The Vineyards at Dodon Website
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Company Statement: We are stewards of the land and guardians of its future. As eighth generation custodians of this historic property, we have an ongoing commitment to ecological diversity, meticulous viticulture, and precision winemaking.
Farm, Vineyards: Our goal from the beginning has been to produce wines that reflect our farm and our community.
It started with the decision to grow international vinifera varieties - Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Despite the challenges of growing these varieties in our region, careful preparation, attention to detail, and painstaking viticulture have demonstrated the benefits of this decision. Dodon now has more than 28,000 vines densely planted over 16 acres in three adjacent vineyards.
It is a difficult site for agriculture, but it is perfect for a vineyard when coupled with scrupulously tended vines, a nurturing climate, and passionate people. The soils are infinitely complex, a mosaic of nearly a billion years of orogeny and erosion to the west, the rise and fall of oceans during the Miocene, and hundreds of years of human cultivation. Recognizing their distinctive characteristics, they have been designated “Dodon-series” by the United States Department of Agriculture. They are naturally drained by slope and sandy texture, yet they also include a modest distribution of clay that provides a regular supply of water. At more than 3,000 feet to bedrock, their depth and decomposing shells provide texture and fragrance to the wine.
We selected rootstocks to match this terroir, planting each variety according to the dominant soil characteristics across the vineyards. Merlot is planted in the lower elevations, where there is more clay. Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon are on the sandy soils on the crests of hills where there is more heat, less water, and fewer nutrients. Sauvignon is on more fertile soils with abundant shells, and the Chardonnay on soils with intermediate fertility and drainage but plenty of minerals.
The climate at Dodon complements the soils and the varieties. The rainfall accelerates weathering of the soils, releasing minerals and creating the environment in which the vines grow. Moderate temperatures during the last weeks of September slow ripening, allowing full expression of aroma and balanced tannins that preserve flavor and extend aging in the bottle. The wines express these characteristics, revealed by simple yet diligent vineyard and cellar work.
Farm, Farming: Our logic is simple – enhance the balance and diversity of life throughout the property.
This philosophy means that we think critically about the environmental consequences of everything we do. The goal is to become part of, and not disruptive to, nature’s balanced rhythms. It also means that we are not dogmatic about a particular practice. If we’re convinced that a synthetic material is less intrusive to the environment than the organic alternative, then that’s what we use. With the help of experts from across the world, we set out to select the best site. The history of tobacco, and in later years corn and soy beans, meant that much of the farmland was badly eroded, especially in the northeast part of the farm where the slopes are steep and soils sandy. It is these fields we chose for the vineyards. Our advisors continue to support us as we continuously experiment and learn about new nutrient and pest management strategies to advance a diverse yet balanced ecosystem.
We oriented the vineyard in a way that maximizes airflow and sunlight that dry morning dew, prevent mildew, and reduce the need for pesticides. This natural orientation is supplemented by careful canopy management and leaf stripping.
We use targeted tillage, rather than herbicides, to control weeds in the vineyard. Simply put, tillage works well, gives us the ability to remove only those weeds that are causing problems, and isn’t subject to resistance.
We minimize use of pesticides through healthy soils and vines, intense canopy management, and diverse buffers between the vineyard and nearby woods. If a pesticide application is necessary, we use the most environmentally sound material available. We are careful to apply the minimum rate necessary to achieve control, and we use a tunnel sprayer that recycles pesticide material, significantly reducing release into the surrounding environment.
We conserve the soil by creating a dense cover crop throughout the vineyard, using a mixture of grasses to achieve our goals – clover to fix nitrogen, rye to break up compaction and restore organic matter, fescues to stand up to the weight of the tractor, and forbs to attract beneficial insects throughout the growing season.
We stimulate diverse, healthy bacterial growth in the soils by giving them the right kinds of food. For example, by adding crab meal in the spring, we encourage growth of bacteria that in turn produce a chitinase active against powdery mildew, a common fungal disease.
We encourage natural predators against insect pests by planting wild flowers that provide natural habitat and avoiding broad spectrum insecticides – including most organic oils that are as harmful to beneficial insects like lady bugs and praying mantises as they are to pests.
We use as few off-farm inputs as we can, using instead the products of our labor, and nature’s, to create a sustainable environment. We recycle and reuse almost everything, turning fallen trees into furniture and firewood, grape skins and horse manure into compost, and table scrapes into chicken feed.
We believe strongly that these environmentally sensitive practices improve the quality of our wines. Living soils make diverse minerals, essential for complex flavor, available. Open canopies enhance ripening. Gentle surface tillage encourages deep roots and helps with draught. It’s hard work, much of it by hand, but worth the effort.
Farm, Winemaking: Our winemaking is straightforward and stripped of pretense, yet precise, attentive, and uncompromising.
Technically good wines–those that are “clean” with consistent varietal character across vintages–are relatively easy to produce in most temperate regions. Wines that tell a story of place and time are more challenging. The goals are always the same - balance, harmony, depth, and longevity, with the fresh acidity that is required for the dining table. Producing wine with these characteristics requires rigorous attention to every detail, relentless intellectual curiosity, persistent questioning, and undying patience.
Most of the winemaking occurs in the vineyard. It begins when the buds are formed a full sixteen months before the fruit will be harvested. During the vintage, we use canopy height, cover crops, irrigation, and nutrients to balance the vines. Too little or too much energy at the wrong time will result in slow, irregular ripening, bitter tannins, and poor color. Picking is based on taste to find the best combination of flavors, tannins, and acid.
Once in the cellar, there are no recipes for making Dodon wines. We start by respecting the fruit and the people who grew it. We adapt our methods to each lot to create the right conditions for the wine to express the site and the vintage. Decisions about extraction - its length and temperature, and the amount of pumping over - are based on the character of the fruit and evolution of the wine. Pressing is done when the tannins have shifted, and barrels are selected based specifically on the nature of the wine after pressing. The wines are aged until they are ready for the bottle, kept in a cool, quiet spot, and stirred occasionally, and then held in bottle until they are ready for your table.
POLLY PITTMAN, CO-OWNER
Polly grew up at Dodon when it was still a tobacco farm. After 16 years in Argentina, where she worked in human rights and raised her three daughters, she was excited to return home. Polly and Tom moved to Dodon in 2005 where they now work with her extended family to preserve the farm. Polly is also a professor of health policy at George Washington University.
TOM CROGHAN, CO-OWNER AND WINEMAKER
Growing up on a small farm in north central West Virginia, Tom grew to appreciate the rhythms of nature, the joy of hard work, and the importance of place. He brings these early lessons, as well as those from a successful career in medicine, immunology and business, to create wines that reflect the unique soil and the site.
REGINA MC CARTHY, DIRECTOR OF CLIENT SERVICES
An Anne Arundel County native, Regina graduated with a degree in Mass Communication and Public Relations. She spent three years as Marketing Coordinator for the Maryland Wineries Association, a year working in farm to table food aggregation followed by two years representing premium wine and spirit brands. Regina is certified by Wine and Spirits Education Trust at Level 3, and she is the author of Maryland Wine: A Full-Bodied History.
SETH MCCOMBS, ASSISTANT WINEMAKER
Seth comes to Dodon with 15 years of vineyard and winery experience in Virginia and North Carolina. Born and raised in Lynchburg, Seth started in 2002 in the laboratory at Chateau Morisette. In 2006, he moved to Raffaldini Vineyard and Winery, where he served as Assistant Winemaker, and then in 2011, he became Winemaker at AmRhein Wine Cellars, where he was responsible for a 30-acre vineyard as well as cellar operations. While at Raffaldini, Seth studied Enology and Viticulture at Surry Community College. He was most recently Winegrower at Capstone Vineyards in Linden, Virginia.
ROBERTO GOMEZ, ASSISTANT VINEYARD MANAGER
Roberto joined the team in the summer of 2014 with past work in the restaurant and landscaping sectors. Originally, a farmer from Chiapas, Mexico, his love for plants and keen eye have quickly made him the chief disease inspector.
BRIANNA DAVIS, HOSPITALITY COORDINATOR
A local to the Crofton/Annapolis area, Brianna graduated from the University of Maryland with a degree in Communication Studies. Immediately after school she moved to Washington DC where she became a part of the sweetgreen corporate team, assisting to open 27 new locations nationwide and spearheading their recruiting department. After 5 years, she left sweetgreen to attend the apprenticeship program with Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Captivated by the farm to table process, Brianna worked in the fields, and as part of the service team, she found she loved connecting people with agricultural experiences.
STEVE BLAIS, CONSULTING WINEMAKER
Steve is a winemaker-consultant at The Vineyards at Dodon. He received his Oenology degree from the University of Bordeaux and has consulting experience in 9 countries with more than 40 grape varieties. Steve brings a wealth of knowledge to our vineyard team and an innate skill for blending in the cellar.
LUCIE MORTON, CONSULTING VITICULTURIST
Trained in Montpellier, Lucie is known around the world for her work on rootstocks, grapevine identification, and fungal pathogens. She is a leading proponent of painstaking attention to the soil and meticulous canopy management to produce healthy vines that resist disease and ripen well.
Partner wine shops and restaurants:
ANNE ARUNDEL COUNTY
Bin 201201 Harker Place Annapolis, MD 21401 410-571-2011
Fox’s Den 179 B Main Street Annapolis, MD 21401 443-224-1330
Dawson's 589 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd Severna Park, MD 21146 410-544-6200
Harvest Thyme 1251 West Central Avenue Davidsonville, MD 21305 443-203-6846
Italian Market 126 Defense Highway Annapolis, MD 21401 443-808-8991
Level 69 West Street Annapolis, MD 21401 410-268-0003
Lewnes' Steakhouse 401 4th Street Annapolis, MD 21403 410-263-1617
Mills Fine Wine & Spirits 87 Main Street Annapolis, MD 21401 410-263-2888
Pascal's Chophouse 139 Ritchie Hwy Severna Park, MD 21146 410-647-8216
Preserve 164 Main Street Annapolis, MD 21401 443-598-6920
Red Red Wine Bar 189 Main Street Annapolis, MD 21401 410-990-1144
Severn Inn 189 Main Street Annapolis, MD 21401 410-990-1144
Wine Cellars of Annapolis 1410 Forest Drive Annapolis, MD 21403 410-216-9089
Annapolis Market House 25 Market Space Annapolis, MD 21401 443-949-0024
Grand Cru 527 E. Belvedere Avenue Baltimore, MD 21212 410-464-1944
Magdalena at The Ivy Hotel 205 E. Biddle Street Baltimore, MD 21202 410-514-6500
Off the Rox Wine & Beer Shop 3233A Eastern Ave.Baltimore, MD 21224 443-388-8925
Wine Works 134 East Smith Avenue Baltimore, MD 21209 410-435-7410
Wishing Well 786 Idlewood Avenue Easton, MD 21601 410-822-2272
Iron Bridge Wine Co.10435 MD-108 Columbia, MD 21044 410-997-3456
Highland Wine & Spirits 13390 Clarksville Pike Highland, MD 20777 301-854-0720
The Perfect Pour 6630 Marie Curie Drive Elkridge, MD 21075 443-285-0702
Trifeco: The Common Kitchen 12250 Clarksville Square Drive Suite A Clarksville, MD 21029
The Wine Bin 8390 Main Street Ellicott City, MD 21043 410-465-7802
Black's Bar & Kitchen 7750 Woodmont Avenue Bethesda, MD 20814 301-652-5525
Republic Takoma 6939 Laurel Ave Takoma Park, MD 20912 301-270-3000
PRINCE GEORGES COUNTY
Old Maryland Grill 777 Baltimore Avenue College Park, MD 20740 301-995-3413
A Rake's Progress 1770 Euclid St NW Washington, DC 20009 202-588-0525
Bourbon Steak 2800 Pennsylvania Avenue NW Washington, DC 20007 202-944-2026
Calvert Woodley Wines & Spirits 4339 Connecticut Ave NW Washington, DC 20008 202-966-4400
Dean & DeLuca 3276 M Street, NW Washington, DC 20007 202-342-2500
Gravitas 1401 Okie St NE Washington, DC 20002 202-763-7942
Potomac Wine & Spirits 3100 M St NW Washington, DC 20007 202-333-2847
Ris 2275 L St NW Washington, DC 20037 202-730-2500
Tail Up Goat 1827 Adams Mill Road NW Washington, DC 20009 202-986-9600
The Metropolitan Club 1700 H St. NW Washington, DC 20036 202-835-2500