Dutton Goldfield Winery

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Russian River


What makes this appellation perfect for cool climate grapes is the daily interplay between marine air, coastal hills, and warmer protected valleys. The Russian River is an official AVA (American Viticultural Appellation) with very specific boundaries. The area includes the region defined by the Russian River and its tributaries, and also the area dominated by the cool coastal climate.

The other pages in this section include a short historical sketch, a discussion of vineyards, a focus on one of our favorite areas within the valley, and a description and illustration of how the climate and topography of this area work to create the unique growing conditions.

The Russian River Valley was, for the indigenous population, a veritable Garden of Eden. Richly forested, it provided an abundance of game, fish, and wild fruits and berries in a climate that was as pleasant as any on earth. The almost-sheltered valley was accessible from the ocean, always feeling the marine influence, but also the inland warmth.

Russian fur trappers, from whom the area gets its name, settled the area, following the paths of the Indians from the Pacific Ocean and coming inland far enough to settle Sebastopol. Russians could not hang on to their distant outposts, however, in the face of the mass migration of Americans in the middle 1800s. Railroads were run into the redwood forests for lumbering, which brought a large influx of European immigrants.

With prime land exposed, the new settlers knew what to do, and began planting. The cool climate was ideally suited to apples, which became the dominant crop - supplemented by fruits and vegetables that made the new world feel like the old. Naturally, wine grapes found their way into the ground - for family use, of course.

For many years, the only wine industry in the area was a mass-market sparkling wine. Premium wines were not attempted as the area was thought too cool. After all, Napa Valley was believed to be the best wine growing area in California, and it was far hotter than the Russian River Valley.

The Superpremium Era
Warren Dutton, Steve's father, foresaw the superpremium potential of this area, and first planted grapes in 1964. Dutton Ranch, which is now comprised of over 60 small, unique vineyard sites throughout the area, has a wide reputation for leadership in viticulture in this area. They were also among the first to champion Pinot Noir in a region where, less than a decade ago, most of the fruit went exclusively for sparkling wine.