DuMol winery: Vineyard-focused wines from the Russian River Valley
Who owns DuMol winery?
A self-proclaimed “vineyard-up” operation based in the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, DuMOL is best known for its boutique collection of terroir-driven fine wines. At DuMOL the bottlings are a true expression of their vineyards, where remarkably high planting densities and a strict plot-by-plot approach help ensure a harvest of highly-concentrated, high-quality fruit. Back at the solar-powered, eco-friendly estate, human intervention is kept to a bare minimum. DuMOL was founded by wine lovers Michael Verlander and Kerry Murphy in the Russian River Valley of California, with their first vintage in 1996. Their idea was to produce wines that would emulate the fine style of French wines.
Talented teams and fine vineyards in California
In 1999, the talented winemaker Andy Smith joined the team and helped elevate the wines of the estate to the great reputation they currently enjoy. In 2008, DuMOL revealed a brand new, environmentally friendly « green » estate, run 100% on solar power. A vineyard-up winery, DuMOL believes that fine wine begins in the vineyard, where vines are densely planted and given the utmost care and attention. In the winery, the team relies on a "light touch" approach to keep the focus on terroir, producing the wines with parcel-by-parcel vinification in small-lot tanks. Today, this producer is known for its portfolio of single-variety red and white wines from Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Viognier, Chenin Blanc and Mencia grapes.
The expression of the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast
Wine lovers Michael Verlander and Kerry Murphy first met in 1990 at Verlander’s restaurant in Walnut Creek, California. Murphy had been an avid wine collector and had traveled to France with his family on several occasions, tasting the wines of Burgundy and Bordeaux along the way. Having sold his family’s tire business to Goodyear in 1987, he was looking for a new challenge and to pursue his passion. Murphy and Verlander decided to partner up to establish their own estate in California. After a long search for the ideal winery location, they settled on the Russian River Valley of Sonoma County, where they founded DuMOL in 1996. The operation was named after the children of the founding winemakers, Duncan and Molly, and its aim would be to emulate the signature style of some of the finest French wines. In their debut vintage, 1996, Verlander and Murphy produced 300 cases in total, split evenly between the Burgundy grape varieties, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
In 1999, the talented Andy Smith joined the DuMOL team as winemaker and viticulturalist, eventually becoming a partner in 2005. Having gained invaluable experience while winemaking in New Zealand, Australia and for Paul Hobbs in Sonoma, Andy Smith dedicated himself fully to the project, helping to elevate the wines of DuMOL to the excellent reputation they enjoy today. The new, environmentally friendly DuMOL estate in Conde Business Park in Windsor was constructed in 2008, becoming the first “green facility” in the area. This spacious 19,600-square-foot facility can hold up to 20,000 cases. However, DuMOL produces only around 15,000 cases of highly sought-after wine per year. The DuMOL portfolio is best known for terroir-driven, artisanal, cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, though they also produce Syrah, Viognier and a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon. The team also produces wines from Chenin Blanc and Mencia, a high-quality Spanish grape variety.
The vineyards of DuMol
At DuMOL, it’s all about the vineyard. As a self-proclaimed “vineyard up” estate, the team stays very close to the vines, taking time to learn the character of each plot and how best to highlight the latter at the winery. The specific soil type, microclimate, vine age, vine clone selection and many other variables unique to each vineyard determine the way to care for each one on a one-by-one basis.
Unique soil formations and climate
The estate's vines are rooted in California’s Russian River Valley AVA, spreading over a collection of small select parcels across more than 28 singular vineyard sites. These vineyards are situated on a set of east-facing plateaus with fantastic sun exposure and cool afternoon breezes from a fog that comes in from the south. The terroir is characterized by a diverse mix of soils, including classic Goldridge sandy clay loam at the heights of the plateau, sandy and shallow soils upon sandstone subsoils in the middle and an iron-rich Altamont soil in the lower parts of the plateau.
The vines are planted according to European density parameters at 3,630 vines per acre, over three times the 1,200 vines per acre typical of Northern California. While planting at such a high density, one of the highest in North America does make cultivating the vineyard very labor-intensive, it also helps ensure high-quality fruit. This is because high-density planting forces the vines to stretch their roots deeper into the soil, enabling them to draw their vital nutrients. This, in turn, keeps the fruit clusters quite small, thus concentrating the aromas and flavors. The DuMOL team also works with a handful of trusted growers in the Russian River Valley, Sonoma Coast and Carneros. The sourcing contracts are long-term, and grapes are paid for by the acre, which helps ensure a limited yield of concentrated, high-quality grapes.
Sustainability in the vineyard
The DuMOL winery, constructed in 2008, is an environmentally-friendly “green” facility, running on 100% solar power and home to a bioreactor system that reduces wastewater impact from the processing activities of the estate to a substantially low level.
At DuMOL, each unique bottling is considered to be “built in the vineyard” rather than in the winery. Andy Smith and his team carry out a very “light touch” winemaking in order to allow the natural characteristics of each terroir to fully shine through in the glass. So, there is no specific “technique” used. Each parcel is treated as its own unique entity and vinified in a way that best suits its needs. The winery is designed with this parcel-by-parcel vinification in mind and is home to a collection of customized small-lot fermentation tanks, as well as a terracotta amphora from Tuscany.
The portfolio comprises a wide selection of single-variety red wines and white wines made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Syrah, Viognier, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chenin Blanc and Mencia. The style of each is determined strictly by the terroir of origin, the soil type and the climate in which the vine is grown. The winemaking is consistently delicate, and meticulously suited to the needs of each batch of grapes.
Pinot Noir, Chardonnay wines... Emulating the French style
The DuMOL Wester Reach Pinot Noir, for example, comes from a beautifully harmonious combination of four different vineyards in the Russian River Valley and is aged in 40% light to medium toast new French oak barrels for a period of 12 months, followed by 3 months in a tank. This is a vibrant and lively Pinot Noir with a noticeably coastal style at the beginning of the mouth, where it is sleek, linear and precise. Eventually, it reveals delicious red, black and blue fruit flavors, as well as savory elements on a complex and layered palate.
The DuMOL Wild Mountainside Syrah is a gorgeous blend of three vineyards, offering aromas of black cherries, boysenberry, violet, lavender and green peppercorns on the nose. Meanwhile, their Napa Valley Cabernet comes from four vineyards and offers a beautifully harmonious and layered texture, and aromas of plum, graphite and violet.
The DuMOL Wester Reach Chardonnay is made with fruit from five different vineyards in the Russian River Valley, from vines aged 43 years on average. This is a barrel-fermented Chardonnay with full malolactic fermentation, also aged for 12 months in 30% new to medium toast new French oak barrels and 3 months in a tank. A wine with a gorgeous natural concentration of flavors and a mineral-laden, pithy character; it expresses a firm and bold character on the mid-palate, revealing aromas of citrus fruit on the finish.
Producing exquisite Cabernet Sauvignon wines, the wine is aged for 20 months in 50% new French oak barrels. These wines exude aromas of plum, cocoa and cedar. The enfolding texture caresses the mouth and offers a harmonious expression of four vineyards. DuMOL's Cabernet Sauvignon wines can age for over 10 years.