Rightfully best-known for Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, Dutton-Goldfield is a winery with a few tricks up its sleeve. Well, not tricky-type tricks, because that implies some kind of sleight-of-hand or tomfoolery. Rather a couple of surprises. Two unique bottles were part of a recent samples shipment the winery sent to me. (Thanks, DG.)
Dutton-Goldfield 2018 Dutton Ranch Shop Block Pinot Blanc (Green Valley of Russian River Valley) $30
That’s kind of a mouthful for the name of a wine, but Pinot Blanc is kind of a mouthful. So that’s good. I always wonder what’s the deal with Pinot Blanc, where it lies on the spectrum of white grapes. On a basic level, Pinot Blanc has a little more richness and roundness to it. There’s no heaviness, but something more than a light beam on the palate. Of course, it depends on where the grape is grown and how the winemaker handles it. Pinot Grigio can be lighter than water, though in Alsace, as Pinot Gris, it’s sometimes a (benevolent) monster. There are exceptions to every rule, which makes wine interesting/maddening.
Reaching into the recesses of my middle-aged mind, I don’t recall having a Pinot Blanc from California. So this was a treat in many ways.
Let me go back to the wine’s name. So Green Valley of Russian River Valley is the place (AVA) where the grapes come from. The Shop Block is a vineyard within the larger Dutton Ranch property. The Pinot Blanc was planted in 2003. There’s no oak on the wine, so how the heck does it get so dang textured? It comes from the magic of malolactic fermentation. This converts racy, zippy malic acid into more milky/silky lactic acid. Science! Dutton-Goldfield, however, pumps the brakes on the malo so it doesn’t go off the cliffs and leave you with a limp creamsicle.
Dutton-Goldfield 2018 Dutton Ranch Green Valley Vineyard Gewürztraminer (Green Valley of Russian River Valley) $30
Gewürztraminer was one of the first unfamiliar grapes I became familiar with. Back in the days of Grinnell College, I recalled reading in The Wine Bible that Gewürz, particularly from Alsace, was a good match for spicy cuisine. My only problem with the grape is that, particularly in Alsace, you don’t know if it’s going to be an aromatic quaffer kind of Gewütz or a massive, oily wine with a little bit of sweetness and plenty of alcohol. (Some producers list the level of sweetness on the back label, and it’s a process that the region is trying to codify.)
Though the issue with completely dry Gewürztraminer is sometimes you get a little bit robbed of those delightfully perfume-y, lychee-y aromatics that make this probably the best smelling white wine in the world. (Fight me, Riesling.) This is not the case with the DG Gewürz, thankfully. The grapes are similarly sourced from Dutton Ranch in the GV of the RRV, but the specific site is the Green Valley Vineyard.
I should have known that things were going to be alright when I read that DG had a “hedonistic” goal in making this wine. It’s incredibly aromatic, yet bone-dry. And very spicy when you first drink it. Not spicy like cayenne but cinnamon. Then it finishes super-clean. Honestly, whoever writes the copy for the technical sheet I’m reading makes me think this grape is a living person I want to be friends with or possibly swipe right on. “Gewürztraminer is all about the vineyard fruit personality, and what a charming personality it is.” Moving on….
Say Cheese, Please, with DG GT
I’m also into the suggested food pairings, particularly recommending cheese. If I could drop a controversy bomb, I’d say that white wine is FAR SUPERIOR than red wine when it comes to cheese. (Fight me, red wine.) The tip to pair this wine with any cheese sporting a salty bite (esp. Parm) is a very good one.
In conclusion, it’s cool a winery like Dutton-Goldfield that has a mastery of/over Chardonnay and Pinot Noir will decide in the early 2000s, “Screw it, let’s graft over some Gewürztraminer here and, what the hell, plant some Pinot Blanc over there.” (This is not a quote from anyone at Dutton-Goldfield. But I’d like to think that’s how it happened. I doubt it, however, as they are astute and I am impulsive.) Also from a business, tasting room, and wine club perspective, it never hurts to have a few extra quivers in your arrow to entice and reel in adventurous wine drinkers.