Sutton Cellars: An Urban Winery Grows in Dogpatch

Categories: Wine

Lou Bustamante
Sutton Cellars' Carl Sutton.
​Despite occasionally living up to the grittiness of its name, the Dogpatch is becoming one of the best neighborhoods in the city for food. Right off the T line, it boasts some notable residents: Recchiuti's production facility, Piccino, Serpentine, Kitchenette, and Mr. and Mrs. Miscellaneous, all within a single-block radius.

Joining the neighborhood's gourmet gang is wine and vermouth producer Sutton Cellars, a one-man show owned and operated by Carl Sutton since 1996. Sutton recently moved from Sonoma to make San Francisco his home.

"Yes it's a winery, but it's not a winery in the sense of Sonoma County or Napa style," Sutton says of his new digs in Dogpatch. "I'd love to eventually have a tasting room because I see that Oakland is letting their urban wineries have tasting rooms. It not only brings people to the neighborhood, but it improves the profile of the neighborhood."

Don't expect that tasting room anytime soon, but as he settles into the Dogpatch, Sutton will host tastings, sales by appointment, and evening and weekend events. Look for neighborhood business collaborations, like the series he did with Michael Recchiuti, part of Recchiuti's tasting series.

Future plans also include a monthly blend of wine for sale in microlots, and more variety of aperitif wines. We were able to sample a luscious dry rosé vermouth currently in development. A vin de noix, a wine infused with green walnuts (a lighter, French-style variety of Italian nocino liqueur) is also in the works.

Sutton is best known for his exceptional dry vermouth, made with 17 organic botanicals. It's perfect for cocktails, but surprisingly drinkable all on its own, thanks to an herbal/orange-peel freshness.

The winery started with and continues to make delightful rosé, Syrah, Carignane, and fortified dessert wines, including a single-vineyard, single-vintage Banyuls-style wine, all from Sonoma County fruit. Banyuls-style dessert wines are unique in that they are purposely left to oxidize in the sun (a process called maderisation, as in Madeira port) in glass containers. Carl lets his rest for a year and a half, which adds an uncommon richness.

Sutton's wines are distinctive in California in that they tend to be less oaky, aged longer, higher in acid, and lower in alcohol than many California wines, all of which renders them very food-friendly. Leaning towards natural wine making, Sutton Cellars wines and vermouth are wild-yeast fermented, unfiltered, and vegan, although they do contain small amounts of sulfites, much like European organic wines.

We're already savoring plans for a Sunday morning "Hair of the Dogpatch" brunch experience, with a tasting and eats in a 'hood that gets bonus point for experiencing sun more often than the rest of the city!

Look for Sutton Cellars wine on tap at Out the Door Bush and San Francisco Wine Trading Company. Find the vermouth at Cask, Bi-Rite Market, and K&L Wines.

Sutton Cellars: 601 22nd St. (at Illinois).

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