Remember the old Head & Shoulders commercials that said “you never get a second chance to make a first impression?” Apparently the people at Quivira Vineyards also remember those commercials because the evening Katie and I spent at Quivira for Sonoma Wine Country Weekend made an unforgettable first impression. The entire evening felt very intentional. From the moment we parked and set foot on property to the last sip of the Petite Sirah Port, Quivira put thought into creating an unforgettable experience for each of its guests.
We got to Quivira around 6:00pm as the sun was just about to set behind the mountains. Immediately greeted by Meghan who serves as the Tasting Room Manager, she poured us a glass of their 2009 Fig Tree Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc. There was still time before dinner began and we were encouraged to walk the property, explore the barrel room, or stroll through the bio-dynamically farmed gardens. Shortly before dinner, new Quivira winemaker, Hugh Chappelle led us through the 2006, 2007, and 2008 Anderson Ranch Zinfandel. Only joining the Quivira team in June, we enjoyed talking with Hugh and were very impressed with his knowledge of Quivira wines and the passion he holds for the process of winemaking at Quivira. Hugh brings with him over 20 years of winemaking experience in California and we will be anxiously awaiting his first vintage.
Dinner was outside and consisted of two long tables, seating approximately 20 people each, situated in between the gardens, animal pen, and the chicken coop. The ambiance was set by the warm air, glowing sunset, and a solo guitarist providing the musical entertainment for the evening. Our fellow guests were a mix of locals and tourists, those in the wine industry and those who just enjoy drinking wine. Seated next to us was Nancy Bailey, General Manager of Quivira Vineyards. We found Nancy to be pleasantly down to earth and personable. Nancy did an excellent job of balancing multiple conversations and made our end of the table a gret place to be.This was exemplified by the informal lesson on the proper technique to saber a bottle of sparkling wine and the invitation to return to Quivira to show her.
Prepared by chefs from The Green Grocer using food grown right at Quivira, each of the five courses was paired with a Quivira wine. Normally not a big fan of beets, I was apprehensive diving into the first course of beet and goat cheese ravioli’s with candied walnuts. The pairing with the Sauvignon Blanc we were greeted with was very refreshing. The sweetness and crunch of the walnuts and the creaminess of the ravioli was complemented by a crisp fruitiness of the wine. The food and wine pairing in our second course was hands down my favorite of the evening. Paired with a crispy organic duck confit, the 2008 Grenache added just the right amount of spice with a perfectly prepared meal. The remaining courses included a tuna nicoise salad, apple BBQ pork shoulder, rounded out with a honey-lavender crème brulee, each paired with a different wine. The explanations for the pairings given by Hugh and the chefs made it easy to see how much thought and preparation went into this meal and the whole evening.
When we were given the opportunity to attend one of these winemaker dinners, I chose Quivira Vineyards quite arbitrarily. I didn’t know much about them except they were into sustainability and organic farming and I passed by them once on a bike ride. As the evening went on and Farm Manager Andrew Beedy explained more about their beliefs and practices, I became increasingly fascinated by their biodynamic vineyard-farm. As described to us by the Quivira staff, biodynamics is a philosophy and guide on farming practices. Different from organic, which tells you what you can’t do (use pesticides, etc), biodynamics prescribes actions that must be done to create a self-sustaining system that recycles back into the earth. Quivira is doing things that no one else is doing in the area and the planning that must go into biodynamics requires each person at Quivira to be involved in many aspects of the process. It requires each person to have true buy-in to the winery and the Quivira philosophy and that passion is apparent when you talk to anyone at the winery.
A visit to Quivira is a must, not only for the great wines, but also to learn about a place that is an innovator in the wine industry. Because of my interest in their practices and the explanation I gave in this post does not do biodynamics justice, I am already planning a second visit in the near future where I can sit down with the staff and learn much more about the winery. Plus, their wines are just that good and worth a second visit. Keep checking back to The Oregon Wine Blog for a more focused entry about Quivira Vineyards.