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Sutter Home

  Sutter Home Winery
by Mark J. Miller
December 2, 2009

Sutter Home Winery’s motto has been around for more than 50 years, but it pretty well caters to the mindset of today’s savvy consumer: "A great product for a fair price."

Known for creating the White Zinfandel back in 1972, the family-run Sutter Home received an award from Wine Spectator magazine back in 1974 for "having introduced more Americans to wine on the table than anyone in history." Not too shabby.


The Napa Valley winery itself started well before the motto ever existed. Swiss-German immigrant John Thomann bought the place back in 1874. He created the winery and distillery before his death, when it was sold to another Swiss family, who named it Sutter Home but abandoned the place during Prohibition and didn’t return once alcohol was declared legal again in 1933. The Trincheros, Italian immigrant brothers who had lived in New York City, purchased he place in 1948 and the rest is history. The place got rolling as a winery again, and was renamed Trinchero Family Estates. And then everything changed in 1968.

One of the sons of the two brothers tasted some homemade Zinfandel that was created from grapes grown in the foothills of the Sierras, so they started to make it. Four years later, that same son discovered that the excess grape juice that was bled off during the process of making the red zinfandel could make a sweet rosé that became known as the White Zinfandel. An accident of sorts during the fermentation process three years later resulted in a much sweeter White Zinfandel, which became even more popular throughout America. It is now reportedly responsible for 10 percent of all bulk wine sales in America. Today, Sutter reportedly sells 10 million cases a year of the stuff.

White Zin made Sutter Home a household name across the country as bottles clunked down on tables from Key West, Florida, to Seattle, Washington, and the wine became the country’s best-selling premium wine by 1987 when it was selling only around 1.3 million cases annually.

These days, Sutter Home claims to be sixth on the list of wineries in America. Everything is still done in Napa County and the family still runs the show. Sutter handles 12 varietals, such as Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Chenin Blanc, Gewurztraminer, Moscato, Merlot, Pinot Grigio, Zinfandel, and, of course, White Merlot, White Cabernet Sauvignon, and White Zinfandel.

The company is extremely environmentally conscious on all fronts, from the vineyard to the wine-making process to the shipping of cases. It recently switched from glass to plastic for its 187 ml (slightly more than 3/4s of a cup) because the same amount of wine can be packaged in a smaller, lighter bottle; this allows for more bottles to be delivered simultaneously so less energy is expended in delivery. All of the bottles apparently have a glass lining so the wine doesn’t touch plastic. The new bottles also create 60 percent fewer greenhouse gases than the production of the old glass bottles.

Sutter Home also uses as few agricultural pesticides as possible and tries to draw specific insects such as wasps, ladybugs, lacewings, and pirate bugs to its fields to take care of vineyard pests. It also has a huge composting program.

Furthermore, Sutter Home recycles more than 50 million gallons o wastewater each year. And there are plenty more statistics along these lines which validate the brand’s commitment to the environment.

The fight against breast cancer is also a major cause that Sutter Home has supported for years. Since 2001, the company has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars to help fund research on cures for breast cancer. Each bottle Sutter sells includes a capsule, and every capsule that is sent back to Sutter Home brings another $1 donation to researchers.

Such efforts as well as the high quality of the wine has garnered Trinchero Family Estates the honor of being Wine Enthusiast magazine’s American Winery of the Year for 2009.

Along with Sutter Home, Trinchero has started to produce other wine brands such as Napa Cellars, Terra d'Oro, Montevina, Trinity Oaks, and Menage a Trois, along with the number-one selling alcohol-removed wine: Fre. Trinchero also imports from Australia two different brands: Angove Family Winemakers and Little Boomey wines.

This expansion indicates the brand is both strong and willing to take risks for growth. If Sutter can maintain a brand identity that exudes quality, sustainability, and family, then the Trinchero great-grandchildren have nothing to worry about when they graduate from college.


Mark J. Miller writes a daily sports column for Yahoo! Sports and is a contributing writer to Crain's BtoB's Media Business magazine. His work has appeared in National Geographic Adventure, ESPN, The Washington Post,, I.D., and Glamour, among others.

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