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2010 Best Zinfandel: Dutcher Crossing

Author: Julie Fadda
May, 2010 Issue

At Dutcher Crossing, it’s all about great friends, family, food and wine. “The people who are drawn here are of similar mind,” says owner Debra Mathy, who searched with her father for years to find the place she finally landed and, in 2007, purchased Dutcher Crossing, joining forces with the winery’s original co-founder and winemaker, Kerry Damskey.

“People originally came here for Kerry’s Cabernet Sauvignon/Syrah blends,” says Mathy. “But we live and do business in Zin country. So we’ve evolved into using unique, special [Zinfandel and other] vineyards, Kerry’s special blending capabilities, and a top-to-bottom wine offering.” The winery produces about 8,000 cases total, so everything is very small production.

This year, Dutcher Crossing was voted Best Zinfandel by NorthBay biz readers, who have previously voted it Best Sauvignon Blanc—twice. Turns out a top-to-bottom wine offering was a good idea.

Of the many incarnations of the seven varietals it produces, there are four Zinfandels, each of which has a different goal and purpose. The Proprietor’s Reserve comes from Dry Creek Valley floor fruit. “The goal is for it to be a nice, luscious, fruit-driven Zinfandel,” says Damskey.

“It’s the one to drink often,” adds Mathy. “The other [Zins] are special occasion wines.”  

The Maple Vineyard Zinfandel is always blended with a bit of Petite Sirah. The vines are mostly 40 to 60 years old and are dry-farmed. “The Maple Vineyard has the classic characteristics of Dry Creek Valley,” says Damskey. (Think blackberries, spice and vanilla.)

Bill’s Block is a 1-acre section of the Maple Vineyard, named after its original owner. Some of its vines are 80 years old. “It tends to be the biggest and jammiest,” says Damskey. It also has Petite Sirah, Cinsault and Alacante Bouchet.

The Bernier-Sibary Vineyard Zinfandel (the 2007 was chosen as one of the Top 10 Best Wines of the Year by editors of the Connoisseurs’ Guide to California Wines), is sourced from a Dry Creek Valley “old school”-farmed vineyard that’s 75 percent Zinfandel, mixed with Mourvedre, Petite Sirah and Carignane. “The vines are only nine years old,” says Damskey. “It’s a beautiful, hillside, west-facing vineyard.”

And while all the wines are unique, they also have something in common: a label featuring Debra’s 1892 Rudge, a Penny Farthing bicycle from England. “I always wanted one. I remember seeing them in parades when I was a kid. My dad searched for one for 10 to 15 years, and eventually found one that fits my height. It’s the smallest they made. It was the last gift he gave me [he passed away just before she bought the winery], and one of my favorite all-time possessions. It represents our journey into Wine Country,” says Mathy. “I’ve always been into bikes. Some kids like airplanes and trains. I liked bikes.

“Thank you [NorthBay biz readers]! We love you! We’re thrilled. For us being in Dry Creek, to be voted Best Zinfandel is quite an honor. We’re among great producers here, and Zinfandel is the standout red for Dry Creek Valley. We’re proud of that!”



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