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Life By The Glass

Carefully Curated. Completely Engaging.

Holiday Wine Pairing Guide

Holidays & Hosting

Sonoma Holiday Wine Pairings

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Gift Giving Guide

Holidays & Hosting

Wine is a truly thoughtful gift. Everyone is happy to receive a bottle!Especially when there is a special meaning to the wine given. You may wish to give a bottle from a winery you visited, a local favorite, or a highly acclaimed selection. As wine is a very personal gift, the recipient must be considered when you are choosing the wine. Sonoma-Cutrer’s Wine Gift Guide will help with your selection based on the recipient’s wine experience.

NOVICE
Just beginning to discover the world of wine and their palate. Introduce the Novice to Russian River Ranches Chardonnay, which is a signature example of how diverse soils and perfect growing conditions can create an exceptional Chardonnay. True to the Russian River Ranches style, the wine is focused with a bright acidity and balanced by a long palate structure. The novice will find this wine to be refreshing with crisp flavors of lemon, green apple, barrel spice and lime that dissolve to a light, creamy mid-palate before ending a long finish.

FOODIE

Enjoys evolving their palate with new flavors and pairings. Treat the Foodie in your life to Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – food’s favorite wine. This is a classic Russian River Pinot Noir that expresses aromas and flavors of dark fruit. The first impression starts in the nose with intense blackberry fruit aromas, cola and cassis jam followed by a touch of vanilla and tobacco accented with hints of baking spice and red licorice. The foodie will rejoice in this wine that is richly textured and balanced with a beautiful brightness pairing beautifully with their favorite dishes

WINE GEEK

Passionate student of all things wine, loves to share. Delight your Wine Geek with the gift of Les Pierres Chardonnay – a true reflection of its terroir. The Les Pierres Vineyard sits atop the gravelly clay loam of an ancient riverbed, thick with cobbled stones that infuse the grapes – and the wine – with a varied mineral essence. Sunny citrus flavors of grapefruit and lime are complemented with roasted nuts, spice, and mineral notes. The wine has a tightly focused mouthfeel with Sonoma-Cutrer’s signature bright citrus-laced acidity delivering a long, juicy lingering barrel spice finish.

CONNOISSEUR

Your go-to, knows everything master of wine. The Connoisseur may be difficult to impress, but the gift of the sophisticated Founders Reserve Pinot Noir will do just that! This exquisite wine is crafted each year from the six best barrels of Pinot Noir, which are chosen by our winemakers. The connoisseur will notice earthy accents and fragrant tobacco contrast the enticing aromas of blackberries, black cherry and dark chocolate. This full-bodied and richly textured wine is powerful yet approachable with flavors on the palate of allspice and bramble fruit, which you can taste throughout the lengthy finish of the wine.

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Sonoma-Cutrer Presents: Chef John Ash

Holidays & Hosting

In this first presentation of this exclusive SonomaCutrer.com Live-stream series, the James Beard award-winning, Chef John Ash, shared his insights on the basics of wine: Serving, Selecting, and Tasting.

On Wednesday, July 1st, Club Cutrer members gathered together in the newly renovated tasting room of Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards. With a perfectly chilled glass of wine in hand, everyone’s attention turned to SCV Head Chardonnay Winemaker, Cara Morrison, as she introduced long-time friend of the winery Chef Ash. In addition to the in-house audience of Cutrerians, remote viewers also joined the live discussion and submitted questions online that were answered on the spot by Chef Ash.

Watch the full video of this informative and entertaining presentation on the basics of wine serving, storing and tasting that highlights both practical and fascinating aspects of wine culture.

During the hour, Chef Ash covered a wide range of wine topics and questions including:

  • Why are wine bottles so many different shapes? (Chef says: Part tradition, part science)
  • What temperatures should I serve red and white wines at? (Chef says: most people serve reds too warm and whites too cold)
  • What do I really need to do to get a newly opened bottle to breathe? (Chef says: Get aggressive with it)
  • What is “corked” wine and how does it get that way?
  • What should I look for in a wine glass?
  • Why do some wines use a screw cap and others don’t?
  • What are sulfites? Why should I care if they’re on the label?
  • Should I send a wine bottle back if it’s bad? What if I just don’t like it?
  • What’s the difference between sustainable, organic, and bio-dynamic wine?
  • Should I store wines standing up or lying flat?
  • Should I store wine in the dark?
  • If the screw cap is so effective, why isn’t everyone using it?

Watch the full video and get satisfying answers to these and more questions, along with Chef Ash’s take on why legendary chef Julia Child always drank wine while she cooked.

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The “Big Deal” Dinner

Holidays & Hosting

This menu is built to impress. It is an interesting combination of flavors to serve when the boss comes over or to celebrate any special occasion.

Scallops With Celery Root Salad

This dish makes a beautiful starter course. It’s key to use absolutely fresh “day boat” or dry pack scallops. The salad is one of my favorites and delicious on its own. Celery root can vary widely. Pick ones that are heavy for their size, which means there won’t be a hole in the center. Taste the celery root after cutting and if it seems tough or too strongly flavored then blanch it for a few seconds in salted boiling water followed by a dunk in ice water to retain its crunch. Sonoma-Cutrer Sonoma Coast Chardonnay would be perfect here.

Radicchio Soup With Smoked Goat Cheese

This is a very simple soup but brings together interesting contrasting flavors – – bitter from the radicchio and smoke from the cheese that I think are delicious and intriguing. I like to use smoked goat cheddar. This dish requires a chardonnay with great fruit, like the Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches.

Filet Mignon Wrapped In Newspaper With Sauce Bernaise

This is an old catering technique where beef can be cooked ahead and held perfectly. Delicious with Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir.

Flourless Walnut Cake With Lemon Custard Sauce And Fresh Berries

This is a very simple recipe that depends entirely on the quality of the walnuts. If you suspect your walnuts have been in storage for a while, place them on a baking sheet in a preheated 375° oven and lightly bake for 3 to 4 minutes to “refresh” their flavor. You can also substitute any other nut you like for the walnuts. Enjoy Sonoma-Cutrer Late Harvest Chardonnay with this cake.

www.chefjohnash.com

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Sweetheart Dinner Menu

Holidays & Hosting

Surprise your beloved with these recipes that are sure to spark romance any day of the week!

Celery Root and Apple Salad with Smoked Salmon

Serves 8

This recipe makes a beautiful starter course. Celery root is one of those underappreciated ingredients that deserves more love. Pick celery roots that are heavy for their size, which means there won’t be a hole in the center. Taste the celery root after cutting, and if it seems tough or too strongly flavored, then blanch it for a few seconds in salted boiling water followed by a dunk in ice water to retain its crunch. This is delicious with any Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay and something special to share.

1 medium celery root (1 to 1-1/2 pounds or so) 1 cup mayonnaise 1/4 cup buttermilk 2 tablespoons each whole grain and smooth Dijon mustard, or to taste 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice, or to taste 2 teaspoons sherry or brown rice vinegar Salt and freshly ground pepper 1 large Fuji or other tart-sweet apple peeled and cut into julienne 1 pound very thinly sliced cold smoked salmon 3 – 4 ounces fresh salmon caviar (or sturgeon caviar) Chervil or dill sprigs

Peel, thinly slice and chop the celery root into a thin julienne. In a separate bowl, mix together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, mustards, lemon juice, vinegar and salt and pepper to taste until smooth. Stir in celery root and apple to evenly coat. Season to taste with salt and pepper. This is best done at least an hour ahead and chilled for the flavors to develop.

Mound the celery root mixture on plates and artfully arrange the salmon on top. Top with caviar and chervil sprigs and serve immediately.

Scrumptious Macaroni and Cheese:

 Serves 8 to 10

Properly made, macaroni and cheese can be transcendent. It should be delectable with a velvety sauce, and the pasta should be firm. There should be just enough toasted bread crumbs on top to add some crispiness.

Start with a béchamel sauce made by making a roux. Add milk, a little nutmeg, cayenne, dry mustard and a bay leaf. Cook this for 30 minutes to deepen the flavor. Then, add both a tangy cheddar and a nutty Gruyere. Pour it over cooked macaroni or shells that cup the cheese sauce.

Top with a judicious amount of panko bread crumbs mixed with some more cheese and then drizzle a little cream around the sides before the pan goes into the oven to ensure nicely crisp edges. What could be better than sharing decadent macaroni and cheese and a glass of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay with your sweetheart?

1/2 cup panko bread crumbs 1/2 cup (1 stick) plus 2 teaspoons melted butter and more for buttering dish 1/2 cup flour 5 cups milk 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard 1/4 teaspoon white pepper 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper 1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg 2 teaspoons salt or to taste 1 bay leaf 1/4 cup dry sherry 4 cups shredded mild cheddar cheese, divided 3 cups shredded Swiss Gruyère cheese 1 pound large shells or elbow macaroni such as conchiglie, cooked al dente in salted water 1/2 cup heavy cream

Heat the oven to 350°. Toss the panko bread crumbs with the 2 teaspoons melted butter on a baking sheet. Toast the bread crumbs until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a large saucepan, heat the remaining 1/2 cup butter over medium heat then whisk in the flour. Stir until the mixture is smooth and bubbling, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and whisk in the milk. Add the dry mustard, white and cayenne pepper, nutmeg, salt, bay leaf and sherry. Heat and stir to boiling, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust seasoning to your preference. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

Stir in 3 cups of the cheddar and all the Gruyère until melted. Pour the sauce over the cooked macaroni in a large bowl, stirring until all of the macaroni is coated. Pour the macaroni into a well-buttered 9-by-13-inch casserole. Drizzle heavy cream around the edges of the casserole. Sprinkle on it the remaining 1 cup cheddar cheese, then the toasted bread crumbs.

Cover the casserole with aluminum foil. Bake 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake uncovered an additional 10 minutes. Put under a preheated broiler for 5 minutes to crisp and brown.

Bucatini with Pancetta and Pecorino

Serves 4

This dish exemplifies how just a few fine ingredients can create a superb dish. The key in this recipe is to use a quality pancetta or bacon. Bucatini is spaghetti-shaped, but a little thicker and hollow in the center. You could certainly use regular spaghetti of good quality, too. All kinds of variations are possible within this recipe; including the addition of finely chopped ripe tomatoes, thinly sliced and sautéed onions, tender spinach leaves. Pair with a glass of Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir!

1 pound dried bucatini or thick spaghetti 6 ounces good quality thick sliced pancetta or bacon cut into matchsticks 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese (4 ounces) Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Bring 3 quarts of lightly salted water to a boil in a large pot. Add the bucatini and cook till just tender but firm to the bite (al dente).

While the pasta is cooking add the olive oil to a large sauté pan large enough to hold the pasta later on. Over moderately high heat, sauté the pancetta till browned and nearly crisp. Drain off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat.

Quickly drain the pasta, reserving 1/2 cup of the cooking water, and add to the sauté pan. Using tongs, toss with the bacon. Add the parsley, zest and cheese and toss again adding the reserved pasta water. Cover and let rest for one minute on very low heat to allow pasta to absorb the flavors. Serve immediately in warm bowls with grindings of black pepper to taste.

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Spice Up Your Thanksgiving Menu

Holidays & Hosting

Does the thought of turkey, cranberry sauce and stuffing—again—leave you feeling a bit uninspired? This year, jazz things up with some slightly different dishes that will impress your guests and reinvigorate your holiday table.

Of course what you pour is just as important as your menu, and Sonoma-Cutrer has the perfect wines for your feast. With the help of a few inspired recipe ideas and wine pairings that will elevate your offerings, it’s simple to create a truly memorable meal.

Set the tone with a made-for-fall soup that lets guests know this isn’t your standard Thanksgiving spread. Pumpkin Soup with seasonal wild mushrooms becomes a showstopper when served in individual pumpkin bowls. A warming Winter Squash Soup is a tasty alternative, both of which pair nicely with a glass of crisp, versatile Russian River Ranches Chardonnay.

Bold enough to bypass the turkey this year? If so, give your guests something to gawk at with individual Smoked Game Hens. Brined in cider for moist, flavorful results, these birds also pick up a rich smoky flavor when cooked over wood chips on the grill.

If you’d rather stick to the traditional Thanksgiving centerpiece, not to worry—the same brining technique will work quite well on turkey. Either makes a fantastic partner for Sonoma-Cutrer’s Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. Lush and silky, the fruit-forward pinot is light enough to let the poultry shine through.

For an intimate Thanksgiving meal, or impressive sidekick for your turkey, try serving a Slow-Roasted Duck. Surprisingly simple to prepare, the rich duck is an ideal pair for a glass of complex yet elegant Founders Reserve Pinot Noir.

Top off your meal with a dessert that will challenge pie for a permanent place on your holiday table. Pumpkin Cheesecake with a graham-cracker crust is a fitting finish, while a simple Apple Batter Cake is a slightly lighter option that celebrates the season equally well.

Uncork a bottle of succulent Late Harvest Chardonnay to serve alongside your dessert and raise a glass to family, friends and an exceptional meal.

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Summer Wine Pairing Party

Holidays & Hosting

Enjoy the warmer weather by hosting a wine and appetizer party!

Read how blogger The Taylor-House used summer seafood and Sonoma-Cutrer Sauvignon Blanc at her wine party.

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Wine for Every Cheese

Holidays & Hosting

At cheese tastings in Paris, you’ll often find artisanal butters amidst the spread because butter’s creaminess can enhance the plushness and/or sharpness of certain cheeses. The same goes with wines like Chardonnay, whose aromas and flavors can range from merely hinting at cream and butter to downright dripping with it. Whether you’re choosing an unoaked, moderately-oaked or full-on-oak Chard, there’s a wine style for every style of cheese.

Unoaked-Oaked Chardonnay

If you haven’t been paying attention to Chardonnay for a while because it’s “too oaky,” you’ll be happy to learn that producers have heard you and are now creating many Chards with only minimal-oak (barrel) contact, or none at all, using terms like “unoaked” or “virgin” on the label. Chablis, from France’s Burgundy region, is the standard bearer of unoaked Chards. Sonoma-Cutrer’s Russian River Ranches Chardonnay is an example of restrained oak, allowing assertive acidity to balance minimal creaminess. Best cheeses to pair with these fruity, crisp, minerally Chards tend to be young, semi-soft cheeses, like Gouda, Asiago, Fontina, Jack and, why not, Ossau-Iraty (a nutty goat cheese from Spain).

Moderately-Oaked Chardonnay

Moderately-oaked Chards dance the fine line between elegance and richness; their creamy roundness is balanced with bright, mouthwatering acidity, and highlighted with aromas and flavors of apple, pear and lemon zest. Sonoma-Cutrer’s Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is a fine example of this style, fusing aromas of Golden Delicious apple, Bosc pear and white peach with toasted nuts, oak spice, and a hint of butter. A cheese-pairing strategy with these medium-bodied wines is to offer contrast, by way of decadent, creamy triple-crèmes, like Camembert, Brie and Explorateur. A hint of pungency is an attractive nuance to pair with these wines, too.

Full-On-Oak Chardonnay

When it comes to choosing Chardonnays that are fermented and aged in oak barrels that offer balance and elegance, you get what you pay for. While everyone loves an everyday $10 Chard, they can’t hold a candle to a great Grand Cru white Burgundy, or a Burgundian-style Chardonnay from the New World. Sonoma-Cutrer’s Les Pierres Chardonnay possesses the best of both worlds, with classic stony minerality, caramelized oak, and toasted spice aromas and flavors that integrate beautifully with refreshing, citrus flavors. Cheeses that pair well with these powerful, elegant wines tend to be the most powerful, pungent cheeses, specifically the “blues,” like Roquefort, Gorgonzola and Stilton, whose profound creaminess, unctuousness and distinct, pronounced flavors pay the perfect complement to these Chards.

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Last-Minute Gift Inspiration

Holidays & Hosting

Are you scrambling to find a few last-minute gifts? Whether you’re shopping for a seasoned oenophile or someone who’s just discovering wine, we’ve got some ideas to help you cross off those last few names on your list.

A gift of wine is always appreciated, even more so when it’s accompanied by thoughtful wine accessories. Glassware is a nice addition, especially for a friend who may be new to wine. Bonus points for matching the type of glass with the wine you’re gifting.

If you’re giving a bottle of Chardonnay, include glasses with a wide, shallow bowl, which will allow the wine’s complex aromas to open up. For a nice bottle of Pinot Noir, look for a wide bowl and tapered top, which regulates the wine’s acidity, alcohol and sweetness.

Whether you opt for stemless glasses or fine crystal goblets, enjoying wine in the appropriate glassware will enhance the experience.

Is there someone on your list who does a lot of entertaining? Give a serving gift that will be thoroughly enjoyed this holiday season. A wine decanter is a nice companion to a gift of red wine. Available in everything from crystal to hand-blown glass, elegant decanters do double duty, offering a lovely presentation while aerating the wine.

For those who prefer white, make a statement by presenting a bottle in a classy wine chiller. From iceless varieties to marble coolers and statement-making wine buckets, you can find a style to suit any preference and price range.

Looking for something a little more whimsical? Help your favorite wine enthusiast turn their favorite empty bottles into flickering tabletop centerpieces. Options include everything from simple ceramic wicks that you place in the top of empty wine bottles to complete oil lamp kits with elegant glass hoods to surround the flame.

Select a bottle of wine from your favorite vintner then personalize your gift with the perfect accessories for anyone on your list. Now all that’s left to do is sit back, uncork a bottle for yourself and toast your gifting triumphs.

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French Inspired: Holiday Menu

Holidays & Hosting

Sonoma Cutrer has had a long association and friendship with winemakers and coopers from the Burgundy region of France. Burgundy is the home of both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. This year’s menu honors that friendship with 3 recipes that reflect the flavors of that amazing part of the world.

Celery Root Salad

This is a recipe based on the classic French celeriac remoulade which is available almost universally in charcuteries and delis in that country. It’s delicious and can easily be made a main course with the addition of some smoked salmon, cooked shrimp or paper thin sliced parma ham. Salad can be made ahead and stored refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Yields approximately six cups; Serving 6-8

  • 1 medium celery root (2 pounds), peeled and sliced
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 3 tablespoons whole grain mustard
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons smooth Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoons sherry or brown rice vinegar
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Garnish: Savory young greens such as arugula, cress and/or mustard, sieved hard boiled egg and chopped chives.

Finely julienne the celery root by hand or with a mandoline or similar cutter and set aside in a bowl. In a separate bowl mix together the mayonnaise, buttermilk, mustards, lemon juice and vinegar until smooth. Stir in celery root to evenly coat and season to taste with salt and pepper.

To serve: Place greens attractively on chilled plates. Mound salad on top and sprinkle sieved hard boiled egg and chives over top.

Duck Braised with Prunes

This simple French inspired rustic braise is served with sautéed apples. Pick an apple that doesn’t turn mushy, but holds its shape when cooked; Cortland, Jonagold, Northern Spy, Winesap, and Golden Delicious all fit the bill nicely.

Serves 4

  • 4 large duck leg/thighs, about 12 ounces each
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups sliced onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped garlic
  • 1/2 cup each chopped carrot and celery
  • 1 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
  • 2 large bay leaves
  • 4 crushed juniper berries
  • 2 cups hearty red wine
  • 4 cups rich duck or chicken stock
  • 1 cup pitted prunes, sliced in half
  • 2 peeled and sliced green apples
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Trim excess fat from duck legs. In a saucepan heat 2 tablespoons of oil and add onions, garlic, carrot and celery and sauté until lightly browned. Add the peppercorns, bay, juniper berries and wine and simmer for 10 minutes partially covered. Cool completely and then add duck legs and marinate in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours and up to 12.

Remove legs from the marinade and pat dry, reserving the marinade. Sauté duck legs in remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until golden brown on all sides. Place duck in a skillet big enough to snugly fit the legs in one layer. Heat reserved marinade and stock with vegetables and the prunes to a simmer. Pour over duck and simmer gently covered for 1-1/2 hours or until the duck is tender. Remove duck and keep warm.

Strain the cooking liquid, pressing down on the solids. Remove as much fat as you can. Place in a saucepan and reduce over high heat to a nice sauce consistency. Season to your taste with salt and pepper.

Sauté the apple slices in butter quickly until lightly browned. Place apples on warm plates, top with the duck and ladle the prune sauce over.

Classic Crème Brûlée

Crème brûlée can be flavored endlessly, but this simple classic version is the best I think.

Serves 6

  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1 3-inch vanilla bean split lengthwise or 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 6 large egg yolks
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Grand Marnier or other brandy, optional
  • 6 tablespoons sugar for the topping

Pour the cream into a medium saucepan, scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the cream, and add the vanilla pod. Bring just to the simmer over moderate heat. Remove from the heat and let cool to room temperature. Remove the vanilla pod and scrape any remaining seeds into the cream. If using extract instead, add it now.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk the egg yolks until pale in color. Whisk in the 1/2 cup granulated sugar until dissolved. Gradually whisk in the cream. Stir in the Grand Marnier if using.

Place six 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins in a baking pan. Divide the custard mixture among the dishes. Pour hot water into the pan to come halfway up the sides of the dishes.

Bake in the oven for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the center of each custard still jiggles slightly. Remove from the oven and lift the dishes from the hot water. Let cool, then cover each and refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 2 days.

When ready to serve, place the dishes on a baking sheet. Evenly sprinkle 1 tablespoon brown or granulated sugar over each ramekin. Using a hand-held blowtorch, caramelize the sugar by holding the torch about 4 inches from the surface of each custard and moving the torch to brown and caramelize the sugar evenly. Alternately preheat the broiler and place the pan about 4 inches from the heat source; watching carefully, broil until the sugar turns golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes.

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Sweet Pairings

Holidays & Hosting

Halloween is the unofficial kickoff to a season packed with endless sweets. Caramel apples and pumpkin cheesecakes give way to pecan pies and spice cakes, only to be topped by holiday cookies and all manner of chocolate confections.

Choosing a wine to go with dessert can be tricky. Overly sweet flavors can easily overshadow the wine, while a bold wine may overwhelm a more mellow dessert. We’ve got some perfectly balanced suggestions to get you through the dessert season, plus a few tempting recipes that just might find their way onto your fall table.

Wary of finishing off a festive dinner with yet another pie? Try this lovely pumpkin cake instead. Play up the seasonal flavors by icing it with orange frosting, and serve with a glass of Sonoma Coast Chardonnay. The wine’s toasted nut and spice accents play up the recipe’s cinnamon and nuts, while the hints of vanilla and butter are natural companions for any cake.

And while you’re branching out from pastry, why not swap out the ubiquitous apple pie for an apple batter cake? Packed with tart green apples, this simple cake embraces fall with freshly grated nutmeg and rum-soaked golden raisins.

Serve a slice with a glass of Late Harvest Chardonnay, Sonoma-Cutrer’s first offering in the limited-run Winemaker’s Reserve series. This sweet, balanced wine features fruit accents, floral notes and a bit of brown sugar. It also makes a fine pair for fruit tarts and crème brûlée.

Looking for a sweet finger food to pass around your party? Wow your guests with dried cherries in a pinot noir reduction spread on a heavenly bed of triple cream cheese and topped with a delicate sliver of crystallized ginger. Prepare the recipe with Sonoma-Cutrer’s Vine Hill Pinot Noir, then fill up your guests’ glasses with the same. With accents of black cherry and blackberry, this elegant, rich pinot is the perfect pairing.

When in doubt, reach for a bottle of The Cutrer. The list of flavor notes found in this rich and creamy Chardonnay reads like a dessert menu, with hints of baked apple, crème brûlée, butterscotch, caramel and even warm pie crust.

And remember, while it’s generally best to choose a wine that’s a bit sweeter than the dessert, you’ll ultimately want to find a balance between sweet and savory.

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A Feast for Mom

Holidays & Hosting

Mother’s Day is a time to celebrate the wonderful mothers who devote their time and affections to their families. To honor her, treat her to a delicious, home-made meal complemented with her favorite Sonoma-Cutrer Wine. Mom is sure to be thrilled!

Braised Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Green Olives

Serves 4 – 6
An easy chicken dish with delicious flavors of the Mediterranean.

8 bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
12 garlic cloves, peeled
2 medium yellow onions, thinly sliced (about 4 cups)
1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds discarded
1 teaspoon whole fennel seeds
2 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves, plus more for garnish (2 teaspoons dried)
Pimentón (Spanish smoked paprika) either agridulce (semi hot) or Picante (hot)
1 small to medium fresh fennel bulb, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 cup green olives*
Juice of 1 large lemon
2/3 cup drained and crumbled fresh feta cheese, optional

Preheat the oven to 375°. Season the chicken well on both sides with salt and pepper. In a large ovenproof pan or Dutch oven large enough to hold all the thighs in a single layer, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the chicken, skin-side down, and sear until golden brown, 5 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic cloves to the pan and flip the thighs over. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and has gotten lightly browned, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove the chicken and garlic from the pan and set aside.

With the pan is still hot, add the onions, lemon slices, fennel seed and oregano and season with smoked paprika, salt and pepper. Cook, stirring until the onions have softened and the brown bits on the bottom of the pan have loosened, 6 to 8 minutes. Off heat, stir in the fresh fennel and then nestle the thighs skin-side up in the onion mixture and add the garlic and the olives. Pour the lemon juice over the chicken and transfer the pan to the oven. Bake uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes or until chicken is cooked through. Scatter fresh oregano leaves and feta, if using, over the top and serve.

*Seek out the best green olives you can find such as Volos or Amphissa from Greece, Lucques or Picholine from France, Castelvetrano or Cerignola from Italy. Remember good olives are never canned or jarred.

Grapefruit and Savory Greens Salad with Goat Cheese

Serves 6
A simple salad embraces all of the basic senses of taste: sweet, sour, bitter salty and umami.

3 cups gently packed frisée leaves, creamy centers only (1 large head)
1 bunch Upland cress*
1 medium Belgian endive, cut lengthwise in thick julienne
Honey lemon vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1 large Texas red grapefruit, peeled and sectioned
1 5-ounce round soft ripening goat cheese, cut into 6 wedges
1/3 cup toasted, slivered almonds
1 large bunch fresh chervil, thick stems removed

Combine the frisée, cress and endive in a large bowl and toss gently with a bit of the vinaigrette to lightly coat. Arrange artfully on 6 plates along with the grapefruit sections. Place a wedge of cheese on top, scatter almonds around along with the chervil. Serve immediately.

Honey Lemon Vinaigrette
Makes 1 generous cup

2 tablespoons finely chopped shallot
6 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
2 tablespoons fragrant honey
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
4 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Whisk all ingredients together and season to your taste with salt and pepper. Store covered and refrigerated up to 3 days.
*Upland cress is sold with its roots and soil attached in many markets.

Flourless Chocolate Soufflé

Serves 6 – 8

6 tablespoons light cream (half and half)
10 tablespoons sugar, plus additional for dusting soufflé dish
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
4 egg yolks
6 egg whites
Powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375°. Place milk and sugar in a small saucepan and stir over medium-low heat until sugar dissolves, 1 – 2 minutes. Stir in chocolate and cook until melted, another 2 minutes or so. Transfer to a nonreactive bowl (glass or stainless steel), cool for 5 minutes, then beat in egg yolks.

Beat egg whites in a nonreactive bowl until stiff peaks form.

Butter a 10 inch soufflé dish then lightly dust with sugar. Gently mix one quarter of the egg whites into chocolate mixture to lighten it. Gently but thoroughly fold in remaining whites. Do not over mix. Spoon batter into dish.

Make sure oven rack is low enough to allow soufflé room to rise as much as 2” above the dish. Bake until puffed, about 30 minutes. Dust with confectioners’ sugar and serve immediately.

John Ash © 2015
www.chefjohnash.com

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Father’s Day Picnic

Holidays & Hosting

Looking for a fun way to celebrate Dad this year? Skip the ho-hum necktie and opt for a classy picnic instead. Turn a simple meal on a blanket into a celebratory outing with a few father-approved recipes, the perfect Sonoma-Cutrer wine pairings—plus some fun picnic-themed gift ideas to cover all your bases.

There’s a time and a place for a basket full of cold cuts and pre-made potato salad, but Father’s Day is not one of them. Think outside the box—er, basket—and plan Dad’s spread around a showstopper like Grilled Korean-Style Short Ribs.

Easy to make ahead, these flavor-packed ribs blend an exotic mix of flavors ranging from fresh ginger to chili flakes. Pair with a smooth, juicy red like Sonoma-Cutrer’s Russian River Valley Pinot Noir to complement the bold flavors of the beef.

Is Dad more of a hands-on grill man? Scope out a well-equipped picnic site and let him get in on the fun when you toss a few tasty Halibut Hobo Packs over the coals. Prosciutto, citrus and capers infuse the fish with flavors that pair perfectly with Sonoma-Cutrer’s distinctive Les Pierres Chardonnay.

If you want to stick to classic picnic fare, plan your meal around a beautiful Sonoma-Cutrer Roasted Chicken, a crowd pleaser packed with fresh herbs and plenty of garlic. Elevate this lovely dish by serving it with a special-occasion worthy bottle of Founder’s Reserve Legacy Chardonnay.

Still stumped about a gift? Play off the picnic theme with an insulated wine tote, vintage corkscrew or picnic-ready stemless wine glasses. Consider throwing in a nice selection of artisanal salts and gourmet spreads for foodie fathers, or surprise active dads with a new bocce ball or croquet set to enjoy between helpings.

For a gift that keeps on giving, why not sign Dad up for Club Cutrer? He’ll get first dibs on limited release wines, enjoy discounts and receive three exclusive shipments of Sonoma-Cutrer wine throughout the year.

No matter what you pack in your Father’s Day picnic basket, turn it into a truly memorable celebration with your favorite bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer wine.

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Holiday Entertaining: Choosing A Great Wine

Holidays & Hosting

It’s always a good idea to keep a bottle of wine on hand for the holidays!

Read why blogger HappyHourProjects always chooses Sonoma-Cutrer for her holiday wine selection here.

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A National Pinot Noir Day Feast

Holidays & Hosting

Here is a special menu especially created by Chef John Ash for National Pinot Noir Day. The flavors in each recipe pair beautifully with Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir Wines.

Carrot and Lentil Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cups chopped onion

1 tablespoon peeled and chopped ginger

2 teaspoons chopped garlic

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and freshly ground pepper

2 cups peeled and chopped carrots

3 tablespoons red lentils, washed

3 cups or so chicken or vegetable stock

Greek yogurt (optional)

Handful of fresh cilantro, chopped

Heat oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and until golden, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and garlic and stir for a couple of minutes. Add the coriander, cumin, salt and pepper. Add the carrots, cook for another minute or two. Add stock and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until carrots are tender, about 20 minutes.

Off the heat, use an immersion blender to puree it or alternately use a regular blender and carefully puree it being mindful of the hot liquid. Add more stock if the soup is too thick. Reheat over low heat and adjust the seasonings to your taste. Serve with a swirl of yogurt and a sprinkling of cilantro.

Arugula, Asian Pear, and Prosciutto Salad

Serves 4

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon finely chopped shallots

Drops of honey to taste

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

4cups gently packed baby arugula

1 medium ripe Asian pear, cored, peeled and thinly sliced 

2 ounces shaved Parmigiano Reggiano

4 slices thin (2 ounces) prosciutto “bacon” (method follows)

*If Asian Pears aren’t available, use tart-sweet apples, regular pears, mangos, or whatever else is best in the market.

In a large salad bowl, whisk the lemon juice, olive oil, shallots, honey and salt and pepper together. Gently toss the arugula to coat it with the dressing. Add the pears and toss them with the arugula once or twice. Arrange attractively on plates and top with the cheese and the prosciutto.

For the prosciutto bacon:

Heat the oven to 375 degrees. Set a rack on a rimmed baking sheet. Lay prosciutto on rack and bake until crisp, about 8 minutes. Let cool then break into shards and chips.

Pan Seared Duck Breast with Blackberry Sage Sauce

Serves 4

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.

Duck Breast

2 whole boneless duck breasts, trimmed of excess fat

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Olive or other vegetable oil for searing

Separate the breasts into 4 supremes and score the skin side of the duck breasts in a diamond pattern with the point of a sharp knife. Season both sides liberally with salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a heavy skillet until nearly smoking and add breast skin side down. Sear until nicely browned and much of the fat has rendered. Turn breasts over, reduce heat and continue to cook until medium rare. Off heat and allow breast to rest of 3 or 4 minutes before slicing. Slice each breast into an attractive fan and arrange on warm plates. Spoon sauce around and serve immediately.

Blackberry Sage Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/2 cup chopped shallots or scallions

1 cup chopped mushrooms

2 cups hearty red wine

5 cups rich chicken or duck stock

3 cups blackberries, fresh or IQF frozen

1/4 cup finely chopped fresh sage (2 tablespoons dried)

1/2 cup sweet port (or to taste)

1 teaspoon honey (or to taste)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a deep saucepan and sauté the shallots and mushrooms over high heat until golden brown. Add the wine, stock and blackberries and reduce by half over high heat, approximately 15 minutes. Strain through a fine mesh strainer, pressing down on the solids. Return sauce to pan and add sage and port and continue to reduce until lightly thickened. Season to your taste with honey, salt and pepper.

To finish the meal, I’d suggest a simple cheese plate garnished with your favorite fresh fruits. Cheeses that work especially well with Pinot Noir are “Stinky” cheeses such as Tallegio and Epoisses. Semi-hard, medium aged cheeses such as Gruyere, Manchego and young Cheddars also are delicious. How about picking one from each category?

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Cooking for the Holidays with Chef John Ash

Holidays & Hosting

Tired of serving the same dishes at every holiday gathering? Try some unique alternative dishes from Chef John Ash and serve a menu that will have your guests asking for more!

  • Pumpkin Soup with Wild Mushrooms
  • Warm Red Cabbage Salad with Pancetta and California Goat Cheese
  • Crab Newberg
  • Cider Brined and Smoked Game Hens
  • My Grandmother’s Apple Batter Cake
  • Pumpkin Soup with Wild Mushrooms

Perfect for the Thanksgiving (or harvest) table, this seasonal soup showcases pumpkin along with another fall favorite – – wild mushrooms. Serve with a glass of the Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Chardonnay.

Warm Red Cabbage Salad with Pancetta and California Goat Cheese

For the goat cheese, I especially like the Bucheret, Camellia or Crottin from Redwood Hill Farms (www.redwoodhillfarms.com) or the Humboldt fog or Bermuda Triangle from Cypress Grove (www.cypressgrovechevre.com). Serve with Sonoma-Cutrer Les Pierres Chardonnay.

Crab Newberg

Dungeness Crab season begins in Northern California right around Thanksgiving, so we try to use it in as many ways as possible. This is a great dish from the past, and uses a classic egg yolk thickened sauce. It’s traditionally served on toast points but can also be spooned into little puff or choux pastry shells or in crepes. The mineral-ality of Sonoma-Cutrer Les Pierres would be a great match here.

Cider Brined and Smoked Game Hens

This brine works equally well with chicken or turkey. Brining is sort of a magical process that adds both flavor and moistness to the meat. In this recipe, I’m using a covered barbecue to both cook and smoke the birds. Be sure to use the indirect heat method described below in the barbecue and monitor both temperature of the barbecue and the birds with a thermometer. The objective is to cook the birds slowly enough, so that they can pick up a rich smoky flavor and you also want to be sure that they are cooked through. Enjoy a glass of Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir while you are cooking.

My Grandmother’s Apple Batter Cake

This is a simple cake that my grandmother used to make often. I’ve used apples, but any fruit such as peaches, pears, berries or a combination could be incorporated. If possible, serve with Sonoma-Cutrer Late Harvest Chardonnay.

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Tips for Serving Wine

Holidays & Hosting

There is no mystery to this but it’s amazing how some of the old rituals have intimidated us all. Here are a few pointers that will help you serve wine:

Temperature: Truth is that we often serve red wine too warm and white wine too cold. First reds – the old adage is to serve at room temperature.That’s all well and good but depending on where you live and the time of year, room temperatures can vary widely. When reds get too warm above 76 degrees or so the alcohol begins to volatilize or evaporate. This can do funny things to the flavor and aromas of wine and cause the wine to be unbalanced. Ideal serving temperature is in the 66 to 72 degree range. It’s perfectly acceptable to stick a red wine in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or so to get it to this temperature. For whites we often take them right out of the refrigerator which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 38 degrees. At this temperature the wine is completely “closed” and you can’t taste or smell very much at all. Unscrupulous restaurants will sometimes take advantage of this in their wines by the glass. If they’ve got a white that isn’t very good, they’ll serve it to you very cold so that you can’t taste how poor it is! Best to serve most whites in the 45 to 55-degree range so they flavors and aromas can emerge. This means take them out of the fridge at least 20 minutes or so before serving.

Letting Red Wines “Breathe”: One of the oldest myths that still hangs on is that wine, reds especially should be opened ahead of time to let them “breathe” (it always conjured up for me little lungs in the bottle!). The reason given for this is that airing will help the wine to open up and develop flavor. If you think about it very little air is going to get to the wine through the narrow opening of the bottle neck. If you want the wine to “breathe”, the best way is to splash it into a glass and swirl it around vigorously as you enjoy it. The only exception is with old, fragile wines where opening too early can actually diminish the flavor.

In recent years we’ve seen the development of a whole host of wine aerators built into pourers, spouts and more. The idea is that wine (either white or red) is improved by vigorous swirling, even more than you can do when poured in a glass. Turns out that this is in fact, true. Next time you open a bottle of wine, pour a glass and take the rest and actively splash it back and forth between a couple of decanters for at least a couple of minutes. Pour a glass of the “agitated” wine and compare it to the one straight from the bottle. I’ll bet you’ll prefer that which has been actively aerated.

Decanting Red Wines: It’s a charming practice but unless you have some old trophy wines it’s not necessary. Most red wines made today have been filtered to remove sediments and, although there is a school that believes that this diminishes the flavor, most of us will rarely encounter a wine that needs decanting.

If you do have a wine that is labeled “unfiltered” my advice is to stand the bottle upright and undisturbed for a day or two and then open it carefully making sure not to disturb the sediment on the bottom. You can then slowly and carefully pour it into a decanter or pitcher in one pouring until you begin to see sediment in the neck of the bottle. If the bottle is dark glass, do it over a lit candle or flashlight so that you can see the liquid. Stop at that point and if you’ve done it properly you should only have an ounce of so of cloudy wine left in the bottle.

Choice of a wine glass: Most people know that it is traditional to serve different wines in different glasses – at least to the extent of having different styles of glasses for red wine, white wine, and champagne or other sparkling wines. But did you know that there are particular styles of glasses for Chardonnay or Cabernet?

Here are my suggestions. It’s really not so terribly important which glass you use unless you’re a serious traditionalist. The single exception is the glass you choose for sparkling wines like Cavas or Champagne. For these you want a tall, narrow, flute-shaped glass, which encourages and shows off the bubbles. Never, never use the flat, round, saucer-shaped glass. For still wines choose a glass that allows you to perform the three S’s easily: that is, Swirl, Sniff, and Sip. You want a good-sized bowl on the glass so that when you swirl you won’t spill wine all over you, and swirling helps develop the aroma. Finally, the bowl needs to be big enough for even the largest nose to fit in, to enjoy the liberated aromas while you sip which means that you shouldn’t fill it more than half full. Also choose glasses that are perfectly clear, so you can enjoy the color of the wine. Finally for sweet wines like ports, sherries and late harvest varietals, don’t use those little dessert wine glasses. Sweet, rich dessert wines have lots of amazing aromatics so pour them into a glass that allows your nose plenty of room to enjoy them

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The Ceremonious First Sip

Holidays & Hosting

We’ve all been there: You’re out with friends or clients, the conversation is flowing and everyone is all smiles – until the bottle of wine arrives. And it’s presented … to you.

Suddenly, the conversation has ground to a halt, and all eyes are on you. All you can think is – do I sniff, then swirl? How far am I supposed to stick my nose into that glass? And what am I supposed to do with this cork?

It can be tempting to rush through the archaic seeming ritual, but don’t! According to our friend and Master Sommelier, Scott Harper, the whole point of all that pomp boils down to one simple but important question: Do you like the wine?

Let’s back up a moment. First, you’ll want to confirm that the bottle is, in fact, the wine you ordered. This is a good time to make sure you’re not presented with a $400 reserve instead of that Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay you ordered.

Next, you’ll probably be given the cork. No need to smell it – unless you want to, of course. Simply make sure it’s not crumbling, moldy or cracked, which may indicate a problem with the wine.

Before you sip, go ahead and smell the wine. A little swirl will bring out the aromas, which are generally pleasant. However, if you get a nose full of wet dog or rotten eggs, the wine may be spoiled. Issues like cork taint and unbalanced sulfur levels are rare, but easy enough to spot.

Assuming everything is sound, it’s time to taste the wine. Take your time – this is not a test. The point here is determining if the wine suits your palette. It’s also a good time to identify particular tastes that your sommelier may have mentioned. For example, in your Russian River Ranches, you might detect green apple, lime and pineapple, with touches of nougat and caramel.

If something seems off, don’t be afraid to send the bottle back – or get a second opinion. And just remember that there is no wrong way to test out a bottle of wine. It’s simply about your enjoyment.

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Concert Picnic Primer

Holidays & Hosting

Is there anything better than listening to live music under the stars on a warm evening with good company, a fine glass of wine and a belly full of fantastic eats? We think not.

Enjoying a live performance at a lovely outdoor venue is an enduring summer tradition that’s best enjoyed when you’re permitted to pack your own food and wine.

This summer, have a little fun filling your picnic basket by putting together a spread that complements the concert you’re going to see. Start by selecting a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer wine that’s perfect for your particular event.

Dusting off your cowboy boots for an evening of outlaw country or banjo-plucking bluegrass? These rootsy tunes are best enjoyed with good old comfort food and a creamy white that can handle all that flavor. Think: fried chicken, deviled eggs and potato salad topped off with a bottle of The Cutrer. This fuller-bodied Chardonnay maintains enough structure and acidity to make it a fantastic food wine.

Gearing up for a little rock and roll? Stock your picnic basket with Sonoma-Cutrer’s Russian River Valley Pinot Noir. This bright, vibrant red features a slew of flavor notes that make it as complex and textured as really good rock and roll. As for the food, you can’t go wrong with a freshly roasted chicken and a big hunk of crusty bread accompanied by a selection of eclectic salads.

Perhaps your evening involves a special night out to see the philharmonic in the park. Make an impression with a bottle of Les Pierres. Distinctive and elegant, this Chardonnay is crisp and rich with a mineral essence that reflects the rocky soil where the grapes are grown. Pair the bottle with cold crab cakes over spring mix salad topped with a citrusy dressing that will bring out the grapefruit and lime notes in the Les Pierres.

No matter what type of music you’re planning to enjoy outdoors this summer, Sonoma-Cutrer has a wine to complement your concert. For picnic inspiration, find recipes and pairing suggestions here.

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Summer Escapes

Holidays & Hosting

A summer getaway is the perfect opportunity to linger over a fine glass of wine. A bottle that suits your destination makes the experience all the more enjoyable. Whether you’re gearing up for a trip that’s been on the books since January or you’re throwing together a last-minute escape, find inspiration in these three iconic destinations.

Who doesn’t love a good beach trip? Bypass well-worn tourist favorites for a more civilized escape like North Carolina’s Outer Banks. With 200 miles of coastline along a string of barrier islands, there’s plenty of sand to go around.

There’s also plenty to do beyond basking in the sun, from windsurfing and hang gliding to touring historic lighthouses and spotting wild horses. If you’re heading to your favorite beach this summer, bring along a bottle of Russian River Ranches Chardonnay to share. Crisp, light and refreshing, it’s a great match for lazy beach evenings – and pairs nicely with fresh seafood.

Are the mountains more your speed? Opt for a rustic yet refined locale like Breckenridge, Colorado, where wine bars cozy up to outdoor outfitters along Main Street. The charming old mining town is also an ideal jumping-off point for hiking, mountain biking, horseback riding and fly-fishing.

Top off a busy day in the backcountry by raising a glass to the 20-inch rainbow trout you hooked. A bottle of celebratory Les Pierres Chardonnay is an ideal pair for the fresh-caught fish thanks to its elegant balance and palette-cleansing acidity.

If Wine Country is on your summer to-do list, skip the crowds in Napa for a stint in the Russian River Valley. The picturesque stomping grounds of Sonoma-Cutrer are a fine place to spend your getaway. Kayak the Russian River, unwind at a spa and, of course, tour some wineries. Start off at Sonoma-Cutrer for a crisp glass of Chardonnay and a round of croquet.

There’s no better place to enjoy a bottle of The Cutrer Chardonnay than in this beautiful corner of California. Rich, creamy and fresh, The Cutrer is the perfect wine to toast a summer sunset, no matter where your travels take you.

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Farm-to-Table Feast

Holidays & Hosting

Go Alfresco: Farm-to-Table Entertaining

The season for dining alfresco is upon us, and farmers markets and gardens across the country are brimming with summer’s gorgeous bounty. Rather than planning yet another backyard barbecue this season, consider hosting an alfresco farm-to-table dinner party.

At Sonoma-Cutrer, every culinary event from wine and cheese pairings to our elegant four-course meals start with local ingredients. What can’t be harvested from the on-site seasonal garden is procured from local food purveyors that produce everything from mushrooms to cheese with the same care and attention to detail that goes into making fine wine.

Local ingredients aren’t just good for the environment and your local community: they simply taste better. There’s no comparison between produce that’s been harvested within the last 24 hours and fruits and vegetables that have spent the last two weeks traveling halfway around the world. Follow a few simple tips for a fun and easy foray into the popular locavore movement.

Plan the menu around what’s fresh. If you have a garden, start there – even if your “garden” consists of a lone potted herb in your kitchen windowsill. Next, head to your local farmers markets and nearby farm stands to stock up and be inspired.

Let the seasonal offerings be your guide, and get creative. The fun of hosting a farm-to-table meal is coming up with dishes that showcase the best of the season.

When it comes to preparation, keep it simple and let the ingredients speak for themselves. Use uncomplicated cooking techniques to allow the vibrant aromas, textures and flavors to shine through. The same goes for any marinades or vinaigrettes you use – simple, simple, simple.

Next, set the scene. Place a table alongside your garden where the produce was picked. Or, create a garden anywhere by dressing your table with fresh local flowers and herbs. Place foliage or candles in empty jam jars for an easy rustic charm.

Finally, uncork a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer to toast your successful venture into farm-to-table entertaining. Try The Cutrer Chardonnay for a creamy wine to complement crisp and earthy summer vegetables, or opt for Russian River Valley Pinot Noir to enhance hearty meats with juicy, dark fruit flavors.

Most importantly, have fun! Let the season’s freshest offerings take center stage while you enjoy the company and savor the flavors found in your own backyard.

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Sonoma-Cutrer for Sipping, Serving, or Gift Giving

Holidays & Hosting

Check out AllSheCooks blog on the various ways to enjoy Sonoma-Cutrer! Whether it’s fine dining with family or Holiday gift giving, Sonoma-Cutrer is the best choice.

Read more here

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Steak au Chard

Holidays & Hosting

If you’ve never drawn a parallel between that medallion of herbed butter atop your frites-flanked rib eye steak and a buttery glass of Chardonnay, it’s time to rethink the old adage, white wine with white meats, red wines with red meats.

A full-bodied Chardonnay can stand up to the heartiest of fare thanks to the power it attains after resting in oak barrels—just like red wine! Chardonnay, in fact, pairs with a wide range of meats better than almost any other white wine because its relatively light acidity tends to complement whatever it’s paired with (rather than contrast), and its lack of bitter tannins makes it utterly versatile. Indeed, there’s a style for every meat, but which Chardonnay you choose depends more on the sauce with which you prepare and/or serve the meat. In general, it’s best to avoid highly acidic, super spicy, or super sweet sauces when pairing food with any classically dry wine. Here are our suggestions.

WHITE MEATS: CHICKEN & VEAL

White meats are both metaphorically and literally clean canvases upon which to draw flavor. Whether you sauté, grill or roast them, they remain ultimately lighter in body and flavor than, say, beef. Here’s an opportunity to pour a fruit-forward, medium-bodied Chardonnay that props up the lightness of the fare with juicy, mouthwatering flavors. Consider a wine like Sonoma-Cutrer’s Russian River Ranches. The intense fruit flavors and complexity of this Chardonnay makes this wine ideal for entertaining and versatile with food.

PINK MEATS: PORK

Unlike any other meat, pork straddles the world of light and dark protein just like Chardonnay does of white and red wines; they each possess qualities of both. While the light meat from a loin of pork looks white, it certainly more flavorful and distinctive than, say, the white meat of a chicken breast. It can handle a more full-flavored wine. The darker, richer pork from the shoulder, then, demands even more power in a wine. Among white wines there’s only one that possesses both elegance and richness to match the pork: Chardonnay. In addition to classic apple and pear fruit aromas and flavors, look for Chardonnays perfumed with toasted nuts, spice, a hint of vanilla and a touch of butter. A wine like Sonoma-Cutrer. This wine has the signature. Sonoma-Cutrer’s Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is all of that, and more.

RED MEATS: LAMB & BEEF

Pairing Chardonnay with dark meats like steak and lamb depends, moreso than in any other case, on the overall preparation, and in particular, on the accompaniments. That aforementioned steak frites served with a medallion of butter on top usually comes with a side of creamy, buttery Béarnaise sauce, too. Grilled lamb chops or butterflied leg of lamb is often served with olive oil and a squeeze of lemon. The Chardonnay to pair with any of them needs to be powerful and rich enough to stand up to the protein’s bold flavor, and complement the various sides and sauces. This is where Sonoma-Cutrer Les Pierres Chardonnay come to the table, bringing with it the prestige of a veritable California ‘Grand Cru,’ brimming with complex aromas of lime, grapefruit and lemon mixed with the flinty, mineral notes that are a defining characteristic of superior Chardonnay. Caramelized oak, vanilla and spice nuances nicely balance the citrus flavors. A perfect match.

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A Toast to Terroir

Holidays & Hosting

It’s no secret that at Sonoma-Cutrer, a favored topic is terroir, or how a vineyard’s specific geology, geography and climate affect the flavors that end up in your glass. While you’re probably not thinking about the fog rolling in off the Pacific, or the California sun warming up the rocky soil when you savor that first sip, the truth is, terroir is directly responsible for the complexities that make our wines distinct.

So how does terroir translate to taste? It’s a good question that could involve a lengthy conversation! But we will spare you. Instead, let’s start by lifting a glass to the celebrity here in our part of the world: the fog.

At Owsley Ranch, our closest vineyard to the Pacific, ocean breezes blow cool fog off the water and into the narrow Bloomfield Gap, where it’s concentrated between steep hillsides before blanketing over the valley to make it up to 10 degrees cooler than other areas in the region.

This results in fewer, smaller grapes, which means intense concentrated flavor. So, when you take that first sip of Owsley Ranch Vineyard Pinot Noir, the deep earthy flavors and dark fruit complexities that you taste are directly indebted to those thick blankets of fog.

Grapes grown at Les Pierres vineyard are more influenced by the soil, which is made up of 50-70% rock (hence the name, which translates to “The Stones”). This inhospitable rocky soil makes the vines work extra hard to grow and gives low yields of smaller grape clusters with incredibly rich flavor.

The rocks in the soil at Les Pierres also absorb sunlight, slowly releasing the heat to offset the cool fog and lengthen the growing season. The resulting fruit is infused with a stony minerality that makes Les Pierres Chardonnay utterly distinct, a true reflection of the vineyard’s terroir.

The next time you’re sipping your favorite Sonoma-Cutrer wine, raise a glass to the dense fog, ancient riverbeds and distinguishing soils of Sonoma-Cutrer. After all, they are responsible for the depth and complexity of the wine you are enjoying. Cheers!

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Wine Tasting 101

Holidays & Hosting

This wine tasting primer is designed to give you a comprehensive understanding of the components of tasting wine. To make it easier, feel free to taste along if you wish. All you need is a quality wine glass of eight or more ounces and a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer 2015 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.

There are 3 points of emphasis in any wine tasting- Sight, Smell and Taste.

Sight– Usually a full color will suggest a full wine and a light color will suggest a light wine. Our Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is yellow-gold, clear and bright.

Smell– I use the acronym FEW to help remember this part of the tasting. F stands for fruit and floral, E for earth and W for wood or oak.

Fruit can cover the entire world of fruits, but think about fruits that are in the range of the color of wine. For example, white wine may have flavors of citrus and apples; red wine may have flavors of red cherries and black berries.

Earth can encompass everything from the smell of fresh tilled soil to minerals. Like many other flavors in wine, it is not always present.

Wood or oak is used to age a good deal of wine, but not all. It can give a wine the smell of spices like, cinnamon, vanilla, allspice and more. To better smell your wine, try swirling it in your glass to release the aromas and make it easier to describe its flavors.

Our Sonoma Coast Chardonnay smells of apple, pear and lemon zest with the oak enhanced flavors of toasted nuts, baking spices and a hint of vanilla.

Taste – Our taste buds are equipped to sense four basic flavors: Sweet, Sour, Bitter and Salt.

Sweet is the presence of sugar in wine. Dry is the absence of sugar in wine. Medium-dry falls in somewhere between the two. You usually detect sweetness on the tip of your tongue. To better understand dryness in wine, try this simple demonstration: Place three glasses of water in front of you. Into the first glass of water, pour an entire packet of sugar – this equals sweet. Put a half packet of sugar into the second glass – this is medium-dry. No sugar will be put into the third glass of water which equals dry.

Sour refers to the acidity in wine, and while it carries a negative connotation, it really refers to the zippy-crisp component in wine. It typically can be sensed on the sides of your tongue. Let’s take our three glasses of water again. Into the first glass of water, squeeze an entire lemon this would be very crisp. In the second glass of water, squeeze half of a lemon this represents crisp. Put only a few drops of lemon juice into the third glass this is our low acid or not very crisp.

Bitter refers to the tannins in wine. Like sour, it carries a negative connotation. But, it actually refers to the mouth-puckering quality of wine. It may be sensed all over your palate. A heavily tannic wine can make any part of your mouth contract and dry out. A wine can be described as light, medium or heavy in tannin. Tannin can be sensed in grape skins, long steeped tea and espresso. Tannin is typically found in red wine because of the extended skin contact with the unfermented and fermenting wine during red wine production. So, we won’t really find any in our Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.

When you taste wine, allow the wine to stay on your palate for a minute, letting all parts of your palate touch the wine. This will allow you to more accurately use the various areas where you sense the taste of the wine. Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is dry and crisp.

Also, through your palate, you can establish the body or weight of a wine. The body of a wine is described as light, medium or full bodied; like a glass of water, milk or heavy cream respectively, Sonoma Coast is a medium to full-bodied Chardonnay.

Your olfactory system senses smell in your palate, as well as, through your nose. This helps you to connect the wine’s smell and taste. The aftertaste is the lingering flavor you get after swallowing the wine; an aftertaste is only bad when it tastes bad! A good aftertaste is pleasant and persistent. Our Chardonnay has a very pleasant aftertaste.

Overall, we would characterize the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay as yellow-gold with a nose and palate of apple, pear and lemon zest with the oak enhanced flavors of toasted nuts, baking spices and a hint of vanilla. It is dry, crisp, and medium to full-bodied with a very pleasant aftertaste. And don’t forget the easy descriptors like this deliciously, tasty Chardonnay is superb.

 

About the Author

A Certified Wine Educator, Scott is one of 135 professionals in North America and 214 worldwide who have earned the title Master Sommelier.

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Serving Wine

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There is no mystery to this but it’s amazing how some of the old rituals have intimidated us all. Here are a few pointers that will help you serve wine:

Temperature: Truth is that we often serve red wine too warm and white wine too cold. First reds – the old adage is to serve at room temperature.That’s all well and good but depending on where you live and the time of year, room temperatures can vary widely. When reds get too warm above 76 degrees or so the alcohol begins to volatilize or evaporate. This can do funny things to the flavor and aromas of wine and cause the wine to be unbalanced. Ideal serving temperature is in the 66 to 72 degree range. It’s perfectly acceptable to stick a red wine in the refrigerator for 15 minutes or so to get it to this temperature. For whites we often take them right out of the refrigerator which is somewhere in the neighborhood of 38 degrees. At this temperature the wine is completely “closed” and you can’t taste or smell very much at all. Unscrupulous restaurants will sometimes take advantage of this in their wines by the glass. If they’ve got a white that isn’t very good, they’ll serve it to you very cold so that you can’t taste how poor it is! Best to serve most whites in the 45 to 55-degree range so they flavors and aromas can emerge. This means take them out of the fridge at least 20 minutes or so before serving.

Letting Red Wines “Breathe”: One of the oldest myths that still hangs on is that wine, reds especially should be opened ahead of time to let them “breathe” (it always conjured up for me little lungs in the bottle!). The reason given for this is that airing will help the wine to open up and develop flavor. If you think about it very little air is going to get to the wine through the narrow opening of the bottle neck. If you want the wine to “breathe”, the best way is to splash it into a glass and swirl it around vigorously as you enjoy it. The only exception is with old, fragile wines where opening too early can actually diminish the flavor.

In recent years we’ve seen the development of a whole host of wine aerators built into pourers, spouts and more. The idea is that wine (either white or red) is improved by vigorous swirling, even more than you can do when poured in a glass. Turns out that this is in fact, true. Next time you open a bottle of wine, pour a glass and take the rest and actively splash it back and forth between a couple of decanters for at least a couple of minutes. Pour a glass of the “agitated” wine and compare it to the one straight from the bottle. I’ll bet you’ll prefer that which has been actively aerated.

Decanting Red Wines: It’s a charming practice but unless you have some old trophy wines it’s not necessary. Most red wines made today have been filtered to remove sediments and, although there is a school that believes that this diminishes the flavor, most of us will rarely encounter a wine that needs decanting.

If you do have a wine that is labeled “unfiltered” my advice is to stand the bottle upright and undisturbed for a day or two and then open it carefully making sure not to disturb the sediment on the bottom. You can then slowly and carefully pour it into a decanter or pitcher in one pouring until you begin to see sediment in the neck of the bottle. If the bottle is dark glass, do it over a lit candle or flashlight so that you can see the liquid. Stop at that point and if you’ve done it properly you should only have an ounce of so of cloudy wine left in the bottle.

Choice of a wine glass: Most people know that it is traditional to serve different wines in different glasses – at least to the extent of having different styles of glasses for red wine, white wine, and champagne or other sparkling wines. But did you know that there are particular styles of glasses for Chardonnay or Cabernet?

Here are my suggestions. It’s really not so terribly important which glass you use unless you’re a serious traditionalist. The single exception is the glass you choose for sparkling wines like Cavas or Champagne. For these you want a tall, narrow, flute-shaped glass, which encourages and shows off the bubbles. Never, never use the flat, round, saucer-shaped glass. For still wines choose a glass that allows you to perform the three S’s easily: that is, Swirl, Sniff, and Sip. You want a good-sized bowl on the glass so that when you swirl you won’t spill wine all over you, and swirling helps develop the aroma. Finally, the bowl needs to be big enough for even the largest nose to fit in, to enjoy the liberated aromas while you sip which means that you shouldn’t fill it more than half full. Also choose glasses that are perfectly clear, so you can enjoy the color of the wine. Finally for sweet wines like ports, sherries and late harvest varietals, don’t use those little dessert wine glasses. Sweet, rich dessert wines have lots of amazing aromatics so pour them into a glass that allows your nose plenty of room to enjoy them

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Hosting a Wine Tasting

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A great way to learn about wine is to stage a wine tasting party next time you and friends get together. I recommend concentrating on one varietal or type such as Chardonnay or Merlot so as not to confuse your palette. Have everyone bring a favorite bottle then put them in brown paper bags to cover the label and identify them only with a number or letter. It’s a good idea to limit the tasting to no more than 6 wines.

Pour them out (you can usually rent extra wineglasses locally at a party supply store at a decent price). Use a grease pencil or small stick-on label to mark each glass with the corresponding letter or number so that you minimize any chance of confusion. Be sure to pour each glass no more than 1/3 full to allow each taster plenty of room to swirl and swish the wine to develop its aroma. Provide each taster with a simple score sheet so that they can individually note what they like about each wine then have them rank the wines in order of preference. Do this part quietly and individually and after everyone has finished their own ranking, have one of the group total them up. Once the group ranking is known, individually reveal each wine from the bottom to the top of the ranking, discussing them as you go along (be sure to have some plain French bread and maybe a simple cheese on hand to help clear the palette as you taste thru each wine).

You’ll find it’s a lot of fun and a great way to discover new wines that you might not have tried before. Like food, preferences in wine are very individual so there really is no right or wrong answer (if you have a “wine geek” or “cork dork” or wine “expert” in your group, be sure to remind them of that before starting!).

The one additional thing you can do to make the experience even more instructive is to have someone do a little research on the varietal that you’re tasting to briefly report on its history, geographic location, etc. Two of the very best resource books for this purpose are the Oxford Companion to Wine edited by Jancis Robinson and Karen MacNeil’s The Wine Bible. Both are available thru bookstores and of course on-line.They are wonderful references to have at home if you think you want to know more about wine.

 

About the Author

Many refer to Chef John Ash as the “Father of Wine Country Cuisine”. In 1980 he opened his namesake restaurant, John Ash & Company, in Santa Rosa, CA. It was the first restaurant in Northern California wine country to focus on local, seasonal ingredients in the quest to create dishes that complemented the wines being made in the region.

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Perfect Pairings for Cozy Comfort Foods

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Crisp air and crackling fireplaces turn food cravings toward warm, cozy dishes that can chase away the chill of fall’s arrival. Comfort foods like soups and stews are staples of the season, but they can be tricky to pair with wine.

Learn which wines go best with your favorite family recipes and find a few new favorites with this handy guide to warm dishes that will carry you through the cool months.

‘Tis the season for soup, and the best versions take full advantage of fresh cool-weather crops. Sonoma-Cutrer consulting chef John Ash has several soup recipes perfectly suited for the season, starting with a creamy Pumpkin Soup with Wild Mushrooms. Showcasing a pair of favorite fall flavors, this soup scores extra points when served in small, individual hollowed-out pumpkins.

Ash’s easy to prepare Winter Squash Soup is another great option if you’re short on time, and you can experiment with different types of squash. Got a fall garden bursting with radicchio? Try this simple Radicchio Soup with Smoked Goat Cheese, which tastes complex thanks to the inspired flavor contrast of smoky cheese and bitter radicchio.

All three soups are ideal pairings for a crisp glass of Russian River Ranches Chardonnay, with its elegant fruit accents and bright acidity.

If you prefer to sip red when temperatures get crisp, Sonoma-Cutrer’s Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is a fine accompaniment to many traditional fall favorites. Chili and cornbread is about as comforting as it gets, perhaps rivaled only by a warm bowl of hearty gumbo.

Both are perfect companions for the pinot, thanks to the wine’s juicy dark fruit notes and silky tannins that complement the rich, complex flavors and meatiness found in both dishes.

Finally, it’s unfathomable to talk about warming cold weather comfort foods without mentioning an all-time favorite: chicken pot pie. This savory, soul-warming dish is elevated to the next level when accompanied by a rich and creamy white like The Cutrer Chardonnay.

Whatever dishes you warm up to this season, there’s a perfect bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer wine just waiting to be uncorked.

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Holidays at Sonoma-Cutrer

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Every family has their beloved holiday traditions, and the Sonoma-Cutrer family is no exception. Here in the heart of the Russian River Valley, the holidays are a time to gather and give thanks.

The season officially kicks off with a long-standing Thanksgiving tradition as everyone gathers to eat delicious food and celebrate the year’s biggest accomplishments. This year, the Sonoma-Cutrer family toasted the launch of Founder’s Reserve Legacy, the second offering in the limited-release Winemaker’s Series.

It’s a time for camaraderie and conversation, as colleagues sip Sonoma-Cutrer wine and share favorite recipes. In addition to the chef-prepared turkey and dressing, employees bring a family favorite side dish to share — and leaving a bit overstuffed is to be expected.

Come December, it’s time to trim the holiday tree. During the annual event, employees gather to share holiday cheer and help put the finishing touches on the tree — often with handcrafted ornaments that feature a Sonoma-Cutrer theme. It’s also the season for another tradition at the winery: the annual holiday open house.

The fireplace glows as traditionally dressed carolers fill the air with holiday songs and guests enjoy sips of soup, savory bites and sweets paired with Sonoma-Cutrer wines. While this year’s open house was on hiatus due to renovations at the winery, new traditions will join longstanding ones next December as the brand new tasting room will be open for special holiday tastings.

The season of giving thanks is also a time to give back at Sonoma-Cutrer. Community outreach efforts include food and clothing drives for local shelters, and many employees volunteer to serve holiday dinners at shelters throughout the season. Sonoma-Cutrer sponsors a tree in Windsor’s Charlie Brown Christmas Tree Grove to benefit the Windsor Educational Foundation.

With the holiday season well underway, the Sonoma-Cutrer family has had a chance to reflect on the many blessings of the previous year. The approaching New Year offers a chance to toast the good times, reflect on the challenges and look forward to another amazing year with a winery family that shares a passion and dedication to crafting the finest wine.

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Why Pinot?

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Pinot Noir is a difficult grape to get right. Thin-skinned and temperamental, it’s among the most delicate varieties, and the conditions must be near perfect to produce exceptional fruit. So why would a winery known for its award-winning Chardonnay even bother with such an intractable addition?

It’s a fair question, and one that’s been asked on more than a few occasions. The original inspiration had a lot to do with the vision of former Director of Winemaking, Terry Adams. It took some convincing to get the team on board. Rumor has it, a covert late-night planting session was required to produce evidence that Pinot Noir is, in fact, an ideal fit for Sonoma-Cutrer’s terroir.

Producing Pinot is a natural evolution for a winery grounded in Burgundian winemaking traditions. The two major grape varietals grown in Burgundy, France happen to be Chardonnay and – you guessed it – Pinot Noir.

It doesn’t hurt that the Russian River Valley boasts near ideal conditions for growing Pinot Noir grapes. Recently, Wine Enthusiast© magazine even named the winery’s home turf one of the top six areas for growing exceptional Pinot Noir.

The goal of Sonoma-Cutrer has always been to craft wines that reflect their unique terroir, and Pinot Noir is no exception. The grapes come from The Cutrer, Vine Hill, Owsley and Les Pierres vineyards. The unique terroir of each vineyard, from Owsley’s dramatic temperature fluctuations to Vine Hill’s 400-foot elevation change, is directly responsible for producing fruit with concentrated, complex flavors.

The meticulous craft and attention to detail required to produce extraordinary Pinot is a natural fit for Sonoma-Cutrer – even when it means processing by hand and building an entirely separate production facility known as “The Pinot Barn.”

It’s been more than a decade since the winery’s first foray into Pinot Noir production, and today four distinctive varieties are among Sonoma-Cutrer’s offerings. Among a well-decorated group, the popular Russian River Valley Pinot Noir has been awarded a gold medal from some of the most prestigious wine competitions every year since 2009.

Twelve years into the “experiment,” Pinot Noir is no longer the new kid on the block, and has proven to be a worthy companion to Sonoma-Cutrer’s fine Chardonnays.

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Calling The Pick

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This year’s annual harvest kicked off the last week of August, and the buzz of anticipation will linger until the last grape has been removed from its vine, around six to eight weeks later.

During the harvest, nothing is more important than picking the grapes at their peak, but getting the timing exactly right involves a lot more than looking at a calendar. “Calling the pick” is a painstaking process that involves a little bit of chemistry and a whole lot of skill.

It all starts with veraison, the ripening of the grapes that causes them to change color. The process began in July, and the fruit was closely monitored well into August, when Chardonnay grapes turned from green to a rich straw color, and Pinot Noir transformed from green to red and finally to a deep burgundy.

When the colors are right, it’s time to start testing.

Throughout harvest, a sampling crew goes out to collect a selection of 100 grapes from several different blocks among Sonoma-Cutrer’s six vineyards. Back in the lab, the grapes are tested for sweetness (Brix), acidity (Titratable Acid) and pH. The right balance signifies ripeness – but the numbers are only half the story.

Once ripe, the fruit needs sufficient hang time to mature and develop the precise taste profile the winemakers are looking for. The ultimate goal is to harvest the grapes when they achieve the perfect balance of sweetness, flavor and texture.

Daily “sugar meetings” are held every afternoon to determine which blocks should be picked the following day. The ongoing process moves from block to block throughout harvest until each vine hits its peak.

Ensuring that the grapes reach their full flavor potential is a team effort, from the vineyard crew that meticulously maintains the vines throughout the growing season to the winemakers, who must rely on their finely tuned craft to “call the pick.”

Yet, there’s really no question who plays the ultimate role in determining the quality of the fruit: Mother Nature. And this year, Sonoma-Cutrer has been blessed once again.

Expectations are high for this year’s harvest, as moderate weather has provided the fruit sufficient hang time to develop its full flavor potential. With harvest well under way, the yield looks good and the quality appears to be exceptional.

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Ask Your Sommelier

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Most of us know the feeling of staring blankly at an extensive wine list, lost somewhere between Chardonnay and Cabernet. Paralysis by analysis – what seems to be an easy decision can quickly turn into a daunting task. Will this wine overpower the entrée? Should I have ordered red instead of white? What if I don’t like the wine I order? Enter the sommelier, master of the vine, fluent in everything wine.

If you think you know a lot about wine, sommeliers know more. The sole purpose of these dedicated professionals is to help you discover and enjoy wine as much as they do, finding the perfect complement to your meal. Yet sommeliers go largely untapped by many of us, who either forget that sommeliers are even an option or assume that our wine needs are not demanding enough or our knowledge extensive enough to justify calling in such an expert. While Master Sommelier and wine consultant, Scott Harper, concedes that sometimes people may have a level of insecurity in utilizing Sommelier services while out dining, it’s important to remember that sommeliers are there because they love helping people with wine.

Most sommeliers train for years, perfecting their craft as they explore wine culture. Master Sommeliers (there are 135 of them in North America) are even able to identify a glass of wine down to the vineyard and vintage. In a restaurant, the sommelier is in charge of wine procurement, storage, cellar rotation and, most importantly, providing expert service to wine customers.

Their main goal is to make you feel comfortable with any and all wine inquiries, not to show off their knowledge, which, rest assured, is immense. So go ahead, ask your sommelier to describe what “dry” actually means. Ask what flavors you’re tasting, which aromas you’re smelling. Ask why California Chardonnays taste different than other Chardonnays. You might just find out that the sommelier is the best-kept secret you forgot you knew.

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A Few Tips for Hosting Your Own Wine Tasting

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Having a wine tasting in your home can be fun and enjoyable way to spend the evening. Here are a few tips and thought-starters to make the night a bit easier and more entertaining.

Glassware

Except for choosing delectable wines, good wine glasses are the most important part of your tasting. It is easy to go crazy with glasses made to go with specific grapes and, granted, I have many! But, filling your cabinet with a dozen different glasses for a dozen different wines and trying to figure out which wine goes with each isn’t exactly the same as hitting the easy button. So, I suggest having one or two quality wine glasses for starters.

The size of the glass is probably the single most important factor. Glasses should hold at least 12 ounces. Personally, I prefer upwards to 20 ounces, especially for reds, which are typically served in larger glasses then whites. Pour the glasses about a fifth of the way to allow room for swirling and –to develop the aromas.

Quantity

A standard bottle of wine holds 25.4 ounces. With the intent on everyone trying each wine, one bottle of wine should serve eight guests or a 3-ounce taste. Divide the number of guests you have by eight and round up. This will tell you how many bottles you will need for the tasting. Remember to add more bottles if you are also serving a meal.

Temperature

Most Americans drink white wines too cold and red wines too warm. Overly chilled whites or too warm reds mask the aromas and flavors plus, alter the wines structure. Try serving whites around 50 degrees Fahrenheit and reds around 60 to 65 degrees Fahrenheit. This may seem too cool for red wines and not cool enough for whites but give it a go. You might be pleasantly surprised. Remember, wine is all about pleasure. So, if you end up preferring your wines cooler or warmer, enjoy them as such.

Wine Order

Normally wines are served from lightest to fullest, whites before reds and, of course, dessert wines last. Our palates usually taste better when we progress in this order. To do it inversely would be like eating a steak and then a light seafood dish.. If you are tasting Sonoma-Cutrer wines, I suggest you try this order: Chardonnay- Russian River Ranches, Sonoma Coast, Les Pierres and The Cutrer; Pinot Noir- Russian River Valley; Sweet – Late Harvest Chardonnay.

Scott Harper, MS
A Certified Wine Educator, Scott is one of 135 professionals in North America and 214 worldwide who have earned the title Master Sommelier.

 

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Malo what…?

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While tasting another delicious bottle of Chardonnay you noticed a flavor, a flavor you haven’t really picked up on before. You aren’t sure how to describe it. It is not quite popcorn, maybe it is cream…then all of a sudden someone says butter. The flavor is butter! This flavor is not present in all wines. Wines like Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling or Pinot Grigio, just wouldn’t taste right with it, but in Chardonnay it is a flavor nuance made in heaven.

So where does this flavor come from? It is a natural or induced process called malolactic fermentation or secondary fermentation. This is sometime listed on the back of wine bottle labels but, rarely explained. In reality, it is quite simple. The process changes the harder Malic acid, which is an acid found in apples, especially green apples, into the softer rounder lactic acid, which is the acid found in milk. A by-product of this process is Diacetyl. Diacetyl has an intense buttery flavor. -This helps create a wine with a creamy, softer texture.

The key to success in this process is that the buttery flavor does not dominate. Any wine that goes through malolactic fermentation will have a component of this tasty flavor, but the key is that it is in balance with the other flavors like the fruit and oak. Using malolactic fermentation is a brilliant way to enhance the complexity of balanced, flavorful Chardonnay.

The next time you taste your favorite Chardonnay see if you detect the nuance of malolactic fermentation.

About The Author

Scott Harper, MS is a Certified Wine Educator, and is one of 135 professionals in North America and 214 worldwide who have earned the title Master Sommelier

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Host a Chardonnay Tasting Party

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Chardonnay is one of the most famous white wine grapes on the planet, and yet its personality in any given bottle matters entirely on the winemaker’s whim, from austere, minimalist handling, to employing all the flavor bells and whistles available in modern winemaking.

Everyone thinks they know it. Many love it—or at least a certain style. Some hate it—or at least they think they do, based on a certain style. But, do they really understand its range of possibilities? How about hosting a “Blind-Tasting Party” with your friends — presenting all of the bottles wrapped in brown bags or aluminum foil — showcasing various styles of Chardonnay alongside wines with similar style profiles? While few white wines possess the power, richness and complexity that Chardonnay does, there are several that can easily play understudy for the great diva of grapes. Here’s how to do it:

The Set Up:

Before guests arrive, chill all of the wines. Then, wrap each bottle in a brown bag tied at the neck with string or aluminum foil. If you need to further chill the wines until guests arrive, you could put them in ice buckets, putting those in brown bags in a plastic bag first to keep it dry; those in foil will be fine in ice. Remove the capsule that covers the cork completely. With a marker write a number on each bottle, from one to six (or as many as you’re pouring). If you’re serving multiple bottles of the same wine for a large crowd, be sure they are numbered correctly. Then, on a spacious bar, table or countertop, set up six stations featuring a large, lined notepad and a pen. On each pad write “Wine No. 1,” “Wine No. 2,” etc. for the number of wines you’re serving. When you’re ready to serve the wines, place each bottle in front of its corresponding notepad. Without guests seeing, pull the corks and taste each bottle to make sure they aren’t corked (or taste off, like moldy cardboard). Don’t forget to hide the corks, because they often display the wine’s logo or other info that might give them away. Now, invite guests to taste the wines in any order, and then write their name on each notepad as they taste, along with their guess as to which type of wine they are drinking. Is it Chardonnay? Is it something else? Take a guess!

Here’s what we’ll pour from our six bottles, but we won’t tell our guests what’s in them until everyone has savored a sip:

Wine No. 1: (Chardonnay from Chablis)

While practically everyone knows Chardonnay, not everyone knows that it hails from the Burgundy region of France, where it’s known as Bourgogne Blanc, or white Burgundy. You will almost never see the word Chardonnay on a bottle of white Burgundy, but rather the region, village or vineyard name. While most white Burgundies are made in oak barrels that impart flavor to the wine, those from the Chablis region are unique, because most are made without oak interaction, vinified in stainless steel tanks. Chablis’ cool climate yields wines with high acidity and distinct “flinty” notes, and less of the apple-y fruit we often identify with traditional Chardonnay. This is as unadulterated as it gets.

Wine No. 2: (Minimally-Oaked California Chardonnay)

Many value-priced Chardonnays (under $15, let’s say) possess qualities that you’ve come to expect: buttery, toasty, creamy nuances, with a touch of vanilla and a kiss of citrus. They represent an overtly oaky style—often called “California Style”—that was popular 25 years ago, when America was just starting to fall in love with Chardonnay. Today, makers of high-quality California Chardonnay strive for balance, crafting fruity wines that are also lean and crisp. Ask your retailer for a Chardonnay that’s “minimally-oaked,” like Sonoma-Cutrer’s Sonoma Coast Chardonnay, whose creamy richness is balanced with bright, mouthwatering acidity and highlighted with flavors of apple, pear and lemon zest.

Wine No. 3: (White Bordeaux)

The word Bordeaux is instantly recognized as one of France’s great wine regions, and for most Americans it also means a great red wine. However, Bordeaux is also known for its delicious, if not-well-known white wines, hiding in plain sight in your best wine shops. The grapes to know in this region are Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon, which are blended together—and you’ll never see their names on the label, only “Bordeaux Blanc,” or, if they are from a specific district, you’ll see that name, too. Ask your retailer for a Bordeaux Blanc from Graves, or, even better, from Pessac-Léognan, where the wines are made in oak barrels, but not with a heavy hand. You might be surprised by how much they remind you of that minimally-oaked Chardonnay in bottle No. 2.

Wine No. 4: (Cotes du Rhône Blanc)

Cotes du Rhône is another one of those French wine names that immediately brings to mind red wine, but like all wine regions around the world, both red and white wine grapes are grown. In the case of the Rhône, there are many, many types of grapes grown, and a lot of them end up in the final blend of the wines, as is tradition in this part of France. By French law, in fact, white Cotes du Rhônes must contain a minimum blend of 80% Clairette, Grenache blanc, Marsanne, Roussanne, Bourboulenc and Viognier. Ugni blanc and Picpoul blanc may be used as secondary varieties. These wines possess fruity, citrusy qualities, coupled with a distinct richness that might trick some guests into thinking it’s a minimally-oaked Chardonnay, like the one in bottle No. 2.

Wine No. 5: (Viognier)

One of the grapes in bottle No. 4’s Cotes du Rhône Blanc is Viognier, which plays a supporting role throughout the Rhône Valley, but is the star in bottles labeled “Condrieu.” These tend to be very, very expensive—and very, very delicious, possessing honeysuckle aromas and flavors, and a distinct unctuousness that might remind some wine lovers of the richness of full-bodied, heavily-oaked Chardonnay. But you can also find far more affordable styles of Viognier from Australia, California and Washington. While its inherent lusciousness may remind tasters of Chardonnay, the giveaway that its not is its highly aromatic bouquet, often brimming with, in addition to honeysuckle, also pears, peaches, and even violet flowers.

Wine No. 6: (Classically-Oaked California Chardonnay)

The employment of oak in the making of great Chardonnay goes back centuries. When applied judiciously, the wine takes on a richness and depth of flavor that would otherwise be impossible to achieve. The problem for the word oak in the context of Chardonnay is that as the grape (and wines made with it) grew ever-more popular over the past quarter-century, techniques to deliver oak-imparting character without actually using oak have grown, too. Which is why many value-priced Chards taste more or less the same. But, if you raise the bar, and invest in a world-class Chardonnay, you may fall in love with this style all over again. Ask your retailer for a “classically-oaked California Chardonnay,” something like Sonoma-Cutrer’s ‘Les Pierres’ from Sonoma County, a wine whose deep, complex aromas of lime, grapefruit and lemon mixed with the flinty, mineral notes that are a defining characteristic of Grand Cru Burgundy, is accented with hints of caramel, fresh cream, nutmeg and honey.

Next Steps:

After all of your guests have tasted the wines, and written their guesses down, unwrap the bottles and let guests see if they guessed correctly or not. Then, open some more bottles, open the buffet and rediscover these new wine discoveries again with food. If one guest guessed the wines particularly well, perhaps you might even offer them a prize: one of those delicious Sonoma-Cutrer bottles to take home.

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Chardonnay Trends Catch Up to Sonoma-Cutrer

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California Chardonnay has traveled a storied journey through the decades, from The Judgment of Paris wine tasting in 1976, when a California Chardonnay beat out four French white Burgundies, to the heavy oak and butter-laden styles of the nineties that led to the unfair backlash dubbed ABC (Anything But Chardonnay).

Throughout all of the fads, from butter bombs and big oak styles to crisp, fruit-forward unoaked varieties, Sonoma-Cutrer has stayed the course. Our unwavering vision has always been the same: produce the best Chardonnay possible by combining Old World craftsmanship with New World innovation.

From the beginning, our terroir-driven Grand Cru approach has married traditional Burgundian winemaking methods with state-of-the-art technologies to produce elegantly structured Chardonnays that are deeply rooted in a sense of place.

So what does that mean, exactly?

For one, it means that barrels used at Sonoma-Cutrer are made of fine French oak that we handpick from forests in the heart of France and then have crafted into barrels at generations-old family-owned cooperages in Burgundy.

It also means that innovation has always been part of the equation. Take, for example, our cellar. Rather than digging into a hillside, we removed an entire hill in order to create the perfect cave-like conditions for aging, then reconstructed the hill around our 20,000-square-foot cellar.

This meticulous approach infuses our wines with subtleties and nuance not always found in Chardonnay. In Sonoma-Cutrer’s early days, when many popular California Chardonnays were anything but complex, this refined style was rather revolutionary.

Today, Chardonnay is finding its way back into the spotlight once again as more winemakers embrace food-friendly styles that balance fruit and oak, much like our own Chardonnays. And whether it’s a trend or more of a movement (though it certainly feels like the latter), the current emphasis on more elegant Chardonnay is one we embrace.

No matter what the future holds for the world’s most popular grape, we’ll be right here making our Chardonnay the way we always have – in our own uniquely Grand Cru style.

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How to Create your Own Home Wine Collection

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Have you ever been driving home from work knowing that, in order to enjoy wine with dinner, you’ll have to make an extra stop at the local wine shop? While casually perusing the shelves is great when you aren’t in a hurry, it becomes a chore when you don’t have time to contemplate the enormous selection, or consider what will pair with dinner and match your guest’s preferences.

Having a wine collection at home can alleviate this hassle and is wonderful for every wine aficionado. -Enjoying a bottle of wine at the drop of a hat, without a trip to the wine shop, is an accessible luxury. A wine collection does not have to- be 2,000 bottles; a nice wine selection can be 50 well-chosen bottles.

To set up your home collection, you will need to consider a few select details. First, you need a place that will remain cool (50- to 60°F) and has good humidity (50- to 75°). There should be no direct light, vibrations or off odors. It is also important to have the ability to keep the bottles resting on their sides. Wines age best when they are kept at a constant temperature under these conditions.

Any good collection will have multiple varietals and several bottles of the more popular wines like Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Choose wines that are your favorites, pair well with food and you know your guests will enjoy. Two Sonoma-Cutrer wines that I suggest be a part of any home collection are the 2011 Les Pierres Chardonnay and the 2012 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

Creating your own personal home collection is not only fun, but useful. Enjoy!

 

Scott Harper, MS

A Certified Wine Educator, Scott is one of 135 professionals in North America and 214 worldwide who have earned the title Master Sommelier

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Discover Your Palate

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This wine tasting primer is designed to give you a comprehensive understanding of the components of tasting wine. To make it easier, feel free to taste along if you wish. All you need is a quality wine glass of eight or more ounces and a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer 2012 Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.

There are 3 points of emphasis in any wine tasting- Sight, Smell and Taste.

Sight- Usually a full color will suggest a full wine and a light color will suggest a light wine. Our Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is yellow-gold, clear and bright.

Smell- I use the acronym FEW to help remember this part of the tasting. F stands for fruit and floral, E for earth and W for wood or oak.

Fruit can cover the entire world of fruits, but think about fruits that are in the range of the color of wine. For example, white wine may have flavors of citrus and apples; red wine may have flavors of red cherries and black berries.

Earth can encompass everything from the smell of fresh tilled soil to minerals. Like many other flavors in wine, it is not always present.

Wood or oak is used to age a good deal of wine, but not all. It can give a wine the smell of spices like, cinnamon, vanilla, allspice and more. To better smell your wine, try swirling it in your glass to release the aromas and make it easier to describe its flavors.

Our Sonoma Coast Chardonnay smells of apple, pear and lemon zest with the oak enhanced flavors of toasted nuts, baking spices and a hint of vanilla.

Taste – Our taste buds are equipped to sense four basic flavors: Sweet, Sour, Bitter and Salt.

Sweet is the presence of sugar in wine. Dry is the absence of sugar in wine. Medium-dry falls in somewhere between the two. You usually detect sweetness on the tip of your tongue. To better understand dryness in wine, try this simple demonstration: Place three glasses of water in front of you. Into the first glass of water, pour an entire packet of sugar – this equals sweet. Put a half packet of sugar into the second glass – this is medium-dry. No sugar will be put into the third glass of water which equals dry.

Sour refers to the acidity in wine, and while it carries a negative connotation, it really refers to the zippy-crisp component in wine. It typically can be sensed on the sides of your tongue. Let’s take our three glasses of water again. Into the first glass of water, squeeze an entire lemon this would be very crisp. In the second glass of water, squeeze half of a lemon this represents crisp. Put only a few drops of lemon juice into the third glass this is our low acid or not very crisp.

Bitter refers to the tannins in wine. Like sour, it carries a negative connotation. But, it actually refers to the mouth-puckering quality of wine. It may be sensed all over your palate. A heavily tannic wine can make any part of your mouth contract and dry out. A wine can be described as light, medium or heavy in tannin. Tannin can be sensed in grape skins, long steeped tea and espresso. Tannin is typically found in red wine because of the extended skin contact with the unfermented and fermenting wine during red wine production. So, we won’t really find any in our Sonoma Coast Chardonnay.

When you taste wine, allow the wine to stay on your palate for a minute, letting all parts of your palate touch the wine. This will allow you to more accurately use the various areas where you sense the taste of the wine. Sonoma Coast Chardonnay is dry and crisp.

Also, through your palate, you can establish the body or weight of a wine. The body of a wine is described as light, medium or full bodied; like a glass of water, milk or heavy cream respectively, Sonoma Coast is a medium to full-bodied Chardonnay.

Your olfactory system senses smell in your palate, as well as, through your nose. This helps you to connect the wine’s smell and taste. The aftertaste is the lingering flavor you get after swallowing the wine; an aftertaste is only bad when it tastes bad! A good aftertaste is pleasant and persistent. Our Chardonnay has a very pleasant aftertaste.

Overall, we would characterize the Sonoma Coast Chardonnay as yellow-gold with a nose and palate of apple, pear and lemon zest with the oak enhanced flavors of toasted nuts, baking spices and a hint of vanilla. It is dry, crisp, and medium to full-bodied with a very pleasant aftertaste. And don’t forget the easy descriptors like this deliciously, tasty Chardonnay is superb.

 

Scott Harper, MS

A Certified Wine Educator, Scott is one of 135 professionals in North America and 214 worldwide who have earned the title Master Sommelier

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Roasting with Winter Herbs

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Roasting with Winter Herbs

Nothing warms the soul during cold weather quite like savory roasted meats, and nothing can elevate a dish from cozy comfort food to dinner party showstopper quite like the infusion of fresh, aromatic herbs.

Here at Sonoma-Cutrer, the chef’s garden is chock full of fresh herbs like mint, rosemary, cilantro and parsley. The aromas of these herbs infusing their flavor into meat and veggies fill the air as the winery’s signature roast dishes take center stage for the season.

This winter, liven up your lineup of roast recipes with dishes that take full advantage of fresh, cold-season herbs. To inspire you, here are a few of our Sonoma-Cutrer chefs favorite roast ideas,

Every kitchen needs a go-to roast chicken recipe, and this herb-infused version is a perennial favorite, thanks to the flavors of rosemary, thyme, parsley — and a whole lot of garlic. Pop open your favorite bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer Chardonnay to use in the dish, then enjoy a glass over dinner.

Or try this roast chicken accompanied by a side of herbed french fries, a can’t-miss classic made with rosemary and parsley.

A truly versatile herb, mint is commonly paired with lamb in the Mediterranean. Take advantage of all that beautiful mint flourishing in your winter garden in this irresistible lamb dish with mint salsa verde. Lock in the flavors by searing the meat on the stovetop, then finish it off with a brief roast in the oven. Create a perfect pairing with Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

Any of Sonoma-Cutrer’s Pinots also make the perfect sidekick to classics like beef tenderloin and pot roast with winter root vegetables. And when you prepare your favorite roast dish with the freshest herbs of the season, chances are there won’t be a bite left.

Have a few herbs left over? Trim the stems and put them in a cup of water, then cover loosely with a plastic bag and refrigerate. Change the water and trim the stems daily for the best results. The exceptions are mint and basil, which are best kept at room temperature.

Bon appétit!

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Simple Tips for Cooking With Wine

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Simple Tips for Cooking With Wine

Cooking with wine shouldn’t be intimidating. Follow a few essential tips to select a suitable wine for your recipe, and you’re well on your way to enhancing the flavors of your favorite dishes.

First things first: Skip the bottle of “cooking wine” found on grocery store shelves. Often laden with salt and additives, this “wine” won’t add much to your work in the kitchen. The rule of thumb is to avoid cooking with a wine you wouldn’t enjoy drinking.

When mild-flavored recipes call for wine, opt for a crisp white. Acidity and citrus can bring out the delicate flavors of seafood, while a creamy Chardonnay can complement richer recipes ranging from lobster dishes to chicken with cream sauce.

You can’t go wrong reaching for a bottle of Russian River Ranches, Sonoma-Cutrer’s most versatile Chardonnay. Light, medium bodied and easy to pair with a wide range of foods, it’s well suited for everything from seafood salads to marinades for meats and vegetables.

When a recipe calls for a red, be mindful of tannins. These bitter compounds are concentrated when cooked and can become harsh and astringent. Play it safe by opting for a smooth Pinot Noir, such as Sonoma-Cutrer’s Vine Hill. This medium-bodied red with rich fruit flavors accents ingredients rather than overpowering them.

Any of Sonoma-Cutrer’s Pinots work well for a classic beef dish like boeuf bourguignon, but you don’t have to limit this refined red to meat dishes. Need an inspired hors d’oeuvre for your next cocktail party? Try serving dried cherries in a Pinot Noir reduction prepared with Russian River Valley Pinot Noir.

When you’re unsure about what to use in your recipe, opt for the wine you’ll be serving with the meal. After all, good pairings work just as well within a recipe. And as Julia Child once famously quipped, “If you do not have a good wine to use, it is far better to omit it, for a poor one can spoil a simple dish and utterly debase a noble one.”

Which brings us to the best part about cooking with wine — the glass you get to sip while whipping up your masterpiece.

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Flavor Bridges

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The main objective of pairing -food and wine is pleasure. We should drink and eat what we like despite what any food or wine expert says is right or wrong. It is best to be open-minded enough to try different wines and foods. It is nice to try different varietals with the same foods. If you open multiple wines, open them at the same time and try each with your dish to see which you think pairs the best.

Using flavor bridges sounds complicated, but it can be as simple as using the same or similar wine in a dish that you plan to serve. For example, use a Chardonnay in your white wine butter sauce and then serve the same Chardonnay with the dish. A medium-bodied to full-bodied, dry and crisp Chardonnay like Sonoma-Cutrer’s Sonoma Coast paired with a grilled sea-bass with a Chardonnay butter sauce creates a bridge and continuity of flavors. Serving wine that has similar flavors as your food dishes will help emphasize those flavors.

Using flavor bridges is just one of the many ways to match food and wine. While there are exceptions to the above general guidelines, it will work more times than not. Remember to pair wine and foods of similar weight for best effect. By implementing a few, simple techniques, you will definitely enjoy a more exceptional experience than the boring red wine with red meat and white wine with white meat. Give it a try and see where it take you!

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Grand Cru Barrel Program

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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

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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!

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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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