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Dutton Goldfield

By Marita Leonard

WWhen asked to describe a classic California Chardonnay I envision a buxom blonde with pouffy hair, pouty lips glistening with exotic commercial fruit and emanating vanilla.

Yet, this king of California white wine has so much more to offer: the elegance and abundance of lush ripe fruit and intense character it is infamous for.

The Chardonnay grape is one of the most versatile varietals in the wine world. It can be grown almost anywhere and manipulated in a number of ways; from malolactic fermentation which softens the harsh malic acids into creamy, buttery richness, to stainless steel and oak barrel aging.

Have I confused you yet?
Just think of drinking white grape juice. Now imagine adding some vanilla, caramel and coconut to it, throw in a teabag of wood chips; that would be the equivalent to barrel fermenting. Voilą! You've got an oaky Chardonnay!

But why tamper with what nature has blessed us with? There is a handful of great winemakers who believe in letting the land speak for itself and these are the men and women who are showing us what great Chardonnay is all about.

I had the opportunity to meet one of these winemakers a couple weeks ago; Dan Goldfield of Dutton-Goldfield. Although it is a new winery the Dutton name is not new to the wine world. You may have seen the name Dutton Ranch on bottles of Kistler, Patz & Hall and Lewis Cellars to name a few.

When you see the Dutton Ranch vineyard designate on a wine label, you are assured that the wine you are about to enjoy will possess the elegance and finesse that this top quality vineyard is capable of.

The Dutton family has been farming grapes in the Russian River Valley for 40 years. The largest appellation in Sonoma County, this distinct growing region is famed for its fresh coastal climate and it's well-drained and well-balanced variety of soils. A family of pioneers whose commitment for excellence drove them to plant vines in the coolest areas of the appellation. They knew what was needed to produce top quality Chardonnay grapes and were also among the first to have success with Pinot Noir.

Dan Goldfield, a graduate of UC-Davis and former winemaker at La Crema, joined forces with Steve Dutton and started the winery in 1998. They had been working together as both winemakers and grape growers since 1990. They farm their grapes from the 1100 acres on the Dutton Ranch, which actually consists of 80 different properties. Their concept is to represent the finest wines that best exemplify what the Russian River and Green Valley terroir is capable of.

Dan calls the stretch of land they farm the "tenderloin" of the Green Valley. He is producing wines that are classic in style and reflect the personality of each of the different blocks of land he works with on this "winemakers dream vineyard". His excitement and passion shine through in his wines.

Dutton-Goldfield Chardonnay "Dutton Ranch" 2001 $30
A blend of 3 different vineyards goes into this beauty. A bright flaxen color in the glass with the heavenly scent of lemon chiffon pie. Hints of ginger and roasted cashews add to the bouquet. A rich full bodied style with fresh nectarines and peaches lingering on the finish.

Dutton-Goldfield Chardonnay "Rued Vineyard" 2001 $40
This vineyard was planted in 1969 and produced its first wine for this winery in 1999. Dan & Steve "dry farm" this vineyard which means they let nature take care of the watering. Dan calls this wine a "white wine that wants to be red". Classic in style, this bright golden nectar emits aromas of lychees, pineapple and toasted coconut. Lush and voluptuous with a delicious smooth mouthfeel, I was reminded of my favorite dessert my mother made me as a child, mango mousse. The crisp acidity balances this tropical fruit cup.

Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir "Dutton Ranch" 2001 $35
A cheery cherry red color in the glass. A perfume of cranberries and bing cherries. A seamless wine that upon passing my lips felt like I was slipping into silky black lingerie. Delicate and elegant with a cherry cola finish.

Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir "Devils' Gulch Vineyard" 2001 $48
Described as a wild vineyard by winemaker Dan Goldfield. Deep inky color. Fireworks of chunky, dark cherry spicy fruit burst out of the glass. This is definitely the masculine side of Pinot Noir. A complex wine with vibrant aromatics with hints of rosemary and thyme and a fresh tingle of acidity that sparkles over the palate.

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