It’s been a very busy summer here. Our 2013 crop is shaping up very well. In spite of the various weather extremes, frost at the end of May and heat spikes in July, the grapes are thriving. Cabernet Sauvignon looks particularly robust. It’s a one in five year heavy crop set. Cabernet continues to be our most popular red varietal and we have a delicious 2011 offering right now.
The grapes are moving into veraison, a term that indicates the berries beginning to change color. Green Chardonnay grapes soften to a frosted gold and begin to acquire their individual flavors reflecting this particular time and place. Each year the wines tell a different story. For example our 2012 Organic Chardonnay is filled with distinctive, crisp fruit and a caramel golden finish; a mirror of the great harvest of 2012.
Veraison of Frey organic Zinfandel grapes.
Pinot Noir berries are the first reds to reach veraison, moving from green to a luscious purple. It looks like a great Pinot year, which is a good thing since our popular 2012 Pinot is selling so briskly that it will soon be gone.
There are now 14 new acres of grapes, Tempranillo, Muscat, Barbera and Malbec.
The Malbec will probably become part of one of our popular blends, Natural Red, Organic Agriculturist and Biodynamic® Field Blend. We’re discovering blends have the capacity to become a complex intriguing whole that is more than their individual parts.
Frey biodynamic zinfandel vineyard and row of olive trees.
Thirteen billion bottles of wine are consumed annually -- that’s a lot of corks left over when the drinking is done! At present, the majority of corks end up in landfills instead of in re-use applications; in the hands of ReCork, they can have a second use. ReCork is North America’s largest cork recycling initiative and is giving wine corks new life in the form of footwear and other upcycled products.
With the help of over 1,700 recycling partners, ReCork has collected over 44 million corks. ReCork frequently partners with wineries, restaurants, wine bars, grocery stores and hotels to collect natural corks. Once collected, the corks are ground down and repurposed for use in new consumer products. SOLE, ReCork’s parent company, produces cork-soled footwear for women and men. In addition to shoes, recycled cork can also be used in flooring, gaskets, bulletin boards, sports equipment, and even used as a soil amendment in compost (natural cork is a valuable source of CO2 retention).
Compared to aluminum screwcaps and petroleum-based plastic plugs, the production of traditional cork wine stoppers has the smallest environmental footprint. While some alternative closure manufacturers are beginning trial recycling efforts, natural cork is still the easiest and best material to recycle: it is biodegradable, renewable, energy efficient, sustainable and 100% natural.
Unlike many forest products, cork oaks are never cut down for their bark. Cork oaks (Quercus suber L.) provide an ideal sustainable crop during a life cycle that lasts over 200 years. A mature, 50 year-old tree can be harvested approximately every 9 years for the life of the tree. Here in California, you can find giant cork oaks on the grounds of the State Capital in Sacramento, on the campus of UC Davis, and a few scattered around as specimen trees in Mendocino County. However, the Mediterranean basin is where most of the world's cork is sourced. There are nearly 6 million acres of cork forests in the Mediterranean regions of Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Tunisia and France, with Portugal being the largest producer by far. The Mediterranean cork oak forests are the basis of an ecosystem which is unique in the world, and which contributes to the survival of many native species of plants and animals, including the endangered European gray wolf and the Mountain Iberian wild goat. It is also a source of employment for tens of thousands of agricultural workers. In addition to their recycling program, ReCork has partnered with QUERCUS (the Portuguese National Association for Nature Conservation) and Criar Bosques, a tree planting initiative in Portugal, and planted over 8,000 cork oaks in the Mediterranean.
Want to know how to get involved? The simplest way is to drop off your corks at a ReCork Public Collection Partner in your area. We’ve been collecting our corks at the Frey Ranch and then dropping them off at our local Ukiah Food Co-op, but you can use ReCork’s nifty drop-off locater to find a location near you. If there is no partner in your area, you can send your corks directly to ReCork in 15lb increments, shipping charges paid. 15lbs equals about 1650 corks (that’s a lot of Frey wine!) so we recommend banding together with your neighbors or workplace to make a joint effort in collecting. By recycling a simple cork stopper we can visualize the product source, its evolution into a useful natural product, and its potential for an extended life far beyond its first use in a bottle of fine wine.
"The Organic Vineyard Alliance (OVA) is a group of winemakers, retailers and distributors who have come together to educate, inform and enlighten you about the benefits of organic wine." - From the OVA Website.
For those of you who love staying informed about the latest in the organic wine industry, a great new website has just been launched. The Organic Vineyard Alliance has been spearheaded by seasoned industry members and offers knowledge and clarification around organic wine.
The site is easy to navigate and full of great information. There is a series of videos featuring our executive director Katrina Frey and other organic winemakers. Also check out the awesome table that lays out the differences between wine categories including USDA Organic, Made with Organically grown grapes, Biodynamic and more.
As time goes on this website is sure to become a clearinghouse for the savvy consumer who wants to keep up to date on the latest and greatest that the industry has to offer. Start exploring now!
We've long known that Pinot Noir is widely popular among this planet's wine lovers. What we didn't know was which brand is likely favored in the galaxy at large. George Takei (Sulu) of Star Trekfame gives his best guess, spotted recently in Los Angeles by our intrepid regional rep Lee Boek. Looks like only organic wine gets beamed up! Thanks for the photo, Lee!
Sulu preparing to beam up.
Our lovely vegan-friendly Organic Chardonnay has been nominated for Vegetarian Times' 2013 Foodie Awards!
In January of this year, Craig Wilkinson, founder of Quantum Culture, a venture creating and trading biodynamically produced and processed goods, visited us here at the winery during the annual Biodynamic Association of Northern California (BDANC) meeting. Craig had been looking forward to conducting an experiment with Biodynamic® dyes for some time, so the weekend BDANC conference at Frey Vineyards was the ideal testing ground. Craig prepared biodynamically grown cotton tee shirts and bandannas in a mordant of alum, and formulated three dye baths: one made from grape lees, another from a filtered grape juice, and one from actual finished wine. Of his experiments, Craig provides the following notes:
- The first dye bath was made from a slightly diluted soupy batch of grape lees, which are the sediment left following the grape crush. The mix was heated for several hours and again the following day. The colors it produced were the lightest of the three baths.
- The second dye bath was made from ‘waste wine,’ which is grape juice collected from the pre- and post-pumping process. The colors were very nice with darker results.
- The third bath was made from nearly a case of 2005 Frey Biodynamic® Syrah made from biodynamically grown grapes. The color was beautiful, and the darkest of the three. The color set very quickly for both the juice and wine, and required no filtering, which made it easier and efficient to work with. Luke Frey and I enjoyed a glass of the Syrah while opening and pouring bottles of wine into the dye vat.
We’re excited about the range of colors, the colorfastness, and the potential for a volume dye bath made from biodynamic winemaking byproducts, and we’re appreciative of Craig’s dedication to the project. Please visit quantumculture.com to view the scope of the research project and find more products made from biodynamically grown cotton.
Ann Krohn & Eliza Frey in tee’s dyed with grape juice and the 2005 Frey Biodynamic® Syrah pictured here.
It's April and things are jumping in our Biodynamic vineyards! We've just completed pruning, and now are tying the newly pruned canes onto the trellis.
Alex Babbitt returning for his third year with us, here among the crops of fava beans, field peas and clovers that have fixed atmospheric nitrogen into the soil, and now are being mowed.
The April days are warm, but frost still threatens some nights. Our valiant frost team of Adam, Derek, Tommy and Jonathan are alerted by remote thermometers when the temperature dips to 36 degrees. Then they arise from warm beds and head to the fields to be poised to turn on sprinklers just before temperatures reach the freezing point. The moving water protects the tender grape buds and stays on until the sun rises. It's common to have frosts in April, and not unheard of to have a frost or two in May.
Preparation is also underway to plant 12 more acres of vines. We're very excited to be introducing six new varietals into our vineyards. Two acres each of Malbec, Grenache, Moscato, Barbera, Tempranillo (Spain's noble grape) and Vermentino, also known as Rolle, are all varietals that should thrive in our climate. If all goes well, we'll begin making unique organic wines from them in 2016!
Testing by EXCELL Laboratories in France from the 2009 and 2010 vintages found that only 10% of 300 French wines were free of pesticide residue*. The majority of residues found were fungicides, which are applied late into the growing season. EXCELL Laboratory, which is owned and operated by Pascal Chatonnet, an innovative figure in the French wine business, now plans to offer pesticide residue testing to winery clients. Wines tested that contain no more than five substances in levels 100 times lower than the Maxium Residue Limits Set by the EEC** will be able to use EXCELL’s certification, called “+ Nature”. The idea is to have a scale of pesticide residue that can be put on wine labels so that consumers can choose wines with less contamination.
Frey Biodynamic Petite Sirah, pesticide-free.
A similar study by the European Pesticide Action Network in 2008 found that 100% of conventionally farmed wines in Europe contained pesticide residues. Many of the wines contained traces of several different pesticides. (View a PDF of the report here.) The organic wines tested in the study were all free of pesticides except one; researchers expected the presence of pesticides in the organic wine was due to chemical drift.
The EPA in the US and the EEA (European Environment Agency) would tell you not to worry because the levels of all pesticides were within the legal acceptable limits for each individual substance. This approach fails to look at cumulative levels of all pesticides that were found. Also, lack of research about how these substances interact in combination is a valid concern. As Chatonnet explains, “It is possible that the presence of several molecules combined is more harmful than a higher level of a single molecule.” Chatonnet and others advocate an industry wide shift towards less toxic pesticides, coupled with more precise application methods to avoid overuse of toxic substances.
These studies indicate the benefit of choosing Organic and Biodynamic wines and wines made from Organic and Biodynamic grapes. Not only do they lessen the impact on the environment, they lessen the consumer’s chemical burden. And now, with consistent growth in the Organic and Biodynamic wine sectors, there is more variety than ever before. Cheers To Your Health!
* You can read Decantuer magazine’s summary of EXCELL’s research here.
** The EEC is the EU-Eco Regulation, which is label for products and services that have a reduced environmental impact in the European Union. While raw agricultural commodities are subject to Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) set by EEC agreements, MRLs do not apply to processed foods, including wine. More info can be found here.
Éva-Marie Lind describes this month’s Wine Club selection. Empowered by passion, botanical beauty, science, and authenticity, Éva-Marie Lind is a Designer, Olfactory Artist, Perfumer, Healing Arts Facilitator and the CEO/founder of EM Studios Arome in Portland, Oregon. Ms. Lind has devoted over 30 years to innovations in scent and flavor, with the unique distinction that all ingredients are devoted to natural, ecological, and sustainable tenets. Focused to authenticity, transparency and integrating her work at source, seed to bottle, she has become a uniquely honed, one-of-a-kind design specialist in the field of aromatic and medicinal plants. Contact: email@example.com.
Here, Ms. Lind shares her sensory perceptions of the Frey Organic Wine Club selection for spring, from a perfumer's perspective.
Sauvignon Blanc 2011
She opened with the fresh zest of pink grapefruit kissed by grassy notes of lemongrass and perilla (shiso) leaf. A floral, powdery refrain of creamy honeysuckle, when the evening sun dips in the sky sufficiently to kiss her warmed waxy petals underneath, exposing her ‘winey’ impressions. Lemongrass unfolds, offering a sensation of fresh grated ginger, slightly pungent, lemony, laced with ribbons of honey and a spicy-sweet wood under-note. In fusion with the green, apple-pip of shiso, she lifts into a bright vibrancy. In the mouth there was an addition of juicy melon that merged to a seamless minerality, where all elements, that might otherwise appear resilient to one another, danced in harmony, and offered a lingering finish.
Pinot Noir 2012
This wine began with a bright yet delicate aroma that spoke to me of cashmere and Turkish rose petal, that offers less in her roseaceous characteristics, exposing more presence of her leaf and fruitiness, with an underskirt of soft spice. Teased with lemon blossom and brushed lightly with wild fennel and a hint of sweet cedar beneath. In the mouth she was slightly tart and delightfully soft, exposing cassis (black currant) having a simultaneous flirtation with sweet cherry, plum, a fringe of rhubarb and the suggestion of toasted caramel. She finished with a whisper of the floral that began at her nose.
She blossomed with a brushing of cassis merged with the creamy violet demeanor of orris butter, subtle blueberry and a hint of Tarocco orange zest with a gourmand underskirt. In the mouth her blueberry notes became bolder, opening to expose a surprise accent of sweet cherry and a hint of acai. Brighter notes of cassis followed, further feathered by orris, with accents of oakwood, the slightly peppered, fruity notes of clove bud and the sweet buttery notes offered from the cœur (heart), of zeylanicum cinnamon. Her ending was balanced with a refined, slightly smoked, earthy finish.
Biodynamic Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Uncorking the bottle was as if blackberry and fig were shaking hands, with a dusting of cacao and a hint of oak upfront. Nose deeper, caramel and the inner heart of nutmeg reached forward. In the mouth she was plush, with a lovely rush of herbaceous tannins, that held a suggestion of tarragon leaf before she is crushed, a touch of golden tobacco exposing glimmers of sun-dried hay that merged with a lingering of sweet wood offering a subtle richness weighted by dryness. All held a wonderful balance in the mouth with a lovely finish.
From the "Before It's News" website, here's what one intrepid blogger made from a used bottle of Frey Organic Agriculturist. We could say this bottle contains a literal bouquet of rosemary and daffodil. If describing wine were always this easy!