“Oh man, I almost hit a chicken,” I thought to myself as I pulled into the parking lot. Just off to the side of a parking lot were a few chickens with a renegade one deciding to attempt to cross the road. What kind of place just lets their chickens roam free? Something tells me there’s more behind the looking glass at DaVero Farms & Winery.
Around the roaming chickens were healthy plants in all directions. A fully blossoming rose bush was planted on the hedge that was used as a berm to stop the cars from rolling into the bushes. The air outside seemed to be purified, as if the smell of a possible farm was masked by what I have no idea. And this is all from the parking lot. I couldn’t wait to actually go into the tasting room and learn more about the property.
In order to enter the tasting room, you have to go through a barn-like structure which houses a series of barrels and a fermentation room. Through the open air walkway I immediately came upon a grassy garden with an olive tree in the middle. A rocky-laden path took me to the the tasting room, which was to say, fairly hidden. Apparently, I’m not the only one to think that as there were a few directional signs guiding me.
I made a direct shot to the tasting room, excited to focus my attention on the wine. Yes, the rose bush outside and the chickens were pretty cool. But I came for the vino. I walked up to the tasting counter, expecting to hear all about the winemaking process. I instead was told to try the vermentino and to get out. Wait what? I looked puzzled.
She informed me she encourages guests to enjoy their first glass of wine while strolling the grounds of the property. I was thinking to myself, I’ve seen plenty of grounds before at tasting rooms around the area. Ok. I’ll go along and stepped outside.
Back outside, I started to notice the ample amount of tables just off of the tasting room, covered by a canopy of vines. Despite the rows of tables being pretty close to the open road, I didn’t really hear a car in the distance.
I then continued following the path I didn’t take prior. I came across another set of roses, this time a huge bush of white roses, whereas there was red roses in the parking lot. I turned the corner, back onto the concrete walkway and noticed there weren’t just 2 sets of roses, but more along the lines of a dozen or so. Purple, pink, red, orange and others fully blooming, enveloping part of the walk way. I take it back. This is not just like any other winery.
Just as I was beginning to eat my internal comments, another staff member walked out from serving a private party outside. I made small chatter and acknowledged the rose garden was beyond impressive.
She then informed me it’s all biodynamic. To make a long story short, think of farming and grape growing having three levels: sustainable, organic and biodynamic. By default a winery and farm is inherently sustainable. You need enough nutrients to be able to harvest the following year. Organic takes it up a notch. Limiting the use of what you put into the ground, chemically speaking. Biodynamic cranks organic up to DEFCON 5*, with the vineyard and farm being regenerative, meaning you put more into the ground than you take out.
She briefly talked about the biodynamic practices as she reached down to grab a biodynamic strawberry growing under a large tree. “Can’t do that just anywhere,” she said.
As I walked back to the tasting room, I mentioned to her that the Vermentino was a pleasant surprise to start out with. I wasn’t expecting that. She replied, “Nothing French here.” This got me curious as to what I would have next in the tasting lineup.
She wasn’t kidding. It’s all Italian, all the time here. Barbera, Primitivo, a blend of the two, Carignano and a few others were available to taste. I can’t say I’ve tasted a Barbera lately in the Dry Creek Valley. The super acidic just begs and begs for something Italian. I was dreaming of a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs when I had a taste of it.
The part that got me was the wine was prepared in neutral oak, yet a few bottles had a considerable amount of tannins, even for a few older bottles. The tasting staff picked up on my facial curiosity and informed me the winery wanted the grapes to shine and not the barrels. Mission accomplished, as there was a little bit of oak, but so minute that unless you were looking for it, it wouldn’t be there. Delicious.
After wading through the Italian varietals, I then moved to olive oils and a balsamic vinegar, both available in the tasting room. The olives were crushed on site and also are biodynamic. If your taste buds are still up for the task after the mighty vinegar, they also have locally made jams, all available to taste at the tasting room. And here I was thinking I was just going to get Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet. This doesn’t look a lot like Kansas, Toto.
After I finished tasting the wine, olive oil, vinegar and the jams, I stepped back outside to view the rest of the grounds. The party that was outside earlier had left and I had the chance to view what might be the coolest place to taste outside in Healdsburg. A completely enclosed table flanked on all sides by a single willow tree.
Available to book for lunch, special tastings or just to bring a picnic (when available), a large stone table, capable of seating what looked like 10-12 people sat in the middle of the willow room. Talk about a hidden gem. I spent some time underneath the shade of the willow (note that the willow does lose its leaves in the wintertime) just amazed at this work of art.
I finally did exit and, after a walk through the rose garden, passed a small country house that is available for tasting seatings. It probably holds 6 or 8 people comfortably. It’s small and intimate and you’re surrounded on all sides by the farm.
I kept walking, passed kale and rows of other veggies I wasn’t even quite sure what it was (though knowing, judging by the strawberries) that there were no pesticides present.
At the end of the path are pigs, the only other domesticated animal on the property I saw, aside from the chickens. Yes, they are being fattened up for their days of bacon, but in the meantime they are chilling and relaxing on the property.
Throughout my entire time meandering through the farm and flowers, I kept coming across small outcropping of chairs and benches in which to sit. And it seemed as if all of the places to sit was cozy and intimate.
I now fully understand why the tasting staff wanted me to wander the grounds initially. For the winemaking is just one aspect of the overall approach at DaVero. There is a connection to the earth and ground here at DaVero. Whether it be the limited use of oak or the biodynamic farming practices, it is truly about letting the fruit and veggies and roses and pigs and willow tree shine on their own.
* Technically DEFCON 1 is higher than DEFCON 5, but to prove a metaphor, I reversed it.