This LA Wine Woman Knows Nostalgia And Boldness Go A Long Way – How Caitlin Cutler Blackmailed Ronan
I i love talking about wine with people who share my passion for wine. We open bottles, we swap stories of travel and types of soil, terroir and residual sugar, and we talk about taste and food and restaurants. We recommend wines, drink and learn a lot.
In Wine conference, I introduce you to friends, acquaintances and people I meet while traveling the world, people who love wine as much as I do, who live to taste, who grow and make wine. You will appreciate their insight, and I hope you will learn something from them as well.
From the moment I looked through the wine list, I knew I wanted to present its creator in Wine talk. He (and they) had me at the Claus Preisinger Zweigelt and at the Martha stouman Nero d’Avola, not to mention the Alfredo Maestro “Amanda.” This concise little list was put together by someone who cares about what their guests drink with their food.
It was May and it was my first visit to Ronan, a Los Angeles restaurant that’s now high on my must-see list. The meal was something to write home about – read the full review here – and I’ve been back once more since then, and plan to dine frequently.
When asking around, I was told that Caitlin Cutler was the woman behind Ronan’s wine program. She is also co-owner of the restaurant with Daniel Moonman Cutler, her husband and Ronan’s chef. They have a good thing going on on Melrose Avenue.
Caitlin runs the front of the house, and her presence is one of calm and confidence. She is a welcoming person. Her past professional experience includes stints in the worlds of corporate finance and real estate development, then she entered the restaurant industry, as general manager of two Italian restaurants in Los Angeles: Sotto (now closed, this is where the couple met and fell in love) and Food, Zach Pollack’s Italian restaurant in Silver Lake.
The couple opened Ronan in September 2018. In Ronan’s first year of existence, Caitlin was pregnant – they now have two children – and the couple faced challenges familiar to all mom and pop restaurant owners. The reviews were favorable. Bill Addison, from Los Angeles Times, loved the French Dip-inspired calzone, and Eric Wareheim’s endorsement of the pies has had dozens of people requesting the “Instagram pizza”.
The inevitable drop in traffic happened, as the “see and be seen” crowd came and went, but the restaurant team worked and word about Ronan’s food spread. Then came COVID-19. (Jenn Harris wrote a wonderful article about the life of Caitlin and Daniel Cutler the day after Los Angeles ordered all restaurants to shut down. You can read it here.)
It has been, needless to say, a difficult and heart-wrenching time, days and nights since around March 31, 2020, for restaurants and the rest of the world. The National Association of Restaurateurs, in a study published in September 2020, reported that nearly one in six restaurants (representing nearly 100,000 establishments in the United States) “is closed permanently or for the long term”, resulting in the unemployment of nearly three million people. He added that the industry “is on track to lose $ 240 billion in sales by the end of the year. . “
Ronan survived, which I’m glad, and if you’ve never been to a restaurant, I invite you to reserve a table. Order the focaccia and burrata. If you go on Wednesdays, all wines made by women are offered at 30% off. Try the meatballs, and if calzone is on the menu, go for it.
In the meantime, now is the time to find out more about Caitlin Cutler in Wine talk.
James Brock: How has COVID-19 changed your work and your life?
Caitlin Cutler: I can spend a lot more time at home with my children. My husband and I are co-owners of Ronan, and before COVID, we both worked five to six nights a week. When the home security controls came out we had to alternate who would come to work as one of us had to stay home with the kids (no babysitting).
It really gave me the personal and professional balance that I wanted, but couldn’t quite afford to have, and now I work in the restaurant three nights a week.
JB: Tell us about three wines that you think you’re drinking right now. What makes them interesting? How about a food pairing for everyone?
CC : Sauvignon Blanc “Bon Jus” is our skin-contact BTG right now, and it’s just banging for the summer. I had never had Sauvignon Blanc in contact with the skin before this wine, and I’m not particularly fond of grapes in general, but leave it on the skins for 15 days and we’re in business.
The wine is unfiltered, no additives, and you can almost taste the laid back vibe of the Santa Barbara coast in the glass. Accord: Bar Zarandeado to Ronan.
The “cold red” really has a moment, and I’m all behind it. We have three chilled options on the list at Ronan right now, but the one that has my heart is “Soul Love” from Cave Tessier outside of Healdsburg. It’s a blend of Riesling (50%), Trousseau (20%) and Mourvèdre (30%), and it shines right behind its psychedelic label.
Don’t be fooled by the label’s playful nature, this is a fantastic and nuanced bottle. Tessier is run by a husband and wife team and enjoys a 30 percent discount on “Women in Wine on Wednesdays” at Ronan. Enjoy with the classic Margherita pizza. To add or not to add anchovies (to do).
I just have to close this list with the “Puszta Libre! », A biodynamic Zweigelt from the Austrian wine producer Claus Preisinger. This wine never sells unless I suggest it at a table, and this is such a missed opportunity for so many guests who want a bold red, but don’t know how to step out of their comfort zone.
I promise you all that there are some sophisticated reds outside of France, Spain and Italy. Pairing: Ronan pork meatballs with a side of hot, thick focaccia dripping with good Sicilian olive oil on a garnish of grilled rosemary.
JB: If the cost was not factored in, tell us which bottle you would add to your personal collection, and why.
CC : I love to collect wines from significant years. My husband and I were both born in 1985, and for our wedding we had two magnums of Emidio pepe 1985 Montepulciano d’Abruzzo. I would probably have two more from my daughters’ birth years (2015 and 2019) by now, when I can still afford them.
JB: What is your favorite grape and why?
CC : Hands down, Malvasia. It was the first grape variety that taught me how much depth there is to discovering wine. I’ve had light and floral vials, I’ve had earthy and dare I say masculine vials. I had it again and I had it sparkling. I loved it in every way and can’t wait to try many more iterations.
JB: How about a bottle our readers should buy now and keep in the cellar for 10 years, to celebrate a birth, birthday or other milestone?
CC : I would love to have a good suggestion for this, but I tend to focus on newer, lower cost production on my list. I would say find you something sentimental and put it in the cellar. Maybe a bottle you had on your first date, or a producer you’ve loved for an important year. Longing can add a lot to your experience years later.
JB: Where is your go-to place when you want to have a drink or a bottle (outside of your home and workplace)?
CC : I love Esters wine bar in Santa Monica. The service, the ambiance – everything is so welcoming and yet special at the same time, and you can find some truly fabulous wines by the glass that you don’t see anywhere else in town.
JB: If there was one thing you would like everyone to keep in mind when buying and consuming wine, what is it?
CC : It’s not about what the restaurant wants you to drink or what will impress the table next to you. It’s about you. It’s your experience, and we’re just here to make it easier. Talk to your waiter or the person doing the wine list, ask questions and they will lead you to the hidden gems that suit your needs, but be sure to listen to your instincts and drink what you want to drink tonight. -the.
Sometimes that’s what they suggest, but sometimes it’s a dirty martini or your favorite bottle of Chianti, and that’s okay too.
JB: What is your “eureka wine moment”, the incident / taste / encounter that put you and you on an intimate level forever?
CC : In 2014 it was my boss’s birthday and I went to Silver lake wine buy him a bottle of wine. He was a chef with many years of wine knowledge under his belt, and I was a novice restaurant worker just starting to scrape the service off my wine studies. I went to Silver Lake Wine and bought her a bottle of Rojac “Royaz” sparkling Refošk.
He opened it so we could share it and it knocked his socks off. He put it on the opening list for his trendy new restaurant in Silver Lake and I’ve never been so proud.
JB: What has been the strangest wine-related moment or incident you’ve experienced in your career so far?
CC : I had a friend of a friend (whom I didn’t know and had never even met briefly) sent me several emails and repeatedly asked me to waive the corkage right for his next reservation for a group of six people. Ronan was three months old at the time, and we were still paying our contractors from the years of construction leading up to our recent opening, let alone paying back our investors.
I was so insulted that a foreigner thought it was appropriate to bring their own wine and not expect to pay a fee (beware, our corkage fee is VERY reasonable). I’m so happy that the pandemic has brought to light how difficult finances are from a restaurant’s point of view, and times like this seem like a distant memory.
JB: Your favorite oenological reference in a literary work?
CC : Country music is my guilty pleasure, and whenever a musician talks about drinking red wine and getting revenge on an ex, I can’t help but smile.
For more wines, travels, and other James Brock stories, check out his Setting up.