It's hard to speak of Sutter Home without skipping to White Zinfandel. This wine, synonymous with Sutter Home, catapulted the winery from oblivion to the fifth largest in the United States in the blink of an eye -- and it was produced by accident!
A lot of hard work set up the conditions which made Sutter Home's leap to fame possible. The story begins in the Napa Valley in 1874, when Swiss-German immigrant John Thomann established a winery in St. Helena. The winery changed hands several times and was abandoned altogether during prohibition. Finally, in 1948, John and Mario Trinchero, two Italian brothers from New York City, bought the property and began to produce wine at Sutter Home again.
For several years, the Trincheros ran a 'Mom and Pop' style operation, producing generic jug wine for their Napa Valley neighbors. In the early '70's, however, everything changed. Red Zinfandel came first. Bob Trinchero, Mario's son, sampled a local red Zin and decided it was worth producing. During production, 1,000 gallons of bleed-off juice from the red Zinfandel refused to dry out during fermentation, retaining its sugary sweetness. The bleed-off was put aside for later consideration. After two weeks, when Trinchero sampled it, he knew he had something. Forty years later, Sutter Home is producing 20 million cases annually, a hefty percentage of which is White Zinfandel. The rest? Just about every varietal grown in California, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Riesling.
Despite being one of the largest wine producers in the U.S., Sutter Home is still independently family owned and run. Today, John and Mario's children Bob, Roger and Vera, along with their own children, manage the Sutter Home Winery. The original property in St. Helena, where tart, fruity, wine history was made, is now Sutter Home's visitors center. Wines for distribution are produced in three modern facilities in Napa Valley.