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Sutter Home....

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TomHill

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Sutter Home....

by TomHill » Fri Jan 05, 2018 5:35 pm

This title should pretty much stop everyone dead in their tracks from reading this very interesting article by KatherineCole (who she?) on the rise of the Trinchero family to power:
Trincheros
from their humble SutterHomeFamily origins. It's actually a quite interesting read and I learned a lot I'd never known before.

SutterHome is, of course, the wnry that rode the WhiteZin horse to fame. Which now, of course, earns them the derision of anybody w/ a serious interested in wine. It shouldn't be that way.
Should I mention I followed SH from the very start?? Sort of. When they started SH after prohibition, Bob & Mario Trinchero specialized in bulk wines sold out of the barn across from LouisMartiniWnry on Hwy 29. I never had any of those bulk wines. NapaVlly folks would show up at SH, gallon jugs in hand, and fill-er-up from the spigot there. In the early '60's, SH started bottling their own wine.

In the late '60's, BobTrinchero, always the pinch penny (Darrell recounts how Bob used to buy his ill-fiting suits at MongomeryWard's aka as MonkeyWards, but now buys Brook'sBros suits), was complaining to DarrellCorti about the rising cost to buy NapaVlly grapes for his cheap wine. Darrell had, several yrs earlier, tried CharlieMeyer's AmadorZin from KenDeaver's OV vnyd and was impressed. He suggested Bob buy a ton of Zin from Ken, which he did. And, as they say, the rest is history. That '68 DeaverVnyd Zin was outstanding and set AmadorCnty on the path to the success it now enjoys. Those early ('68-'75) SH Amador Zins were amazingly good. And cheap.

In '71, Darrell suggested to Bob that he make a wine from the saignee juice, that he was dumping down the drain, and label it Oeil de Perdrix (Eye of the Partridge). It was totally dry, very spicy, and actually quite delicious. In '75, their OdP/White Zin fermentation stuck, but they bttld it off-dry. It sold out of the tasting room like hotcakes and the rest is history. They rode that sweet WhiteZin train out of the station and into millions of $$$'s. And that's pretty much when I kissed off SutterHome for good.

Back in the middle '70's, SH made what they called SH TripleCream Apertif. The base was very old CreamSherry from EastSideWnry/Lodi stocks, tarted all up w/ spices like OrrisRoot and OrangePeel. It was an outstanding dessert wine. When EastSideWnry closed, they lost that source of CreamSherry and their TripleCreamApertif plummeted in quality. Don't know if they still make that or not.

In 1981, a psychiatrist couple founded a wnry just north of StHelena, Folie a Deux (Folly of Two). The wines were decent...just that. The label was a Rorsach ink plot of a couple dancing. In the late '80's or early '90's, the wnry was purchased by ScottHarvey and DickPeterson and run for a number of yrs. They invented a second label, Menage a Trois, with a wink & a nod. In 2006, Scott & Dick sold both labels to the Trincheros. This is now the location of the TrincheroFamilyWines tasting room. Don't know what they use there of the wnry and the aging caves below.
In the late '60's, I wrote an article for Vintage magazine on Zins of the DeaverVnyd. Did an interview w/ Ken Deaver (Sr) up there in Amador and walked the vnyd w/ him. The high point of the interview was when Ken took me down to his pig pen (at the bend in the road across from the ShenandoahSchool) and introduced me to his family of pigs. From all the squealing going on, you'd have thought they'd found their soulmate. (I got the same response when CaseyHartlip introduced me to his two pigs, James & Bob. I love pigs and not just for the bacon...love their cute little tails). They were fed his leftover grapes and his pigs were regarded as the best pork chops in all Amador...being used by JohnLasich/sausage maker in Plymouth and AliceWaters/Berkeley. On that same trip, I also did a visit w/ BobTrinchero there at SH. Liked the guy quite a lot...even in his MontgomeryWard's garb. Very straightforward and down-to-earth. And, at the time, his Orleans process vinegar (made in a shed out back, not in the winery) was some of the best vinegar you could find.
Since then, the Trincheros have bought several other labels. Including the NeyersFamily label. As best as I can tell, the Neyers wines are just as good as they've ever been.

I'm thinking that, since I blew off SH so many yrs ago, I should revisit them. I'll try some (but not the White Zin), including the TFV, the Folie a Deux, the Menage a Trois, and report back here. Takin' one for the team it's called.

Anyway, that's my SutterHome story & I'm stickin' to it.

Also anyway, the article is worth reading...even if you don't like SutterHome, for whatever lame reason.
Tom
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Re: Sutter Home....

by Jon Leifer » Fri Jan 05, 2018 9:26 pm

Katherine Cole also wrote a book "Rose All Day"..have not read it as yet,ain't available at my library
Jon
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Re: Sutter Home....

by Peter May » Sun Jan 07, 2018 1:57 pm

I visited Sutter Home winery several times in my visits to California in the 70s and 80s.

I liked their red Zins

I did buy a bottle of the white Zin, as I have saved the label, its 1981 white Zinfandel. I remember it as dry and white in colour

In the book 'Living the Dream - The Trinchero Family of Sutter Home', published for their 50th anniversary it says they produced 25,000 cases of the 1981 vintage; by 1987 it was the best selling wine in the US with 2,000,000 cases and by 1990 they were producing 3,000,000 cases.

It says it was, after 1975 at first off dry and white, the 1975 'stuck fermentation' wine had just 2% residual sugar.

It doesn't say when they increased RS and let it go pink
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Yup...

by TomHill » Sun Jan 07, 2018 2:14 pm

Peter May wrote:I visited Sutter Home winery several times in my visits to California in the 70s and 80s.

I liked their red Zins

I did buy a bottle of the white Zin, as I have saved the label, its 1981 white Zinfandel. I remember it as dry and white in colour

In the book 'Living the Dream - The Trinchero Family of Sutter Home', published for their 50th anniversary it says they produced 25,000 cases of the 1981 vintage; by 1987 it was the best selling wine in the US with 2,000,000 cases and by 1990 they were producing 3,000,000 cases.

It says it was, after 1975 at first off dry and white, the 1975 'stuck fermentation' wine had just 2% residual sugar.

It doesn't say when they increased RS and let it go pink


Yup, Peter...it's always had a pinkish cast to it. But the early ones were pretty pale. But I think the wine has been progressing towards an electric pink over the yrs. And they've been upping the RS over the yrs as they dial into their target market.
Tom
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Re: Sutter Home....

by Hoke » Sun Jan 07, 2018 4:44 pm

Tom, I don't know if I am more elated or depressed that I lived through and remember those heady days when wine was just beginning to really boom in this country. Since you are my senior, and always will be, no doubt you have even more memories than I.

I remember those first Amador Zins. They were pretty remarkable and touched on the fantastic possibilities for Zinfandel. Even the label spinoff of descendants of those Amador Zins can still be compelling.

I remember the Oily Partridge---and, yes, it was a darned good bottle of wine. I also remember the first "fruity" (None dare call it sweet, for that was anathema, and the proper term was "off-dry"; The proprieties of wine elitism had to be observed) White Zinfandel, and the craze that ensued. I even remember that utterly delicious dessert wine; I wasn't prone, even then, to lug back capacious backpacks of wine from my visits, but I made sure to bring one of those back.

Thanks for the trek down Memory Lane, while I can still retain the memories. :^)
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Re: Sutter Home....

by Ryan M » Wed Jan 10, 2018 12:55 am

Nice info, thanks for sharing!

You know, I think the real travesty of White Zin is not the wine itself, but what it has done to the perception of dry rose. I've had to explain so many times that the rose I brought is not sweet.
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Re: Sutter Home....

by Jenise » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:42 pm

Fun stuff, Tom. In 1980 I lived in Saudi Arabia. We bought white and red German grape juice from which to make illegal hooch with yeast smuggled in from home. Thanks to a chance encounter with Sutter Home White Zinfandel before leaving the U.S. it occurred to us to spike a batch (one 5 gal jerry can) of white with fresh strawberries, banana peel, a piece of orange rind and maybe a clove or two to create our own mock white zinfandel. It was as big a hit there as Sutter Home's was here. We ran out in like a week, which was pretty deadly in a place where it took a whole 30 days to make each batch!
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Uhhh...

by TomHill » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:48 pm

Jenise wrote:Fun stuff, Tom. In 1980 I lived in Saudi Arabia. We bought white and red German grape juice from which to make illegal hooch with yeast smuggled in from home. Thanks to a chance encounter with Sutter Home White Zinfandel before leaving the U.S. it occurred to us to spike a batch (one 5 gal jerry can) of white with fresh strawberries, banana peel, a piece of orange rind and maybe a clove or two to create our own mock white zinfandel. It was as big a hit there as Sutter Home's was here. We ran out in like a week, which was pretty deadly in a place where it took a whole 30 days to make each batch!


Uhhhh, Jenise....I somehow doubt that the natural wine movement would go along with this!! :-)
In places like SaudiArabia, necessity is the mother of invention.
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Re: Uhhh...

by Jenise » Thu Jan 11, 2018 6:56 pm

TomHill wrote:
Jenise wrote:Fun stuff, Tom. In 1980 I lived in Saudi Arabia. We bought white and red German grape juice from which to make illegal hooch with yeast smuggled in from home. Thanks to a chance encounter with Sutter Home White Zinfandel before leaving the U.S. it occurred to us to spike a batch (one 5 gal jerry can) of white with fresh strawberries, banana peel, a piece of orange rind and maybe a clove or two to create our own mock white zinfandel. It was as big a hit there as Sutter Home's was here. We ran out in like a week, which was pretty deadly in a place where it took a whole 30 days to make each batch!


Uhhhh, Jenise....I somehow doubt that the natural wine movement would go along with this!! :-)
In places like SaudiArabia, necessity is the mother of invention.
Tom


The wines we made were godawful. It was baptism by fire, too, as each new arrivee was gifted bottles from friends already there and established. After three or four months of godawful, one became discerning and could tell the better godawfuls from the truly godawfuls and of course by that time one had one's own godawful production under way. Aging the wines smoothed the edges, but Fridays were our entire weekend, and with at least one major social event each Friday was pretty hard on one's inventory and none of us in the crammed little 1 bedroom bungalow trailers ever really got ahead. Suffice to say that if you came to my house for dinner in October and I served you vintage April, you KNEW you were special.
My wine shopping and I have never had a problem. Just a perpetual race between the bankruptcy court and Hell.--Rogov
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Re: Uhhh...

by TomHill » Thu Jan 11, 2018 7:01 pm

[quote="Jenise"]

Good story, Jenise. I searched the entire WLDG data base and couldn't, for the life of me, find your TN's
on those gawd-awful wines you posted then!!!! :lol:
Tom
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Re: Sutter Home....

by Ken Schechet » Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:38 pm

Ryan M wrote:
You know, I think the real travesty of White Zin is not the wine itself, but what it has done to the perception of dry rose. I've had to explain so many times that the rose I brought is not sweet.


Ryan, when I moved to Florida it amazed me that you never saw anyone drinking rose, which I think is the most natural beverage for Florida that you could imagine. I slowly realized that no one in the Palm Beach crowd wanted anyone to think they were drinking white zin, so they never ordered rose. Thankfully, that has changed.

My memory is that zinfandel was in pretty bad shape as a varietal when the white zin craze hit. I wonder if that saved the grape and let us have some of the wonderful red zins that are available today.
Ken
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Perhaps...

by TomHill » Thu Jan 11, 2018 10:50 pm

Ken Schechet wrote:
Ryan M wrote:
You know, I think the real travesty of White Zin is not the wine itself, but what it has done to the perception of dry rose. I've had to explain so many times that the rose I brought is not sweet.


Ryan, when I moved to Florida it amazed me that you never saw anyone drinking rose, which I think is the most natural beverage for Florida that you could imagine. I slowly realized that no one in the Palm Beach crowd wanted anyone to think they were drinking white zin, so they never ordered rose. Thankfully, that has changed.

My memory is that zinfandel was in pretty bad shape as a varietal when the white zin craze hit. I wonder if that saved the grape and let us have some of the wonderful red zins that are available today.


Perhaps.....perhaps not, Ken. In the early '80's, there was a drumbeat of criticism from the wine writers about high alcohol
Zins ("Monster Zins with shabby table manners":Charlie Olken). As a reaction, winemakers started making lighter Zins w/
lower alcohols..."food wines" they were called. With Zin, they sucked big time. As a result, the Zin market really tanked in the
mid-'80's. Rightfully so...many of the Zins were not very good. It wasn't until the early-'90's that the Zin market started to
recover.
It's been stated over & over that the growing market for WhiteZin in the '80's was what saved all those old-vine Zin/
mixed black vnyds in SonomaCnty and Lodi. I'm pretty sceptical of that claim. I classify it as an urban legend. I don't think
the many of the grapes for those White Zins were coming from old-vine vnyds over in Sonoma. More than likely,
from cheaper Zin vnyds in LakeCnty/Lodi, and the Central Vlly...which grow high-production Zin grapes that make
a bland/innocuous wine that is White Zinfandel. Nonetheless...that claim continues to be made w/ no supporting
evidence that I have heard of.
Tom
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Re: Perhaps...

by Peter May » Fri Jan 12, 2018 9:08 am

TomHill wrote: Nonetheless...that claim continues to be made w/ no supporting evidence that I have heard of.


I'm one of those whio make that claim, based on my own memories of that time.

Those 3,000,000 bottles of Sutter Home White Zin had to come from somewhere, and they weren't, by then, the only makers of white Zin.

Red Zin did not generally have a good reputation: it was a 'local' grape, there was no old world standard bearer, none to match or challenge to a 'Judgement of Paris'. Fruit price had collapsed and Cabernet and Chardonnay were in the ascendency...

As for evidence.. I've just been flicking through Angels Visits by David Darlington (1991); Paul Draper (Ridge) talks about using Heart's Desire ,100+ year old Zin (w some Petite Sirah and Carignan) for over 22 years. Author's note at foot says 'most of these vines have since been ripped out' (page 22)

Page 187 - 188 Darlington writes 'the price of the grape fell back to $150 per ton and growers all over California raced to pull up the oldest vines in the state, replacing them with Cabernet and Chardonnay. Between 1978 and 1983 5,000 acres of Zinfandel disappeared ...

"California's unique treasure" was on the verge of oblivion.Then, like an anaemic foundling rushing in to save a wounded knight from the jaws of disaster, salvation appeared on a pale pink horse coming over the horizon.......

There was only one problem with this saga amongst the varietals most dedicated followers. They considered the rescuer - white Zinfandel - the villain rather than the hero.'


Book says that by 1987 Sutter Home alone were processing one-third of all Cal Zinfandel, and another 120 wineries were making over 5 millions cases of white Zin.

The relevant pages with the full text, of which the above is a very small extract, can be read on Amazon on the reissue of the book at
https://www.amazon.com/reader/0306810298
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Yup...

by TomHill » Fri Jan 12, 2018 11:01 am

Peter May wrote:
TomHill wrote: Nonetheless...that claim continues to be made w/ no supporting evidence that I have heard of.


I'm one of those whio make that claim, based on my own memories of that time.

Those 3,000,000 bottles of Sutter Home White Zin had to come from somewhere, and they weren't, by then, the only makers of white Zin.

Red Zin did not generally have a good reputation: it was a 'local' grape, there was no old world standard bearer, none to match or challenge to a 'Judgement of Paris'. Fruit price had collapsed and Cabernet and Chardonnay were in the ascendency...

As for evidence.. I've just been flicking through Angels Visits by David Darlington (1991); Paul Draper (Ridge) talks about using Heart's Desire ,100+ year old Zin (w some Petite Sirah and Carignan) for over 22 years. Author's note at foot says 'most of these vines have since been ripped out' (page 22)

Page 187 - 188 Darlington writes 'the price of the grape fell back to $150 per ton and growers all over California raced to pull up the oldest vines in the state, replacing them with Cabernet and Chardonnay. Between 1978 and 1983 5,000 acres of Zinfandel disappeared ...

"California's unique treasure" was on the verge of oblivion.Then, like an anaemic foundling rushing in to save a wounded knight from the jaws of disaster, salvation appeared on a pale pink horse coming over the horizon.......

There was only one problem with this saga amongst the varietals most dedicated followers. They considered the rescuer - white Zinfandel - the villain rather than the hero.'


Book says that by 1987 Sutter Home alone were processing one-third of all Cal Zinfandel, and another 120 wineries were making over 5 millions cases of white Zin.


Yup, Peter.....I'm well aware of David Darlington's book as the primary source for this story. All these producers of WhiteZin
were not taking grapes from OV vnyds that yield 1-2 tons/acre. They're looking at high-producing vnyds at 5-6-7 tons/acre.
Maybe it's the "rising tide floats all boats" thing, but I'm still sceptical of Darlington's connection of WhiteZin and OV vnyds.
Tom
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Re: Sutter Home....

by Hoke » Fri Jan 12, 2018 5:16 pm

And yet....boat floating happened. Peter made some excellent points.

White Zin, the phenomenon, was one of those unexpected and often unappreciated seismic events that came along at just the right time, and Sutter Home was the one to profit the most and continue the momentum.

White Zin made drinking California wine not only permissible but unavoidable. Not just SH, of course, but bandwagon riders Beringer, Glen Ellen and other mass producers rode that pony into the ground. (As they should have; they were running businesses.)

Yes, the elite flavor-haters didn't want a sugary pink pop drink---but plenty of people did. And someone had to grow all those grapes, which meant they stayed in business and could finance other things. That is not a bad thing.

The timing was exquisite because White Zin made Zinfandel popular. It also made California popular. So what if it wasn't rarified Grand Cru (although there was a winery named Grand Cru that successfully made a fortune on Zinfandel and Chenin Blanc and Gewurztramine, then not an easy task. (They faded into oblivion later and became just another Potemkin label.)

Not only Zinfandel, but the entire Sierra Foothills gained popularity and notoriety.

Were the Old Vine vineyards part of that. You bet your ass they were, at least initially, until plantings started picking up. And the White Zin that led to OV zin, as well as a resurgence of interest in the OV/Heritage varieties (Carignane, for instance), allowed a ;lot of wineries to thrive, And improve, because they were making money, not running a little shack in the fields.

Hell, you could even credit White Zin as the genesis (rather than the Revelations the wine snobs were calling it) with generating/stimulating/financing much of the rapid growth at a crucial time in California's wine development. Anderson Valley. Mendocino. Mendocino Ridge, Kendall-Jackson, Glen Ellen. the Foothills, and did we mention Lodi, booming now but then a shabby little super-hot growing area whose claim to fame was exceptionally high-alcohol jam bombs; no one knew it and most of those who did didn't respect it. Look at it now.

White Zin could even be held responsible for stimulating the interest in Primitivo and other Croatian/Slovenian jewels. Remember all the attention Carole Meredith's DNA studies was getting then?

Would Joel Peterson's incredible success, his lifelong obsession, have been as enormous as it was without the popularity of White Zin? Maybe (he is, after all, one damn good winemaker with an affinity for old vine zin). Maybe not; he had a good platform to work on.

Now I have to rummage through the pitiful remains of my once magnificent wine storage unit (a closet) to see if I can find one of those Mariah Vineayrds or Poor Ranch Vineyards Zinfandels that has survived my depredations over the years.

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