Sunday, April 22nd, was a gorgeous spring day at the Frey Ranch, graced with abundant wildflowers bursting from the scorched earth. Eliza was jogging along a trail and heard the hum. She followed it to a huge swarm of bees hanging underneath a burned Douglas fir log. Little Freylings Bo, aged six, and Yeshua, aged five, and Grampa Jonathan were the guardians of the swarm for two hours while Katrina and Carolyn scurried to gather bee suits, a cardboard box with a secure lid with holes punched in for air, and a custom bee brush to softly sweep the swarm into the box. Just as we walked up with our equipment, the swarm decided to move on. We were so disappointed, but our veteran beekeeper, Carolyn Brown, hoped we would get a second chance. We followed, jogging between charred trees with craned necks, keeping the swarm in sight, and it soared higher and higher. Carolyn told the boys, "Old-time beekeepers used to bang on a pot to bring the bees to earth." And voila, a few yards away we found a little cooking pot lying in the burned dirt. Bo began to rhythmically bang on the pot and within thirty seconds the swarm tightened up and drifted down to earth! The bees settled on a low oak tree branch and five minutes later we had a healthy new colony to bring home. The boys were thrilled and we added the magical pot to our box of bee equipment.
If all is going well within a hive in the springtime, the bees find themselves bursting at the seams with overpopulation. Then the mysterious collective wisdom of the colony signals that it’s time to "give birth" to a second colony. The worker bees fashion special queen rearing cells and the reigning queen lays eggs in them. The embryo queens are carefully tended and fed a royal jelly. Just before the new queens are due to hatch, a powerful agreement between all the bees triggers half of the population to fly out into the world in a great swarm to seek a new home. The old queen goes with them and is carefully protected in the center of the swarm. They will land on a tree branch, fence post, or a gnarled Cabernet grapevine (see below), and send out scouts to find a good site. Bees have only two to three days to find a new home after they leave their mother colony.
They sometimes settle into less than desirable locations for their new hives. Statistics show that fewer than twenty-five percent of swarms survive their first year. If you are a lucky beekeeper, you will have a chance to capture a swarm and provide a secure home for it.
In the coming days we have been blessed with four more swarms of honeybees. We hope that by housing them in clean, well-made bee boxes, they will thrive. If nature provides a steady stream of flowering plants, the honey crop in the fall should be abundant enough to feed the bees through the winter, as well as provide some honey for our friends and family.
If it's a light crop, we never extract honey, but instead leave it all for the hard-working bees.
After our new bees are settled in and the queens begin laying again, we plan to move one hive to our new winery site. Honeybees will play an important role in the pollination cycle of the gardens and native plants that will surround the new winery. Please come and visit the bees when our new tasting room opens in the fall and discover more about nature's gift of the honeybee.
Several insecticides that are harmful to bees will be banned soon in Europe. You can help make it happen in the U.S. as well.
The arrival of spring has brought fresh cover crops between the rows of our organic vineyards, and is enjoyed by local wildlife on occasion. Each photo can be downloaded in higher resolution for use as your computer's desktop or wallpaper. We hope you enjoy!
This delicious, hearty soup is full of flavorful Italian sausage, kale, and potatoes. It’s sure to warm your soul and it is a quick and easy recipe to share with your family. Pair with Frey Organic Sangiovese.
Last month a bear was spotted almost daily for a few weeks as it grazed fresh grass in our organic vineyards. Normally they shun the lowlands of our valley with its dogs and people, preferring the high forests nearby. But in the aftermath of the Redwood Valley Fire last November, which wiped out whole communities near our vineyards, this old American black bear (they also come in cinnamon brown) was keen to explore newly opened territory, and perhaps driven by hunger as well. It has since moved on.
Click on a photo for a larger, screensaver image.
Following the wildfire last October, the rain and green grass quickly blanketed the lands with soothing vigor. This intrepid Great Blue Heron is lately making the rounds, hunting for frogs, insects and rodents among the new growth by our organic Syrah vines. These majestic birds, the third-largest herons on earth, usually find their meals by ponds and rivers. This one is broadening its culinary preferences by flushing out wild little edibles in the vineyards, far from the waterways.
2 tablespoons butter
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 pound baby bella (or crimini) mushrooms, minced
1 teaspoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tablespoons flour
1/4 cup Frey Biodynamic Sauvignon Blanc wine
1/2 cup full fat Greek yogurt
1/3 cup shredded Gruyere cheese
2 sheets thawed puff pastry
We would like to share an update on Frey Vineyards. All of our family members and winery staff are safe.
Our beautifully rustic office buildings, tasting room, and bottling line have burned, but the main house and the insulated warehouse holding our case goods are unscathed. Our stainless steel wine tanks and the majority of the crush pad are also fine. Although vineyards typically don’t burn, with the intensity of this firestorm we did lose about 10% of our estate vineyards along the peripheries of the ranch. In addition to the home ranch, we have 300 acres of satellite vineyards scattered throughout Redwood Valley and Potter Valley that are in great shape.
Fortunately, we broke ground two months ago for our new winery site on West Rd in Redwood Valley, and this land is untouched. We are mourning the loss of many of our grand oak trees that provided summer shade and a diverse wildlife habitat, but at the same time we are grateful that healthy stands of oaks are thriving at our new location.
We would like to extend a huge thank you to our long-time friends at Barra, Fetzer, and Parducci wineries who have offered their certified organic facilities for temporary offsite winemaking. This is an invaluable help. We are looking forward to being able to bottle more wine soon with the help of a mobile bottling line arriving in the first part of November. You’ll be happy to know that we’ll be able to fill the Frey wine pipeline before the holidays.
The Redwood Complex Fire is 100% contained, especially with the help of a soothing rain last Thursday. We have deep gratitude for the teams of first responders who worked tirelessly to suppress the fire and keep all of us safe. Our hearts go out to our many, many friends and neighbors who lost their homes in this crisis. In the last weeks we have seen a tremendous outpouring of support from our local community and beyond for everyone affected by the fire. To help, please donate to the Disaster Fund for Mendocino County.
While the winery has been described in the media over the past week as “demolished”, we feel that this term doesn’t apply to our resilient spirit to rebuild. We are so grateful to live in a rugged back-to-the-land community that supports each other and has a collective power for renewal.
We are profoundly saddened by the loss of life that has occurred and the destructive force that fire can wield. Juxtaposed against a scorched aftermath, we also recognize the essential role of fire in the Biodynamic cycle. As one of the four elements, along with earth, air, and water, it demands our respect for its regenerative powers. We are heartened to hear the consoling words of a friend whose farm withstood a devastating wildfire two years ago. She said that the following spring was the most beautiful display of wildflowers on their property that she had ever seen. We’re looking forward to spring at Frey Vineyards.
A homemade flaky pie crust with creamy ricotta cheese and ripe heirloom tomatoes. Perfect during tomato season, and with a glass of Frey Organic Sangiovese.
1 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup Unsalted Butter
1/4 cup ice water
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound heirloom tomatoes
1 pound whole milk ricotta cheese
1 clove garlic, sliced thin
Fresh chives and basil, garnish
Coarse salt and pepper
Crust: Start the crust by stirring together the flour and salt and then cut in the cubed cold butter until pea-sized pieces. Mix in the ice water by the tablespoon. The dough should be a bit shaggy. If you press it together it should stick, but just barely.
Scoop the dough out onto a clean surface and fold it over itself a few times to form a loose ball. Wrap it tightly in plastic and put it in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. You know you did it right if you can see chunks of butter in the dough.
Filling: The most important part of this recipe is to salt and drain the tomatoes of any extra liquid. Slice the tomatoes and line a colander with them. Then sprinkle them with salt and let them rest for about 10-15 minutes.
When you’re ready to make the tart, roll your dough out into about a 14-inch round. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Then drizzle the dough with olive oil and spread the ricotta cheese. Leave about a 2-inch border around the edges so you can fold the dough over later. Add some slivered garlic to the cheese and top with tomatoes. Carefully fold the dough edges over the top and sprinkle it with a little salt and pepper and put it in the oven!
Bake the tart at 400 degrees F. for about 50 minutes. Rotate it once halfway through to make sure it’s cooking evenly.
After out of the oven let the tart rest for about 10 minutes to allow the filling to set up. Sprinkle chopped chives and basil on top and serve with a glass of Frey Organic Sangiovese.
Use fresh heirloom tomatoes in season, if possible.
Fresh basil, garlic, and chives.
Tomatoes ready for topping.
Ready to roll!
Ricotta cheese spread on the dough, then the garlic...
...and tomatoes on top. Ready for the oven.
The eyes get the first bite!
These delicious, flaky, chewy, sweet fig bars are nothing like the store bought cookies. These are easy to make and a perfect treat when paired with Frey Organic Pinot Noir.
3 cups organic almond flour
4 tbsp organic unrefined coconut oil, melted
4 tbsp raw honey
1 tbsp vanilla extract
1 cup fresh organic figs
2 tbsp organic apple or lemon juice
2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 350F.
Combine all biscuit dough ingredients in your food processor until it begins to stick together and forms into a ball. In a bowl, put the ball of dough in the fridge for 30 minutes to chill.
Place figs in your food processor and finely chop. Add in other filling ingredients and blend to a paste. Set aside until ready to assemble fig rolls.
Divide dough in four and roll each between two pieces of parchment paper.
You want each bout 1/2 an inch thick, rectangular in shape, approx. 10 x 4 inches. Leave the dough lying on the parchment paper.
Divide the fig filling into four and place each along the inside edge of each rectangle of biscuit dough. Leave a little gap of the biscuit dough, ¼ inch, on the inner side. Spread the filling evenly length-wise and thickness-wise as much as possible. See photo.
Fold over topside of the roll by lifting up the parchment paper. Seal the edge tight. Remove parchment, slice each roll into 6-10 fig rolls.
Place on a non-stick baking tray lightly greased with coconut oil. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until golden brown.
Allow cooling for 10 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool fully. Serve with a glass of Frey Organic Pinot Noir.
Fresh spring rolls should offer a pleasing contrast in texture (soft wrapper, chewy noodles, and crunchy vegetables) and flavors (fresh mint, basil, and cilantro; peanuts, spicy chilies, and salty sauce) which will pair perfectly with a cold glass of our Organic Pinot Grigio. Try to source organic ingredients for the health of farmworkers, your own health, and for future generations.
1 large carrot, peeled and shredded
1 large cucumber, peeled, halved lengthwise, and cut into matchsticks
½ cup chopped green onion
½ cup fresh basil and/or mint leaves torn into ½ inch pieces
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
1 cup lettuce leaves chopped
2 cups cooked rice noodles
8 (8-inch) round brown rice paper wrappers
Peanut Sauce Ingredients and Recipe
¼ cup creamy organic peanut butter
1 tsp Asian chili-garlic sauce
¼ cup soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
1 tbsp brown sugar
Cream together peanut butter and brown sugar, then add vinegar, chili-garlic sauce and soy sauce. Blend together to make a rich & creamy peanut sauce perfect for dipping in your Spring Rolls.
1. Prepare all ingredients in individual bowls.
2. Spread clean, damp dishtowel on counter. Fill 9 inch pie plate with 1 inch of room-temperature water. Submerge each wrapper in water until just pliable, about 2 minutes. Lay softened wrapper on towel. Scatter about 4 basil leaves, 4 mint leaves and 6 cilantro leaves over wrapper. Arrange 5 cumber sticks horizontally on wrapper, leaving 2 inch boarder at bottom. Top with carrots, lettuce leaves, green onion, and about 2 tbsp noodles. Fold bottom of wrapper up over filling. Fold sides of wrapper over filling and then roll wrapper up into tight spring roll.
3. Repeat with remaining wrappers and filling. Serve immediately with peanut dipping sauce and a glass of Frey Organic Pinot Grigio.
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