At Dutton Estate, Grape Sources Are Never an Issue

     In 1881, Warren Dutton purchased 200 acres of land in the Sonoma County community of Santa Rosa. Joined by his brother Reed, the Duttons planted their property to the best varieties of French prunes, a hot commodity at the time.

     For many years the family business prospered on prunes, with forays into pears and hops. Warren Dutton Jr., great-grandson of Reed Dutton, grew up picking prunes and hops on the farm. In 1964, young Warren and his new wife Gail bought their first 35 acres west of the town of Graton. Their original family home now serves as the current Dutton Ranch offices.

     Unable to sell their fruit through normal distribution channels, Gail and young sons Joe and Steve peddled pears, prunes, apples, dried fruit and gift packs to passing motorists. At the same time, Warren had the foresight to plant winegrapes, just prior to the downturn in the apple industry.

     “I thought he was out of his mind,” Gail remembers. Yet their first sale – $88 a ton for French Colombard – was encouragement enough to put more sweat and capital into vineyards.

     In 1985, the Duttons sold their Santa Rosa fruit stand and the surrounding property to developers. This ended one era for the family but opened a new one, as Gail and Warren put all their effort into expanding their West County holdings.

     Sadly, Warren died of a heart attack while riding his horse in October 2001, leaving Gail, Steve and Joe to carry on. Later, in addition to their roles with Dutton Ranch, Steve and Joe developed their own businesses. They created Dutton Brothers Farming, which manages and farms 60 of the 1,100 acres in the Dutton holdings.

     Each brother also has his own winery. Joe and his wife Tracy started Dutton Estate in 1994. Steve and his wife Theresa founded Dutton-Goldfield Winery in 1998 with winemaker Dan Goldfield.

     Gail remains active in the enterprise, managing the public relations and maintaining the Dutton family’s role at the annual Gravenstein Apple Fair.

     Today, the family sustainably farms 1,100 acres of vineyards, and places that special fruit in the capable hands of winemaker Mat Gustafson, whose passion for wine began while working at his uncle’s store in his home state of Michigan.

     By the age of 18, Mat had earned his hotel/restaurant degree and began managing restaurants. He then moved to Colorado and received a degree in Political Science from the University of Colorado-Boulder. He worked his way through college holding the position of sommelier at the Flagstaff House restaurant. There, he became hooked on Domain Leflaive White Burgundy, which one day would become his model for making Chardonnay.

     When Mat graduated, he went to the Napa Valley and started working for Joseph Phelps Vineyards. He was a tour guide, worked in the cellar, and then became a sales rep. Later, he went back into the restaurant business as wine buyer and sommelier at John Ash & Co. in Santa Rosa.

     While tasting a 1975 Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, Mat discovered great quality and age-ability, and his passion turned to Russian River Pinots. He then helped open the Oakville Grocery in Healdsburg, where he was the wine buyer and assistant manager.

     Ultimately, however, Mat’s desire was to make wine. He was hired at Oakville Ranch Winery and worked for two years in the cellar. He then began a vineyard development business in western Sonoma County, and started making wine on his own.

     In 2001, Mat sold his share of his vineyard management company and went to work for Tracy and Joe. He started making wine under the guidance of Merry Edwards, then the consulting enologist for Sebastopol-Dutton Estate. In 2002, he was promoted to head winemaker.

     Today, Mat’s knowledge and understanding of the best vineyard sites at Dutton Ranch is unsurpassed. As he puts it, “Grape sources are never an issue,” and that’s why Dutton Ranch consistently produces world-class renditions of  Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Zinfandel.

WINERY 4-1-1…

Dutton Estate Winery

8757 Green Valley Road

Sebastopol, CA 95472


Tasting Room Hours: Daily, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.

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Posted in Wineries of Distinction
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