Some years August offers a lull in vineyard work, some down time for the vineyard crew before harvest. This year the late summer planting segued right into harvest. We worked through the heat of summer on vineyard layout, staking and installing new irrigation systems to welcome the plants in august 2020. The vines are thriving in the late summer heat.
Harvest began earlier than usual due to the dry winter and hotter than average summer. We began harvest with Chardonnay grapes which came in lighter than the last few years, but not for lack of quality. We then moved on to the remaining white varietals including Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Grigio and Muscat.
At this point we have finished white grapes and the early reds and are moving forward into the later season red varietals. The 2020 Pinot Noir vintage is now fermenting in tanks and is showing great potential for a stand-out vintage. We look forward to sharing these wines with you in the coming year.
An old apple tree and newly planted Frey organic Pinot Noir vineyard, Redwood Valley, California.
After three years of planning and preparation, the vineyard crew was busy this summer rehabilitating a historic Redwood Valley vineyard, Colony Ranch. This land had been farmed previously by the Lolonis and Graziano families and was part of the Finnish Colony established by early immigrants to Redwood Valley in the 1800s.
After many conversations and much thinking, we decided to plant 20 acres of Pinot Noir on this prime vineyard land. We chose a blend of 4 clones of Pinot Noir for their variety of flavor profiles and fruit quality.Three of the clones were classic European Pinot clones: Pommard, Mariafeld and Wadenswil. These have been planted in California since the 1970’s. The remaining quarter of the vineyard is planted to the 828 clone, an up and coming Pinot clone gaining popularity in California over the past two decades. The blend of these four clones will yield a well balanced, nuanced field blend to make great wine
Pinot Noir is one of the longest cultivated Vitis Vinifera European winegrape varietals and has more clonal variation than any other wine grape variety, coming from selections chosen by farmers over time. It is a versatile red wine grape that is grown in many regions in the world. It is one of the few red grape varietals that will ripen in cool regions such as Germany and Mendocino County’s Anderson Valley. In the Redwood Valley and Potter Valley appellations where we grow and source our Pinot Noir we get a fuller bodied, fruit forward wine with notes of blueberry, dark blue plum and spice.
Our hot summer climate allows Pinot Noir to ripen to sugar levels that cooler climates can’t attain most years. At the same time our cool nights and large day and night temperature swings maintain good acidity and intense ripe fruit flavors to make wonderful, balanced wines.
Milk cartons protect the young vine from hungry rabbits for the first year. The uppermost leaves have been eaten on this one.
As we look ahead longing for cool rains here in California my mind turns to the cozy season ahead and fresh, homemade sourdough bread.
Simply stated, sourdough starter is a stable culture of yeast and lactic acid bacteria in a flour and water mixture. Yeast strains present in sourdough starters are usually species in the genus Saccharomyces or Candida. The bacterial component is most often a strain of Lactobacillus, and there are many different strains. The beauty of making your own starter is that the specific strains of yeast and bacteria in your kitchen and their proportion to each other will be unique and yield one of a kind flavor.
You can use any kind of flour you like. I started with all-purpose wheat flour but have slowly transitioned my starter over to a gluten-free baking mix flour. The possibilities of which flour you use are limited only by your tastes and imagination.
Starting and maintaining a starter can seem daunting, but it is really quite simple. All you need to get going is a handful of grapes, and a cup each of flour and non-chlorinated water. While grapes aren’t necessary for getting a sourdough starter established, the yeast naturally present on grape skins will help kickstart the fermentation and get you off in the right direction.
Here are the steps:
1) Mix 1 cup flour and 1 cup water together in a glass jar. A quart canning jar works well. I prefer wide mouth for ease of feeding.
2) Rinse the grapes but do not scrub them, we want the yeast on their skins to enter the mixture. Roughly chop the grapes and mix into the water and flour slurry.
3) The next day, pour off and discard a cup of the mixture, (discard as few grapes as possible) and replace with ½ cup fresh flour and ½ cup water. This is called “feeding.”
4) Repeat step 3 daily. If liquid pools on top of your starter, simply mix it in.
5) After about a week your starter should smell tart, sour or tangy and have visible air bubbles.
6) Once established it will not require daily feeding and can be kept in the fridge resting for a few weeks. It’s a good idea to feed it every week or so for the first 6 months and after a long period of rest it may require a few feedings to become lively again. Your starter will grow stronger over time and can last a lifetime.
With all raw home fermentations I like to go by the old adage, “the nose knows.” Trust your own sensory analysis; does it smell, taste and look good? If it has a smell that is just downright yucky, or if you see active mold growing, discard and begin again. I’ve never had this experience with sourdough and if you do not neglect your starter, you should not have any problems.
Once you are ready to attempt a loaf look online for one of hundreds of recipes. When I first experimented with sourdough bread many years ago I read several recipes that dictated how long I should let the dough sit, how many hours to the let the bread rise and so forth. I followed the directions faithfully and got a few nice loaves, but then things fell flat. What was missing was my own observation. Now, instead of using prescribed time periods for the various steps, I use my eyes, nose and hands to guide me. It has become a much more intuitive process. I hope you have fun and enjoy the process.
Try your bread with your favorite cheese and favorite Frey wine. It should pair just fine with any of our wines!
I never set out to be a goat herder. When I first moved to the Frey Ranch over a dozen years ago there was a herd of goats that needed caring as their owner was about to go out into the world. I even shared the same due date with the pregnant goat mamas; the day after I delivered my son at home I walked out to the barn and saw a goat in labor. “I recognize that look,” I remember distinctly stating as I cradled my newborn in my arms to watch Rosemary, the Nubian goat mother, deliver twins. In a special way that first goat herd and I were linked by our shared journey into motherhood.
Fast forward many years to early 2020 when I was finally able to return to living on the Frey Ranch. After several years contending with displacement by fire, I made my way back to this land that I love. Before I had even moved my stuff out here, a friend asked if I knew anybody that might want to take care of her Alpine dairy goats while she travelled. My son enthusiastically replied that we wanted to take on the goats. By and by, I returned to my pre-fire rhythm of walking through the vineyards with a herd of goats in my wake. For the past several months the goats have been on the fire break team, helping to munch down pathways in the woods. As soon as the grapes are harvested this fall, we’ll be back in the vineyards, grazing between the rows with this new herd. In addition to the goat crew, there’s a mixed flock of a dozen sheep. They’re a blend of Merinos, Navajo Churros, and Cheviots. Additionally, we have a Jersey cow named Nutmeg and her daughter, a Scottish Highlander and Angus mix.
A few months after I had landed another friend offered a few dwarf goats that she had been looking to rehome. Apricot and her grown daughter Peanut came to live with us, too. Then, out of some caprine serendipity, my neighbor happened to acquire a dwarf buck named “Little Jimmy Dickens” around the same time I came into the two dwarf goat mamas. Little Jimmy got dropped off for a play date and romanced the dwarf ladies for several weeks. I’ve never met such a polite and well mannered buck before, and appreciated both Jimmy’s calm demeanor and gentle way of attending to the small dwarf herd during his visit. The mamas are due this November and I’m sure that we could all use some extra sweetness in the form of baby goats next month. Sometimes you seek out your vocation, and sometimes goats come scampering into your life, time and time again.
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