I recently sat down with Carissa Chiniaeff from Frey’s gardening crew, over a cup of warm elixirs, to discuss "The Perennial Mother Garden" on the Frey Ranch. The Perennial Mother Garden on Tomki Road was established after the fires of 2017 to act as a fresh, renewed concept space in the aftermath of the tragedy.
The vision started in 2019, as part of the rebuilding efforts, with the planting of many heirloom roses. These roses were purposefully chosen for their aromatherapeutic smell, excellent distillation properties, and other choice benefits. Many of these roses are ancient varieties, all renowned for different wonderful benefits. This initial “Sensory Garden” was the brainchild of the gardening team, our Sensory Evaluator Eva Marie Lind, and our CEO Katrina Frey (an avid, lifelong gardener). Eva Marie has been making rose syrups, flower essences, tinctures, and teas, and also drying the flowers for culinary adventures!
In the rose garden, there are nearly fifty plantings. At first, the roses established the foundation of the Sensory Garden efforts. Among the chosen roses are: 3 Reine Victoria Bourbon type, 6 Papa Meilard Fragrant (they’re long stemmed and a red hybrid tea rose), 12 Rosa de Rescht (a Portland rose which is a Damask Perpetual), 1 Gallica officinalis (the apothecary rose: the traditional rose used for medicine and perfumery), 10 Hansa rugosa (rugosa types are very fragrant, drought tolerant prolific, and produce large rosehips), 1 Louise Odier Bourbon type, 6 Glorie de Guilan Damascena/Damask roses, 6 Kazanlik damask, and 4 Madame Isaac Pierre Bourdon types!
Then, in 2022, a fence was installed around the garden area so that the team could expand and protect the garden and their vision for it. The site of the garden was formerly planted with grape vines. However, the groundwater was so immense in the area that the vines didn’t thrive there and were eventually removed. After the vines were finally pulled out, the site remained dormant (except for some weeds) while the Frey family dealt with the incredible task of starting over after losing all but a few buildings on the home ranch. However, with the fence in place, the gardening team was able to start envisioning bigger possibilities for the space.
Carolyn Brown, our head gardener, and her crew have been busy implementing full garden plans for both the new West Road Winery location and the Tomki spot over the last several years. You can read about the pollinator garden installations here. They still maintain the home ranch garden areas next to the old winery tasting room, but they have also added on some big projects since 2017! The fenced area at Tomki is a kind of mother garden, where plants can be propagated and divided for all the winery garden sites. They have been busy at work propagating seed plants to create a new foundation at West road. In this way, the sensory garden has grown to become the Perennial Mother Garden, providing a space for many different plants to be propagated for planting at the Frey home ranch, and the new West Road Winery.
Being the first organic and first biodynamic winery in the country, Frey has always been a huge supporter of organic and biodynamic agriculture. But what some folks might not know is that most of the Frey family is also full of avid home gardeners, who maintain their own personal gardens. Katrina Frey maintained an amazing garden and nursery project for many years. Luke Frey has been internationally renowned for his biodynamic preparations, handmade on the Frey ranch. Our winemaker Paul grew a surplus food garden for many years, donating fresh, local, organic produce to the local food bank and food security organizations. One of the 12 Frey siblings, Benjamin, married Kate Frey, who won gold at the Chelsea Garden show twice! The Frey family takes gardening seriously!
With the construction of a new, state-of-the-art green facility on West Road, the gardening crew took on the phenomenal task of simultaneously greening a new space and reviving the old home ranch garden space. Carolyn Brown, Carissa Chiniaeff, and Andy Hill are working hard as the Frey Vineyards gardening team to make amazing gardens at both locations. Their aim has been to especially focus on native plantings to support the indigenous eco-system. Carolyn has a background in beekeeping, and has been able to provide a wealth of information about how to create pollinator habitats, to support the insect population that we depend on!
In 2023, the crew set about to deeply mulch the area for weed suppression. Convolvulus and Bermuda grass are weeds with tenacity. To organically mitigate their abundant presence, Carolyn mulched the areas in question with thick sheets of cardboard, several layers thick, and then applied wood chips as a thick top dressing. This sustainable weed control has made an otherwise overrun space become plantable again. And so, this past Spring, the Sensory Rose garden was joined by rows and rows of cover crops featuring buckwheat, grape pumice (partially composted organic stems and seeds left over after crushing the grape juice), and also several gorgeous flowers. Dahlias, snapdragons, strawflowers, and other beauties were resplendent this Fall. The team has started to create new plantings in earnest as they reclaim the space as the Perennial Mother Garden.
Carissa also shared about her personal journey as “Grandiflora,” wanting to grow flowers. “The story of Grandiflora goes back many, many years to the moment when the tiny seed was planted in my heart in Santa Cruz, California. I was an apprentice at the Center for Agro-Ecology and Sustainable Food Systems in 2003. My internal field was tilled and ready to accept the variety of seeds being dispersed during this Farm experience. I came to find out I had planted an internal perennial garden rather than the annual type and stayed on at the farm to deepen and cultivate my desire to learn about food and Flowers alongside Christof Bernau. Like many before me and many after me, I left Santa Cruz in search of my forever field to carry out the directives of the magic. Like a seed being carried on the wind I landed and planted in many a field before a final descent in Willits, California, where I fell deep into the soil and my roots grew and grew. Alongside my dear friend and fellow apprentice, I grew vegetables, moved along to growing food for the Local Hospital, and was finally sparked by a greater interest in cut flowers. As I chased my pot of gold I was fortunate to find many a friendly farmer willing to let me grow flowers on their plot. A few years later on this path, I joined up with a beautiful friend and we grew stunning cut flowers together. After several years of cultivating together, we parted ways and I happily returned to my original living space where I now reside AND grow flowers. It has been a beautiful journey of learning and loving and of course, experimenting with seeds and soil and magic. I am so thrilled to be living and growing Flowers in the same place.”
Carissa still grows flowers outside of Frey Vineyards too. We are grateful to have her and her knowledge of cut flowers, on our gardening team. Carissa beamed as she discussed the potential for the future. The short-term garden planting implementation plan includes getting the space decked out and “glowing” for our matriarch, Beba Frey’s 100th birthday celebration in the summer of 2024. The Perennial Mother Garden and the matriarch are next-door neighbors: Beba's front door leads out to the garden across from her driveway.
The five-year plan includes creating structures like a gardening shed and a flower processing workstation so that workshops can be held in the garden to teach folks gardening, flower arranging, and sensory skills in situ. While a redwood tree and lavender hedgerow are already well established on the Northern border of the garden, Carissa mentioned plans to create another hedgerow for some shade on the Southern border. From rose beginnings, the garden is blooming with possibilities! Next Spring Carissa hopes to plant a three sisters patch, a melon patch, and a pumpkin patch in the mother garden as more areas are reclaimed from the weeds. Stay tuned in the months (and years) to come; we’ll keep posting updates as the garden continues to evolve, expand, and grow!
Here are the November Wine of the Month Recipes! For November 2023, our wine of the month has been the Frey Organic Cabernet Sauvignon. At the beginning of the month, we sent out some pairing suggestions to compliment this wine’s flavor profile. Then, mid-month, I (Molly Frey, Frey’s social media coordinator) threw a dinner party to celebrate our Cab at my home!
At the dinner, I created a main dish of wild mushroom risotto to be paired with our Frey Cab. I used the Frey Sun and Rain Chardonnay in that recipe. I read up on risotto for the dinner, because I hadn’t prepared it before. I used our graphic designer Nicole’s recipe, which she learned from an Italian restaurant. I read that Italians like to have a side of chicken cooked with white wine and lemon for their risotto, so I prepared chicken breasts with our Chateau Frey Pinot Gris!
The balance the richness of the risotto, I prepared a salad from Mendo Grass’s organic farmer’s market booth. They grow great sprouts! I picked up pea shoots, sunflower sprouts, micro greens, and a jar of their Peasto (pea shoot pesto!) too. Each month at our dinner party, we want to showcase a local organic farmer/producer that’s making something delicious. We incorporated a fresh greens salad into the menu, and the MENDO GRASS greens provided a fresh, delightful palette cleanser after the spoonfuls of creamy, rich, risotto.
As you can see on our table, we have several wines pictured at the dinner, including a picture of the Frey Biodynamic Field Blend. That wine was used in a recipe to create a red wine brownie dessert! However, you’ll simply have to wait for another blog post for the recipe reveal on that delectable dish.
Without further ado, here are the recipes for the Frey November Wine of the Month, Cabernet Sauvignon! We tested out each of these November Wine of the Month recipes at a recent dinner party, and the results were delicious!
First, and foremost, I decided to start playing with creating a cheese/appetizer board. I’ve never made one before, so this was a creative experiment for our wine of the month dinner! We suggest pairing our Cabernet with cheeses, and so I set to making an appetizer that we could nosh on while the other dishes came together. I started with placing the peashoot “Peasto” from Mendo Grass at the center of the board.
We recommend pairing the Cab with Cheddar, Gouda, Gruyere, Goat cheese, Feta, and Parmesan if you’re creating a cheese board to showcase the Cabernet Sauvignon. However, since our dinner presented a very rich risotto (which included a Gouda Parmesan (something I picked up at our local Ukiah Costco location, which also carries Frey Wines), we scaled back the cheese offerings to a few truffle brie rounds (in keeping with the mushroom dinner theme). Instead, we showcased seasonal fruits such as sliced persimmon, whole mandarins, pomegranate seeds, and dried jujubes (from Full Belly Farm!). Green olives in a small bowl added a lovely contrasting color. And I rounded out the board offerings with nuts and crackers.
The sky is really the limit on cheese boards. Although we created an optional chicken side dish, the heart of the menu is vegetarian, so I wanted to create a cheese board (instead of a charcuterie board) for this menu that showcased vegetarian options to pair with the November Wine of the Month.
Here's the Main Course: the Wild Mushroom Risotto & Side Dishes
6 cups stock (chicken or vegetable), preferably homemade. If you need to make more broth because your risotto is soaking it all up, (organic) bouillon works in a pinch to make a flavorful substitute
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or butter or ghee)
1 large onion, finely chopped
Salt to add as needed
Freshly ground black pepper to add as needed
2 cups arborio rice
1 bottle Frey Sun and Rain Chardonnay (for a larger recipe scaled to 5 cups of rice, I used an entire bottle!)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 pound mixed wild mushrooms (I used chanterelles), thinly sliced (really, as many wild mushrooms as you can find would be excellent!)
1/2 cup-1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano (I actually used a Gouda Parmesan because both those cheese flavors pair well with our Cabernet)
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley for the garnish
In a medium saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer. You’ll want to keep the stock warm-to-hot so that it can be added to the risotto without slowing down the cooking.
In another saucepan, with ample room for your risotto, heat the olive oil (or your favorite cooking oil). Add the chopped onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the onion begins to be translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the rice and cook, stirring, for 1 minute until the rice is glistening from the oil coating. Add the wine (to cover the rice) and cook, stirring until the alcohol is cooked off and the liquid has been absorbed (about 5 minutes). Add 1 cup of the warm stock and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until nearly absorbed. Continue adding the stock a cup at a time, continuing to stir pretty constantly. As the risotto absorbs the broth, you can add another cup. The risotto is done when the rice is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy sauce, about 20-30 minutes total. Season with salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, in a large skillet, melt the butter. I added my cleaned and chopped mushrooms to sauté over moderately high heat. Add salt, remove from heat, and add to the risotto pot.
Add the cheese to the risotto, stirring until the mushrooms and cheese are evenly distributed and the cheese has melted into the risotto. Serve!
If you eat meat, you may enjoy a side of chicken to accompany your risotto. In the same pan that I had prepared the wild mushrooms in (with lingering bits of flavorful butter and mushroom yum) I added the chicken breasts on medium heat. I covered the chicken breasts in our Biodynamic Chateau Frey Pinot Gris, added some salt, and let the flavors combine. I flipped the breasts once during the cooking (about 10 minutes on each side). Then, when you slice into the chicken, make sure it has cooked all the way through. Different breast sizes will cook at different rates. Before you remove the chicken from heat, add the juice of one lemon, and let that flavor absorb too.
I hosted the Wine of the Month Dinner Party on a Sunday evening. The Saturday before I went to the Ukiah Farmer’s Market to pick up fresh greens from Mendo Grass. Adam Goldberg and Amanda Tuttle are the purveyors of an organic greens business called Mendo Grass! I usually get their greens every week for my own home, so when I started crafting this dinner, I knew that they would have just the thing for the counterpoint side dish to the risotto.
I picked up a large container of pea shoots, sunflower sprouts, micro greens, and a pint of their pea shoot “Peasto”. I placed the peasto at the center of my first-ever cheese board! For the salad, Daphne (who works in the office) assembled the mixture of the greens. I also have a lot of baby kale growing in my garden right now, so we added a handful of those to the mix as well. The key to this salad was its mild, fresh flavor. All the young greens are tender and balance the risotto richness perfectly. We garnished the salad with some cucumbers (truly the last of the season) and pomegranate seeds. The salad dressing was a simple olive oil and balsamic vinegar blend with a splash of maple syrup and a dash of salt.
All of the dishes from our November Wine of the Month were absolutely delicious, and if you want to try your hand at any of them, our Frey Organic Cabernet Sauvignon is the Wine of the Month for the rest of November. That means that you can purchase 4 or more bottles of the 2021 Cab in our online wine shop (link to Freywine.com wine shop) with the promo code "WOTM20" until the end of November to get 20% off your order. We look forward to sharing more Wine of the Month dinner posts, as these events have been really lovely ways for us to bring together Frey wine and fine dining! Look out for our Field Blend Brownies too, coming up soon in their very own blog post. Our next Wine of the Month dinner soirée happens in December, when we’ll be meeting on the Mendocino Coast; check out our monthly Wine of the Month recipe blog where we'll share in-season favorite dishes, feature a local farmer/producer, and pair the menu with our Frey Wine of the Month!
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.
Frey Vineyards requires you to be 21 years or older to enter. Please enter your Date of Birth in the fields below in order to continue: