SUISUN VALLEY — Kat Sparks on a recent day was selling not only her family’s own Sunset Cellars wine, but wine from four other local vintners as well.
She stood behind the vast, polished wood counter at the Suisun Valley Wine Cooperative at 4495 Suisun Valley Road. The cooperative sells Sunset Cellars, King Andrews, Winterhawk, Blacksmith Cellars and Mangels wines.
Go to any major Napa Valley winery and it’s unlikely the wine label owner will be manning the tasting room and ready for a chat. But that happens at the Suisun Valley Wine Cooperative.
“We like the rustic setting,” Sparks said. “We don’t want to be the next Napa.”
Douglas and Kat Sparks began their wine career as amateur winemakers in San Francisco’s Sunset District. That is how they came up with the name “Sunset Cellars.”
Not having their own vineyards, they had to buy their grapes. That led them to Suisun Valley in the late 1990s.
“When we started coming here, we were really impressed with the valley,” Kat Sparks said, adding she likes the bucolic setting.
Today, the Sparkses make their wine at the old West Wind Winery. The Suisun Valley Wine Cooperative opened at the same location in 2007.
The cooperative accomplished a goal among Suisun Valley farmers and agricultural advocates to have another tasting room to help draw visitors to the valley. It has also provided a boost for some valley grape growers who want to produce wine, but don’t want to run a tasting room of their own.
Roger King produces King Andrews wine, christening it after his own last name and the maiden last name of his wife Carol. He takes his turn manning the Suisun Valley Wine Cooperative tasting room counter. King Andrews wines include Albarino and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Suisun Valley Wine Cooperative fits in with the scale of operation he wants to have with King Andrews.
“It allows me to run a lot of other things in my life without having to spend all my time on the road trying to figure out how to sell a bottle of wine,” King said.
During the winter, the wine cooperative sees the pace of life slow down, just as in the rest of Suisun Valley. Peak tourist season ended with the crush in the fall and the closing of most produce stands.
“January is a quiet month,” Kat Sparks said.
On a recent day, a woman stopped by to talk to Kat Sparks about the wine sold there. Then an acquaintance dropped by to drink a noontime toast to Kat Sparks’ birthday.
Running a “mom-and-pop” wine operation in Suisun Valley doesn’t mean bringing in the big bucks of the Napa Valley’s biggest, most famous wineries. But there’s another aspect to the local ventures.
“A labor of love,” Kat Sparks said.
The Suisun Valley Wine Cooperative is open from noon to 5 p.m. Thursday through Sunday and other days by appointment. Please call 864-3135 for more information.
Reach Barry Eberling at 427-6929, or [email protected] Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/beberlingdr.