Spring is in the air, in the barn, and in the fields! All the animals are enjoying the lush pasture from the rains, and have been steadily munching for months. Our goat herd has grown, and the goats that kidded in March now have attentive young following them on the goat walks through the vineyards. Because of the "bud break" (when the grapevines begin to sprout new shoots for this year's growth), the goats, cows, horses, and sheep are moving out of the vineyards to find forage instead in the meadows and grasslands. The chicken flock has also matured, making eggs for Easter omelets. The free-range eggs reflect the nutritious green grass of the pastures, as the chickens who graze on it have the beta-carotene needed to produce really rich and orange egg yolks. One of our hens went broody and hatched out her first nest of little chicks this week. And we have several "teens" strutting around the barnyard too, enjoying the bugs and grasses that this season brings.
Fresh farm eggs.
I created this salad to take advantage of a totally new, superbly rich wine here at Frey Vineyards: our just released Organic Tannat, vintage 2010. Balsamic vinegar reductions are one of my favorite ingredients to make from scratch, so I had to try the same reducing technique with this tasty tannat and its thick-as-ink texture. I was most surprised and pleased. The best flavors of the wine permeated the vinaigrette, along with its gorgeous color.
Roasted Beet Salad with Frey Tannat Vinaigrette.
The vinaigrette is added to a roasted beet salad, with red butter lettuce, fresh avocado and strawberry slices, a touch of onion, and raw chopped almonds. Enjoy with a warm baguette and a glass of Frey Organic Tannat wine.
I use all organic ingredients when possible.
1 large beet
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 large head of red butter lettuce
1 large avocado
1 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup raw chopped almonds
4 slices red onion
3/4 cup shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano (Parmesan cheese)
3/4 cup Frey Organic Tannat wine (a deep red wine)
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon orange zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon maple syrup
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Let’s start with the beet. Cut it into 1/4" thick strips, just like French fries but healthier! Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon thyme, a pinch of salt and pepper. Roast in a 350F oven until soft (approx. 20 min. to 1/2 hr.). Let it cool. Then toss with 2 teaspoons of the Tannat vinaigrette, which you will make soon. Set aside.
Roasted beets with Tannat vinaigrette added.
Now on to the main salad ingredients. Keep each separated for now, and handle some ingredients carefully as later you will use some for garnish. Wash and dry the red butter lettuce and tear into pieces by hand (otherwise you will have to eat the salad with the help of a knife, which I prefer not to do). Slice up the avocado and strawberries. Chop up the raw almonds (I prefer the almonds raw, as they are more nutritious and I love the flavor, but you may toast if you prefer). Separate the rings from the red onion slices. Shave the Parmigiano-Reggiano (I use a potato peeler which makes paper-thin translucent slices that are beautiful).
Slicing Parmigiano-Reggiano with a potato peeler.
Time to make the Frey Tannat Vinaigrette! Put into a sauce pan the Tannat wine, balsamic vinegar and the orange zest. Bring to a boil, then let it simmer until it reduces to around 1/4 cup, which takes about 15 minutes. Important: keep an eye on it because it’s possible to reduce it to thin air! Let cool a few minutes, then pour into a blender. Add the salt and pepper and maple syrup. With the blender running, slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin stream. It will thicken nicely (emulsifying technique) and the color will turn to a shade of purple.
Add 2 teaspoons of the vinaigrette to the roasted beets. Mix until the beets are coated.
One quick note about the remaining vinaigrette. I added half a cup to the rest of the salad and found that to my liking. You may prefer to add more or less to your taste. Adding all of it might be too strong for some. If you have leftover vinaigrette, you may use some as dip for the baguettes, marinate a steak in it, or save it for tomorrow’s salad!
Add the vinaigrette to the salad and toss in the salad bowl, so the dressing coats everything. Tossing tends to send the heavier ingredients to the bottom to hide under the lettuce. So for presentation, set aside 4 or 5 beautiful slices of the avocado and strawberries, the onion rings, and some chopped almonds – enough to garnish to your heart’s delight.
(Recipe & images copyrighted © Tamara Frey, 2012. All right reserved.)
Six kids joined the barnyard scene this week. They came every other day, twins for each of our three mama goats. Everybody is nursing well and looking very adorable in their warm little goat coats. The baby goat below was born just this afternoon and the pictures taken during its first hour. It's being licked clean by its very caring mother while it tries out its legs for the first time on fresh hay.
Frey Vineyards recently attended this year's Millésime Bio at Montpellier, France, the largest organic wine gathering in the world. One of the Frey grandsons, Alex, was mentioned on the popular news website HuffingtonPost.com, along with his mugshot! Below is a screen shot from the HuffingtonPost.
Our goats are ripe and ready to give birth, all of them are full term. On our goat walks through the vineyards I see the kids moving around from inside their mother's bellies. Goat gestation is about 5 months, and last fall we bred our does to a Nubian buck, which should make them all excellent milking kids. For now, we're keeping the barn stocked with fresh hay, and checking on the mothers all day long. This is the other part of animal husbandry: animal midwifery!
January on the farm has the taste of fresh grass for all our hoofed friends. The cows, horses, and goats are pasture feeding in the vineyards again, in-between rows of cultivated wheat and oat. Our herds have the dual purpose of fertilizing the vineyards and keeping the grass populations in check, like live-powered mowers. Our daily goat walks take us through the vineyards to favorite oak trees where acorn browsing gives the goats rich, luscious coats for the winter weather. And, while they munch on the wild blackberry hedgerows, the pregnant ones get a dose of herbal medicine to help tone their reproductive tract before the Spring kidding. We're expecting several births in the next few months, which makes this time of year extra exciting.
Our chicken program has also taken to the vineyards, where egg layers are happily scratching up grubs and weeds along the edges of the cultivated vines. All these animals make the land seem more like a farm, where a walk along the rows now has the sound of moos, neighs, and clucks! For biodynamic agriculture the element of having the animals on the land is especially important because the animals impart a special quality to the land. Additionally, the farm animals help us maintain the land as a sustainable system, which feeds us while we feed it with "black gold" manures.
In the gardens our family members are ordering seeds and getting out old saved seeds from the previous year to grow cabbages, peas, kale, broccoli, and other early crops. I just pruned the raspberries in our garden last week, and the fruit trees are next.
Our biodynamic farmer friend Hugh Williams of Threshold Farm was here for the past two weeks, teaching workshops on apple orchards and pruning our trees using his unique method. We also just hosted the Winter meeting of the Biodynamic Association of Northern California here at Frey Vineyards; it was a wonderful success and inspiring to have all the farmers come together to discuss truly sustainable agriculture amidst the backdrop of the vineyards. Frey Vineyards, which has become a model for biodynamics, was the first BD certified winery in the United States. Also, Katrina Frey is now a member of the Demeter board, spreading the conscious farming movement in the hopes that more farms will join.
For now, it's time to get back out into the fields, making flat mixes to sow our seeds in for the first crops of the year!
It’s a rare harvest day that our winemaker Paul Frey is not found in the wine cellar from dawn to the wee hours. But on Oct 26-28th, Paul traveled to Madison, WI to defend the USDA organic wine standard. He joined fellow organic winemaker Phil La Rocca of La Rocca Vineyards, along with Steve Frenkel of Organic Vintages, who distributes organic wines in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. They each addressed the National Organic Standards Board to argue against a proposed amendment that would allow the addition of sulfites to organic wine for the first time. Paul Frey said, “The other attendees we spoke to expressed broad support in continuing the ban of sulfites in USDA organic wines. People who believe in the foundation of organics recognize that sulfites do not belong in organic foods and wines.”
Philip La Rocca said he went to Madison, “Because I thought it was important to not just fight against sulfur dioxide in organic wine, but also because we need to be careful that we don’t open the door to allowing other synthetics in organic production. Let’s keep organics pure.”
Steve Frenkel said, "I flew to Madison because I think it's very important to maintain truth in labeling. The consumer has a right to transparency in making choices about what they are drinking."
Signed petitions are being collected by the OCA, to be submitted to the AMS Administrator who oversees the USDA's National Organic Program. Please help safegard organic food standards.
After a decade of correspondence between Frey Vineyards and yeast producer Llalemand, we are happy to announce the use of our first certified organic yeast for the 2010 Frey vintage. Llalemand, our longtime yeast provider, has always been committed to GMO free production but has now raised the bar with their first certified organic product, made especially for Frey Organic Wines.
Organic yeast is manufactured by feeding the yeast cultures organic foods rich in sugar and nitrogen, such as organic molasses and organic sunflower oil. This high quality traditional organic yeast is now used in all of our 2010 organic wines. (Frey Biodynamic wines are still made with no added yeast, fermented with their own natural yeasts in accordance with Biodynamic winemaking standards.)
Sherried Mushroom Soup
I’ve been making this wonderful creamy and delicious mushroom soup for years, using wild mushrooms when in season, and shitake when out of season. As always, I try to use all organic ingredients, as they taste better and are better for our health and planet.
This recipe can be made with Frey Organic Dessertage Port or Frey Organic Late Harvest Zinfandel as well.
Vegan alternatives are also provided.
Serves 4 to 6
2 cups shitake mushrooms
2 heaping cups sliced meadow mushrooms
2 heaping cups sliced portabella mushroom (usually 1 large portabella mushroom is enough)
1 large leek
3 Tbls chopped garlic. Which was 3 large cloves garlic
2 Tbls fresh chopped thyme. Or 1 tsp dry
6 Tbls unsalted butter (or coconut oil for vegans)
1 cup heavy cream (or almond milk, or coconut milk, for vegans)
1 cup sherry (or Frey Organic Dessertage Port or Frey Organic Late Harvest Zinfandel)
3 cups vegetable stock, or chicken stock
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black or white pepper
Scallions, cayenne for garnishing
Start by slicing the leek down the middle to the white part. Open the stalks under cool water to remove all the dirt which gathers where the green meets the white. Slice up all of the leek, mushrooms, the rest of the vegetables, and set aside
In a large soup pot melt the unsalted butter. Throw in the mushrooms, leeks, thyme, and garlic. Sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes. Turn up the heat for 10 seconds, or until the vegetables start hissing (but don't let them smoke!), then deglaze by pouring in the sherry. Immediately turn down the heat and let it all simmer for 2 minutes. Then add the vegetable stock. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and ready to puree. Blend the soup very finely. I use a blender for pureed soups. Return the blended soup to the soup pot. Add the cream and mix it in. Add seasoning, salt and pepper to your liking. Bring the soup back to a simmer ready to serve.
Fill up your prettiest bowls with the soup and garnish with slivered scallions and sprinkled cayenne. If you don’t want it spicy-hot use paprika for color. Serve with a fresh sourdough baguette, sweet butter, a salad, and your favorite Frey Organic White wine.
(Recipe copyrighted © Tamara Frey, 20101. All right reserved)