On the vast estate that is the Sonoma-Cutrer Winery, there is a completely separate craft winery dedicated exclusively to making small batches of Pinot Noir. Hailing from the Russian River Valley, this appellation is on the premier Pinot Noir growing regions in the United States due in large part to the variety of soil characteristics and unique climate changes.
The winery implements handcrafted winemaking methods, handled with the most gentle of techniques. The process is hands-on from beginning to end; the grapes are hand-picked at night and then hand sorted, after which portions of the final blend are cold soaked and hand-punched down.
Zindanelia Arcidiacono, or as her friends call her Z, is the Pinot Noir Winemaker at Sonoma-Cutrer, creating some of the most highly-acclaimed wines in the brand’s history.
I had a chance to chat with #BossBabe Z – about her journey, wine pairing, how to pick the best wine and more!
Tell me about your journey, how you ended up at Sonoma-Cutrer, how you got your start in the wine industry…?
I was born in Texas but moved to Argentina when I was three years old. Winemaking is a huge part of the region’s economy, so I grew up surrounded by winemakers and witnessed how passionate they were about their work – it didn’t seem like a job, but rather a lifestyle. This made a lasting impression on me at a young age, and from there I knew I wanted to pursue a career in winemaking.
I began working in the lab at Bodega Cruz de Piedra while attending university in Mendoza. After graduating, I traveled to France to work my first harvest, and from there to California in 2007 as I wanted to continue traveling and exploring different wine regions. I learned of Sonoma-Cutrer and applied for an Enologist for that season’s harvest. I loved the region so much that I decided to stay, and took a position at Fetzer winery soon after, where I took my first Winemaker position for Fetzer Reserve Wines and Little Black Dress.
I was thrilled to return to Sonoma-Cutrer in 2015, and I’m humbled to say that today I view my work as a passion and lifestyle, rather than a job.
Tell me about the different kinds of Pinot Noirs at Sonoma-Cutrer? What makes the winery different?
Sonoma-Cutrer’s flagship Pinot Noir offering is our Russian River Valley Pinot Noir – available both at retail and in restaurants and bars. Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is a blend of our two Pinot Noir vineyards – Owsley and Vine Hill. We also make two limited-production, single-vineyard offerings, fittingly called Owsley and Vine Hill, which are available at the winery, through our wine club, and online at Sonoma-Cutrer’s web shop. In addition, we produce a limited-quantity, highly exclusive Pinot Noir called Founders Reserve – this is made from a special block of fruit from our estate vineyards – also sold at the winery.
Pinot Noir absolutely thrives in the Russian River Valley. This allows us to have some fun with innovations using our Pinot Noir fruit, such as our Rose of Pinot Noir (100% Pinot Noir fruit) and our new limited-edition Grand Cuvee Sparkling Wine (40% Pinot Noir fruit, 60% Chardonnay fruit, and the first-ever of its kind).
How is it being a female in the wine industry?
I am humbled to work alongside Sonoma-Cutrer’s extraordinary production team – made up of all females!
When picking a wine, what factors do you take into consideration?
At Sonoma-Cutrer, we make wines using Burgundian traditions with Californian ingenuity and a deep appreciation for Russian River Valley’s remarkable terroir. Like the French, we produce our wines with food at the heart of enjoyment – meaning our Pinot Noirs are meant to be enjoyed alongside foods that complement the flavors and complexities of the wine. A classic Russian River Valley Pinot Noir to me is elegantly structured with a depth of balanced flavors full of juicy red fruits and warm barrel spice, finishing with fine tannins and bright acidity. When you see ‘Russian River Valley,’ you’ll know it’s a complex, yet balanced offering that will pair beautifully with a great meal.
How do you feel about the trivial advice of red with meat and white with fish?
This advice is a promising rule of thumb, but it’s mainly about the rich flavors of the dish. Our Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is quite versatile and pairs beautifully with savory beef, braised duck, or grilled lamb – oh, and the more mushrooms the merrier! Seafood can certainly be enjoyed with Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir, with the right preparation (wood-fire grilled adds complexity) and a rich sauce.
That said, I think however you wish to enjoy your Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noir is the right way for you!
What are some tips for someone picking a wine for a date?
Pinot Noir absolutely thrives in the Russian River Valley – wines will offer dark fruit notes and forest floor complexity – making it a balanced and refined wine that will please any red wine lover. Pinot Noir is one of the most versatile varietals, so it will pair well with many different dishes – from meats to seafood – so there’s no struggle to choose a wine that might complement one partners dish more than the other. Big reds have their place, but the elegant, silky structure of Sonoma-Cutrer Pinot Noirs is a classic go-to and the perfect pairing for a night out on the town, or your dining room table.
Anything else you’d like our BELLA readers to know?
At Sonoma-Cutrer, we take a hands-on approach to winemaking. My small team of 10 and I produce all of our Pinot Noirs in a refurbished horse barn nestled out in the vineyards at Sonoma-Cutrer in the Russian River Valley. There is no place on earth like the Russian River Valley (from the climate, to the soil to the terroir), allowing Pinot Noir to thrive.
Sonoma-Cutrer Russian River Valley Pinot Noir can be purchased at select retail locations across the U.S. and online at sonomacutrer.com.