Kerry Damskey - Winemaker
Kerry Damskey bounds into a room and within moments, knows the names and affiliations of everyone present. He is charismatic, energetic and leaves a lasting imprint on everyone he meets. Kerry personifies joy and lust for life.
A self-described “mountain guy,” he is driven by the alchemy of great wines and a lifelong pursuit to capture the essence of hillside grapes through the artistry of winemaking. Specializing in small-lot wine production, his goal is to maximize the assets and uniqueness of each vineyard. At Dutcher Crossing Winery, he and proprietor Debra Mathy have established relationships with esteemed growers in Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys for the winery’s vineyard designated wines—all made from hillside fruit. “It’s the winemaker’s job to articulate a definable style for a wine, but you don’t create an identity—that must come from the grapes,” said Kerry.
A strong advocate of blending, Kerry is advancing a new category in California with his Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah wines. Although the blend has been done for decades in Australia, it is a new concept in California. “The brightness and aromatics of Syrah are the perfect complement to the rich denseness of Cabernet Sauvignon,” said Kerry. “At Dutcher Crossing Winery, our signature wine is a vineyard designated Cabernet Sauvignon-Syrah blend, the first of its kind in Dry Creek Valley.”
“In addition to our vineyard designated wines, our Proprietor’s Reserve is a concept where we utilize more of our estate vineyards; where the sum of the individual varieties and vineyards is more interesting and full than any single one. These wines highlight the art of blending,” he explained. The Proprietors Reserve wines are artfully created from grapes grown on Dutcher Crossing estate vines and other carefully chosen valley floor vineyards. These wines are serious yet innovative and approachable.
With 30 years of experience as a winemaker, Kerry has definite preferences in addition to his unique blending techniques. “With our reds, everything is fermented in small, open-top tanks and punched down by hand. This gentle process eliminates the need for fining, resulting in elegant, full-bodied wines with soft tannins,” stated Kerry. He also believes in native yeast fermentations for most of his wines. “When wines that are fermented with cultured yeast are compared with wines made with native yeast, they are almost always more interesting.”
Like all the greats in their respective fields, Kerry has winemaking and the vine in both his blood and his family roots. Through a series of serendipitous adventures, including a stint of living in a former chicken coop while helping plant the original vineyards at what is now Matanzas Creek Winery, Kerry found himself studying in Davis, with all his enthusiasm and joy for life. Things have blossomed from there into many ventures in vineyards and wineries around the world. With Dutcher Crossing, it is a passion for the region in which Kerry calls home, the unique blending that Debra Mathy fully embraces, and the quest for those perfect mountain vines that intrigue him and keep him lusting for both life and the perfect glass of wine.
Kerry Damskey holds a B.S. in fermentation sciences from the University of California, Davis, is a graduate of the intensive program for small business at Stanford University School of Business, and is a candidate of the Institute of the Masters of Wine.
Nick Briggs - Associate Winemaker
Nick Briggs’ roots in winemaking run deep, spanning much of California’s varied wine country, and most of his life. His winemaking journey began when he was very young, working in a family friend’s vineyard and winery, doing whatever tasks he could and participating in more and more as he grew in that environment. By age 16 Nick was actively working in the cellar. When he moved south to pursue a degree from California Polytechnic University, San Luis Obispo, he continued making wine as a hobby using local grapes from the nearby Etna Valley. While attending college Nick was offered and accepted an internship at a large winery in Ceres, Ca. This exposed him to winemaking on a much different scale, processing hundreds of tons in a single day. He also learned first-hand performing chemical analyses of wines in both of the onsite laboratories. He completed the internship, and subsequently his Bachelor of Science in Agricultural Business (with a minor in Fruit Science) in 2005. Following the lead of Nick and other wine industry oriented students like him, Cal Poly SLO has since developed a strong Enology program.
Nick then looked north to the Napa Valley, the recognized hub of the California wine industry. A temporary harvest position lead to a fulltime gig making some of Napa Valley’s premier Cabernets using grapes from the most sought after vineyards in the world. During his tenure as an Assistant Winemaker in Napa, Nick also learned how to craft wine from many other high quality varietals including Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Zinfandel and Syrah.
Nick joined the Dutcher Crossing team in the spring of 2012. Since then he has worked with Kerry and Debra to make some of the best wines Dutcher Crossing has released. Nick has been able to learn the characteristics of Dutcher Crossing’s many vineyards and their well-established style of processing grapes. Contributing his unique experiences Nick and Kerry have formed a relationship that continues to push the quality of wine forward and simultaneously allows them to explore new techniques and ideas.
Nick can usually be found behind the scenes conducting the day to day processes required to make wine. But he is also a presence out front at events or in the Tasting Room discussing the traits of each wine and getting to know the customers and friends of Dutcher Crossing. Nick, his wife Kelly and their Lab, Remy, have settled in Dry Creek and are thrilled to continue their journey in the friendly environs of Dutcher Crossing!