No, this isn’t a tribute to Dr. Seuss and as far as I know, Heinz is the only company to experiment with making a product unnaturally green, and we all know how that worked out. No, this is about the wine industry going green with their practices and philosophies. In a previous post, I discussed Quivira Vineyards, located in the Dry Creek Valley and mentioned how they practiced the principles of biodynamic farming and winemaking. I recently had the chance to take an extensive tour of Quivira where I learned much more about biodynamics as well as taste through their wines with winemaker Hugh Chappelle. Here I offer a very simplified explanation of their practices and why it is important.
Starting out in the gardens, General Manager Nancy Bailey explained that the 3 core values of biodynamics for Quivira are biodiversity of the land, a closed loop system, and giving back to the local community. The gardens consist of 120 raised beds of organic produce that were built and planted by the current Farm Manager, Andrew Beedy. The beds are on a 4 year rotation which changes the properties and adds to the richness and diversity of the soil. I don’t claim to understand all of the science that goes into this, but I can tell you that the fresh from the ground carrot I got to try was delicious. In addition to the vegetable gardens, Quivira also maintains multiple bee hives and a chicken coop. These are all part of creating a self-sustaining closed loop vineyard farm.
While exploring the farm a bit more we came across the pig pens. While talking about them Nancy referred to them as “workers on the farm.” I was really struck by this comment but it was explained that they are destined to restaurants or events Quivira hosts. While this may be tough for some to hear, it helps to demonstrate the closed loop principle. Everything and every animal on the farm have a role that contributes something to the winery. Manure used in composting, vegetables used for events and to provide nutrients into the soil, and the solar panels are all part of a self-sustaining vineyard farm.
Perhaps what I love most about Quivira is their commitment to the community. Many of their vegetable beds are on contract with local grocers. Rather than being paid for the produce, the grocers work on credit and then donate money to charity when their credit limit has been reached. Additionally, Quivira partners with many organizations and agencies on restoring Wine Creek, which serves as a spawning ground for Coho salmon and Steelhead trout.
I admit that I am passionate about sustainability and efforts to go green so it is really easy for me to get excited about what Quivira is doing. But I don’t think you need a passion for going green to appreciate what they do. All of these practices result in some really great wine, which I had the chance to taste through. Because of the health of the soil, the balance of sugar, acid, and flavor, and the distinctiveness of each terroir, the wines are well balanced and vibrant, including my "Best of 2010" pick, the 2008 Mouvedre.
Is this a new direction for winemaking? Maybe it is and maybe it isn't, but I can tell you that if you are looking for a place that values the land as well as the great wines they produce, Quivira is a must stop on any trip to Sonoma County.