In 2015 we set up an automatic camera in protected forestland near our organic vineyards to learn more about the local wildlife. The camera was placed at a spring high up the mountain. What a surprise it was to discover that so many animals visited to bathe and drink, including bears, foxes, deer, and many species of birds. The abundance of bears was especially surprising, as the shy and elusive creature is rarely spotted in person.
Another surprise was footage of a fisher (Pekania pennanti), a sleek and cat-like member of the weasel family, widespread in Canada. A narrow branch of their territory reaches southward to the northern Rocky Mountains, the Cascade Range in Oregon, the High Sierras, and amazingly along the Northern Coast Range of California where Frey Vineyards is located. It’s a beautiful creature that needs forestland to survive.
In 2016 we added a second camera at a bear wallow about a half mile from the first camera. Familiar faces appeared such as one particularly large, tranquil behemoth of a bear, as well as a wary bear always looking over his shoulder. In the following years we added a couple more cameras, most of which were lost in the great fire that swept through our area in 2017. The one that survived captured scenes of a slow-moving forest fire, which we’ll post soon.
The wildlife just a short walk from our home and vineyards reminds us about the importance of farming sustainably and organically, without synthetic pesticide drift to contaminate the water and ecosystems that sustain all of us. We hope you support organic food production by choosing organic when you can.
Check out our YouTube channel for the short versions.
A wonderful recipe from an Organic Wine Club member. Cover a 12 oz. bag of organic fresh cranberries with Frey organic red wine of your choice. Simmer a few minutes, until berries swell. Off heat. Add 1/2 cup chopped candied ginger, 1/2 cup (or less) raw sugar, zest and juice of one lemon. Cover and let sit a few minutes, and enjoy!
A quick video update on the progress of our new winery.
The arrival of spring has brought fresh cover crops between the rows of our organic vineyards, and is enjoyed by local wildlife on occasion. Each photo can be downloaded in higher resolution for use as your computer's desktop or wallpaper. We hope you enjoy!
Last month a bear was spotted almost daily for a few weeks as it grazed fresh grass in our organic vineyards. Normally they shun the lowlands of our valley with its dogs and people, preferring the high forests nearby. But in the aftermath of the Redwood Valley Fire last November, which wiped out whole communities near our vineyards, this old American black bear (they also come in cinnamon brown) was keen to explore newly opened territory, and perhaps driven by hunger as well. It has since moved on.
Click on a photo for a larger, screensaver image.
Following the wildfire last October, the rain and green grass quickly blanketed the lands with soothing vigor. This intrepid Great Blue Heron is lately making the rounds, hunting for frogs, insects and rodents among the new growth by our organic Syrah vines. These majestic birds, the third-largest herons on earth, usually find their meals by ponds and rivers. This one is broadening its culinary preferences by flushing out wild little edibles in the vineyards, far from the waterways.
We would like to share an update on Frey Vineyards. All of our family members and winery staff are safe.
Our beautifully rustic office buildings, tasting room, and bottling line have burned, but the main house and the insulated warehouse holding our case goods are unscathed. Our stainless steel wine tanks and the majority of the crush pad are also fine. Although vineyards typically don’t burn, with the intensity of this firestorm we did lose about 10% of our estate vineyards along the peripheries of the ranch. In addition to the home ranch, we have 300 acres of satellite vineyards scattered throughout Redwood Valley and Potter Valley that are in great shape.
Fortunately, we broke ground two months ago for our new winery site on West Rd in Redwood Valley, and this land is untouched. We are mourning the loss of many of our grand oak trees that provided summer shade and a diverse wildlife habitat, but at the same time we are grateful that healthy stands of oaks are thriving at our new location.
We would like to extend a huge thank you to our long-time friends at Barra, Fetzer, and Parducci wineries who have offered their certified organic facilities for temporary offsite winemaking. This is an invaluable help. We are looking forward to being able to bottle more wine soon with the help of a mobile bottling line arriving in the first part of November. You’ll be happy to know that we’ll be able to fill the Frey wine pipeline before the holidays.
The Redwood Complex Fire is 100% contained, especially with the help of a soothing rain last Thursday. We have deep gratitude for the teams of first responders who worked tirelessly to suppress the fire and keep all of us safe. Our hearts go out to our many, many friends and neighbors who lost their homes in this crisis. In the last weeks we have seen a tremendous outpouring of support from our local community and beyond for everyone affected by the fire. To help, please donate to the Disaster Fund for Mendocino County.
While the winery has been described in the media over the past week as “demolished”, we feel that this term doesn’t apply to our resilient spirit to rebuild. We are so grateful to live in a rugged back-to-the-land community that supports each other and has a collective power for renewal.
We are profoundly saddened by the loss of life that has occurred and the destructive force that fire can wield. Juxtaposed against a scorched aftermath, we also recognize the essential role of fire in the Biodynamic cycle. As one of the four elements, along with earth, air, and water, it demands our respect for its regenerative powers. We are heartened to hear the consoling words of a friend whose farm withstood a devastating wildfire two years ago. She said that the following spring was the most beautiful display of wildflowers on their property that she had ever seen. We’re looking forward to spring at Frey Vineyards.
A homemade flaky pie crust with creamy ricotta cheese and ripe heirloom tomatoes. Perfect during tomato season, and with a glass of Frey Organic Sangiovese.
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup ice water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound heirloom tomatoes
1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
Fresh chives and basil, garnish
Coarse salt and pepper
Crust: Start the crust by stirring together the flour and salt and then cut in the cubed cold butter until pea-sized pieces. Mix in the ice water by the tablespoon. The dough should be a bit shaggy. If you press it together it should stick, but just barely.
Scoop the dough out onto a clean surface and fold it over itself a few times to form a loose ball. Wrap it tightly in plastic and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. You know you did it right if you can see chunks of butter in the dough.
Filling: The most important part of this recipe is to salt and drain the tomatoes of any extra liquid. Slice the tomatoes and line a colander with them. Then sprinkle them with salt and let them rest for about 10-15 minutes.
When you’re ready to make the tart, roll your dough out into about a 14-inch round. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Then drizzle the dough with olive oil and spread the ricotta cheese. Leave about a 2-inch border around the edges so you can fold the dough over later. Add some slivered garlic to the cheese and top with tomatoes. Carefully fold the dough edges over the top and sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper and put it in the oven!
Bake the tart at 400 degrees F. for about 50 minutes. Rotate it once halfway through to make sure it’s cooking evenly.
After out of the oven let the tart rest for about 10 minutes to allow the filling to set up. Sprinkle chopped chives and basil on top and serve with a glass of Frey Organic Sangiovese.
Use fresh heirloom tomatoes in season, if possible.
Fresh basil, garlic, and chives.
Tomatoes ready for topping.
Ready to roll!
Ricotta cheese spread on the dough, then the garlic...
...and tomatoes on top. Ready for the oven.
The eyes get the first bite!
Fresh spring rolls should offer a pleasing contrast in texture (soft wrapper, chewy noodles, and crunchy vegetables) and flavors (fresh mint, basil, and cilantro; peanuts, spicy chilies, and salty sauce) which will pair perfectly with a cold glass of our Organic Pinot Grigio. Try to source organic ingredients for the health of farmworkers, your own health, and for future generations.
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into matchsticks
½ cup chopped green onion
½ cup fresh basil and/or mint leaves torn into ½ inch pieces
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup lettuce leaves chopped
2 cups cooked rice noodles
8 (8-inch) round brown rice paper wrappers
Peanut Sauce Ingredients and Recipe
¼ cup creamy organic peanut butter
1 tsp Asian chili-garlic sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
Cream together peanut butter and brown sugar, then add vinegar, chili-garlic sauce and soy sauce. Blend together to make a rich & creamy peanut sauce perfect for dipping in your Spring Rolls.
1. Prepare all ingredients in individual bowls.
2. Spread clean, damp dishtowel on counter. Fill 9 inch pie plate with 1 inch of room-temperature water. Submerge each wrapper in water until just pliable, about 2 minutes. Lay softened wrapper on towel. Scatter about 4 basil leaves, 4 mint leaves and 6 cilantro leaves over wrapper. Arrange 5 cumber sticks horizontally on wrapper, leaving 2 inch boarder at bottom. Top with carrots, lettuce leaves, green onion, and about 2 tbsp noodles. Fold bottom of wrapper up over filling. Fold sides of wrapper over filling and then roll wrapper up into tight spring roll.
3. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Serve immediately with peanut dipping sauce and a glass of Frey Organic Pinot Grigio.
We enjoy this family favorite with roasted root vegetables and a farm fresh garden salad. This dish pairs nicely with Pinot Noir due to the earthy flavors of the nuts, dried berries, and root vegetables.
Serves 4 to 6
4.5 cups water
1 cup sugar
6 (2-inch) strips orange zest thinly sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1½ cups basmati rice, rinsed
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup dried currants
¼ cup almonds, roughly chopped and toasted
¼ cup pistachios, roughly chopped and toasted
1.) Bring 2 cups of water and sugar to boil in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in orange zest and carrots, simmer until carrots are tender, 12-15 minutes. Drain and allow to cool on a plate.
2.) Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and 1 ½ teaspoons salt and cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in saffron and cardamom and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in rice, and cook for about 3 minutes or until the edges begin to turn translucent. Stir in 2 ¼ cups water and bring to a simmer. Reduce to low, cover, an simmer until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 18-20 minutes.
3.) Remove pot from heat and sprinkle candied carrots and orange zest, cranberries, and currants over rice. Place clean, dry dish towel over pot and return the lid to the pot with the towel underneath. Allow to stand for 10 minutes. Add almonds and pistachios and gently fluff with fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste.