Central Coast AVA
Today, Cutruzzola produces just under 800 cases
Located in a coastal valley just outside the town of Cambria on California’s Central Coast, Cutruzzola Vineyards is a tiny estate purchased by Frank Cutruzzola and Lisa Miller in 2000. What began as a project to grow and sell premium wine grapes is now one of the latest up-and-coming, ultra-boutique wineries to carve their way into the upper echelons of the Central Coast wine scene.
Frank Cutruzzola (koo-troot-ZOL-a) has been a fan of Burgundy since enjoying a bottle of Vosne-Romanèe while in medical school at Yale University. The Pinot Noir left such an impression on him that he planted 12 vines of the varietal at his home in Long Island. It was just enough to produce three half bottles – and to leave him with a thirst for more!
Frank went on to complete his fellowship at Colombia University and moved to Santa Rosa, California to accept his first position as a practicing Radiologist (he is now working at Redwood Memorial Hospital with over 25 years of experience). Although successful in the medical field, the desire to buy land and plant a Pinot Noir vineyard was still in the back of Frank’s mind, and now that he lived near renowned California wine country, that idea become more and more appealing.
Frank met his partner Lisa Miller at a local wine event in Healdsburg. Lisa had grown up in the area and worked for a small firm helping non-profits. She shared Frank’s passion for Pinot Noir, and had a special interest in German Rieslings as well. The two decided to search for a suitable property that would lend itself to grow and produce their two favorite varietals.
How did they end up with a vineyard in Cambria?
“It was pure luck!” reveals co-owner Lisa Miller. “We were on vacation in Cambria, staying at McCall Farm’s Bed and Breakfast and found a beautiful piece of property for sale just a few miles down the road. We took a risk and purchased it right then and there! We discovered the soil was perfect for planting wine grapes, and it was situated in such a place that it saw warm, sunny days with cool ocean breezes. It was the perfect cool-climate combination for growing Pinot Noir and Riesling, and just what we were looking for.” Lisa and Frank purchased the 47-acre property in 2000 and planted a 7-acre vineyard there the following year.
“Most of the land was unplantable since it was so steep,” Lisa recently explained. “We chose to start with five acres of Pinot Noir and two of Riesling.” The couple continued to live up north, maintaining their ‘day-jobs,’ but began making trips down to Cambria at least once a month to check on the property and help tend to the vines. In 2007, Lisa and Frank hired vineyard manager Bill Kesselring of KVCS, Inc. Bill helped replant portions of the vineyard that suffered during the severe droughts Cambria went through, and really took the vineyard quality to the next level. His vast knowledge and experience with managing vineyards throughout California made him an easy choice for Lisa and Frank and they have thoroughly enjoyed having Bill as a member of the Cutruzzola family.
In 2007, Lisa and Frank picked the 7-acre vineyard themselves and brought the grapes home to practice winemaking on their own. The following year, they sold the Riesling grapes to a winemaker friend up north and had Stephen Ross’ winemaker, Stephen Dooley, make the first batch of commercial Cutruzzola Pinot Noir – a tiny 87 cases! “We hadn’t intended on getting into the winemaking business so soon,” Lisa revealed. “The plan was to grow and sell the grapes for a number of years first, but we found ourselves in a position with some Pinot grapes that needed a home. Bill introduced us to Stephen Dooley, and he’s been a terrific winemaker to work with.”
Today, Cutruzzola Vineyards produces just under 800 cases of premium Riesling and Pinot Noir, with much of their success due to word of mouth. The wines have also garnered serious attention from the wine press, garnering a number of medals and reviews even on the first few releases – an incredible accomplishment for any winery. Lisa and Frank may still live up north, but have found a way to entertain themselves when they can’t be at the vineyard property in Cambria.
“We now grow a little Zinfandel in our yard at home – just 750 head-trained vines,” Lisa said in closing. “Frank and I make the wine for free and invite our friends and family over for harvest and bottling parties. Everyone brings their own corks and bottles, and I make a big batch of pasta. It’s a wonderful time, and it brings everyone together – which is exactly what wine should be about.”
About the Vineyard
Lisa Miller and Frank Cutruzzola found exactly what they were looking for in their 47- acre property just outside the town of Cambria on California’s Central Coast. The land was sold to them by the Walter Family, who owns a considerable amount of farm and ranch land in the area. Lisa and Frank still allow grazing rights on their land for the Walter Family cows, as it’s a proven benefit to their vineyard’s health as well.
Cutruzzola Vineyards is planted to five acres of Pinot Noir and two acres of Riesling, with the intent to add another acre of Pinot in the upcoming year. Vineyard manager Bill Kesselring oversees the property and ensures winemaker Stephen Dooley has premium quality fruit to work with.
Cambria is a part of the San Luis Obispo County AVA, and it experiences the ideal cool-climate combination of sunny, warm days and brisk ocean breezes to develop evenly-ripened, deeply concentrated fruit.
Lisa Miller and Frank Cutruzzola - Co-Owners
Dear Platinum Series Wine Club Members,
I first dreamed of making Pinot Noir after sharing a bottle of Vosne-Romanèe. This day was long ago but I recall longing for at least one more drop once the last drop was consumed. The road between that longing and our vineyard’s first bottle of wine was a long one. Six years later I moved to California for work, and for the hope of finding a vineyard filled with sunshine and cool air.
Lisa and I found our place in a coastal valley seven miles from the town of Cambria, in a valley filled with ranches, cows and fruit farms. Although the land was steep and would be difficult to plant and farm, we bought it because of the way the breeze and sunshine felt on our skin. The Central Coast is water poor. We had to nurse our first plantings for eight years before they yielded their first crop, 87 cases in 2009.
Since that time, the roots have deepened, and yields have improved. Still, this 2012 Pinot Noir was made from vines which yielded barely one ton to the acre. We were blown away the first time we tried it in barrel. We were also blown away yesterday when we shared a bottle with our family. The wine is named after my mom, Gloria. We hope you love the 2012 Pinot Noir Gloria as much as we do.
Stephen Dooley - Winemaker
Cutruzzola Vineyards is fortunate to work with veteran winemaker Stephen Dooley of Santa Maria’s renowned Stephen Ross Wine Cellars. A U.C. Davis graduate with winemaking experience at Louis Martini in the Napa Valley and the Edna Valley Vineyard in San Luis Obispo County, Stephen also served winemaking stints in both South Africa and Australia before establishing his own wine production company in 1994.
Stephen Dooley is a friendly and engaging man and has enjoyed his time working with Cutruzzola Vineyards. He is a firm believer in a hands-on winemaking approach in order to maintain the highest quality possible. At the same time, Stephen believes in the winemaking axiom of the late Andre Tchelistche - ‘wine makes itself and the winemaker is simply the caretaker.’
Stephen Dooley works closely with vineyard manager Bill Kesselring to craft world-class Pinot Noir and Riesling from the Cutruzzola Vineyards in San Luis Obispo County. His efforts have resulted in numerous award-winning wines and he looks forward to continually enhancing the Cutruzzola brand.