Category Archives: California

Dunstan Wines: Great Wine from Savior of American Mustangs

A little luck in the vineyard never hurts

A little luck in the vineyard never hurts

Last week my mother, enduring animal lover that she is, forwarded me a story about the poisoning death of ten endangered Malaysian pygmie elephants. The story reminded me of another article I read on the tragic increase in South African Rhino poaching for their “cancer-curing” horns (scientifically disproven). The list of human v. animal atrocities goes on, and the bottom line is: Humans can be pretty shitty.

So it feels like exception rather than rule to catch a story about small but important victories occurring in animal preservation. Our Federal Government has a history (some say nasty) of wildlife mismanagement (wolves and bison, for example), yet apparently 115 wild American horses, saved from a public auction by Ellie Price nearly 2 years ago, were finally relocated to their permanent, protected refuge. Why am I writing about this in a wine column? Ellie Price is both owner of renowned Durrell Vineyard in Sonoma County and producer of Dunstan Wines.

Price, as passionate about horses as her wines, stopped the slaughter clock on a group of wild mustangs essentially held on equine death row–awaiting auction–by the Bureau of Land Management, ironically tasked with protecting them. Although the BLM takes a public stand that they are seeking to find homes for the horses when they are rounded up and sold, the reality is that they are often bought by meat buyers for slaughterhouses across our borders. Of course, the reality is actually much more complex than I can properly cover in this piece, so for further info you can start with the American Wild Horse Preservation Campaign. Fortunately for the lucky lot of horses saved by Price (and any future horses), she founded a 2,000-acre wildlife refuge in Willows, California for their long-term placement.

I love this story because Dunstan wines are excellent, and it’s a pleasure to promote the product of someone doing good things both inside and out of the winemaking world.

Durell Vineyard, named after former owner Ed Durell, has provided fruit for some of the finest wines in Sonoma since the early 1980’s. Price and her former husband Bill took over the property and surrounding ranch in 1998.  The Dunstan label was added in 2005 with the replanting of the “Ranch House Block” of the vineyard exclusively for the line. The name and logo were inspired by an old, large horseshoe found in the field during replanting, considered an omen of good luck.

Durell Vineyard spans three appellations: Sonoma Coast, Sonoma Valley and a small corner of Carneros. The Ranch House Block has a distinct climate from the rest—cool coastal fog in the morning, and warm afternoons, brushed by winds from the Petaluma Gap. This climate differential allows for supple fruit with crisp, bright acidity. Only 600 cases of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot rosé are made each year—micro-winery status with winemaker Kenneth Juhasz at the helm.

I tasted the 2010 Chardonnay and 2009 Pinot by way of samples. I hate to say it, but I have been so bored with California Chardonnay that it is NEVER my go to wine, yet the 2010 restored my interest in drinking them (or some anyway). The palate offered bright flavors of both fresh and baked apples and pears, citrus and enough oak for texture and taste without all the “oaky.”

The 2009 Pinot popped both aromatically and on the palate with pretty black cherry and black raspberry fruit, and a deep thread of exotic spices with a silky, almost creamy texture. One of the best Pinots I have tried this year and last.

If you are like my mom–prefer animals to people, or at least people who like animals–and appreciate good wine, definitely join Dunstan’s mailing list or get out there to visit in person. If you wish to follow the plight of America’s wild horses, stay tuned for Price’s upcoming documentary, American Mustang 3D, scheduled for a spring 2013 release.

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