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Dutton-Goldfield celebrates 20 years

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Steve Dutton, left, and Dan Goldfield are particularly passionate about chardonnay and pinot noir. (Courtesy photo)

Winemaker Dan Goldfield is all about the area. His local neighborhood consists of some 60 non-contiguous parcels, part of 1,300 acres of the Dutton Ranch vineyards within the Green Valley of Russian River Valley AVA.

The Dutton Family has owned and farmed this land since Warren Dutton began acquiring land in 1964.

Twenty years ago, Steve Dutton and Goldfield merged their skills and created Dutton-Goldfield to pursue a passion for creating primarily cool-climate chardonnay and pinot noir. Over that time, they have achieved success by making the wines that they like to drink.

As a lab chemist ardent about the outdoors, Goldfield did the only logical thing, he earned an master’s degree degree in enology from UC Davis and began making wine with early stints at Robert Mondavi and Schramsberg.

His love of cool-climate chardonnay and pinot noir led him to La Crema and Hartford Court before partnering with Steve to release the first Dutton-Goldfield vintage in 1998.

Goldfield’s comment that, “You shouldn’t make a wine unless it is different” is revealing of his style. Nuance like this makes their palate of wines appealing.

As a fifth generation farmer, Dutton has worked this land literally his whole life. His father planted the family’s first chardonnay vineyard in 1967, the year Steve was born. The Green Valley soils are literally on his jeans and figuratively in his genes.

Truly pushing the envelope requires exploration outside of the neighborhood. In addition to the Dutton Ranch vineyards, Dutton-Goldfield sources grapes from Russian River Valley, Marin County, Anderson Valley, Mendocino County and Sonoma Coast AVAs.

Dan led me through a sample of their current releases including the first wine I have tasted from Marin County vineyards.

The 2017 Chileno Valley Vineyard Riesling Marin County is sourced from 25 year-old, dry-farmed vines in northwest Marin. Dan aptly described it as a cool-climate, Austrian-style riesling; bone dry, aromatic, with a rich mouthfeel and nice long finish.

Next on our tasting menu was a flight of pinot noir releases representing three AVAs.

Cold-soaking pinot noir is commonly done as a means to extract flavors and color from the skins at an early stage. It gives the juice a head start in developing richer flavors and softer tannins. From an east-facing vineyard the heart of the appellation, the 2015 Emerald Ridge Pinot Noir Green Valley of Russian River Valley, aged 16 months in French oak, 50 percent new, displayed those characteristics with deep berry and cherry flavors, clear spice elements and, yes, soft tannins.

Wine Enthusiast magazine awarded this vintage 94-points.

Impacted by a wet 2015 spring, the grapes in the Freestone Vineyard were harvested early and yielded little. As a result, aromas and flavors of the 2015 Freestone Hill Pinot Noir Russian River Valley are highly concentrated with layered dark berry, red fruit flavors and a significant spice element.

Surrounded by protected redwoods in the far north Sonoma Coast, six miles from the ocean, the 32-acre Putnam Vineyard sits above the fog line and is subject to cooler temperatures and above average rainfall, resulting in a longer growing season. As the winery highlights the “wild character” of 2015 Redwood Ridge Pinot Noir Sonoma Coast, I found a savory, herbal component that complemented the rich berry flavors. The complex aromas and flavors of this release confirmed my preference for Sonoma Coast wines.

Nearly 50 years ago, much of the original stock in the Rued Vineyard turned out to be “chardonnay musque” and it has produced rich, aromatic wines since, always with a floral quality. From a low-yield vintage, the 2015 Rued Vineyard Russian River Valley, with 100 percent malolactic fermentation and multiple lees stirrings, exudes intensely concentrated flavors and a rich minerality through the finish.

When asked to recommend a Sonoma County syrah, the Dutton-Goldfield Cherry Ridge Vineyard Syrah is my first thought since tasting its balanced complexity years ago. The vineyard location is described as a “warm spot in a cold area,” and the 2015 vintage adds depth to the bouquet and flavors with vanilla spice, courtesy of new wood.

A little research will reveal how highly regarded Dutton-Goldfield wines are. Their terroir driven releases are distinctive, but share the consistent high character of carefully crafted wines. It’s not hard to imagine 20 more years of success.

Lyle W. Norton is a wine enthusiast and blogger in Santa Rosa who has written a wine column for 15 years. Visit his blog at www.lifebylyle.com or email him at sfewine@gmail.com.

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