It is not often that you get to spend the day with a winemaker in New York City. I had the opportunity to not just have lunch with Debra Mathy, but then continue with her into the evening at BNY Mellon Wealth Management’s “Game Changer” event in New York City. Debra Mathy is proprietor of Dutcher Crossing Winery in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County. Having the opportunity to have lunch with Debra gave me personal insight as to how she followed her dreams of owning a vineyard. Later in the evening I heard her business story and her impact as a winemaker and game changer.
Debra is from Wisconsin and is a teacher by background. Having spent time in Europe during her high school and college days, Debra developed a fondness for wines. That fondness quickly turned into a dream of owning a winery. Having spent a great deal of time with her father searching for the perfect winery in Europe and California, she found the winery of her dreams in 2007 with Dutcher Crossing.
With her father’s guidance Debra spent years looking at wineries around the world. A few years into their search, they narrowed down their focus to Sonoma and Napa. During their search process, her father was diagnosed with melanoma cancer and passed away. Even during his last days, her father encouraged her to follow her dreams. In 2007, a few months after her father’s passing, Debra purchased Dutcher Crossing Winery.
With the purchase of Dutcher Crossing, Debra Mathy became the first single women winery owner in Sonoma. As exciting as this sounds it came with many hardships. Debra quickly realized she was not one of the good old boys. Most winemakers in the area were typically male and had been growing grapes for generations. So as a new comer from Wisconsin, Debra had to work hard and make an extra effort to fit in and prove to the community that she was committed to Sonoma, committed to winemaking, and was here to stay.
Debra’s father was her biggest supporter and inspiration. He had always encouraged her to follow her dream of owning a vineyard. Her father knew she loved bicycles and so his last gift to her was a vintage high wheel bicycle. When she took over the winery she added a high wheel bicycle to the label, a touching tribute to her father and his memory.
Having lunch with Debra I had wonderful sense of her warmth and understated personality. I admired her strength and determination to follow her dream. Later that afternoon I had the opportunity to see Debra in a different light, as a leader, a business woman and “game changer”. Debra was invited to speak at BNY Mellon Wealth Management “Game Changers” event, representing women leaders in the wine industry. Debra along with two other women discussed their nontraditional career paths in the wine industry.
Through her conversations and presentation on the panel, Debra’s presence as an entrepreneur and leader in the wine industry was clearly evident. Debra inspired the audience with her personal stories of her journey into Sonoma as a female proprietor of a winery. When beginning her winery she was called an outsider and was viewed as a girl from the midwest, but she killed them with her kindness and got involved in the community and started to develop strong roots and relationship. She surrounded herself with great people; a talented winemaker and trusted staff. She said that it is her relationships that make her successful. She started with 35 acres back in 2007 and now has 450 acres. You cannot grow that fast without forming deep roots in the community. By sharing her path to success, Debra inspired the audience to excel and follow their dreams.
Dutcher Crossing Wines
Dutcher Crossing wines are handcrafterd artisanal wines. Debra is dedicated to quality not quantity, with small lot production of speciality wines. The wines of Dutcher Crossing are of exceptional quality exhibiting the best of the varietals.
Debra is looking to create a sense of place with her wines. Not just in the wines but in the tasting room as well. The Dutcher Crossing tasting room has beautiful views of the hillside with picnic tables for visitors. Often times Debra will be there to greet you personally.
Producing 30 wines, I asked Debra which were her favorites, she smiled and proudly responded that her favorite wines were those dedicate to her family. Debra produces a Tribute Pinot Noir in honor of her father. Several growers have donated fruit for this wine, as 100% of the proceeds go to a melona cancer research foundation, just another example of Debra’s solid relationships in the community. Debra also makes a CDP style wine in honor of her mother and she also produces wines for her brothers.
Below are my tasting notes of the wines shared with Debra Mathy.
This award winning wine is 97% Sauvignon Blanc with a dash of Semillon, Roussanne and Chardonnay. It is an exceptional wine with intense flavors and aromas of passion fruit, green apple and stone fruit. The wine is bright and fresh with a long lingering finish. It would pair perfectly with oysters or a light summer salad.
The Chenoweth Pinot Noir is dark and brooding, It is a big Pinot with deep hues. You get aromas of black cherries, pomegranate and floral notes. This is a rich Pinot Noir, yet very elegant and balanced. There are hints of red fruit and baking spice with soft tannins and nice acidity. Debra said she recently found the perfect pairing for this wine, a 10 layer lasagna with spicy sausage and garlic sauce. Sounds like the most delicious match.
Tom and Tina Maple are the founders of Maple Vineyard and they grow some of the best Zinfandel in Dry Creek Valley. Tom and Tina are extremely selective about who they sell their grapes to. Only four wineries source fruit from this farm, giving the wine a Cult Zin following. This wine is extremely sought after and has a large following in Sonoma County. The blend is 91% Zinfandel with 9% Petite Sirah. The wine is absolutely gorgeous. There are notes of blackberries, plum and spice on the nose. The palate is round, big and juicy with notes of plum, berries and cocoa. It has velvety tannins with a long lingering memorable finish. This Zinfandel is very food friendly and versatile and would pair well with a lot of different foods. It pairs well with hard aged cheeses like Parmesan and Cheddar. It would pair with just about any meats, poultry, pasta, chili or barbecue.
This Petite Sirah has a deep dark inky purple hue. On the nose there are soft aromas of blueberries, cherries, oak and spice. The palate is rich and thick with layers of fruit and spice. The tannins are firm and the wine is beautifully balanced. This wine can also be put away in your cellar for a few years. It will age beautifully. The wine can be paired with roasted pork, barbecue beef and hamburgers.