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Sutter Home Winery expansion could mean 400 new jobs for Lodi

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Posted: Thursday, February 7, 2013 12:00 am | Updated: 8:08 am, Thu Feb 7, 2013.

Sutter Home Winery will be expanding its west-side crushing plant over the next three years, which could result in 400 new jobs for Lodi.

The expansion will cost an estimated $200 million, say Sutter Home leaders.

Roger Trinchero, CEO of Trinchero Family Estates, the parent company of Sutter Home, made the announcement during his keynote speech at Grape Day on Tuesday, sponsored by the Lodi Chamber of Commerce.

The plant sits just north of the Turner Road exit on Interstate 5, on North Jacob Brack Road.

Jim Huntsinger, the senior vice president of production for Sutter Home, said the company has been expanding this Lodi plant since 1998.

"We're outgrowing our bottling facility in St. Helena," he said. "We do a lot of Napa Valley and coastal grapes there. But we get a majority of our fruit within 30 miles of Downtown Lodi."

Sutter Home also has a few of their own vineyards planted in the area, said Huntsinger.

"The climate is right here. The warm days and the cool nights create a lot of flavor that retreats back into the grape overnight," he said.

When the three-year project is complete, the plant's crushing capacity will increase from 100,000 tons to 200,000 tons per year. There will be more fermenting and wine storage capacity, and wine will be packaged in a high speed bottling line and shipped out in a fully automated distribution warehouse.

The project will be completed sometime in 2015. Upgrading the existing $100 million plant will cost about $200 million.

Potential new jobs will include winery work, jobs on the bottling line and in the warehouse, as well as construction jobs during building.

Most of the jobs will be full-time and year-round, but more will be available during harvest season for pressing fruit. Hourly wages range from $16 to $18 for basic work on the bottling line to $35 to $38 for mechanics and technicians. Winemakers and engineers will be paid salaries.

The company offers full medical, dental and vision benefits to full-time employees.

Sutter Home is one of 30 brands produced by Trinchero Family Estates. The private, family-owned company began when Roger Trinchero's father, Mario Trinchero, and uncle, John Trinchero, purchased Sutter Home Winery in St. Helena in 1947. Sutter Home wines run about $4 to $6 a bottle, and it is among the top-selling wine brands in the U.S.

The Lodi wine industry sees the expansion as a positive sign for local growth.

"Everyone I've talked with says this is an extremely positive move for the Lodi wine industry. It is a very strong sign there is a commitment to the Lodi region," said Camron King, executive director of the Lodi Winegrape Commission. "It's an opportunity for partnership between our growers and a winery that has long sourced their fruit here. It shows the quality of fruit here."

The company is already an important name for Lodi growers, said Amy Blagg, executive director for the Lodi District Grape Growers Association.

"They are a big business for our growers, and a big buyer for our growers. They already have a facility right there in our backyard. This just shows their commitment to Lodi grapes," she said.

Lodi Mayor Alan Nakanishi said anything that brings more jobs to town is a good thing.

"Lodi supports economic development, and job creation, so when we see jobs created, we are happy. Wineries are what makes Lodi a tourism attraction. We're at the upper trend as far as tourism and revenues increasing to Lodi," he said. "We want to see people in Lodi be prosperous."

Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at sarap@lodinews.com.

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