The morning of the second day of the inaugural North American Wine Bloggers Conference presented me with an energetic dilemma: which Vineyard Walk do I partake??Â This part of the conference was to be an exciting off-site activity, courtesy of Allan Wright (Twitter), conference organizer and owner of the other main sponsor, Zephyr Wine Adventures.Â After debating between the many walks/hikes available, I finally settled on the second of the two Dry Creek Valley walks, as it was a tour of the Biodynamic estate of Quivira Vineyards & Winery.Â I was compelled to visit this winery after the great discussion that I had with Nancy Bailey at the previous evening’s Wine Growers of Dry Creek Valley tasting, of which I have previously written. Not yet knowing the full extent of the amount of physical activity that I might undertake, I literally sprinted over to Longs to get some protein-based snackies and I ran back to hop on the shuttle that was just about to pull out towards Dry Creek.
I noticed a few pallets of some TetraPaks when I jumped into the shuttle and I was pleased to hear that they were free Earth Water “bottles” for us to down as we trudged through the warm morning and early afternoon. They were incredibly handy for both the dehydration that I was feeling…for some reason, and the fact that once finished, they easily folded up into a flat mat that could be shoved in your back pocket and out of your hand.Â While slaking my thirst and merely teasing the rumbling in my stomach, we began some introductions around the shuttle.Â Seated in front of me was the dynamic Amy Atwood (Twitter) of My Daily Wine.Â We spent much of our time heading to the winery and back to the conference center speaking about the future of wine and wine social media.
After a beautiful morning drive through the Sonoma countryside, we arrived at the winery.Â It features gorgeous and unique modern architecture that still manages to complement the surrounding vineyard agriculture and natural surroundings.Â I gave much of the background of the winery and their certified Biodynamic viticulture practices as well as much of their history in my previous Day 1 post but suffice it to say, they are one of the leaders of sustainable agriculture and wildlife restoration in the already environment-friendly Dry Creek appellation. The winery was founded in 1981 and following the sale to the current owners Pete and Kerri Kight, there was a large turnover and winemaker Steven Canter was brought in following stints at DeLoach in Russian River Valley and Torbreck in the Barossa Valley of Australia.
Steven is an articulate and physically soft-spoken proponent of sustainable organic and Biodynamic winegrowing.Â Indeed, one of the very first actions that Steven took as the new winemaker for Quivira was to walk through the winery building burning sage and saltpeter to cleanse the building of its previous employees and practices.Â His influence can be seen throughout the estate, both in the vineyards, learning about the land alongside longtime Quivira Vineyard Crew Manager Tony Castellanos, around their new organic garden and certainly around the winery itself, implementing his “pro-active organic and Biodynamic farming” practices.Â Part of this pro-active working life has led Quivira to work towards restoring all of the original lands and wildlife in the unplanted regions of the Estate back to their original state.Â Much of the work done in recent years has centered around Wine Creek, the namesake for one of their vineyards.Â They hope to bring the creek back to a state whereby the Steelhead and Coho salmon will return to spawn as they did for many hundreds of years prior.Â Our walk through their vineyards really brought home the need for this restoration as Wine Creek was dry for the first time in the 30 year history of the winery.
Our tour began with an outstanding discussion about Biodynamics and Steven’s own philosphy about sustainable winegrowing and winemaking.Â I found it particularly informative as I’ve read a fair amount about Biodynamics, but as a scientist (while still open-minded that science still does not explain much of the natural world), I always have had a hard time getting my head around many of the more arcane rituals that surround that philosophy of farming.Â Steven anticipated this and was able to reach the scientists inside of us by explaining that while many of the rituals (such as Preparation 500, burying a cow horn filled with manure for a distinct set of time during the year) did seem very “New Age” and arcane, the science behind the rituals was solid.Â The manure becomes incredibly densely and richly filled with micro flora (bacteria, yeast, etc) that is indigenous to the local soil and when spread throughout the vineyard after being unearthed, that same micro flora replenishes the surrounding land and vineyards and strengthening the vines.Â This leads, as Steven pointed out many times throughout the day, to wines that have undeniable terroir, or a sense of place.
Following this discussion we headed out into the vineyards for the meat of the day’s activities.Â We first headed past where the animals were held that contribute to the farm’s sustainability.Â Following that we headed into the Wine Creek Ranch vineyard, alongside the aforementioned dry Wine Creek.Â It was a bit disconcerting to see the creek bed so dry, particularly after hearing about how vibrant the creek side had been in years past.Â This same disappointment was voiced by both Nancy (who joined us throughout the day) and Steven.Â We continued along, eventually reaching the esteemed Dry Creek itself, crossing over on some exposed rocks to gain access to their famous Fig Tree Vineyard property. Here we were able to just walk up and pluck ripe, organically grown figs right off of a huge, ancient fiig tree before we headed towards higher ground.Â Once we reached the highest point of the Quivira estate we were treated to a phenomenal 360 degree view of the Dry Creek Valley.Â We were blessed with wonderful weather that whole WBC weekend and it was here that I truly appreciated the absolutely clear, sun-filled sky that weekend in late October.
We eventually filed back down to the winery and tasting room and had a great walkthrough of the process of winemaking at Quivira. Steven literally dug his hands into a fermenting bin of Grenache, fermented with natural yeast from the skins of the grapes themselves, as are all wines from the winery. The grapes were to be pressed into barrel the following day, in fact.Â It was at this point in the day however, that I was feeling a certain distraction known as HUNGER!Â I shouldn’t have been worried for we had a truly special and unique three course meal with wine pairing flights ready for us on the patio in front of the tasting room…YES!
The chef for Quivira had prepared a wonderful assortment of olives, meats and cheeses, many of which were actually made at and from the estate as was the olive oil, due to be released next year (make sure that you get some and get some early!).Â These were paired with their ’07 Grenache RosÃ©, an excellent example of a domestic dry rosÃ© and tied for my favorite of these first three wines with the ’07 Fig Tree Vineyard Sauv Blanc.Â Both were filled with vibrant fruit and almost racy acidity, perfect for the now rather warm early afternoon weather.Â The second course featured my favorite dish of the day, an absolutely stunning chili made from venison that paired so well with the second flight of wines from Grenache and Zinfandel that I was a bit speechless.Â Many, MANY of us went back for at least seconds of this delectable dish!Â Most of our wines were poured out by the somewhat incorrigible longtime wine stalwart Ron Washam of Hosemaster of Wine (link NOT work friendly!).
The final course was paired with the three heaviest wines in the Quivira stable, including my favorite of the day.Â The ’06 Wine Creek Ranch Petite Sirah was simply one of the finest examples of this “pet” varietal of mine that I have ever been fortunate enough to taste.Â It had beautiful blue fruit on the nose that was backed up by mushroom and truffle.Â The coating palate had very cool blue fruit that was made much more interesting by the menthol and dried herbs that surrounded that juicy core.Â Wonderful.
That might be the best word to finish this post, perhaps.Â I’d like to thank Nancy, Steven and everyone else at Quivira Vineyards & Winery for such an incredible day of vineyard walking, learning, food and wine.Â I’d also like to again thank Allan at Zephyr Wine Adventures and of course, the WBC.