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Quivira: Wine, Women, and Vegetables

A few weeks ago my sister in law told me that she was going to be heading up to Quivira Winery in Healdsburg.

She informed me that in addition to the winery, there was also an organic garden and would I be interested in going?

I’m not a drinker, but I am a gardener, so of course, I said “yes”.

Love Lies Bleeding plant

Although the Love Lies Bleeding (amaranth) was not in bloom when we were at Quivera, I really liked the name.

Fetzer Vineyards in Hopland was one of the first wineries (that I am aware of) that established an on-site organic garden. About 20 years ago I was there with several busloads of school kids from Ukiah (about 12 miles away from Hopland). The idea was to have the children learn about the garden and then sit down for a freshly prepared garden lunch.  Because my sister-in-law worked for Fetzer at the time, she knew about this event and we were able to bring our school aged children up for the day to participate.

It was a fabulous experience.  We toured the garden with the master gardener and at lunch we were all invited to the pavilion. The high point were the vegetable pizzas that were cooked on a grill. The team at Fetzer had done a beautiful job creating an elegant, beautiful environment for the children, including white cloth napkins.  My niece was very impressed when she saw them and asked if they were fake.

We are not the most highbrow of families.

Nowadays, the concept of having organic and demonstration gardens in wineries is very common up here in wine country.

peach tree

Quivira is located in the Dry Creek Valley. The valley has a long history in the wine-growing industry.  As early as the 1880’s, Dry Creek valley was already home to nine wineries. The boom ended with Prohibition (1920-1933) and for several decades after that other crops were grown in the fertile valley. Vineyards started re-appearing in the 1970’s and today 9,000 acres of grapes provide wine to 70 Dry Creek wineries.

The Dry Creek Valley Winegrowers are also on a mission to attain 100% sustainability by 2019.

Quivera’s gardens and vineyards are biodynamic. I was not sure what biodynamic meant and how it differed from organic, or from permaculture or from anything else.

So I looked it up.

Biodynamics is a spiritual-ethical-ecological approach to agriculture, gardens, food production and nutrition…Biodynamic farmers strive to create a diversified, balanced farm ecosystem that generates health and fertility as much as possible from within the farm itself. Preparations made from fermented manure, minerals and herbs are used to help restore and harmonize the vital life forces of the farm and to enhance the nutrition, quality and flavor of the food being raised. Biodynamic practitioners also recognize and strive to work in cooperation with the subtle influences of the wider cosmos on soil, plant and animal health.What is Biodynamics?

Quivira Garden seating area

Quivira Garden Seating Area

The biodynamic system was developed by Rudolph Steiner  (yes, the same guy who invented the Waldorf educational system). Rudolf Steiner was disturbed by high-yield factory farming systems that depended on artificial chemicals and which stripped the soil – ultimately affecting the quality of the crops. Rudolf Steiner and his followers believed that a farm should not function as a factory, but should be a holistic system – self-contained and self-sustaining.

beehive and and rows of lettuce

A beehive guards a bed of greens

Biodynamic agriculture is organic – no artificial chemicals are used. The health and vitality of the animals, the plants, the water, and the soil as interrelated. Manure from on-site livestock and garden compost feed the plants. Herbal and mineral mixtures are used as additives and sprays. The sowing of seeds is determined by astrological factors. One of the more unusual practices is to fill a cow horn with quartz and bury it in the ground. This evidently harvests “cosmic forces in the soil”.

chickens in the shade

Chickens Hiding from the Midday Sun

Say what you want, the garden looked great and is right in line with Dry Creek Valley’s commitment to sustainability.

Quivira’s gardens were beautifully tended and filled with vegetables, flowers, and herbs.

Strawberries in a straw mulch

Raised Bed Strawberries in a Straw Mulch

The day was very hot.  My sister-in-law enjoyed it tasting wine inside, and I enjoyed wandering the garden outside. Everyone was happy!

Purple Flower

Here is more about Quivira:

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