California Winemakers Embrace The Farm Life

California winemakers embrace the farm life

If you visit a winery these days, you're likely to find more than just wine on offer: Some, especially in California, are morphing into full-fledged farms.

This trend is an outgrowth of biodynamic winemaking, which emphasizes biodiversity and holistic farming. On a biodynamic vineyard, cover crops planted among the vines attract beneficial insects and fix nitrogen levels, while sheep and goats "mow" the crops and fertilize soil in a virtuous loop.

A few hearty souls have gone further by planting vegetables, keeping bees and raising chickens. And a growing number of wineries let visitors sample some of the bounty–because, after all, man cannot live on wine alone.

Two of the best are found in Sonoma County's Dry Creek Valley:

Quivira  In addition to cultivating grapevines, this biodynamic winery (pictured) tends to heirloom vegetables and fruit, including a 130-year-old fig tree, plus rare-breed livestock. Try the estate-made fig preserves, olive oil and honey, or dine at one of Quivira's seasonal dinners, with menus sourced completely from the property.

Preston of Dry Creek  At this family-run organic winery, you'll find sheep, chickens, pigs and goats roaming the property. Lou Preston, an avid baker, even grows his own wheat to make great artisanal breads. He uses an organic grape starter for his sourdough, and other loaves sport homegrown nuts and herbs. Dip them in the winery's own olive oil and wash everything down with the flagship L. Preston red blend.