I have to be honest – I am really liking the Taste Route 116 vibe in Sonoma County!
The route along 116 runs from Guerneville to Sebastopol and offers a group of 16 small, family wineries that have banded together promotionally.
In the last couple of months, the ACES wine tasting team has been fortunate enough to visit four of the wineries along the route and hopefully will add more to our portfolio soon!
Recently we had the absolute joy of visiting the Dutton Estate Winery on a beautiful summer day.
We were greeted by our host Mike Mahoney, the Supervisor of Hospitality Operations for Dutton. Plenty more on Mike and our experience later, but first some background on the iconic Dutton name in Sonoma County.
Joe and Tracy Dutton are the owners, with their three daughters Kylie, Kyndall, and Karmen all involved. Kylie has embraced the family business, currently the winery’s National Brand Ambassador, as well as a winemaker’s assistant.
She also works closely with her mother learning all aspects of the winery.
Joe’s father Warren is the one that got the ball rolling, planting the first Chardonnay vineyard in West Sonoma County back in 1967.
Agriculture runs deep in both families as Tracy’s great-grandparents began farming apples in the 1920’s and today the family continues growing apples and grapes at Kozlowski Farms in nearby Forestville.
Joe is the co-owner of Dutton Ranch, which was founded in 1964 by his parents. Today, Dutton Ranch farms 1,200 acres of grapes and 200 acres of apples, all within the Green Valley-Russian River Valley and Sonoma Coast appellations.
Though the area continues to grow, Dutton Estate maintains the small, relaxing family atmosphere the area has become known for in terms of its hospitality.
At no time when visiting Dutton do you feel rushed. The staff treats everyone as a long-time friend, and it was easy to see the relaxation level of other guests in the beautiful garden tasting area.
When Mike greeted us in the lobby, we were given an unexpected treat – a glass of hard apple cider. Made by the family it was a perfect beginning to what would be a memorable experience.
After our tour we were seated in the garden area where we began our tasting experience. You feel like you are sitting in someone’s backyard. Then again, with the Dutton team making you feel like family, take it as sitting in their backyard.
It was clear immediately that Mike was not only knowledgeable about the wine, as well as the wine-and-food pairings he designed, but that if he so chose, a career as a stand-up comedian could be in his future!
We started our Cheese and Charcuterie pairing with the 2020 Kylie’s Fume Blanc, a light refreshing wine that is perfect on a warm day. Mike referred to the wine as a “Porch-Pounder” on a hot day.
The wine was perfectly paired with Mortadella featuring pistachio nuts. Mortadella, which Mike called the “Bolonga of the Gods,” was an awesome compliment to the wine.
Next up was the 2019 Warren’s Collection Chardonnay. The wine is aged 6-8 months in a concrete egg then moved to once-used barrels.
The grapes come from the original vines Warren planted and are now 54 years old. The pairing with the Red Dragon Cheese from Wales was my favorite of the day. All the cheese and meat used in the pairings are available at the winery – and yes, we left with plenty!
Out third offering was the 2018 Manzana Vineyard Pinot Noir that was paired with Moliterno Al Tartufo Cheese from Italy. The wine is a favorite of Mike’s wife, who he refers to as a “Pinot-file.” The pairing with the truffle-cheese was awesome, but as Mike’s wife said – “It pairs great with Netflix – I don’t need food.”
The next wine was my favorite of the day – the 2018 Thomas Road Pinot, or as Mike called it, “the Big-Boy Pinot.” It was perfectly paired with locally made Parmesan and Porcini infused salami from the Sonoma’s Journeyman Meat Co.
The next two wines were an interesting as they came from the same vineyard but were two years apart. The first was the 2017 Cherry Ridge Vineyard Syrah. The second was the 2015 Cherry Ridge Syrah.
Some in our party liked the 2017, but I went with the 2015 as it was much more astringent, giving you that dried out mouth feeling. It was the type of wine you feel in your nose when it hits your tongue.
We ended the visit with a late harvest Syrah, also from the Cherry Ridge Vineyard. The grapes stay on the vine until November and provide for the big, fortified wine. Of course, it was paired with chocolate. Wonderful!
The Dutton Estate Winery personifies the relaxing and laid back vibe the 116 Tasting Route is searching for and succeeding in providing.
If you are looking for not just quality wine, but a winery where you can sit back, relax, and for just one day forget about the Monday-Friday world, try Dutton Estate – you will thank me.
For more information on the Dutton Estate Winery please go to www.duttonestate.com.
By Dennis Miller