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Dutton-Goldfield Winery Beast and Pinot Pairing Experience

Sonoma's West County pioneer farming heritage meets cool-climate winemaking at Dutton- Goldfield Winery's Graton warm and inviting tasting room and winemaking facility on historic Gravenstein Highway North — ideally located for wine and artisan food pairings, between Occidental, Santa Rosa and Sebastopol.

I paid a rainy day visit to Dutton-Goldfield to experience the winery's popular new Beast and Pinot Pairing — a highly appealing combo for Pinot lovers such as myself.

Pinot Noir wine grown and made under a maritime influence is my favorite varietal and the rustic, little former apple cannery town of Graton one of my top picks for Sonoma wine country rambles.

Wine Spectator describes small and eclectic Graton as the place where "New York's East Village meets the Wine Country in this hip gathering spot for local elite wine makers and wine travelers alike."

Any place in wine country where there are more locals than tourists speaks volumes for quality, charm and authenticity and Dutton-Goldfield's tasting room location sits at such a suitably casual crossroads to all-things deliciously off-the-beaten-track.

Seated by a fireplace, next to the tasting room windows, rainfall pattered on a plant-filled patio outside as host, Nicole, poured a fleet of four of the winery's nine 2013 pinots to pair with a platter of exquisite smoked salmon, sopressata-style and rosemary-lamb salumi and a slice of locally smoked duck breast.

First of the flight, a classic pairing from the cool Sonoma Coast, a soft, round, bright and silky Angel Camp Vineyard Pinot Noir, perfectly paired with beast of the sea — delicate local salmon, hot smoked with apple wood by the chef at acclaimed Bodega Bay's Inn at the Tides Pacific Coast fish market wharf.

This sweet, smooth, mildly smoked salmon tasted extra flavorful enhanced by the elegant, Asian spiced Angel Camp Pinot, aptly described by winery staff as the Audrey Hepburn of Pinot Noir.

I was most partial to the second wine in the line-up, a gentle Fox Den Pinot Noir made from small-cluster fruit grown near Occidental. A sandy loom soil vineyard, fogged in much of the time produced a beautifully balanced, silky, peppery pinot with gorgeous color and a distinctive pop in the mouth at finish.

Fox Den Pinot was paired with Backyard Restaurant chef/owner Daniel Kedan's handmade sopressata style salami made and cured to perfection in the traditional Italian way in his west country, Forestville kitchen with top quality local pork, salt, pepper and red wine. The buttery texture of the pork picked up the wine's spectacular peppery spice and silky tannins.

Next in line, a sultry Emerald Ridge Pinot paired superbly with Milan Salami Co.'s rich and unique rosemary lamb salami. This wine was made from fruit grown in the dense fog pockets of a lower elevation vineyard. Intense clusters create a darker, more brooding wine with black cherry and herbal notes. Depth and richness of lamb, rosemary and fruit made for an opulent indulgence that I'd go back for extra tastes in a heartbeat. The salty finish of the salami and sweet berry finish of the wine make for a winning partnership, a mini meal in itself.

Last but not least, steep, rugged Freestone Hill Vineyard's rich, compote-berrylike black fruit grows on the coastal edge in head-on fog and wind. These extraordinary conditions make for red and black fruit with layer upon layer of spice. I couldn't imagine a finer pairing than a mouthwatering slice of Sonoma County's Willie Bird smoked duck breast, wet cured in a mild, low-salt marinade, created with special oils and spices. After aging, the meat is smoked over natural sweet maple hardwoods. 

Beast & Pinot Pairing Experiences are best enjoyed daily between 10 am and 4 pm in groups of six or less at a cost of $40 per person. Book ahead on the Dutton-Goldfield website to insure availability as fresh and local is the key to this lovely experience.

While you're there, don't miss out on a taste of Dutton Ranch dry-farmed Chardonnay — a marvelous match with Sonoma Coast Dungeness Crab when in season and year-round with a wide range of local artisan cheeses available in all the best of the county's food markets.

In fact, it was Chardonnay that first put the five-generation Dutton family on the map as cool-climate West Country wine pioneers. Winemaker Steve Dutton's dad, Warren, planted vines for super-small production wines in the area in the mid 1960s — a time when most growers considered it too chilly to succeed.

Today, Steve and his winery partner, Dan Goldfield produce consistently top-ranked (mostly) Pinot Noir and Chardonnay wines that are all about their complex and exquisite terroir.

Alternative pairing experiences available by reservation include a Vineyard Personalities Exploration, Wine and Sushi (Wednesday through Sunday 12 noon to 2 pm only) and Wine and Cheese.  

Dutton-Goldfield Winery and tasting room is located at 3100 Gravenstein Highway North, Sebastopol, CA 95472. Telephone: 707 823 3887. Hours are 10 am to 4.30 pm.

There are several neighborhood gems in the Graton area from which to pick a pre-pairing lunch or early dinner.

New kid on the block in 2015, Pascaline French Patisserie & Cafe is a treasure in itself and a short drive from the winery, at 4550 Gravenstein Hwy North. Founded by two classically trained French chefs, this lovely little cafe is open for breakfast and lunch  (and afternoon tea/coffee and homemade pastries) Wednesday to Sunday, 7 am to 4 pm.

A dining destination I'd most heartily recommend for lunch or dinner is nearby Underwood Bar & Bistro in downtown Graton.  

If you're looking for somewhere special to stay overnight in the area, Michelin-starred Farmhouse Inn & Restaurant at Forestville offers five-star service with a seasonal farm-to-table gourmet menu and extensive wine a little over 6 miles from Graton. 

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