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Dutton-Goldfield Winery - Russian River Valley, So


Top 100 Wines of the Year - San Francisco Chronicle

Were the term “cool” properly applied to the emerging Dutton-Goldfield Winery of Sonoma’s Russian River Valley, a dichotomy of meaning would certainly be in order.

As a means of explanation, Dutton-Goldfield only selects grapes grown on the famous Dutton Ranch, a patchwork of some 40-plus-vineyard properties. Dutton Ranch has long been reputed to be among the very finest producers of Burgundian grapes for the past four decades. Dutton Ranch was first planted by owner Warren Dutton, who sought out the coldest parts of the Russian River appellation for his Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, areas that would push the limits of the great French varietals.

Dutton’s son Steve, 36, has worked in the vineyards since he was five years old. By the age of twenty, he was a major factor in the buying and selling of grapes to his father’s many customers. During that period, the younger Dutton’s clients included a pioneer winery named La Crema that was dedicated to the furthering of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. La Crema’s spirited winemaker was a transplanted Philadelphian named Dan Goldfield.

Goldfield, now 46, had been introduced to wine by his brother and had successfully earned a Masters in Enology from UC Davis after first receiving a degree in chemistry from Boston’s Brandeis University.

“I’ll admit that I came to California because I truly loved the land,” Goldfield recently confessed. “Besides, it also provided me with the opportunity to play along the coast.”

Goldfield’s idea of play included a familiarization with the emerging Russian River Valley growing area. He was first and foremost a Burgundy aficionado and recognized the local area’s potential for his two favorite varietals. At La Crema, he was able to buy his preferential grapes from the heralded and nearby Dutton Ranch.

“At first I dealt with Warren Dutton,” Goldfield recalled, “But for the last twelve or thirteen years, I have worked closely with Steve. He literally grew up in the vineyards and knows all there is to know about farming cold climate grapes.”

About six or seven years ago, the two friends began talking seriously about a partnership. In 1998, that desire became a reality. By then, the giant Kendall-Jackson winery conglomerate had already acquired La Crema and Dan Goldfield was ready for a change.

The union seemed quite natural for both partners.

“Steve told me from the beginning,” Goldfield recounted, “He said to me, ‘I’ll grow the grapes, and you make the wine.’ It all seemed so natural. We both live down the hill from each other and both saw the advantages of making wines within the contours of a small winery.”

It also helps that both solidly believe in the future of the Western Russian River Valley, an area that is comparably new to quality wines. Both partners believe this region is the future of the wine business, particularly relating to their preferred Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays.

“The 1990’s really brought on the beginnings of a winemaking and viticultural explosion in West Sonoma,” Goldfield added. “We planted vineyards in areas that many thought were too cold to produce quality grapes, not to mention quality wines. It’s still going on today, and many of the most promising vineyards are just now coming into production.”

Dutton-Goldfield’s first releases amounted to but 600 cases and were well received by both the general public and, even more importantly, the critical wine press. The winery has received numerous accolades and its stance on cold-climate winemaking has pushed it to the forefront of intuitive, inventive wineries.

This year’s production at Dutton-Goldfield will exceed 4,500 cases and Dan Goldfield sees further growth ahead.

He concedes that his winery’s eventual growth is actually up to the public and its demands, and feels that the 10,000-case level will probably represent a ceiling for Dutton-Goldfield.

“After all, we are still a very hands-on, family-style type of winery. We look at all the new vineyards that become available and choose the one that we like the best, the ones that will give us our very best wines.”

Given the immense passion both partners share for their nascent operation and their undaunted devotion to the cause of cold-climate growing and winemaking, it is easy to see success in Dutton-Goldfield Winery’s immediate future.

This month’s Platinum Series Wine Club selection is proof indeed that there is considerable merit to their contention that cold is indeed cool.



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