March 24, 2021 15:21
Green Valley is one of the smaller appellations in Sonoma County. It lies in the southwestern part of the Russian River Valley, bounded by the towns of Sebastopol, Forestville and Occidental. It is very tightly delineated, both geographically and climatically, making it among the most consistent of any North Coast appellation.
The fog is Green Valley’s trademark. Green Valley is the first place where the fog comes in and the last place where it burns off, making it the coolest, foggiest part of the Russian River Valley. The predominant soil type (60%) is Goldridge, which has a dark, yellowish, fine, sandy loam surface over a subsoil of golden yellow, sandy loam and fractured sandstone. It's essentially pushed-up sea bottom, as it is the remains of an ancient inland sea that slowly emptied into the Pacific three to five million years ago. It's particularly loved by winegrowers and winemakers for high-quality wine grape production because of its excellent drainage and low soil fertility.
Grape growing in Green Valley goes back to 1836, two years before George Yount (who is credited with starting grape growing in Napa) planted vines in what is now Yountville. After such a strong start, grape growing in Green Valley, along with most of the wine regions in the world, went through a long fallow period because of Phyloxera and sheer economics—almost every other fruit was more profitable.
The Duttons were the first to replant grapes in Green Valley in the 1960s. Even as late as 1976, agents from the UC Davis Agricultural Extension advised against investing here on the grounds that it was too cold and prone to frost, and that Napa was a safer bet. Good thing the Duttons and others didn't listen! They now farm over 1,100 acres of grapes, or more than 80 vineyard sites, in the AVA. Dutton-Goldfield makes more wines from Green Valley than any other area, including our two being released today: Fox Den Vineyard Pinot Noir and Rued Vineyard Chardonnay.
2018 Fox Den Vineyard Pinot Noir
Those who know Dan know how much he loves to ride his bike around Green Valley (and beyond). Getting to know the nuances of the climate from the seat of a bicycle is one of the best ways to learn a place. Many rides took him up Stoetz Ridge, which is a warm spot in Green Valley, due to its elevation, and also has great views. One particular plot of land wasn't yet planted in the late 1990s, and he always thought it would make a great spot for a vineyard. When his wife Loie met the property owner during an emergency appendectomy, she mentioned this, and offered to connect him to Dan. Within the year, Steve and Dan were at the site meeting Ed and Sue Smith, and planted the vineyard for them in 2002. Dan started making wine from it for a consulting project in 2004, and then began producing it for Dutton-Goldfield beginning in 2009.
The long 2018 season imparted a great density to our Fox Den Pinot Noir. While we usually think silk when drinking and describing the texture of this wine, this vintage ranges more to satin. In the nose, a mix of red fruits burst into the lead, with sweet raspberry and strawberry interlaced with baking spices. The mouth has a wonderful sweet/tart interplay, dancing from Bing cherry to dried cranberry to alpine strawberry, garnished by cinnamon and nutmeg. The extra bit of weight gives it an especially lengthy finish. We loved Connoisseur Guide's recent comments: "...conveys a marked sense of refinement and sophistication in a wine that is at once accessible and balanced to age. It boasts fine fruity continuity and confidence without ever once raising its voice, and its enlivening acidity, if noticeable, never steers it to tartness."
2018 Rued Vineyard Chardonnay
Did you know that Chardonnay was first planted in California in 1936? That's just one of the fun facts we learned in reading Wine Enthusiast's April article, "Sonoma Chardonnay Comes Alive." In addition to a little history lesson, it also picks some standouts that exemplify the beauty of Sonoma, including our 2018 Rued Vineyard Chardonnay, saying, "...this wine is highly aromatic and fresh. Juicy tropical fruit and tangerine flavors remain crisp and brilliant, leading to a complex midpalate of Meyer lemon and pear. The finish is topped by lasting, lingering layers of hazelnut."
Our Rued Vineyard Chardonnay was planted later than that first vineyard, but is still one of the oldest in the county, having been planted by Warren Dutton in 1969. The budwood he got gives the wine that exotic tropical lychee character and opulent density, while the cool Green Valley site imparts great brightness, giving the wine the perfect combination of richness without heaviness. It was our first single-vineyard bottling, back in 1999, and has been made every year since. The 2018 vintage is especially balanced, with beautiful floral notes framing the fruit, and just a kiss of nutty toastiness on the finish. It's an excellent pairing with Valley Ford's Estero Gold Reserve cheese we match it within our Wine & Cheese experience, which we're excited to say we're relaunching in April. Make an appointment to taste it for yourself!
Happy Easter & Passover!
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