The Wine Guy - Greg Walter


Dunstan Wines: One of Sonoma’s hidden jewels

Sonoma has a lot of great wineries. Many of them are easy to see – whether with tasting rooms around the plaza, or full-blown wineries along highways all through the valley. But one of the great things about our quaint little valley is that in addition to those very visible wineries, we have a great number of winery operations that are what I like to call “hidden jewels” – located off the beaten path or just not interested in being out in the middle of everything.

Dunstan Wines is one of my favorite of those hidden jewels. My guess is that most of you reading this have probably never had the Dunstan wines. I’m going to tell you up front that if you have not, you should. They are terrific. More on them later.

Any further discussion of Dunstan must involve two terrific people, an iconic Sonoma vineyard and some interesting history. Just because it’s easier from a storytelling standpoint, let’s start with the iconic vineyard and the interesting history.

Dunstan’s home is the Durell Vineyard, located in a small valley tucked between the hills that form the western boundary of Sonoma Valley and a small line of low hills to the east that run roughly parallel to and can be seen from Arnold Drive.  The Durell Vineyard is easily one of Sonoma County’s best vineyards. Established in the late 1970s by Ed Durell and Steve Hill, some truly amazing wines have been made from this vineyard over the years. Its unique location incorporates some of the coolness of the Carneros region at its southern end and cooler than the than the Sonoma Valley to the north and east, many wines from the vineyard carry the Sonoma Coast designation.

In 1998, the Durell Vineyard and the surrounding 400-acre ranch were purchased by Ellie Phipps Price and her former husband, Bill Price. Although they are no longer married, they continue to share ownership of the vineyard. (Among Bill Price’s many wine ventures is Three Sticks, showcasing his wines from Durell.)

OK, back to the present, and on to the two terrific people I mentioned: Ellie Phipps Price and Chris Towt.

Ellie established Dunstan in 2005 at the southern end of the Durell property with the replanting of the “Ranch House Block” of the vineyard, a block dedicated exclusively to Dunstan. Chris came on board at Durell in 2006 and began working with Ellie on the launch of Dunstan Wines in 2008, his focus being national accounts and direct-to-consumer sales.

Ellie and Chris make a great team. Both share a love of fine wines, and, interestingly a love of horses and animal preservation—a very interesting story in and of itself that is unfortunately too long to go into here. In fact, the name Dunstan is actually a reference to a blacksmith of the same name who purportedly was responsible for the horseshoe hanging above a doorway being a symbol of protection and luck. A very old horseshoe was found in the Ranch House Block when it was being replanted and thus became the symbol and inspired the name for Dunstan Wines.

The Dunstan wines are made by the very talented Kenneth Juhasz—one of my favorite Pinot winemakers with his own Auteur wines. Three wines are currently produced: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and a Rose of Pinot Noir. All carry the Durell Vineyard designation. All of the wines are incredibly well balanced and structured with bright fruit and crisp acidity.

For more information on Dunstan, visit www.dunstanwines.com.

As always, you can email me with questions at gswalter@pinotreport.com.

Greg Walter has been a Sonoma resident for more than 20 years. Greg has been in wine and food publishing for more than 30 years, 15 of which were spent as a senior editor and later president of Wine Spectator magazine. Today he writes the PinotReport newsletter (www.pinotreport.com) and publishes books through his Carneros Press imprint (www.carnerospress.com).

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