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Dutton-Goldfield Winery: Pinot Noir Specialists
By Ed McCarthy
Oct 20, 2020
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Dutton-Goldfield, in California’s Sonoma County, began making wines from grapes in the cooler vineyards of northern California in 1998.  Steve Dutton, a fifth-generation farmer in Sonoma, looks after the vineyards that the winery uses; his friend, Dan Goldfield, is the winemaker.  Dutton-Goldfield produces many different wines that perform well from grapes in cool-climate vineyards, but the winery specializes in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

I recently tasted three of the single-vineyard Chardonnays that the winery produces, and was impressed by all of them.  All were lively and taut; they were versatile enough to serve both as apéritifs or to accompany main courses with dinner.  However, I decided to focus on six of the winery’s Pinot Noirs here, made from three different counties near the state’s Pacific coast:  western Marin County, Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley (especially the cool Green Valley section), and Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley.  All of the wines are from the 2018 vintage.  Only 300 to 500 cases (with one exception) were made of each wine.  My tasting notes of the wines below are listed in the order of my tasting:

Dutton-Goldfield 2018 Pinot Noirs:

Azaya Ranch Vineyard—Marin County (Petaluma Gap) ($62):  Its alluring aroma gets your attention immediately, with its seductive, juicy black raspberry and plum notes.  Its flavors suggest vibrant Bing cherry fruit.  Along with its enticing entry, the Azaya Ranch has a rich texture, with silky ripe tannins well-integrated in the wine.  It is fresh and pure, with a good concentration of tart red cherry fruit.  The wine has very good acidity, a mark of its excellent location.  The Petaluma Gap is a cool ocean wind tunnel cutting through Marin County into Sonoma County.  Azaya Ranch Pinot Noir will benefit from two or three years of aging.   13.7°Alcohol; 360 cases produced.  94

Angel Camp Vineyard—Mendocino County (Anderson Valley) ($62):  Ripe, raspberry aromas, very good concentrated flavors, similar to raspberry preserves.  Angel Camp has substantial texture, with richness and a full-blown character, and tannins that complete its definition.  It is spicy and fruity, but to my taste could use more acidity.  It’s a bit soft on the palate.  My tasting partner awarded it a 93.  14.1°Alc.; 364 cases produced.  90

Docker Hill Vineyard—Mendocino County ($68):  Fresh, fruity attack, with rich aromas and flavors of black cherry and raspberry.  Almost creamy texture, with good palate length.  Docker Hill has lively acidity; it is slightly closed now, and needs some time to develop.  It has a longer finish on the palate than other wines in this grouping.  14.1° Alc.; 402 cases produced.     93

Fox Den Vineyard—Green Valley (Russian River Valley) Sonoma County ($62):  Fruity, ripe black cherry aromas and flavors, with earthy notes.  It has high acidity, with firm tannins and excellent concentration of fruit, with smooth texture.   A full-bodied wine, my kind of California Pinot Noir.  Although it is drinkable now, I would give Fox Den a few years of aging to evolve completely.  13.5 Alc.; 630 cases produced.  95

Devil’s Gulch Vineyard—Marin County ($72):  Devil’s Gulch is one of Dutton-Goldfield’s most popular vineyard locations; the vineyard also produces an excellent Chardonnay.  Its Pinot Noir has still unevolved aromas, with pronounced tart red cherry flavors.  It has high acidity with substantial tannins, a reflection of its very cool Marin County location.  Devil’s Gulch’s Pinot Noir is fairly light-bodied, and lovely to drink now—an apéritif-style wine.  13.8 Alc.; 455 cases produced.  91

Dutton Ranch, Freestone Hill—Russian River Valley, Sonoma County ($72):  Ripe black cherry and plum fruits; spicy, with cranberry notes.  Freestone Hill has good depth of flavor, with firm but not intrusive tannins, and a long, fruity finish.  It demonstrates the fullness and fruitiness of the better Russian River Valley Pinot Noirs.  It’s a wine of substance and character, with complex, dark fruits showing on its finish.  Enjoyable now, but will age well for several years.  Good fruit and good winemaking; Dutton Ranch lives up to its reputation.  My favorite of the group.  13.8 Alc.; 467 cases produced.  96         

I was extremely impressed with Dutton-Goldfield’s lineup of 2018 Pinot Noirs, almost on par with its excellent 2017s.  The two standout 2018 Pinot Noirs for me were Dutton Ranch’s Freestone Hill and Fox Glen’s Pinot Noir from Green Valley.  These two were among the finest California Pinot Noirs that I have tasted recently.  

More wine columns:     Ed McCarthy