Quivira Vineyards holds a special place in our hearts, as it was one of the first wineries we happened upon early on in our wine country adventures. When ever we traveled to the wine country, we usually traveled with a very loose plan of where to visit; sometimes we didn’t even have a plan. It was always a lot of fun to leave things to chance and see where we would end just by driving around aimlessly, while enjoying the beautiful scenery.
Quivira was one of those wineries we just happened upon while driving around aimlessly. Unfortunately, many wineries today require appointments, so some pre-planning is necessary. Fortunately it’s still a place where you can still drop by their tasting room unannounced to sample their wonderful bio-dynamically produced wines. The winery is located on Dry Creek Road and is tucked into the hills on the Western side of the valley.
The Nelson Family originally purchased the land the estate sits on in 1941. Because of Prohibition, the vineyards were planted with prunes, peaches, green vegetables and hay production. In 1961 the family decided to begin replanting the crops with zinfandel, petite sirah, carignan, and french colombard. Up until the 1970’s most of the fruit was sold to various wineries like Seghesio and Rodney Strong. In 1981, Henry and Holly Wendt bought the lands and surrounding estate from the Nelson Family and eventually built the Quivira Winery in 1987.
In 2006 the winery changed hands when it was sold to Pete Knight, who was enamored by the property along with Henry’s vision and desire to create better wines through better vineyard management techniques involving biodynamic and organic farming practices. Winemaker Steven Canter, whose winemaking experience included stints in Italy, South Africa and Australia, was brought in for his like-minded philosophy that great wines are made in the vineyard and that the wines should reflect their place of origin. In addition to his winemaking duties, Steven is one of the few winemakers who is also fully responsible for the management of the vineyards.
Quivira is committed to the belief that responsible stewardship of the land and all its creatures is paramount. Since 1998 they have been actively engaged in the restoration of Wine Creek, the steelhead trout and the coho salmon that live and spawn in the streams that run through the estate. Other things the winery has done to further their goals of holistic farming and winemaking include:
Deriving 100% of their energy needs from solar power.
- Reduced water usage attributed to the use of a steam cleansing machine that uses 98% less water than traditional barrel cleansing and soaking routines.
- Use of compost and cover crops instead of synthetic fertilizers to feed the vines.
- Use of goats to mow down vineyard and creek side weeds, thus controlling the weeds and the pests they host.
- Developing a Biodynamic and organic garden designed to educate visitors on farming and viticultural practices and supply local markets with fresh produce.
Perhaps the most important milestone that showcases the estate’s commitment to responsible land stewardship was their reception of their Demeter Biodynamic Certification in 2005.
The winery is known for its zinfandels and sauvignon blanc, but increasingly more so for their Rhone varietals such as syrah, grenache and mourvedre; probably in part due to Steven Canter’s experience in working with them in Australia. With the exception of their Dry Creek Zinfandel, all of Quivira’s wines are estate grown and produced. After tasting them at the winery recently, I was taken and impressed by how much more complete the wines seemed than when I first tasted them years ago. Although they were good back then, they didn’t have the nuance, complexity and well-rounded character that was displayed at the tasting room that day. I think their vineyard and winemaking practices are paying off.
As far as the tasting room experience goes, we had a great time. The staff was helpful, attentive, informative and very warm and welcoming. Here’s what we tasted that day:
2008 Fig Tree Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc – Racy, crunchy and rich all in one.
2006 Dry Creek Zinfandel – Medium bodied, peppery and spicy.
2006 Anderson Ranch Zinfandel – More stuffing and complex than the Dry Creek.
2006 Wine Creek Ranch Zinfandel – Sleek and much more refined than all the zins.
2007 Wine Creek Ranch Grenache – Was excited for this one and wasn’t that impressed, but feel like I still need to try this one again.
2006 Wine Creek Ranch Grenache/SyrahMouvedre – Loved this one. Was the most complex of the lineup.
2006 Wine Creek Ranch Syrah – Second to the GSM, we liked this one a lot too.