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2015 BEST Sauvignon Blanc: Dutcher Crossing Winery

Author: Julie Fadda Powers
May, 2015 Issue

“We’re learning more all the time about what those grapes most want to express.” —Nick Briggs

 
“We love this wine and always wish we could make more,” says Debra Mathy, proprietor of Dutcher Crossing Winery, of the winery’s Sauvignon Blanc. “We’re disappointed that we sell out so quickly.”
 
It’s true that the winery is known for this particular offering, and NorthBay biz readers agree—this is the fourth time they’ve voted it Best Sauvignon Blanc in the past eight years (it also won Best Zinfandel in 2010).
 
“At blending, this always used to be our straightforward wine,” she continues. “But it’s no longer that way. As we’ve evolved, it’s become a much more sophisticated wine.”
 
Associate Winemaker Nick Briggs joined the winery about three years ago (as assistant winemaker) and works closely with Winemaker Kerry Damskey to create the outstanding blend, which is comprised of Sauvignon Blanc grapes from the estate as well as Russian River Valley, along with a bit of estate Rousanne and Viognier. “We use 15 to 20 percent new French oak and cold ferment the rest in stainless steel,” says Briggs. “Then it goes into neutral barrels for aging. The blend happens at the end, at which point we make sure it’s heat and cold stabilized [which ensures clarity]. It takes about 24 hours over a few days to perfect the blend and it normally bottles in February or March.”
 
The 2014 vintage is the most recent release. “The Russian River Valley fruit adds citrus, floral, melon and grassy characters,” says Mathy.
 
“I’m excited,” adds Briggs. “The Russian River Valley fruit lends a distinctive component, and we’re learning more all the time about what those grapes most want to express. We’re figuring it out and making a nice, interesting and complex wine as a result.”
 
It’s true. The wine has a wonderful balance of both lush and bright characteristics—there’s a lot of personality packed into it, which makes it purely fun and enjoyable to drink.
 
The past couple years have seen some new happenings and additions to the winery’s lineup, including a Pinot Noir program (“There are several new vineyards with really fun growers—new family members,” says Mathy) and its first Rhone blend red wine release, Kupferschmid Red, that won Best of Class at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair. It’s also developing an estate Pinot Noir vineyard in Green Valley of the Russian River Valley, where four to five acres will be planted. “It’s Gold Ridge soil surrounded by redwoods,” says Mathy. “It took a long time to find the right spot.”
 
The winery is also working toward being fully sustainable, including using all recyclable shipping products. And for the first Sonoma County barrel auction, it’s working with all the wineries that purchase Zinfandel from the Maple Vineyard to create a one-time only blend. “This is the first time this has been done,” says Mathy. “It’s like all the children saying we’re going to play together and do something special. It’s fun. The winemakers get inspired and learn from each other.”
 
This summer, wine club members will get to enjoy a Frisbee golf course in the vineyard, as well as the annual Oktoberfest. And what’s on the horizon that this particular writer is especially excited about? “We’re starting a brandy program,” says Mathy. “We’ll work in partnership with a distiller to do it. It’s a project my brothers will also be involved in. They love wine, but they mostly drink brandy. So we’ll eventually have a small offering.” One thing you can always count on is Dutcher Crossing having something new and fun up its sleeve.

 

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