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2016 BEST Chardonnay: Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards

Author: Alexandra Russell
May, 2016 Issue

"It's my goal to continue to maintain quality and style, vintage-to-vintage." —Mick Schroeter


Six years ago, Mick Schroeter took over the reins from retiring, long-time Sonoma-Cutrer winemaker Terry Adams. Adams was only the second director of winemaking for the storied Sonoma County winery, which was founded in 1981 in the heart of Russian River Valley. It was an opportunity of a lifetime for Schroeter, an Australian who started his career as a red winemaker at Penfolds.

“I’m not a big fan of the big, buttery, oaky Chardonnay that’s become known as the California style,” says Schroeter, now the third-ever director of winemaking at Sonoma-Cutrer, overseeing a talented winemaking and production team. “Lucky for me, Terry had been making an atypical Chardonnay here—fruit forward, elegance driven with bright acidity—so I was able to transition into a style of Chardonnay I already loved.”

Sonoma-Cutrer produces five distinct Chardonnays. Its two core wines are Russian River Ranches Chardonnay (found primarily in restaurants nationally) and Sonoma Coast Chardonnay (typically found at retail locations). They’re joined by two single vineyard wines, The Cutrer Chardonnay (made from the winery’s estate fruit) and Les Pierres Chardonnay (sourced from another estate vineyard located near the town of Sonoma). The winery also produces a small amount of Founders Reserve Chardonnay each year (available only at the winery or through the wine club).

“It’s my goal to continue to maintain quality and style, vintage-to-vintage,” says Schroeter. “Each year, we have 200 unique parcels of Chardonnay fruit, including individual blocks in estate vineyards and sourced fruit. I view that as a ‘spice rack’ I can use to define and refine the wines.”

He continues: “When I fist came over from Australia, I found two Chardonnays that really stood out to me. One of them was Sonoma-Cutrer’s Les Pierres. During my first visit to Les Pierres each harvest, I find myself filled with a sense of awe and pride that I’m now overseeing the making of such an iconic wine.”

In addition to its highly regarded Chardonnays, Sonoma-Cutrer also produces fantastic Pinot Noir (only about 5 percent of its total production) as well as some one-time limited national release wines including, right now, a Russian River Valley Sauvignon Blanc. “We have several other interesting wines only available in the tasting room, so come and taste,” says Schroeter.

A visit to the tasting room can also include a friendly game of croquet. The winery has a regulation-size croquet lawn, and guests are able to checkout equipment for a barefoot match (to preserve the lawn’s integrity for professional tournaments and community fund-raisers). On the middle weekend of each month in spring and summer, the winery hosts Chardonnay & Croquet (see website for details).

Speaking of community, Schroeter would like to thank NorthBay biz readers for voting Sonoma-Cutrer Best Chardonnay: “Awards like this warm the hearts of all of us who work here,” he says. “We strive to make a unique style of wine, and this recognition reflects on the efforts of our whole team. It’s especially nice to be recognized in your own backyard.”


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