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.

Are children welcome?

Polly. The length of the tours and tastings and most other events at Dodon makes it difficult for children to enjoy themselves; the emphasis is on wine and wine education, and we do not serve refreshments or have activities for those under 21 years.  We do, however, hold picnics in the summer, called "Dodon 'til Dusk,” and wine club members are welcome to bring their families to these outdoor evenings.

Tom.  As a working farm and winery, we have equipment and materials that can quickly result in serious injury.  For their safety, neither children nor adults should enter the vineyards, cellar, or farm buildings unless accompanied by a member of the Dodon staff.  Most importantly, children should remain with parents both for their safety and so that other guests can enjoy their time with us.

What about pets?

Polly. Except for service dogs, we cannot accommodate pets on the property.

Which wine is your favorite?

Polly. Oronoco. I love the sweet, soft, silky feminine curves that are unusual in an American Cabernet. If the Cabernet in a given vintage does not offer that kind of richness, we won’t make Oronoco that year.

Tom. It depends. It depends on my mood, the company, and the meal. I get excited about lots of wines, many of which we don’t produce. But when cooking for guests, I often make something that will pair with Dungannon.

Why doesn’t Dodon participate in wine competitions?

Tom. The philosophy at Dodon - in the vineyard, in the cellar, and in the sales and marketing function - is to always ask why we are doing something in the context of our goals.  Will an action improve the soil or the environment, result in better wine, or bring value to wine club members? If the answer to at least one of these questions isn’t clearly yes, then it’s unlikely that we’ll move forward. The question for us is, then, “If not essential to achieving our goals, why should we compete?” Moreover, to me at least, competition suggests winners and rankings.  At Dodon, however, our goal is not to be considered better than other producers.  Rather, we want to make wines that best express this site, the climate, and our approach to farming. This is why I enjoy tasting wines from producers across our region and around the world, always with an eye to understanding the why and how behind each wine. 

Polly. I would add that our decision not to participate in wine competitions at this point in our project is in no way a criticism of the sponsors or the wineries that participate. As Jancis Robinson has written, it is a very real accomplishment to satisfy any panel of judges and to be awarded a medal.

How do you set your prices?

Tom. We try to be as objective as we can by systematically comparing each Dodon wine with those of similar style. For example, when pricing Dodon Collectors wines, we typically purchase bottles from different producers in Margaux, St. Julien, and Pauillac on Bordeaux’ left bank and St. Émilion on the right. Using a triplicate format (flights of three wines tasted blindly, sometimes with two of the same wine in the flight), we make multiple comparisons based on structure, depth, balance, and other characteristics of the wine. Once we’ve arrived at a relative order, we price a Dodon wine well below the price of the bottle that we rated just after the Dodon.

Polly.  Dodon brand wines (varietal Sauvignon and Chardonnay, Rosé, and South Slope) are made to be accessible without prolonged cellaring, so these are priced accordingly. We want to have a range of prices, so hopefully everyone can find a Dodon wine that they love at a price that is affordable.

Do you have any plans to expand or to make new wines?

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Tom. For the time being, our emphasis is on learning to make age-worthy wines that are characterized by depth, harmony, and balance from our site. In other words, we plan to concentrate on the quality of what we produce now.  This goal requires a singular focus on a few wines, and I don’t expect to get it perfect in my lifetime. There is still much to learn.  For example, in 2017 we produced wine from four new clones of Sauvignon Blanc and three new clones of Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot. In the process, we discovered that each clone requires different viticultural methods, such as the amount of sun exposure, to produce the best fruit. That said, by concentrating on fundamentals, I like to think we constantly innovate, especially in the vineyard. We currently have a block devoted solely to experimentation, including our studies of cover crops and compost teas.

Polly. To tell you the truth, if I were deciding by myself I probably would have been open to producing additional wines. But I think Tom is right; he brings a rigor and a discipline to this project that is makes it unique, and the deeper we get, the more I realize how necessary that singular focus is.