After 30 years of organic grape growing we are continually interested in diversifying our farm or bringing back lost traditions. A century ago, Mendocino County grew all of its grain, and we’re experimenting with bringing local grain production back! Much of the prime grain lands of the county have been converted to vineyards, but we are now demonstrating that grapes and grains can be grown together.
Organic wheat growing in Frey organic vineyard.
Frey Vineyards is collaborating with the Mendocino Grain Project and a handful of local vineyards and small farms to bring the tradition of grain growing back to Mendocino County. Together with the Grain Project we have purchased a small combine that can fit between vineyard rows to harvest grains and dry beans. In the fall of 2009 we inter-planted a variety of wheat, oats, barley and rye in every third row of selected organic vineyards. The combine ran through our vineyards in late July and we reaped several bushels of fresh grains. This year didn’t bring huge yields, but we identified the most productive sections of our vineyards and will fine-tune planting and cultivation practices to increase productivity in the years to come. This is an exciting project that is moving us closer to our goal of increasing local food production and rethinking what vineyards are capable of.
Doug Mosel of Mendocino Grain Project driving the mini-combine.
Wheat between the vines.
This is a simple and tasty mashed potatoes recipe and popular with my customers. It involves a slight variation of the French technique of flash-heating, where you throw some spinach and garlic into a hot pan, for example, for a quick flavor-enhancing searing. But in this case the raw spinach and chopped garlic are added to the piping-hot potatoes while mashing commences. The heat of the potatoes cooks the spinach perfectly, and leaves the garlic pungent.
If the sun is out, use a solar oven to boil the potatoes in a carbon neutral way (see pictures below). We use a Sun Oven, not cheap, but it will pay for itself by reducing your energy bills and keeping your cooking carbon-neutral.
Serves 4 to 6.
6 medium red potatoes. Do not peel. Most of the nutrients are in the vegetable peel. Go organic if possible, as pesticide residue lingers in soil where potatoes grow.
1 bunch fresh spinach, washed and chopped.
2 cloves chopped garlic. Add more or less, to taste.
6 tablespoons unsalted butter (tasty vegan alternative: extra virgin olive oil)
¼ to ½ cup of whole milk, or half and half, or cream (vegan alternative: save some of the water used to boil the potatoes).
6 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley.
Salt and pepper to taste.
Boil potatoes until soft. Drain the water and start mashing the potatoes until chunky. Mix in the butter or olive oil, chopped garlic, parsley, and chopped spinach. Add the milk or cream to your preferred consistency (if you are vegan, save some of the potato water and use it with the olive oil for the consistency you desire). Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with a sprinkle of paprika or cayenne.
Another delicious option is to add a little feta cheese, either to mash into the hot potatoes or to sprinkle on top when serving.
(Recipe copyrighted © Tamara Frey, 20101. All right reserved)
Organic potatoes cooking in solar oven, well above the boiling point!
Piping hot, solar cooked, carbon neutral, organic potatoes! Yum!
Stephen Cooper and Shaun Phillips from the San Diego Chargers were shooting The Learning Channel’s upcoming cooking show, "Kick Off Cook Off." And look what’s on their cooking station counter: Frey Organic Cabernet Sauvignon. Though we're loyal 49er fans here in Northern California, in this case we yell wholeheartedly, Go Chargers!
For 6 to 10 people
1 pound softened goat cheese
¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon grapeseed oil (optional)
dash of salt (optional, to taste)
1 tablespoon fresh chopped rosemary
2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
1 tablespoon fresh chopped garlic
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper (or to taste)
½ cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes
Press the softened goat cheese flat into a platter with a raised rim (see picture). Choose your prettiest platter for best presentation. The cheese should be flattened to about 1/2 inch thick. With your hands, shape the cheese so the rim rises up about a quarter inch. This will prevent the oils from spilling off the top of the cheese. Use a fork to poke holes into the cheese, (this allows the flavors of the olive oil, vinegar, and herbs to penetrate better into the cheese). Be careful not to poke the rim.
Drizzle half of the oils onto the cheese. Then sprinkle on the fresh chopped herbs, garlic, salt, pepper, vinegar, and sun-dried tomatoes.
Drizzle the rest of the oils over the mixture. Put the cheese in the refrigerator and let marinate overnight. This allows the oils and flavors to marry right into the cheese. But this dish can also be enjoyed immediately, with no marinating.
Serve with crostini, gourmet crackers, sliced cucumbers, or carrot sticks.
This appetizer was recently served at a wedding at Frey Vineyards to 450 people. We used 5 gallons of home-made goat cheese!
(Recipe copyrighted © Tamara Frey, 2010)
The goat cheese before the topping.
We are pleased to announce the release of our 2009 wines! 2009 was a fine year for grape growing and winemaking; good spring weather resulted in a nice fruit set and we had excellent ripening conditions throughout the summer and early fall. We collaborated with over 20 local organic family farmers to crush around 1400 tons of grapes, including those grown on our own farm.
Just released are the 2009 Organic Syrah, Organic Pinot Noir, Organic Chardonnay, and Organic Sauvignon Blanc.
We are also pleased to announce the return of Gewurztraminer, grown by local rancher Buck Guntly at Cold Creek Vineyards. The 2009 Gewurztraminer will be available in September.
The 2009 wines are smooth and fruity and ready to drink. We hope you will enjoy them as much as we do!
In contrast to the excellent 2009 grape growing season, 2008 was a challenging year for Mendocino County vintners. Late season frosts caused up to a 50% loss of fruit in several vineyards and the legendary Mendocino summer wildfires of '08 introduced winemakers to the challenge of smoke taint in some wines. We are happy to move forward with 2009, a balanced and delicious vintage!
One of the herb gardens at Frey Vineyars.
As the weather warms with spring, we find ourselves wanting to reconnect with the sun, plants and the soil. What better way than to get outside and garden? For those of you who love wine and gardening, consider planting a wine sensory garden with fruits, veggies and herbs that compliment your favorite wines.
Tasting wine is a full-body experience. Wherever you taste wine the colors and smells of the tasting area, as well as your mood and state of mind, influence how a wine tastes. Wine sensory gardens deepen the sensory experience by incorporating sight and touch. When tasting wine in a garden, the aroma is enjoyed by the nose, the taste and texture by the mouth. But you also engage your eyes and experience the sight and colors of surrounding plants, as well as other senses to enjoy the smell, taste, and touch of the garden.
Wine sensory gardens are usually segregated into white and red sections, with sitting areas in each for tasting and dining. The gardens are arranged into blocks, each corresponding to a given varietal, such as Chardonnay or Zinfandel. Upon entering the space, you are surrounded by the color and scent of the garden, as well as the plants whose flavors are used to describe the particular varietal. This enhances your tasting experience and compliments the flavor and aroma of the wine. For instance, the Chardonnay garden would have white, yellow, and light green foliage, maybe a pear and apple tree; perhaps a beehive, and also herbs that pair well with Chardonnay, such as tarragon and lemon thyme. A Zinfandel garden could have raspberries and blackberries, as well as red-leafed plants, perhaps some sweet peppers and coriander. Cabernet gardens can have bell pepper, rosemary and chocolate mint.
Below is a list of common wine varietals, and some of the plants whose flavors are commonly used to describe their flavors.
White Wine Garden Plants
Melon, corn, sweet pepper, fennel, artichoke, lemon, grapefruit, peach, pear, apple
Chardonnay – Apple, pear, lemon, lavender, honey (beehive), gardenia.
Sauvignon Blanc – Citrus, dill, lovage, mint, cilantro, ginger, honeysuckle
Red Wine Garden Plants
Squash, tomatoes, parsley, beets, eggplant, potato, pomegranate, raspberry, blackberry, mushrooms, oak
Pinot Noir – Plum, sweet basil, oregano, mint, violets, strawberries
Sangiovese – Garlic, sage, basil, currant,
Syrah – Prune plum, sage, basil
Petite Sirah – Chives, rosemary, oregano, red pepper
Cabernet Sauvignon – Bell pepper, rosemary, chives, mustard, oak, cedar
Merlot- Bell pepper, nasturtium, patchouli
Zinfandel – Raspberry, blackberry, oregano
Once you have created a beautiful sipping space, it is time to start enjoying it! A sitting area allows you and your guests to relax and take a break from today’s busy world and enjoy the sights and scents of your garden. Perhaps share a meal cooked with fresh produce and herbs from your garden. (See previous blog below!)
This classic butter spread is easy to prepare and a favorite of my customers. Serve it on warm baguettes or fresh sour dough French bread. In fact, it’s delicious on many dishes. Spread it on baked potatoes or mashed potatoes, add it to fettuccini, brown rice, couscous, or quinoa. Also, a fresh tomato garnish goes great with many of the above pairings, though I did not include it in the recipe below. Pair it with your favorite Frey Organic Wine. I especially like it with Frey Organic Sangiovese.
1 pound of unsalted organic butter (the butter should be soft but not melted)
6 finely chopped cloves of garlic
1 heaping tablespoon of finely chopped rosemary
1 heaping tablespoon of chopped parsley (you can also use basil)
¼ cup of extra virgin organic olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
In a food processor put the butter, garlic, rosemary, and parsley. Blend all the ingredients while adding the olive oil until the mixture is smooth. Put the mixture in a bowl and garnish with rosemary and parsley leaves.
(recipe copyrighted © Tamara Frey, 2010)
The ingredients ready to go.
The first bit of olive oil into the Cuisine Art.
The ingredients thoroughly blended.
Organic Rosemary & Garlic Butter – ready to enjoy!
(Recipe copyrighted © Tamara Frey, 20101. All right reserved)
When pairing food and wine the goal is to create a complement of flavors that enhances the taste of each. Today, many chefs are taking it further by pairing wine to the specific herbs they use in dishes. French chefs have used herb-infused wine sauces for centuries, creating flavorful classic bistro dishes like mussels steamed in wine and herbs.
Spring is one of the best times of year to harvest and eat fresh herbs, when they are putting out their tender, potent new shoots that burst with flavor. A foolproof sauce for any combination of wine and herbs is to melt butter (for vegans use a butter substitute like Earth Balance spread or olive oil) in a saucepan and add herbs and wine and salt to taste, cooking it down until it thickens slightly. Serve over meat or vegetables.
We recommend the following herb and wine combinations and encourage you to experiment with new ones!
Chardonnay – tarragon, lemon, lemon thyme, basil, lavender
Frey Natural White – tarragon, marjoram, thyme, chervil
Sauvignon Blanc – dill, lovage, mint, cilantro, ginger, lemongrass
Pinot Noir – sweet basil, oregano, mint
Frey Natural Red – basil, thyme and sage
Sangiovese – garlic, sage, basil, rosemary, oregano
Syrah – sage, basil, rosemary, chocolate mint
Petite Sirah – chives, rosemary, oregano, black pepper
Cabernet Sauvignon – rosemary, chives, black pepper, mustard, chocolate mint
Merlot – basil, oregano, white pepper
Zinfandel – chipotle peppers, cumin, coriander
Early in April, a dramatic example of the biodiversity of Frey Vineyards played out in my front yard. A bear paid a nocturnal visit to the beehives that are 20 yards from my house. Three of my four hives were knocked off their stands, opened up, and scattered in all directions. Everything you learned about bears and honey from Winnie the Pooh is true. But this bear not only devoured all the honey, he or she feasted on the unhatched bee brood, as well.
I was shocked at the devastation and also puzzled that it happened now, after 4 years of successful beekeeping in this location. Then I realized that my 16-year-old border collie, Chester, who died in December and neighbor Tamara Frey’s old dog, Madrona, who died last month had not only been good dogs, but were also apparently maintaining a bear-free zone around our houses. Googling the California black bear, I learned that bears are diurnal, but will adjust their schedules to the challenges of their surroundings: in this case, foraging at night to avoid the humans. (Note on the California State Flag above: it depicts a grizzly bear, which no longer roams the state. But its smaller cousin, the black bear, still thrives.)
Back at the scene of the crime, my son Johnny and I scooped up pathetic clusters of stranded bees and patched the hives together. A few days later, our new intern, Keith Gelber, who has had the privilege to work with the famous Biodynamic beekeeper, Gunther Hauk, showed me how to cut out sections of comb with newly laid eggs and unhatched brood from an undisturbed hive. We rubber-banded them onto frames and placed them in the bear-attacked hive. We also combined two colonies into one. Now, a few weeks later, one of the colonies is alive and well. The clever bees transformed a newly laid egg into a queen. If all goes as nature intends, she will soon hatch and fly off for her virgin mating flight. She’ll return well fertilized from the neighborhood drones and begin her egg-laying career -- laying an astonishing 1500 eggs per day.
The other hive gave up the ghost. Their population was probably too decimated to carry out all the tasks necessary for colony survival. I guess it’s time to get another dog.
We're proud to report that healthy-living advocate Diana Stobo recommends Frey Organic Wines in her new book,Get Naked Fast. Check out her website!