The Vineyards at Dodon: Organic Viticulture in Practice

Tom Croghan of the Vineyards at Dodon is a physician, a cellular immunologist and now, a winemaker. Tom’s theory is that “wine is the product of our relationship with nature”.  And his background in medicine has transitioned to his belief that viticulture and medicine can build healthy immune systems, i.e., think about creating good, healthy plants, and healthy plants translate to good wine. He puts this into practice at his 555 acre working family farm and 16 acre vineyard in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. We reviewed the wines of Vineyards at Dodon in our recent report on The Wines of Maryland. In this article, we discuss the winery’s approach to viticulture, and we review their current releases.

Tom Croghan

When Tom and his wife Polly, a GW University professor, began field trials in 2007 at their vineyard property in Davidsonville, Maryland they found very little organic matter at Dodon. Tom Croughan is more of the regenerative farmer that people in the wine industry are beginning to hear about in vineyard management. Pennsylvania’s Rodale Institute promotes technologies that aim to rejuvenate the soil so that the healthier soil enhances the productivity of the land and improves the quality of life for both communities and consumers. The Vineyards at Dodon promotes this technology too.

Using plant diversity as a tool to improve soil, Tom has developed a system of tools to build up the soil. A few of the items in his toolkit are: Perennials (the vineyards themselves), Annuals (e.g., forage radishes that increase nitrogen in the soil), Pollinators (actually sanctuaries for insects to find food other than grapes and be able to hibernate for the winter), and Crimping (rather than tilling). A crimping machine folds over and flattens the cover crops rather than digging them up, which would release carbon dioxide into the air rather than retaining it in the soil.  Applying these techniques over the past seven years, the pH level of the soil at Dodon went from 3.51 to 3.25.  In addition to the healthier soil, the Vineyards at Dodon enjoy lower diurnal fluctuations in temperature and frost protection due to their proximity to the Chesapeake Bay.

The wines are made by Tom Croughan with assistant winemaker Seth McCombs and consulting enologist Steve Blais. Lucie Morton is the consulting viticulturist. 

The Pandemic

Dodon has a modern tasting room, but,  as in other industries, the pandemic moved a lot of customer activity out of doors.  The family initially took care of first responders, food workers and their 800 member Wine Club.   But during the pandemic they have also made a lot of new friends over the months with wine consumers looking for safe, outdoor activity. Dodon actually managed to increase employment during the pandemic, employing out of work schoolteachers and others.  

The Wines

Vineyards at Dodon 2018 Sauvignon Blanc Maryland ($27) 90  Lightly aromatic with a leesy, dried flower nose. There’s good density of flavor with nuances of citrus and herbs and a lovely mouth feel of firm minerality on a broad palate. Aged sur lie in stainless steel for 5 months. 12.1% alc.

Vineyards at Dodon 2018 Drum Point  Maryland ($39) 91 More aromatic than the Sauvignon Blanc, the Drum Point Sauvignon Blanc-Chardonnay blend reveals scents of green apple and honeydew melon. In the mouth it’s round and full with a stony minerality. Finishes long with a tart green apple edge.  An original wine with a blend of 77% Sauvignon Blanc and 23% Chardonnay barrel fermented and aged 11 months in French oak. 12.3% alc.   

Vineyards at Dodon 2015 Dungannon  Maryland ($59) 91 Semi opaque dark red.  The nose is complex and intricate showing notes of smoky tobacco, black raspberry, and slate like minerals.  Full and lush on the palate with a silky texture and a firm structure showing nuanced flavors of dark red fruit, loamy earth, and a hint of chocolate.  Nice rich, long finish with firm dry tannins.  A blend of 80% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 10% Cabernet Franc matured 21 months in 58% new French oak. 

Contributing Editor Karen Stokes authored this article.

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