I recently interviewed Julia Dakin, a local horse woman here in Mendocino County, California, about the horse powered work that’s been happening on the Frey farm. A life-long horse enthusiast, Julia got interested in draft horses a few years ago. She wondered if it would be possible for local vineyards to convert to horse power to do the work currently done by tractors. She met up with Luke and Lily Frey, who have been experimenting with draft horse work on the farm for the past several years.
Luke and Lily have been working to develop a rapport with draft horses on the Frey farm. As they built relationships with the horses, they have branched out to harnessing the horses and accomplishing farm tasks and logging with the horses on the land. Julia noted that logging with horses is one of the most environmental ways to do forestry management, as the horses are able to get into more narrow and tight spaces with far less impact than a road and heavy machinery. The horses get to exercise, and the land gets tended more gently. This last spring, Andy, Bonnie and Lola (the horses), accompanied by Luke, Lily and Julia (the humans), pulled logs out of the forest, tilled the garden beds on the ranch’s biodynamic farm, and tested various implements in the vineyard.
From experiences with the horses, Julia took her research a step farther and enrolled in online classes by Elaine Ingham in soil science. Her studies led her to the field of no-till agriculture. As she’s been delving into the world of soil, she’s been postulating that horses might be able to create a niche for vineyard management, by practicing no-till methods with a roller-crimper tool that is hitched to the horses. Instead of tilling up the soil with a disc, which disturbs the soil life (worms, bacteria, fungi), the roller-crimper moves between the vineyard rows to smash down the cover crop.
If Julia’s work with the horses is successful, they may have a more efficient system of converting cover crops into soil fertility. Also, using the roller-crimper helps sequester carbon in the land, while protecting and nourishing the layers of soil ecology already in place. Julia also hopes to find through current research on test plots, that the soil being worked with the roller-crimper both enriches the land and could prove to be a cost-effective enterprise for local grape farmers, whether or not they use horses. Julia currently has horses that she’s working with to amass some data to look at the roller-crimper horse-power at different sites. Should her efforts prove qualitatively impressive, Julia would like to expand the ways that local vineyards become carbon sinks instead of a carbon source, by transitioning to more horse-powered tasks: seeding cover crops, mowing, roller-crimper, and perhaps harvesting.
Additionally, as part of the biodynamics program on the farm, we prepare a unique blend of organic, homeopathic herbal sprays that we apply to the crops to nurture soil fertility. At present, Julia and Luke have been having some horse-powered spraying sessions to see how the horses fare as the deliver mechanism for these potent land medicines.
There are several factors to weigh in about how and if a farm would convert to a horse-powered technology. Julia is quick to note that with the prevalence of cheap oil and the speed of mechanical inventions, horses have been relegated to a technology of the past. However, with the use of more innovative techniques, like no-till, horses may well prove themselves to be able to compete with mechanized technologyfor the lesser impact they have on the carbon footprint of the land and for the potentially important contribution to increased soil fertility.
For more information on Julia’s research with the horses, follow her blog at www.rganicnotill.com.
Click here for a YouTube video clip.
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
Forest Stewardship Council release:
“The Forest Stewardship Council mission is to promote environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world's forests.
Our vision is that we can meet our current needs for forest products without compromising the health of the world’s forests for future generations.”
At Frey Vineyards we strive to green every step of our winemaking, from the vineyard to the cellar, and finally to the wine label itself. This year we made the switch to using Forest Stewardship Council Certified paper. We are excited to join forces with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC). This step is a natural progression in the development of the most environmentally friendly winemaking possible.
In order to include the logo on our labels, the paper must pass through the FSC chain of custody, which ensures sound environmental practices from the forest to the paper manufacturer, the merchant, and finally to a print shop with FSC Chain of Custody Certification. We now have confidence that our label purchasing is supporting an independent, third party movement making real strides towards preserving forestland in the US and abroad.
People all over the world depend on forests to live. Worldwide 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their primary livelihood. Forests filter water and air and the fungal communities in forests support all life on the planet. They are also a crucial refuge for countless plant and animal species. Deforestation is noted as the second leading cause of carbon pollution, and causes an estimated 20% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.
In the US most forestland is privately owned and managed. With more than 40,000 family owned member forests, FSC works to create demand for products sourced from responsibly managed forests. Being a member of FSC provides incentives for these families to keep the forests and harvest them sustainably, and not to clear-cut for development or farming.
The Forest Stewardship Council was founded in Canada in 1993 and is dedicated to improving forest practices across the world. The Council formed in response to the lack of an agreement to stop deforestation at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio De Jaineiro. Boycotts of forest products had proven to be ineffective in protecting these vital ecosystems because they lead to devaluation of productive forestland. FSC started as a collaborative project by independent businesses and organizations. They created a chain of custody process and a logo, which have proven to be successful at encouraging responsible choices by consumers. The organization now operates in 80 countries and thousands of businesses and organizations are turning to FSC to help make responsible choices for the purchasing of forest products ranging from lumber to papers.
Apart from their work with paper, FSC has had a big impact on the manufacturing of green building. Green building represents the strongest sector of the construction industry. In 2012 an estimated 25% of all commercial and 20% of residential construction starts were in the category. FSC features over 1,000 Chain of Custody building products with more emerging each year.
We want to thank FSC staff and members for their dedication and innovation in supporting responsible forestry! We are proud to be a part of this growing movement.
This traditional Jewish recipe has been enjoyed by our family since the early 1970’s when a dear friend of ours introduced it to us. It was a version of the sacred bread used for the Jewish Sabbath, and passed down from her family. We have always enjoyed this special bread at weddings, Thanksgiving and Christmas, and would like to pass it on to you.
Fresh Challah Bread.
Makes two large loaves
8 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 tbsp. dry yeast
3 ½ cups milk
4 tbsp. honey
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup walnuts (optional)
5 more cups of flour
In a large bowl, stir together 4 cups of the flour with the salt and dry yeast. Save the remaining 4 cups of flour for later.
Next, place a sauce pan on low heat and mash up the butter, milk and honey. You can use a large fork or a whisk to do the mashing and mixing. Don’t let it get too hot or it will kill the yeast. When butter is melted and mixed with the milk and honey, remove from heat and add to the dry ingredients. Beat with a whisk until well mixed. This mixture is called a sponge. Cover with a damp cloth. Then place the sponge in a warm draft-free area for 15 minutes to let the yeast activate.
With the mixture still in the bowl, whisk in 3 eggs (as well as the optional 1 cup of walnuts.) Slowly add the remaining flour one cup at a time for the first 3 cups. Beat well with a wooden spoon after each addition. As the dough develops it will slowly come away from the sides of the bowl and become less sticky. At this point take the dough out and put it on a floured surface to start the kneading. Keep adding the flour in small increments until the Challah dough is smooth, elastic, and forms a ball. Knead the ball of dough for about 10 minutes more to develop the gluten. This is a great upper-body strengthening exercise!
I was taught that when you pull the dough apart, if it stretch’s thin, and does not break, it’s ready. (If you used whole wheat dough it will not be as elastic.)
Now, let’s let it rise. Dust a large bowl with flour, or smear with softened butter. Put in the dough and cover with a damp cloth and let sit in a warm place for approx. 45 minutes. A warm oven works well in cold weather. Let the dough rise until it doubles in bulk. (When using whole wheat flour, it rises and softens, but does not double in size.) Punch the dough down back to size, put it back on a board, and knead into a ball. Divide dough in half. Then divide each half into three. Roll each of the 6 pieces of dough into a long, thin strand. Braid three strands at a time, forming 2 loaves. Place braided dough on a cookie sheet in a warm area and let them rise. After they rise and are soft to the touch, beat an egg in a small bowl and very, very gently brush the egg wash onto the loaves using a pastry brush. Sprinkle with poppy seeds. (The risen dough is a bit fragile at this stage when ready to go in the oven. Don’t jostle it. If it deflates, knead it again and let it rise again.)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the two breads in oven and bake for approx. 35 to 40 minutes, or until Challah is golden brown and sounds hollow when knocked gently with your knuckles.
It’s superb when served with sweet butter!
Challah dough made with whole wheat and added wallnuts.
(Recipe & images copyrighted © Tamara Frey, 2013. All right reserved.)
Looking for the perfect gift for the holidays? An annual Frey Organic Wine Club membership can be a great answer! We take care of selecting 4 or 6 bottles of organic and Biodynamic wine, packed 3 times a year, and shipped directly to your lucky recipient, tasting notes and pairing suggestions included. And as an added bonus, you as the gift-giver receive 20% off any wine you purchase from us during the year. You have the option of paying a one-time fee of $150/year for a New Moon (4-bottle/shipment) subscription or $300/year for a Full Moon (6-bottle/shipment) subscription, or pay in 3 installments billed at the time of shipping. Shipping charges are additional.
This year’s Holiday Shipment includes a great selection of new releases, and debuts our new Biodynamic label. We’ll include a gift message explaining the details of the club and a pack of pretty cards from our vineyards. Does your friend prefer just red wines? Ask about our Reds Only option for either club tier. We look forward to welcoming your friends and family to the Frey Wine Club! Call us at 800.760.3739 for more details.
In 2011 we were greatly honored when our family was included in an exhibit at the Grace Hudson Museum, Mendocino County’s premier museum in the city of Ukiah. The exhibit was titled “Look at Who We Are: Stories of Home,” which showcased some of the historical families and institutions of the county. The exhibit included the Yokayo Rancheria, the Greenfield Ranch, the City of 10,000 Buddhas, the Wong Family, Measure H and the ban of GMOs in the county, the long-closed Mendocino State Hospital, the Masonite wood mill, the Palace Hotel, and Hop Production in nearby Hopland. When you visit Mendocino County, don't miss the Grace Hudson Museum on your way through!
Part of the Frey Family exhibit in the Grace Hudson Museum, 2011.
Below are more items from the exhibit including the captions written by the museum.
WINE BOTTLE DISPLAY TOWER, Circa 1985
"This wine display was created out of metal scrap by members of the Frey family for a natural products tradeshow in which they participated. These labeled bottles almost span Frey Vineyards winery’s entire existence. All the labels from 1993 onward were designed by Theresa Whitehill at Colored Horse Studios, with the Frey name penned by Papa Frey [and modified by local artist Catherine Woskow], and printed by [local print shop] Mendo Litho. From the top down, the “Organic Wine” illustration was done by Catherine Woscow, the “Biodynamic Wine” illustration by Kate Gould, the “Dessertage Wine” illustration by [Frey in-law Andy Power], the “Natural Rosé” illustration by [local artist] Jan Hoyman [of Hoyman-Browe Studios], and the “Pacific Redwood Red Wine” illustration by Andy Power. [The bottom three original labels were designed by winemaker Paul Frey]."
[Hand hoes used by Frey Family] HAND HOES
Metal, wood, Circa 1980
"Made by members of the Frey family out of local wood and scrap metal, one of these planting hoes’ custom handles is fashioned for a right-handed user and the other is made to fit a left-handed user."
GRAPE STAKE POUNDER
Metal, Circa 1980
"This pounder, made by members of the Frey family, has had extra weight added to its head to better help when driving grape vine stakes into the ground."
GOURD WITH GRAIN
"This grain was recently grown by the Freys as a cover crop, interspersed among the rows of grapes in their [Redwood Valley] vineyards. Three Anderson Valley farmers – Sophia Bates, Doug Mosel and John Gramke – have spearheaded efforts to reintroduce grain production into Mendocino County. The Frey family is participating in this project. The grain thus grown is distributed locally through CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) shares."
EARTHENWARE WINE JUG
Ceramic, Circa 2003
"Paul Frey, head winemaker, commissioned this jug from Ukiah's Hoyman-Browe Studio. The jug's design harkens back to the Classical Greek and Roman eras when similar vessels called amphoras were used for transporting and storing such commodities as wine, olive oil and garum, (a fermented fish sauce). It is used in an experimental wine aging program at Frey Vineyards."
Tomato Sauce, Pickles, Vinegar, Pears
"Frey family members enjoy gardening and grow much of their own organic fruit and vegetables. They pickle and preserve this produce for later use."
"This prestigious “Sustie" (or Steward of Sustainable Agriculture) Award has been nicknamed the “Gourd Award.” It was presented to Frey Vineyards in 1997 at the 17th annual Eco Farm Conference in Monterey, California."
[Frey Vineyards plate made by local artist] PLATE
Sierra Nevada Clay
"Local potter Jan Hoyman made this plate in a studio at Frey Vineyards."
"One of the many awards won by Frey Vineyards wine."
After a near perfect growing season for the second year in a row, the 2013 grape harvest began fast, furious and early. The first grapes came through the crush pad on August 27th, about 2-3 weeks earlier than usual. Then an exceptionally warm and dry autumn stretched the harvest out for 10 weeks until the final load of grapes came in on November 4th! The first and last grapes to pass through the crusher this year were Chardonnay, often the first varietal to be wrapped up. In 33 years of winemaking at Frey Vineyards this has never happened! Every year is different and 2013 was no exception.
Derek, Andy & Adam, organic grape harvest, 2013!
Although we had our average of around 50 inches of rain this year, it fell in an abnormal pattern. December 2012 gave us some near flooding rainfall to contend with and we were anticipating a typically wet January 2013 as well, but it barely rained. Next came February, then March, then April, then May. With less than 6 inches of rainfall going into June we were expecting a California drought-like summer, and that is exactly what we got. Wild weather events included a little storm in June, a thundershower on 4th of July after seven days of 100+ degree weather, no rain in August, and an unusually wet storm at the end of September.
Not only was 2013 much drier than usual, it was quite a bit hotter as well. We saw numerous April days in the 90’s. May was next to normal aside from a rogue frosty night on the 28th that nipped the tender flower clusters in some Syrah and Merlot vineyards. June had six days that broke 100 degrees plus another eight days in the 90’s. The dry, windy 111 degree day on Saturday the 8th of June was especially devastating for our Cabernet Sauvignon grapes. The delicate grape flowers were just beginning to set berries, and in some fields we actually watched them falling off in the breeze. The fruit simply got cooked in the heat.
After surviving 17 days between 100 and 112 degrees in July the vines enjoyed a relatively mellow August in Redwood Valley. With all the stress associated with the dry heat we began to see veraison (grape color change) in mid-July as opposed to early August. We had to kick it into high gear to prepare for an early and potentially fast-paced harvest. We had just completed installing irrigation and planting almost 16 acres of new vines in three different fields when harvest began with a bang!
The first weeks in August were full of activity. We harvested white grapes in the wee hours of the morning to bring them in cold for optimal whole cluster pressing. We spent time working out the mechanical kinks in the equipment and started the process of visiting vineyards to test sugars and acids and lay out the harvest schedule. Everything seemed to be happening at once, but then the weather shifted.
Despite two wet storms in September, October provided near perfect fall ripening conditions. We let our red grapes hang until they were fully physiologically ripe, perfect for organic, low intervention winemaking. With the good weather the sense of urgency lessened and we had one of our longest harvest seasons. It started early and stretched into a slow, lingering finish after 69 days. The wines are still young but are tasting great! We look forward to a great vintage with outstanding quality. Get ready for some delicious 2013 wines. Cheers!