Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Sonoma-Cutrer Celebrates 30 Years of Making Fine Wine

I was recently invited to speak on a panel in honor of Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards, which has been creating estate bottle chardonnay for over thirty years. The Cutrer Vineyard encompasses about 250 acres of the winery's 450 acres in the heart of the Russian River Valley of northern California. Time for a road trip!

The winery is also celebrating its new Winemaking Director, Michael "Mick" Schroeter. Mick is a native Australian and is only the third person to take the helm at the winery, most recently following Terry Adams who retired last fall. Mick will continue to guide the winery in its production of award-winning Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and he let the crowd know that he is not there to shake things up. He intends to maintain the quality and approach the winery is known for.

"It's a privilege to work with this winery and apply my experience to their legacy of success. I look forward to carrying on the Sonoma-Cutrer tradition and following Terry Adam's commitment to excellence," said Schroeter.

The event was held at The French Culinary Institute in NYC, specifically in their International Culinary Center theater, which has hosted many illustrious speakers. Deans Alain Sailhac and Jacques Pepin were in attendance, sitting together in their crisp whites.

Guests from all areas of media and food were greeted with a bar featuring several of the Sonoma-Cutrer wines along with a small buffet set up by the FCI staff with cheeses and charcuterie to complement our beverages. After this brief cocktail party, the panel discussion began, followed with Q&As.

Barbara Fairchild was our fearless moderator, who is currently writing for Nomad Editions. Barbara lent her wealth of knowledge by posing thought provoking and entertaining questions
to the panel which also included
left to right, Raymond Sokolov, (me), Charlie Palmer, Mick Schroeter from Sonoma-Cutrer and Michael Lomonaco.

I had never met Mr. Sokolov before and was terribly excited to meet this man whose works I have read for so long and whose opinion I so highly regarded. I'm please to report that while I had ascribed god-like powers to him, he was extremely approachable, incredibly welcoming, and yes, of course, boundlessly knowledgable. Between the two chef's point of view, Raymond framing things from a historical perspective, me representing the home cook and Mick speaking from a wine maker's perspective, we had a really fun and engaging panel with varied answers to the questions that Barbara brought forth.
We discussed how food and wine has changed over the last 30 years and what and who we felt were the most influential. The Q&A's ran the gamut. And just so you know, both chefs concurred that they do want food sent back, if the diner is not happy....and apparently Palm Springs is the toughest crowd, according to Palmer.

Afterwards, we retired to the school's restaurant where the staff had prepared foods representing the last three decades. Can you guess? While there were at least three offerings for each decade, I will titillate you with what I think were the most iconic: 1980's = Smoked Salmon Pizza; 1990's = Spring Pea Soup in shot glasses; 2000's = Tuna Tartare with Chile-Ponzu. OK, well the 1980's had a tie; there were also the Beggars Purses. As you can imagine the curated choices sparked many a conversation of "remember when...".

Make sure to visit the winery's page HERE to read more about them.