NAPA, Calif. – In more than 100 years dating to 1886, the tasting room at what has become the Trefethen Family Vineyards has stood unblemished, unaffected and as a symbol of pride for what has become one of America’s standout wineries.
On August 24, 2014, things changed.
The 6.0 earthquake that rocked Napa Valley that Saturday night/early Sunday morning shook the building, which seriously damaged the exterior and also affected some of the supply.
But it also planted the seed of recovery that has borne itself out on race tracks for the 2015 Pirelli World Challenge season.
“If that was going to happen, it happened at the best possible time,” says Lorenzo Trefethen, whose grandfather Eugene founded the winery in 1968 and who is embarking on his maiden season driving in PWC, bearing the family’s winery signage on his ANSA Motorsports No. 13 Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car in the GT Cup class.
“It happened in the middle of the night, when there was no one here. And it happened in the calendar year, when we could still do something to rebuild awareness for the following year.”
While wineries are a dime a dozen in Napa Valley – there’s nearly 500 in and around the area in Sonoma – Trefethen’s is one of the first.
In the late 1960s and early 1970s, there were fewer than 25. But with a visionary plan for the area beyond just the near 600 acres of land at what had been the 19th century Eschol Winery, the Trefethen Family Vineyards grew into the place it is today.
It was in the late 1970s, only a handful of years after 1973 when the vineyard’s first commercial wine was produced, when Trefethen’s wines began to make their mark on the world stage.
Its 1976 Chardonnay earned “Best Chardonnay in the World” honors at the 1979 Gault Millau World Wine Olympics in Paris.
It came as a shock to the French-dominated world of wine at the time and as Lorenzo explains, it did to the family as well.
“When that won best in the world in Paris, no one could believe it when we won,” he said.
“My parents (John and Janet) got phone calls from journalists… and they were surprised because they didn’t even know it was entered in the contest!
“My mom thought it was my dad’s friends calling us. It was essentially a practical joke.
“We only had six people in the winery at the time versus about 100-plus now.
“So alas, they all agreed to a rematch in 1980. It was a French home game, and we won again.”
To this day the Trefethen Chardonnay is the only wine to have won that award twice, no less than in back-to-back years.
The seeds of the award-winner were planted years earlier with Lorenzo’s grandfather’s vision. He explains how it all came to be, as they made sure to keep the reclaimed land entirely agricultural focused.
“In 1968, there was a measure put before voters to establish the first agricultural preserve in Napa Valley,” he said. “There was a new set of zoning restrictions put into place, to keep any type of activity outside city centers and outside the county, ag-only.
“He wanted to preserve the structure and he would purchase eight farms. But he said, ‘I won’t unless this measure is passed.’ That set the stage for the success of Napa Valley.”
The internal success at the Trefethen has come in large part from the foresight.
Jon Ruel, Trefethen Family Vineyards CEO, described how wine making and grape growing are similar to race teams – it requires a full team effort from the roughly 115 employees.
“For us, racing is used to tell the story,” Ruel said. “It’s an estate winery. All controlled. Many employees are long-term, some 30-plus years.
“Asking, ‘Who’s your wine maker?’ is like asking who’s your driver. But it takes a full team.
“You have to execute your harvest, make grapes. It’s harvest season right now, and thank goodness not all grapes pop at the same time.”
The temperature in Napa provides a perfect balance, with hot days and cool nights allowing the grapes to keep their tartness. The berries themselves are smaller at Trefethen, which is by design because it enhances their intensity and quality.
One of the other key areas that has allowed the winery to thrive is its amount of water preservation. Since fine wine is stressed, you generally want to use less water.
At the property, water flows into reservoirs at low points in the property. It’s all runoff and collected into a central sum.
These type of systems were cutting edge in the 1960s and 1970s.
That’s the groundwork. The rebuild has come this year after the earthquake, with the last-minute nature of the racing program coming together to help raise the winery’s awareness once again and help increase sales. Sales have gone up in several markets where World Challenge races this year.
Trefethen’s rookie season with ANSA in the No. 13 Porsche has witnessed him score 13 top-five finishes in 15 starts in class, including his first win at Canadian Tire Motorsport Park in May and three other podium finishes.
This weekend there’s an IndyCar component for the Trefethens as well, with a tie-in between Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Trefethen Family Vineyards.
A meeting between ANSA Motorsports team manager Emmanuel Lupe and SPM team co-owner Sam Schmidt has occurred; SPM sponsor ARROW Global has at least 70 guests on hand this weekend and needing a place to entertain, the Trefethen Vineyards were available for one night this weekend.
The Trefethen logo will have a small place on the No. 5 ARROW/Lucas Oil Schmidt Peterson Honda, driven by Ryan Briscoe, this weekend.
Overall, Trefethen’s relaxed nature – along with that of his sister Hailey and the rest of the family as mentioned – now makes so much more sense upon the tour of the winery, where a sampling occurred of five different wines (2014 dry Riesling, 2013 Chardonnay, 2012 Merlot, Dragon’s Tooth and a Cabernet, but who’s counting?).
“When people think of the mental image of a winery, we are it,” he says.
INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.
It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.
From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.
“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told NBCSports.com.
From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.
They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.
Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.
Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.
“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.
“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.
“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”
There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.
“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.
“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”
Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.
“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.
“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.
“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.
“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.
“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”
“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.
“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”
Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.
“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.
“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.
“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.
“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”
Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.
“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”
Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.
Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.
“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.
“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”
Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).
Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.
Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.
Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.
“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.
“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.
“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”
Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.
“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.
“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”
“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”
Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.
“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.
“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”
When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.
Power’s Victory Lap was complete.
“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.