Cara Morrison

Cara Morrison

Sonoma-Cutrer Vineyards (Winemaker)

Cara Morrison, a native of San Jose, entered the University of California, Davis, intending to pursue a pre-med track. But this was not to be. A lecture by Ann Noble on malolactic fermentation as part of an Introduction to Winemaking class piqued her interest so much that she immediately changed her major to Fermentation Science. She earned her B.S. degree with this major in 1996.

Following graduation, Cara spent a year traveling to other winemaking regions of the world, working at wineries in Australia, Chile, and New York State. She also augmented her winemaking skills by studying the craft in New Zealand, Eastern Europe, Italy, Germany, and France, where she worked in Burgundy, the Rhone, Bordeaux, Champagne, and Loire regions. The experiences were valuable, and she says, “Traveling the world and working at all of these different wineries opened my eyes. We all make wine, but we're all different. We all have different set ups with equipment, different vineyards, and I saw firsthand just how winemakers must think out of the box and be adaptive in their craft.”

Out of money but driven by her passion, Cara joined the Jekel Vineyard winemaking team in 1998. She was selected as the winemaker for white wines at Fetzer Vineyards two years later. During that time, she particularly enjoyed working with a variety of grapes, including Gewürztraminer, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio, Viognier, and, of course, Chardonnay.

Cara moved to Sonoma-Cutrer in 2005 as assistant Chardonnay winemaker and was later promoted to Chardonnay winemaker. She immersed herself in producing Burgundian-style Chardonnay.

When it comes to crafting wine, Cara brings an uncommon wealth of knowledge and passion to this varietal. She considers Chardonnay a special grape that allows the winemaker more versatility than any other; Sonoma-Cutrer’s intense focus on Chardonnay is what attracted her to the brand. Today, she loves that her role allows her to experiment with barrel maturation and the blending process of the winery’s Chardonnay. Cara says, “I have close to 20 different Chardonnay experiments going every harvest and I have to hire an intern just to help me keep track of them all!”

And she’s no stranger to cellar work, still recalling the support she received for doing it when working her very first vintage in 1995 while still at UC Davis. To quote her, “I was working in the cellars—which is where you initially start off—with Susan Lueker. She said to me, ‘We can do anything they [males] can do. It just might take a few more trips up the stairs!’”

Winemaking is often a family profession and, true to form, Cara’s husband, Boyd, is a winemaker as well. They and their two children, Liam and Bridget, live in Sonoma County and when they aren’t busy making wine, they enjoy taking family road trips to the mountains, where they ski, hike, and swim.