Too smart for my own good: Revelations at Sonoma-Cutrer

Today’s lesson, at least for me: Just because something is popular doesn’t mean it’s not good. In this case, really good.

I had been working under the assumption (a practice fraught with figurative potholes) that because Sonoma-Cutrer was the most popular by-the-glass chardonnay at U.S. restaurants, it must be the kind of oaky, buttery chard that i do not favor.


It’s actually a pretty zesty rendition, undergirding its bright California fruit with a brisk foundation. I checked to make sure that the setting – between two verdant croquet layouts backed by rolling vineyards – wasn’t seducing my taste buds. Nope. This wine was the real deal.

And that wasn’t all. My way better half and I dined with head winemaker Mick Schroeter, as delightful an Aussie (is that redundant?) as one would want to meet. (Have I mentioned that I love my job?). He made it clear that the mega-popular wine’s style emanated from great grapes and an ardor for harmony in the finished product.

Later, winery manager Mark Elcombe was waxing poetically about a new sparkling offering at the winery. So we asked Mick about it, and he obliged us by motioning to the empty tasting room. And this 60-40 blend of pinot noir and chardonnay was as advertised, an exciting, uplifting, delicious concoction.

As we were preparing to leave, I mentioned to Mark that while the wines at the dinner – two chards and a pinot – were quite the treat, I had hoped to taste their sauvignon blanc. Voila, back to the tasting room and another tantalizing delight, with citrus and spice notes and a marvelously bracing finish.

It capped one of my favorite winery dinners ever – and served as a fitting reminder that assumptions are made to be impugned.

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