Turn west on Graton Road from Highway 116, and you don’t have to go far before you discover two of western Sonoma County’s best tasting rooms. Say, about 50 feet. Right there, on the corner, next door to each other and sharing a green grassy lawn, are Red Car Wine (8400 Graton Road, Sebastopol, 707-829-8500 x107) and Dutton-Goldfield Winery (3100 Gravenstein Highway N. at Graton Road, Sebastopol, 707-823-3887)
Technically, their addresses are Sebastopol, but just another little jog down the road sits the tiny town of Graton, and everyone identifies the area as Graton, so there you go. The locals know better than the U.S. mapmakers.
Red Car owners Carroll Kemp and Mark Estrin began their business in 2000, going from zero to 60 when their inaugural Syrah was snatched up by the French Laundry. Soon, the Beverly Hills-based film producer (Kemp) and screenwriter (Estrin) stopped experimenting with winemaking in their garages, and moved to Sonoma County to make it real.
Today, all their wines are made with Sonoma Wine Country fruit, served in an artsy, antique-chic tasting room designed in tribute to the electric trolley cars that ran throughout Los Angeles from the late 19th century through the early 1960s.
The décor changes on the artists’ whims, but you can count on the motorcycle seat or an antique wood swivel stool at the bar and, in one corner, jackalope skulls hung with necklaces designed by Kemp's wife, Pade Vavra, who has made baubles for Charlize Theron and Gwyneth Paltrow.
Syrah still rules the roost, alongside Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and reserve Roussanne, produced at about 6,000 cases a year total. Be sure to study the wine labels, illustrated by Hollywood famous-caliber artists.
Next door, Dutton-Goldfield wines are closely associated with top Sonoma County Pinot Noir and Chardonnay plus small productions of Syrah, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Blanc, and Zinfandel.
These are the wines you see at top restaurants and on the coveted collection shelves of the fanciest wine shops. With distribution of the more rare bottlings limited to club members, it’s a special treat indeed to be able to sample them at this tasting room set in a hunter green, metal-clad warehouse.
Dutton-Goldfield owners Steve Dutton and Dan Goldfield don’t waste resources on a flashy setting, but the half-circle laminate bar glitters with jewels of wine, and staffers are quick to keep your glass refreshed with the next tasting as soon as you’re ready.
It doesn’t get more Graton-gracious than that.