Sutter Home Winery Review
Address: 277 St. Helena Hwy St. Helena,California 94574.
Phone Number: 707-963-3104
Tasting Hours: 10:00-5:00
Region: Napa Valley AVA, St. Helena AVA, California
Reviewer: Mark and Sonja
Review Date: 3/19/2016
Reviewer: Mark and Sonja
I got one for ya: The manager of a wine bar, a sommelier, two wine writers, and two college students are all sitting on a front porch one evening drinking expensive Napa Cabs, and they unanimously conclude that Sutter Home is easily one of the most important wineries in the entire wine industry. Whats the punch line? There isnt one. This isnt a joke. It happened at my house last Sunday night, and I remain convinced that our hypothesis is true.
Everybody gets their start in wine somewhere, and for so many of us, perhaps even for you, Sutter Home played a part in that. From the infamous White Zinfandel that moves some 4 million cases annually to the bottom-shelf Moscato, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot and even Cabernet Sauvignon, the combination of affordability and drinkability made wine accessible to millions of us across the country, and gave us the opportunity to wade safely into the shallow end of the very deep world of wine. Without Sutter Homes easily-imbibed variations on classic varietals, well, it is possible I would never have ventured outside the world of craft beer.
Purchased in 1948 and still owned by the Trinchero Family to this day, Sutter Home is only one of dozens of wineries and wine labels that make up their vast portfolio of labels that spans multiple continents and, in some cases, makes up an impressive percentage of what is offered in grocery and liquor store wine sections across the United States. From the high-end Trinchero Family Estates label to Napa Valley Cellars, Menage a Trois, Folie a Deux, and dozens more, theres a good chance youre drinking wine from the portfolio far more often than you realize. Sutter Home, however, remains the flagship label.
Traditionally, I stop by Sutter Home in Napa for two reasons. First, theyll sell me shippers cardboard boxes with Styrofoam inserts that protect wine and allow me to check up to twelve bottles as airline luggage at cost. My second reason is somewhat less a case of usury; they make some really solid estate stuff, and nothing they sell is over $20/bottle. In particular, I enjoy their Zinfandel Port (further evidence that theres nothing these guys cant do with Zinfandel), and their Retro Label Sauvignon Blanc. And while I personally decline tasting the White Zinfandel, a large array of wines bearing the Sutter Home label, as well as other labels, are available to taste in the Napa tasting room, a variety that is likely to have something of interest to offer to most palates.
Best of all, this isnt your typical Napa tasting room. Nice if far from fancy, the place can become quite an experience. While there, you can expect courteous staff, a vast array of gift shop items ranging from bottle toppers to books, and, as was the case with my last visit, at least a few tatted-up bikers walking around with white zinfandel in one hand and a selfie-stick in the other while Bohemian Rhapsody does nothing to discourage them in the background. You can sort of imagine that as the nations number one source of very affordable wine, they can buck the hoity-toity crowds in favor of, you know, a more eclectic crowd. Its kinda cool.
The epitome of a mass-producer and a name that is for many synonymous with wine, Sutter Home nevertheless continues bucking at least one very significant Napa trend, in that they are one of the few remaining wineries in this infamous wine region that still offers guests a free tasting. Worth visiting if only for that reason, all of the wines are affordable, and many of them quite easily imbibed. For the experienced lover of complex, sophisticated and, often very expensive Napa Valley wines, Sutter Home may not be your proverbial cup of fermented grape juice. But if you are a relative newcomer to wine, finding yourself in the Napa Valley wanting to learn more and possibly feeling a little overwhelmed, Sutter Home, both the tasting room and the products they serve, may be an ideal place to start.
By Mark Gudgel, Photographs by Sonja Gudgel