The corporate wine trade likes to talk about a consumer's relationship with a brand, but they have nothing on Duxoup Wine Works, a two-person outfit where the relationship is truly inseparable from the wine. Andy and Deb Cutter might not have been thinking about building an alternative to the creed of ever-expanding corporatism when they finished their cellar in 1981—and besides, they were broke. But their ultimately successful venture embodies the artisan way.
The Cutters have made basically the same reasonably priced lineup for over 20 years, using varietals sidelined by big wineries that can't or won't risk experimentation: Gamay Noir, Charbono and Dolcetto. There is no extra capacity in their gravity-flow winery that fits together like a jigsaw puzzle, and they have no plans to expand. From the just-so fit of the removable fermenters to the network of pulleys and winches that do the heavy lifting, Duxoup is a custom-built system for doing exactly what they do, year after year.
Making artisanal wine doesn't require a lot of expensive toys, but it does require a lot of tinkering. Andy quips that a friend who retired from winery equipment sales thoroughly checked out his setup and concluded, "You know what? A small winery doesn't need all that stuff I was trying to sell you." It's a slower way of doing things, and a quieter way. Not surprisingly, the Cutters are cat people.
Typical of this rare, enticing varietal, the 2006 Napa Valley Charbono ($18.50) only looks like a tough customer, dark and brooding with aromas of char and leather. Wild grape and plum juice take on chocolate notes on the easy, silky finish. The Cutters added Dolcetto after a fact-finding trip to Piedmont, Italy, where it's a beloved everyday quaff; the 2008 Dry Creek Valley Dolcetto ($20) has a lively palate of fresh blueberry and cherry following a pretty floral nose with blueberry and sage.
Duxoup will pour alongside other hard-to-find, local producers at the first annual Artisano event slated for Nov. 14. The Slow Food–sponsored food, wine and art festival will feature over 50 small plates and winetastings from local purveyors from Zazu to Zin; cheese galore of the cow, goat and sheep variety; chef demonstrations, silent auctions, plus live music from the Steve Pile Band. Proceeds benefit Slow Food Sonoma County's school garden projects. Get a plate, grab a glass and get local.
Duxoup Wine Works, Healdsburg. Not open to the public. For information go to www.duxoup.com. Artisano: Saturday, Nov. 14, from noon to 5pm at the Geyserville Inn, 21714 Geyserville Ave., Geyserville. $75; $90 day of event. For info, call 888.878.6621 or go to www.artisano.org.