A visit to DaVero Farms & Winery

Evan in the Olive Grove

I bumped in to the owner, Ridgely Evers as soon as I arrived at DaVero.  The self-confessed “recovering CEO” was hanging off scaffolding and busy supervising the construction of the new winery, but eager to show me around.  Ridgely is no stranger to new ventures (you can Google him) and this is one project he is particularly passionate about.

Getting right into it, Ridgely explained that before they made wine, they started producing olive oil.  Mario Batali was the first chef to get behind DaVero’s olive oil giving it rockstar status amongst chefs.  It has even impressed the oil connoisseurs in Tuscany, where Batali slipped a bottle of DaVero oil into a blind tasting.  Ridgely and a few other families were the pioneers of the olive oil industry in the US, when before all olive oil imported into this country were generally older oils that the Italians would not use.

The DaVero estate is planted with 4,500 olive trees and 7 Italian grape varieties, including another Batali favorite, Sagrantino.  Hard to find in the US, this grape is the golden child at DaVero.  The estate is Certified Biodynamic, producing around 3,000 cases a year of Italian-style wines.

Likening Dry Creek Valley to Tuscany and Umbria, Ridgely explained that the focus on Italian varieties and olive oil comes from “simply growing what nature has in mind”.  It turns out the Dry Creek Valley has a remarkably similar climate to central Italy.  The earliest grape growers in Dry Creek could have told us this as they were immigrants from Italy. But today many wineries in this area are more focused on what sells; Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon.

My Italian immersion started with a tour of the vineyard by their winemaker, Evan LaNouette.  One of the things you’ll learn by visiting this winery is about biodynamic grape-growing practices.  There are quite a few wineries that have this certification, especially in the Dry Creek area, although there are also quite a few cynics out there.   Evan explained that the soil health and soil quality is of utmost importance in the vineyard.

It’s important to note, that true to Italian style, the focus at DaVero is on producing “terroir driven wines”.  This means the focus is more on the vineyard, not the cellar.  Hence the importance of this part of the tour.  Like the great wines of Italy, you won’t find any heavy oak tannins in the wines.

Soon, as part of these sustainable practices, Shetland sheep will be grazing between these vines.   For a small-scale vineyard, it seems more manageable, but still no easy feat to get and maintain a biodynamic certification.

After our walk through the vines we toured the rest of the farm, including the Meyer lemon trees and extensive olive grove.  For three-weeks in November this is a hive of activity, and yes, it is possible to see the olive harvest if you visit at this time.

It was then time for our tasting.  Ridgely joined us for a discussion about the wines and olive oils.

This was a great opportunity for me to hone up on my Italian wine tasting skills.  We tasted a Vermentino, a perfect accompaniment to seafood, and it paired extremely well with their elusive Meyer Lemon olive oil (used by chef Giada di Laurentiis).  Currently the Meyer Lemon oil is only available to wine club members.  Also included in the tasting was the Rosato, Sangiovese, Rosso di Bea (Sangiovese and Sagrantino blend) and of course the Sagrantino.  Although accompanied by a cheese and dried fruit platter, these reds would all be ideal with a hearty pasta.

If you’ve ever bought olive oil thinking that if it’s from Italy it must be good, think again.  I learned that most olive oil that is imported to the US is probably old.  “Olive oil should have a peppery finish,” Ridgely stressed.  “The fresher the better.  Olive oil will not improve with age.”  This explains why these oils are so incredible. AND, why you should buy local.

Lucky for me, DaVero just happens to be one of my neighbors so popping over for wine or olive oil is easy.  For those of you interested the oils and wines, their wine club includes both plus an assortment of other farm-made products.  Many of the wines, and Meyer Lemon Olive Oil, are produced in small quantities and are only available through the DaVero club.

This is a great tasting experience for people that love Italian wines and olive oil (or those that want to learn).  It is also a great way to learn about biodynamic farming.

Expert tips:

  • Plan ahead and book one of their tours to get the most out of your visit.
  • Buy their olive oil.  It is one of the best you’ll find.
  • The Wine Club includes some of their food products which is a nice touch and different from other wineries you’ll visit.

WineryCritic Ratings

9/10 Overall visitor experience

10/10 Knowledge of guide

9/10 Location

8/10 Architecture and design, landscaping

8/10 Other experiences: Willow Tasting

9/10 Friendliness of staff

9/10 Signage & ease of access

9/10 Quality of the wines poured

Appointment required:  No.  Appointments are required for tours.

Address:  

766 Westside Road, Healdsburg, CA 95448

www.davero.com

Tasting fees & experiences:  Tasting room is open daily 11am – 5pm (call to check)

  • $50 per person:  Willow Circle – Tasting DaVero’s current releases as well as walk in the olive groves and grounds.
  • $75 per person: Home Farm – Tasting DaVero’s current releases and walking tour of the farm.

There is a 4 guest minimum for each tour.  Allow 90 mins to 2 hours.  Tours are available Monday through Friday (by advance reservation only), and start at 10:30.

Good for:  Italian wine fans, olive oil lovers.

Wines produced:  Sagrantino, Sangiovese, Barbera, Dolcetto, Pinot Nero, Carignano, Sangiovese Rosato, Malvasia Bianca, Moscato d’oro.

Farm products: Olive oil, lavender, jams, vinegars.

What’s nearby:  Healdsburg Plaza, Seghesio Family Vineyards, Madrona Manor

District/Appellation: Dry Creek Valley, Sonoma County

Contact for appointments:  707-431-8000 ext 1

Date of visit: November 21, 2013

E-mail: mindy@winerycritic.com