Wednesday, June 06, 2007


A sommelier will soon learn a lesson (and maybe a few fashion tips) if they ever give the wine list to the man at the table instead of these two DaMa-Natrix’s dining with him.

Business partners and friends, Dawn Kammer and Mary Derby of DaMa Wines have created a company embracing the feminine power of wine. Using the first two letters of each of their names, DaMa (which later they discovered also means "lady" in Spanish), Dawn and Mary have thought outside the bottle to create their own DaMa-Nation.

They're no strangers to the wine business. Dawn grew up in the Napa, Calif., area and took her first tour of a winery, Mondavi, when she was 16 years old. After moving to Walla Walla, she graduated from the Walla Walla Institute of Enology and Viticulture. Among her wine-related job is managing the wine program for The Marc at the Marcus Whitman Hotel.

Mary’s experience with wine started in Chicago restaurants and at the popular and well-reviewed Zuni restaurant in San Francisco. She told me it was at Zuni that she first learned "salmon did not come in the shape of a loaf and wine was more than a blue nun on the label." Matching beautiful, simple food with delicious, elegant wines became an obsession for her. Mary’s food and wine journey eventually brought her to the Walla Walla Valley with her husband, the late Devin Derby. They made a great winemaking team at the Derby's family property, Spring Valley Vineyards, specializing in satin-y, finesse-driven reds (their hallmark of winemaking continues to live on at Spring Valley).

Besides running a winery and tasting room, Dawn and Mary focus on their families. When I visited the DaMa tasting room recently, Mary’s son and Dawn’s two daughters played in the back while Dawn’s husband Jack, whose day job is mortgage brokering, casually dressed in a Hawaiian print shirt, shorts and wicker hat, poured the wines. Dawn and Mary met while their children were in pre-school together. They got talking about wine, and soon they realized they had a lot of ideas in common. A plan formed and snowballed. Although DaMa originally started as a vision of two people, it quickly became a family effort.

DaMa’s goals are many, but their most important one, the partners say, is to reach out to women who are interested in wine, whether they are newbies or wine-geeks. Rather than offer high-priced vineyard-designated specialty varietals, Dawn and Mary plan on blending wines to keep them affordable. Some of the proceeds from every bottle they sell is donated to women’s charitable organizations.

Future goals for DaMa-Nation include fashion shows, book exchanges, and working with other women in business to create focused programs, including wine tasting and appreciation, for women to enjoy. DaMa will also keep its wines fashion-friendly -- which is not to say DaMa will make only wines that happen to be popular. At this winery, "fashion" means the tasting notes for DaMa's aromatic Cabernet Sauvignon, with cocoa and dark berry notes, suggest the wine be paired with a cashmere sweater and sassy slingbacks. It just so happens that I received a gorgeous black cashmere sweater for Christmas from my sweetheart, and I began thinking about pairing the Cabernet with the sweater right away. But summer's almost here and cashmere can be a little warm, so I may follow the fashion suggestion offered for DaMa Merlot, with notes of layered plum and blackberry and hints of black pepper, and pair the wine with my favorite jeans and tee-shirt (Grateful Dead).


joel said...

Well, the 1-page website has some gorgeous photography on it! Good start! I'll have to give the wines a try...

Dr. Debs said...

So good to know about this winery and their work. I'll definitely be checking them out.

Anonymous said...

Well Happy Birthday Old Girl.
Like a fine aged bottle of wine, your label is getting a little tattered and faded, and your cork is beginning to become a little musty. All in all, you are still holding your value, and getting better with age.
Must be that fine old copper WVA distillery in your genes.

Kathleen said...

The idea about pairing wine and clothes is so interesting, I just blogged about the idea of a website offering wine matches to music and movies, as well as moods. Interesting how, if you look around enough, you find so many coincidences.
Albany, NY
Wine and Stories from the Vineyard blog -

Melinda said...

Ooh, that does sound interesting. I'll look out for it, but I wonder if it's exported to Japan?

I feel inspired to pay more attention to my wine and fashion, particularly together!

SeattleWineBlog said...

These two Damas are definitely on to something! Very good wines with very good pricepoints, and a great marketing concept. Fashion is the perfect metaphor and wine description is really all about metaphor. BTW, their Cabernet is excellent. Best of luck to Dawn and Mary. Gene - Seattle Wine Blog

Ben said...

I have been to DaMa wines in person, and their Merlot is one of the best that I have had. The ladies in there are great to hang out with too.

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