In less than a decade, Dutton Estate Winery has emerged as one of the most dependable makers of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir in a region known for those varietals—Sonoma County’s Russian River Valley.
The estate is situated just outside the charming town of Sebastopol. Once a dominant apple-growing region, Sebastopol now is a destination hideaway and home to the winery’s founders, Joe and Tracy Dutton.
Joe and Tracy’s agricultural heritage is deeply rooted in Sebastopol, as Tracy’s great-grandparents began farming apples there in the 1920s.
Joe is co-owner of Dutton Ranch, which was founded in 1964 by his parents. Dutton Ranch farms 1,150 acres of grapes and 150 acres of apples, all within the Green Valley-Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations.
Both Joe and Tracy valued their experiences growing up and wanted that same for their three girls. They wanted a business that the girls could be part of. Joe is a driving force in the vineyards and continues to manage them. Tracy oversees the winery, and the girls can be seen helping out at winery events.
Earth-friendly farming is practiced by the Duttons, even though it’s more demanding than simply letting the chemical salesman tell you what to do. But the rewards are many: cleaner and tastier grapes, safer workers, and a natural environment that will continue to thrive for many generations.
The Duttons safeguard the health of their fruit while reining in chemical applications and other intrusions on the natural farming process. Yesterday, today and in years to come, the chief influence on the flavor of their grapes will remain the prestigious Russian River Valley itself.
Given their commitment to green farming, the Duttons must monitor their ranches constantly. They employ an entomologist who visits every vineyard weekly, alert to leaf hoppers, mites, sharpshooters and other unwanted pests.
They consider the history of each ranch, the legendary coastal fog and other climatic trends, as well as the population of native insect predators. Then they make a choice for the lowest-impact intervention that will still achieve results.
As the Duttons expand to new ranches, they often find themselves cleaning up after the sins of others, clearing creeks and hills of old cars and other debris. They make erosion control a constant priority. And recycling plays a major role at Dutton Ranch. Into the bins go all glass, plastic, paper, oil, batteries and cardboard.
The Duttons also work with other grape growers in fostering a sound environment. Joe Dutton is a board member of the Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District, and the ranch plays host to regular seminars on topics such as sustainable farming.
Four distinct vineyards supply the special Dutton Ranch grapes: Thomas Road, Manzana, Vine Hill and My Fathers.
Thomas Road Vineyard is located at the northeastern part of the Green Valley. Planted to clone Dijon 115 in 1997, this vineyard produces wine with dark berry flavors and a bold, firm mouthfeel. The vines are planted in rocky Sebastopol-type soil.
The Manzana Vineyard is located next to the Dutton Palms Chardonnay Vineyard, in the heart of the Green Valley. Manzana’s hillside vineyard is east facing, which is an optimal situation for growing Pinot Noir.
Planted to clone Dijon 828 in 2001, this vineyard produces wine with red fruit flavors and a bold, luscious mouthfeel. The soil is Gold Ridge-type.
Vine Hill Ridge Vineyard, which is located on Green Valley Road, surrounding the Dutton tasting room, was planted in 1980 using quadrilateral cane trellising. This wonderful plot of vines produces fruit of consistently high quality.
My Fathers Vineyard, named for the home property of Tracy Dutton’s mother and father, was planted by Joe Dutton in 2002. It’s in one of the coldest regions of the Russian River AVA, and produces some of Dutton Estate Winery’s most sought-after Syrahs.
In an age when the wine business has consolidated greatly, Dutton Estate Winery stands out as an increasingly rare family estate—one based on family values and good old-fashioned hard work.