Our Warre beehive swarmed today! We gathered to watch as the buzz intensified, rose up into the air, and found a place to rest in a tall redwood tree.
Life on the farm is full, as baby goats, little lambs, and spring plants take in the warm sunshine and thrive in the lush green landscapes of the farm and vineyards. This past weekend the Frey family hosted an Earth day celebration with foods from the land, to honor the abundance of life in the spring, and to appreciate the land that we all are grateful to be working with.
In biodynamic news, our preparations went to the BD prep-making conference in Colorado the first week of March along with Luke Frey, the farmer who made them. His preparations were judged to be the best of the conference for their substance, smell, and texture in a panel comparison of all the different preparations being made domestically. Go Luke!
We are pleased to announce the release of our first vintage ever of Tannat wine, from our West Road Vineyard. (Very limited production, available only at the winery or you may order online.)
First-time release of Frey Organic Tannat! Available online.
For those of you who love a rich, full-bodied tannic wine, you must try our Organic Tannat! It is rarely found in the U.S. today. We like it because of its intense fruity mouth-feel, sumptuous tannic structure and spicy finish. The 2010 production is limited to just 180 cases and Frey Wine Club members will enjoy a pre-release bottle with their April shipment. For more information about our Wine Club that offers specialty wines and year round discounts, please check here.
We planted one-acre of Tannat in 2007 and it’s been a thrill to work with this new grape. Tannat berries are thick-skinned and inky colored. It’s one of the most tannic grapes available, similar to a heavy Cabernet or Syrah. The color and depth of the resulting wine is impressive and the flavors are heightened with exposure to French Oak and some aging.
Tannat’s homeland is in the Basque region of southwest France in the appellation of Madiran near the Pyrenees Mountains, grown since the 17th century and highly prized. It is also the national grape of Uruguay and called Harriague by the Uruguayans, and the wine is softer and lighter than its French and American counterparts.
Tannat was first introduced to the US in the late 1800’s by the University of California at Berkeley and was primarily used as a blending grape for Meritage blends, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. It is now grown in California, Arizona, Virginia and Oregon and gaining increased notoriety as its own varietal.
We look forward to many delicious vintages of this unique wine to come.
In late January 2012, Katrina and Jon Frey attended Millésime Bio 2012, the world’s largest organic wine show at Montpellier, France. Jon Frey noted “It was an awesome showing of the whole spectrum of organic wines. Organic viticulture is growing rapidly in Europe.”
Millésime Bio organic wine convention hall in Montpellier, France.
The show featured wines from Europe, Eastern Europe and beyond, with 470 wineries represented. Katrina Frey said, “As the only US winery there, and coming straight from our NOSB victory to maintain the definition of Organic Wine in the US as wine made with no added sulfites, it was gratifying to meet so many European Winemakers who are experimenting with making non sulfited wines.”
We look forward to continue our participation in this event, to share notes and collaborate with more European winemakers as their non-sulfited wine movement expands.
Check out this video from Millésime Bio 2012, including a short interview with Katrina Frey at the end.
The practice of infusing wine with herbs goes all the way back to ancient times, and today it’s still a fun and tasty way to enjoy and enhance the flavors of your favorite wines with the benefits of herbal extracts.
Organic white and red wine infused with herbs.
Herbal infused wines have a long history throughout the world. The Egyptians used wines as a carrier for herbal remedies. Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania analyzed ceramics from Egyptian wine containers and found herbal residues dating back to over 5000 years ago! The herbs they identified included lemon balm, coriander, sage and mint.
In tenth century Europe, Saint Hildegrad Von Bingen recommended herbal infusions in wine and vinegar for a variety of ailments from weak heart to congestion. Many contemporary North American Herbalists recommend wine infusions as a simple and enjoyable way to incorporate herbs into your diet.
If human beings made herbal infused wines for millenniums, we had to try it too! Infusing a wine is very simple. Harvest a small handful of herbs for each bottle of wine to be infused. Make sure the herbs are clean and dry. Roughly chop them and blend together. Place herbs in a clean glass bottle or jar and pour in the wine and close lid tight. Let sit for 5 to 14 days. Taste your infusion each day starting on day 5 and when you like the flavor, strain out the herbs and enjoy. You can also pour off a portion of the wine and leave some in the herbs to extract more flavor. Don't overdo it with the number of herbs for each infusion. Keep it simple and find out what you like best.
It's simple, healthful fun and the results were wonderfully tasty! Below are more pictures of the steps we took.
The herbs laid out, ready for chopping up, and some fresh lemon zest.
Oregano and rosemary for the red wine, lemon balm and fresh lemon zest for the white wine.
Pouring Frey Biodynamic Cabernet Sauvignon into oregano and rosemary. Five days later, a tasty herbal infusion!
Today we had twin lambs born to a mother sheep under the warm sunshine, while bees buzzed to and from between the plum blossoms and their hives. We're hoping that we get the rain that would be so greatly appreciated in this dry year; and yet, I hope that the fruit trees get a good run at pollination before those rains come down so that we can have a fine set of fruit later in the year. Farmers and gardeners in our climate hardly had a break this past winter. More days than not the weather has been so warm that hibernation just wasn't an option. As seed flats are promising sprouts for the spring and summer, we're looking to make more and more time in the garden to prepare beds for this growing season. Luckily we have had enough rain that the grains in the vineyards are growing steadily, and all our ruminant friends are pleased with this years crop of grasses and pasture options.
Just as the winter solstice came to the Frey Farm, our sheep gave birth in the pasture. We've had three lambs born to date to our herd of Navajo Churros, and all are doing well. Baaaa! For more information about this heritage breed, go to the Navajo Churro Sheep Association website.
A big thanks to all of you who took the time to petition the National Organic Standards Board (NOSB). The board voted and they agree with you: sulfites have no place in organic wine!
With a 9-5 vote a few weeks ago, the NOSB rejected the petition that would have allowed sulfites, a synthetic preservative, into USDA certified organic wine for the first time. The petition would have allowed the addition of up to 100ppm added sulfite to organic wine despite the fact that organic processing laws expressly prohibit the use of synthetic preservatives. You helped to educate the policy makers about the quality and popularity of truly organic wines!
Non-sulfited winemakers banded together to advocate truth in labeling and to reject the watering down of organic standards. Representatives from several certified organic wineries gave public comment.
Thanks again to all who voiced their opinions. The large volume of public comments were crucial in keeping synthetics out of wine and other organic products.
Following is a press report issued after the vote:
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
December 2, 2011
The National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) voted to uphold organic wine standards. They rejected the petition requesting the use of the synthetic preservative sulfite in organic wine.
A coalition of organic winemakers and distributors including Frey Vineyards, La Rocca Vineyards, Stellar Organics, The Organic Wine Works, Ten Spoon Winery, Honey Run Winery, and Organic Vintages gathered to defend the integrity of the USDA seal, the gold standard for food purity.
“Organic wine has always been defined as preservative-free with no added sulfites,” says Phil La Rocca, founder of La Rocca Vineyards in Forest Ranch, CA.
Paul Frey, President of Frey Vineyards in Redwood Valley, CA states, “The preservative sulfite has never been allowed in any organic food that carries the USDA organic seal.”
John Schumacher of Organic Wine Works in Felton, CA remarks on the overwhelming consumer support expressed at the meeting and that "the decisive 9-5 NOSB vote was very gratifying."
During the months leading up to the NOSB meeting there was a huge outpouring of consumer support declaring the importance of truth in labeling and denouncing the addition of sulfites, a synthetic preservative, to organic wine. The Organic Consumers Association gathered over 10,000 signatures, and of the 484 comments posted on the USDA NOSB site, over 80% opposed the petition.
Schumacher sums up the victory by bringing it back to the health of the consumer: "Consumers can continue to choose award-winning USDA organic wines with no sulfites added.”
Steve Frenkel, owner of the New York distribution company Organic Vintages declares, "I am elated that we have prevented the proposed rule change which would have caused much confusion resulting in consumers being easily mislead and misinformed. Instead, I am very happy to report, this victory has insured the continuation of clear, honest, and forthright labeling of organic wine."
Harvest 2011 was an exciting one for North Coast grape growers here in Mendocino County, California. Two large rainstorms in early October got growers scrambling to harvest the fruit as quickly as possible. Our picking crew worked under gray skies during the day and at night under a Harvest Moon, successfully bringing in our entire crop in record time. The cellar crew worked overtime to process such large volumes. But then it cleared up and the vineyards dried out, allowing us to harvest less frantically during the final stretch. The pressing is finished now and the wines are put to bed for the winter as they complete malolactic fermentation. Mendocino County weathered the storms and we anticipate some great wines despite the challenging harvest. Look for the first of our 2011 white wines in early 2012!
Harvesting organic grapes, Mendocino County, California.
Barrie Lynn at the Cheese Impresario has some great tips to share with you on pairing your favorite Frey wine with fine specialty cheeses. She pairs Frey Organic Chardonnay with mouthwatering Gruyère, Frey Organic Sauvignon Blanc with some creamy goat cheese, and Frey Organic Cab with aged cheddar. Try one of the combinations at your next holiday party! The videos can be found here on YouTube.
We are thrilled to have completed the 2011 pressing of our Frey Ranch sunflower and grape seed oils, a part of our ongoing experimentation in local food production. After the red wine fermentation the grape seed was separated from the pomace, sun dried, then pressed. The grape seed oil is deep and complex with a distinct grapey flavor. The sunflowers grew quickly over the summer months and were easy to harvest with our mini-combine, which also harvests the grain crops from the vineyards. The fresh-pressed sunflower oil is new for us and a delicacy, with a rich, nutty aroma. Both are delicious oils for salads or drizzled over roasted veggies. Our seed-oil press is made in Germany and can accommodate a wide range of seeds, from grape to sesame. So far we have only experimented with grape seed and sunflower seed but we look forward to testing more oils in the future, as well as offering some of these oils, and the grains, to our customers. Stay tuned!
Grape seeds ready for pressing!