Prominent Sonoma County grape grower Warren Dutton, whose Dutton Ranch is found on the labels of wineries such as Kistler, Merryvale and Patz & Hall, died of an apparent heart attack on Thursday, Oct. 25. He was 58.
Dutton was riding his horse at the time, according to a family spokesman, and was later pronounced dead at a Santa Rosa hospital.
Dutton sold grapes to nearly 30 wineries in northern California, including Rosenblum, Sterling, Sebastiani and Cakebread. More than a dozen wineries bottle Dutton Ranch vineyard-designated wines. The Dutton family owns or leases 1,000 acres in west Sonoma County, much of it planted to Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vineyards, and is involved in two wine labels, Sebastopol Vineyards and Dutton-Goldfield.
"It's hard to imagine west Sonoma County without Warren Dutton," said Merryvale winemaker Stephen Test, who has worked with Dutton for more than 20 years. "There's hardly anything in West Sonoma County that he didn't touch one way or another."
With his sons Steve and Joe, Dutton also ran an active vineyard management business, planting, overseeing and harvesting grapes for others.
A fourth-generation farmer, Dutton grew up picking prunes and hops on the family's Santa Rosa farm. In 1964, Dutton and his wife, Gail, bought property in the Russian River Valley and began growing pears and apples; for a time, they operated a popular roadside fruit stand on Sebastopol Road.
As Sonoma County's apple industry went into decline in the late 1970s, Dutton was one of the first ranchers to switch to grapes. He was one of the founders and the current president of the Russian River Valley Winegrowers trade association.
"He was a farmer who became a grape-grower, which is very different from the way growers are now," Test said, adding, "He was genuinely flattered that his name was showing up on so many wine labels."
A memorial service will be held Wednesday, Oct. 31, at 11 a.m. at the Luther Burbank Center, located at 50 Mark West Springs Road in Santa Rosa. Following the service, everyone is invited to a Dutton-style BBQ at Warren's Lake & Gail's Vineyard, located on Laughlin Road. (Park at Richard's Grove & Saralee's Vineyard, 3575 Slusser Road, or La Crema Winery, 3690 Laughlin Road, where shuttle cars will be waiting.) In lieu of flowers, donations should be made to the Warren Dutton Scholarship Fund at the Santa Rosa Junior College.
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