This vintage reveals the complex personality that the Russian River Valley brings to Pinot Noir. In this seventh vintage, there is a complexity to the aromas - red cherry, cranberry and forest floor are accented with anise, tobacco, rhubarb and cedar/cigar box oak. Elegantly structured with great length, the wine is bright and focused with an acidity that dances on the palate. Fruit flavors of red cherry, berry, and just a touch of cranberry are accented with barrel spice and balanced oak that is wrapped in a clean, bright, lingering acidity. This is a classic Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Pinot Noir that will continue to evolve over time, and I am sure there are many more complexities yet to be experienced in this wine.
Located in the cool Sonoma Coast viticultural region, Sonoma-Cutrer vineyards was founded in 1973 by Brice Cutrer Jones. The winery is dedicated exclusively to the production of Estate Bottled Chardonnay from its own vineyards. Since 1981, Sonoma Cutrer Vineyards has produced three "vineyard designated" wines from the distinct soils of Les Pierres, the Cutrer Vineyard, and Russian River Ranches.
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The Russian River Valley is named as such due to its proximity to the Russian River, the river itself named for the Russian fur traders who came down from Alaska in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. The Russian River is agricultural land. While there is a focus on wine, beyond the vineyards are many small, family-owned farms cultivating everything from cattle to Christmas trees.
The proximity of this cool river and the rolling fogs from the Pacific Ocean make the area amenable to cool-climate grapes like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. In fact, the region is quite known for its full-bodied, yet elegant Pinot Noir, as well as their ripe, yet lean Chardonnays. Within Russian River Valley lie the smaller appellations of Chalk Hill and Green Valley. Chalk Hill is the warmer of the two and furthest from the ocean, while Green Valley is cooler and closer to the water.
It's not rare to see a wine's country of origin listed as "California." A country into itself in the wine world, California makes enough varieties and styles to match many European wine countries. It produces a diverse range of wines that span the quality spectrum.
The most famous of the California wine regions is Napa Valley, and these wines are certainly outstanding – but it's not as broad and diverse as its larger neighbor, Sonoma County. Down south, Santa Barbara's Santa Maria Valley is well-known for its Rhône blends, as well as cool-climate varieties like Pinot and Chardonnay. The Central Coast, the largest California AVA, has many different microclimates that lead to a wide range of wines with many sub-AVAs.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Fruity
Red wines that are more fruit-forward and lighter in tannin and body.
Smooth & Supple
Medium bodied reds that go down easy, with smooth tannins and supple fruit.
Earthy & Spicy
Wines where earthy and/or spicy dominate the flavors – typically medium to full body.
Big & Bold
Full bodied wines that have concentrated fruit and are higher in alcohol and/or tannins. Some need age.