January on the farm has the taste of fresh grass for all our hoofed friends. The cows, horses, and goats are pasture feeding in the vineyards again, in-between rows of cultivated wheat and oat. Our herds have the dual purpose of fertilizing the vineyards and keeping the grass populations in check, like live-powered mowers. Our daily goat walks take us through the vineyards to favorite oak trees where acorn browsing gives the goats rich, luscious coats for the winter weather. And, while they munch on the wild blackberry hedgerows, the pregnant ones get a dose of herbal medicine to help tone their reproductive tract before the Spring kidding. We're expecting several births in the next few months, which makes this time of year extra exciting.
Our chicken program has also taken to the vineyards, where egg layers are happily scratching up grubs and weeds along the edges of the cultivated vines. All these animals make the land seem more like a farm, where a walk along the rows now has the sound of moos, neighs, and clucks! For biodynamic agriculture the element of having the animals on the land is especially important because the animals impart a special quality to the land. Additionally, the farm animals help us maintain the land as a sustainable system, which feeds us while we feed it with "black gold" manures.
In the gardens our family members are ordering seeds and getting out old saved seeds from the previous year to grow cabbages, peas, kale, broccoli, and other early crops. I just pruned the raspberries in our garden last week, and the fruit trees are next.
Our biodynamic farmer friend Hugh Williams of Threshold Farm was here for the past two weeks, teaching workshops on apple orchards and pruning our trees using his unique method. We also just hosted the Winter meeting of the Biodynamic Association of Northern California here at Frey Vineyards; it was a wonderful success and inspiring to have all the farmers come together to discuss truly sustainable agriculture amidst the backdrop of the vineyards. Frey Vineyards, which has become a model for biodynamics, was the first BD certified winery in the United States. Also, Katrina Frey is now a member of the Demeter board, spreading the conscious farming movement in the hopes that more farms will join.
For now, it's time to get back out into the fields, making flat mixes to sow our seeds in for the first crops of the year!
It’s a rare harvest day that our winemaker Paul Frey is not found in the wine cellar from dawn to the wee hours. But on Oct 26-28th, Paul traveled to Madison, WI to defend the USDA organic wine standard. He joined fellow organic winemaker Phil La Rocca of La Rocca Vineyards, along with Steve Frenkel of Organic Vintages, who distributes organic wines in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut. They each addressed the National Organic Standards Board to argue against a proposed amendment that would allow the addition of sulfites to organic wine for the first time. Paul Frey said, “The other attendees we spoke to expressed broad support in continuing the ban of sulfites in USDA organic wines. People who believe in the foundation of organics recognize that sulfites do not belong in organic foods and wines.”
Philip La Rocca said he went to Madison, “Because I thought it was important to not just fight against sulfur dioxide in organic wine, but also because we need to be careful that we don’t open the door to allowing other synthetics in organic production. Let’s keep organics pure.”
Steve Frenkel said, "I flew to Madison because I think it's very important to maintain truth in labeling. The consumer has a right to transparency in making choices about what they are drinking."
Signed petitions are being collected by the OCA, to be submitted to the AMS Administrator who oversees the USDA's National Organic Program. Please help safegard organic food standards.
After a decade of correspondence between Frey Vineyards and yeast producer Llalemand, we are happy to announce the use of our first certified organic yeast for the 2010 Frey vintage. Llalemand, our longtime yeast provider, has always been committed to GMO free production but has now raised the bar with their first certified organic product, made especially for Frey Organic Wines.
Organic yeast is manufactured by feeding the yeast cultures organic foods rich in sugar and nitrogen, such as organic molasses and organic sunflower oil. This high quality traditional organic yeast is now used in all of our 2010 organic wines. (Frey Biodynamic wines are still made with no added yeast, fermented with their own natural yeasts in accordance with Biodynamic winemaking standards.)
Sherried Mushroom Soup
I’ve been making this wonderful creamy and delicious mushroom soup for years, using wild mushrooms when in season, and shitake when out of season. As always, I try to use all organic ingredients, as they taste better and are better for our health and planet.
This recipe can be made with Frey Organic Dessertage Port or Frey Organic Late Harvest Zinfandel as well.
Vegan alternatives are also provided.
Serves 4 to 6
2 cups shitake mushrooms
2 heaping cups sliced meadow mushrooms
2 heaping cups sliced portabella mushroom (usually 1 large portabella mushroom is enough)
1 large leek
3 Tbls chopped garlic. Which was 3 large cloves garlic
2 Tbls fresh chopped thyme. Or 1 tsp dry
6 Tbls unsalted butter (or coconut oil for vegans)
1 cup heavy cream (or almond milk, or coconut milk, for vegans)
1 cup sherry (or Frey Organic Dessertage Port or Frey Organic Late Harvest Zinfandel)
3 cups vegetable stock, or chicken stock
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black or white pepper
Scallions, cayenne for garnishing
Start by slicing the leek down the middle to the white part. Open the stalks under cool water to remove all the dirt which gathers where the green meets the white. Slice up all of the leek, mushrooms, the rest of the vegetables, and set aside
In a large soup pot melt the unsalted butter. Throw in the mushrooms, leeks, thyme, and garlic. Sauté over medium heat for 5 minutes. Turn up the heat for 10 seconds, or until the vegetables start hissing (but don't let them smoke!), then deglaze by pouring in the sherry. Immediately turn down the heat and let it all simmer for 2 minutes. Then add the vegetable stock. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are soft and ready to puree. Blend the soup very finely. I use a blender for pureed soups. Return the blended soup to the soup pot. Add the cream and mix it in. Add seasoning, salt and pepper to your liking. Bring the soup back to a simmer ready to serve.
Fill up your prettiest bowls with the soup and garnish with slivered scallions and sprinkled cayenne. If you don’t want it spicy-hot use paprika for color. Serve with a fresh sourdough baguette, sweet butter, a salad, and your favorite Frey Organic White wine.
(Recipe copyrighted © Tamara Frey, 20101. All right reserved)
A big thanks to all of you who submitted a recipe for our 30th Anniversary Recipe Contest. We appreciated your response. Several excellent recipes were submitted, each one delicious. It was tough to choose a winner.
After much cooking, tasting and deliberation, we chose "Italian Lentils,” submitted by Katie S. from Elizabeth, Colorado. I used Frey Organic Syrah in the recipe. It was a very hearty and tasty Autumn dish. Wonderful with a sour dough baguette and a glass of Frey Organic Syrah! Here is Katie's winning recipe:
7 cups of vegetable broth
2 Tbls of olive oil
1 ½ cups of lentils
1 cup of Organic Frey red wine (any variety works great)
8 cloves of minced garlic
4 cups of diced tomatoes in juice
1 tsp salt (or add salt to taste, especially since your vegetable broth might already have salt added)
1 ½ Tbls dried basil
1 ½ tsp lemon pepper
1 cup of pasta
Sliced green olives
Bring broth and oil to boil. Add lentils and red wine and simmer 40 minutes or until lentils are tender. Add remaining ingredients and simmer for 8 minutes or until pasta is tender. Top with olives.
Serve with red Frey Organic Wine and a crusty baguette for dipping.
Last week Marie and I tucked our bees in for the winter. Our esteemed teacher from Sonoma County, Serge LaBasque, advises that these winter preparations be completed by Nov 5th. We removed empty boxes and reduced the number of frames in each box from 9 frames to 6 in addition to solid follower boards that form an inside wall about 3 inches from the outside wall. This results in improved circulation throughout the hive to combat the damp of our northern California winters.
Marie harvested 3 beautiful frames of honey from her strongest hive and donated two of them to my weak hive that is still rebuilding from their bear attack last spring. In spite of the rich diversity of bee fodder plants here on our Biodynamic® ranch, our other 4 Golden One Room hives had only enough honey for the bees to get through the winter. Other local beekeepers have also observed that it is not a big honey year. The rains of May and June slowed down the major honey flow.
As the days grow colder, the bees hunker down in a cluster in the heart of the hive and keep their queen and each other warm, only venturing outside if it’s a warm sunny day.
Honeybee sipping Frey organic Sauvignon Blanc grape juice during harvest season.
For the 2010 harvest we invested in new equipment to implement whole-cluster pressing for our white wines. Whole-cluster pressing is a gentler form of pressing white juice. Instead of being macerated in a crusher before entering the press, the grapes travel on a conveyor directly into the press. This technique limits the extraction of phenolics into white wines. It gives white wines smoother flavors, more fruit quality and better aging capacity. The result is a smoother, high quality white with more staying power, especially important for non-sulfited white wines. Look for the release of our delicious new 2010 whites next spring!
Frey Organic White Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
In August, our assistant winemaker Eliza Frey was interviewed on Good Dirt Radio. She talks about biodynamic grapegrowing and the benefits of eating organic. She appears about halfway through the show.
We are happy to announce the return of our Gewurztraminer, from Guntly Vineyards!
Gewurztraminer is most famously grown in Germany and the Alsace region of France, but its origin can be traced back to the varietal Traminer, from the village of Tramin in the German-speaking region of northern Italy. The relatively weak genetics of Traminer have led to several related varietals, including Frankisch, Gringet, Heida, Grumin and Formentin. Viognier, from the Rhone region of France, is also believed to be a distant relative of Gewurztraminer and shares the spicy, aromatic character.
The name Gewurztraminer (guh-voorts-tra-meaner) is derived from the German “Gewurz” which means spice or perfume, and the grape itself “Traminer” meaning “spiced Traminer.” Our organically-grown and made version continues the tradition of spice and we think you’ll enjoy the wine’s heady, aromatic character with notes of lychee, rose, passion fruit and floral aromas. The wine is dry, crisp and delicious, not syrupy and sweet. It’s perfect when chilled for a refreshing summer afternoon.
Guntly organic Gewurztraminer vineyard, source of the Frey organic varietal.
Organic Guntly Gewurztraminer vines, near Potter Valley, Mendocino County, California.
After 30 years of organic grape growing we are continually interested in diversifying our farm or bringing back lost traditions. A century ago, Mendocino County grew all of its grain, and we’re experimenting with bringing local grain production back! Much of the prime grain lands of the county have been converted to vineyards, but we are now demonstrating that grapes and grains can be grown together.
Organic wheat growing in Frey organic vineyard.
Frey Vineyards is collaborating with the Mendocino Grain Project and a handful of local vineyards and small farms to bring the tradition of grain growing back to Mendocino County. Together with the Grain Project we have purchased a small combine that can fit between vineyard rows to harvest grains and dry beans. In the fall of 2009 we inter-planted a variety of wheat, oats, barley and rye in every third row of selected organic vineyards. The combine ran through our vineyards in late July and we reaped several bushels of fresh grains. This year didn’t bring huge yields, but we identified the most productive sections of our vineyards and will fine-tune planting and cultivation practices to increase productivity in the years to come. This is an exciting project that is moving us closer to our goal of increasing local food production and rethinking what vineyards are capable of.
Doug Mosel of Mendocino Grain Project driving the mini-combine.
Wheat between the vines.