Dodon Wine Club Collectors Dinner: June 21, featuring Executive Chef Chris Amendola and Guest Speaker Sam Droege

Chef Chris Amendola of Foraged. will prepare and present a coursed dinner to be paired with Dodon wines and served in the vineyard.  We will continue our Heritage Conversation Series with a discussion about pollinators with wildlife biologist, Sam Droege. 

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About our Guest Speaker: Sam Droege grew up in Hyattsville, Maryland, received an undergraduate degree at the University of Maryland and a Master’s at the State University of New York – Syracuse.  Most of his career has been spent at the USGS Patuxent Wildlife Research Center.  He has coordinated the North American Breeding Bird Survey Program, developed the North American Amphibian Monitoring Program, the Bioblitz, Cricket Crawl, and FrogwatchUSA programs and works on the design and evaluation of monitoring programs.  Currently he is developing an inventory and monitoring program for native bees along with online identification guides for North American bees at , and reviving the North American Bird Phenology Program.  

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About our Guest Chef: Executive Chef Chris Amendola received his formal training at the Southeast Institute of Culinary Arts in St. Augustine where he graduated at the top of his class. After refining his craft under Chef Todd English at BlueZoo in Orlando and with Chef Sean Brock at McCrady’s in Charleston, Chris headed north and worked in the kitchens of Café Dupont in Washington, D.C., Allium in Great Barrington, Massachusetts and the renowned Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, New York. He also staged in the kitchens of Mini Bar in Washington Dc and Eleven Madison Park in NYC. Locally, Chris held positions at Fleet Street Kitchen and Waterfront Kitchen.

Chef Chris is an experienced farmer and forager, having worked at Thackeray Farms on Wadmalaw Island, S.C. and in close connection with the team at Blue Hill Farm. When he is not behind the stove at Foraged, Chef Chris is out in the woods looking for new ingredient to cook with. This agricultural and woodsman knowledge allows Chris to elevate the dining experience for his guests. “I like to let the product speak for itself,” says Chris. “I believe in utilizing hyper-seasonal ingredients and allowing the natural flavors to complement one another.” His modern American style of cooking gives Foraged diners a unique culinary experience.

Some Frequently Asked Questions about Dodon: A Conversation with Polly and Tom

Why is the winery open by appointment only?

Tom. Dodon is home to three generations of our family, a fact that shapes all activities at the farm. When visitors come to the vineyard and winery, they are visiting our home, and as in our home, the space and the events that we host reflect our tastes and preferences – simple, yet refined and textured; modern, yet pastoral and hospitable; elegant, yet warm and intimate. And, as in our home, we plan gatherings at which we can be fully present and engaged with each of our guests.

Polly. Because we are only open by appointment, we can organize our schedules to ensure that we can spend time with our guests. We want to share the Dodon story in a calm, comfortable atmosphere. The seated tasting format also emphasizes the role of the person hosting the tastings, who is not only knowledgeable about wine, but also an integral part of Dodon’s vineyard and winemaking.

2017 Vintage Summary: A Year of Providence

2017 Vintage Summary: A Year of Providence

In what has become a metaphor for the 2017 vintage, a black widow found her way onto the sorting table in the last hours of harvest. We’ve always known that there are lots of black widows in the vineyard, but mostly they keep to themselves, quietly helping rid the vines of unwanted insects. How she got to the table is anyone’s guess. It seems unlikely that she was on a cluster when it was snipped into an unsuspecting hand, so perhaps she crawled into a picking basket that inadvertently landed on her web. In either case, we popped both the spider and her grape into the sorting bin, and off she went to the compost pile. No harm done to either party. 

Thoughts from the Barrel Room

Thoughts from the Barrel Room

With the red harvest complete, and extended macerations underway, I’m starting to think more concretely about how barrel aging will affect the wine and how we can use this understanding to enhance quality. It goes without saying that barrels are not neutral vessels. Aromatic substances in oak quickly diffuse into wine, and some of these combine with or react with substances in the wine to create new flavors. It’s a bit like using spices while cooking. A little bit can enhance the natural flavor of the ingredients, adding complexity and depth. Too much can hide great ingredients, and faulty ones. Oak also contains tannins that have both beneficial and detrimental effects on wine. 

August Updates

The bird nets are all up, so our attention is quickly turning to preparing to bottle 800 cases of wine this Friday, August 18. I’m excited about all the wines, especially the 2015 Oronoco and Dungannon. We’re also getting ready for the harvest. The season has been shaping up nicely. Veraison came early, July 20 in Block 40 (Merlot), and went quickly, with superb uniformity across all the blocks. This means that the fruit will ripen evenly and allow us to fully extract all the flavors, always an exciting prospect for a winemaker. The modest rains have kept the wines in peak condition, allowing photosynthesis to work its magic, as have the cooler temperatures with lots of clear sunshine. 

What are Dodon Soils?

Dodon’s soils substantially differ from those in other wine growing regions. Termed Marr-Dodon complex soils, they are described as fine-loamy (meaning smallish particle size), siliceous (having high levels of silica that warms the soil), semiactive (modest cation exchange associated with low fertility), mesic (medium temperature), aquic (Dodon series) or typic (Marr series) (aquic soils retain more water than typic) hapludults (derived from sandstone). 

Why do we care so much about Dodon soils?

Grapevines grow just fine in water supplemented with a few nutrients, a method known as hydroponics. Growing hydroponically has lots of advantages. Because it can be done indoors, hydroponics allows perfect temperature control, and it avoids disease pressure often associated with rain, humidity, and insects. Vegetative growth can easily be regulated by adjusting the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere and the amount of nitrogen in the aqueous solution. It’s little wonder that tomatoes, lettuce and other vegetables, and most commercial marijuana are grown hydroponically.

Looking Beyond Organic Certification: Part I

I’m often asked when leading guests on a tour in the vineyard whether Dodon is “organic,” or at least aspires to be certified as an organic vineyard. It’s a fair question. In many ways, we fit the common image of organic farmers. On a summer visit, you will find our vineyard team out with hoes, clippers, and other hand tools, carefully cultivating the soil and tending the vines. Regulations governing organic certification require practices that are standard operating procedures at Dodon, such as use of organic composts, mechanical weeding, and use of biological controls for insect pests. These methods are labor intensive and expensive, and they illustrate our commitment to sustainability, ecologically-friendly practices, and a balanced ecosystem.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! We just left the cellar, sniffing, tasting, listening, and stirring one last time in 2016. The ‘16 vintage is coming around nicely. The Sauvignon Blanc and Rosé are developing the flavors and weight that characterize the Dodon site. They’ll be ready for bottling March. The Chardonnay has finished themalolactic fermentation and is settling in for its year-long elévage. The primary fermentations (the conversion of sugar to alcohol) are yet to finish in the reds, but the familiar snap, crackle, pop from the bung hole prove the yeast are still working.

2016 Vintage Summary

The red wines are now in tank, primary fermentations nearly complete, extended macerations underway, and the conversion from malic acid to lactic acid getting starting. While the next movement of the vintage is still being written, the personality of the growing season is now clear. Starting, as spring always does, with anticipation and hope, the rhythm quickly began alternating between moments of dramatic threat and pastoral idyll. Like Sibelius’ second symphony, the sense was that of an ongoing conversation between death and salvation, personified by increasing tension, fatigue, and anxiety before ending in a final heroic conclusion.

One Winegrower's Take on GMOs

Support for genetically modified organisms or GMOs got quite a boost this summer when the National Academy of Sciences released their most recent report on GMOs, concluding that, compared to “conventionally” farmed crops, GMOs have had generally, but not uniformly, positive effects on producer income and that they are safe to eat. To be sure, the NAS committee comprehensively reviewed the literature comparing GMOs with conventionally farmed crops, so from this perspective, it fulfilled its narrow statement of task. But many winegrowers will view the scope of the report as limited, comparing two largely technologically driven agricultural methods but leaving out more ecologically-based methods that rely on diversified ecosystems to improve quality and increase yields.

News from the Vineyard: A June Update

News from the Vineyard: A June Update

The Bordelais say that the quantity of the vintage is determined in June and its quality is determined in September. That’s not quite true, but now that we’ve finished bloom and the fruit has set, we have a good sense that that the 2016 vintage will be on the small side. It started with the early bud break at the end of a very warm March, followed by two hard freezes in early April, and then cool, wet weather through the rest of April and most of May. The necessary handwork in the vineyard was unpleasant, and managing the tractors was tricky and sometimes dangerous.

Are Time and Terroir an Illusion? Reflections on Mark Matthews’ new book, Terroir and Other Myths of Winegrowing.

Are Time and Terroir an Illusion? Reflections on Mark Matthews’ new book, Terroir and Other Myths of Winegrowing.

Issac Newton described time in absolute terms that I find intuitive. It is the same everywhere, it has constant duration, and it flows continuously in the same direction. According to Craig Callender, Professor of Philosophy at University of California, San Diego, Newtonian time is a kind of master clock that carves our world into instants.

2015 in Review

It was a busy year around Dodon. In February, Matthieu Finot joined the team as consulting winemaker. Matthieu’s training in Burgundy and his 23 years in Virginia bring remarkable experience and a steady hand to the cellar team. In March, we were joined by vineyard consultant Lucie Morton and geologist Bubba Beasley to map the vineyards using electromagnetic induction. Our immediate motivation was to find those areas most appropriate for each varietal for our April planting of eight acres and 16,000 vines.