Sutton Cellars



I am not afraid to admit it – I love dessert wines. I like to tease that a little sugar and alcohol goes a long way to tempt me. That is not to say that any dessert wine will do. No, no. The pleasure of dessert wine is in the balance between fruit and perceptible sweetness. If too fruity, it is grapey and dull. If too sweet, you’ve got a wine cloying and flat. All the elements have to come together so that you find yourself reaching for just one more glass…

Carl Sutton realized his dream of starting a winery in 1996. Before that he was involved in the wine business in both production and retail (I remember him when he was still a wine buyer for Andy’s Produce in Sebastopol). Now housed in a charming facility along bucolic Adobe Road in Petaluma, Carl continues to make hand-crafted small lots of single varietal wines mostly from Sonoma County vineyards. What I am about to mention next will probably come off like a wine store newsletter cliché, but it is absolutely true: the Wine House has a huge following for Carl’s wines and therefore we try to keep something in stock at all times. The single most asked for wine from Sutton Cellars happens to be a dessert wine he makes from zinfandel, which he now calls “Vino Generoso”. The zinfandel that goes into this wine comes from 40 year old vines grown in the Russian River Valley. After stopping fermentation by adding neutral spirits, the grapes are pressed and then the wine is left to age for 16 months in neutral American oak barrels. Carl does not fill the barrels to capacity. This allows the wine to be effected slightly by oxidation, giving the wine its unique and delightful nutty, toffee notes. “Vino Generoso” is a cross between late harvest zinfandel, a Banyuls and a tawny port. The jammy berry aromas of the zinfandel are prevalent, but on the palate that berry goodness is intermingled with butter brickle and coffee flavors. What I especially delight in is the playful exchange of flavors between the sweet and a salty/savory finish, that’s where the Banyuls comparison comes in. The wine stays fresh and lively up to a month after opening.

When I throw a dinner party, I spend so much time trying to figure out what to prepare for a main course, I inevitably forget to plan for dessert. My quick fix solution is a bottle of dessert wine. With the “Vino Generoso”, I like to pair it with anything chocolatey (I have a penchant for Pepperidge Farm’s Brussels cookies) or something nutty like a walnut tart. So do yourself a favor and try a bottle (or two or six) and watch those leftover chocolate Easter eggs disappear! Anya Balistreri

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One response to “Sutton Cellars

  1. Pingback: How to Buy White Wine For Your Dinner Guests | Food and Drink Recipes

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