Winemaker Dawnine Dyer has decided to end her 24-year tenure at California sparkling wine producer Domaine Chandon. She will continue to work as a consultant with the winery through the end of this year, but will cede full-time responsibilities to Wayne Donaldson, the current chief winemaker and operations manager at Domaine Chandon Australia.
Dyer started at Chandon as an assistant winemaker in 1976, just three years after Mokt & Chandon became the first Champagne producer to begin operations in California. She has been a key player in the growth of Chandon, which currently owns 1,100 acres in Sonoma and Napa counties and produces about 400,000 cases a year.
"I've had a wonderful 24 years," said Dyer. "I can't say enough about how fortunate I feel to have been involved in a category under development. But I feel the time has come. Twenty-four years is long enough."
Dyer intends to focus on the 2.2-acre plot of Cabernet Sauvignon that she and her husband, Bill, own on Diamond Mountain, in northwestern Napa. From this plot, the Dyers have bottled 74 cases of the 1996 vintage and 140 cases of the 1997. The wines are to be released by the end of the year under the name Dyer Vineyards.
Donaldson will take over a winery that is still growing. Chandon plans to increase its still wine production, focusing on Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, with small quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay. Also, the winery has just introduced a new sparkling wine, Brut Fresco from Argentina; the blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Simillon retails for $11 a bottle.
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