You and your winemaker husband, Brian Marcy, left Napa to found Big Table Farm in Oregon. What drove that decision?
We wanted to produce our own wines. Brian had been working in Napa for other people—Bruce Neyers and Helen Turley, among them—and Oregon was a great opportunity because land prices are so much cheaper than in California. We also had this crazy little backyard farm in Napa and wanted to expand it.
That was in 2006. How is the winery doing now?
Our first harvest, we had to cash out Brian’s 401(k) just to make 150 cases. Now we produce about 4,000 cases: seven Pinot Noirs, two Chardonnays, a Pinot Gris, a rosé and a number of others. It’s finally getting to the point where we’re not thinking all the time, Oh, my God, oh, my God, are we gonna make it?
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You combine some very traditional practices—farming with draft horses, for instance—with some very modern ideas, like the “virtual barn raising” crowd-sourcing campaign you did.
My friend Laura, who’s a farmer and by no means a wealthy person, said, “Hey, Clare, I’d be willing to give you a thousand dollars to help you build your winery.” I just kind of laughed—I was like, “Oh, Laura. Thanks. That’s really sweet. But I need a lot more than a thousand dollars.” You know, like $500,000. But then I remember thinking a day or two later that if Laura is willing to extend herself like that, how many other people would? That led to the crowd-sourcing campaign.