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!
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