The family-owned Trinchero Family Estates (TFE), with 14 wine brands in California and Australia, has a simple philosophy: follow the consumer.\r\n\r\n\u201cThe consumer always comes up with the ideas. Our sales people just listen and watch,\u201d says CEO Roger Trinchero from TFE\u2019s offices in St. Helena, from which he oversees 14 wine brands in California and Australia.\r\n\r\nThe Trincheros understand the consumer. It was Roger\u2019s elder brother, Bob (now semi-retired) who, in 1972, produced the first white Zinfandel under their Sutter Home label. That first vintage produced 25,000 cases. By 1986 Sutter Home was producing 1.3 million cases of white Zinfandel annually.\r\n\r\nThe Trincheros also understood that they shouldn\u2019t put all their chickens in one basket. \u201cWe were selling a lot of white Zin and not much of anything else,\u201d Roger recalls. It was a time of rapid expansion in the wine industry, and the family saw opportunities. \u201cOur goal became to reduce our dependence on white Zin, because you never know what will happen,\u201d Roger continues. \u201cSo why not use our power in the wholesaleretail arena to promote other varieties?\u201d\r\n\r\nWhy not, indeed. So successful has the company become that last year it was the nation\u2019s sixth largest wine company, by volume, right behind Foster\u2019s and Bronco, according to the industry publication Wine Business Insider.\r\n\r\nThe slow, careful building of a brand\r\nIn retrospect, the leap from Sutter Home to international giant looks seamless, and that\u2019s because the Trincheros hardly missed a step, anticipating new niches and avoiding the faulty planning that felled other family-owned wineries. Roger, 63, recounts the careful build-up, starting with the decision not to undercut Sutter Home. \u201cThere was a huge part of the market we weren\u2019t reaching [with white Zinfandel], people who were buying at a higher price point. So we began to develop other brands to fill the voids we had.\u201d\r\n\r\nOn the domestic front, Montevina was first. The Trincheros acquired the Amador County-based produce in 1998. In 2004, Folie \u00e0 Deux was brought online, and an aggressive vineyard expansion heightened. Today, the family owns prime Napa acreage ranging from Atlas Peak and Mount Veeder to St. Helena and Rutherford.\r\n\r\nThese years saw also the evolution of the company grow from being identified primarily with Sutter Home to one that finally could bear the Trinchero name. In 1998, the family launched the first Trinchero label, dividing it into two tiers: Trinchero Napa Valley and Trinchero Family Wines, at a lower price point. \u201cBut that was confusing, and we needed to get Trinchero Family Wines changed,\u201d Roger says. Ultimately, the latter morphed into Main Street, while Trinchero Napa Valley went through some changes before it was formally relaunched this year.\r\n\r\nThe leap beyond California to Australia came unexpectedly. The family had not been interested in getting involved internationally, but when they were approached by Reynolds Vineyards to represent them in the states, it seemed like a good idea, given how hot Aussie brands were. The joint venture resulted in the Little Boomey brand.\r\n\r\nAll the brands come under the umbrella of Trinchero Family Estates. The California labels are Joel Gott Wines, SeaGlass, Trinity Oaks, Bandit, Firehose, Wingnut, Jargon, Sycamore Lane, Main Street and Fre, the non-alcoholic drink. The Australian brands are Angove\u2019s, Nine Vines, Red Belly Black and Reynolds.\r\n\r\nBrand and price variation is consistent with the Trincheros\u2019 business model. \u201cThe consumer tells us what we need to be producing, what\u2019s hot and what\u2019s not,\u201d Roger says. \u201cThen we decide is it worthwhile, is it worth the investment?\u201d \u201cWe\u201d is TFE\u2019s executive group, which, in addition to Roger, includes Bob, sister Vera, COO Bob Torkelson, Executive VP Jim Huntsinger and others.\r\n\r\nBullish about the future\r\nThe saga of Trinchero Family Estates begins in 1948, when Roger\u2019s parents, Mario and Mary Trinchero, left their comfortable Upper West Side apartment in Manhattan for Napa Valley and an abandoned old winery called Sutter Home. Mario had been making a good living as bartender at the Barbizon Plaza Hotel, \u201cbut eventually, he decided he wanted to get his family out of New York, and he felt California was a better place to raise a family. And,\u201d Roger adds, \u201che had a desire to be his own boss.\u201d\r\n\r\nWhen Mary saw the bungalow they were expected to live in, which had no heat or even an indoor toilet, she wept., \u201cWhy are you bringing us out here?\u201d she asked her husband. For most of the 1950s and 1960s Sutter Home\u2019s grapes were sold to other wineries, but in 1972, as noted, brother Bob Trinchero made that first white Zin.\r\n\r\nToday the company\u2019s growth is proceeding despite the economic slowdown. Roger concedes that \u201cTrinchero Napa Valley and our other higher-end brands are a bit flat...we\u2019re not losing ground, but we\u2019re not gaining.\u201d Menage \u00e0 Trois, which retails in the $8-$10 range, is helping the bottom line, and of course Sutter Home continues to bring in profits, with four million cases of white Zin sold annually.\r\n\r\nThe family recently invested in a new production facility in St. Helena, and in September crushed, for the first time, 25,000 tons of grapes at its new $80 million facility in Lodi. \u201cAnd that\u2019s just Phase 1,\u201d Roger beams. \u201cWe\u2019re now beginning Phase 2, which, by 2011, will process 100,000 tons. So we\u2019re bullish about the future.\u201d\r\n\r\n\u201cThe Trinchero family produces a tremendous, diverse collection of California wine and is a leader in our California Sustainable Winegrowing Program,\u201d says Bobby Koch, president and CEO of the Wine Institute. \u201cTheir charitable work for the community is widely respected.\u201d\r\n\r\nKendall- Jackson\u2019s Jess Jackson echoes those remarks. \u201cHaving been in business since the 1940\u2019s, the Trinchero family can be largely credited for bringing awareness of California wine to the average American household. They have also paved the way for small family wineries to grow and prosper, including our own.\u201d\r\n\r\nRoger Trinchero says the company is ready for the future. \u201cI\u2019ve seen lots of ups and downs in the economy, and, yes, this is the worst, but you know what? Americans are resilient. Even in a down economy, people look for the little things that make life bearable and happy. Wine is one of those things.\u201d\r\n\r\nFor offering consumers what they want, at prices they can afford; for being leaders in Napa Valley and the California wine industry; for continuing to invest in the future, Trinchero Family Estates is Wine Enthusiast\u2019s American Winery of the Year.\r\n\r\nThe winery will be honored at Wine Enthusiast's Wine Star awards dinner and ceremony on January 25. For details about The Wine Star Awards Dinner and Awards Ceremony, and to reserve your table\r\nclick here or contact Seth Dranginis, email@example.com , 212.929.7700.