2010 will likely present an interesting year for wineries with the ripple effect of lagging inventory and an economy not necessarily buying wines in the $50.00 plus range as was the case two or three years ago. The last couple of years have seen a lot of changes in all areas of the world, but this post highlights how quickly things can change at one winery in Dry Creek, Quivira, and how important it is to take a finer look at perhaps changes in winemaker or owners without judging from past experiences.
Here’s my story, years ago I spent a lot of time in Sonoma. We would drive all over the place, regularly visiting some while trying to discover new wineries. Quivira was one of those places we had stopped at a few times and is located along a track in Dry Creek Valley, near wineries that many of which don’t seem to exist anymore or have changed ownership, like Belvedere for example, which I just discovered is closed and is now C. Donatiello Winery (see the crazy things that change in just a few short years!). We visited them a couple of times and liked the wines, but not enough to really stand out. So when I recently was sent Quivira wines to review I thought, “hmm some Quivira, cool, I remember them, I’ll check it out”. Then after opening the wines was very surprised with how much they stood out, much more than what I remember from years ago. So I did a little research and “surprise”, many changes have taken place in the winery since 2006 (after I had already settled into Oregon), and apparently in the Dry Creek Valley during that time as well, and I began to take closer notice.
Quivira Vineyards & Winery
Healdsburg, CA | Dry Creek Valley
“In the 16th to 18th centuries, the area we know as Sonoma County appeared on European maps as a mythical kingdom called “Quivira” whose streets were said to be paved with gold. Today, the region’s “gold” is the acres of grapevines that thrive there.”
Quivira, named after this “mythical realm” was founded by Holly and Henry Wendt in 1981. In 2006, 25 years later, the winery was sold to Pete and Terri Kight who quickly began making significant changes to the winery, but continuing a focus on Biodynamic and organic farming techniques used by the Wendts. They also brought in Steven Canter, who had training in many regions throughout the world, as their winemaker and vineyard manager, or rather “winegrower” as he calls himself (not to separate the two roles).
Today they continue a focus on Biodynamic and sustainable practices throughout the vineyards, wine making, and property, including an organic garden they created in 2008 designed to educate visitors on their organic farming and viticulture practices. Touring the property today you’ll find their gardens, a pond, greenhouse, chickens and even goats.
One of their flagship wines, the Fig Tree Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc, named for the 130-year old fig tree that stands amongst the vines, is certified organic and Biodynamic.
The wine represents my new found excitement for California (not to generalize) Sauvignon Blancs. As I have mentioned in previous posts, I am not a huge fan of Sauvignon Blancs in general. They can be too grassy, grapfruity, or acidic to me, or they represent the opposite spectrum and are too minerally. Throughout last summer I discovered numerous Sauvignon Blancs, from both the Napa side and Sonoma, that I loved and would easily drink everyday. This wine is no exception.
The wine had just a slight enough grassiness and fresh grapefruit on the nose to identify itself as Sauv Blanc, but by no means harsh or overpowering. In addition there were aromas of fresh tropical fruits, green apple, and some slightly sweet apricot on the nose. The mouth had bright citrus notes, lemon peel, and steely minerality, with a clean and crisp finish.
This style of Sauvignon Blanc (a nice balance between some of the harsh grassy New Zealand style, and the minerally Loire Valley style) is the style I will be keeping my eyes out for come summer 2010 to pair with my summer ceviche.
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley
Grapes: 100% Sauvignon Blanc
I enjoyed this wine over the course of two different nights to see how the flavors and body would change with the extended time opened.
Upon first opening, this wine felt slightly hot and almost medicinal (concentrated) and needed a little time, but by the second day had softened and opened into a nicely balanced and mild Zinfandel.
The wine, subtle, with moderately high alcohol (at 14.9% vs. 16+% Zins), has plenty of dark berry fruit with moderate plum notes. The smell is unmistakably Zin without being an overpowering jammy fruit-bomb. The mouth is slightly peppery with soft tannins.
Overall I found the wine balanced, although not overly complex, but a great value (at $20) if you’re looking for a nice, everyday, non-fruit-bomb, Dry Creek Zinfandel.
Appellation: Dry Creek Valley
Grapes: 93% Zinfandel, 7% Petite Sirah
Food pairings: I drank this wine with Chicken Parmesan which turned out to be a great pairing as the sweetness of the sauce balanced the heat and spice of the wine.
Learning of some of the many changes that have been going on at Quivira since the changeover of ownership (around the same time I moved to Oregon and stopped visiting the area and winery regularly) I was no longer surprised that I truly enjoyed the two wines I was sent to taste. Lesson learned. Good businesses, like good people, continue to grow, evolve, and change (quite often for the better). And not judging the book by its cover is always a nice reminder since so much variation can occur from vintage to vintage and from owner to owner. I was pleased with these wines and look forward to making a point to go back to the estate next time I visit the area.
These wines were provided as media samples for review.