Dick Cutler & The Flying Dutchman Winery

It might raise your eyebrows, but Dick Cutler who used to be a mechanical engineer and worked in the construction business for years, now creates some of the best wine in Oregon. His small winery, The Flying Dutchman, across from Devil’s Punch Bowl State Park in Otter Rock, offers a wine tasting room, outstanding views of the Oregon Coast and award-winning wines.

Cutler says “Making wine was a geriatric endeavor. It got to be really fun. It is like an addiction.” It is a hobby that has gone over the top. He was in his 60s before he even considered buying grapes, barrels, and all the other equipment that is needed, let alone learning the science and art of wine making. Conventional wisdom said that making wine on the coast was not a good idea. Even now, his operation is the only one along the Oregon Coast but he thinks the salt air helps give his wines a unique taste. He has the awards to prove it!

The wines are not mass produced and he babies each barrel as if his life was dependent upon its success. He will tell anyone the importance of the pH, the kind of barrel used, the aging process, the quality of the grapes, the grape mashing procedure and much, much more. It would be an understatement to say that he is passionate about making wine. If you can catch him during a visit at his winery, ask for a tour. You will leave with a new appreciation for what it takes to create a wonderful tasting wine.

His humor will keep you off balance. He says, “Somehow the thing I like about it is that people think that such an ancient endeavor is nobler than the average job that somebody does. They say, oh, you make wine by God. You are elevated in their eyes. I like that.”

In 1972 Cutler began managing the Inn at Otter Crest, a complex of 144 units owned by individuals. However, the public can rent one of the condominiums on the 35-acre beach front. The property includes a restaurant which Cutler also managed. However, the restaurant was in financial trouble and he thought that a mini winery might increase traffic to the restaurant. So his journey into wine making began. The winery is now located overlooking the ocean and across the street from Devil’s Punch Bowl State Park in Otter Rock. Most wineries are located inland by the vineyards. The owners have to work hard to entice potential customers to visit. The Flying Dutchman Winery is in such a scenic location that curious visitors traveling Highway 101 stumble on to it.

Cutler took good advice right at first. His mentor (he took wine making classes at a community college) told him the secret to good wine is the source of the grapes. He told him to ask wineries that had won awards, where they bought their grapes. He then approached the farmers and tried to buy grapes. All but one turned him down saying they had a contract with the large wine producers and didn’t want to sell just two or three tons to an individual. Undeterred, the next year Cutler offered the same growers top dollar for their grapes but added to the contract a week long stay at Inn at Otter Crest, which he still managed. They all accepted his contract and he was in the business of making wine.

The salt air connection with his wine is a story he loves to tell. Cutler says that anyone making wine thinks they have a way to make their wine special, unique, and award winning. He thinks his niche has to do with salt spray. The grapes are de-stemmed and placed in an open topped container where the grapes are crushed and cold soaked. The skins are mixed by being “punched down” to the bottom three times a day for a week to 10 days, sometimes longer. That process adds oxygen and salty air from the nearby ocean spray. The process at other wineries lasts only three days. The grapes are fermented by native yeasts on the skins. The finished wines then have a trace of sea salt.

The Flying Dutchman Winery entered the very competitive and prestigious Oregon fair wine competition the first year the wine was bottled and won several top awards as well as best of show. Cutler says it was dumb luck but he has continued to win awards over the years.

He has also been a member of the Board of Directors, which watches over the Central Oregon Coast Association (COCA), since the organization was formed in the 1970s. COCA is the regional destination marketing organization promoting the Central Oregon Coast as a tourism destination. Cutler has donated many hours, support and advice to COCA.

Some of the red wines that are offered at the Flying Dutchman winery are: Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot and the white wines: Chardonnay and White Riesling. So even if you don’t meet Dick Cutler, you will still get to know him just by tasting the wonderful wine flavors that are created at The Flying Dutchman.

LET”S GET PERSONAL with Dick Cutler

How long have you been in the travel industry?

I have been at the Inn at Otter Crest and my winery since 1970.

How many hours a day do you sleep?

Six hours

How long have you lived on the Oregon Coast?

I’ve lived here since 1963.

Where is your favorite place to go along the Central Oregon coast?

Cape Perpetua, and I like to camp near Florence at Honeyman State Park with my grandchildren where there is a fresh water lake and sand dunes.

If a visitor asks for a “must see” location or attraction what do you recommend?

The Oregon Coast Aquarium or if they are looking or a hike I would say the Drift Creek Falls. The turn off is just south of Lincoln City.

In your opinion what are the best restaurants?

I like the Tidal Raves at Depoe Bay and of course, the restaurant at the Inn at Otter Crest.

What do you like to do for fun?

I like to take beach walks and go camping.

Where can you get good fish and chips?

Two places are good: Gracie’s and the Sea Hag, both in Depoe Bay.

Photos by Mike Brodwater