Where White Zin Was Born

Jo McGarry
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Wednesday - March 12, 2008
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Bob Trinchero, creator of Sutter Home White Zinfandel
Bob Trinchero, creator of Sutter Home White Zinfandel

I spent some time with Bob Trinchero the other night. He’s the man responsible for creating white zinfandel and starting the Sutter Home phenomenon. Back in the 1970s, he really changed the way Americans drank wine when his fortuitous “mistake” of creating a pink wine from red grapes turned into a billion-dollar industry.

“In 1972, I decided to take off the juice of the zinfandel grape early to make the wine more concentrated,” he says. “I took out about 30 gallons a ton of juice and I fermented the rest.”

The resultant ‘72 zinfandel was everything he’d wanted in the wine. “Except,” he says, “I had about 550 gallons of this white stuff left that I didn’t know what to do with.” The “white stuff” became one of the biggest-selling wines in the world, and his mom-and-pop winery became one of the largest wineries in America.

He’s very charming and funny, and as we sat and enjoyed a glass of wine at 3660 On the Rise, he told me that the one thing that drives him crazy is when people come up to him and say “don’t tell anyone, but my first glass of wine was Sutter Home White Zin.’”

“I guess today a lot of people don’t want to admit that they started drinking white zinfandel,” he says.

Sutter Home sells around 5 million cases a year of the sweet blush wine, however, so Bob doesn’t really mind whether you admit to drinking it or not ...

* I get so many e-mails from people asking about whisky that I’m embarking on a series of whisky dinners to help get the word out about some of the outstanding distilleries of Scotland and their beautiful spirits. It’s no secret that my love of whisky is firmly rooted in my love for the country where I was born and raised, and I feel that if I can somehow continue to promote the whisky industry wherever I travel, I am still connected to home.

The first dinner will be March 19 at Roy’s Restaurant, Hawaii Kai. Ronnie Nasuti has created a menu based on his version of some classic Scottish dishes. We’ll be having assorted smoked fish and seafood with the powerfully smoky and utterly gorgeous Talisker, stuffed quail with the light, somewhat fruity Glenkinchie, and veal roulade stuffed with spinach. I’m pairing that one with the intensely flavored Lagavulin, just to be shocking.

I’m excited to taste dessert - Ronnie is using my recipe for carnation, a Scottish favorite featuring fresh raspberries, toasted oatmeal, fresh cream and of course, whisky.

We’ll be playing music too; fiddle player Lisa Gomes and I (in a former life we co-founded the Celtic band Irish Hearts) will bring some of the sounds of Scotland to the back room at Roy’s and hopefully add another element to the tasting. It’ll be different from any dinner you’ve ever been to, I promise. There’s limited seating and with tickets at just $65 for the five-course dinner, it’s probably a good idea to call and make a reservation.

Should be fun, and I can’t wait to see how Roy’s does Scottish food ...

Happy eating!


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