The weather is changing, daylight saving has ended, and the election is upon us. Please remember to prioritize your mental and physical health as this winter will be particularly challenging with COVID-19, the holidays, and not being able to be with our loved ones.
In August a connection of mine on Instagram asked me if I had been to any of the wineries in “West County” (record scratch in my mind). Since this is still new to me, I felt less embarrassed asking what is “West County?” I learned that this is the local term for Western Sonoma County which includes wineries in Sebastopol (record scratch again). There are wineries in Sebastopol!? I have been to Healdsburg, Kenwood, and Glen Ellen several times, but it didn’t occur to explore Sebastopol. I researched a few places and reached out to Dutton. After visiting their website, I was intrigued by the agricultural history of the family and their dedication to sustaining the land.
This was my first time driving to Sebastopol and I hate being late so I left early. When I arrived, I was met by Erica Poccia, Hospitality & Social Media Coordinator. We are old friends since we’ve been emailing since September regarding my visit. Unfortunately, because of the fires and poor air quality we had to postpone. She thanked me for coming, started me off with a glass of 2019 Blushing Sisters Rosé and walked me over to my table. As I got closer, I noticed something familiar – my first name! I was about to make a joke about “dem knowing me up in here” but since this was my first time meeting Erica, I decided to text that to my wife instead (she texted back “they don’t know me up in here” and a gif of Martin Lawrence). Erica said that Kylie would join us a little later, but she would get me started with the “Estate Culinary Pairing” and give me some general information on Dutton.
Erica returns with the food pairings and the first two wines – 2019 Kylie’s Fume Blanc & 2018 Dutton Palms Chardonnay
So, Erica how long have you been working at Dutton and why did you decide to join?
It’s been about 9 months since I started. It was a great opportunity to work for a smaller winery where I could wear many hats. I admire the “farmers first” philosophy of the Dutton Family as they make what they grow.
Tell me more about the Dutton family and their winery?
Joe and Tracy Dutton were born and raised in the West County – in Tracy’s case, right here in Sebastopol! The Duttons own 1200 acres of grapes, produce about 5000 cases of wine, and the estate is a California Sustainable Winery. They have three kids – Kyndall, Karmen, and Kylie. (Erica laughs and is looking past me at someone else). She must have heard her name…
Kylie walks over and introduces herself. I’m finally breaking the habit of going for the handshake, so we bump elbows and sit. We chat for a bit about her day and then jump into the interview.
Thank you for meeting with me, Kylie. I’ve been learning about your family’s history. Why did you choose winemaking instead of other areas in farming operation?
Early on in college I was into sales, but I knew that eventually I would get into the family business. At a young age I was the daughter that was “into wine.” Apparently, I had a “great palate” and “nose” (laughs). It’s why I decided to pursue my passion and make winemaking my career, however my family’s legacy of farming and agriculture will always be part of what I do.
Looking around I see that most of the tables are full. How are you doing with COVID-19? How is Dutton?
Thank you for asking. We are doing okay. Like most wineries, a large percentage of business comes from tourism and in-person purchases. Dutton has great members and our online sales are doing well so we are good. As for me, I’m fortunate that health-wise I haven’t been affected but COVID forced me to come back early from New Zealand.
Wait. What? You were in New Zealand?
New Zealand is best known for its Sauvignon Blanc. I always want to be learning so I had an internship to further my knowledge in the Marlborough wine region…
I interrupt with a raised eyebrow
Don’t you have a Sauvignon Blanc named after you at Dutton?
(Smiling) Yes, I do.
Switching gears, what do think distinguishes Dutton from other wineries?
We are young and have an interest in sustainable winemaking and agriculture. Our wines tell a story about our family and we incorporate that spirit into our wines. We share this with everyone that visits so we feel this makes them part of our extended family.
How do you promote inclusion at Dutton?
Looking around you can tell we are pretty casuall here. As a young female winemaker and Brand Ambassador I am dedicated to welcoming ALL diverse people and perspectives. If you are 21 or 81, Dutton’s welcoming environment has something for everyone. (Laughing) It also helps that there isn’t a dress code.
Damn. I wish I would have known that beforehand. (Laughing) I put on a clean shirt and combed my eyebrows for this. Seriously though, what is your favorite wine at Dutton? Other than any wine named after you.
Dutton Palms Chardonnay. It’s a special connection because as a child the Dutton Palms Vineyard is where I grew up and played with my sisters. Wine connects you to people but it can also connect you to memories. I think about my childhood and family when I drink it.
It hurts that we can’t have any wine events this year, but what is your favorite event at Dutton?
Barrel Tasting in March. The energy of the people and of course, the wines.
Before I forget I wanted to say you have a pretty cool Dutton-branded shirt on. If I get to choose between your namesake wine and the shirt…can I have a shirt?
(Big Smile) You have to EARN this shirt. Come intern in the cellar or pick with us during Harvest and we’ll talk.
(Laughing) Fair enough. It won’t be a hardship to take home an extra bottle of your Fume Blanc. Any last words for my audience…
Drink Sonoma County wine and support small family wineries.
I thanked Kylie again and for spending extra time talking with me. She told me to reach out next time I’m up.
Location: 8757 Green Valley Road, Sebastopol CA