The new winery site on West Road in Redwood Valley
At Frey Vineyards we are looking forward to breaking ground at our new winery this spring, and several of us are enjoying these rainy winter days making plans for the landscaping. The site is surrounded by oak-forested hillsides and reflects the incredible natural beauty of Mendocino County. In the middle of the vineyard is an irrigation pond fringed with cattails, which hosts an abundance of frogs, birds, insects and other wildlife. Garden themes will bridge the exquisite natural landscape with the art of winemaking and culinary pairings. The garden will include edible foodscapes as well as plantings of drought-tolerant California natives that are host plants for pollinators, beneficial insects, and Monarch butterflies.
At this winter’s Biodynamic Farm and Garden meeting I learned about Jail Industries, a two-acre nursery in Sonoma County that produces a wide variety of ornamental nursery stock including many California natives. It is the perfect plant resource for our new project. The nursery is part of Sonoma County Jail’s vocational program and provides low cost trees to cities, counties, schools and public agencies. In addition, it has provided over 50 schools with free vegetable starts and seeds. Their nursery is open to the general public by appointment and during their three plant-sales each year. All of the revenue goes toward funding the Agriculture Vocational Education Program for the inmates.
We are looking forward to working with this innovative project, which aims to help individuals gain practical life skills, as well as helping to preserve and protect the environment. To find out more go to: scoe.org/jailindustries
We look forward to having you visit our new winery in 2018!
Frosty organic grapevines.
As the dead of winter passes and visions of spring are in the air, life in the vineyards is once again returning. Our annual pruning work is well underway and we are now in the process of preparing for the eminent bud-break of the vines. With the emergence of fresh green growth on the vines we must have all of our frost protection systems in place.
Spring frost is one of the primary challenges to growing winegrapes on the North Coast of California. From the first signs of emergence from dormancy in early March until the last frosts of May, Mendocino County grape growers must be on call to protect their precious vines from freezing temperatures due to sudden cold snaps. There are a number of agricultural measures which can allow for lower temperatures to occur without damaging vines. These include late pruning to delay bud-break, mowing down cover crops early, increasing cold air drainage out of the vineyard and restricting cold air movement into the vineyard.
Unfortunately, these passive measures are often not enough to eliminate frost damage in colder areas. For the majority of vineyards in Mendocino County the only effective solution to control spring frost events is to use water. The concept behind this technique is based on the latent heat released as water moves from a liquid to a solid state. By continuously applying water to the vineyard, the water changing from a liquid to a solid state on the vines creates heat and protects the vegetation from frost damage, but only down to 25°F
In a standard-sized overhead sprinkler system, we need to supply 50 gallons of water per minute per acre. These rotating head sprinklers wet the entire vineyard canopy and floor. They typically rotate every 30-60 seconds, and 30 sprinklers are needed per acre regardless of the vine spacing or trellis type. Fortunately, we have adequate water supplies in the spring to deliver the quantities of water needed to protect our vineyards during frost events.
Frosty grape leaves on the ground.
The infrastructure necessary to provide the water required to protect our 330 acres of vineyards in Redwood Valley and Potter Valley is quite extensive. We have ponds, pumps, filters, valves, weather stations, thermometers, miles of plumbing and hundreds of sprinkler heads. Not to mention the manpower required to operate and maintain these systems.
On any given night from March through May we have 4 people on call if temperatures drop below 35°F. At this temperature, alarms go off and frost patrol begins. We have to monitor 13 different sites and be prepared to pump water to run sprinklers if any site drops below 33°F.
Frost patrol and protection can be one the most grueling tasks of the year. There are many sleepless nights and stressful mornings for those working frost patrol as there is so much on the line. One night of vines getting burned by frost can ruin the entire crop for more than one vintage.
On the other hand, frost has a number of benefits for grapevines. Cold temperatures slow down the spread of powdery mildew and inhibit many insect pests. Without frost, vines would never go dormant and vine pests and diseases would run rampant. The addition of extra water in the Spring can also help boost vine growth and increase productivity. Without frost patrol, grape growers would have a lot less spring work and a lot less to complain about. Keeping busy definitely helps to keep us out of trouble.
Snow on grape bud.
During a visit to Bali I got inspired by the local dishes. I loved their use of gingers – aromatic ginger, turmeric root, galangal and the fresh ginger root that we are more familiar with. Balinese also use a nut called a candlenut which adds texture and flavor. It’s similar to a macadamia nut. They use the leafy part of celery, which most people don’t, and which I’ve always liked because it’s so flavorful. Their chilies are red and quite hot and are served on the side in thin rounds. I used green serrano chilies for this recipe. Habaneros would be great also, if you like it hot. The Balinese also use an incredibly aromatic Indonesian lemon basil, called kemangi, and the pungent kaffir lime. Use them if you can get some. Also use lemon grass (cut it into one inch chunks and simmer it in the chili) if you can get it fresh. If you make this dish, please let us know your thoughts!
It pairs well with Frey Organic Pinot Grigio.
2 cups dried cannellini beans (any white bean can be used)
Cover with water a few inches above the beans, to allow for expansion, and let sit overnight. Drain and add water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil and simmer until beans are soft and creamy.
3 deboned skinned chicken thighs. Cut into ½ inch cubes. (Can instead use tofu, or any meat or fish)
2 heaping cups green beans – cut into ½ inch chunks.
2 heaping cups ½ inch chunks of peeled, seeded fresh pumpkin (or winter squash or sweet potatoes)
1 thinly sliced large fresh serrano pepper (or jalapeno or habanero chili)
5 large shallots – peeled and minced
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
5 cloves minced garlic
4 tablespoons chopped celery leaves (some stalk can be with it as well)
6 tablespoons finely chopped macadamia nuts
2 cans coconut milk
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 ½ cups thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
Fresh lime wedges for – garnish
Thinly sliced fresh chili slices – for garnish.
Do this step a day in advance. In a pot cover the dried cannellini beans with water a few inches above the beans (to allow for expansion) and let sit overnight. Then drain and add water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil and simmer until beans are soft and creamy. (You can just cook the beans on the same day, but it is better to soak them overnight first.)
Meanwhile, prep all other ingredients and place in bowls ready to cook.
When the beans are done, add the coconut milk, pumpkin pieces, cut green beans and celery leaves and simmer.
Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a sauté pan and cook the chicken pieces, shallots, garlic and chile slices for a few minutes over medium heat until done.
Then add to the simmering soup and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the slivered basil right before serving.
Serve in bowls with fresh lime wedges and chili slices on the side and each guest can squeeze in fresh lime juice to taste, along with the chilies for desired flavor.
Enjoy with a glass of Frey Organic Pinot Grigio.
Ingredients ready for cooking!
Sautéing in the pan!
Adding chopped basil to chili.
Winter on the Frey Ranch has been filled with rain this year. Mendocino County seems to be experiencing a Real Winter after many years of drought; the greens in all hues are vibrantly coloring the landscape of the ranch as the fields, pastures, and hedgerows have taken in water to a full saturation point. Gratefully, the weather has been coming in stormy spurts that allow a proper level of percolation between rainy downpours, and nature's irrigation program has been nearing perfection!
In the barnyard, extra rains mean extra worms, and the chickens have been happily foraging each day for the juiciest selections the earth promises to yield. The sheep, goats, and cows all seem to be tolerating the pouring heavens, although I believe that they are more interested in the prospects of delicious fodder in the months to come than the actual rain right now.
I was mucking the goat pen the other day: a process which involves gathering the pee and poo-soaked straw into wheelbarrows and bringing the earthy offerings to a pile nearby where compost can commence. We try our best to keep the pens cozy, but the added weather has been better for compost than for barn hospitality I'm afraid. Because our animals get to graze in the vineyard rows at this time of year, they have lots of time to frolic and stretch out their limbs in the great outdoors. Being able to run about on the gravel roads and rocky outcroppings allows them to maintain better foot/hoof health, and they love finding rare treats on their forays. Madrone leaves have been a particular favorite as of late. It's a true thing of beauty to be out in the vineyards, watching the goats find edible bites here and there, browsing between wild greens and cover crop legume sprouts.
Speaking of the goats, our herd has expanded for the winter. Some dear friends have brought their small herd of pack goats to play with ours for the winter months while they vacation in warmer climes. For those that haven't heard of pack goats, the concept is not unlike using horses, burros, or donkeys to carry the load for walking expeditions. The goats are usually given a modest pack to carry along on hikes; they dine on whatever is fresh and available, so there is no need to bring along food for them. In fact, the ladies offer up fresh milk to the humans, making them ideal companions on the trail. Because our friends’ pack goats like to spend their summers in the Trinity Alps of California's northern wilderness, and are used to lots of exercise, they have been fitting right into our daily walking adventures on the land. Both of their female goats and two of our goats are pregnant and due to kid this spring, when the sun has returned to longer, warmer days.
Until then, we're finding the best dry days to muck out the barn and savor extra-long walks among the dormant grape vines. Away in a manger, life smells of summer-cured alfalfa and grass hay. There might even be a tomten tucked up in the rafters, singing songs of sunnier days to the ruminating barnyard.
Mariposa Creek is enchanting. It has long been a sanctuary for hikers, and a cool refuge from the summer’s heat. With its low temperatures and persistent summer flow, Mariposa Creek currently hosts a high quality habitat for resident steelhead trout, a salmon species that has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and it is likely that it once provided refuge to vibrant Coho salmon as well. Russian River steelhead runs in California once ranked as the third largest, behind the Klamath and Sacramento rivers. During the 1930’s and on through the 1950’s, the Russian River was renowned as one of the world’s finest steelhead rivers, and a healthy economy thrived on fishing activity.
Mariposa Creek is a tributary of the west fork of the Russian River, and at their confluence the river’s pools can completely dry up in the summer when streamflows become subsurface below the gravel. For young fish, access to the upper reaches of the watershed where cooler canyons are fed by spring flow is critical for their survival. On the lower portion of Mariposa Creek, two fish passage barriers exist that inhibit migratory fish from accessing upstream habitat to spawn and rear. The first barrier exists at the Tomki Road culvert that was rebuilt in 1972, and the second barrier, which is only three quarters of a mile upstream, is a reservoir spillway. The reservoir was constructed in the 1960’s, and at the time was specifically designed to provide fish passage. Unfortunately, stream conditions changed over time and the depth of the channel became greater, creating a total barrier to fish.
Jonathan Frey, Alex Strassel (DOT), Josh Fuller (NMFS), Dan Wilson (NMFS, and Anna Halligan (TU) at Mariposa Park
Frey Vineyards and their neighbor Cathy Monroe of the Easterbrook Ranch have been enthusiastic proponents of restoring steelhead to Mariposa Creek. This neighborhood-led, voluntary restoration effort began in 2001 and now is gaining momentum due to the collaborative efforts of several interested stakeholders. Thanks to the efforts of Frey Vineyards and Cathy Monroe, and with the help of their agent, North Coast Resource Management, Trout Unlimited, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the County of Mendocino, a high priority salmon stream has entered into a preliminary design phase for exploring fisheries restoration options. Funding for this preliminary design phase of the project was provided by the NOAA Habitat Blueprint Program which is a strategic program that aims to integrate habitat conservation into existing agency programs by focusing efforts on priority areas, like the Russian River watershed. The program intends to increase the effectiveness of NOAA efforts to improve habitat conditions for fisheries along with other economic, cultural, and environmental benefits our society needs and enjoys. The preliminary designs will help the stakeholders explore the available options for restoration for both the on-stream reservoir and the county road culvert on Mariposa Creek. The project stakeholders will evaluate each option and then collaboratively select the best alternative that will achieve multiple benefits for fish, wildlife, and the surrounding community. Future phases of the project will most likely rely on securing grant funds in order to complete engineered designs and eventually construction activities.