Monday, November 10, 2008
Paul Dolan - Winemaker/Organic Farmer - and Thinker!
I had dinner with Paul Dolan the other night at 16 Restaurant in the new Trump Tower in Chicago. Dinner at this site would have been wonderful with anyone, but when you get a chance to spend that time with Paul Dolan, it makes for a fascinating evening.
Paul is the former winemaker for Fetzer Vineyards and today works with Parducci Vineyards as well as growing grapes and making wine under his own Paul Dolan Vineyards label. He tends to his vineyards near the town of Ukiah in Northern California's Mendocino County with the utmost concern for the environment, as his practices include organic and biodynamic farming. "With organic farming, we treat the soil," Dolan explains. "The vines then have the opportunity to reach out deep and far to extract flavor. With conventional farming, the vines don't go anywhere beyond a two-foot radius. Why would they if you're bringing them water and food?" Thus Dolan views organic farming as creating a new potential for his vines.
Paul showed me four wines from his Paul Dolan Vineyards label, two whites - a 2006 Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, both from his vineyards in Mendocino County in northern California - and two reds: a 2005 Zinfandel from Mendocino and Amador Counties and a blend of Petite Sirah, Grenache, Zinfandel and Syrah from the 2005 vintage, known as Deep Red. This last wine was produced from biodynamic grapes and is first-rate. The color is bright purple and the aromas of blackberry and cranberry jump out of the glass, while the finish is elegant with polished tannins and tart acidity. The wine in a word is delicious and was ideal with two of the entrees we enjoyed at the restaurant: duck breast and New Zealand snapper. The wine retails for $45 and is worth every penny. (I also thoroughly enjoyed the Chardonnay made from old vines. There's tasty pear and golden apple flavors and just a kiss of oak. It's wonderful food wine!)
Paul has his act together and I certainly hope his wines get the attention they deserve, not only for their quality but also for the way in which Paul grows his grapes. He's authored a book on sustainable agriculture, so he's not one of these vintners that has jumped on the organic bandwagon. He thinks he will make better wines this way and I have to agree with him.