This dish was inspired by a trip to Baja California where I had a wonderful plate of tequila jalapeno cream sauce with shrimp and scallops. I’ve created a vegetarian version using leeks instead of seafood and Frey wine in place of tequila. It turned out very tasty!
2 cups leeks, cleaned and sliced in 2 inch strips
2 cups sliced red pepper, remove seeds
2 portabella mushrooms, slice in strips.
1/2 cup sliced jalapeno. Cut in half, de seed, wash, and cut into strips.
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro
1 pound penne pasta. Cook, drain, keep warm and set aside.
1 1/3 cups cream
1 1/2 cups grated sharp white cheddar cheese
1 cup Frey Chardonnay
3 tablespoons sweet butter
2 tablespoons lime juice from fresh lime
salt and pepper to taste
Heat a large sauté pan with the butter on med high to high heat. Add the leeks, red peppers, mushrooms and jalapenos. Sauté a few minutes until almost done. Deglaze with the wine and add the lime juice. Cook down for a minute or so and add the cream. Reduce until the cream sauce thickens. Add half the grated cheese and half the cilantro. Stir and add salt and pepper to taste. Mix the sauce into the pasta and put in large serving bowl. Garnish with the rest of the grated cheese and cilantro. It you like it spicier, garnish with fresh chopped jalapeno.
The vineyard team collect azolla from the pond.
Late last fall after the grape harvest, Derek Dahlen, Dave Moore and Johnny Arrington, members of our vineyard crew, spent a week harvesting azolla from one of our ranch ponds. Azolla began proliferating on this pond about five years ago. At first we were quite concerned about the rapidly spreading carpet of reddish plants – until we learned that it was very beneficial.
Azolla is a tiny aquatic fern that floats on top of still bodies of waters and occurs throughout most of the temperate to tropical regions of the world. Our native California species, Azolla filculoides, has coevolved with a nitrogen-fixing cyanobactrium called Anabeana azollae for millions of years. Together they merge into a superorganism that holds much promise for mitigating greenhouse gases caused by human activities because of its ability to sequester enormous amounts of atmospheric CO2. Only legumes which are widely used as organic cover crops share this capacity.
Beyond being a wonderful nitrogen fixing biofertilizer, azolla is also a protein rich food for cattle, poultry, fish and pigs. Already commonly used in China, Vietnam and the Philippines, this miraculous plant offers a great solution to many parts of the world such as regions of Africa suffering from soil depletion. The beauty of azolla is that it can easily be grown right on the site where it is needed.
Here at Frey Vineyards we are experimenting with mixing it into our compost piles as a high nitrogen addition to our mounds of grape pomace. I’ve also been using it as a mulch around my perennial flowers, shrubs and fruit trees. It’s helping with water retention and I’m noticing beautiful vibrant new green growth. I am next going to start harvesting azolla as a nutrient rich food for the ranch chickens.
For more information on this amazing plant check out theazollafoundation.org
Yoki Frey and Carolyn Brown trimming olive trees in the vineyard.
Over the years we’ve shared lots of details on the ins and outs of growing grapes and the seasonal flow of work in the vineyards. This drought year is moving things ahead in the vineyard in full force. Pruning is wrapping up this week and cultivation and frost protection are ongoing. But this time around I’d like to share about more than just grapes.
Long before Frey Vineyards was the busy enterprise that it is today, many dwellers of the Frey Ranch were deeply involved in gardens and farming of their own. When my grandparents Paul and Beba bought the ranch in 1962 they were following an impulse to be more self-sufficient and have plenty of fresh air for their large and growing gang of kids. The home ranch used to be a sheep farm, as was much of Mendocino County.
The grapes sort of arrived by default. In the late 1960s local agencies were searching for a site for a large reservoir and there was speculation that it might be built in the little valley here at the bottom of Tomki Road, at the headwaters of the Russian River. That never came to pass but the grapes were planted to increase property value in the event that the land would be acquired by imminent domain. The project did move forward a little southeast, and today Lake Mendocino (low as ever!) covers what used to be several homesteads in Coyote Valley.
Here on the ranch the first vines were planted in the early 70s. At the same time there was a lot of work towards getting gardens and orchards going. Paul, Beba and the kids raised hogs and chickens, peacocks and many fruit trees were planted. Starting in the 1970s the Frey siblings and their partners grew many amazing gardens. My earliest memories revolve around the stone foundation of the greenhouse my dad built, just a stone’s throw from the winery; the garden was rich and fertile with mulberries, filberts, pears and apples. My mom’s garden is still there, although only the foundation of the greenhouse remains. I was given my very own garden bed to plant what I chose: peas, cockscomb amaranth, cucumber and daisies. My mom Katrina and her best friend had a small perennial nursery, following in the footsteps of my great grandfather Johnny who ran a nursery in Vermont.
Jonathan Frei, my uncle, started some of the earliest plantings of crops besides grapes, establishing Peach Tree Lane, the first olive orchard, and has experimented with medicinal herbs, blueberries and a plethora of native and drought tolerant shrubs and trees. My younger brother Johnny Frey Jr latter added even more olive trees along the vineyards. My other Uncle Luke Frey and his family also have cultivated beautiful biodynamic gardens and fruit trees.
Over the years as the family has branched and grown, several beautiful gardens and orchards have arisen, and the ranch is a great place to share produce. Now, with the wine business and vineyards humming along and relatively stable, the enterprise is working with a little diversity to break up the monotony and monoculture of grape growing.
The help of Carolyn Brown, deeply experienced garden teacher, beekeeper and plant lover has been wonderful. Carolyn has installed an orchard in the riparian zone of a seasonal stream at the Road I ranch where figs, plums, peaches and nuts are thriving at 4 years old; olives line the fence and entry road. She’s also designed and will install beautiful native and edible landscaping around the new winery.
And while we continue vineyard care and development, each new planting is accompanied by an area for other crops, native and habitat plantings. Winemaker Paul has mastered the art of using baby vine irrigation for summer crops of winter squash, melons and veggies and we’re excited about the prospect of future plantings of cork oak, hazelnut, walnut and prune plum, hedge rows and sunflowers.
Grapes are wonderful after all, but humankind cannot survive on wine and raisins alone. Happy Spring Everyone!
This Spring we've got baby goats, baby cows, baby lambs, baby chicks, baby bunnies, and a baby kitten in the mix at the Frey farm. Our neighbors have some adorable baby pigs too that I have visited several times. It makes sense that this time of year when fresh, wild greens are at their lushest, it’s also when new life is coming forth to eat and forage. Everybody is happy frolicking through the green pastures and meadows. Every Spring when the grapes bud with new growth, we take the animals out of the vineyards and bring them to their summer foraging spots. I also enjoy preparing my garden beds throughout the Spring and giving the excess weeds, grasses, prunings, volunteers, and other edible plants, to the animals.
We keep the goats grazing along trails throughout the wilder parts of the property, to maintain road access. And every place where the animals are allowed to graze (and pee and poo) soil fertility increases. Instead of leaving animals in the same place all the time, we rotate them through different areas. This maximizes natural cycles of grazing while minimizing impact. Anytime you leave animals in the same spot all the time, that space becomes a kind of dead zone because of the hyperaccumulation of waste products and foot traffic, along with compacted soil. Most industrial animals are unfortunately raised in such conditions.
But there are many farms attempting to make holistic rotation methods the norm. Some use "holistic management" practices by grazing large herd animals, then follow up with a poultry flock that distributes and breaks down the poo from the herd when foraging for bugs, and finally to give the land a rest so the added nutrition can be integrated for a year.
We're still experimenting with rotation patterns, and as northern California becomes dry from June onward, we're looking at ways to create as synergistic an experience for the land and animals as possible. The goat herd, which I tend to, will happily eat the wildest greens (blackberries and tree leaves are favorites) well into the Fall when acorns (perhaps their favorite foods) become available. After the grapes are harvested, the goats will return to the vineyards where they enjoy grape "seconds" as well as various leaves from the hedgerows we have planted.
A freshly laid chicken egg!
Goats and lambs in the vineyard.
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