Dodon Farms: Growing to make wine of superb quality (part 1)

Today, I met up with Polly Pittman and Tom Croghan of Dodon Farms…just south of Annapolis.

As I pulled into the driveway, I could see a dog staring questioningly up at a mostly brown dog house…with the exception of a small red corner of wet paint.

Polly had just begun painting, but quickly retired as she saw me get out of my car.

The goats had gotten an upgrade, and the old goat house was on its’ way to becoming the new dog house…complete with renovations.

She greeted me with a kind smile, and soon enough we were off to see Tom and the vineyard.

30 yards from the house we passed the experimental vineyard…

I’ve had dreams of experimental vineyards :)

Tom was sitting shotgun of a Gator,

while a big burly man was driving,

and they both tossed and turned at about 4 mph down a long hill, swaying as a pair in a different direction with each little hole they hit.

3 years ago the field was filled with corn, alfalfa, or some other crop.

Our car met their Gator.

They hopped out, we hopped out.

and I was introduced to Gordon.

Tom and Gordon were still discussing quotes for the road to the winery.

…Winery here? or over there? What’s the difference in cost?…

Polly and Tom would have to discuss the opportunity cost later…their neighbors would prefer the winery in a further location;

that means more road, a different view, and new plans.

Gordon, who doesn’t use e-mail (first I’ve met in years!), would have to be contacted by phone or mail.

Gordon hopped into the Gator, turned around and bumped up the hill at 3 mph.

Polly, Tom, and I strolled around a tree line, revealing a hill leading up to planted vines.

I noticed the vines’ unique orientation…

the rows go up and down the hill,

rather than hugging the hill like retaining walls do…which is the case in every other vineyard I’ve visited in the area.

I read about this practice in The Making of a Great Wine, a book about a prestigious Italian winery that broke tradition to set a higher standard for quality, which led others to do the same.

As we make our way up the hill, Tom mentions that they haven’t used any herbicides yet, and are trying their best to never have to use them.

We get to the top… it is a beautiful hill for growing grapes!

We walk along the ridge…white grapes on the left, red on the right.

Tom stops and walks to the first vine of the first row on the left, and he explains how he would attack it with pruning shears.

We discuss tasks involved and the nature of the tasks (long days of labor…some without the company of other human beings).

As we move along the rows

I’m introduced to the vines… Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot… Whites: Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay

Next year they’re planting twice as many vines as last year, they’ll have their first harvest (outside of the experimental vineyard), and they’ll make 200 cases of wine…

Since they both work full time, next years operation will require more hands… and the next year, even more.

They’re looking for someone to grow with the winery.

With all this information,

I’m smiling on the inside…

and a little on the outside too.

This is what I’ve been working for…

(to be continued)


About ANewVine

Developing the art of making fine Maryland wine. View all posts by ANewVine

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