Each month we profile a different plant that is an integral part of our home Biodynamic ranch ecology at Frey Vineyards. Grapes are at the heart of our farm, but we also have a surrounding biodiversity reserve. Between the wildlands and the grape vines, we have transitional hedgerow zones.
November’s Herbal Highlight from the hedgerows is the beloved olive. So far we've featured two different wild plants in this series. First, we looked at blackberries in September. Then we took some time with poison oak in October. But this month we are showcasing something we've planted: a well-established orchard hedge of olive trees between our Zinfandel and Cabernet vineyards. Olea europaea hails from the Mediterranean and several varieties grow well here, adapting nicely to our Northern California climate.
The hedgerow is a mix of nearly 90 trees of classic olive varieties including Pendolino, Arbequina, Frantoio, Picholine, and Leccino. The trees were planted in the early 2000s and run parallel along the vineyard from our well-known tower to the south and stretch to a riparian creek hedgerow to the north.
We protect the hedgerows to increase the biodiversity of our vineyards. The more diverse an ecosystem, the more likely the system is to stay healthy. Demeter biodynamic certification requires that 10% of a farm be preserved or cultivated as a biodiversity reserve. Different farms accomplish this in different ways. Here at Frey, our vineyards all have native areas that satisfy the requirement, but we have also planted many areas at different properties to enhance the abundance of pollinator habitat, various fruit and nut crops, and local native species. Olives and grapes are old friends, and we decided to create a special place in our vineyards to honor this timeless coupling.
Each year at the end of the summer we begin to crush a bounty of grapes, and the olive harvest is perfectly timed to follow up the grapes. As the Fall sets in, when the colors of the olives are split between greens, purples, and darker blacks, we harvest these fruits too. We cure some olives for eating, but the bulk of the harvest is brought to the olive mill to be pressed into oil. It’s a modest pressing that gets consumed by family and friends, but the fresh, healthy, local oils make it worth the effort.
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