After a busy spring of working the soil and tending to our 300 acres of established grapes, 16 acres of Chardonnay were planted at the Road D Ranch. This was a large project that began years ago with the removal of a neglected vineyard from the previous owners. The vines were removed, the field was ripped and smoothed, compost applied, cover crop seeded. This spring the spacing for the vines was laid out, stakes, wires and irrigation were installed to support the baby grapes and finally the young vines were planted. They put on good growth after planting. It bodes well for a healthy vibrant vineyard.
Harvest started off in early September and a touch of rain freshened the air and gave the plants some ripening energy. It looked like a great year for “hang time,” when the grapes get to linger on the vine and develop more flavor and complexity even after they are sweet enough to pick. We anticipated a slow and steady harvest.
A frost on October 10th changed the plans. The unexpected cold snap brought temperatures of 27 degrees, a month before our usual first freeze. The leaves of the vineyards perished over-night, leaving little new energy to ripen fruit further. Luckily the hanging fruit held up well until it was harvested. The harvest crew worked several long days and compressed what would have been a month of picking into less than two weeks.
Following the early cold snap, unusually warm and dry weather has kept vineyard activities bustling even after the last grapes have been picked. Cover crops have been sown. A mixture of bell beans, winter peas and winter grasses are awaiting rain to germinate and grow. Indeed, everyone in northern California is awaiting rain.
Grapevines will have a fall flush of root growth after they lose their leaves and enter dormancy, so the vineyard crew has been irrigating in some vineyards to give the vines a chance to take advantage of the warm weather while it lasts. Again, we look to the skies for rain, to green up the landscape, freshen the air, and let winter groundcover get established before it gets too cold.
The dry weather has allowed for several acres of old vines to be removed at our Colony Ranch in order to make way for new plantings of various red varietals next year. The vines were removed with an excavator and piled up in order to be burned. Old stakes and wires were removed by hand. Later, the field will be ripped and disked, compost spread, and cover crop sown. Next year the vineyard layout and planting will take place in early summer.
There is an abundance of bird life in the neighborhood, with great blue herons, kite hawks, snowy egrets and songbirds keeping the vineyard workers company.
We hope this season finds you all in good health and spirits. Best wishes from all of us at Frey Vineyards.
A tagine is a delicious Moroccan-style stew that is slow-cooked in a ceramic pot of the same name, but you can also cook the dish in a regular baking pan as I did for this recipe. I used a tagine pot for presentation. Leave out the chicken for vegetarian version. I hadn’t made a tagine for years until a client recently requested a dish. It turned out so good I had to share! It paired wonderfully with Frey Organic Pinot Grigio.
Tagine pots are easy to find online.
Chicken and Butternut Tagine
Chicken: 6 wings & 3 thighs.
1 large butternut squash (peeled, de-seeded, chopped into 1 inch pieces)
2 onions, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons chopped ginger
Half bunch cilantro, chopped coarsely
5 Tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons softened ghee
2-3 teaspoons salt
2 pinches saffron threads (about 1 teaspoon, don’t crush)
2 Meyer fresh lemons or regular lemons, de-seeded, coarsely chopped.
5 tablespoons ghee
1 can pitted green olives
3/4 cup blanched almonds (place in simmering water for one minute and remove skins)
4 tablespoons thinly sliced preserved lemon (preserved lemons can be found online if your local supermarket has none)
Blend all marinade ingredients in Cuisinart or blender. Thoroughly massage marinade into the chicken in a baking pan and over the butternut squash pieces. Let marinate for a few hours or even better, overnight. For vegetarians, use butternut squash and leave out chicken.
Bake at 400 degrees for 1 hour. After baking 20 minutes, and every 15 to 20 minutes thereafter, stir the dish in the oven. Chicken should be nicely browned after an hour.
Pull from oven and immediately toss with 5-6 tablespoons ghee. Add and toss the green olives, blanched almonds, thinly sliced preserved lemon, then garnish with cilantro.
A ceramic tagine pot for cooking or for presentation, and a jar of home-made preserved lemons.
Peeled garlic and squash.
Ingredients in the blender.
Rub in the marinade. Left is vegetarian version, right is with chicken.
Blanching the almonds in simmering water.
Removing skins from blanched almonds.
Vegetarian tagine dish ready to eat!
Eva-Marie Lind is an expert in the field of aromatic raw materials and sensory perception. A recognized leader in the art of perfumery, she has designed the aromas, scents and flavors of many perfumes, health and beauty products. Frey Vineyards invited Eva-Marie to come to the winery as a sensory sommelier and merge the foundations of the art of perfumery with the art of winemaking.By Eva-Marie Lind
For a moment, let us explore our sense of smell and taste. We each have our own genetic encoded odor print. None of us, outside of identical twins, experience the sense of smell and taste in the same manner. Scents and flavors elicit psychosomatic (mind and spirit) as well as physiologic (body) responses, which, beyond our awareness, imprint themselves onto our memory. In addition, our perceptions are influenced biologically, by age, sex chemistry and environment.
We each respond to scent through a variety of circumstances unique to our individuality. This theory, called ‘learned-odor response,” is why the same aroma (scent and flavor) can affect each of us quite differently. An aroma that triggers good memories for one person, may revisit painful memories for another. Our individual histories, locked within the recesses of our mind, govern our responses and our feelings.
Of all our senses, smell may be our most acute; enabled and facilitated by the mysterious process of our olfactory nerves that, unlike most others in our physical make-up, have the capacity to renew themselves. Each olfactory neuron survives a mere sixty days and is then replaced by a new cell. When these cells renew themselves, the axons of neurons that express the same receptor always go to the exact same place. This is why our memories are able to survive all this turnover of neurons.
We have the capacity to smell and identify over one trillion odors in one square inch of the brain. Smelling is rapid in response, taking merely 0.5 seconds to register as compared to 0.9 seconds to react to pain.
Our nose and its epithelium are an ‘organ’- one that digests, assimilates and transfers odor molecules to the brain to be further processed. Registering odors is generally independent of our left hemisphere brain, which is the care-center of our mind and is responsible for our impartiality, examination and intellect. Our left brain is also responsible for governing language and speech which suggest why it is so difficult for many to adequately describe aromas with language. Odor recognition is predominately a right hemisphere brain activity. This is the area responsible for our passion, emotion, creativity, and instinctive behavior.
The senses of smell and taste are tightly joined, however tasting requires tens of thousands more molecules to register, than does smell.
Taste buds are as fascinating as our olfactory neurons. In the 17th century, Marcello Maphigi identified the papillae of our tongue, each composed of taste buds, as “organs of taste.” Taste buds also reside on the soft palate, tonsils and the upper third of the esophagus. We have nearly 10,000 buds. Sixty -five taste buds fit into the space of one typewritten period. Each papillae contain about two hundred and fifty buds. Just like our olfactory neurons, taste buds are in a constant state of flux and regeneration, shedding and renewing every ten days.
Taste buds distinguish the four qualities of sweet, salty, bitter and sour. In Japan they add a fifth quality of ‘karai, for spicy, hot and richness. In India, within the Ayurvedic tradition, there are six “rasas,’ removing spicy and adding astringent and pungent. All other tastes and flavors are detected by the olfactory receptors that reside within our nasal passages. We smell odors and flavors through our nose, as well as the passageway in the back of the mouth.
Wine tasting can be enhanced with the unique vocabulary and experiential inferences of scent. My goal is to alter your perception, encourage your imagination and facilitate a (r)evolution between the world of perfume and wine.
I arrived at Frey Vineyards after three years in Italy researching the heritage perfume of the trees of Fiori d’Arancia amara. This bitter orange produces the valued blossoms known to the perfume industry as Neroli.
So, it was with great enthusiasm that I discovered that the fields that welcomed me into the winery were planted with the classic Italian grape, Sangiovese.
Each morning with dense coffee in hand and then at dusk with my thermos of essence spiked sparkling water, I observed her (Sangiovese.) Rudolf Steiner, the father of Biodynamic agriculture, advised visual and sensory observation of the farm and the crops. Sunrise to sunset, I noticed the pollinators of the in between vine flora, the tilling and smell of the soil, as well as the fauna. Bushy skunk, momma fox, deer and most recently, baby bear, all made appearances.
I had missed budburst and full flower, arriving as the flower caps were ever so slightly fading. I watched as the caps fell away becoming joyful sets of berries. I noticed the unique visual communities each cluster formed.
Sangiovese 2016- A visual delight in the glass of dense garnet with a thin pinkish- purple roof. Opening aroma of sweet earth holding hints of air cooled by summer evening breezes. Violet leaf and blueberry with a touch of pink lotus absolute and a tinge of herb and pimento berry. The mouth feel is both light and full offering lively ripe raspberry, cherry, tea rose, pink pepper and young wild forest notes.
Opens robustly with black silky elegance, black currant and mulberry, a hint of tobacco and a feathering of licorice, clove and sweet saddle-leather.
We love when customers contact us with questions about our wines. If we don’t know the answers off-hand, it prompts us to geek-out on research, which is truly one of our favorite pastimes!
We’ve received several questions from customers lately asking if our wines are Keto-friendly. While we’re familiar with the Keto diet as a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet that lowers blood sugar and insulin levels, and boosts the body’s metabolism, we wanted to learn more about why Frey wines qualify as Keto-friendly.
Practitioners of the Keto diet aim to keep the body in the blissful metabolic state called ketosis, where the body is actually burning up stored fat. Due to their carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis. Wine and light varieties of beer are relatively low in carbs, usually 3-4 grams per serving, but when you’re trying to clock under 30 carbs per day on the Keto diet, even a glass of wine could launch you out of ketosis.
So where do the carbs in wine come from in the first place? Carbs in alcohol come from residual sugar, or sugars left over after the fermentation process. Before grapes ferment into wine, they are sugary. During fermentation in the cellar, tiny yeasts feast on grape sugar and produce alcohol and carbon dioxide. As the alcohol level rises it kills off the yeast, and any remaining sugar becomes known as residual sugar. In some cases, a winemaker might desire more residual sugar in order to manipulate a wine’s acidity and will stop the process to prevent the yeast from consuming all the sugar. In other cases, a winemaker might add sugar to ultimately increase the alcohol level in a process called chaptalization, although this technique is prohibited in California.
Because of the presence of sugar, whether residual or added, even wines that are classified as “dry” can still bring on the carbs. Varieties with higher alcohol levels, typically Petite Sirah, Syrah, and Zinfandel, will naturally harbor more carbs. Although wine labels don’t list nutritional information like calories and carbs, if you know the residual sugar in grams per liter, you can do the sum on your own. To calculate carbs per 5 oz. serving of wine, multiply the residual sugar by 0.15. Dry wines are classified as wines with 30 grams/liter or less of residual sugar, so one glass of dry wine can contain between 0-4 carbs.
At Frey Vineyards, we allow the yeast to go through the full maturation process in the cellar and we produce our wines with very little manipulation. ALL of our wines test for less than 1% residual sugar, which means they all contain less than 0.15 carbohydrates per 5 oz. glass. So Keto friends can rest assured that our wines are low-carb and can be enjoyed while enjoying your fitness plan!
In deep skillet or Wok, fry mustard and cumin seeds in 1 Tbsp oil until the cumin seeds begin to pop and brown; then add onions and sauté until soft and translucent. Add chopped tomatoes and cook until they are stewy. Add sugar, turmeric, masala, curry, cayenne pepper and coriander; stir till completely combined. Add Cauliflower and Chickpeas, cover and steam until the Cauliflower is just tender. You may have to add a little water to steam. (If not using coconut milk, let sit for 5 minutes before serving over rice. Add salt to taste.)
If using coconut milk: Add coconut milk and mix in well. Let simmer for 4 minutes covered on low heat, then uncover, take off heat and let it sit for 5 minutes before serving over rice. Add salt to taste. Garnish with a little lime juice and chopped fresh cilantro and enjoy with a glass of Frey Organic Pinot Grigio.
Eliza Frey with wild mustard in Frey biodynamic Cabernet vineyard.
After weeks of rain and the chill of the polar vortexes, spring is arriving in Mendocino County. One of my favorite spring pastimes is taking to the fields and gathering wild spring greens, or edible weeds – a tonic to the body and the spirit. With their beautiful shapes, shades of green and wide array of flavors, they make a wonderful addition to springtime cuisine. Wild edibles spice up any salad or sandwich, add layers of flavor and texture to stir fries, deepen the flavors of soup or provide a unique garnish for any dish.
Wild edible plants connect us back to the abundance of Mother Nature, and to our ancestors, who relied on foraging for survival. Wild plants don’t need humans to help them grow, and there is something beautiful and complete about their ability to get what they need and thrive on their own. Gathering wild greens is easy and fun as long as you follow some common sense guidelines.
Make sure you know what you are eating! Never eat any plant without first knowing that it is edible. Many wild edibles have close look-alikes, so make sure you are well informed before ingesting any new plant. The information below does not include identification details for the listed plants. A great way to make sure you’re being safe is to find a friend or neighbor who is knowledgeable and invite to come forage with you. Local foraging classes and groups are popping up all over the nation. There are countless websites and books about gathering wild plants, and a quick internet search can connect you with plenty of resources.
Edible weeds are only healthful when harvested from areas free of chemicals and pollutants. Avoid harvesting from chemically maintained lawns, near motor roadways, non-organic farms or in areas where there may be high dog traffic. After harvesting wild greens, make sure to wash them thoroughly.
Never harvest an entire stand of wild plants. A general rule of thumb is to leave at least 2/3 of any given patch untouched, allowing the species to complete its life cycle and reproduce, and ensuring that there is plenty for wildlife.
The abundance and variety of wild edibles varies greatly among different climates and regions. While the varieties listed below are available and abundant for Mendocino County, California, in spring, your location will ultimately dictate what you have access to and when.
Here are a handful of my favorite green treats to gather on the Frey Ranch in late winter and early spring:
Miner’s Lettuce (Claytonia perfoliata)
Miner's lettuce, an annual flowering plant, is also known as Indian lettuce, spring beauty, and winter purslane. Native to the west coast of North America, it prefers cool wet areas, and in inland Mendocino County it is available from Late January to April. Fleshy stems lead to rounded rosette leaves that cup the morning dew. White or pink flowers develop on a slender stem that grows out of the center of the leaf. It is abundant at the edges of our vineyards, in shady areas at the forest’s edge.
It is best picked when fresh and green, before flowering. The stems are crisp and juicy, and the leaves are tender with a mild watery flavor, well suited as the base of a salad, or used as a substitute for lettuce in any context.
Chickweed (Stellaria media)
Chickweed is a low growing annual that reseeds yearly and emerges in late winter, as rainfall and warmer temperatures allow germination. Its tiny leaves climb wispy mats of stems in semi shaded edge areas and sunny fields. As it matures tiny white flowers form at each leaf node.
It has a pleasant, mild flavor and is a great substitute for sprouts on sandwiches and in wraps. It is also lovely in salad. It gets slimy when cooked so try enjoying it raw. For larger, leggy plants, you may want to use only the leaves, as the stems can be a bit fibrous. Chickweed doesn’t store well, and is best eaten within a few hours of harvest.
Common Dandelion (Taraxacum Officinale subsp. vulgare)
This is the most common variety of dandelion, although there are thousands. Dandelion is a perennial plant native to Europe. In California jagged leaves re-sprout from taproots in the late winter. In wetter climates the greens can be harvested throughout the growing season. A thick, fleshy stem develops and forms bright yellow, multi-petaled flowers that eventually turn into globes of fluff that scatter on the wind with our wishes. Dandelion’s nutritional value eclipses most of the fruits and vegetables you can buy in the grocery store. It is recognized as a tonic to the liver, kidneys, blood and digestion.
Dandelion has an intense bitter flavor that is somewhat of an acquired taste. The entire plant, including the leaves, stems, flowers, and roots, is edible and nutritious, packed with vitamin C, potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus, thiamin, riboflavin, beta-carotene and fiber. Due to their intense flavor, greens are often cooked, and are delicious with a bright lemony dressing. The flowers of dandelion are also beautiful and pungent before they start to form seed heads, great as a garnish or sautéed with garlic. Dried and roasted roots can be ground and brewed as dandelion coffee, and are an ingredient in traditional root beer.
Wild Mustard (Brassica Spp.)
Wild Mustard is found all over the world and mustard and its cousins radish and turnip have been grown since ancient times. Here in Mendocino County the spring brings an explosion of color as the bright yellow flowers fill the vineyards, delighting bees and foragers alike. Mature plants can be up to 4 feet tall, but they are tastiest when harvested young.
The mustard flower is a beautiful garnish on salads, with a rich pollen-like flavor and gentle heat. The greens need to be harvested young, as they get spiny as the plant reaches maturity. They are a wonderful addition to any stir fry, chopped fresh in potato salad, or served wilted with a vinaigrette dressing.
As flowers drop and the plant forms seed-pods, the tender green pods can be harvested and pickled. As the plant finishes its life cycle the mature seeds can be harvested and ground into mustard.
Sheep’s sorrel (Rumex acetosella)
Sheep's sorrel is a low growing perennial herb in the buckwheat family is native to North America. It makes its home in disturbed soils and spreads from seeds and fleshy, horizontal roots. Clumps of green arrow shaped leaves form at the base of the plant, which redden as the plant grows and forms upright flower stalks for tiny reddish-brown flowers and seed pods.
Tender green leaves have an intensely tart lemon flavor that is a great accent in salads and soups, and adds pop to pesto. Its seeds are also edible and can be eaten raw or cooked.
Winter Pea Shoots (Pisum sativum)
While winter peas are not wild in our vineyards, they are part of our annual cover crop mix. Peas are legumes that fix nitrogen into the soil. They grow tendrils that help them climb amid ryegrass and bell beans and have fleshy silvery leaves that form in whorls along the rigid stem, and they form beautiful edible pink flowers as temperatures rise.
Harvest the top 2-4 inches of the pea shoots to enjoy their distinctly sweet and nutty flavor that is wonderful raw or cooked. Try them sautéed with garlic and olive oil or in place of spinach in your favorite soup. The flowers are tender and mild and gorgeous as a garnish or salad ingredient. Consider adding them to a winter cover crop for a delicious supply of late winter greens!
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.
Mustard blowing in the wind in Frey organic Cabernet vineyard, Spring 2019.
The season turns and cycles of vineyard work turn with it. With the release of the first 2018 wines, we are looking ahead to a great 2019 vintage.
We will be wrapping up pruning next week. Pruning is arguably the most crucial of all vineyard processes, as choices about which wood to remove or leave determines fruit set this year and into the future.
Pruning is also the most time-consuming, labor-intensive task of the year. The human-power needed to prune over 300 acres of grapes is vast, and the work spans December to April. This year the gift of a wet winter has slowed things down a little, with several days missed due to intense rains.
The abundance of water has been great for the growth of annual cover crops. We use a mix of rye grass, triticale, bell beans and pea shoots (check out the post on foraging greens in the vineyard). The cover crops help hold soil in place through wet winter downpours, the roots provide food and habitat for soil life, flowers provide forage for pollinating insects and the bodies of the plants will return to the soil to continue to feed the soil food web.
Each handful of healthy soil can contain billions of vertebrates, invertebrates, fungi and bacteria – the myriad life forms that support all life on earth. Grape vines cannot uptake vital nutrients and water on their own. They depend on these smaller beings to process nutrients and make them bioavailable. This robust yet delicate ecosystem is a universe beneath our feet, and as farmers we feel a duty to protect and enhance it. Our organic practices are a stand against the poisoning of soils, waters, animals and people that is the result of widespread pesticide, fungicide and herbicide use. Chemical agriculture weakens the precious web of life from the ground up.
Refusing chemicals on the farm is more labor intensive, and with lush growth after such a wet winter we anticipate needing to work hard to combat mildew and fungus in the canopy of the grape vines. Wire trellis systems throughout the vineyard allow us to pull canes up and away from the fruit to allow more air-flow around developing bunches of grapes. In particularly lush sites we will also need to thin leaves by hand to ensure mildew and mold do not have a chance to set in.
A busy season lies ahead! Along with routine vineyard tasks we will be adding 16 new acres of Chardonnay vines at the Road D Ranch. Vines have been ordered and plans for irrigation and layout are underway. As always, we appreciate your support of our endeavors and your choice of organic wine, for the planet, the waters, our children, and your enjoyment. Cheers!
Sunset at Frey Organic Vineyards, Spring 2019.
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