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Frey Vineyards


Frey Organic Wine Blog

Frey Vineyards
April 5, 2013 | Frey Vineyards

A used bottle of Organic Agriculturist makes for a great vase!

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!

Frey wine bottle as a vase.

Molly Frey
April 4, 2013 | Molly Frey

Cow adopts goat (as temporary favor to mother goat!)

We waited five months for all the baby goats to arrive and finally last March our herd of mothers delivered the next generation!

Goats in the vineyard
Baby goats in vineyard.

Ten baby goats joined the farm family with 8 of those being billy goats (males). Only a few weeks old, they're already learning how to play with each other by butting heads and frolicking in the fields. Each day Daniel herds the rambunctious crew to the vineyard in front of the winery where the grass is particularly lush this season. We've been having lots of visitors who come to meet the goats.

Baby goat
Baby goat nibling on a grape stem.

Last week, in all the excitement of walking the goats back from their pasture to the barn, one baby black goat got left behind. The little billy must have been hiding with the cows or the sheep who were also enjoying the pasture when the goats were called in. When we went back to get him, we were delighted to find that the little goat made new friends with his pasture neighbors the cows. In fact, he had established a special bond with Maybelle, who happily allowed him to nurse to keep his energy up while his goat mother was unavailable!

Baby goat suckling cow
Sweet spring days of milk on the Frey farm! This orphaned goat found a bovine surrogate while its new step-sibling looked on. Later it was returned to its mama goat.

Frey Vineyards
February 6, 2013 | Frey Vineyards

Frey 2010 Cabernet Wins Gold at the Millésime Bio, France!

On January 28-30 Katrina and Jonathan Frey attended the Millésime Bio, the largest organic wine trade show in the world, held in Montpellier, France.  The festival was particularly special this year, not only because of its 20-year anniversary, but also because Frey won a gold medal for our 2010 Organic Cabernet Sauvignon!  To be chosen out of nearly 700 exhibitors from 11 countries in Europe, South America, and South Africa was quite an honor (we likened it to the organic wine version of the “Judgment of Paris” in 1976!) and we were proud to be the only medal winner from the U.S.  In addition to the annual wine competition, the 3-day trade conference holds seminars on organic winemaking, wine tourism, resistant grape varieties, and the new European winemaking regulations.

Established in 1993 by a group of winemakers in Languedoc-Rousillon, the Millésime Bio continues to be the gold standard for international organic wine.  This is Frey’s fourth year participating in the event, and it’s always a great venue for catching up with some of our organic pals.  “It’s a great exchange of knowledge,” says Katrina Frey. “We’re very excited to see more European interest in non-sulfited winemaking.”

Frey Organic Wine receives gold medal in France.
Jonathan and Kartrina Frey accept the Gold Medal for the 2010 Frey Organic Cabernet Sauvignon at Millésime Bio, France, 2013.

Meeting John and Jane Lang
Meeting our UK distributors John and Jane Lang from GoodWineOnLine. Interest in Biodynamic wine is huge in the UK.

Meeting non-sulfited winemaker from Portugal.
Jonathan discusses additive-free winemaking with Rodrigo Filipe from Portugal, who just made his first non-sulfite wine, Humus.

Eve Cartier from Mas de Gourgonnier.
Eve Cartier from the Provence winery Mas de Gourgonnier worked with us 7 years ago. They produce beautiful organic olive oil and wines, and now a sulfite-free wine.

Karl and Eva Schnabe.
New friends Karl and Eva Schnabe, from Weingut in Austria. The Schnabels make natural wines and pasture cows in their vineyards.

Eliza Frey
February 5, 2013 | Eliza Frey

Spontaneous Fermentations

At Frey Vineyards, we began working with spontaneous fermentations in 1996 when we released the first certified Biodynamic wine in North America.  We are now big fans of how spontaneous fermentations uniquely bring out the terroir of a site and allow the wine drinker to have a tasting experience that mirrors climate, vintage and vineyard.

Closeup of Biodynamic grapes
Frey Biodynamic Cabernet after a light rain.

What is spontaneous fermentation? During the grape crush, yeast is usually added to the grape juice to “kick start” the fermentation.  For our line of organic wines, we use certified organic yeast.  For our line of Biodynamic wines we rely on spontaneous fermentation – no kick-starter yeast is added.  Instead natural yeasts that already live on the grape skins get the fermenting going. Yeast ferments the grape juice by eating up the sugar, which gets converted into alcohol. Later, the yeast sinks to the bottom of the tanks.

The goal of Biodynamic winemaking standards is to promote the production of wines that are in sync with the core principles of Biodynamic farming: reliance on site available inputs, sustainability and diversity.  Spontaneous fermentations are required to ensure that each wine is the result of the local yeast populations of the vineyard where the grapes are grown.  This allows the wines to express the complexity of the vineyard biology and it allows the wine drinker to experience the nuances between different vineyards and vintages.

At Frey Vineyards, we are relative newcomers to this age-old practice.  People have been making wine through wild fermentations for thousands of years.  Grapes are one of the few fruits that have enough natural sugar to ferment spontaneously.  Grape fermentations also served as the original starters for other fermentations, from sourdough bread to beer.  While people knew that wine would result when grapes were crushed and left to sit, they didn’t need to understand the life cycles of yeast or the extent and complexity of their populations.

Louis Pasteur first isolated and identified yeast in the 1800’s.  By that time people had already refined and industrialized the process of fermentation.  The wine business was huge, with global production, trade and distribution.  While Pasteur’s discovery didn’t change the way wine was produced overnight, it led the way to the standardization of wines. Once yeasts were identified, people began to study them and isolate them and eventually to control which yeasts carried out fermentations. 

There are several genera of yeast in the world and spontaneous fermentations involve numerous strains of wild yeasts that are localized in the vineyard.  Grapes fresh off the vine are teeming with wild yeasts.  In spontaneous fermentations each of the yeasts does a little bit of the fermenting, with the more fragile, less alcohol-tolerant strains starting the fermentation and the more robust ones finishing off in higher alcohol environments.  Each strain of yeast is best suited to certain conditions and each produces specific byproducts that affect the flavor and aroma of the wine.  The result is a wine that is more complex and that is a unique expression of the site where it was grown.

Winemakers in the past had to get by with whatever populations of yeast were found in their vineyards and wineries.  Once people understood what yeast were and how they grow and reproduce they were able to isolate and grow certain strains by taking yeast from active fermentations, isolating them and growing them on a substrate (some kind of sugar).  Yeasts were selected for certain characteristics, such as flavor profile, alcohol, temperature, pH and sulfite tolerance.  People could overpower native yeast populations with introduced strains.  They could pasteurize juice that was rotten, then effectively ferment it.  Such approaches allow more uniformity in the winemaking process.  For mass produced, large-scale industrial winemaking this approach works well because the results are predictable in spite of fluctuations in climate and growing region.  This advance also results in a loss of complexity and flavors because the fermentation environment is essentially a monoculture.

At Frey Vineyards, we are big fans of natural processes and diversity and it has been exciting and rewarding to produce Biodynamic wines through spontaneous fermentations.  We have noticed that our wild fermented wines have an increased complexity of aroma and flavor and we love the surprises that come from each year.  We hope you join us in this return to age-old methods by trying some of our Biodynamic, wild fermented wines.  From the vineyard to the table, they are delicious examples of the natural chemistry of grapes and wild yeasts.

Glass of Biodynamic Chardonnay wine
Glass of Biodynamic Chardonnay

Time Posted: Feb 5, 2013 at 2:04 PM
Eliza Frey
January 31, 2013 | Eliza Frey

Pairing Wine with Spicy Foods

We live in a time where we have access to almost all cuisines from across the globe and wine is no longer being overlooked as a compliment for spicy or ethnic foods.  In the past spicy food wine pairings were limited to white wines but there are wonderful options among rosés and reds.  For spice loving foodies it’s time to start sipping outside the box!

Spicy foods are as varied as the wines they can be paired with.  Low alcohol wines are best for the spiciest dishes, since spice can accentuate alcohol and make high alcohol wines taste hot and abrasive.  Spice can also enhance the astringency of tannins in wine, so heavy red wines are not a good choice with fiery dishes.  The spice of ginger, with citrus and lemongrass, is balanced well by wines with crisp acidity and floral aromas, like Sauvignon Blanc and other aromatic whites.  Savory spice like garlic, onions, oregano, sage and rosemary are right at home with deep spicy reds like Zinfandel and Petite Sirah.   Brown, earthy spice like cumin, coriander and cardamom are best paired with earthy Syrahs and low tannin Merlots.

Below is a list of Frey wines that are best served with spicy fare, and pairing suggestions that will highlight both the food and wine.

Frey Organic Rosé – The floral acidity of our rosé is great with sweet and spicy foods like southern barbeque, Jamaican Jerk spice or Tom Kha Thai coconut soup with lemongrass, galangal (ginger’s spicy cousin) and chilies.

Frey Organic Gewurztraminer – The spicy aromatic nose of gewürztraminer is slightly sweet.  We enjoy it with ginger flavored stir-fries and coconut curry dishes with kefir lime.

Frey Organic Sauvignon Blanc – Our Sauvignon Blanc is grown in a warm climate and has tropical aromas and flavors with not too rigid acidity.  We recommend it with the cilantro, lime and zest of Mexican and Southwest dishes.

Frey Organic Pinot Noir – Wonderful with spicy Baja fish stew (see our recipe below!), chile verde sauce or basil and eggplant sautéed with garlic and hot peppers.

Frey Organic Zinfandel – Zinfandel has a naturally fruity and spicy character that lends itself to ethnic foods.  Great with garlicky dishes like Shrimp Diablo, spicy meat dishes and sautéed pardon peppers.

Frey Biodynamic Chardonnay – The roundness of Chardonnay can cut through the spice and smoke in chipotle sauce.  Since Chardonnay is a full bodied white wine it can stand up well to dishes that include chicken or other poultry.

Frey Biodynamic Syrah – The spicy notes of Syrah go great with Indian and Middle Eastern dishes with warm spices like cumin, coriander, fennel or cardamom. The wine’s earthiness is great with the lentils, chickpeas and potatoes often found in such fare.

Frey Organic Petite Sirah – Petite Sirah is known for its peppery character and is a great choice for heavier, tomato based dishes like spicy tomato gratin, or spicy chutney with grilled lamb.

As with all wine and food pairing, at the end of it all we should drink and eat what we love.  Combine what sounds good to you, and always remember to try new dishes with wine and food – in moderation of course. 

Cheers and Bon Appetite!

(Copyrighted © Eliza Frey, Frey Vineyards, 2013. All right reserved.)

Time Posted: Jan 31, 2013 at 10:22 AM
Frey Vineyards
January 30, 2013 | Frey Vineyards

New Release: Frey Biodynamic Field Blend

Frey Vineyards 2011 Field Blend was crafted specifically for Whole Foods customers.  Our goal with Field Blend was to produce a Biodynamic® example of terroir at its finest expression, where soil, varietal character, and vintage culminate in an authentic representation of our vineyards.

Frey Biodynamic Field Blend bottleField Blend is graced with a subtle nose of red currant, a hint of star anise, iron, and rose hips.  The flavors lend themselves to an available freshness showing dewberry, white pepper, red beet, and a touch of licorice.  The finish is balanced with apricot, kola nut, and cherry bark.  While 2011 presented a challenging growing season for much of Northern California, it also prompted us to take a creative approach with some unconventional blends.  For Field Blend, we took the best of our estate-grown grapes, starting with our Syrah for composed structure, melding it with our Zinfandel for added spice, and rounding everything out with our soft, plummy Merlot.  Field Blend pairs harmoniously with grilled flank steak with olive sauce, paella with spicy sausage, or penne with porcini mushrooms.

The Field Blend label was designed by our wine club director, Nicole Paisley Martensen.  It incorporates a collage of vintage astrological charts and farmers’ almanacs, evoking the origins of Biodynamic farming and its founder, Rudolf Steiner, along with photographs of grapevines and tractor treads at Frey Vineyards.

Eliza Frey
January 30, 2013 | Eliza Frey

Spicy Baja Seafood Stew

This is a hearty, warm soup for cold winter nights!

Spicy Baja Seafood Stew
Spicy Baja Seafood Stew. Pairs great with many wines!

It's a very easy stew to make with minimal prep and cook time, about 30 minutes.   A wine friendly dish!  The fish and spice make it a great match for a young chardonnay, rosé or aromatic white wine, while the tomato and herb components pair well with a light to medium red wine like our organic Pinot Noir or Zinfandel.

Serves four to six.

Olive Oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 large potato
1 green or yellow bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
1 quart fish stock, canned or homemade
½ cup Frey Organic Pinot Noir or Biodynamic Chardonnay
1 quart diced tomatoes with sauce
¼ cup tomato paste
6 large sustainably harvested prawns
1 ½ pound fillet of cod
Optional clams or mussels
Few pinches dried oregano
Few pinches dried basil
1 pinch red pepper flakes
Three cloves minced or pressed garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish with sliced avocado, lime wedge and cilantro

Put the oil into a large thick-bottom soup pot with the onions and simmer until the onions are translucent, about 5 min. 
Chop sweet peppers into small cubes and jalapeno into small pieces.  You can remove the seeds from the jalapeno if you want the soup to be mild, or leave a few in if you want to turn up the heat. 
Cut the potato into large cubes. 
Add the chopped peppers and potatoes and cook until the potatoes are barely tender. 
Add the fish stock , tomatoes, tomato paste and wine and cook until potatoes are tender.
While the potatoes are cooking, shell the prawns and cut the fish into large chunks.
Once potatoes are tender, add prawns, fish, oregano, basil, pepper flakes and garlic.  Cook for 5-10 minutes until the prawns turn pink and the fish is flaky and opaque.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with sliced avocado, lime wedge and cilantro.
Serve with crusty toasted bread with olive oil, or quesadilla and green salad with citrus dressing.
Enjoy with your favorite Frey Organic red or white wine, as this dish goes well with both!  We recommend Frey Organic Pinot Noir, Biodynamic Chardonnay or Zinfandel.

Katrina Frey
January 28, 2013 | Katrina Frey

Sacred Agriculture – Part 1

When I heard the words “Sacred Agriculture,” the first thing that popped into my head was that I was raised by a mother who believed in fairies.  I’d like to tell you how those fairies led me to Biodynamics and eventually to the beautiful land in Mendocino County in Northern California that was to become Frey Vineyards. My mother discovered her fairies in the woods and brooks of Vermont, but managed to find them again in the perennial garden she created in the backyard of our little house in Holland, MI. 

Katrina Frey's with dad, mom, sister.

I would spend hours nose down in the lilies of the valley under the lilac bush daydreaming about the hidden intricate world of the fairies and sometimes spotting evidence; a broken stem or little flower caps strewn upon the ground were signs of a night of wild revels.

But eventually I grew up, went to a Quaker College, became a Vietnam War activist and a hippie and moved to California, and generally got distracted from the fairies. Still, I managed to spend parts of each summer working with my grandfather in his perennial garden.  He would chat with his garden and ask it what it wanted him to do next. I came to see the dozens of beds as a responsive and living being.  By now I was seriously considering a career in the nursery business, so when I heard about a Biodynamic Agriculture conference at High Mowing Waldorf School in New Hampshire, I decided to check it out. I was thunderstruck with the beauty of a display of sensitive crystallization images. 

Sensitive crystalization detail
Sensitive crystallization provides the viewer with a visual preview of the unique fingerprint possessed by a given substance.

The deep, hidden, exquisite intricate order thrust me back into the land of fairy and I vowed to learn more about Biodynamics.

Returning to California, I apprenticed with Alan Chadwick.  Fellow apprentices were Jonathan Frey, who was to become my husband, and Chris Tebbutt of Filigreen Farm in nearby Anderson Valley

Alan Chadwick
Alan Chadwick raspberry pruning demonstration.

Chadwick saw man’s central occupation as a gardener and farmer, always giving back to the land selflessly and being rewarded with the glorious abundance of nature. He taught us the French Intensive Biodynamic method, lectured on Rudolf Steiner, introduced me to the Revolutionibus, the rhythms of the cosmos, the Archangels and the elemental beings.  My fairies were back.

After a year and a half of apprenticeship, Jonathan and I got married and moved to the Frey Ranch in Mendocino County and started to lay the groundwork for Frey Vineyards.  Today we have grown from 100 to 1000 acres. 

Frey Vineyards from above
Frey Vineyards in Redwood Valley, California

We farm 140 of the 1000 acres with the vineyards meeting the edges of the forest.  At Frey Vineyards we delight in the biodiversity of our land, whether it be the native wildlife in our forestland, the cover crops replenishing our soil, or the multi-talented four generations of the Frey Family who live here.  Each of them has their unique experience of SACRED AGRICULTURE.

Members of the Frey Family
Clockwise from top left: Luke Frey; Johnny Frey; Karla, Rob & Leora Gitlin; Matthew Frey.

Luke Frey, my brother-in-law, has made it his job to produce all of our Biodynamic preparations and to care for our farm animals with great devotion. He is a master prep maker, studying with Hugh Courtney at the Josephine Porter Institute and completing Dennis Klokec’s Consciousness Studies Program.

We have a lot of hard-core gardeners on the ranch.  My son Johnny, seen here double digging our garlic bed, is a devotee of Yogananda, who saw God in all mankind and taught man to seek for meaningful work and then perform it in a sprit of gratitude and service.

Karla Frey’s garden anchors her to the Jewish cycles of celebrations.  The Sukkat festival reminds us that God will provide for man’s needs and man in turn must be grateful.

Brother-in-law Matthew married Sandra from Bolivia and has embraced the Inca philosophy of no separation between man and nature. Matthew’s garden is his sense of connection.  He says,  “If I’m late at planting it, it calls me.  I save my seeds and somehow they know me the next year.  Every time I add a garden vegetable to my meal, it becomes a part of me and keeps my body and mind and spirit balanced.”

As you can see, we have a beautiful rainbow of philosophies about SACRED AGRICULTURE.  At the same time Frey Vineyards is a big business selling 92,000 cases of wine across North America, Europe and Asia.  So how do we communicate our agricultural practices to our customers?

Stay tuned for the second part of Katrina’s article on Sacred Agriculture in our Spring Newsletter.

Molly Frey
January 27, 2013 | Molly Frey

Giving wild honeybees a chance

Surrounding our estate organic and biodynamic vineyards are woodlands and forests that harbor wildlife and sustain local biodiversity, including the wild honeybee. This vital pollinating insect is suffering worldwide from colony collapse disorder, widely believed due to it's extreme sensitivity to modern pollutants, including agricultural pesticides, that weaken their immune system. So last year when we spotted a hive in need of help right at the edge of our Petite Sirah vineyard, we quickly gave them a hand.

The hive was located inside this fallen fir tree.

The bees had their home high up in a fir tree, inside the rotted and hollow interior. A windstorm snapped the tree halfway up and the hive fell. Much of it shattered on impact with crushed honeycombs seeping across the splintered trunk. We were tempted to eat some of the honey, but this food was vital to the bees if they were to survive the rest of the winter, so it was hands off the sweet ambrosia. Luke Frey quickly brought an empty beehive box and put the surviving humming mass of bees in it along with every drop of their precious honey. Then he placed it on top of the fallen tree right next to the old hive.

Here's a short video with some live footage of these beautiful wild honeybees.

It was soon apparent the queen did not survive the fall so a frame with two capped queen cells were put in. We crossed our fingers that the orphaned honeybees would take to their new home and raise a new queen. A few weeks later they were still there! Following the coronation the hive raised a new brood into the spring and summer. But then they were gone! We suspect that they swarmed and made a new hive in an old wine barrel by our Merlot vineyard. It's also possible the colony perished.

Wild honeybees and their shattered, exposed hive.

The location of the honeybee's new hive is circled, next to the Frey Biodynamic Petite Sirah vineyard.

Nicole Paisley Martensen
October 31, 2012 | Nicole Paisley Martensen

Wine & Mushroom Pairing: Portobello Mushroom Roulade with Frey 2010 Organic Cabernet Sauvignon

When the autumn nights start to turn chilly, we love cooking savory mushroom dishes to pair with our red wines. Red wine and mushrooms are a unique marriage of complex flavors; some wild mushrooms, like black trumpet mushrooms, can bring out the earthy notes of a delicate Pinot Noir, while some fuller-bodies reds can bring out the meatiness of other mushrooms, like porcini and portobellos.

Portobello Mushroom Roulade with Frey Organic Cab

This Portobello Roulade recipe comes from Carmelita, a wonderful vegetarian restaurant in Seattle, Washington.  We paired it with our Frey 2010 Organic Cabernet Sauvignon and found that the flavors in both complimented each other beautifully (we conveniently used the Cabernet for the one cup of wine called for in the recipe).  This recipe has many steps, so plan on making the preparation part of your feast, but the results are stunning and well worth your efforts for a special occasion dinner.  This dish is vegan, and can be gluten-free if made without the panko.

Serves 6
Here's what you need:

For the Roulade
6 Portobello mushrooms, roasted
Salt and pepper, to taste
9 asparagus shoots, roasted
2 onions, chopped and caramelized
1 tablespoon oil
1/2 cup Frey Dessertage Port or Frey Late Harvest Zinfandel
2 red bell peppers, roasted and julienned

For the Potato Cakes
6 Yellow Finn potatoes, quartered and boiled
2 yams, peeled, chopped, and boiled
1 onion, diced
1 leek (white only), diced
2 Tbsp minced garlic
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste
1 cup panko or bread crumbs

For the Mushroom Demi-Glace
Gills and stems of Portobellos
1 onion, chopped
8 whole cloves garlic
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 Tbsp thyme, chopped
2 bay leaves
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 cup Frey red wine (we used the Frey 2010 Organic Cabernet Sauvignon)
3 cups water
Salt, to taste
Black pepper, to taste

Here's what you do:

For the Roulade
1)Remove gills and stems from portobellos. Place them on an oiled sheet tray along with the asparagus and  salt and pepper and put into a 400-degree F oven for 15 minutes. Remove and cool.

Portobellos on the pan!

2) To caramelize onions, place chopped onions in a sauté pan with 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat and cook until translucent (about 8-10 minutes).

3) Deglaze with 1/2 cup Frey Dessertage or Late Harvest Zinfandel, lower heat, and cook until tender and sweet, about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Cool.

4) Place cooled mushrooms on a clean working surface, stem side down, and with a sharp knife, butterfly each mushroom, opening them flesh side up. Leave 1/2 inch at the end, and open the mushroom like a book. To fill each mushroom, place 2 tablespoons of caramelized onions at the center, followed by roasted peppers and asparagus. Roll the mushrooms around the filling ingredients. Each should look like a fat cigar. Tie each roulade with a thin strand of the leek tops.

Roulade tied up!

For the Potato Cakes
1) After boiling potatoes and yams separately, sauté diced onions and leek with 1 tablespoon of oil over medium heat for approximately 3 minutes, then add minced garlic and cook until soft. Season with salt and pepper.

2) Drain potatoes and yams, combine, and add onion mixture and panko. Mash ingredients together.  The potato mixture should be rustic, not mashed potatoes. Season as desired. Remove from mixing bowl and form into six 1” thick cakes.

For the Mushroom Demi-Glace

1) Place mushroom stem and gills in a baking pan along with onions, garlic, carrots, and herbs. Sprinkle with oil. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes at 375 degrees F.

2) Remove foil, add 1 cup of red wine and continue to roast another 15 minutes. Remove from oven, reserve wine, and place solid ingredients in a blender with water (do this in several batches). Blend well, until you achieve a watery paste. Pass blended mixture through a fine sieve. Finally, put strained sauce in a pan with reserved red wine and reduce to a syrup-like consistency. Season sauce well.

Final Preparation and Serving
1) Place roulades and potato cakes on a sheet tray and place in a 350-degree F oven for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, warm mushroom demi-glace. Place a ladle of mushroom demi-glace in the center of each plate. When potato cakes are hot, place one on top of the sauce on each plate and place a roulade on top of each cake.


(Recipe & images copyrighted © Frey Vineyards, 2013. All right reserved.)