River Star Vineyards
When Ed and Muriel Dutton moved to the Central Coast in 1986 they intended to retire on the property they had purchased in San Miguel, just north of Paso Robles. However, the existing vineyards on the property proved to be too intriguing for the Duttons to ignore, and they found themselves as grape farmers instead of retirees.
The Duttons farmed and sold the grapes for a number of years before selling the property and buying the land that currently houses Riverstar Vineyards. By that time the Duttons had been bitten by the grape-growing bug, and they planted the vineyards that make up Riverstar’s estate vineyards.
The Duttons’ property now houses not only the Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Zinfandel, Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon vines that the Duttons planted but the winery, two vacation rentals, a new event area as well as the Duttons’ home. The Duttons’ daughter and grandchildren live on the property as well. Ed Dutton makes the wine, and Muriel runs the business aspect of Riverstar.
The first vintage of Riverstar Vineyards wine was a 2001 Syrah, released in 2003. Ed now makes wine from the grapes grown on the property as well as some grapes purchased from other vineyards in the area. Muriel says that they are best known for their Sauvignon Blanc and their Merlot, and that the Riverstar Merlot has won several medals, including a gold medal at the Long Beach Grand Cru. Muriel says that their wines are “fruit forward and food friendly and are easy on the pallet.”
While Ed receives advice from their consulting winemaker Paul Ayers whenever necessary, Muriel says that her husband really has thrown himself into winemaking, and says that winemaking, as compared to growing grapes is “very detail-oriented.” Muriel adds that Ed “is very hands-on, and can probably learn anything if he can get his hands on it.”
The Riverstar property was a horse ranch when the Duttons purchased it, and while they have done quite a bit of work on the buildings—most noteably the updated tasting room—they did not build any new structures. The production area is in the old stable, and the feel of a horse ranch still exists in the sprawling fields of the property. It is this quiet and out-of-the way feel that Muriel says appeals to many visitors, and especially to those who stay at the vacation rentals the Duttons offer.
The vacation rentals at Riverstar have been open for 3 years, and have met with what Muriel describes as a great reception. The larger of the two rentals can sleep up to 8 people, with 3 bedrooms and 2 full baths, as well as a fully-stocked kitchen. The wrap-around deck invites BBQs, and visitors appreciate that the rentals are pet-friendly. Muriel says the smaller rental is a spacious “bedroom suite.”
Guests at the rentals enjoy being a part of a working winery for a bit, and have even helped pick grapes during harvest time. The Duttons are looking forward to hosting weddings and events at the newly-completed events area. Muriel says of the Riverstar winemaking philosophy, “We believe our customers dictate our philosophy, if they enjoy our wines, if they leave our tasting room feeling glad they came, then we are reaching our goals. We want our customers to enjoy our wines with family and friends, and want to keep coming back for more.”
As for visitors to the Riverstar tasting room, Muriel says, “Tasters can expect a friendly greeting and warm hospitality,” and says, “We hope they feel comfortable and relaxed.” Muriel also says that Ed is often available for barrel tasting and that he loves to show guests around. Visitors are invited to come and enjoy the new tasting room, the peaceful grounds and the award-winning wine at Riverstar Vineyards.
Visit Riverstar Vineyards at their tasting room at 7450 Estrella Road in San Miguel from 11am – 5pm Thursday to Monday. Call (805) 467-0086 or see www.riverstarvineyards.com for additional information.
— Kate Joyce