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.
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!
Try out this easy and delicious recipe for a refreshing summertime treat. We made two versions of the recipe: Cabernet Sauvignon with rosemary and Sauvignon Blanc with Tarragon. But there are countless variations and you can eliminate the alcohol or adapt your sorbet to your creative whims. A quick internet search yields dozens of ideas, from champagne grapefruit to red wine with clove, and even hot toddy! Whatever your preference, the basic recipe below will get you started and you can elaborate and embellish from there. The recipe is good for 4-6 hearty servings. Have fun and enjoy!
1 cup spring water or filtered water
3/4 cup organic sugar, or honey, or white grape juice
(Note on sweeteners: We found that heavier red wines absorb the flavor of sugar and the sweetness is more intense for white wines. So for white wines we recommend using a little less sweetener.)
1 1/2 cup wine
1/2 cup lemon juice
herbs and spices to taste (lemon zest is great for white wines)
We suggest either Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc with lemon mint, basil, tarragon, and Zinfandel or Merlot with cinnamon, ginger or cloves. Be bold and experiment!
1) Boil water
2) Stir in sugar, honey or juice until dissolved completely
3) Cover and cool
4) Stir in wine, lemon juice and spices
5) Taste your mixture and make any adjustments. This is your last chance to adjust the sweetness, tartness or spiciness!
6) Prepare in an ice cream maker or see the freezer instructions below.
If you don’t have an ice cream maker you can still make wonderful sorbet. The traditional trick is to interrupt the freezing process as many times as possible so you don’t end up with a block of flavored ice. However, if pinched for time, you can freeze it all at once, then remove it from the freezer and stir it as it softens. When it reaches the desired consistency, you can re-freeze it and serve it later.
1) Pour liquid sorbet mixture into a large baking dish. The depth of the liquid should be about 1/2 inch.
2) Place the dish in the freezer, making sure not to spill.
3) Every 20-40 minutes remove the dish from the freezer and stir with a flat wooden spoon or a plastic spatula, or freeze all at once and stir as it softens, as mentioned above.
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!
While at Millésime Bio in Montpellier this year, Eliza Frey and Derek Dahlen met Jason Cole, an American wine educator living in France. He teaches at SupAgro as part of their European Vine and Wine Masters Program: Vinifera Euromaster. SupAgro is an international center for higher education in agricultural sciences that teaches students from around the world. Jason took a bottle of our 2009 Organic Zinfandel to share with his class. Zinfandel is a fascinating wine for Europeans, as it is a New World grape that isn't grown outside the US. The students from all over the world were thankful and intrigued by an organic wine from California in their selection, as they expressed personally bellow. Thanks Jason for exposing your class to Frey Organic Zinfandel!
Below are thank-you notes from the class:
In January 2011, Eliza Frey, Derek Dahlen and Alex Frei represented Frey Vineyards at Millésime Bio, Europe’s premier organic wine conference, held each year in Montpellier, France. Frey was awarded a bronze medal for our 2009 Pinot Noir – quite an honor for a no-sulfites-added organic wine at a French wine competition!
The conference featured over 500 producers of wines made from organically grown grapes and an ever-increasing number of producers making wines with no added sulfites. It is great to know that the additive-free wine culture in Europe is alive and well. Along with our friends Phil and Judy LaRocca of LaRocca Vineyards in Forest Ranch, California, we represented organic, non-sulfited winemaking in the USA and stressed the need for purity and the exclusion of additives as the European Union struggles to develop their organic wine standards.
Attendees at the Millésime Bio 2011, Montpellier, France.
Frey Organic Pinot Noir vineyard with clover cover crop.
Happy Spring from all of us at Frey Vineyards! It has been another wet and cold spring here in Mendocino County, Northern California. Bud break on the grapes was about 2 weeks late and we have already received well over our annual rainfall. In the vineyards, pruning is almost finished and our inter-planted grain crop is coming along nicely. In the cellar, we are racking and filtering our 2010 wines and just releasing the first whites (Organic Sauvignon Blanc) with Pinot Noir right around the corner. Please find below some news from the Vineyards and as always, a safe and healthy season to all!
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.)
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.