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!
This recipe for a classic holiday fruitcake is lightly sweetened with real honey and the fruit is soaked and simmered in Frey Organic Dessertage Port. It's easy to make and certainly will disappear quickly at your holiday party! I use organic ingredients whenever possible, to help organic farmers and the planet.
Holiday Fruitcake with Bitter Chocolate Sauce, made by Chef Tamara Frey.
Recipe makes one cake.
1 cup thinly sliced dried apricots. (organic Turkish apricots are usually not too dry and perfect for this)
1 cup thinly sliced dried figs
1 cup Frey Organic Dessertage Port (Mendocino dessert wine)
1 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature (vegan alternative: coconut butter)
1 cup honey
4 eggs (vegan alternative: an egg-replacer found at health food stores)
1 tablespoon vanilla
3 cups whole spelt flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon nutmeg (fresh ground nutmeg is best by using whole nutmegs and rough-grating them on a cheese grater)
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup chopped almonds
1 cup chopped walnuts
For the Bitter Chocolate Sauce and garnish:
¾ cup heavy cream (vegan alternative: just leave out the cream and simply melt the chocolate as-as; it will only leave the cooled chocolate on the brittle side)
1½ cups chopped bittersweet chocolate
½ to 1 cup chopped macadamia nuts
Preheat oven to 300F and generously butter an angel food cake pan (vegan alternative: coconut oil).
In small saucepan, combine the apricots, figs, and Frey Organic Dessertage sweet wine. Simmer until wine is almost boiled off, which takes 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool. In large bowl beat the butter with electric beater until creamy. Add honey and beat until blended. Add eggs (or vegan egg-replacer) one at a time, and beat well after each addition. Add vanilla and mix that in. Set aside.
In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, cranberries, almonds, and walnuts. Then gently mix in the apricots and figs by folding. Spoon it all into the buttered (or oiled) angel food cake pan. Bake approx. 50 minutes or until a knife inserted into center comes out clean. Let it sit 15 minutes, then extract it out of its mold onto a cooling rack. While it cools, bring the cream to a simmer (for vegans, skip to the next step). Add the chopped chocolate. Let melt a few minutes. Stir, then let it cool but not so much that it cannot pour out. Place the cake on serving platter, pour over the chocolate sauce, then garnish with the chopped macadamia nuts. Surround with pine boughs or other seasonal decorative.
A slice of Holiday Fruitcake!
(Recipe copyrighted © Tamara Frey, 2011. All right reserved)
In front of the Frey Vineyards winery this fall were several pumpkins lined up in a row upon which the oak trees settled their orange-hued leaves. The pumpkins were just harvested from the vineyard gardens and that scene inspired this tasty Thanksgiving side dish.
Glazed Pumpkin with Maple Walnuts, by Chef Tamara Frey.
Pumpkins are usually used for pies in the U.S. But the humble pumpkin is a winter squash after all and certainly can be prepared as such. So after some experimentation I came up with this dish in which the texture and taste of this famed North American squash is newly revealed in sweet & spicy tenderness. Serve it as a side dish with your next Thanksgiving dinner!
Serves 6 to 8
There are 2 steps for preparing the pumpkin. It’s first cooked in an oven, then glazed in a sauté pan. For vegans, coconut oil may be used instead of butter.
For the Pumpkin in the Oven:
1 medium pie pumpkin of about 4 lbs.
½ cup Frey Gewurztraminer
6 whole cardamom pods
2 cinnamon sticks
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut oil
For the Pumpkin in the Sauté Pan:
4 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut oil
½ cup Frey Gewurztraminer
2 tablespoons maple syrup
salt and pepper to taste
For the Maple Walnut Garnish:
1 cup walnut pieces (do not chop)
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon cinnamon
Pumpkin in the Oven
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut the pumpkin in half and scoop out the seeds. Lay the pumpkin halves face down on a cutting board. Cut off the skin with a knife, slicing downward and rotating as needed. Cut up the skinned pumpkin halves to ½ inch chunks. Spread out the chunks onto a baking dish. Toss on the cinnamon sticks. Before sprinkling on the cardamom, first crush the pods using a knife held flat against a cutting board. Now drizzle on the ½ cup Frey Gewurztraminer. Add the maple syrup and the unsalted butter or coconut oil. Mix the ingredients together a bit and spread out across the baking dish. Bake in the preheated oven for about 40 minutes. Stir about every 15 minutes. Pumpkin chunks will be al dente.
While the pumpkin is baking, toast the maple walnuts for the garnish. In a smaller baking dish throw in the non-chopped walnut pieces and add the maple syrup and cinnamon. Mix them up well so the walnuts get a real soaking from the syrup. Then spread it all out on a baking dish and toast in 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Set it aside. It will be used as the garnish in the final step!
Pumpkin in the Sauté Pan
Fresh from the oven now, throw in the baked pumpkin chunks into a sauté pan of medium-high heat along with 2 of the 4 tablespoons unsalted butter or coconut oil (you’ll be adding the other 2 tablespoons shortly).Pour in the Gewurztraminer and maple syrup, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir and cook down a minute, then add the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter or coconut oil. Swirl and stir till melted and incorporated into the sauce. Then put the glazed pumpkin into your favorite serving bowl. Garnish with the Maple Walnuts spread over the top. Be sure to arrange the cinnamon sticks with an aesthetic and personalized touch!
A cinnamon stick ads the final touch!
(Recipe copyrighted © Tamara Frey, 2011. All right reserved)
Angel Pasta with Salmon, by Chef Tamara Frey.
I’ve always loved salmon with a glass of Syrah, so I came up with this dish especially to enjoy with one of my favorite wines.
Angel Pasta with Salmon
Feeds 4 to 6.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 small red onions, peeled, halved and sliced thin
2 cups thinly sliced crimini mushrooms
1 cup yellow squash cut into matchstick sized pieces (julienne cut)
2 tablespoons fresh slivered garlic (cut garlic cloves very thin)
½ pound salmon steak, cut into ½ inch cubes
4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
4 tablespoons chopped chives
1 teaspoon whole mixed peppercorns
10 cherry tomatoes
½ to cup Frey Biodynamic Syrah
1 cup heavy cream
8 tablespoons fresh grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Melt butter in saucepan. Add the onions, mushrooms and squash. Sauté a minute or so, then add the garlic, peppercorns, salmon pieces, and half the herbs (save other half for garnish). Sauté a minute or so more, until done. Add the Syrah, cook it down until bubbly and thickened a bit. Then add the cream and let it cook until desired thickness. Season with salt to taste.
For the Angel Hair pasta: Cook ¾ pound of Angel Hair or Capellini pasta, following directions on package. Drain it, then season with extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Place pasta on a plate, then spoon over the Syrah cream sauce with salmon. Garnish it with the Parmigiano-Reggiano and the remaining half of the fresh herbs. Top it off with freshly sliced tomato halves, and enjoy with a glass of Frey Biodynamic Syrah!
(Recipe copyrighted © Tamara Frey, 20111. All right reserved)
The beekeepers at Frey vineyards have collaborated the past several years to create a habitat specifically for bees. This past spring, Luke Frey helped install a bee border to support the pollinators of our locality, and now this hedgerow has come into full bloom. Master gardener Kate Frey helped choose plants that would be beneficial to the bees by having a late-summer onset of blossoms and a drought tolerance for our California clime. Every day I see the bees taking full advantage of the precious August nectars, and I'm looking forward to the future of this perennial garden space.
Preparing the bee hedgerowLuke Frey preparing the bare land for the bee border.
Plants for the bee borderPlants in the pots, ready for planting in the bee border.
Bee plants are plantedThe bee hedgerow takes root.
Bee border in full bloomThe hegerow this August, with the plants in bloom, offering sweet flowers for the bees.