Dutton Ranch – “Shop Block 1967”, Russian River Valley Chardonnay
The only remaining piece of the original plantings for Dutton Ranch in Graton, California.
That’s right. New, never-heard-of MARITANA VINEYARDS has the only remaining piece of the original plantings of Dutton Ranch. These vines, planted in 1967 at what they now call their “Shop Block”, are a throwback to another time. Imagine that time – the Vietnam war was still in full swing. The Beatles were still making music together. Lyndon Johnson was the president. Chardonnay from California was used to improve proprietary “Chablis” blends for the most part. We were 9 years away from the world-shattering tasting in Paris where California wines showed they were as good as any produced in France. How visionary would you have to be to plant Chardonnay in a spot where the Sonoma Ag Advisor told everyone it was too cold to ever ripen?Today we know that Warren Dutton wasn’t crazy – he was truly visionary.
There are other beautiful Chardonnay vineyards in Sonoma/Russian River Valley. Several have proven to be of the very highest quality consistently. Names like Ritchie Vineyard, the Kistler sites, Marc Aubert’s sites, I’d put the Martinelli “Zio Tony” vineyard in the group – and more – evoke the dynamic character and flexibility of Chardonnay from the Russian River Valley. None were planted in 1967.
OLD VINE Chardonnay –
We added the “1967” to the Shop Block name specifically because we wanted you to be reminded each time you see this label – old vines. It’s not 100% 50-year-old vines anymore. There have been some replants and even some additional vines interplanted through the years. It contains about 1/3 vines planted in the late 1990’s… and the occasional replant but the soul of this vineyard is its 50+ year-old vines.
The Wine Itself –
To start – let’s talk about the winemaking a bit. It is crafted to exhibit the unique vineyard site and age of the vines. That means, we didn’t drop an oak-bomb on it. It is all barrel fermented, but we used 1-year old barrels for the most part (20% new) and was fermented without adding yeast – indigenous yeasts did the job. The wine was resting in barrel and completed ML fairly quickly after primary ended.
This is exactly the type of wine we wanted to produce for MARITANA VINEYARDS. It is sleek and refined – nice freshness but also very complex flavors. I always think that Russian River Valley Chardonnay, of which Dutton Ranch is probably the archetype, is at its best when it shows off the pretty, floral, honeysuckle and narcissus and lavender to go with the Asian-pear, ripe-apple and gingerbread notes.
This wine is perfection with crab, all types. I had it recently with Stone Crab claws and wow was that delicious but Russian River Valley touches the Pacific Ocean and my favorite crab here is Dungeness. Yeah, sure – prefer lobster? This will do it. It’s not buttery but there’s something there that probably will let you skip the drawn butter for lobster. I forgot! Scallops! Those pan-seared creamy little hunks of deliciousness.
What about aging potential? It’s really delicious now. We are very familiar with grapes from Dutton Ranch and it is always shocking how well the wines hold up over the years. This vintage – 2017 – is especially nice and it’s out opinion that not only will it drinking well in its youth for the next couple of years but will take on added dimension and complexity for a decade. Yes. I would love drinking this wine in 2027.