Tasting at DaVero Farms & Winery
It was a sublime bottle of 1961 Petrus from the Bordeaux region of France that set Ridgely Evers on his journey in wine — and he’s still got the beloved bottle itself, as he’ll show visitors in a modest little pavilion set amid the Biodynamic gardens of DaVero Farms & Winery.
But the winery itself takes inspiration from a quite different region, as Evers will gladly point out on a map that draws a direct line from Sonoma County, California to the southern tip of Italy.
The Boot of Sonoma
Although busy with a career in software development, DaVero owner Evers launched his agricultural enterprises by importing high-quality Italian olive tree cuttings for oil production in 1990. They were the first such new plantings in the twentieth century, and the oil produced from them promptly bested the best of Tuscany in several competitions.
Following another revelatory wine experience, at the New York City restaurant Babbo, Evers turned his attention to Italian grape varieties. With Colleen McGlynn, Evers planted Sangiovese and Sagrantino, a rare variety for California, and worked toward Biodynamic certification for their hillside ranch — which is planted with more than 4,000 olive trees — and the smaller property down on Westside Road, just a minute or two outside of downtown Healdsburg.
The Path of Patience
On the way to the “boardroom,” the spiffy shed that serves as DaVero’s reserve tasting room, Evers and his winemaker, Evan LaNouette, show off one of the most recent projects to reward their motto, “Grow what belongs here. Be patient.” It’s a “green oculus,” a living temple of willow trees that are intricately interwoven to create a sturdy structure — the steel frame doesn’t really serve a purpose anymore.
Along the path, sheaves of recently harvested farro, a grain crop that was grown in between the vine rows, are drying in the sun. Inside their sturdy new sty, last year’s piglets have grown half as big as their mother, who’s about ready to have more. Evers says that the pigs help to cultivate the soil when they root around in the vineyard, and they’re favorites with visitors … and later, with farm-to-table dinner guests.
At the home vineyard, a flock of Shetland sheep graze the property, and Evers says he can call them each by name.
For those with an interest in gardens, or organic and Biodynamic farming methods, the floral display of the insectary garden and the bounty of the vegetable patch are worth the stop. But it’s all for more than just show: instead of “head gardener,” DaVero Biodynamic expert Michael Presley’s title is “soilkeeper.”
The wine list is the true test of this winery’s commitment to an alternative to the usual. When some visitors are told that there’s no Chardonnay on the menu, “Sometimes they just turn around and leave,” says Evers. “And that’s OK.”
He’d rather help people who are willing to explore. Instead of Chardonnay, here’s Malvasia Bianca, an exotically scented white wine that evokes honey, white raisins, and juicy ripe apple, yet cleans the palate with an essence of sea spray and bright, zippy acidity.
The “Altobasso” wines are named for the higher-elevation ranch vineyard and the creekside vineyard around the recently built winery and tasting room. The Rosato is bright with cherry fruit, the red Sangiovese and Barbera blend brooding with aromas of licorice, wine-marinated fruit, and cherry liqueur — although the note of sweet leather black cherry may remind some of Italian wines, Evers acknowledges they are making California versions of these varieties.
As an aspiring young winemaker who recently graduated from Cornell’s wine program, Evan LaNouette had an unusual obsession: he was on a mission to bring the tannic Italian red wine grape Sagrantino to California. Luckily, DaVero found him, and they already had it.
DaVero’s 2012 Sagrantino is dry and puckery, to be sure, but the fruit tannins are fine at the same time, and it isn’t heavy on oak, because the winery is a “zero new oak” zone.
Visitors to the tasting room may also sample estate Dry Creek Valley olive oil — you can pick up a gallon for the best price — and sniff samples of the winery’s lavender products.
Venture over to Madrona Manor Wine Country Inn & Restaurant across the street and scout out the 1881 Victorian mansion for a future B&B stay or wedding. If on bicycle, continue past the mansion up West Dry Creek Road, a quiet ride through wine country with less traffic and easy, gently rolling hills.
766 Westside Road, Healdsburg, 707-431-8000, open daily 11 a.m.-5 p.m. (except Tuesday and Wednesday in January and February)