Harvesting Frey Organic & Biodynamic Estate Cabernet Sauvignon.
Due to a warm spring and hot dry summer conditions, the 2014 harvest started 2 weeks ahead of average. The first three weeks were very busy because all of the white varietals got ripe at the same time. September and early October were hot, and all berries reached optimal sugar levels ahead of other years, so clusters were allowed to hang and reach physiological ripeness, with nutty seeds, non-bitter skins and gentle tannins. We got some much-needed rain during harvest, but it wasn’t enough to alleviate drought conditions or damage fruit. Across the board, the quality was exceptional and yields were near average.
Vineyard Manager Derek Dahlen at the weigh station.
Frey Vineyards is now farming a new ranch here in Redwood Valley! The Walt Ranch is planted with Chardonnay, Zinfandel, Cabernet and Petite Sirah grapes and was managed organically by veteran grape grower Tony Milani for the past 25 years. Tony passed away in March and we look forward to carrying on his tradition of organic grape farming on this beautiful land.
Adam Frey rescues a Pileated Woodpecker.
This year we had visits from several wildlife friends: deer, fox, turkeys and woodpeckers, who live in the adjacent forests and venture out night and day to feast on grapes. We have a mama bear and 2 cubs visiting our apple and fig trees, nightly. Adam Frey rescued a wounded Pileated woodpecker at Road D Ranch and nursed it back to health. Although they eat valuable fruit, we are happy to be surrounded by forests that provide habitat for healthy populations of wild animals, no matter their occasional nibbling!
Moving into November, cover crop seeding, Biodynamic horn manure spraying and compost spreading are nearly completed for the season. We are getting some nice rains this week to enliven the soil for the horn manure and ensure good germination of the cover crops. The grape leaves are turning to fall colors and the vines are headed for dormancy for the winter. The vineyards and their keepers are looking forward to a lull until pruning begins after the winter solstice. In the meantime, we are praying for more rain. Please join us in that endeavor!
We look forward to sharing an excellent 2014 vintage with you soon. Cheers!
Harvest 2014 is over!
Éva-Marie Lind, parfumeur and CEO/founder of EM Studios Arome in Portland, Oregon, provides us with her next installment of tasting notes for Frey organic and Biodynamic wines. EM Studios Arome specializes in aromatic and olfactory artistry, with a concentration on whole earth ingredients, sensory attunement, and botanical beauty. We love how Éva-Marie’s poetic descriptions take us out of the ordinary Wine Tasting 101 textbook and into a fecund and ethereal world.
2013 Organic Sauvignon Blanc
Sheer delight met my nose as cherries, vanilla and the inference of the sweet, honeyed 2-penylethyl acetate found in freesia danced forward. In the mouth, a symphony of tropical fruit, the blush of apricot feathered with bergamot, and the fragrance of blackberry flowers where they join at the vine. She unfolds as a mountain creek tumbling over rock, opening into deeper and brighter clarity that is held fast to the zest of Sicilian lemon embellished with the slight tang of star fruit.
2013 Organic Chardonnay
Near luminescent in her aroma, she blossoms into hints of pale early spring tulip petals and the inner breath of white lotus, kissed by moon glow, just before dawn. This one jumps forward with a lovely clarity, yet she is surprisingly voluptuous in the mouth where a momentary splash of pink grapefruit announces the structured waltz of d’anjou pear with the inner blushed heart of a pink lady apple, delicately hugged by a butterscotch cape and offering a lovely crisp, well-lingering finish.
2013 Organic Pinot Noir
Meeting my nose appealingly soft with a subtle floral heart sidling to a blush of blueberries and a whisper of balsam fir and clean earth. What appears more simple and straight forward, begins to triumph in the mouth as her elegantly crisp, drier bouquet opens into a more pronounced impression of golden osmanthus blooms and a layering of fruity leather, a touch of tabac, a sheathing of black licorice, and a smooth velour finish.
2013 Biodynamic® Merlot
The delightful surprise of slight toffee malt and new bud spruce meets your nose, with an inference of tamarind, greeting a blushing orchestration of dark berries on the vine. In the mouth, plush and full-bodied, expressing a marion berry compote, teased by the outer shell notes of pink pepper playing tag at the edges, holding hands with the sheerest inference of the sweetened dry-down notes of saffron. Tannins fill the mouth, drawing all these chords together into a brilliant subtlety, as when standing at the center of an orchard at nightfall when sunset blushes upon warm fruit and exhausted air settles into a harmonious center.
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 (email@example.com) for more information or to RSVP.
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!
Sometimes it’s what’s under our noses that is most readily overlooked. Take Frey wine for example. Every day, I answer customers’ questions and extol the virtues of our organic and Biodynamic wine being free of harmful pesticides, free of added sulfites, and free of gluten. I explain how we use holistic vineyard management to sustain a healthy balance in the vineyard instead of reaching for chemical sprays and fertilizers, and how we rely only on naturally occurring sulfites on the skins of grapes without adding any extra sulfites. “And yes, all our wines are gluten-free,” I assuredly confirm.
“But why would wine not be gluten-free?” I found myself asking a year ago, just after I was diagnosed with celiac disease, an auto-immune disease that results in gluten intolerance. Traditional wine is made entirely from fermented grapes and yeast, not wheat, barley, or rye, the glutinous foes of any celiac sufferer. I had already switched to gluten-free beer at that point to avoid the barley in regular brew; why would wine other than Frey suddenly be on the chopping block? And, if other wine is at risk from gluten, what is it that makes Frey wine inherently gluten-free?
I went straight to the source and asked our winemaker, Paul Frey. From my conversation with Paul I learned that wine can come into contact with gluten at two different points during the winemaking process. The first is through the barrel itself. At some cooperages, barrel makers put a small amount of wheat paste in the croze, or groove carved into the top of the staves that secures the barrel head, to help seal the barrel. Although this is known to be a traditionally European practice, several California cooperages I contacted, including barrel makers for Constellation Brands, and Stavin, a popular barrel liner company, use an unbleached flour paste to assure a leak-proof seal on the barrel head. At Frey, we ferment our wine in stainless steel tanks, eliminating the need for any barrel contact. In some of our reds, where oak aging is desired, we submerge oak barrel stave chips that have never had contact with wheat paste. These virgin chips impart an oaky flavor that adds a layer of depth and complexity to our wines.
The second point that gluten can be used in winemaking is during the fining process, which is done to clarify wine. The practice of fining involves using a fining agent to react with color and/or tannin molecules to make them removable by subsequent filtration. Both the fining agent and the color or tannins it reacts with are removed by the filtering; the particles bind to the solids and drop out because they are heavier than the wine. Common fining agents are often protein-based and can include micronized wheat, potassium caseinate (casein is milk protein), food-grade gelatin, egg albumin, or isinglass powder, made from fish bladders. At Frey, we only filter our white wines and we only use bentonite clay as a fining agent. For our reds, Paul Frey prefers other less manipulative techniques to clarify, like softening by aeration. Not only does this mean that our organic wines are free of gluten, but they are also vegan-friendly, because no animal products were used as a fining agent.
Studies have shown that wines fined with wheat show test results with residual gluten levels below the 20ppm threshold required for gluten-free status. And for those wines that are fermented in barrels, most wineries thoroughly pressure wash all barrels with boiling water or steam-clean them before they are used, which would potentially cut down on the possibility of cross-contamination. However, in an effort to control my celiac disease, I‘ve ransacked my medicine cabinet to toss out lip gloss and hairspray made with wheat protein, run out and bought a new cutting board (no crumbs!), and I confine my martini-mixing to potato vodka only. Why would I risk cross-contamination in wine? I do love wine from all over the globe, but knowing what I know now I plan to research a winery a little more ahead of time, seek out wines fermented only in stainless steel, and ask questions about what types of fining agents are used. Most assuredly, I know I can always enjoy a glass of Frey wine with confidence!
All Frey Wines are gluten-free!
Chloe is a musician, teacher and writer residing in Northern California. Her website can be found here.
The Natural Red table wine from Frey Vineyards couldn’t be more welcoming. It is an old friend who may not know the finer details of your every-day life, but who never fails to invite you over for a glass when you most need it. Such is this wine. It is not complex, nor is it showy. It is sincere. It is full of warmth and body. It gives a good hug.
From Pour to Finish
Directly after the pour, blackberries filled the glass. They were heavy and excited, the first bloom of summer fruit. After twenty minutes, the blackberries calmed down, and invited blueberries and black currants to their midst. Apples were the wallflower; barely there but keenly observant, promising to deliver a witty remark later. The bold berries were the life of the gathering, yet unpretentious and approachable. Already, the fruits longed to be balanced by the brooding, hopeful tellicherry peppercorn, roasted in olive oil. Already, white fish was on the menu.
The first sip was surprising. There was small acidic bite, and a fresh body reminiscent of the aroma when I first popped the cork. A bottle full of summer blooms. It balanced quickly as the berries took the main stage, smoothing the texture and solidifying the overall fruity character. And then it was over. No sooner had the berries began chatting, than the apple I detected earlier, peaked, delivered a cutting one-liner, and the finish arrived. It was decisive and strong. The berries exited the floor in a melancholy fashion, kicking up dust, leaving the dryness of empty blackberry vines in their wake.
It was as a day in mid-September, when night falls a little sooner than expected, but no one is worse for wear, because the day was so refreshing. No sooner had the dry soil and empty blackberry vines of Northern California been alluded to, than the undertones of sage and marjoram arrived. They were a pleasant addition to the wine’s character, a sudden depth, and would lead to the ultimate choice for the pairing.
From the aroma alone, I would’ve suggested striped bass with a peppercorn, chili, and lime relish, and an avocado garnish. But after the finish dropped off, a Provençal herbal dish seemed more appropriate, to encourage a more gradual finish. With the right pairing, the finish will echo faintly on the palate, rather than skip away before the dishes are cleaned up.
The Frey Natural Red requires a baked white fish, trout or striped bass, a strong salt-of-the-earth flavor to coax the herbal notes from the wine.
Main dish: Marinate the fish fillets in dried herbs, including thyme, marjoram, one dried bay leaf, several whole garlic cloves, fresh parsley, and a diced quarter of a red onion. Sprinkle Himalayan sea salt over. Bake the fillets in foil. Serve with fresh parsley and a wedge of lemon, on a bed of spring greens (including arugula!).
Side dish: roast whole Tellicherry peppercorns in a cast iron pan, add a liberal amount of jalapeño olive oil (if unable to locate, add a pinch of finely diced jalapeño pepper to Extra Virgin olive oil), and let sit for two minutes. Dice a dozen or so cherry tomatoes, and fry until cherry tomatoes are soft. Top with fresh parsley.
Also heat a loaf of rosemary bread in the oven, serve next to the side dish. Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano would go well over either the main dish or the side dish – take your pick.
All in All
If you’re looking to recreate summertime in the late fall, pair this wine with a richly earthy herbal fish dish. For dessert? Try a lemon meringue bar topped with a couple of fresh blackberries. So, pick up a bottle and a couple of old friends, and make a late summer feast with a couple bottles of this Frey Natural Red. Hugs all around.