Napa Valley today feels like a wine and food paradise, but when John and Janet Trefethen started their winery, nearly 50 years ago, Napa was a culinary desert. It’s hard to believe, but it’s true! As Janet recalls, one of the best restaurants was actually at the bowling alley and if a journalist was coming to taste Trefethen wines, she cooked for them at her home because the restaurant options were so limited. With a desire to hone their skills, Janet and a group of other ladies got together and started the Napa Valley Cooking Class. It was the first of its kind in the Valley, and they were very fortunate to have luminaries such as Thomas Keller, Cindy Pawlcyn, Sally Schmitt, Michael Chiarello and Narsai David as instructors. The classes ran for 25 years and, during that span, the food scene in the valley was transformed, including the arrival of the Culinary Institute of America and many fine restaurants.
Inspired to start a new chapter in their culinary legacy, the Trefethen family hired Chris Kennedy Aken in 2017 as winery chef. Having worked with Janet on wine club recipe development and other projects over the past 10 years, Chef Chris already had a deep passion for the Trefethen story and their wines. He brings a lifelong passion for creating truly memorable culinary experiences. He has over two decades of chefing experience across the U.S working for well-known chefs including Roland Passot and Jan Birnbaum. He has studied in France, Spain and Italy where he was inspired by farmers’ markets. Chef Chris says one of the great things about Trefethen is the garden: from the vegetables to the orchards. He intends to celebrate the natural deliciousness of what is grown in the estate gardens with visitors to the winery. Janet and Chris are experimenting with the rice she grows in the Sacramento Valley, and Chris is developing flour made of grape pomace to ultimately be used in various dishes to bring out the best in Trefethen’s estate grown wines.