Meet Your Winemaker…..Damian Doffo, Doffo Winery

March 22nd, 2012

Damian and Marcelo Doffo

The father and son team of Marcelo and Damian Doffo share winemaking duties at their family-owned Doffo Winery, and pride themselves on handcrafted wines through which they share their Argentine and Italian heritage. Both men share a passion for great wine and vintage motorcycles-the latter which they display in MotoDoffo, the family’s private collection of over 100 beautiful bikes from years past.

Patriarch Marcelo was off on a business trip, so son Damian is profiled in this month’s “Meet Your Winemaker.”  We’re sure Dad would be proud!

1) What inspired you to go into winemaking?

When I was 10, my father started making wine in our backyard, and I had no intention of becoming a winemaker due to him telling me I was going to help him and “that was that.” However, as I grew older, the inspiration started coming from becoming a wine enthusiast, which eventually grew into a desire to learn the craft. I sincerely cherish being able to share the passion with my father and the time we spend developing a wine together is what keeps us going. Winemaking is as much of an art as it is a science, and to be able to create something that brightens someone’s mood is enough motivation to continue mastering our craft.
2) Did you have a winemaking mentor, and if so, can you tell us a bit about him or her?
I believe it goes without saying that my father is my mentor. His philosophy to winemaking is to keep it simple and to make do with what you have. When my father first started out in this industry, the tools, facilities and his own knowledge were very sparse, so the production was done with minimal resources. It may have not been the ideal situation but he always got the job done.  As we developed and became a winery, our production methods have still continued to be very simple and we trust our instincts when it comes to decision making.  We feel that although we are growing, we can not lose our way of doing things, so we continue to handcraft our wines and do not employ all the technological amenities offered for wine production. In other words, we like to keep it “old school.”

3) Have you had any “oops” moments during your early days of winemaking? If so, we’d love to hear the story!

For the safety of my employment I can’t go into a lot of detail! I will say that once, I was assembling all of the wines prior to bottling while my father was out of town on a business trip. I was working on our Zinfandel barrels when a customer asked for me  in the tasting room. I left my assistant to continue emptying the Zinfandel barrels, assuming that he would read the labels on them. I may have been gone all of 3 minutes and when I returned,  I was met with an unpleasant surprise.  Lets just say that the Zinfandel that was suppose to be dry got a little late harvest Zinfandel added to it! The mistake completely threw off my assembly! Luckily, with my dad being out of town, I had a few days to work on the wine before his return, and my mom and I decided it would be best to not let him know until the wine was already bottled. However, all’s well that ends well- after we bottled the Zinfandel, he tried it, loved it and so did the customers. That wine ended up selling out in a matter of months!

4) What do you feel has been your greatest achievement as a winemaker?

As a young winemaker that is a tough question, especially because we do not submit our wines to competitions. However, my greatest achievement as a winemaker is knowing that I have gained the trust of our family to be in charge of our production, from harvest to bottling. That, for me, is greater than any medal or recognition in the industry.  It’s a very rewarding feeling knowing that my father and mother trust me to not only make the wine but to continue our tradition of producing premium wines and trying to take our small family winery to the next level.

5) Give one piece of advice to aspiring winemakers:

My advice to aspiring winemakers is to follow your instincts. The industry has several norms and everyone has an opinion on how and why you should do certain things, but as a winemaker you have to trust your palate and believe in yourself. Also, never stop learning, and keep yourself well informed on all aspects of the operation of the winery.


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