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Winemaking with a Side of Veggies

“When you drop off the case of Chardonnay and the two of Pinot Noir on Friday, Chef asks if he could also bring a crate of heirloom tomatoes and four-five pounds of baby squash.  She also wants to know how the new potatoes are coming along.”

For American restaurants who like to source both food and wine locally, that conversation may soon become common, as more wineries grow fruit and produce as revenue sources, as part of their bio-diversity sustainability programs and to supplement their own tasting room and restaurant offerings.

Probably no winery has gone further down this garden path than Quivira in Dry Creek Valley outside of Healdsburg.  When you visit Quivira, sited at the edge of the hills that border the valley floor, you have the feeling that you are visiting an old-fashioned family farm as much as a vineyard.  And, in a sense, you are, as diversified farming or poly-agriculture is one of the main tenets of true biodynamics which Quivera practices.  There are chickens running about in a large hen house and into their fenced-in yard and acres of raised vegetable beds.  There are heritage pigs and grazing cattle, fruit trees, olive trees and bee hives.

“The cows give compost, we sell eggs and the pigs are to eat,” says Quivira general manager Nancy Bailey.  “Altogether, we have 120 raised vegetable beds which supply eight local restaurants and produce retailers.  We built them out of recycled redwood found around the property”

Quivira is owned by Atlanta-based Pete and Terri Knight.  He is an entrepreneur in the electronic funds transfer business, and she is a trained architect who has concentrated on raising their family.  Both believe strongly in biodynamics and hired both a vineyard manager, Ned Horton, and a farm manager, Andrew Beedy, who had extensive experience in raising vegetables biodynamically in his native England.  Hugh Chappelle is winemaker.

“We started out with certain beds that were dedicated to particular restaurants,” Bailey laughs, “but we found out we were choking on tomatoes” while not having enough of some other vegetables.  “Now we provide a list of produce and eggs they can shop from, and we give them a $500 tab to start with.”

In addition to believing in biodynamics, Quivira also believes in charity, with the profits from the farm venture going to a rural healthcare initiative that finances pediatric dental care, data monitors for strokes and electronic record keeping.  The winery is also part of a restoration effort for a stream that runs through the property that once was a spawning group for Coho salmon and Steelhead trout.

“We’re not trying to compete with the local farmers,” Bailey maintains, “as much of what we grow is heirloom produce and part of the Slow Food movement.”  Some of the produce is processed and sold in the tasting rooms, especially honey and fruit preserves.

Of course, Quivira does make wines as well – a variety of artisan reds and rosés.  And there is no quid pro quo.  Restaurants don’t have to buy wine to get vegetables – or vice versa.

 

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