Friday, April 29, 2022

Doffo Winery Temecula Wine Experience

Doffo Winery Temecula Wine Experience

Visiting Sister Jan and Bro-in-law Bill in SoCal, they took us to Temecula Valley to experience the wine region there. I was not prepared for the dramatic large modern winery estates there - how large they were, and how new they were. Nor was I prepared for the breadth and depth of wine offerings.  

Temecula Valley lies east from the Pacific coast, over the Santa Ana Mountains that follow the SoCal coast, in the foothills of the San Jacinto Mountains that are the wall framing the central valley desert, lying about equidistant between LA, Orange County, Palm Springs and San Diego. The wine region is  concentrated in one area with close to fifty wineries tucked into the valley with its distinctive terroir well suited for growing wine grapes.

At exit Highway 15 lies the old historic town of Temecula to the west, and head east, inland out Rancho California Road and one passes fifteen large modern wineries with another dozen off the side roads. Continue out to Glen Oak Road and loop back on De Portola Road and you'll pass another dozen plus estates.

We visited Doffo Winery and Vineyards, one of J&B's favorite producers of the area. Not only is it an extensive wine estate but its a vintage motorcycle museum as well. Sited at the far end of Rancho California Road, Doffo Winery claims to be the first true petite winery in Temecula Valley. 

Founded in 1997 by Marcelo Doffo, he draws on his experiences growing up as a youngster working on the family farm back in Argentina.

Marcelo immigrated to the United States in the mid-1970's and eventually opened an auto body shop, in Orange County, where he also collected and restored vintage motorcycles.

In 1997,  he visited the old country in the northern region of Turin, Italy and discovered that like every good Italian, his great uncle still made wine the old fashioned way, in his basement. Marcelo returned home anxious to try his hand at winemaking, creating his first batches in his garage. 

He continued his crafting wines and by 1997 he had expanded his knowledge and developed his skills as a winemaker, and was awarded the silver medal from the Orange County Wine Society. 

Based on this success, that same year he purchased fifteen acres of an old cattle ranch in rural Temecula, California, complete with an historic one-room schoolhouse. The schoolhouse reminded him of a similar place he attended as a small child in Argentina. Some Doffo labels feature a simple image of the old historic original school house that once sat on the original property, which has since been removed. Marcello attempted to restore it but was unable to gain cooperation and requisite permissions from the county authorities.

Marcelo prepared the soil and installed trellises and irrigation lines and planted his first vines of Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah with a small percentage of Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. He released his first vintage wine four years later, and called it “Mistura.”  

While establishing Doffo Winery, Marcelo's MotoDoffo Vintage Motorcycle Collection grew to nearly 200 motorcycles and scooters from around the world. He built amongst the vineyards the MotoDoffo Barrel Room on the winery grounds to house his motorcycle collection. 

Over the ensuring years Marcello was joined by son Damian, and his daughters Brigitte Doffo-Cartaya and Samantha in planting with other varietals and establishing a hospitality center for marketing, promotions and special events.

Marcelo adheres to the philosophy that good wine making begins in the vineyard. From hand-planting each vine to the meticulous viticulture tending the vines, Marcelo, his son Damian, and their crew take great care to produce the best fruit achievable on their estate. 

Doffo Winery produces small batches of wine in comparison to many other wineries in Temecula Valley, and the attention to detail that this affords results in intensely rich fruit and bold, complex wines.

Damian grew up working the farm and vineyards. In the early days making wine in the backyard, Damian helped out by washing bottles for 10 cents apiece. Working closely alongside his father, he eventually developed into a promising winemaker, developing a sophisticated palate in his years as Marcelo’s assistant winemaker. With his father’s teaching, his knowledge expanded to include all aspects of owning and managing a winery and vineyard. After graduating from Cal Poly Pomona, and an initial career in corporate sales, Damian returned to the winery as General Manager. 

Today, in addition managing Doffo, Damian sits on the Temecula Valley Winegrower’s Association Board of Directors and helps guide this coalition of winemakers.

As the winery has grown, they have established an exceptional visitor experience. Marcelo’s daughter, Brigitte Doffo-Cartaya, serves as Tasting Room Director, managing the wine tasting experience. Marcelo’s daughter, Samantha, serves as Events Coordinator and has turned Doffo Winery into a  destination in Temecula Valley, hosting weddings and other private events.

Touring the vineyards, we had the privilege meeting Marcello who was working in his automotive workshop where he spends his time these days, having turned the winery and vineyards business operations over to the next generation.   

The estate tours are often given directly by family members, or specific designated members of the staff. Our afternoon was hosted by Sal, an almost-family member who was deeply knowledgeable of the property, history, viticulture and winemaking practices. He went to great effort to describe some of the intricacies of the viticulture methods of the property. 

Sal took us on an extensive tour of the property estate and every vineyard describing the vines, varietals, and techniques employed in grooming, irrigating and managing.  

Our estate tour was then followed by a tour of the barrel room, storage facility and then a wine tasting back at the hospitality center. 

We toured the Barrel Room Motorcycle Museum with many of the two hundred vintage motorcycles in the collection. 

The Doffo wine-tasting offers several tasting flights from their basic portfolio of Doffo wines, their MotoDoffo line, their Latest Releases to their Reserve and Library Wines, as well as the complete list of wines by the glass or by the bottle. 

We tasted their Reserve and Library flight of premium wines served with their charcuterie and cheese plate with some fresh fruits. Their Library and Private Reserve wines are packaged in premium heavy glass bottles with painted labels. 

Our tasting flight:

  • Doffo Vineyards "Paulina" Brut Sparkling Wine 
  • Doffo "Concreto" Temecula Valley Malbec 2015
  • Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley Petite Sirah 2018
  • Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley Syrah 2016
  • Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 
  • Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley "Mistura" 2018 

Doffo Vineyards "Paulina" Brut Sparkling Wine 

Winemaker Notes: "
Brut made from a Chardonnay with just a touch of Muscat. Perfect for a hot day! The Paulina Sparkling was named after Marcelo's mom. Salute Nona!!"

Straw colored, medium bodied, light refreshing spritz with notes of citrus, stone fruit and hints of peach.

RM 88 points

These wines generally were complex, with concentrated forward round fruits. Doffo produces these wines with meticulous care and attention to detail in the vineyards and in the production and aging of the wine. They are testament to the importance of terroir and the distinctive suitability of a site and how that place manifests itself in the fruit, and the ultimate blend of the wine.

In summary, these wines exceeded my expectations for each label. I was not expecting Bordeaux and Rhone varietals. However, they defy the ultra-premium price point they are asking - from $95 to $150 for these Private Reserve labels. I felt they lacked the finesse, polish, balance and elegance of wines commanding these premium prices. Perhaps their entry level and mid-tier estate wines provide better QPR's (Quality-Price-Ratios). We did not find one standout favorite inspiring label.

Doffo "Concreto" Temecula Valley Malbec 2015

Winemaker Notes: "Following in the footsteps of our wildly popular Viognier and our luxurious Concreto Cabernet Sauvignon, we are proud to present our first-ever concrete-fermented Malbec!'
"Using only the finest fruit from our Malbec vineyards, primary fermentation takes place in our egg-shaped concrete tank. The natural insulation of the concrete stabilizes the temperature and limits the speed of fermentation, which makes for great extraction of the aromas. The fruit is then pressed and only the free run (the wine) undergoes secondary fermentation in our Italian Garbellotto cask, where it is allowed to age and develop for 60 months.' 
"The result is a refined and balanced Malbec worthy of opening for special occasions or laid down to continue maturing in the bottle for years to come. Only 98 cases produced."

Barrel: Concrete fermented and aged 20 months in 1st use medium toast Garbellotto Italian Cask 

Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley "Mistura" 2018

Winemaker Notes: "The 2019 vintage of our original field blend takes on more of a bordeaux style with its low alcohol percentage and subtle oak profile. Fragrances of plum, ripe strawberries and rose petals give way to caramel, cacao and vanilla, and its velvety mouthfeel and balanced acidity linger on the palate."
Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley Petite Sirah 2018
Winemaker Notes: "
A new entry to Doffo's portfolio of reserve wines, the 2018 Petite Sirah Private Reserve immediately shows off the varietal's inky, purple color in the glass. An elegant array of aromas including prunes, blueberries, and cherries give way to spicier notes of black pepper, dark chocolate and cloves. This wine is round and balanced on the palate and leaves a pleasantly lingering finish."

Composition: 100% Petite Sirah

Barrel: Aged 24 months in 100% French oak
Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley Syrah 2016
Winemaker Notes: "Doffo's Syrah Private Reserve makes a comeback with the 2016 vintage, which promises to satisfy even the most discerning Syrah lovers. Straight away the maturity of the wine is evident by the orange rim set against the deep ruby red backdrop.' 
"Fruit-forward aromas of cherries, ripe blackberries and strawberry jam are balanced by notes of black olives, licorice and vanilla, with just a hint of smoke that is characteristic of the varietal. This full-bodied wine is balanced, round and smooth on entry, with a fine acidity and a lingering finish."

Composition: 100% Syrah

Barrel: Aged 48 months in 100% 1st use American oak

Doffo Private Reserve Temecula Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2018 

Winemaker Notes: "Using only the best Cabernet Sauvignon fruit from our vineyards, the 2018 Private Reserve is deep ruby red in color and is purely delightful on the nose. Aromas of strawberries, bell pepper, and mint give way to dark chocolate, black currant and plum.' 
"Making a strong entrance onto the palate, this elegant wine boasts a full mouthfeel with firm tannins and a long finish with a hint of red berries."

Barrel: Aged 20 months in 40% 1st use American oak, 37% 1st use French oak, and 23% 2nd use American oak

Composition: 100% Cabernet Sauvignon