An Afternoon At Sonoma-Cutrer Winery (Sonoma Valley, California)
It’s been a long while since I talked about one of my true loves—winery visits. It seems that (consciously or subconsciously) I always end up planning travel to wine areas. And California’s Sonoma Valley may be one of the best and most underrated regions I’ve ended up in.
I briefly talked a bit about Sonoma-Cutrer in my deeper post on wineries to visit in Sonoma Valley, but wanted to dive into a little bit more information on this charming winery and why it should be on your list.
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The winery is known for marrying Burgundian winemaking traditions with California’s terror, offering up variations from both the Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast. And if you’re planning to visit the Sonoma Valley (or Coast) area, it’s one of the must-visit options in my opinion.
Full disclosure, I work for Brown-Forman, who owns Sonoma-Cutrer, which is why I have visited this area a few times. But there’s no relationship between the winery or brand and this blog, and they don’t endorse me or the blog in any way. All opinions are, as always, completely my own!
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How to get to the Sonoma Valley
There are now some flights into tiny Santa Rosa airport, so that’s an option, but otherwise you’ll want to fly into the San Francisco area and then rent a car and drive up to the Sonoma Valley. It takes between an hour and a half and two hours, depending on traffic in the San Francisco area and exactly where you’re staying.
I strongly recommend having a car to get around the Sonoma Valley area. The only challenge is that if you’re doing lots of winery visits then you need a designated driver (I’m sure you could maybe rent a driver??). Regardless, you absolutely cannot rely on public transportation in this area, nor would I rely 100% on Uber or Lyft since there isn’t a ton of cell signal so you can’t count on being able to summon one.
I will say that driving over the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset is quite the special experience…
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What to do at the winery
I like to get there earlier in the morning to enjoy the area’s chilly, foggy mornings, and the initial winding drive up to the winery is really pretty.
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So obviously one of the biggest reasons to visit is to do a tasting, and there are multiple wine flights to choose from. What’s nice is that the winery has lots of seating for just chilling, so no one will be trying to hurry you along.
I’ll be honest, chardonnays aren’t generally my thing, but they’re what Sonoma-Cutrer is especially known for. And there is one here in particular that I love—Les Pierres. To me, it drinks more like a sauvignon blanc…light and refreshing and mineral-y. You can try their main chardonnays and pinot noir in the regular tasting, or branch out into one of their limited-edition winery options.
I’m partial to their Woodford Reserve barrel-finished pinot noir (which I think you can only find at the winery), and also love their Late Harvest dessert wine.
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One thing that people often miss—I think because the outside tasting area is so nice—is spending a bit of time in the tasting room. I’ve spent time in a lot of winery tasting rooms in my day, and I really love the one here. It just feels light and airy, with pretty colorful touches.
You can belly up to the counter and choose a tasting flight, or decide to head out to the patio and enjoy the view.
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That tasting view might include some fierce competition as well…
Many wineries have something you can do on your visit that sets them apart, and Sonoma-Cutrer is no different. One of the fun draws here is their two beautiful croquet courts. The courts aren’t just a whim either…the winery hosted the Croquet World Championships for almost 20 years.
If you’re coming with a few friends or a group, this is such a great way to spend a few hours!
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I’m in love with the massive cheese and charcuterie platter you can order or you can pre-order lunch from the winery instead (either way, it’s important to order ahead). And, of course, wine.
Croquet aside, I could spend all afternoon out here with my cheese and wine. And if you need any help with rules or techniques, winery staff’s got your back…croquet is actually harder than it looks!
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So what else should you do at Sonoma-Cutrer? Well personally I’m a fan of the vineyard tours. On one of my visits we also took a tour of some of the vineyards, which under non-COVID circumstances is one of the options for visitors. It was a chilly and foggy morning, but sunny…it lent the vines and the hills behind them such a beautiful ambiance.
Soon enough the sun burned away the fog and it warmed up quickly. The views from the winery are really lovely and worth the extra cost (it’s a more premium tasting and tour) if you’ve got a nice day!
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We also got to tour through the barrelhouse and see the one-of-a-kind cooling tunnel that Sonoma-Cutrer uses to move the grapes at a consistently-low temperature to keep them from oxidizing.
Hearing the science of the tunnel explained and how important it is to the winery’s process is pretty cool! If you’re interested in finding out a little more about their pressing and fermenting process, you can here.
I really do love this winery, and it’s located in such a great central spot in the area (and right next door to La Crema, so you can visit there as well). It’s worth looking into if you’re planning a trip to the Sonoma Valley area—which I recommend as a perfect long weekend itinerary!
How to plan your visit to Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyard:
- Where to stay: I’ve stayed a few places, but love the Hyatt Regency Sonoma Wine Country
- What to do there: You can see all the options as well as tour and tasting times at their official website. Obviously COVID will impact whether they’re open or what the offerings are, but one thing that’s great is that they have a ton of open outdoor space for tastings, so you can easily socially-distance. I recommend some croquet and a cheese plate if you have time!
- What else to do in the area: Oh boy, so much! Get out to the coast, take a hike in the redwoods, explore the craft brewery scene, try a bunch of other wineries, maybe kayak on the Russian River, and gorge on all the great local food.
- A word to the wise: One thing to know is that there is very little (or NO) cell signal in this area (how is that possible?!). I recommend making sure you screenshot directions, addresses, and maps. It’s super frustrating not being able to call ahead to make a reservation, or get your Google Maps to navigate for you when you’re unfamiliar with the area.
Sonoma-Cutrer is located at 4401 Slusser Rd, Windsor, CA 95492
Other winery adventures you’ll love:
- Exploring Argentina’s Wineries in Mendoza
- Wine and Conversation at Slovenia’s Rojac Winery
- Rosé All Day: The Wineries of Aix-en-Provence
- A Weekend of Wine in Oregon’s Willamette Valley
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