Trecini Wines: An Example of Branding

by Dan Berger


Anyone who understands even the basics of marketing consumer goods can tell you something about the vital importance of branding.

Brands are vital to a product’s visibility. They apply to literally thousands of products that have and need to retain consumer recognition – and add value to the products. This allows for consumer perception to be a critical factor in pricing as well as secondary and tertiary sales.

There is an old wine industry saying that the most difficult bottle of wine to sell is the second one, not the first. If the first bottle a buyer acquires is in any way unsatisfactory, it can cast a negative image on the entire brand, and shatters confidence for the consumer. But brands help to assure consumers of their value.

But products with high-image brands must make all versions of their products in an exemplary manner. And with wine, the first bottle with an image must be great to get to the point where it positively impacts the sale of Bottle No. 2.

In the vast world of wine, huge images are conjured up by only a handful of top brands. Dom Perignon, Chateau Petrus, Masseto, Chateau d’Yquem, and Penfolds Grange are widely considered the best of their classes.

Most of the time, iconic wineries have just one wine and the brand name is not used on other lesser lights, even though the same company may make excellent and usually great value “second” wines. “Seconds,” as they are often called, usually carry a unique second name and do not incorporate the original product.

2016 Russian River Pinot Noir

This thought crossed my mind the other day when I visited John Vicini and his wife, Cathy, at their urban tasting room in downtown Santa Rosa, where they display a mostly Sonoma County portfolio of exceptional wines. However, the same brand is also used on several Italian wines not only representing superb quality, but unerring distinctiveness.

Such a decision to use the same name on wines from Sonoma County as well as from Northern Italy wasn’t a decision that John believes resulted from the fact that the wines wouldn’t reflect their location. None of the wines is necessarily made to a theoretical standard that calls for them to be evaluated by scores.

Indeed scores are anathema to the entire concept John and Cathy created nearly 30 years ago when they planted grapes in the Russian River Valley with the intention of making perfectly balanced wine.

               The Vicini Family

The brand Trecini is this sort of play on words. The family name is Vicini. So why Trecini?

“Well, there are three of us,” said John, referring to his wife and son, David. “And tre is three in Italian.”

The name is well-known in Santa Rosa and its environs as Trecini, and residents north of the city know the name Vicini because it is on freeway-adjacent vineyards in the Russian River Valley.

I asked John about the style of all of the Trecini wines, which clearly indicates a more restrained approach than other locally owned wineries might pursue.

“I’m from Europe,” he said, “so I really like that style of wine. It goes better with food…”

To emphasize his abiding interest in wines of absolute balance and structure, the family-owned project hired Dan Barwick to be its contract winemaker, and Barwick was not only a perfect choice, but almost immediately was able to completely understand what John and Cathy desired.

That’s because he is of English extraction and grew up in a wine culture that exemplifies the style of wine that the English have come to prefer over the centuries. This is a style that emphasizes tight structure more than explosiveness. The latter trait almost always leads to bombastic if not relatively clumsy wines.

One of the best examples clearly is the 2017 Sauvignon Blanc ($19), in which the aroma shows off bright citrus notes, hints of grapefruit, and slight notes of green herbs. It is a wine that displays such exceptional facility that it will clearly improve for the next year or three, and leans more towards White Bordeaux.

2017 Russian River Sauvignon Blanc

A Russian River Valley Merlot from 2015 ($40) may seem a bit pricey, but it is one of the more fascinating wines you will ever see, at least in one very important regard. Merlot is best when it is grown in a cooler climate, where it can develop its natural varietal characteristics that includes traces of fresh olives, green tea and has a Beautiful red fruit personality that gets better when the wine is decanted.

This describes Trecini Merlot to a T (or tea?!) because of its gorgeous compatibility with food. It is certainly not a wine to submit to those who score wines by number, mainly because this wine has superb acidity and the kind of structure in which it improves with aeration. At $40, it is a wine purists will love.

One of the more fascinating wines in the portfolio is a 2015 Zinfandel ($55) from the area known as Rockpile just north of the Russian River Valley. Many people think of Rockpile as an area to grow very dark, intensely flavored red wines, but there is a serious delicacy to the rest of the region, and Barwick did a superb job with this wine’s depth of fruit, personality, and overall charm. It is best to decant this wine before consuming it because it responds beautifully to aeration. This is a great wine with restraint, where it does not have any of the overt “prune”-related aromatics of so many Zins with 16% alcohol.

Also using the Trecini brand are three wonderful Italian wines that do justice to their representative regions. So although they are old-world in origin, all display new world characteristics that justify their inclusion in this portfolio. And the name Trecini is the brand worth an image of quality in wines of restraint, balance and dignity.

Other wines available here are a Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, two dessert wines, and two sparkling wines (an Italian Chardonnay with the name Spumante) and a bubbly made from Zinfandel!

Trecini is a brand with a message.


About Dan Berger

Dan Berger has been a wine columnist since 1976 and has resided in Sonoma County since 1986. Today, in addition to his privately published weekly wine commentary, Dan Berger’s Vintage Experiences, Dan writes a nationally syndicated wine column as well as articles for many publications.

Mr. Berger was the full-time wine columnist and reporter for the Los Angeles Times from 1988 to 1996. His Los Angeles Times column was carried nationally by the Los Angeles Times-Washington Post News Service. During that time, he commuted from Sonoma County to Los Angeles, so he could maintain his residence and affiliations in wine country.

He is a judge at many wine competitions, including numerous shows in Australia, as well as competitions in Slovenia, Belgium, Germany, Canada, and across the United States, judging in at least a dozen competitions each year. He also has coordinated international wine competitions for the past 35 years. Dan Berger’s International Wine Competition began in 2016 became one the nation’s largest competitions to judge ciders, with more than 240 submissions.

Dan is a speaker at wine symposiums and universities on topics such as wine marketing, trends in the industry, regional character of wines, and the healthful benefits of moderate consumption. He also speaks to assorted groups interested in learning about wine, many of them unrelated to the wine business. And he also  is an adjunct professor teaching professional wine courses at Santa Rosa Junior College.

Dan began writing about wine for The Associated Press in 1976, while he was a general assignment and sports reporter, and wrote a wine column for the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner before joining the staff of the San Diego Union in 1979. There, his wine column was syndicated nationally by Copley News Service and appeared in the San Diego Union twice a week. He also was the Restaurant Reviewer for San Diego Home/Garden Magazine for six years. He later wrote restaurant reviews for the Marin Independent Journal for four years.

Immediately prior to joining the Times, he was wine columnist as well as Business Editor for the Santa Rosa Press Democrat. From 1986 to 1988, the New York Times Syndicate carried his wine column nationally.

Among the honors presented to him are the Wines and Vines Magazine award of excellence as Wine Writer of the Year, the Father Junipero Serra award for contributions to the wine industry, presented by the California Wine Patrons of Los Angeles, the Wine Literary Award by the Wine Appreciation Guild.  He is also a member of the Hall of Fame of the New York Wine Writers’ Circle.

Additional organizations that have honored him include the UC Davis. Department of Viticulture and Enology and the Academy of Wine Communications.

His books include “Beyond the Grapes: An Inside Look at Napa Valley” and “Beyond the Grapes: An Inside Look at Sonoma County,” and he has contributed to other wine books including the University of California/Sotheby Book of California Wine and the Oxford Companion to the Wines of North America. He was also the author and project director for the Reader’s Digest’s book, North American Wine Routes.