Trefethen Family Vineyards Owner Shares Story with Minor

Chapel Hill, N.C. — To succeed as an entrepreneur, pursue something you're passionate about, Janet Trefethen, co-owner of the family winery that makes some of the best California wines today, told students in the entrepreneurship minor during a class visit Sept. 29.

Janet TrefethenTrefethen Family Vineyards ( is an estate winery, which means its wines contain only grapes grown in its own vineyard.

"We are committed to the estate concept. We plant it, we harvest it, we make the wine and we put the cork in the bottle," Trefethen told students. She is one of many successful entrepreneurs invited to speak to students enrolled in the minor, which is offered by the Department of Economics to undergraduates in the College of Arts and Sciences.

Trefethen shared the winery's 30-year history, which began when her parents-in-law bought a California vineyard. At that time, in 1968, there were fewer than 25 wineries in the Napa Valley. "The Napa Valley was known more for its mental institution than its wine," Trefethen quipped.

-In 1973, as one of the first female CEOs of an American corporation, Trefethen helped her husband, John, expand the family vineyard into a winery. In 1979, the winery's chardonnay was ranked the best in the world in the World Wine Olympics in Paris, an event that helped put Napa Valley and California wine on the map.

Trefethen asked students for advice on introducing wine to the millennial generation and answered their questions about the business of making wine.

Sophomore Thomas Ryan asked how the winery prices its wines and whether the company has considered dropping prices to be competitive during the recession.

"I want to be able to buy my own wine," Trefethen answered. "We have never had the drive to be the most expensive wine. Our pricing has always been competitive."