“Where have all the apple trees gone?” some our of western Sonoma County friends are given to lamenting.
If sung to the tune of “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” by Pete Seeger, perhaps, I think that this has real potential. But the fact is, the apple orchards that once surrounded the village of Graton were planted by farmers looking for a good return on their investment.
When fourth-generation rancher Warren Dutton planted Chardonnay in the cool Green Valley in the 1960s, he was ahead of his time — and on the money. His son Steve Dutton partnered with outdoorsy chemist-turn-winemaker Dan Goldfield in 1998 to produce wines from the best of the Dutton family’s 1,100 acres of vineyards.
Where has all the cider gone?
Previous tenant Ace Cider had a good, long run in this space, which was a popular spot to kick back on picnic tables and have a cold one (look them up on Friday afternoons for their not-too-secret “speakeasy”).
On Sunday afternoons, Dutton-Goldfield recreates the live music scene, with a band playing all day in the attractively fenced patio. Inside, there’s elbow room to spare, and then some. I’m hoping that Dan Goldfield — who made an Everest climb to mark his 50th birthday, as the photo behind the bar attests to — installs a climbing wall to jazz the space up a bit (OK, that might not be such a great idea with the wine and all). It’s hard to believe the place ever fills up — but I’m told that it’s just that popular.
Take a sip
It’s the wines. By far their biggest production at more than 3,000 cases, the 2011 Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley Chardonnay ($35) has apple pie spice and caramel candy apple notes, and a creamy palate. So, that’s where the apples have gone!
The small-production Pinots hail from different appellations, but bear the stamp of Goldfield’s winemaking style throughout, typified by the 2010 McDougall Vineyard Pinot Noir ($58) with its pure, fresh cherry and pomegranate juice flavors and lightly spicy fir sprig note; the 2011 Emerald Ridge Pinot Noir ($58), a rose petal-pretty aroma, bright cherry fruit, and a dusting of coriander. The dry-styled 2012 Green Valley Gewürztraminer ($30) has a fat, pear juice mid-palate that keeps on going.
Relax about the apple trees
Steve Dutton still farms 200 acres of apples, most of which are processed at an alive-and-well apple cannery in Green Valley.
Hit the road
Before wine tasting, start your day at Willow Wood Market Café, a beloved brunch institution. If you’re finishing the day, head down to fine dining, a full bar, and bocce, too, at the Underwood Bar and Bistro. (LINK: /) They’re just around the corner in little Graton, along with a bit of art and antiquing, too. Almost adjacent to Dutton-Goldfield, Harmony Farm Supply is Sonoma County’s best resource for organic gardeners, and a great place if you just want to spend “a long time passing” the afternoon away, dreaming up your next garden project.
Dutton-Goldfield Winery, 3100 Gravenstein Hwy. North, Sebastopol. Daily, 10 a.m.–4:30 p.m. Tasting fee, $10. 707-827-3600.
Find more info on wineries & wine in Sonoma County.