Originally published in Currents

Northeast Ohio food and wine aficionados need not travel all the way to Europe for a French-inspired fine dining experience. All that is required is a short drive to the bucolic community of Moreland Hills, where a distinctive experience awaits visitors to Cru Uncorked.

The creation of retired Eaton Corp. CEO Sandy Cutler, his wife Sarah and their son Bill, Cru Uncorked is located in a singularly unique setting — a French-styled country chateau complete with an imported fountain and a vegetable and herb garden located behind the building. A stone-floored patio and wooden pergola make for a popular gathering spot during the warmer months.

Cru Uncorked’s visually inspiring inside space is highlighted by a 10-foot stucco mural imported from Paris and four small dining rooms, each with a different décor. Three fireplaces, French antiques and original artwork all add to the European atmosphere.

A rustic, intimate lounge features a bar top made out of European oak and old wine boxes that have been transformed into banquette tables.

Opened in the spring of 2017, Cru Uncorked has more than lived up to the Cutlers’ original vision. “We wanted to give people a European experience with great food and an expansive wine list,” said Sandy Cutler. “The four different dining rooms have four different feels.”

Bill Cutler, who once studied at the International Culinary Arts and Sciences Institute in Chesterland, cooked in Florence, Italy, where he observed the local custom of dining as a relaxed, congenial night out.

“In Florence, the experience of going out at night is about families and friends enjoying their time together and making the evening last as long as they can,” said Cutler. “That’s the experience we want for people here.”

“In America, we are all trained by a la carte dining with side dishes,” added Sandy Cutler. “People go out for an hour and a half and go back home. We want people to enjoy themselves by spending time with a fully plated dinner… an integrated meal.”

To enhance the leisurely and enjoyable dining experience, Cru Uncorked has intentionally spaced small tables, carpeting, floor-to-ceiling drapes and custombuilt, upholstered chairs. “The number one issue when people go out to dine is that it’s so loud they can’t hear the people at their own table,” said Sandy Cutler.

The seasonal menu at Cru Uncorked is supervised by executive head chef John Stropki, who studied at the Culinary Institute of America and The French Pastry School. Everything is made from scratch on a daily basis by using custom stocks, premium oils and natural butter imported from Europe. Visitors can dine on everything from duck to lamb to halibut as well as vegetarian dishes and desserts.

And what would a European dining experience be without wine? Cru Uncorked has a collection of more than 350 selections from around the world. Sommelier Chris Oppewall coordinates wine tastings and dinners throughout the year, including this month’s Vintage 2015 Bordeaux Dinner on Oct. 24.

Fine wine at Cru Uncorked

Cru Uncorcked offers a large selection of fine wine, champagne and brandy.

“People often see a large wine list and are afraid to ask questions,” said Sandy Cutler. “We want to demystify the wine selection process. The best wine is the wine you actually like.”

The Cutlers paid great attention to detail during their local approach to French New American Cuisine well before Cru Uncorked debuted. “We had a test kitchen off-site and spent eight weeks training everyone before we opened,” said Sandy Cutler.

Visitors to Cru Uncorked will also recognize a longtime member of the Northeast Ohio fine dining scene, general manager Thomas Lutz, who founded Gamekeeper’s Hospitality in 1976.

With Cleveland now firmly entrenched as a destination for food lovers from across the country, the Cutlers feel Cru Uncorked is an ideal addition to the area’s collection of fine dining locations.

“This is a great foodie town,” said Sandy Cutler. “We just have a different niche. Whether you come in once a week, once a month or once a year, we want your experience to be a memorable one.”

Cru Uncorked takes dinner reservations for 5-8:30 p.m., Tuesday through Thursday and from 5-9 p.m., Friday and Saturday. Call 440.903.1171 or make a reservation online.