevin and his wife Brandy. Brandy actually grew up in Lettsworth, Louisiana and her family is all still there. In celebration of their 7th anniversary, Brandy and Kevin threw a big party so that they could open the 27L Titanic bottle of 2005 Petite Sirah from their wedding day.
We couldn’t miss this opportunity to meet Brandy’s family, celebrate with Brandy and Kevin and of course I was curious to taste that 2005 Petite Sirah after almost 10 years!
The drive took about 3 hours and we learned that Google Maps is not servicing the state of Louisiana very well because we accidentally passed their house unknowingly and had to turn around to find it. Once we pulled in we knew we were in the right place; the band was rocking and the crawfish were boiling and as we walked up the driveway we could hear a whole lot of Louisiana twang!
Immediately I saw that the 27L was already open and freely flowing… I was impressed that Kevin had gotten the cork out of the bottle with one pull, no easy feat if you have ever tried to uncork one of these large format bottles, especially since it had been in the bottle for 8 years!
I couldn’t take the suspense any longer, I grabbed a glass and first sip…. it’s good!!! The party is on! We’ve got work to do! Time to play “drink the wine”, a very popular party game.
It wasn’t long before we heard the call from Papa, “crawfish are ready!”
Being that we Trinitas folk are professionals at eating crustaceans with seven years of practice at our own Trinitas lobster feeds, I felt pretty confident in my crawfish shelling and eating abilities. We headed over to the tables to grab a spot to begin shelling and eating!
Per usual, Betsy just wanted to eat the crawfish and not shell them, so I had to do all the hard work… We also learned that the Petite Sirah pairs pretty nicely with the spicy crawfish!
Not only was this a very authentic crawfish boil, but even better, the sweet corn in the boil was straight off of Brandy’s family’s farm. Now, that is how it’s done!
Once we had our fill, we checked out the music and did a little bit of dancing, and more drinking, of course! Some of the other Louisiana cuisine that we learned about and enjoyed were Boudin balls, this crispy bite of jambalaya rolled into a ball and fried, what’s not to like? We also got a taste of delicious spiced pecans and cracklin’! I am pretty sure we are not going to leave Louisiana hungry! Despite a few little mosquito bites, we enjoyed partying until the sun went down and relaxing on the farm.
Looking forward to the next Louisiana adventure tomorrow!
Day 1: Napa to New Orleans
Garrett and I left California bright and early to make it out to New Orleans by afternoon. We were so excited for this adventure as neither of us have ever set foot inside the state of Louisiana! It’s about time!
As we walked off the plane, we immediately knew we were far from home when that wave of humidity hit us! Wow, it’s warm here! We headed down to baggage claim and our new Trinitas Wine Check bag was waiting for us, safe and sound! Good news, Louisiana friends, the wine made it!
We headed to downtown New Orleans to check into our hotel on the Riverwalk and immediately noticed how many people were walking around and flocking towards the Riverwalk... Hmm, must be something going on here! We checked into our room, freshened up and headed back out to go to our event!
Turns out that the reason there were so many people flocking to the Riverwalk is that this weekend is French Quarter Fest in New Orleans and the Riverwalk is one of the many concert venues and we are right in the heart of the celebration! Apparently French Quarter Fest has a pretty good draw because we asked 3 different cabs if they would take us to our wine event across town and they all said no, too much traffic, too hard to get to, will take forever, etc… shoot!
Finally we found a cab to take us across town and we arrived at Swirl Wine Bar and Market on Ponce de Leon Street. What a great spot! We walked in to find a bustling little shop with an incredible selection of wines from all over the world! We had a Trinitas table set up at the back of the shop and customers could come try a flight of five different Trinitas wines.
It was so great to get our first taste of Louisiana with great wine and great people! Thank you to everyone at Swirl Wine Bar who welcomed us with open arms and showed us such great hospitality at the event. We were also very excited to not only meet some new friends but also see some of our club members attend the event! We loved catching up with our Trinitas Wine Society members, Anne and Carl!
Our friend, Kevin, joined us to explore New Orleans a little after the wine tasting event. Kevin is a resident of Louisiana (up in Shriveport at the other end of the state) and is a Trinitas Wine Society member, so naturally he travelled all the way to New Orleans to taste some wine and explore with us! We walked down to Bourbon Street to get a small sample of the craziness and stopped at Bourbon House to eat some delicious seafood!
We didn’t get to explore too much because it was so late and we are heading out to Lettsworth tomorrow, so we will have to explore New Orleans more when we come back on Monday! Until then…
Laissez les bon temps roulez!
Excited to share this great feature from the Notre Dame Alumni Magazine:
A Napa Love Story
By Julie Sobel
It's easy enough to spot Garrett and Betsy Busch at tailgates: They're the ones who bring wine.
It may not be the typical drink choice for tailgating, but not much about the Busches’ lives is typical. Together, the husband and wife team run a small Napa Valley winery called Trinitas Cellars.
The two Notre Dame alums met the first week of Betsy’s freshman year. She attended a dorm party that Garrett, a sophomore, was hosting. "I liked to host parties at school,” he says, “and now I do it for my job.”
Betsy went on to major in accounting, and graduated in 2010. She earned a master’s in accounting from Notre Dame the following year. Garrett graduated in 2009 with a Bachelor's degree in Entrepreneurship, and earned his M.B.A. in 2010.
Garrett’s parents, Tim and Steph Busch, founded Trinitas in 2002. The Busches started taking trips to Napa from their Orange County home in the 1980s, and fell in love with the area and the wine business. Garrett hadn’t planned on going into the wine business after school. But after getting his M.B.A., his parents hired him to help with the winery, which was struggling financially.
He made a business plan and ultimately agreed to manage Trinitas on an interim basis. He ended up staying on as manager – and the winery hasturned around with him at the helm.
"I've been learning everything I can about it, kind of on the job training since then,” says Garrett, who is now focused on growing the business and getting more exposure. “We’re doing some fun stuff, some unique stuff, we’re making good wine, and we’re having fun doing it.”
Meanwhile, Garrett and Betsy got engaged, and she started working at the winery full-time last year. "We came to the conclusion that there's a lot of work to do up here and a lot of my skills are definitely relevant to the needs that we had," she says. The transition was a big adjustment for Betsy, who had never worked for a small business before – or a winery. She took some wine classes and learned, as Garrett had, on the job. “I drank a lot of wine in the process," she laughs.
When the couple got married in June, they held their wedding reception at the Meritage Resort & Spa, the Busch property where the Trinitas tasting room is located. And Garrett had a wine-related surprise for Betsy at the wedding. It was the first time Trinitas had made a sparkling wine, which they were releasing the same month. They were calling the wine “BB,” short for “Busch Bubbles.” But at the wedding, Garrett made a toast where he dedicated the wine to Betsy, welcoming her to the family as “Betsy Busch.”
It wasn’t the first time Trinitas used wordplay in a wine name – though the names are usually of a religious nature. Trinitas is the Latin word for Trinity, and the Busches have integrated Catholicism into their business. “There's a strong faith-based thread through the winery,” says Garrett. They make a rose wine called "Rose’ary," and a white blend called "Psalms." They have particularly gotten some attention for their pope-specific wines, a tradition they started in 2006 with a zinfandel called "RatZINger" for Pope Benedict XVI. Tim and Steph Busch presented the wine to the Pope during their annual April trip to Rome.
Garrett recalls his father calling him shortly after Pope Benedict retired in February 2013, reminding him that they’d need a new wine for the new Pope, whom he and his wife would see on their April trip.
"I'm like dad, you own this winery, you understand how this works,” Garrett recalled. “I can't invent a wine in 30 days." But Garrett did already have a wine in mind for Pope Francis – a Cabernet Franc called CABERNET FRANCis.
"That was even easier than RatZINger to come up with," he says. The wine was still in barrel this April, but Trinitas’ winemaker and Garrett went and hand-bottled a case for his parents’ trip to Italy. “I was sitting there at my kitchen table hand-labeling bottles, and then it hit me, ‘This is really weird, I’m making something at my kitchen table that’s going to end up in the Pope’s hands next week.’”
Just another day in the wine business for Garrett and Betsy.
Running a company (and sharing an office) as a couple has its challenges – but Garrett and Betsy agree it’s working well for them. "I think originally Betsy was a little nervous," Garrett ventures. "We do things differently, but I think we're very cognizant of the ways that we differ," adds Betsy. "We're not afraid to play devil's advocate with each other," and push each other, she says. Garrett also notes that working in the family business is very consuming, and that they’d see much less of each other if Betsy were working elsewhere.
“We’re glad we’re a team, and doing this together,” he says.
What in the world is a California wine producer doing importing and selling Italian wines? I know, it sounds crazy, and maybe it is, but there is something about these incredible Amarone wines from Italy that we cannot get enough of and just had to share with our friends and Trinitas family!
The quest to make Amarone and sell it as part of the Trinitas portfolio came from the beginning. Our founders, Tim and Steph Busch, had always had a love for Amarone and at the beginning, Tim went in search of someone who could produce a wine here in Napa that would stand up to some of his favorites from Valpolicella Classico, the area in Italy near Verona that is known for producing Amarone. After being called crazy a few times and failed attempts to find someone willing to help take on this new challenge, Tim changed gears and decided to go straight to the source: to Italy!
Nothing is by accident and it seemed meant to be that Tim met Armando Fumanelli and became fast friends. Armando and his family live in the area of Verona called “Valpolicella Classico”. The family is the largest land owners of that region of Italy and has over 120 acres of Amarone vineyards (of the 3 varietals that they use in their Amarone) and have been growing grapes and producing wines since the 15th century!
After meeting and due to his love of the wine, Tim was able to work out a deal with Armando to introduce the Fumanelli's Amarone to the Trinitas porfolio of wines and Trinitas officially released the 2006 Amarone, bringing this incredibly complex and sophisticated wine to share with our friends here in Napa. Fascinated by this wine? Besides the incredible taste and quality of the wine, the winemaking process is very interesting and we enjoy learning more and more about it, while drinking it, of course!
When picking, the Fumanelli family uses a double selection method and picks only the best grapes off the vine and then sorts them on a sorting table and picks out the best of the best. By law, the Amarone grapes have a minimum of 2 months drying time; however, typically the Fumanelli Amarone grapes are dried for 90-120 days which means they typically do not destem and press the grapes until mid-January. This extended drying period leads to losing about 50% of the volume while drying, meaning it takes 5 pounds of grapes to get enough juice to fill one 750 ml bottle.
Amarone is a traditional product in Italy, meaning that there are various rules that apply to the winemaking process. In addition to the grapes needing to be dried for at least two months, the wine must also spend a minimum of 2 years in barrel and a minimum of 5 months in bottle. Since these are the minimum requirements, they are actually quite different from the aging process Fumanelli uses. The Fumanelli’s typically age the wine for 3-5 years in barrel. During this time it is extremely important to not oxidize the wine as you have 700-800 bottles of wine per barrel so temperature control and security of the barrels is very important; however, the Fumanelli cellar was built in 1600 and is in limestone so it stays naturally cool. They do not have any heaters, coolers or humidifiers.
Additionally, the minimum alcohol percentage on an Amarone wine is 15% and 16% for a “Riserva”. This high alcohol requirement ensures that no one is watering back their Amarone.
The Fumanelli family uses only French oak and they use 500L barrels, which are just over double the size of the barrels we use on most of our wines here in Napa (typically our barrels are 225L). The Fumanelli’s use their barrles once and then sell them after one use because one use is typically about 4 years.
The corks used on the Amarone are Portugese corks that are hand selected and the cost of this raw material alone is $2.00 per cork.
While we know many of you would prefer to travel to Italy and try the wine direct from the source, we know that's not always possible. If you are looking for an adventure and want to learn more about this incredible wine and how we found it and taste through a vertical of Italian wines, join us for our Taste of Italy experience at the Trinitas Library. More information available here.
Editor's Note: We are thrilled to add a new segment to our blog titled "Stories From The Road". At Trinitas, we are fortunate enough to have a great team that travels near and far to spread the Trinitas love, and get our wines into stores, shops, and resturaunts all over the country. As you may know, Trinitas wines can be found in about 14 states currently, and we only hope to grow that number over the years.
Through this idea, we asked our team to introduce us to some of the people they meet on the road, and the stories that come out of these meetings. Wine itself is a social being that brings people together, creates memories, and brings out some really great stories.
These are their Stories From The Road...
I visited an amazing little liquor store across from the Grand Ole’ Opry. It is the oldest liquor store in Nashville and is in the highest income area of the entire state. There are many musicians and famous country stars that buy from Joe Hobb’s wine shop - High Note Wine and Spirits. His father started the store and Joe has opened two more wine shops in the area. We tasted through all of our wines. His favorite was the 2010 PR Chard but when he got to our Oakville Cab he was floored. He said, “this is fantastic and I’ve been looking for something to replace this bottle”. He walked over and picked up a bottle of the Stags Leap Artemeis, and said, “your cab is better than that, and the only other person who comes in here to buy the Stags Leap is Blake Shelton... for Miranda, but I think she will like the Trinitas better!”
Joe and I talked for a while longer and I asked if I could take a picture of him with our wines, and I said, “see, now you can be in our famous monthly newsletter.” He laughed a little and said... “FAMOUS?!?!, I’m headed over to Randy Travis’ house tonight, I’ll bring him some of your wine!”
Joe picked up the Chard, Petite, and Cab for his shop. So Nashville fans, make sure to stop into High Note Wine and Spirits to pick up your Trinitas Wines, and let Joe know that yes, he is famous!
As our crew worked hard this morning to bring in the last bit of Petite Sirah, we are happy report that the 2014 harvest season has come to a close! Even though the weather cooperated for the most part and brought us great fruit, this harvest has been challenging logistically speaking.
This is the earliest harvest most vintners can remember. This is Trinitas’s 13th harvest, and definitely the earliest we have ever seen. We found ourselves picking grapes three to four weeks before we normally do and the fruit is coming in ripe and delicious. Bud-break began in February and the warm dry weather was consistent through the rest of the harvest season bringing us a harvest in August and September with only a few vineyards left to pick in October.
The earthquake hit right at the onset of harvest which really threw us all for a loop, and made everyone extremely busy. Normally this time of year is very busy with preparing for harvest, but cleaning up the mess of the quake made it even more hectic! We were forced to push off some of our picks, organization in the cellar was a challenge, and clean up took about three weeks until it was totally finished. While we were still cleaning, we had to worry about incoming fruit, crushing, fermentations, and also make sure we still got out to the vineyards to check on fruit to be picked later. On top of that, barrel management is always difficult and many barrels that were empty ready for incoming juice were destroyed in the quake so we had some last minute scrambling to find new barrels. Even after the initial sorting, and only after filling we determined there were still compromised barrels leaking and we had to rush to find replacements and repair damaged ones.
This time of year is always a challenge to find oak, but it was worse because everyone was scrambling to replace barrels that were damaged. On top of all of that, it would have been a grueling harvest anyway since it was one of the more compacted harvests in recent memory, 2012 would be comparable but still was not even as quick as this harvest. This means a lot of fruit was ready all at the same time and some days we were picking four to five different blocks when normally we peak at two to three in one day max. That put more stress on the cellar crew but they made it through with shining colors! The good news for the cellar team is they will get to take their post-harvest vacations way earlier this year…and that R&R is much needed and definitely deserved after this unforgettable fall.
Also amazing is the fact that this is the third good vintage in a row. Usually you have a stellar year then a few “decent” years and sometimes even a bad one, but 2012 and 2013 are stellar vintages and thus far from what we have seen and tasted 2014 is going to deliver some delicious wine as well. Here’s to hoping for a fourth amazing year in 2015!
Thank you to our cellar crew, our harvest crew, our vineyard management team, and the hardest working winemaker in the biz, Kevin Mills.
Thank you to everyone that called, sent notes, checked in with us and visited over this crazy harvest. It is because of all of you that we continue to produce these wines, and we look forward to seeing you the next time you are in town!
As you know, the Napa Valley was struck by a 6.1 earthquake in Sunday, August 24th at 3:20 in the morning with the epicenter only a couple miles from our winery and tasting room in Napa. Overall, we experienced a few broken bottles and glasses at our Estate Cave Tasting Room at the Meritage Resort and at the Trinitas Library, but no major damages and nothing to keep us from opening for normal business hours and wine tasting. If you had a trip planned or were planning a visit, the Meritage Resort and both Trinitas tasting rooms are open and operating normally, so no need to be alarmed. Unfortunately, our winery facility suffered much worse damages and we are in the process of cleaning up and evaluating the extent of our loss there as many of our barrels toppled and spilled. We are incredibly thankful that no one was injured and appreciate the outpouring of concern and help that we received from many of you.
Please continue to pray for all of our friends and neighbors in the Napa Valley who experienced greater losses. Over these next few weeks, we will continue to clean up and prepare for our 2014 harvest. Thank you for your prayers and continued support and we hope to see you back in Napa soon.