Here are the October Wine of the Month Recipes! For October 2023, our wine of the month has been the Frey Organic Sangiovese. At the beginning of the month, we sent out some pairing suggestions to compliment this wine’s flavor profile. Then, mid-month, our graphic designer Nicole and our social media coordinator Molly (me) got together to throw a dinner party to celebrate Sangiovese on the Mendocino Coast at Nicole’s home.
At the dinner, we played with two October Wine of the Month recipes, celebrating the pairing with the Sangiovese. We decided to feature a cheese fondue, made with Frey’s Sauvignon Blanc, served in a Kabocha squash that Nicole picked up from the Fort Bragg Farmer’s Market. Nicole also made an amazing spread of organic vegetables for dipping from Big Mesa Farms! She also got some really delicious gluten-free breads to go with the meal from the Mendocino Baking Company! I made a caramelized summer squash dish featuring the Sangiovese too. All of the dishes were absolutely delicious, and we look forward to seeing more dinner posts as this soirée becomes a regular wine of the month fête!
Here are the recipes for the Fondue and Caramelized Summer Squash!
A mixture of several cups of your favorite melty cheeses (we used a mixture of Gruyere and Fontina)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 cup dry white wine such as the Frey Organic Sauvignon Blanc, Frey Plenty Sauvignon Blanc, or the Frey Biodynamic Sauvignon Blanc
1 clove garlic minced
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Courvoisier Cognac
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
A large kabocha (or acorn) squash baked until semi-firm
Assorted fondue dippers:
Fresh chopped cucumbers and radishes from Big Mesa Farms
Lightly steamed carrots, cauliflower florets, and broccolini from Big Mesa Farms
Pickled Chanterelle mushrooms, wild foraged from our guest, Billy Sprague
Sliced firm apples and grapes for the table from the garden
Cubed gluten-free sourdough bread from the Mendocino Baking Company
Prepare your squash for serving the fondue next. We recommend baking the squash whole for around 12-15 minutes at 400 degrees Fahrenheit. You want your squash to be soft enough to eat, but not too soft, because it will be serving the fondue cheeses. When you have achieved your desired tenderness, remove the squash from the oven, and let it cool for a few minutes so that you can handle it easily. Cut out the top of the squash and scoop out all the seeds. You can put it back in your warmed oven while you finish preparing the rest of the meal.
Then, prepare your dippers next, chopping and steaming as needed to get everything ready. We got all of our organic fondue dipper ingredients from Big Mesa Farms here in Mendocino County.
Cube your bread of choice. For this dinner, we chose the delicious breads from the Mendocino Baking Company. Like Frey Wine, they are gluten-free and worked perfectly for our fondue needs!
In a pot, combine the ingredients for the fondue over low heat, slowly stirring as the mixture starts to melt for 5-10 minutes. When the mixture is to your desired meltiness, you can pour it into the squash for serving.
2 cloves of garlic finely minced
1 red onion diced
2 medium summer squash (or zucchini)
1 tsp maple syrup
Small splash of Sangiovese at the end of cooking
Optional toppings include toasted pine nuts, chopped herbs, and a squeeze of lemon
Wash the zucchini and cut it into coins a 1/4” thick.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Once hot, add onions, add garlic, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly until golden brown.
Add your squash slices (we used a yellow crookneck, but any summer squash would work well) and sauté 3-5 minutes, stirring regularly.
Stir in the salt and maple syrup, and continue to cook uncovered, about 10-12 minutes, flipping the zucchini slices regularly.
Once the zucchinis are golden and tender, increase the heat to high and sauté until they just start to stick to the pan. Add a splash of the Frey Organic Sangiovese and allow the wine to color the squash for the last few minutes of cooking. As you see the squashes becoming nicely caramelized on both sides, remove from heat, and serve on a platter.
We loved the October Wine of the Month recipes, and we're very much looking forward to experimenting with flavors for future wine pairing meals. Tune in next month when we create more local, seasonal, and organic meals paired with the Frey Wine of the Month for November! You can watch a short video of our meal on our YouTube channel. You can also check out Big Mesa Farms and Mendocino Baking Company if you're a Mendo local looking to recreate these recipes at home. Cheers to uncorking the organic, and sharing wonderful food with friends!
Zero-zero wines are starting to get attention as a unique subset of the organic wine market. For those of you who haven’t heard, “zero-zero” refers to the natural quality of wines with zero commercial yeasts and zero added sulfites. While some wines are made without added yeasts, and other wines are made without added sulfites, zero-zero wines blend these two worlds. Spoiler in case you’re too busy to read on: all Frey Biodynamic wines are zero-zero wines!
Zero-zero wines represent a throwback to winemaking methods of antiquity when additives and commercial yeasts were never used and unavailable because modern laboratory science hadn't invented them yet. Over the decades, all kinds of chemicals have been added to grapes and grape juice to produce wine. Yeasts are now routinely grown in labs on various substrates, freeze-dried, and sold to producers. The zero-zero niche brings welcome awareness to consumers that wines were initially made without any additions. Grape juice will, of its own accord, ferment into alcohol. So why aren’t all wines made this way?
Commercial yeasts are not necessary to create wine; however, they have become popular because they help jump-start fermentation and produce predictable flavor and aroma profiles in the finished wine. There is yeast in every breath of air we breathe and there are countless strains of yeast. All grapes have naturally occurring yeasts on the skin of the fruit itself. Grapes are one of the few fruits that have enough naturally occurring sugar to complete a fermentation to a stable end product, and grapes helped birth the art and science of fermentation thousands of years ago. People harness the life cycle of yeasts in many ways. For example, folks will add some fresh grapes to their sourdough starters to innoculate their starter with yeast and get it activated. Biologically, yeasts will start to decompose a fruit if it isn’t eaten. Nature is an excellent composter and is always recycling materials back into nutrients for the earth. If left on the vine, grapes will ferment with their own yeasts, eventually providing more humus for the vines in situ. Nature’s “clean up” program will always take over if untended. When we tend and care for this process in the cellar something miraculous happens between yeast and grape: wine!
Synthetic sulfites and other preservatives are not allowed in organic winemaking, just as they are not allowed as a preservative for organic foods. Experiences from chemically sensitive people who have shared their stories attest to discomforts ranging from low-grade headaches to more intense allergic reactions. We don’t add sulfites to any of our wines, but naturally occurring sulfites can appear in extremely small amounts, usually near 0 parts per million. Demeter certification actually allows for winemakers to add some sulfites to their wines, however, Frey is committed to zero-added sulfites across the entire brand. We pride ourselves on being the first organic winery in the country and setting the standard for organic wine. As such, we don’t use any sulfites to produce any of our wines.
Demeter Biodynamic certified wines must be produced with native yeast. USDA organic wines allow for commercial yeasts grown on organic substrates to be used. If your wine bottle has a USDA organic certification symbol on it, that means any yeasts used to make your wine were 100% organic. If your bottle has a Demeter Biodynamic certification symbol on it, then your wine meets the zero yeasts added aspect of the zero-zero wine equation. All Frey Biodynamic wines are made without any added yeast; we use the yeast from the grapes themselves to produce wine. Sommeliers and connoisseurs agree that there is a subtle but important integrity to wines made with wild yeasts. You’ve probably heard of terroir, a French term used in rhetorical circles where wine figures prominently.
In the context of a wine’s terroir, there’s a unique flavor profile of a certain grape in a certain place depending on the wild yeasts that grow. Each native yeast strain has its own effect on flavor and aroma. Each stain also thrives in a particular ratio of sugar to alcohol. A certain strain will start the fermentation, then die off when a certain alcohol threshold is reached. At that point, a second or third strain will take over, and this process continues until the sugars are consumed. This symphony of yeasts produces exciting nuance in flavor and aroma and deepens the experience of terroir. Adding commercial yeasts provides consistency and control for large batches, but we miss out on the expression of each vineyard's particular yeast profile. The wines that come from grapes grown on the Frey ranch are all Biodynamic and reflect the terroir of the Mendocino North Coast appellation, as well as the yeast profile, soil profile, and vintage where we live and make wine. Not adding yeasts creates vintages that more strongly reflect the holistic terroir of a given season. You absolutely can still have a sense of the terroir of our organic wines, but the biodynamic wines take it to the utmost level in this particular regard.
Check out our complete selection of zero-zero Frey Biodynamic wines on our website or find them in a store nearest you. Not all Biodynamic wines are zero-zero wines, but our entire Biodynamic line is zero-zero as we're committed to making no-sulfites-added wine for every bottle we produce. Our Biodynamic wines include those labeled “Biodynamic” as well as our Field Blend, Plenty, and Chateau Frey wines.
Each month, we look at a different plant that is an integral part of our home Biodynamic ranch ecology at Frey Vineyards. While we cultivate grapes, we also have a surrounding biodiversity reserve. Between the wild lands and the cultivated vines, we have a transitional hedgerow zone bordering the vineyards.
October’s Herbal Highlight from the hedgerow is the formidable poison oak. We’re highlighting this herb now because the fall colors are visually stunning as the oak leaves change over the course of autumn: a diverse palette of golds, oranges, and reds. If you are from the West Coast, you've likely already encountered this native plant. Many are familiar with the adage, “Leaves of three, let it be,” because touching the oily leaves, stems, or roots of the Toxicodendron plant can cause an itchy rash.
However, you might not yet know the whole story. Many people do not develop a skin condition after touching this plant. In fact, the Pomo tribe, the Native Americans in this area of Mendocino County, have a surprising history of using the extracted juice to make a dark black ink for tattoos.
There are few plants as helpful to ecosystems as this ground oak. When a forest is logged or clearcut, it's one of the first responders, sending out deep roots to hold the soil in place and helping prevent further erosion. Deep root systems also make it nearly impossible to clear poison oak out of an area. Sometimes they extend for yards underground. For these reasons, many have renamed the plant “Protector” or “Guardian” oak.
The seeds are also an important source of nutrition for birds during colder months. When food is scarce in Winter, a plethora of these plant’s seeds can still be found, a valuable benefit at an important time for both local and migrating bird species.
The next time you are hiking and come upon an impressive patch of Guardian oak, perhaps pause to appreciate that you're in the presence of a valuable ally —one that requires respect and deserves to be understood as an asset to the landscape.
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