This week, I had the pleasure of interviewing a local Scotts Valley resident who is an amateur winemaker. It’s always interesting to meet other home winemakers, because you can bounce ideas off each other and compare stylistic differences.
I met David Donofrio in the late afternoon to find out what has kept him dabbling in wine-making for 15 years. David, who has a degree in microbiology and worked in related fields for years, said, “Well, it beats stamp collecting!”
David makes about 200 gallons of wine in his home garage in stainless steel and oak. He also makes another 300 gallons for friends and clients, including an ex-49er superstar who must stay unnamed.
Some of the varietals he makes are tempranillo and chardonnay from Carneros, a sangiovese from Amador County and a zinfandel from Sonoma, among others. He is also a specialist when it comes to dessert wines.
David led me down a spiral staircase to his magnificent wine cellar to do some tasting. The walls in the cellar are jam-packed with bottles, and there is a plethora of cases strewn and stacked about a small hallway at the base of the staircase. Many of his awards sit impressively above his bottles on the near wall.
David explained that he is of Italian descent and that his roots are largely in the Naples region. I’m sure his Italian heritage influenced his choice of sangiovese, as well as the label he chose for his wine: Deviante, which in Italian means “outside the boundaries.”
The first wine we tasted was his chardonnay, which is an acidic dream laced with touches of lemon peel and banana. He explained that he combines two batches of chardonnay to make the final product — one that gets some oak and goes through malolactic fermentation, and another that only gets stainless steel. The result is an unusually acidic and tropical chardonnay, one that is rarely found in California.
We also tasted his dessert Riesling that got “best in show,” and the dessert sauvignon blanc that got a double gold. The Riesling blows you away with its intensity and sweetness, and the sauvignon blanc is excellently balanced in acidity and residual sugar. My favorite actually ended up being the chardonnay — what can I say, I’m a sucker for acidity.
After the tasting, David generously gave me four bottles to take home, including a bottle of the chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.
He is quite right — wine-making sure beats stamp collecting. Cheers!
• Austin Twohig is a certified sommelier and partner in The Santa Cruz Experience, which conducts winery tours in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Contact him at [email protected].

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