Dan Goldfield said his brother David taught him a lot of bad habits, but in the muddle of the mischief there was something positive. Goldfield was drinking pricey Burgundies when he was 18.
The winemaker is behind our wine-of-the-week winner — the Dutton-Goldfield, 2015 Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley Chardonnay at $38.
This is a striking chardonnay and what makes it a standout is its bright acidity that buoys its layered flavors. Its notes of green apple and zesty lime keeps this chardonnay’s lush flavors of ripe pear and apricot in check. It has a creamy texture, but it finishes crisp.
Goldfield said this chardonnay clearly benefited from the vintage. “The 2015 vintage was a great year all around,” he said. “The great concentration of flavors was due to the small crop and the great acidity was due to the quick-ripening season.”
The uninitiated don’t realize how much chardonnay is a product of the earth, Goldfield said.
“People love to think of chardonnay as a winemaker’s wine, but I heartily disagree,” he said. “There are fewer steps than there are in producing red wine, and there’s less variation.”
Goldfield believes he’s a good fit to produce chardonnay because he fancies it. “I probably drink more chardonnay than any other single varietal,” he said.
Goldfield, 60, graduated from UC Davis in 1985 with a master’s degree in enology. During the 1990s, Goldfield was the winemaker at Sonoma County’s La Crema and Hartford Court, both owned by Jackson Family Wines.
“At a bigger winery you have to choose between being an executor and a craftsperson. and I didn’t want to choose so Steve Dutton and I co-founded Dutton-Goldfield in 1998,” he said.
Within the partnership, Dutton is the grower and Goldfield is the winemaker.
“I love the interface between the sensual enjoyment and the practical execution in making wine,” Goldfield said. “With every assistant winemaker you have to beat that into them. In the end, the execution is always more difficult than theory.”
But the winemaker has a clear picture of what he’s trying to craft.
“You have to assume. as a craftsperson, I will never be perfect at what I do,” Goldfield said. “So if I’m going to make a mistake, I’d rather make a wine that’s too tight than one that’s too flabby.”
When he’s not producing wine, Goldfield is playing in the great outdoors. He’s not a Mount Everest kind of guy, but he has climbed many unnamed mountains in Alaska.
“Making wine is a little like climbing mountains,” he said. “There’s a million steps, but you know where you want to go.”
Wine writer Peg Melnik can be reached at 521-5310 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
THIS WEEK’S BLIND TASTING
Some Chardonnays that are turning heads
Dutton-Goldfield, 2015 Dutton Ranch, Russian River Valley Chardonnay, 13.5% alcohol, $38. ★★★★: This is a striking chardonnay and what makes it a standout is its bright acidity that buoys its layered flavors. Notes of green apple and zesty lime keeps this chardonnay’s lush flavors of ripe pear and apricot in check. Creamy texture, but it finishes crisp. Impressive.
Stony Hill, 2015 Spring Mountain District, Napa Valley Chardonnay, 13%, $48. ★★★★: A pretty chardonnay with crisp notes of green apple, mineral and stone fruit of peach and nectarine. It has a round texture and a lingering finish. Top rate.
Black Kite, 2015 Sierra Mar Vineyard, Santa Lucia Highlands Chardonnay, 14.1%, $48. ★★★★: A tropical chardonnay with generous fruit –– peach, kiwi and guava. Fleshy, albeit elegant. Rich, yet balanced. Rockstar.
Garnet Vineyards, 2016 Monterey County Chardonnay, 13.8%, $19. ★★★★: The Garnet definitely over-delivers. It’s lush, yet rides on crisp acid. Bright notes of Meyer lemon, peach and honeysuckle. Light and lively. Top rate.
William Hill, 2015 North Coast Chardonnay, 13.8%, $17. ★★★1/2: This lightly toasted chardonnay has a great yin yang — a creamy texture with crisp acidity. Notes of ripe apple, a hint of caramel and a citrusy finish. Nice length. A steal for the price.