Big Table Farm: All Because She Gave Him a Second Chance
Contributing Writer & Interviewer
Founder at www.kimwrites.com
Ah! Love at first sight…NOT!
When Clare Carver first met the man who would eventually become her husband and business partner, she didn’t like him. Carver was living in San Francisco at the time. She hosted a party and a friend brought along Brian Marcy to meet her. He was a winemaker with a degree in fermentation science from the University of California at Davis.
Hey, who opened my bottle of wine?
Carver didn’t know much about wine back then, but she had been to Napa once. “I had bought myself a bottle of Napa Valley cab for forty dollars that I had been keeping very carefully in my south-facing window above my heater, because that’s where you store wine,” she jokes. “Somebody at my little party had opened this bottle of wine. And because I’m polite – not – I’m running around the party with my open bottle, all pissed off with my panties in a wad. I’m like, ‘Hey, who opened my bottle of wine?’ And Brian is standing there with his Solo cup, and he’s like, ‘Well, it’s already open, so why don’t you just pour me some?”
Hmpf, she thought. This guy thinks he’s fancy.
She responded with, “Mr. Fancy Wine Guy, that’s not the question I asked you, dude.” How dare he open her wine without asking? She thought he was downright rude. She hardly interacted with him again that night, and he wound up spending most of the party talking to her mother. Jerk.
OK, I got these grapes
Fast forward a decade to 2006 and Carver and Marcy are married and moving to 70 acres in Gaston, Oregon to start a farm and a wine business – on “a wing and a prayer”, as Carver says. “He called me and said, ‘OK, I got these grapes.’ And I’m like, ‘Dude, we have no money.’ He’s like, ‘I’m cashing out my $5,000 401K and we’re starting.’ I’m like, ‘OK’. We made 150 cases. We had no idea how to sell wine. We had no idea how to run a business. We didn’t know how to run QuickBooks, or hire people, or do anything.”
But Carver and Marcy brought every skill they had to the big table and applied it to the business. Looking back, they’re grateful for every challenge, because with each challenge, they walked away with new skills. Marcy says it’s been “a huge adventure. If you would have told me ten years ago that we would have a winery and a thriving wine business, I’m not sure that I would have been able to see that.”
Carver’s well-earned wisdom shines through when she observes that “one thing leads to another…(but) the most important aspect is to just get started.”
Leap and the net will appear, goes the old Zen saying
“The risk is in not jumping, adds Marcy. “And if you jump and go for it, you’re going to figure it out. I think that’s what Clare and I definitely did when we left Napa to come here to Oregon.”
That jump can be terrifying for most. So what makes Carver and Marcy so different? Maybe it’s the way they look at things. As Carver reasons, “At least half of the time, you’re going to be made of some good stuff, and something creative and wonderful is going to come out of that.” She does admit that, “You definitely have to peel yourself up off of the road sometimes, but you do. You put on your big-girl panties, and you do the work. And at the end of the day, you earned everything you have.”
What Carver and Marcy have at Big Table Farm is a lot.
First, there’s the historic 1890 farmhouse that was the original homestead of Williams Canyon in which it stands. Then there’s the agricultural bounty, coaxed from the land by Marcy. There’s the good company of the employees, and if it’s harvest season, at least four or five extra workers living cozily in the farmhouse. Everyone gets fed by Carver around – you guessed it – a big, welcoming table. “From Brian’s beans from the garden, from my own ground beef from the cows,” says Carver. “I feed everybody lunch and dinner every single day.”
No idyllic farm setting would be complete with animals, and Carver has developed a relationship with a wide array of creatures. The dogs are Clementine and Levi, the cat is called Winston. There are also pigs, cows, horses, and a notable goat named Goatio who nabbed a quarter page in Food & Wine magazine. “She’s famous,” says Carver. “She’s just a goofball. She runs around the farm and causes trouble. So unlike the other animals that all have a purpose, she’s just Goatio.”
The slaughtering and the butchering
In most cases, the purpose of the animals is to eventually serve as food. “I do all the slaughtering and the butchering,” says Carver, but she says she does it “fully-present and with gratitude…It’s actually one of my favorite days, because it’s this full-circle honoring of the animal.”
The evening before a slaughter, Carver says she sits with the animal and thanks it out loud. “And I think they somehow know,” she says.
Carver raises two pigs every year. “A heritage breed of pig,” she explains. “It’s an old-fashioned breed that’s more suited to small farming and pasture raising. They don’t eat grain, which is a really important distinction that my pigs have. They eat fruit off of my fruit trees and scraps out of my kitchen. It’s a very old-fashioned way of keeping a hog. Basically, I keep the pigs right outside my kitchen, and they eat what I eat.”
She also keeps a herd of Irish Dexter cows, including breeding mothers and their babies. Carver slaughters the cows at two years old. Two draft horses named Hummer and Houston pull a plow.
Humans and animals live in close proximity at Big Table Farm and the connection between all living things is felt. Says Carver, “When it’s the day to slaughter an animal or an animal dies, or when something significant changes, all the animals know. The horses’ demeanors change, the dogs change. When I bring the meat birds, everybody knows. They’re like, ‘Oh, there’s a whole bunch of new animals here.’ And they all kind of perk up and pay attention in a different way.”
Even the bees at Big Table Farm are tuned in. Carver, also a beekeeper, seems to have found an uncanny way of communicating with her swarm. She explains, “In order for bees to grow their population, they do something called swarming, which basically means half the hive ups and flies away with the new queen, and they look for a new home. This one particular day, I saw them swarming, and I was like, ‘Oh, I better follow them so that I can catch them and put them where I want them.’ And they went over and moved into one of my vacant hives, which is where I would actually have put them. I was like, “I love you guys! I didn’t have to lift a finger!’ It’s so amazing when Mother Nature does for you what you want it to do, because that tells me I’m creating an appropriate environment.”
In spite of a sour start, this couple has created a harmonious environment in which all things thrive and delicious wines are produced.
A few wines of big table farm
Big Table Farm’s 2015 Laughing Pig Rose is a crowd -pleaser with notes of strawberry and spice on the nose. The mid-palette has a perfectly balanced weight of cherry pie and a bit of umami, which is followed by a zing of acidity.
The aromas of the 2014 chardonnay have a wonderful freshness and lift, and give lots of apple and pear fruit, along with a hint of flint which is balanced by a custard richness.
The 2014 Elusive Queen chardonnay is a real treat, with aromas of honey comb, graham cracker, lemon cream, vanilla and barrel toast. Taste-wise, it’s creamy on the palette, alongside apple pie and brown butter.
Wines are available online at www.BigTableFarm.com. But if you’re willing to make the journey to Williams Canyon in Gaston, Oregon, you can taste Big Table Farm’s wines with Carver and Marcy at your service. Their menagerie will be on hand to sense your arrival.
Your private tasting is just an email away.
NEW BOTTLE EXPERIENCE