Quivira Vineyards and Winery


Owners Pete and Terri

Quivira Vineyards and Winery is a family-owned, Demeter certified Biodynamic and organic vineyard in the Dry Creek Valley of Sonoma County, specializing in Zinfandel, Sauvignon Blanc and Rhone varietals. Located only 5 minutes northwest of the town of Healdsburg, Quivira offers visitors a colorful 1-acre produce garden, a variety of farm animals, a Steelhead spawning stream, a picnic area, and artisan winemaking.

Pete Kight was the founder, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of CheckFree Corporation, headquartered in Atlanta, Georgia from 1981 to 2007. In the spring of 2006, Pete met Henry and Holly Wendt, the founders of Quivira, on a quest to pursue his life-long interest in wine and the science of grape growing. He was immediately captivated by the winery’s location, with its historical significance in the evolution of grape growing and winemaking in Dry Creek Valley and the Biodynamic and organic farming techniques. Pete and Henry shook hands on the purchase after just the second meeting.

Prior to joining Quivira Vineyards and Winery, Hugh Chappelle worked as the Director of Winemaking at Lynmar Estate in the Russian River Valley, where his wines achieved widespread critical acclaim. Before Lynmar, Chappelle served as winemaker for the noted boutique winery Flowers Vineyard & Winery on the Sonoma Coast. Earlier in his career, he was winemaker for Madrona Vineyards in the Sierra Foothills, where he focused on Zinfandel, Rhône, Bordeaux and aromatic white varieties. Chappelle did graduate studies in viticulture and enology at U.C. Davis and has a degree in chemistry from U.C. Santa Cruz. At Quivira, Hugh continues to advance the winery’s tradition of natural winemaking, focusing on practices that produce the finest possible wines yet also embrace careful stewardship of the land. In his never ending quest to make beautifully balanced wines, Hugh emphasizes healthy soils and viticultural techniques that promote uniform maturity at the lowest possible alcohol.

2009 Grenache Rose, Wine Creek Ranch ~ 90 points, Wine Spectator
2010 Sonoma County Business Environment Alliance “Best Practices Award” Winner
2007 Zinfandel, Dry Creek Valley ~ Best of Class, SF Chronicle Wine Competition
2007 Grenache, Wine Creek Ranch ~ 90 points, Wine Enthusiast
2007 Syrah, Wine Creek Ranch ~ 93 points, Wine Enthusiast

Quivira Vineyards and Winery
4900 West Dry Creek Road
Healdsburg, Ca

Interview with Hugh Chappelle

When did you decide to become a winemaker?

I decided to become a winemaker after a short stint in biotechnology where I discovered that wearing a lab coat was not wanted I do the rest of my life. However, having been trained in the sciences the attraction of winemaking was its unique blend of art, science, agriculture with a longstanding history, culture, and tradition. It is a wonderful blend of using your hands, brain, and all 5 senses!

What made you decide to start producing organic or biodynamic wines?

Our decision was driven by the simple observation that the world’s finest wines are almost exclusively made from grapes grown either organically or biodynamically and then our natural intuition that this was just the right way to proceed for the long term.

Who taught you organic or biodynamic farming practices?

No one person is responsible, but I would say numerous people have had pivotal impacts. Also, having early exposure to organic farming and the budding field of agroecology on the U.C. Santa Cruz farm was a formative early experience.

Have you had to make sacrifices by choosing to farm organic or biodynamic?

I would say no sacrifices are really necessary at all. In fact, not having to worry about keeping up with all the latest chemical treatments actually leaves more time to actually be present in winery and vineyard and be able to better manage proactively rather than reactively to issues and challenges. From a financial point of view, there are slightly higher costs you must incur and pass along to the consumer, but if properly managed these are truly modest and we are confident will not be significant hurdle to growing our business.

What challenges have you had in labeling your organic or biodynamic wine?

Labeling is quite straightforward, just with a few more rules and regulations, especially for the Demeter certified Biodynamic wines. However, this is no big deal if you plan properly ahead of time.

Would you like a universal labeling process for organic or biodynamic wines? If so, what would you like to see happen that is not?

This is a good point. It will be important for all the regulatory bodies to have better communication and better alignment and clarity on their certifying criteria. Deficiencies and confusion in this area will continue to hold back better acceptance of our products and ultimately growth potential for the whole industry. Ideally, criteria domestically will be consistent with our colleagues in other countries, especially Europe and key export markets.

What challenges do you have in educating consumers about the difference between organic/biodynamic and commercial wines?

Organic is definitely easier than biodynamic, but within organic it still requires some discussion of the different regulating agencies and then differentiating “sustainable” from organic from biodynamic. However, most consumers are very interested and motivated to learn and understand the differences. Our challenge is figuring the best way to communicate and explain this information in a straightforward and compelling manner.

Do you think there should be a rating system specific to organic and biodynamic wines?

Ultimately, I think there should but it will likely be a “can of worms”. At the end of the day the quality of what is in the bottle must do the talking and it would do a disservice to “cut any slack” to organic and BD wines. For their market to grow they must be able to compete on quality alone with the added value of organic/BD then setting them apart. While I am routinely surprised and delighted by many new organic and BD wine discoveries, I also continue to see too many organic/BD wines of poor final quality. This certainly does not do the movement any good as it implies quality is not consistent across producers making these products.

What special environmentally conscious activities does your winery do in order to conform to an organic and biodynamic lifestyle?

We have a year-round Farm-to-Table dinner series as well as numerous opportunities for the public to get involved in everything from jam making to sausage making. We are fully solar powered and are also a leader in the re-population of native steelhead trout and coho salmon in our local creeks and watershed. We have also just been nominated by our local Healdsburg Chamber of Commerce for the Sonoma County Environmental Alliance “Best Practices Award” for our long-standing, and ongoing, sustainability initiatives.

What type of organic products does your winery produce and sell other than wine?

We produce eggs, honey, preserves from our fruit trees, olive oil, raise vegetables for numerous local restaurants, and do some raising of animals (mostly pigs).

What should the consumer be aware of when purchasing wines that say they are organic?

The consumer should be aware that they are supporting a business that has made the conscious choice to make their products in a more costly, potentially less profitable manner, due to their beliefs that our agriculture system is broken and not sustainable. They should feel good about supporting businesses that have made the commitment to operate in this way and that their buying power is truly helping to make a change.

If you had anything you that would you like to scream from the roof tops about organic and biodynamic wines, what would if be?

This “Is” the future of agriculture and you can either get on the train now and lead or hope there is room later. Also, we (the organic & BD community) should want consumer feedback! There remains a disturbing amount of “mediocre” quality products in this area, likely from those trying to differentiate themselves in a highly competitive market where they cannot compete on quality alone. These products hurt everyone. We should ALL insist on the highest possible quality from organic and biodynamic wines and not tolerate using these categories simply as an easier way to sell an inferior product. The above being said, please support these products and realize that when you see prices slightly higher for these wines it is truly for a good reason and the legitimate higher cost of farming and operating in this more sustainable manner.
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