© 1999 JDM Enterprises
NEW BRAND, OLD HANDSby Jerry D. Mead
The first time I visited Sutter Home Winery in Napa Valley, the tasting room was in a barn-like structure across the street from Louis Martini and didn't appear to have changed much from when it was built in 1906. The wines had little if any national distribution.
We're talking more than 30 years ago, and at the time the winery specialized in semi-generic jug wines, flavored aperitifs and a sweet wine made from Muscat. Purchased by the Mario Trinchero Family in 1947, it was young Bob Trinchero who I recall most often waiting on me.
No one had even the slightest hint that this roadside tasting room would evolve into the home of one of America's most popular and largest selling wine brands with international distribution. And while most folks are aware that Sutter Home is the winery that put White Zinfandel on the map, and that conversely White Zinfandel made Sutter Home the major player it is today, it is not Sutter Home's only major first in the modern California wine industry.
In the early 70s a Sacramento wine merchant named Darrell Corti asked the Trincheros to make a Zinfandel especially for his store, and specifically from a century old vineyard in Amador County in the Sierra Foothills.
The wine was a huge success for Corti's store and, recognizing a good thing, the Trincheros begin purchasing the balance of the grapes from the vineyard, making their own "Deaver Vineyard-Amador" Zinfandel. The wine became the darling of wine collectors and led directly to the revitalization of the entire Sierra Foothills grape and wine industry which had never recovered from Prohibition in the 20s and 30s.
Many years later the Trincheros purchased Montevina Vineyards and Winery in Amador and expanded the property considerably.
And all of this became possible because an Italian papa bought an abandoned winery to be a small family business.
To honor the memory of the founder the overall company name has been changed from Sutter Home (though the popular Sutter Home wines will continue to be produced) to Trinchero Family Estates, and a new line of upscale wines targeted at the wine cognoscenti under the M. Trinchero label has been introduced. Star winemaker Derek Holstein, formerly with Guenoc Winery, has been retained to oversee the project.
Sutter Home, Montevina and M. Trinchero wines have broad national distribution, but for further information: Trinchero Family Estates, P.O. Box 248, St. Helena, CA 94574; (707) 963-3104; www.trincherofamilyestates.com
M. Trinchero 1998 "Coastal" Chardonnay ($12) Extremely attractive bouquet...very toasty, very complex, and all of that carries through the entire taste experience. Delicious tropical fruit flavors; just a hint of heat in the finish disappears in the company of food. Rating: 86/86
M. Trinchero 1997 "Coastal" Merlot ($12) The major proportion of the fruit comes from the always excellent Smith & Hook Vineyard in the Santa Lucia Highlands. Very intense black cherry with some hints of smoky, char-like complexity. Superior value. Rating: 88/94
M. Trinchero 1996 "Napa-Founder's Estate" Cabernet Sauvignon ($30) Really intense, really, really big, almost over-the-top style that appeals to so many. Think of all the black fruits, blackberry, black cherry, dark plum and a little cassis, and then throw in some earthy, dusty, Rutherford-region type complexity and a solid dose of oak complexity and you have this Cabernet. Very long aftertaste. You can safely cellar this one for ten years. Rating: 94/84
M. Trinchero 1996 "Coastal" Cabernet Sauvignon ($13) Primarily from Napa
fruit but with 18 percent of Santa Barbara County in the blend. Blackberry
and cassis nose with mostly blackberry fruit to taste. Full mouth with plenty
of backbone, but also very supple for immediate drinking. Long finish. Case
purchases recommended. Rating: 90/94
Wines are scored using a unique 100 point system. First number rates
quality; second number rates value. |
© 1999 JDM Enterprises.
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