Mention Alta and Snowbird to Dan Goldfield—owner/founder of Sonoma’s Dutton-Goldfield Winery—and his eyes light up. Had he not gone into the wine biz, he’d have made a helluva ski bum. He and his family relish skiing in Utah, and make time nearly every year for a stay at Alta’s Goldminer’s Daughter Lodge. The accommodations for his most recent visit were a bit more upscale, however, as he was in town to host a wine dinner at the Bistro in The Lodge at Snowbird.
I wrote a few years ago about Goldfield’s Utah connections. Prior to becoming a world-class winemaker, Goldfield did graduate work in physical chemistry at the University of Utah. That’s where his love affair with Utah’s natural treasures began. Goldfield knows Utah—from the Wasatch Mountains to Kolob Canyons—better than many of the state’s natives.
Being able to sip and chat about Dutton-Goldfield wines with Goldfield, accompanied by an outstanding four-course dinner prepared by top-notch chef R.J. Peterson, was a real treat and a pleasure. Before dinner began, I noted how hands-on Goldfield is, scampering around the restaurant making sure that his wines were all at the perfect temperature for serving. As a winemaker and chemist, Goldfield shares a pet peeve with me: Most white wine in restaurants is served too cold, and reds are poured too warm.
A luscious seared sea scallop with fennel-onion risotto and caper-raisin emulsion served as the first course. Normally, I think Sauvignon Blanc when partnering wine with scallops. However, Dutton-Goldfield 2011 Rued Vineyard Chardonnay was spot-on with the scallop and the creamy risotto. The name of this Green Valley-Russian River Valley Chardonnay refers to the “Rued Clone” grape, which has been propagated across California from what was originally a so-called “Chardonnay-musque” selection. That’s of interest to wine geeks. For everyone else, there are the gorgeous floral aromatics of the wine matched by sunny tropical flavors and tangerine. Think you don’t love California Chardonnay? You haven’t tried this one.
Another excellent Lodge Bistro offering —an herbed lamb “lollipop” with white-bean puree and fresh grape sauce—was paired with 2012 Dutton Ranch Pinot Noir. Like every Dutton-Goldfield Pinot Noir, this one was silky and elegant, yet earthy, with dark berry fruit flavors, good structure and light alcohol—a very good choice to match with lamb.
During dinner, I asked Goldfield a question I’ve often wondered about, but thought it was too rudimentary to pose to such a talented winemaker: When he makes wine, such as Pinot Noir, does he have a vision or a model in mind, perhaps based on a memorable French Burgundy he’d once tasted? In other words: “Is there a target you’re shooting for?” Goldfield humored me by saying, “That’s a very good question.” In a nutshell, while winemakers are named as such because they make wine, Goldfield stressed the importance of letting the grapes tell you what the wine will be. He doesn’t have a Platonic Ideal of the perfect Dutton-Goldfield Pinot, which he then creates by manipulation and force. Rather, he allows the grapes and weather and a hundred other variables tell him what the wine will be, all the while lending his impressive winemaking skills to the process.
With coffee- and ancho-chile-braised short ribs, we sipped 2011 Pinot Noir Fox Den Vineyard, along with 2007 Freestone Hill Vineyard Pinot, and it was a special treat to be able to taste the beautifully aging Freestone Hill wine next to the younger Fox Den. I’d suggest trying to get your hands on both and enjoying them side-by-side as we did. You’ll forever be a Dutton-Goldfield fan.