A Rare Retail Sighting of Sonoma-Cutrer RRR

Mon, Sep 12, 22

A Rare Retail Sighting of Sonoma-Cutrer RRR

I have been in the wine business for over 30 years and there have always been a few wines that were very difficult to acquire for retail sale. Many wineries are more than willing to have their wines at restaurants but are reluctant to sell them at retail stores. The reason is twofold. Restaurants will double or even triple the price, keeping an artificial high retail value which is good for the winery. The second reason is the restaurants do not have to address potentially angry customers who found the wine at a substantially cheaper price than they paid. This wine is so popular and well known, it has ranked as one of the top Chardonnays for the past 31 years!

Sonoma Cutrer Russian River Ranches Chardonnay is one of those wines. It has been deemed an “on-premise only” wine since the late 1980s. Every once in a blue moon, a few cases would sneak out to a retail store. I cannot count how many times I had to break the bad news that a wine that someone enjoyed at dinner cannot be purchased for home consumption. Attempting to address the situation in the 1990s, Sonoma Cutrer actually made a new wine that was approved for retail stores. Although they used Sonoma Coast grapes, not all the grapes were from the Russian River.

Russian River might be the best location for Chardonnay in California. Chardonnay is a cool climate grape. When grown in hot areas, Chardonnay tends to mature too fast without developing the secondary flavors that are found when the grapes ripen slowly over a long growing season. Russian River is a cooler area which is influenced by the proximity of the Pacific Ocean and the fog generated by the Ocean. The diurnal temperature variation (the difference between the daily high and low temperature) can be as large as 40 degrees. The cool evenings allow the grapes to “relax” and slow their growth cycle. Hence, the harvest is very late in the season after most of the neighboring areas.

The first thing you notice about the wine is the screw cap. If you want to be in-the-know, it’s actually called a stelvin closure. Don’t get turned off. I actually like screw caps for my white wines. Unless you are planning to age the wine, there is no need to waste money on very expensive corks. I find the screw cap keeps the wine fresher and there is no chance of the wine being tainted.

The wine has a beautiful light gold color. The nose is full and rich; lots of pear and apple with a hint of spiciness. The aromas bound from the glass. It has a warm and round mouthfeel. It really covers the whole mouth, but it is incredibly light (in body) and refreshing. The finish is long and once again refreshing. The light acidity cleanses the palate and works well with the fruit. A beautiful balance between the two.

I guess I should mention that I taste (and drink) my white wines at room temperature. I find that room temperature exposes any flaws in the wine and also allows the full spectrum flavors to show whereas a cold wine will hide most flaws and dull many flavors.

At the current time, this wine is only available at our Missouri locations.