There are the obvious reasons to start a food or beverage business. You love 16 hour workdays, wearing a back brace, and explaining (again) to customers why your small-batch goat cheese costs a few bucks more than the generic grocery store brand. Big Table Farm owners Clare Carver and Brain Marcy started making Pinot Noir on their Gaston, Oregon farm simply because, as Carver says, “We love to eat and drink.”
That might be what you'd expect to hear from anyone crazy enough to venture into a food business, but these are the sort of folks who truly don't take eating and drinking casually. The eating side of the equation is satisfied by the free-range grass-fed chickens, cattle and pigs the couple raise on their 70-acre property.
Marcy, the winemaker, studied at UC Davis before working at Blankiet Estate, Turley Wine Cellars, and Marcassin (he sources his grapes from various vineyards). Carver is an artist who also designs the striking wine labels (she has also designed labels for dozens of other wineries). Most of her models are animals from the farm such as Jolene, the pig on that 2008 Willamette Valley Pinot Noir bottle. “Her legs are now cured meat,” Carver told us, grinning. She's not kidding.
The couple's beloved pigs are pasture raised on a diet of grass in the spring and summer, apples and pears in the fall, and fattened (“finished” in less polite terms) on hazelnuts. The Red Ranger chickens live in what Carver has affectionately dubbed the “Chicken Motel.” She moves them daily to fresh grass, and like the heritage Irish Dexter cattle, a new addition to the farm, Carver is present for every slaughter. The meats are then sold fresh and cured — available locally in Oregon only — and featured in the couple's farm dinners during warmer months. Carver and cookbook author Deborah Krasner really should get together for a farm animal play date.
The wines? Marcy's Pinot Noir, Syrah and Riesling are entirely too good (particularly the Pinot Noir) — and are getting way too much press, damn it — not to be out of our price range very, very soon. Not that we should be surprised considering his Helen Turley-blessed winemaking resume. The grapes are also sourced from top vineyards, including Resonance, the same vineyard that supplies Sineann with Pinot Noir grapes. Which is to say their wines also often sell out, so when you see one of Carver's labels in a local wine shop or on a restaurant wine lists (Big Table Farm landed a distributor in L.A. a few weeks ago), we suggest you grab it.
Or you can always buy directly from the winery. Although unfortunately, a sample of that house-made “Jolene” prosciutto does not come with your online order.