Truchard Vineyards Carneros region in Napa Valley, California
Tony Truchard was a doctor in the U.S. Army until one little grape changed his life. In 1972, he had orders to go to Korea when his wife, Jo Ann, who was nine months pregnant, made one last trip to the grocery store. On her way out, she slipped on a grape, broke her knee, and delivered their son four days later. Little did they know it at the time, but when their request for a travel delay got them reassigned to California, their path was set.
Tony had grown up on a farm in Texas that his grandfather had built a winery on when he moved there from France in 1885. Though the wine business didn't work out, family farming did, and it was in Tony's blood. Once in California, he began buying land and planting grapes for sale to Napa Valley wineries.
Jo Ann was less than thrilled. "I grew up in a very small town in Texas, and I didn't want to stay there and be a farmer's wife like everybody else did. So I went to college, I married a doctor, and what are we doing today? Very expensive farming!
"It's harder than being a doctor's wife," she continues, "because of the unknowns - the weather, the regulations - they can wipe you out." Nevertheless, this year the Truchards proudly celebrate 40 years of marriage, 30 years of growing grapes, and 15 years of making their own wine.
That's even more impressive, considering that the best land they could afford was in Carneros, a part of Napa that, experts repeatedly told them, was too cold and dry for grapes. They ignored the experts, pioneered the use of drip irrigation to help the vines through the summer, and continued buying and planting adjacent land. By the time most other growers realized that Carneros produces wonderful Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Tony had retired from family medicine and the family had begun making their own Truchard wines. They then challenged conventional wisdom again by producing well-received Merlots and Cabernet Sauvignons.
Today they have 270 planted acres and still sell 70 percent of their grapes to 20 other vintners. Truchard produces about 18,000 cases per year under its own label.
And the winery is their legacy. "I don't think we'll ever retire," says Jo Ann. "This becomes more than a business; it becomes your whole life." Still, they have hopes that their children will follow in their footsteps. "In Napa," says Tony, "the kids go off. They don't want to do what their parents are doing. And then later on, they come back and say, 'What a great life.' "