Category: Leadership

Trinchero Family Estates

277 St. Helena Hwy. S., St. Helena 94574, 707-603-6400, tfewines.com

Products: 20 million cases of wine a year under more than two dozen brands, including Sutter Home, Trinchero Napa Valley, Napa Cellars, Folie à Deux, Menage à Trois, Terra d'Oro, SeaGlass, Trinity Oaks, Zibibbo and Bandit, plus private labels such as Newman's Own, The Wine Cube for retailer Target

Employees: 840

Vineyards: 7,700 acres of vineyards, 240 in Napa Valley

Wineries: Sutter Home Winery and tasting room, St. Helena; Napa Cellars and Menage à Trois Winery and tasting room, Napa; Trinchero Napa Valley, St. Helena; Joel Gott Wines, Napa; Terra d’Oro, Amador

Other facilities: West Side production facility, Lodi, 55 million gallons of stainless-steel refrigerated cooperage, 100,000 tons crushed annually; Green Island Road bottling and shipping, American Canyon, 500,000 square feet, bottles 10 million cases per year; Crossroads warehouse, south Napa, 164,000 square feet; Sutter Home Main Street production and bottling facility, St. Helena, annually crushes 60,000 tons per year and bottles 10 million cases; administrative offices, St. Helena and south Napa

ST. HELENA – For more than six decades, the Trinchero family have been leading development of the wine industry, from attracting more consumers acquire and refine their tastes in wine to providing wine in something other than a glass bottle to reducing the impact of wine production on the environment.

Starting with the purchase of Sutter Home Winery in St. Helena in 1947, the company has become among the top five wine producers in the world, the second-largest family owned wine company behind Modesto-based E&J Gallo and the largest based in Napa Valley.

"As we have grown to approximately 20 million cases annually, we have had to expand our production capacity, and find new ways to make quality products efficiently," said Bob Torkelson, president and chief operating officer.

The company dealt with a rapid rise in sales and production needs more than three decades ago when white zinfandel wine hit the market. And it's happening again with consumer demand  for quality lower-priced wines in the past four years and for sweeter wines, especially moscato.

Sutter Home sales soared in the mid-1970s when "stuck" fermentation on a Sutter Home white zinfandel wine produced a slightly sweet, pink wine. Production of just that variety jumped to 25,000 cases a year in 1981 -- half of total production  -- to 1.3 million in 1986  and 2 million a year later, thanks to a much larger St. Helena winery. The current winery in the city was acquired in 1993.

"We specifically created the Trinchero portfolio around the concept of providing consumers a diverse selection of wines which are a value at every price point, and designed our facilities accordingly," Mr. Torkelson said. "Moscato was actually the first wine produced by Sutter Home Family Vineyards over 60 years ago, so we are well-equipped to produce it, even as it grows in popularity."

Sutter Home Pink Moscato in standard-sized 750-milliliter bottles is the No. 1 new item by unit volume for the past 13 and 26 weeks, according to Nielsen data. Sutter Home also released sparkling white moscato, pink moscato and plans to launch a red moscato in September.

"We knew the varietal would get the exposure it deserved, and long before it was 'hot' we have been showing our customers multiple choices of this approachable wine, including Sutter Home, Terra d’Oro, Bandit, Menage à Trois and Zibibbo," Mr. Torkelson said.

Trinchero has diversified its extensive portfolio of wines by fruit source, packaging and "personality." For wine production and grape sourcing across all price points, the company prioritizes wine "character" in deciding which grapes to use. 

The company has automated aspects of winemaking and installed advanced technology to protect quality. One bottling line at the Main Street winery has a robot that palletizes cases more efficiently than workers can and avoiding possible injuries. Twenty-three years ago Executive Vice President Jim Huntsinger and the production team created an advanced automated production planning program for raw materials and packaging materials. Such systems helped Trinchero take the Menage à Trois brand, purchased five years ago, from 45,000 cases a year to 2 million cases a year and a key contributor to volume growth recently.

[caption id="attachment_57780" align="alignleft" width="400" caption="CLOCKWISE FROM TOP: Sutter Home's history in Napa Valley dates to the late 1800s.. Sutter Home innovated with single-serving bottles and aluminum screw cap closures in the late 1980s and now with plastic bottles in that size. Roger and Bob Trinchero toast the transformation of the Folie à Deux winery for the luxury brand Trinchero Napa Valley in April 2009."][/caption]

"That combined with the professional management of our vineyards allow us to exceed customer’s expectations and deliver consistent, quality wines," Mr. Torkelson said. Still, individual clusters are still hand-sorted for the luxury-priced Trinchero Napa Valley brand.

Trinchero also has been a leader in packaging innovation. Building off its early adoption of 187-milliliter single-serving bottles and aluminum screw cap closures with Sutter Home in 1989, the company has released Sutter Home wine in like-sized PET plastic bottles and produced the Bandit brand in lighter-weight TetraPak cartons.

Trinchero Family Estates has been proactive in wastewater management, energy conservation and other efforts to produce products as efficiently as possible, according to Mr. Torkelson. In 2009, the company installed a $5.3 million photovoltaic energy system at the Lodi winery, adding to a solar electricity system at the vineyard in Clements, Calif. Together, they generate about 1.1 million kilowatt-hours a year. In 2011, Trinchero installed a 400,000 kilowatt-hour Bloom Energy fuel cell electric plant to reduce energy costs and the company's carbon footprint.

This past September, Trinchero installed a $2 million process wastewater treatment system at Sutter Home Main Street winery. It cleans 70,000-100,000 gallons of water daily, with capacity for up to 250,000 gallons a day, to levels able to be used for washing equipment.