Sam started growing grapes and making wine on his family farm in Eureka, Missouri twenty years ago. The 1000-acre farm has been in his family for over 100 years. He has often toyed with the idea moving somewhere with a climate more hospitable to grapes, but he is addicted to the idea of making wine from this land, the land of his grandfather and great-grandfather.
Sam has always been a farmer first, and a vigneron second. In addition to wine grapes, he grows vegetables, brambles, and tree fruit.
He is also a chef. The farm hosts bi-weekly farm-to-table dinners for most of the year. All of the produce for the dinners comes from the farm, and then we rely on relationships with our local farmer friends for sustainable sources of pork, beef, chicken, and trout. We seat about 80 guests per dinner in our 100-year old renovated barn.
Claverach Farm is a rugged piece of ground in the first hills of the Ozark Mountains as you travel southwest from St. Louis, Missouri. We are nestled right up against the Meramec River, a tributary of the Mississippi River. Our soils are unusual for the region in that they are very high in limestone. In addition to fruits and vegetables, we grow Bianca, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chambourcin, Malbec, Marsanne, Petit Manseng, and Viognier.
We grow grapes very differently from most Missouri vineyards. Most vineyards in Missouri like to grow grapes very spread apart and on flat ground, because when you do so, you can do all of the work with big machines. You can mechanically prune, mechannically cultivate, mechanically spray, even mechanically harvest. Instead, we grow grapes much more in the style of European vineyards, at very high density and often on steep slopes. The trade-off is that very little of our work can be done with machines – we do most of it by hand.
Another way we differ from most Missouri vineyards is that we are foolish enough to focus on vinifera, i.e., European wine grapes. Most Missouri vineyards grow hybrids. The hybrid grapes have been bred to tolerate cold winter temperatures and intense disease pressure during the growing season. Here in Missouri, we get very cold in the winter and we also have lots of rain and heat during the growing season. What comes along with rain and heat is humidity, and humidity leads to a lot of fungal disease e.g, mold, mildew, and rot.
But what the hybrid grapes have in vigor, they usually lack in flavor, which is why much Missouri wine is low quality. Questionable farming practices also contribute to poor quality of Missouri wine, because overuse of herbicides, pesticides, and fungicides tarnish the aromatics of the wine. Mechanical harvesting in a humid climate also means that all of the rotten grapes go in the fermenter right along with the clean grapes, so most Missouri wineries need to add sugar and overly manipulate the wine to make a sellable product.
We are more inspired by quality and flavor, so that’s why we struggle to grow European varieties and practice sustainable farming here even though it has yet to be economically profitable. This is definitely a passion project for us.
We do not fall into a particular camp when it comes to agricultural philosophy. If anything, we consider ourselves ‘biological farmers.’ The focus at Claverach has always been on the soil. We spend a lot of time and energy remineralizing our soils because balancing the soils allows the crops to defend themselves against weeds, disease, and pests. We try to feed the soil and feed the soil microbiology so that the plants can access their full genetic potential. This also allows us to grow crops with higher nutrient density, which is good from a health perspective and also translates to better flavor.
Sam believes in minimal intervention in the cellar. The goal is to bring in perfectly ripe, clean fruit so that the wines can essentially make themselves. Wines are fermented using native yeasts. They are all unfined and unfiltered, with minimal sulfite additions. Sam strives to capture the freshness of the wine. He gravitates towards lighter, elegant styles that are meant to be enjoyed young.
Domestic distribution is not exclusively through Indie Wineries.
Please contact us for information on your state.