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!
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.
A good time was had by all at our recent Wine Club dinner, with around 50 guests who enjoyed sumptuous organic cuisine by Chef Tamara Frey and other collaborators of the culinary arts. Below are some photos of the event we'd like to share with you. We hope you can make it to our next dinner and celebration of organic food and wine (to be announced).
Dinner organizers extraordinaires, Nicole & Katrina.
Guests relaxing in front of the winery, under the oaks.
Guests take a tour of the wine sensory garden, a place to match wines with freshly picked herbs.
Tables set, menus laid out, salivating commences.
Young maidens serve the guests.
Freshly baked organic bread from the outdoor oven made by Matthew Frey.
A good time had by all.
American music icon Willie Nelson recently received the 2011 Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance Visionary Award in San Francisco. Sponsored by environmental nonprofits Amazon Watch and Sustainable Biodiesel Alliance, the event focused on how living local can have a positive effect on people around the world.
Frey Biodynamic Wines were proudly donated to this event.
Demand for organic food is ever growing, as confirmed by another poll. This is always good news as organic food production is better for everyone's health, and for the planet, in so many ways.
As summarized from ThePacker.com: "...A majority of Americans pick organically produced foods over conventionally produced when given the choice, according to a new poll... Among the reasons for choosing organic, survey participants cited supporting local growers and health concerns..."
Winemaker and vegetarian Paul Frey and his sons planting organic watermelons in vineyard.
We just completed our second wheat harvest, all of it grown between rows of our organic vineyards. This cereal harvest is a part of our ongoing experimentation with growing local organic food with the wine grapes.
Ripe organic wheat ready for harvest between the vines.
This year brought some changes to the wheat program, as Frey Vineyards bought out the other members of the group that originally purchased the mini-combine, while they upgraded their own machine for wheat harvesting in Mendocino County. Check out their website at Mendocino Grain Project. Having our own combine now gives us more flexibility for timing the harvest and experimenting with different crops.
Matthew Frey running the combine in the Frey Potter Valley vineyard.
A repair on the combine allowed us to harvest the wheat more efficiently. It now reaps a much larger percentage of the crop and the grains are coming out cleaner. The grinding stone also got a facelift, as Matthew Frey installed a new motor with variable speed, allowing us to fine-tune the grinding process.
Derek and Matthew harvesting organic wheat from between rows of organic winegrapes.
The crop in our Redwood Valley vineyards weighed in at over one thousand pounds. At our Potter Valley vineyard, which has very fertile soils, we pulled in over 3,000 pounds! Time to get baking! We hope to offer samples of the flour to our wine club members. You can join here! We will also be serving bread from our homegrown wheat at our upcoming midsummer party, Saturday, August 6th. Come and taste the wonder of fresh ground grains!
Young organic sunflowers at Frey Vineyards.
At Frey Vineyards this year we are experimenting with growing sunflowers to press for high quality organic oils. Sunflower oil is great for cooking and as a body oil. The plants also provide excellent food for our ranch bees as the flowers mature. Sunflower oil is the most important source of food oil in the world, and we are excited to start producing it here.
We chose the Russian cultivar Peredovik sunflower (Helianthus annus). While most sunflowers have an oil content of 25-35%, the peredovic can yield up to 50% oil from its small black seeds. The Peredovic sunflower also has a very short growing season of about 12 weeks which allows plenty of time to maturity despite our wet and soggy spring this year. We will harvest in the fall and press the seeds in our cold-press seed press. This year we expect about 25 gallons and hope to expand in the future.
The sunflower project fits nicely into our ever-expanding quest for more local sources of basic food products. We can harvest them with our small combine, which is also used for harvesting wheat that is interplanted in our vineyards. The spent press cake of the sunflower is a high quality feed for livestock and the stalks will make a great addition to our compost piles.
We will keep you posted about our progress!