by Fred McMillin
for March 26, 1997

A Wine You Can't Buy?

Prologue: "Dear Fred, My family has been growing Zinfandel for over 130 years in the Shenandoah Valley. We sell all our grapes to the Sutter Home Winery"...from Ken Deaver.

The Rest of the Story: The Deaver family knew a good market when they saw it. In 1848, John Sutter's carpenter noticed some glittering metal in the earth as he completed work on a saw mill at Coloma in the Sierra Foothills. Within three weeks Sutter would write northern California's leading vintner, General Mariano Vallejo that "I have made the discovery of a gold mine." In 1849 the land was swarming with thirsty goldminers and just three years later the Deavers planted their first vines in Amador County. A century later, the Sutter Home Winery made a batch of Zinfandel exclusively from Deaver Ranch grapes. One taste and they've bought the entire production ever since, as Ken Deaver wrote me. But, there was more to the letter, which said, "We keep a very small amount of grapes to make wine for our tasting room."

Hooray! In a blind tasting two thirds of my panel picked it out as more mellow and richer than the competition.

If you want a sip of history, you can get Ken to ship you some by calling or faxing (209)245-6661.

1993 Zinfandel, Amador County
Deaver Vineyards Winery
Plymouth, Shenandoah Valley, Amador County
Phone and Fax—(209)245-6661
$11 (good value)

Category: Recommended

Postscript—The Two John Sutters: The Sutter Home winery, founded in 1906, was named after former sea captain and Bay Area business man, Capt. John Sutter. He was not related to the Swiss adventurer who triggered the gold rush, General John Augustus Sutter.

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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