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Dawson Creek Winery - Napa Valley

European acceptance brings out Dawson Creek’s Reserves.

The very fact that Dawson Creek Winery exists is a remarkable story that bears repeating. The two principals who own Dawson Creek are decidedly dissimilar individuals who have forged a lasting friendship over a number of years and have finally decided to cast the dice on a new venture. The two friends are Shahin Shahabi, 43, and Dennis Patton, 58, who have worked together in one capacity or another for over fifteen years.

Shahabi is a native of Iran (more specifically, the storied city of Shiraz, the ancient capital of the Persian Empire) who has been wildly successful in the wine business and is the owner of the much-heralded Stonehedge Winery in Napa Valley. His family came to the US more than three decades ago and began a wine import business in Southern California. After Stonehedge’s ascent to the elite level of Napa wineries, Shahabi took the unusual step of enrolling in Napa College where he received a winemaking degree.

“I felt I needed to know more about the business of making wine and not just selling it,” Shahabi explained. “Many of my friends, including Dennis Patton, encouraged me to attend. It was a truly uplifting experience.” Shahabi’s relationship with Patton dated back to around 1989 when Patton began serving as consulting winemaker to several of Shahabi’s earlier wine ventures. That working relationship slowly developed into a strong friendship and the pair has engineered a number of successful wine programs through the ensuing years.

“When we first started working together, Dennis brought some much needed expertise into my operation, and our arrangement proved to be quite profitable for us both. But slowly, our friendship evolved in much the same way a fine wine evolves in the barrel and bottle,” Shahabi added. “It was simply a matter of time and circumstances. Even today we don’t always agree on everything, but our mutual esteem for each other allows us to respectfully disagree.”

The actual development of Dawson Creek Winery actually began some four years ago, when the wine was first produced for a wine distributor in Scandinavia who also sold it to several European markets. Its name was chosen from the popular television series of the same name that was a much-admired show in Scandinavia and seemed to suggest a distinctive American appeal to the wines. The success of Dawson Creek Winery abroad started Shahabi and Patton thinking that the product might also be attractive to the American market. The two had wanted to get together for some time on a joint venture and Dawson Creek seemed to fit the bill to the proverbial ‘T”.

“Both Dennis and I were really interested in producing a terroir-oriented wine that was decidedly non-commercial” Shahabi remarked. “We wanted to make a wine that was never diluted or overdone in any respect. It was our intention to produce wines that accurately reflected the area in which they were grown. Dennis’ wonderful expertise with growers throughout Northern California made all that possible.” The initial release of Dawson Creek Winery is around 5,000 cases and the future will be based on the buying public’s appraisal of the wine. Both partners genuinely believe they will be able to reflect the “true spirit” of the areas from which their wines are grown.

“Fortunately neither of us has a big ego,” Shahabi reflected. “And neither of us really needs the other. We actually want to work with each other and that’s what drives us to accomplish our goals. Believe it or not, it’s not for the purpose of only making money.” Shahabi also pointed out that his joint venture with Dennis Patton was a “full democracy between us,” another enviable statement in any business environment. It will be interesting to follow the development of Dawson Creek Winery and its unique ownership. Any venture of this sort seems destined to cross any number of perilous challenges, but Dawson Creek seems miles ahead of the power curve.

After all, Dawson Creeks’ wines are already successful in other parts of the world and its ownership is decidedly world class in its own right. We invite you to enjoy this month’s Gold Selections from Dawson Creek Winery; after all, world opinion is already on its side.

Dennis Patton Winemaker

Dennis Patton has been productively involved in the California wine business for the better part of three and a half decades, and stands among the most respected figures of the Mendocino Region of Northern California.

Patton traces his roots back to early California, pre gold rush to be exact. His fraternal great grandfather was actually the recipient of an original land grant for property above the present Santa Clara Valley, today the site of numerous wine growing operations.

Dennis Patton attended nearby San Jose State and graduated with a psychology major in the mid-sixties. A chance meeting prompted Patton and two of his buddies to begin working for bay area wine distributors at a time when the international wine business was beginning to take hold in California.

‘Here we were,” Patton recently recalled, ‘twenty-one years old and all of a sudden we were exposed to the greatest wines in the world. Before long we were bringing home wines like Chateau Mouton, Chateau Petrus and Domaine de la Romanee Conti. This was before the huge price increases on these great wines; in some cases they were actually cheap. The experience certainly taught me a great deal about wine, but it also spoiled me for the future.”

By the middle part of the 1970’s Patton was busy homemaking wine, at one point somewhere around 3,000 gallons. This was mostly for his friends and acquaintances, but it was clear the wine bug had taken a bite into Patton’s dream.

He had earlier purchased some 50 acres of sheep and cattle land in Mendocino County where he eventually grew fruits and vegetables that were direct marketed throughout California. But Dennis Patton knew in his heart that he was in Mendocino for a more specific reason.

‘If you delve into the history of grape growing in Mendocino, you will see that it rivals both Napa and Sonoma for the past 130 years,” Patton explained. ‘But the other valleys’ proximity to San Francisco and transportation issues always forced Mendocino to take a back seat. And, for decade after decade, a few giant growers controlled the destiny of the valley.

When I first came up here, I saw there were an unusually high number of old vines in practically every location. Today, that fact is still true. Mendocino County has over 3,500 acres of vines that are over 50 years old. That’s why so many great wines are being made up here.”

In 1981, Dennis Patton decided to do it right and founded Hidden Cellars Winery just outside Ukiah. His first release was around 1800 cases and his wines met with instant critical acclaim. Hidden Cellars became one of the stalwarts of the blossoming Mendocino County wine environment and grew its production steadily for the next seventeen years.

In 1998, Patton sold out to the much larger Parducci wine conglomerate and became a consulting winemaker for a number of national and regional wineries including Fetzer, Smith Anderson and Stonehedge of Napa Valley.

During this time Dennis Patton became known as a cutting edge innovator within the wine industry and pioneered such processes as reverse osmosis and the spinning cone technique, both considered progressive procedures for today’s premier winemakers.

During his stint at Stonehedge, Patton became friendly with its owner Shahin Shahabi.

Dawson Creek Roasted Beef Tenderloin


1 1/2 - 2 pounds Beef Tenderloin, cleaned and
trimmed of silverskin and excess fat

Dawson Creek Marinade:
1/2 cup Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon Chile Powder
2 tablespoons Black Pepper
1 tablespoon Fresh Rosemary, chopped

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Coat Tenderloin and marinate for 2 — 4 hours.

To Cook the Tenderloin:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place meat on a sheet pan and cook 10-15 minutes until brown. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and finish cooking for 15-20 minutes more until desired doneness. Remove from oven and let it rest for 5 — 10 minutes before cutting.


Combine all marinade ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Coat Tenderloin and marinate for 2 — 4 hours.

To Cook the Tenderloin:
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Place meat on a sheet pan and cook 10-15 minutes untilbrown. Turn the oven down to 350 degrees and finish cooking for 15-20 minutes more until desired doneness. Remove from oven and let it rest for 5 — 10 minutes before cutting.

Dawson Creek Mushroom Risotto


1 tablespoon Olive Oil 1/2 Onion, finely diced
1 cup Arborio Rice 2 tablespoons White Wine
3-4 cups Chicken broth or Vegetable Stock
1 cup Fresh Mushrooms, sliced and sautéed for 3-5 minutes in the butter until al dente.
3 tablespoons Grated Parmesan Cheese
2 tablespoons Fresh Herbs (such as oregano and chives), chopped
1 tablespoon Butter
To Taste— Salt & Pepper


In a 2-3 quart sauce pan heat the oil. Add the onion and cook 2 minutes at medium heat. Add rice and stir while you sauté for 2 minutes until the rice begins to color slightly. Add White wine and cook 1-2 minutes until evaporated. Slowly begin adding stock — _ cup at a time, stirring often. Continue slowly adding the stock until you have used 2 cups. This should take 15-18 minutes. Add the mushrooms and any liquid from cooking the mushrooms. Add the remaining stock stirring constantly. When the Risotto is done it should be soft and creamy on the outside and firm on the inside. When ready, add the parmesan cheese, butter and herbs. Season to taste and serve immediately. For Presentation: Spoon Risotto in the center of plate, slice tenderloin 1/2" thick and place 2-3 slices on top of the risotto. Garnish with sprigs herbs. Serve with vegetables.