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    Windsor, CA 95492
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Life By The Glass

Carefully Curated. Completely Engaging.

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Grand Cru Barrel Program

Grand Cru Barrel Program: All About the Oak

Sonoma-Cutrer is known for its dedication to craftsmanship, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the winery’s Grand Cru Barrel Program. The meticulous process of creating a single hand-crafted barrel takes nearly three years.

Why spend so much time and effort on a humble aging container? Simple: Each oak barrel plays a significant role in the flavors that end up in your favorite glass of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay.

It all starts with the finest French oak, hand selected from individual forests in the heart of France. Professional merrandiers, along with our winemakers, choose specific trees that meet Sonoma-Cutrer’s exacting standards, including straight, tight oak grain with minimal knots, which can cause barrels to leak.

The location of the trees is equally important, as each variation infuses the finished product with distinct flavor notes. For example, the tight grain oak found in slow-growth trees common to cooler climates contributes structure to the wine that allows the fruit to express itself — perfect for the crisp, mineral Les Pierres Chardonnay. Slightly wider grain oak adds caramel and spice characteristics, which complement wines like The Cutrer.

Once selected, the oak is split by hand and seasoned outdoors for 24 to 36 months. Exposure to the elements helps reduce sap, tar and resin in the wood. More importantly, it rids the oak of harsh, bitter tannins. During the seasoning, the splits are turned every 6 months to ensure all unwanted characteristics are leeched from the wood.

Two small family-run tonnellerie’s (coopers) in the Burgundy region then craft the seasoned wood staves into barrels. A relationship that goes back decades, these Old World master craftsmen create barrels specifically suited to the styles of wine produced by Sonoma-Cutrer.

Finally, the barrels are “toasted” over a low, wood-burning fire for up to an hour, depending upon the desired result. Toasting transforms the barrels from a raw, sawdust-type of wood to oak that’s infused with vanilla, caramel, spice and other wine-enhancing compounds.

When it comes to blends like Russian River Ranches and Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, the winemakers play the role of chef. Just like their culinary counterparts, who add a variety of spices to any given dish, the winemakers mix oak from various forests and toast levels to add complexity.

At Sonoma-Cutrer, where attention to detail extends to every corner of wine production, aging Chardonnay is its own art form.

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Why Leftovers Are a Foodie’s Best Friend

Entertaining in style takes a lot of effort. Chances are, you spent some time selecting the perfect heritage meats, organic veggies and Sonoma-Cutrer wines for your impressive dinner spread. Why waste an ounce of your invested efforts?

Nose-to-tail eating, a term used to describe the practice of cooking with all parts of the animal, has been getting a lot of attention lately at trendy restaurants. This holiday season, why not bring this eco-conscious practice into your home by getting creative with your leftovers?

Often overlooked items like picked-over bones, vegetable trimmings and even those last few sips of wine can be used to turn up the flavor on future meals.

Meat bones are worth their weight in gold when used to make stock. Did you treat your guests to a prime rib roast, smoked turkey or traditional holiday ham? Don’t even think about tossing those bones. Homemade stock can add depth and incomparable flavor to everything from soups and stews to grain dishes and sauces.

Stocks are also an ideal place to use up stray carrots, extra stalks of celery, onions and fresh herbs like thyme and parsley. Once you’ve tasted the difference homemade stock makes, you’ll never go back to the store-bought variety.

Can’t stomach another second in the kitchen? Understood. Simply freeze the bones until you’re a little more inspired. The same goes for veggie trimmings, including carrot tops and onion skins, which you can throw into your meat stock — or save for a flavorful veggie version.

Skip cruciferous veggies in your stock (they’ll make it taste sour), but don’t toss any leftover Brussels sprouts, cauliflower or even broccoli stems. Instead, roast them up with any remaining herbs and serve over rice, or throw them in a tasty frittata.

As for all those quarter bottles of wine leftover from your festive dinner? Cook with it. Pour any lingering wine into ice cube trays, freeze and you’ll be prepared the next time you need to deglaze a pan or whip up a sauce.

With a little foresight, you can make the flavors from your high quality ingredients last all season long.

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Toast the Host!

The holidays are packed with festive events, from cocktail parties and celebratory dinners to New Year’s bashes. And while your calendar may be packed with a variety of occasions, there’s one cardinal rule that applies to any holiday event: Never show up empty-handed.

You can’t go wrong presenting the host with a nice bottle of wine, but deciding which one to bring can be daunting. Have a little fun this holiday season by matching the wine you give with the “personality” of the gathering you’re attending.

Use this cheat sheet to find a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer wine to complement any type of occasion. Then, apply the same personality-matching principal to all of the individuals on your gift list.

Heading to a festive dinner party? Go with a versatile white like Sonoma-Cutrer’s Russian River Ranches Chardonnay. While you shouldn’t count on the host opening your bottle on the spot, it’s a nice gesture to bring a wine that’s ideal for entertaining and pairs well with a wide range of foods.

This versatility also makes Russian River Ranches perfect in a pinch. Did a neighbor or coworker give you an unexpected gift? While you may not know their specific wine tastes, this medium-bodied white is a popular favorite among a wide range of pallets.

If a gift exchange or other intimate gathering is part of your evening plans, bring along a wine that can add depth to a warm holiday gathering, such as an elegant bottle of Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Packed with juicy dark fruit, this silky red is best savored over good conversation in front of a crackling fireplace.

When it’s time to ring in the New Year, opt for a white wine that’s worthy of toasting an entire year, such as Sonoma-Cutrer’s Founders Reserve Legacy Chardonnay. Perfectly suited for a special occasion, this limited-release wine also makes an ideal gift when only the best will do. Sure to impress anyone from your boss to your significant other, this rich, creamy and complex Chardonnay will leave a lasting impression.

With these three iconic bottles of Sonoma-Cutrer wine on hand, you’ll be prepared for the festive holiday season.

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Pan Seared Duck Breast With Blackberry Sage Sauce


This is a delicious dish and I think a perfect match with Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir. The sauce can be made ahead and reheated. Serve with an earthy combination of pan roasted mushrooms and sautéed kale.

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Pimento Cheeseburger


A classic comfort food with a delightful twist. Perfect for sharing with your beloved on date night, or serving the entire family. Pair with Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

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Red Snapper Veracruz Style


This is one of the classic and simple dishes of Mexico from the important seacoast town of Vera Cruz. You can make it with any firm-fleshed white fish such as grouper, halibut, sea bass, tilapia, etc. This is fantastic paired with The Cutrer Chardonnay.

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