by Fred McMillin
for May 16, 1997
Winery of the Week
There's No Place Like (Sutter) Home
||Italian immigrant brothers Mario and John Trinchero, fifth-generation winemakers, buy the Sutter Home Winery. Mario's son Bob is 13, and assigned to bottle washing and pulling weeds. Bob recalls, "We made 20,000 cases of 52 wines. We weren't sure the business would survive."
||Sales are still in the 20,000 case range. Bob is now the winemaker and has been tinkering with something he calls "White Zinfandel." His first production was in 1972...220 cases.
||Sutter Home White Zinfandel sales were nearly four million cases!
||The winery had focused on white and red Zinfandel, but now is producing a Chardonnay, Cabernet, etc. In fact, they are producing a total of eight million cases.
The Rest of the Story:White Zinfandel, the key to Sutter Home's success, was an accident. In the early 1970's Bob was trying to create a richer red Zinfandel. So, he drained off part of the fresh, white juice from the crush before it could extract color and flavors from the skins. The remaining juice would have a greater supply of skins to enrich the wine. Fine, but what to do with that juice which he'd taken off the skins quickly? Bob made it into a novelty wine just for sale in the tasting room. Reaction was so favorable, Bob added a little more color , a touch of sweetness and more fruit flavors. The rest is history. As Bob's brother Roger (winery president) put it, "Here's to the good old days. May they never return."
Just the Facts
||Sutter Home Winery
||St. Helena, Napa Valley, CA
||1874, purchased by Trincheros in 1947
||Bob Trinchero, Roger Trinchero and VeraTrinchero-Torres
||Red Zinfandel, White Zinfandel, Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon. In 1996, American consumers spent more money on Sutter Home wines than any other brand, confirming that they are all popular.
||Fine values; under $10
Postscript: Some years ago I asked Bob Trinchero why he named a pink wine WHITE Zinfandel. He said the original was nearly colorless, not pink, thus the name white.
||About the Writer
Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.
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