Meet the Maker
Creating Canbernet: The Sutro Story
Meet Alice Sutro, a free thinker, free spirit, and freehand artist, who also produces award-winning wines.
By Sarah Hoffman
May 19, 2020
Finding Alice Warnecke Sutro
Alice Warnecke Sutro was our dream wine partner. An incredible winemaker, living in the holy quadrant of wine regions, with a cool, artsy vibe we just couldn’t shake.
Kendra and I met Alice when we were traveling around California interviewing winemakers in 2018 to learn about the industry. We honestly never considered a collab because she was...kind of a big deal. She made premium, celebrated, single-vineyard Alexander Valley red wines with killer reviews from big deal wine critics. And to my knowledge, a wine like that had never been canned.
From then on, “Artsy Alice” became our internal persona for the type of winemaker we wanted to partner with — an independent owner, passionate, with a story to tell and a point of view.
Cut to a year later on a visit to her home at Warnecke Ranch and Vineyard, the 100-year-old family-owned and operated estate along the Russian River, and we were hatching up a crazy scheme to put her award-winning cabernet sauvignon in a can.
Because that’s just what happens when you manifest your own destiny.
An artist with roots from Beaujolais to Boonville
Alice is a 5th-gen San Franciscan, but she hasn’t always been Bay Area-based. As a kid, she moved to Boonville to live on an apple orchard, and spent 8 formative years in the French Alps before finding her way home to California to pursue art history and studio art at Stanford.
While she experimented with mediums from oil painting to sculpture, she found herself drawn to, well, drawing. Today, in addition to making wines she draws “fast portraits” — 15 to 30-minute in-person sketches. “Drawing people is a whole special dynamic, being in the flesh with somebody, you can feel their energy to really connect and capture their essence.”
And it’s this same desire to connect with people that drew her back home — and back to wine.
Alice Sutro with “fast portraits” of friends and fam. Image: alicesutro.com
Bringing Winemaking to Warnecke Ranch
Living in California, Alice felt the pull to come back to Warnecke Ranch — a storied property at the intersection of four separate, award-winning AVAs (American Viticultural Areas): Alexander Valley, Chalk Hill, Russian River Valley, and Sonoma Coast. While Alexander Valley is known for being warmer, the influences of these neighboring coastal regions give them a cooler climate and longer ripening periods, creating optimal growing conditions for cabernet. While continuing her art practice, she worked for six years as an assistant vineyard manager under her aunt Margo. And in 2012, a year with excess fruit, Alice and her husband Eliot decided to take the plunge to become the first of her family to produce wines from Warnecke Ranch, bottling their first vintage in 2015.
When people drink Sutro, Alice wants them to “visualize where the grapes were grown.” Her minimal intervention approach to winemaking combined with restrained use of new oak, allows the quality of the grapes to shine through in the glass.
Alice takes each of her visitors on a nature walk of the property before tasting. Image: Kelly Anne Jones.
Cab in a Can
“I created this cab-focused blend for Maker to highlight our amazing terroir, and emphasize that the cab I make can drink now, as well as cellar"
Wait. But aren’t great cabs aged? How does that work with a can? Fair questions. This is the 2017 vintage, which means the wine has been barrel and bottle-aged for over two years before ending up in your can. The wine is not “dumbed down” for the can either. It’s the same quality as the award-winning wine you’ll see in the bottle — elegant with an explosion of concentrated fruit, dark berry aromas, and chocolate undertones. She’s a big ‘ol gal that drinks best when poured in a glass with time to breathe. As Alice says, it “pairs well with what you can’t buy in stores like roast pig and wild duck,” and is meant for gathering with friends and family over home-cooked meals.
The big, bold, and beautiful 2017 cabernet sauvignon. Photo: Hillary Jeanne Photography
Alice with her two kids on a socially distanced canning day in April, 2020.
Another first for Maker: we collaborated with the wine producer herself to create the label. We started with dozens of her drawings, exploring portraits and landscapes before finally landing on the hand.
“I’m proud of the label design we worked up. It reflects who I am as an artist and how I like to run my brand — pushing boundaries, trying new things, collaborating, and experimenting.”
Doing things her way has paid off — Alice has picked up praise from publications like Wine Enthusiast, Vinography, and the SF Chronicle. She now sits on the Alexander Valley winegrowers board and is the owner/operator of Sutro Wine Co., in addition to raising her two children with her husband Eliot.
And the Maker and Sutro canned Cabernet? It was rated 96 points by the NY Int'l Wine Competition, and is the highest rated canned red wine in the market today. Try the 2018 vintage of this big, bold Alexander Valley Cabernet by joining the Maker Can Club.
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