A tiny, two acre vineyard sits on a ridge top in the middle of the Russian River Valley. This site, called Cherry Ridge, is one of the many premier properties owned by Dutton Ranch, the Green Valley's premier grape source for cool climate varieties like Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. Cherry Ridge came to be planted to Syrah when Dan Goldfield convinced his partner, Steve Dutton, that this spot would be ideal for growing Northern Rhone-styled Syrah. Dutton hesitated. Syrah sells for 2/3 the price of Pinot. But, Goldfield hadn't been wrong yet, so Dutton acquiesced. That decision sparked the creation of one of the most distinctive Syrahs in Northern California.
This distinctiveness stems from the unique micro-climate of Cherry Ridge. Mike Bobbitt, a computer mapping consultant and GPS technologist, pioneered a technique for superimposing aerial and satellite photos onto topographical maps for winegrowing clients. The technology allows the tracking of the sun throughout the growing season, pinpointing spots that perfectly conform to specific varieties. But tracking the sun in Sonoma is really much about tracking the fog, and Bobbitt's work allowed for hourly fog shots over a broad swath of North Coast vineyard land.
Dutton Goldfield's Cherry Ridge Vineyard
Winemaker Dan Goldfield explained that most people thought that the cooling fog rolled up the valley of the Russian River, spreading out as it moved up river and gathering in spots like Green Valley (at the southwest corner of the Russian River Valley appellation), while burning off faster in more inland places like Healdsburg. But Bobbitt's photos showed what the wily old timers already knew. About 10 miles south of the river mouth is a far more direct conduit between the cold ocean water and the Russian River Valley, the aptly named Petaluma Wind Gap. The fog pushed quickly through the gap, the inland heat sucking it from the southwest corner of the appellation toward the warmer areas to the northeast. This cooling phenomenon explains why the best Pinot Noir, and now one of our favorite North Coast Syrahs, come from Dutton Ranch, and more specifically, from this particularly cool climate, 2-acre Green Valley planting.
This wine has wonderful bright, spicy red berry aromas with all of the earthy, tea-like underpinnings that characterize the best cool climate Syrah. A hint of cinnamon and spice emerge from the extended barrel fermentation and aging. Tasting reveals luscious red fruit flavors with ripe, plush, silky tannings. Excellent acidity keeps this wonderfully complex and vibrant Syrah in perfect balance.
Try this wine with grilled portabello mushrooms, marinated with garlic and balsamic vinegar.