Quivira Mourvèdre: Waste Not, Want More


In these days of symbol scrimping, font frugality, typeface saving and character conserving, when we are all responsibly turning our keyboards down to 62° (I won’t waste an ‘F’ for ‘Fahrenheit’ since it should be obvious—what do I look, Canadian?), it’s sort of disheartening to see a winery that wantonly wastes letters.

Yes, Quivira, this means you.  Brownie points for carpooling your name since we know that ‘Q’ never goes anywhere without that poky little midget ‘u’, but really, is calling your wine ‘mourvèdre’ entirely necessary?  What do the ‘u’, that dopey accent grave or the silent ‘e’ bring to the party?

And Don’t Get Me Started on Quivira’s Winemaker… 

Hu Chapel

I’m sorry, Hugh Chappelle, but seriously??  In this imploded economy, where waste not, want not is policyspeak, you feel compelled to splurge on ‘p’s, ‘l’s and ‘e’s in your last name?  With kids going to bed solecistic in China?  For shame, sir—these are expenditures that our grandchildren will have to subsidize.

Peet Kite

And (mention this to your boss, too), if you guys were really Earth First, you’d spelled ‘Hugh’ and ‘Kight’ the way they sounded, and then there’d be enough ‘g’s and ‘h’s for the rest of humanity.  You don’t want us Fundamentalist Christians praying to ‘Od in Eaven’, do you?  That’s a one-way ticket to ell.

And if all that isn’t bad enough, a vineyard called Wine Creek Ranch Estate Vineyard?  Come on, fellas—five names, already?  Three of which (ranch, estate and vineyard) are pretty much the same thing?  Do we even want to go there?

We Don’t…

Therefore, I’ll talk about the winery instead.

The thriftily named 'Ned'

Situated in Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma, Quivira was founded in 1981 by Holly and Harry Wendt and purchased in 2006 by Pete and Terri Kight.  Both couples adhered to a simple dream: To build upon ecologically sound agricultural principles to produce world‐class wines.  Currently comprised of four vineyards, all within the Dry Creek AVA (Wine Creek Ranch, Goat Trek Vineyard, Katz/Absner Ranch and Anderson Ranch), there’s a total of 93 acres planted to zinfandel, sauvignon blanc, various Rhône varieties (including mourvèdre) and a number of oddballs like counoise and sauvignon musqué.

In an effort to increase ‘fruit saturation’—an eno-term meaning intensity of flavor and depth of color—Quivira’s vineyard manager Ned Horton looks at the smaller picture.  Under his persnickety watch, focus has shifted from acre to acre to plant and block, and up to sixty percent of the grapes are culled.

Mor-ved on the vine

Nowhere did this priority re-alignment prove more vital than in the cultivation of mourvèdre.  As a varietal that tends to ripen late even in ideal conditions, the heavy rain that often characterizes late Autumn in Sonoma makes a successful harvest a challenge.  Thinning the fruit to one cluster per shoot helps, but the labor intensity requires pushes this wonderful wine to the top echelons of Quivira pricing.  Still, at $32 retail, it’s a gem.

Tooting Their Own Cowhorn

Demeter certified in 2005, sustainable farming is at the core of the Quivira agricultural philosophy.  In the past, I’ve scoffed at biodynamics as pseudo-pscience, mostly for it’s pspirituality, which calls for some pretty weird preparations (animal manure buried in cowhorns at the Autumn equinox in order to capture the universe’s etheric and astral forces); but I have never taken issue with the essential wisdom behind the witchcraft.  That is, that a farm should be self-sustaining and able to create and maintain its health and vitality without the addition of commercial fertilizers or pesticides.  I believe that winemakers like Hugh Chappelle and Pete Kight who take to heart a rigorous methodology tend to produce better wines—with or without cowhorns.  The self-described ‘obsessiveness’ that they  employ to monitor soil conditions and the phases of the seasons have paid quality dividends vintage after vintage, and if they want to credit Rudolph Steiner (biodynamic’s founder), more power to them.  I don’t think that Steiner was a crackpot—far from it.  I think he was a snake-oil huckster on par with Pat Robertson and Amway’s Jay Van Andel.

That Said…

…It’s Chappelle and Kight who are making the spectacular wines, not me.  All I do is drink them, take down notes and praise the hell out of them in writing.

Od in Eaven

Still, as a sort of cheapskate biodynamic columnist who believes in word conservation, sentence management and a self-sustaining alphabet, I take exception to overly-verbose, word-depleting practices among non-scribes, who may or may not need to use these letters again in their lifetime.  But, sure as Od is in His Eaven, I will.

Hugh Chappelle says:  “Successful natural winemaking requires an integration of vineyard and winery where farming practices are optimally aligned with the desired qualities of the finished wine.”

I’d have said: ‘Take care of Momma and she’ll return the favor.’

Tasting Notes:

Quivira Mourvèdre, Wine Creek Ranch Estate Vineyard, Dry Creek Valley, 2009, about $32:  Whew; that was a mouthful.  So is the wine—with a bigger nose than Gérard Depardieu, it’s redolent with dark, foresty fruits like blackberry and wild raspberry, spiced with white pepper and pipe tobacco; the palate fairly bursts with rich cassis notes, smoke, roasted coffee bean and yeasty graham cracker.  Eighteen months in large foudres and small barriques lends a toast and elegance to a long, leathery, lingering finish.  A year or two in the cellar should produce an even more complex wine.

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