Sutter Home Family Vineyards is the fifth largest winery in the U.S. and the second largest family owned winery. Its history dates back to 1874, but it did not become a household name until 1972 when Bob Trinchero was experimenting with Zinfandel grapes and accidentally invented White Zinfandel, a rose type wine made from red Zinfandel grapes. They are now famous for their White Zinfandel. All of their wines are very inexpensive and seem to be designed for new wine drinkers and those who like wines that are very simple, sweeter tasting, with very minimal acid, tannin or structure.
Wine tasting at Sutter Home Family Vineyards is complementary and prices are extremely inexpensive, probably the least expensive in the entire valley. This is an unpretentious winery that sells wines for as little as $5 a bottle while being located in winery row on Highway 29 just South of St. Helena. Obviously, they cannot use Napa Valley grapes and keep the prices this low. A Napa Valley winery owner recently told me that the least expensive wine he could make using Napa Valley grapes cost him $18 a bottle and that was his cost, not what he would have to sell the wine for to make a profit and stay in business. So Sutter Home has to use grapes from other areas and produce it in large quantities. Despite having lived in Napa for over 30 years and having toured Napa Valley wineries since 1973 forty years, I had never visited Sutter Home so I thought it was about time.
Staff at Sutter Home was very friendly and down to earth. Neither of us drinks white Zinfandel but we were persuaded to try the Sutter Reserve White Zinfandel that sells for $10. It was still somewhat sweet but not nearly as sweet and certainly not as insipid as most white Zinfandels. It was better than we anticipated. This wine would pair well with fruit, especially very ripe nectarines. Next, we tried the Chardonnay which has some malolactic conversion and seemed to have a little more residual sugar than most Chards. It was only $5 a bottle. The Pinot Noir at $6 a bottle is a very light PN. According to our host, it was made for people who are new to red wine. Our favorite was the Retro Zinfandel from Amador County at $18. It was a lighter style Zin and not at all what I would expect from Amador County (usually the home of really big Zins), but pleasant. Sutter Home also offers a line of “Fre Alcohol-Removed Wines” for those who do not drink alcohol. The highest priced wine they sell is $20 and most sell for $5 and $6.
Sutter Home is a place I’d honestly take my Mom if she visited from the Mid-West. That is not intended as a criticism. We need some wineries like this for people who do not ordinarily drink wine and for those who are just being introduced to wine. Their prices are "way" affordable and tastings are complementary. I’m glad we still have a few wineries like this in Napa Valley.
277 St Helena Hwy S
St Helena, CA 94574
St Helena, CA 94574
Date of Visit: 3/14/2012