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Vittorio’s Victor Magalhaes, second from right, with Rafael Sanchez, left, Cat Ruso and Traci Maloney from Aspect Fine Wine and Breakthru Beverages. Photo by Rico Cassoni
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Vittorio’s starts 2024 wine series with Trefethen

I was excited to see Victor Magalhaes, proprietor of Vittorio’s Italian Trattoria in Torrey Highlands, start his 2024 wine dinner series on Jan. 25 with Napa Valley’s Trefethen Family Vineyards. While I was familiar with Trefethen wines, wine dinners are always a great way to learn more about the history of a winery and its governing philosophies.

Traci Maloney, account development specialist for Aspect Fine Wine, narrated the evening and was assisted by colleagues Rafael Sanchez, field sales manager, and Cat Ruso, main sales rep from Aspect’s parent company, Breakthru Beverages.

Maloney said that Trefethen Family Vineyards is a pioneering winery in Napa Valley that passionately crafts distinguished estate-grown wines that embody the unique spirit of their land, vines and people.

“The dedication of the Trefethen family is manifest in every aspect of the operation, from soil to the table, with sustainable farming and thoughtful winemaking,” she said.

For three generations, the Trefethen family’s commitment to producing wine solely from their estate vineyards in Napa Valley’s Oak Knoll District has resulted in bottles that radiate a characteristic brightness, reflecting both the terroir’s cool climate and the joy the Trefethens bring to their work.

In 1968, after a blockbuster career at the top of the Kaiser Corporation, where he tackled a host of incredible challenges like the mass production of Liberty ships and Willys Jeeps for WWII, the construction of the Bay Bridge and the Hoover Dam, and the development of Kaiser Permanente, providing health care for millions of Americans, Eugene Trefethen created the Trefethen Estate in Napa.

Eugene’s son John Trefethen and his wife, Janet, are co-founders and the second generation of Trefethens.  One of John and Janet’s proudest moments was when their chardonnay was declared as “Best Chardonnay in the World” in Paris in 1979. Janet is also credited as being the driving force for the establishment of the Oak Knoll Wine District. Their children, Lorenzo and Hailey, have key positions in the winery and serve on Napa Valley wine-related boards.

While Trefethen was originally known for its chardonnay, they expanded their fruit to cabernet sauvignon, merlot and riesling varietals at their estate vineyards.

Seared ahi tuna carpaccio garnished with arugula, capers and a creamy wasabi was paired with a 2022 Dry Riesling. Photo by Rico Cassoni

Dinner started with a first course of seared ahi tuna carpaccio garnished with arugula, capers and a creamy wasabi sauce. This was paired with the 2022 Dry Riesling with aromas of stone fruit and grapefruit. The fresh palate with lime and other citrus flavors accented the creamy wasabi and flavorful thin tuna slices.

For the second course, guests savored pappardelle wide noodle pasta with a duck and kurobuta ragu that also had fennel and pecorino Romano cheese. The 2021 Merlot was served with the pasta dish and had rich aromatic scents of plum and cherry with a hint of lavender and spices. The red fruit with a smooth long finish, from 18 months aging in 50% new French oak, complemented the duck and kurobuta ragu well.

The main course was grilled hanger steak with potato gratin and squash sides topped with a poivre sauce of meat drippings mixed with cognac and heavy cream. The rich, thick poivre sauce was a matchmaker for the steak and potato gratin. The 2020 Cabernet Sauvignon also added to the melding of this pairing. The black cherry and plum nose carried into the palate of this dense cab. The nose also had molasses and a similar hint of lavender like the merlot. The cab was blended with 8% malbec and 4% cab franc, creating luscious layers.

Dinner concluded with a lemon bar, and Traci, Rafael, and Cat spoiled guests with tastes of 2020 Dragon’s Tooth Red Blend. Rich scents of bing cherry and boysenberry were complemented by hints of vanilla and cinnamon. On the palate, there were flavors of cherry and raspberry with a long smooth finish like the cab.  See more information on Trefethen at

Next up for Vittorio’s is an Italian Michele Chiarlo Wine Dinner on Feb 29 at 6 p.m. The main course is grilled petit filet mignon with mushroom sauce, broccolini and truffle mashed potatoes paired with Tortoniano Barolo, DOCG. Cost is $75 per person plus tax/gratuity. RSVP at 858-538-5884.

— Story by Rico Cassoni

Wine Bytes

Family Winemakers of California is returning to Del Mar Fairgrounds’ Bing Crosby Hall on Sunday, March 10, for their Signature Wine Tasting Showcase. This year, FWC has secured two food trucks for their attendees’ convenience. They will also sample cheeses, chocolates, canned wine cocktails and more. Guests will have three hours to experience the event. Cost is $75 per person. Tickets at

Rico Cassoni is executive producer for Taste of Wine and Food. He and founder/advisor Frank Mangio, a renowned wine connoisseur certified by Wine Spectator, are two of the leading reviewers on the web. Reach them at [email protected].

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