The Fourth of July is a time to fire up the grill, light some sparklers, and toast this amazing country. And what better time to celebrate America’s most popular wine varietal? Our country’s story of grit and determination is not unlike the history of Chardonnay’s rise in the United States.
While Chardonnay cuttings were first imported from France more than a century ago, it took many more decades for the wine to catch on in the United States. Wente Vineyards’ 1936 vintage was the country’s first varietally labeled Chardonnay, and in 1960 the “Michelin Guide” declared Wente Chardonnay equal to the finest white wines of France.
Yet most Americans still reached for what they knew—French wines labeled “Chablis.” It wasn’t until the legendary Judgment of Paris in 1976 that Chardonnay came into its own in this country.
When Chateau Montelena’s California Chardonnay was declared the winner in a blind tasting featuring the best from both France and California, a boom in Chardonnay production followed. California’s meager 100 acres of Chardonnay grapes in 1940 soon swelled to today’s 100,000 acres.
This overnight popularity did not come without some growing pains, however. Over-eager producers loaded up on new French oak barrels, and it wasn’t long before there was a backlash against heavily oaked California Chardonnays. This led to the more recent trend of producing “unoaked” Chardonnays on the opposite end of the spectrum.
Fortunately, Sonoma-Cutrer is not one to follow trends. In the winery’s own 30-year history, the goal has always remained the same: Combine Old World Burgundian winemaking methods with New World technologies to produce elegant Chardonnays that are deeply rooted in a sense of place.
This place: America … California … and a pretty little corner of the Russian River Valley.
This Independence Day, toast the resourcefulness, initiative and ingenuity of America with a bottle of Sonoma-Cutrer’s flagship wine, Russian River Ranches—the most popular Chardonnay in the country’s finest restaurants.
While you’re at it, lift a glass to all of the winemakers who have brought this same American spirit to that glorious glass of Chardonnay in your hand.