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10.19.11

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Phaedra

Dutcher Crossing Winery

By James Knight


The funny thing about riding a bicycle is that any mere trip from point A to point B is transformed. A weekday work commute turns into a well-earned journey; a ride to nowhere in particular, an achievement. Five years ago, avid cyclist Debra Mathy was trying to get somewhere, but point B remained elusive. While her family operated a successful road construction business in Wisconsin, she dreamed instead of operating a winery, and cast an uncommonly wide net in her search. Dozens of wineries in Europe, Australia and Washington state would not do, until she found Dutcher Crossing in Dry Creek Valley. An odd pairing? No. Have you seen the roads in Wisconsin? As smooth and beautifully made as a fine wine.

Founded several years before Mathy's purchase in 2007, the winery is a modest barnlike structure, with a tasting room across a breezeway from barrel rooms and offices. A fireplace turns on with a flick of the switch, to warm visitors on cool fall and winter days. Management has done a standout job of educating their staff on the wines, and they are ready with anecdotes about Mathy and consulting winemaker Kerry Damskey. Ask about the Penny Farthing bicycle.

Dutcher Crossing's 2010 Sauvignon Blanc ($22) teases the nose with apricot and fills the palate with crisp pear cocktail and lychee fruit; the 2009 Costello Vineyard Chardonnay ($28) has that seductive and rare finish of melted caramel that lingers long and sweet, without being cloying. Early on, Mathy secured some prized fruit, like the 2008 Maple Vineyard Zinfandel ($40), with bright, appealing red raspberry jam aromas that belie its palate of brambleberry in dark, toasted wood.

Parts of the estate have been replanted in Rhone varietals like Syrah, Grenache and Counoise, with the aim of creating a Chateauneuf-du-Pape style blend. The 2011 harvest will see their first vintage; meanwhile, the 2008 Proprietor's Reserve Syrah ($29) shows just a hint of smoked game in deep blueberry juice, finishing dry and even, a nice departure from the weird brews of Dry Creek Syrah a few years back.

From May through October, Mathy invites semi-adventurous cyclists to join her on a tour of the Dry Creek Valley on the last Friday morning of the month. Alas, the last ride of the season is Oct. 28. Leaving from the winery, Mathy leads a leisurely one and a half hour ride through the vineyards, from point A, to point A.

Dutcher Crossing Winery, 8533 Dry Creek Road, Healdsburg. Open daily, 11am–5pm. Tasting fee $5; $10 option weekends.

"Bike ride with Deb" 9–11am, Friday, Oct. 28. Free. 866.431.2711.


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