We are excited to be building our new winery on West Road in Redwood Valley. Our new site is located amongst vineyards that we have farmed for many years, but we rarely had the opportunity to show off the beauty of the land to visitors. It is a south-facing parcel that is tucked up against forested benchland and is home to a few majestic valley oaks and a scenic irrigation pond.
We knew that for the design and construction of the building we would need a team leader who was aligned with our vision for an energy-efficient and sustainable space. Craig Frost of Frostline Systems, based in nearby Willits, was the perfect person to head up the design and build. Craig has experience in mechanical engineering, architecture, and construction and has been involved in the remodeling of the Cotton Auditorium in Fort Bragg, the construction of Laytonville High School and low-income housing in Mendocino County.
The outer shell of our new winery is a 43,000 sq ft metal building that measures 37 ft tall and supports a roof of solar panels. This is the first time in our winery’s history that the majority of our wine tanks will be housed indoors, which will allow better humidity and temperature control. The building will be night-air controlled, pulling in cool air at night, and using the temperature differential between day and night to regulate the inside temperature. It is the most passive system we could achieve given the size of the space, and with the help of the solar panels, it will be energy self-sufficient over the course of a year.
Wherever we can, we are choosing green materials and creative detailing. We are using NorCal Concrete recycled concrete blocks for the retaining wall that supports the ramp leading up to the crush pad. The 380 ft long wall is capped with a decorative bas-relief of iconic shapes and images from our area. Vineyard truck drivers hauling grapes will start at the bottom and see imprinted grapevines and wildflowers, then forest with mushrooms and bear, then ocean with sea creatures and a surfer.
The tasting room and office floors will be made with recycled maple from the flooring of an old school gym. The doors will be fashioned from recycled redwood from water tanks. We have been able to salvage some of the wood from trees lost in the fire, and although it isn’t strong enough for structural lumber, we will be able to integrate it in trim work and decorative pieces.
Tasting room visitors will have the added treat of a self-guided nature trail through beautiful pollinator gardens, up the benchland to survey the vineyards from above, and down along the bio-swale and the pond habitat.
Our construction crew has been phenomenal in providing excellent skills and dedicated labor. Johnny Frey, our third-generation assistant winemaker, has been Craig’s main assistant with designing and building. “I often call up Katrina and tell her how amazing her son is,” Craig confesses. “We work really well together and we’re able to achieve a lot in a short amount of time.” In addition to Craig and Johnny, we’ve had the pleasure of working with owners of local companies: Ryan Mayfield of R and M Construction, Josh Smith of Smith Concrete, and Chris Solomon of Solomon Electric.
The wet winter here in Redwood Valley is great for grapevines, but not as easy on construction, so our concrete pours have been delayed. We are on schedule to have the crush pad ready in time for harvest 2019, and we’re planning on celebrating with a big party. We’ll keep you updated on our grand opening date, and we can’t wait to share our new space with you!
Since our beginning in 1980, we’ve been innovators in the organic winemaking field. Innovation involves asking questions: How can we develop the best vineyard management practices to accomplish a holistic farming system? How can we increase carbon-sequestration in our soil? How can we explore new techniques on the bottling line to preserve our wines’ delicate flavors? The wines we produce have always been a direct reflection of our ecological goals and our stewardship ideals.
Behind-the-scenes at the winery is our commitment to environmental protection through our packaging. Over the years we’ve taken strides to seek out environmentally friendly packaging options and like-minded vendors to work with. We’ve experimented with different types of closures, recycled label papers, and shipping boxes. In the same way our customers make a difference by supporting organic agriculture, we can make a difference with sustainable packaging choices.
For the last several years we have been sourcing our corks from Ganau, a company based in Sardinia, Italy. Ganau has been sustainably harvesting cork from Mediterranean forests since 1941. We purchase Ganau’s agglomerated corks, which are formed from micro-granulated bits of cork compressed into a solid closure. Molded corks are a resourceful use of cork scraps and help maintain the cork industry as zero waste. Ganau uses a proprietary steam-cleaning process to remove TCA, a compound that can impart musty flavors in wine, as an alternative to the conventional chlorine-heavy method. The agglomerated corks work well for us because they create a tight seal on the bottle that prevents any oxygen infiltration, which is essential to protecting our non-sulfited wines. Oxygen-taint is down significantly since incorporating Ganau into our bottling line, and we are so happy with the results.
Envi 100 Wine Labels from Monadnock paper mill
With the redesign of our Biodynamic portfolio in 2013 we wanted to source a recycled label paper that would truly represent the ecological principles of the wine inside the bottle. After much research and development (think: mock-up wine bottles plunged into ice water baths to test for durability, and shipped to Frey friends across the country to test for scratches) we were thrilled to discover Monadnock mill in New Hampshire. Founded in 1819, Monadnock is the oldest continuously operating paper mill in the United States. Monadnock developed Envi Performance Label stock to be 100% PCW recycled, Forest Stewardship Council Certified, and processed chlorine-free. The paper has all the elements we were looking for and it prints beautifully.
Monadnock produces up to 50% of its electricity requirement with onsite hydropower, with the other half derived from purchased wind-power, and all their products are manufactured carbon neutral. Their dedication to environmentally responsible ingenuity and impact-reduction goals has created a delightful business relationship.
Kraft case boxes and recycled pulp liners
Last fall we debuted our kraft recycled case boxes imprinted with our signature Frey logo. Previously we had been using white cardboard boxes to ship wine to our distributors. The change came about when we started researching the differences between recycled (brown) cardboard and virgin (white) cardboard. Compared to 100% recycled cardboard, each ton of virgin cardboard produced uses 24 trees, 33% more energy, 49% more wastewater, and releases 37% more greenhouse gases in the process. The choice was simple once we realized how we could reduce our footprint in this area.
Our direct-to-consumer shipping materials are also eco-friendly. To cushion our bottles during shipping, we use molded pulp liners that are made from 100% recycled materials in a chemical-free pulping process that uses open-air drying. The pulp liners are also BPI-certified compostable, which is the best option to stay out of the waste stream, and can be composted at your local green waste site or in your backyard compost pile. The winery brochures that we include in each order are printed at Greenerprinter on 100% recycled uncoated paper with vegetable-based inks.
We are grateful to be surrounded by such natural beauty that continues to remind us of our responsibility as caretakers of the land around us. By making ecologically conscious choices at every level of our business, we hope to inform and engage our customers, our suppliers, and our community in a deeper conversation about how we can work together in an increasingly sustainable way.
It takes a lot of energy to turn water into wine. In fact, it takes an average of 6 gallons of water in the cellar to produce 1 gallon of wine. At Frey Vineyards, water is used during the winemaking process for steam-cleaning and sterilizing tanks and equipment, and during harvest season it’s used for flushing out grape stems and seeds from the crusher. The most common conventional method for treating process water from wineries is an aeration pond, which requires constant electricity to pump and reintroduce oxygen. The aeration method is not only energy intensive, it’s also noisy and stinky, as the process can take days, if not weeks, to restore oxygen into the water. What if there was another way to recycle process water back to a beneficial state where it could be re-used for irrigation, without using a tremendous amount of energy and disrupting wildlife (and human life) at the winery?
Enter BioFiltro, an international wastewater treatment company with a patented filtration system that naturally regenerates process water in four hours. Frey Vineyards first met BioFiltro when our winemaker, Paul Frey, attended a Unified wine show where BioFiltro presented their innovative biological process. BioFiltro’s patented BIDA® system is a passive aerobic bioreactor that catalyzes the digestive power of earthworms to naturally filter the water after the winemaking process. This chemical-free system removes grape skins, grape seeds, sugars, and other organic compounds from the water and regenerates millions of gallons of water per year to be used for irrigation and frost protection in our vineyards. Not only is the BIDA® system extremely energy efficient in its technology (it uses up to 85% less energy than the conventional aeration method), it also generates 75-100 cubic yards of worm castings to be used onsite to enrich our soil, increasing the value of this simple and elegant closed-loop system.
How do these hard-working worms do the heavy-lifting? The BioFiltro BIDA® system starts with an open-top concrete basin that is layered up with strata of wood shavings, river cobble, and drainage basins. During start up, BioFiltro inoculates the system with worms and microbes hungry for grape sugars and solids left over from the winemaking process. Water is pumped across the system with sprinklers, and it gravity feeds down through the layers. In the top layer, earthworms munch on larger solids and produce castings rich in microbes and bacteria. By working beneficially and symbiotically together, the organisms form a biofilm, or layers of billions of microbial colonies, that capture, retain, and digest food found in the process water. This film is simultaneously aerated by the worms themselves who are busy moving throughout the system in search of food. From top to bottom, the process takes four hours.
At Frey, our BIDA® system will consist of two beds that are approximately 40’x80’ and 5’ tall. Our system has the capacity to process 10,000 gallons of winery grey water per day, which is the equivalent of 600 showers! The recovered water then gets pumped into our irrigation ponds, where it is stored for future agricultural use throughout the year.
Drawing on simple biological processes that Charles Darwin observed almost 140 years ago, BioFiltro capitalizes on the symbiotic harmony of earthworms and bacteria to deliver a biofiltration system that revitalizes water so we can conserve a precious resource. “When I first met Paul and Johnny Frey [our winemaker and assistant winemaker], they understood everything in a second,” says Mai Ann Healy, of BioFiltro. “After being at the Biodynamic conference last month, it seems like our company has a parallel challenge of showing how returning to the roots of employing natural processes is truly the home run.”
“We were impressed with the simplicity and energy efficiency of BioFiltro’s system,” says assistant winemaker Johnny Frey. “We are also happy to have the compost-enhancing worm castings as a byproduct and return nutrients to the soil.” As water scarcity is increasing everywhere, we felt it was an important time to better manage our water footprint. We’re looking forward to using our BIDA® system at our new winery, and we’re excited about including our BioFiltro tanks on our future winery tours and raising awareness about resource conservation.
Here are photos of the basins under construction at our new winery site. Stay tuned for more updates and photos!
Johnny Frey building the forms for the worm basin.
Charbono is a grape with a labyrinthine past. Some say it originated in Northwest Italy as the grape Bonarda, and that it closely resembles the varietal Dolcetto in flavor and growing profile. More likely it came from the Savoie region of Eastern France where it is known as Charbonneau, or Doux Noir (“soft black”). In the early 19th Century it was the most widely grown red wine grape in France. It also shows up in the historical record as an Etruscan grape, planted nearly 3,000 years ago. Luckily, it was exported to South America where it continues to thrive in pockets of Argentina, before it was all but wiped out in the Old World by phylloxera in the mid-1800's.
Frey 2011 Organic Charbono
Yet for having such a long track record, it is now considered a rare bird, and there is very little of it planted in California today, hovering around 80 acres. Charbono arrived in Calistoga in the 1880’s at Inglenook Winery, where it remained in production straight through Prohibition as a sacramental wine. It is very late ripening, which can require extra hang time in the vineyard, and puts it in danger of early fall rains that can produce mildew within the tight clusters. The fruit is paricularly slow to reach adequate sugar levels and is often picked at 22-23 brix. However, the longer hang time does allow for the development of mature flavors, even as sugars stay low.
In the U.S., Charbono is considered one of the first cult wines, in part because of its exotic heritage, and also due to its unique flavor profile. Charbono displays a wide range of flavors that can often include kola nut, vanilla bean, cassis, violets, and tar all in one. Although a huge proponent of the unusual grape, Randall Grahm of Bonny Doon Vineyard declares Charbono to be “terminally rustic” because of its bold and uncompromising flavors. In the glass, it is traditionally a deep, inky, purple color and was used most often as a blending grape until it caught on more recently as a single-source varietal.
Our 2011 Organic Charbono comes from 3rd generation grape grower Eddie Graziano in Calpella in Mendocino County. The grapes are from two different blocks, one with old vines planted by Eddie’s grandfather, and the other with 12-15 year-old vines. Our Charbono has aromas of wild berry and oak barrel. On the palate, it is gentle and broad without being heavy. Supple damson plum merges with lengthy opulent tannins. Because of the higher acidity and lower alcohol it can cellar longer than some of our lighter-bodied reds. This would be a fantastic pairing with mustard seed-encrusted roast venison or purée of chestnut soup. This limited release is available in our wine shop.
In our quest at the winery for a carbon neutral impact on our climate, we are always looking for new ways to green our packaging and eliminate waste. In 2013, we began a campaign to modify our wine labels to use 100% post-consumer waste, FSC-certified papers. Now in 2015 we are beta testing a new style of wine bottle closure that is the world’s first closure with a zero carbon footprint. The Select Bio closures from Nomacorc are made with renewable plant-based biopolymers derived from sugarcane. This innovative technology prevents cork taint and oxidation, the closures are produced with 100% renewable energy, and they are 100% recyclable.
Nomacorc's Select Bio closures made from non-GMO sugarcane.
The sugarcane used in the Nomacorc line is grown on non-GMO plantations in Brazil. The sugarcane fields are dry-farmed and replace degraded pastureland, helping to recover soil erosion and increase the carbon content within the depleted soil. Residues from production are closed-looped: they are recycled as fertilization or turned into “bagasse,” a sugarcane bi-product used to produce energy.
Another exciting feature for us is that the Select Bio closures are Demeter® certified. Select Bio closures conform to Demeter’s functional specifications for Biodynamic wines, including the stipulations that a Biodynamic® product must not come into contact with packaging containing chlorine, herbicides, or pesticides.
Our current corks are made from compressed cork shavings fused with a food-based polymer. We have experienced many years of success with them, but we’re always looking for ways to improve our practices with the least amount of environmental impact. There is a general assumption in the wine industry that 3-5% of all wine bottles using a natural cork show some signs of spoilage. The most common reason for spoilage is from oxygen ingress that can occur through the space between the bottle neck and the cork, or through the cork itself. In the case of unsulfited wines like ours, oxygen is a particular culprit in affecting the delicate nature of the wine, so finding the proper closure is imperative. We will be running trials with the Select Bio closures over the next year to ensure that this is the right choice for us.
Sometimes it’s what’s under our noses that is most readily overlooked. Take Frey wine for example. Every day, I answer customers’ questions and extol the virtues of our organic and Biodynamic wine being free of harmful pesticides, free of added sulfites, and free of gluten. I explain how we use holistic vineyard management to sustain a healthy balance in the vineyard instead of reaching for chemical sprays and fertilizers, and how we rely only on naturally occurring sulfites on the skins of grapes without adding any extra sulfites. “And yes, all our wines are gluten-free,” I assuredly confirm.
“But why would wine not be gluten-free?” I found myself asking a year ago, just after I was diagnosed with celiac disease, an auto-immune disease that results in gluten intolerance. Traditional wine is made entirely from fermented grapes and yeast, not wheat, barley, or rye, the glutinous foes of any celiac sufferer. I had already switched to gluten-free beer at that point to avoid the barley in regular brew; why would wine other than Frey suddenly be on the chopping block? And, if other wine is at risk from gluten, what is it that makes Frey wine inherently gluten-free?
I went straight to the source and asked our winemaker, Paul Frey. From my conversation with Paul I learned that wine can come into contact with gluten at two different points during the winemaking process. The first is through the barrel itself. At some cooperages, barrel makers put a small amount of wheat paste in the croze, or groove carved into the top of the staves that secures the barrel head, to help seal the barrel. Although this is known to be a traditionally European practice, several California cooperages I contacted, including barrel makers for Constellation Brands, and Stavin, a popular barrel liner company, use an unbleached flour paste to assure a leak-proof seal on the barrel head. At Frey, we ferment our wine in stainless steel tanks, eliminating the need for any barrel contact. In some of our reds, where oak aging is desired, we submerge oak barrel stave chips that have never had contact with wheat paste. These virgin chips impart an oaky flavor that adds a layer of depth and complexity to our wines.
The second point that gluten can be used in winemaking is during the fining process, which is done to clarify wine. The practice of fining involves using a fining agent to react with color and/or tannin molecules to make them removable by subsequent filtration. Both the fining agent and the color or tannins it reacts with are removed by the filtering; the particles bind to the solids and drop out because they are heavier than the wine. Common fining agents are often protein-based and can include micronized wheat, potassium caseinate (casein is milk protein), food-grade gelatin, egg albumin, or isinglass powder, made from fish bladders. At Frey, we only filter our white wines and we only use bentonite clay as a fining agent. For our reds, Paul Frey prefers other less manipulative techniques to clarify, like softening by aeration. Not only does this mean that our organic wines are free of gluten, but they are also vegan-friendly, because no animal products were used as a fining agent.
Studies have shown that wines fined with wheat show test results with residual gluten levels below the 20ppm threshold required for gluten-free status. And for those wines that are fermented in barrels, most wineries thoroughly pressure wash all barrels with boiling water or steam-clean them before they are used, which would potentially cut down on the possibility of cross-contamination. However, in an effort to control my celiac disease, I‘ve ransacked my medicine cabinet to toss out lip gloss and hairspray made with wheat protein, run out and bought a new cutting board (no crumbs!), and I confine my martini-mixing to potato vodka only. Why would I risk cross-contamination in wine? I do love wine from all over the globe, but knowing what I know now I plan to research a winery a little more ahead of time, seek out wines fermented only in stainless steel, and ask questions about what types of fining agents are used. Most assuredly, I know I can always enjoy a glass of Frey wine with confidence!
All Frey Wines are gluten-free!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.)