There has been a lot of talk about drought this year in California, and two months ago we were in the middle of one of the driest winters on record. Thankfully, since the beginning of February we have seen nearly 30 inches of rainfall in Mendocino County. Lake Mendocino, which provides water locally and for heavier populated Sonoma County downstream is finally filling up. Now, looking around, all of our ponds are overflowing, the hillsides are radiating brilliant shades of green, and the grapevines are awakening from their winter dormancy by sprouting fresh shoots.
Organic Syrah budding out, Frey Vineyards.
While grapes can survive in extremely dry climates, water is crucial to grape growing in areas of California like ours for frost protection. While the vines are breaking bud and the tender new growth that will become the fruiting wood for the season is emerging, we often experience killing freezes that can jeopardize the fruit and decimate a vine’s ability to produce to its full potential. To avoid frost damage grape growers use overhead sprinklers. When the nighttime temperatures approach freezing we turn on sprinklers which keep the temperature at 32 degrees and prevent damage to young shoots and leaves. We are still expecting to see some spring frosts, but so far nothing of consequence. This is good for two reasons: it allows us to save our precious water for irrigation during the dry months and it allows grape farmers to get some sleep instead of prowling the vineyards checking thermometers in the wee hours of freezing nights.
The month of April is quite often rampant with the anxieties of spring fever, and this year is no exception. We are wrapping up our vine pruning and tying work. Pruning is very important because it allows a farmer to control crop load, which directly affects quality. We are also moving full speed ahead with our mowing and cultivating operations. The grape prunings are chopped with a shredder and incorporated back into the soil. Disking in between vine rows incorporates organic matter from cover crops and also locks moisture in the soils by breaking capillary action that allows evaporation through the ground.
Long-range forecasts are calling for a hot and dry summer. During hot summers with temperatures over 100 degrees, Mendocino County enjoys temperature swings of up to 50 degree between day and night. This provides the setting for excellent fruit quality because the daytime heat leads to good sugar development and the cool nights keep the acid high, yielding rich and balanced fruit. Although there are still at least five months until we begin harvest, with quite a few variables to consider, I am beginning to believe that this year is going to be a top-notch vintage!
Spring chickens (and a duck) in organic Syrah Vineyard.
We created Organic Agriculturist Blanc exclusively for Whole Foods customers nationwide, later to be available everywhere. It comprises a delicious blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling grapes. Blended as a counterpart to the original Frey Organic Agriculturist red wine, the Blanc follows suit as a food-friendly and versatile white.
Fermentation in stainless steel and minimal manipulation in the cellar keep the flavors crisp and clean. Aromas of honeysuckle lead the way to refreshing tropical fruit flavors, nuanced by starfruit and lychee. Lush Chardonnay forms the body of the blend and Sauvignon Blanc delivers a hint of sweetgrass. A whisper of 5% Riesling provides a delicate touch of citrus-honey on the finish. Like the floral wreath engraving on the label, the Organic Agriculturist Blanc is the epitome of summer’s bounty waiting to burst forth.
Pairs well with grilled fish topped with peach salsa, or Vietnamese lettuce wraps with a sweet chili dipping sauce.
The label features Lily & Rosie Frey at work in the vineyard. The "A Day in the Life..." column reminds us that we know how to intersperse the hard work with good times here at Frey Ranch. The QR code leads to our upcoming video about young organic farmers and our commitment to caring for the earth for future generations.
Look for Organic Agriculturist Blanc at your local Whole Foods market later this spring!
Join us Saturday, April 12, from 3:00-8:00 pm at Frey Vineyards to celebrate our 3rd Annual Earth Day Biodynamic Farm Tour and Dinner.
Guided farm tours begin at 3:00 pm with a short hike to the barn to visit our farm animals and the bountiful Biodynamic veggie, flower and herb gardens. We'll stroll through the vineyards and olive orchard with a stop off for hors d'oeuvres and wine at the tower. A hay ride brings us back to the winery to celebrate the day with a festive dinner served at 6:00pm in our cellar tasting room. The dinner menu is prepared with seasonal organic ingredients from the Frey Ranch, paired with award-winning Frey organic and Biodynamic wines.
We'll be hosting the tour rain or shine, but we do recommend that you bring boots and an umbrella in case of rain.
Cost for the Farm Tour and Dinner is $45 per person, $30 for Frey Organic Wine Club members. Just the Farm Tour portion of this event is free for Wine Club members and children under 12.
Please call 800.760.3739 or email us (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information or to RSVP.
A tasty recipe from Lily Frey, who likes to make these appetizers for a crowd. We’ll be enjoying these at our Earth Day Biodynamic Farm Tour & Dinner!
20 brown or white button mushrooms
½ lb sausage, removed from casings or uncased (Vegetarian option: Add ¾ c. cooked wild rice or bread crumbs and extra onion and greens)
5 cloves garlic, minced
½ large onion, or 1 small onion, chopped fine
2 tbsp. minced fresh sage
¼ c. Frey Organic white wine
1 c. finely chopped greens (nettles, chard, kale etc.)
½ c. cooked wild rice
8 oz. cream cheese, at room temp.
1 egg yolk
¾ c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbsp. garlic butter (or 2 tbsp. melted butter with a clove of crushed garlic)
Salt & pepper to taste
1) Wash mushrooms and pop out stems. Chop the stems finely and set aside.
2) Brown and crumble sausage in a pan. Set aside to cool.
3) Using the same pan, sauté the onions, garlic and sage for 3 min. Add wine, then let it cook off. Add mushroom stems, then the greens, and let cook another 3 min. or until onions are translucent and greens are done. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside to cool.
4) Sauté mushroom tops in garlic butter with salt 4-5 minutes each side or until mushrooms are soft and partly cooked. Set aside and let cool.
5) In a bowl, combine cream cheese and egg yolk. Add cooled sausage, onions, mushroom stems, rice, parsley and ¾ C of the grated cheese.
6) Butter or oil a pan around 9 by 14 inches in size.
7) Heap each mushroom with stuffing and place in pan. Extra stuffing can go around mushrooms or refrigerated for later use.
8) Sprinkle remainder of grated cheese over the tops and bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown.
Share and enjoy with a chilled glass of Frey Biodynamic Chardonnay!
Copyrighted 2014, Lily Frey