Raising Big Table Farm: Photos from a Visit

The Big Table Farm Barn Effort

This summer Big Table Farm will begin building a new barn to serve as their on site winery. They’ve been using a shared space since getting started in 2006.

To make the effort easier, they’ve created a Barn Raising Founders’ Offering that gives people the opportunity to support the cost of the barn building and receive 6 magnums of wine as well.

To read more about the Big Table Farm Barn Raising, check out Clare’s blog here: http://oregonfarm.blogspot.com/2013/05/big-table-farm-barn-raising.html

I’ll post on their current portfolio of wines soon but in the meantime I wanted to share photos of our visit from last summer.

Beautiful Big Table Farm, Gaston, Oregon

Here are the photos of their beautiful home.

Approaching Big Table Farm

approaching Big Table Farm

Last summer I was lucky enough to spend a month in Willamette Valley, welcomed by a host of wonderful people into local life. The region celebrates an incredible down-to-earth sense of community. The feeling of it echos through the calm of the residents, and in their stories of sharing equipment, technique tips, and meals. It’s a place for which I hold strong affection.

The Front Door

Artist Clare Carver and Winemaker Brian Marcy, the husband-and-wife team behind Big Table Farm Wines, invited Rusty Gaffney, aka The Prince of Pinot, and his wife, Patricia, and me for dinner one night. What a hoot! The entire dinner was made from Brian and Clare’s farm (with a bit of cheese from down the road), and their wines (along with an excellent old Burgundy plus a Sonoma Coast Pinot).

Looking Across the Living Room into Clare's Studio

looking across the living room into Clare’s art studio

Big Table Farm makes great Pinot Noir in Oregon, and one of my favorite domestic Rieslings (from the Brooks Vineyard) as well. In a recent North to South West Coast N. America Pinot Noir tasting theirs were among the top contenders. Their Riesling was a hit at last years Summer of Riesling party here in Napa Valley too.

Art on the Walls

Establishing the roots of his viticulture and oenology training at UC Davis, Brian Marcy moved to Napa Valley in 1996 working for the likes of Neyers Vineyards, Turley Wine Cellars, and Marcassin, mixing a stint in Australia with Trevor Jones Fine Wines in the middle.

The 2011 Rose'

the 2011 Pinot Noir rosé to start (Clare hand draws, then letterpress prints the labels. Each is hand cut and placed on the bottle. They also change each vintage while keeping a recognizable theme from their farm–more of their labels follow below.)

Clare Carver’s career, on the other hand, took her through art school all the way into Napa Valley, showcasing her fine art along the way in California and Oregon, and leading into a wine label design business as well. The couple met in California.

Clare with the Prince and Princess of Pinot and her two workhorses

we started with a tour of the farm–Clare’s work horses, they plow the garden

In 2006, however, they moved North to Willamette Valley, Oregon, recognizing the insurmountable nature of the Napa real estate market. In moving, they were able to establish their label, Big Table Farm, and their home on 70 acres in Gaston, Oregon.

the goat

“We always knew we had more in us than just mowing the lawn.” Marcy explains. “We just didn’t know it was all this.” The couple’s Big Table Farm site includes two flocks of chickens–some for meat, some for eggs–at least two pigs (again for meat), meat cattle, gardens, and bees, all tended by the two themselves and their two work horses.

Clare and the Laughing Pigs

the laughing pigs, Petunia and Rose

“We’ve done a lot of research since moving here,” Clare explains. “The Omnivore’s Dilemma gave us a lot of inspiration. We got our chickens a bus, instead of a coop. They roam all over.” The name of their endeavor arises from the creative, full investment approach they take to their home. “The best food is fresher, and when it comes from your own work, it’s just a little bit sweeter. We love to eat and drink. The big table aspect encompasses the whole picture, the art and the food.”

Looking out across the farm

getting ready for dinner. Brian cooked a fantastic meal including homemade bread, fresh vegetables, and meat cooked in an egg smoker.

The farm approach also arises out of Carver’s own love for animals. “I brought home animals faster than Brian could build fences,” she says. Still, the animals are not simply pets but help to maintain the longevity of the situation with chickens, cattle, and pigs seeing regular turn over for meat. Carver explained that their first year harvesting animals was hardest. Now the day of slaughter is still a challenge but they have found a way of showing respect to the animals and at the same time getting it done quickly that frames the experience more readily.

Getting ready for dinner

Big Table Farm Pinots, a 1999 Burgundy, and a Sonoma Pinot

The couple have not yet planted vines on their own property. As Marcy explains, “When we plant grapes it will be well thought out and researched. We’re still finding out what the climate in this little canyon is.” In the meantime, they’ve been buying grapes since beginning their label. To focus on quality, they source fruit from vineyards in which they are able to establish long-term relationships with growers, and also buy grapes by the acre, not the ton. The approach is risky in Willamette’s vintage-by-vintage varied climate, but it gives them closer understanding of the fruit. Their goal in building an on site winery is to extend that closer contact even further into the wine.

Dinner with friends

from left: Clare Carver, Brian Marcy, Rusty and Patricia Gaffney

Wakawaka and the Prince

Clare titled this: Wakawaka Meets the Prince

Pup

Clementine, one of their two honey dogs.

To feed the Farm’s pigs and chickens Clare developed an organic non-corn, non-soy grain blend and then started a grain cooperative to share the mix with others through the area.

Sweet peas

Clare tells me that bees bump a person three times before they sting. They don’t want to sting since it would kill them, after all. Her suggestion is that the best thing to do when encountering a bee is to take a deep breath (with your mouth closed?) and back away slowly. (Sounds like a bear.)

Clare's label design

a quick glance at some of Clare’s label design work

One of the impressive aspects of Clare’s label portfolio is how varied the styles are. If you line the labels up side by side you can’t recognize the same person designed each of them. She says she loves “the process of helping a winery find their story through their label.” In asking her about the variation through the portfolio she comments, “it’s not my story. It’s their story.” Each design is meant to express them.

***

To read more about Big Table Farm:

More on their Barn Raising Effort: http://www.goodstuffnw.com/2013/05/big-table-farm-crowdsourcing-winery.html

The Prince of Pinot’s Account of the Winery & their Wines: http://www.princeofpinot.com/winery/964/

Forbes Collection of this year’s coolest wine labels: http://www.forbes.com/pictures/emkd45fdmi/2011-big-table-farm-pinot-noir/

***

Best of luck to Clare and Brian as they make this next leap forward. I am rooting for you.

Thank you to Clare and Brian for having me.

Copyright 2013 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com.

Comments

3 Comments so far. Leave a comment below.
  1. Elaine,
    This is a great story. Thanks so much for introducing me to Big Table Farm. I will be on the lookout for their wines. I have so much respect for people like Clare and Brian who put so much effort into doing things the right way.

    Thanks,
    Tom

  2. Yes, a great story! I only wish I could get my hands on some of those wines here in Philly–heard a lot about that rosé!

  3. Clare carver,

    Thank you so much for this beautiful post this is why the wine business is sooo amazing the support from our community has been awsome — deeply humbling with much gratitude !!!

    Here’s the link to my blog post

    http://www.oregonfarm.blogspot.com/2013/05/big-table-farm-barn-raising.html?m=1

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