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Frey Organic Wine Blog

Eliza Frey
 
March 25, 2014 | Eliza Frey

Sustainable Labels

Forest Stewardship Council release:
“The Forest Stewardship Council mission is to promote environmentally sound, socially beneficial and economically prosperous management of the world's forests.

Our vision is that we can meet our current needs for forest products without compromising the health of the world’s forests for future generations.”

 At Frey Vineyards we strive to green every step of our winemaking, from the vineyard to the cellar, and finally to the wine label itself.  This year we made the switch to using Forest Stewardship Council Certified paper.  We are excited to join forces with the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC).  This step is a natural progression in the development of the most environmentally friendly winemaking possible.

In order to include the logo on our labels, the paper must pass through the FSC chain of custody, which ensures sound environmental practices from the forest to the paper manufacturer, the merchant, and finally to a print shop with FSC Chain of Custody Certification.  We now have confidence that our label purchasing is supporting an independent, third party movement making real strides towards preserving forestland in the US and abroad.

People all over the world depend on forests to live.  Worldwide 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their primary livelihood.  Forests filter water and air and the fungal communities in forests support all life on the planet.  They are also a crucial refuge for countless plant and animal species.  Deforestation is noted as the second leading cause of carbon pollution, and causes an estimated 20% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.

In the US most forestland is privately owned and managed.  With more than 40,000 family owned member forests, FSC works to create demand for products sourced from responsibly managed forests.  Being a member of FSC provides incentives for these families to keep the forests and harvest them sustainably, and not to clear-cut for development or farming.

The Forest Stewardship Council was founded in Canada in 1993 and is dedicated to improving forest practices across the world.  The Council formed in response to the lack of an agreement to stop deforestation at the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio De Jaineiro. Boycotts of forest products had proven to be ineffective in protecting these vital ecosystems because they lead to devaluation of productive forestland.  FSC started as a collaborative project by independent businesses and organizations.  They created a chain of custody process and a logo, which have proven to be successful at encouraging responsible choices by consumers.  The organization now operates in 80 countries and thousands of businesses and organizations are turning to FSC to help make responsible choices for the purchasing of forest products ranging from lumber to papers.

Apart from their work with paper, FSC has had a big impact on the manufacturing of green building.  Green building represents the strongest sector of the construction industry.  In 2012 an estimated 25% of all commercial and 20% of residential construction starts were in the category.  FSC features over 1,000 Chain of Custody building products with more emerging each year.

We want to thank FSC staff and members for their dedication and innovation in supporting responsible forestry!  We are proud to be a part of this growing movement.

Nicole Paisley Martensen
 
August 19, 2013 | Nicole Paisley Martensen

ReCork Recycles

Thirteen billion bottles of wine are consumed annually -- that’s a lot of corks left over when the drinking is done! At present, the majority of corks end up in landfills instead of in re-use applications; in the hands of ReCork, they can have a second use. ReCork is North America’s largest cork recycling initiative and is giving wine corks new life in the form of footwear and other upcycled products.

ReCork logo

With the help of over 1,700 recycling partners, ReCork has collected over 44 million corks. ReCork frequently partners with wineries, restaurants, wine bars, grocery stores and hotels to collect natural corks.  Once collected, the corks are ground down and repurposed for use in new consumer products.  SOLE, ReCork’s parent company, produces cork-soled footwear for women and men. In addition to shoes, recycled cork can also be used in flooring, gaskets, bulletin boards, sports equipment, and even used as a soil amendment in compost (natural cork is a valuable source of CO2 retention).

Compared to aluminum screwcaps and petroleum-based plastic plugs, the production of traditional cork wine stoppers has the smallest environmental footprint. While some alternative closure manufacturers are beginning trial recycling efforts, natural cork is still the easiest and best material to recycle: it is biodegradable, renewable, energy efficient, sustainable and 100% natural.

Grove of cork trees.

Unlike many forest products, cork oaks are never cut down for their bark. Cork oaks (Quercus suber L.) provide an ideal sustainable crop during a life cycle that lasts over 200 years. A mature, 50 year-old tree can be harvested approximately every 9 years for the life of the tree. Here in California, you can find giant cork oaks on the grounds of the State Capital in Sacramento, on the campus of UC Davis, and a few scattered around as specimen trees in Mendocino County. However, the Mediterranean basin is where most of the world's cork is sourced. There are nearly 6 million acres of cork forests in the Mediterranean regions of Portugal, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Italy, Tunisia and France, with Portugal being the largest producer by far. The Mediterranean cork oak forests are the basis of an ecosystem which is unique in the world, and which contributes to the survival of many native species of plants and animals, including the endangered European gray wolf and the Mountain Iberian wild goat. It is also a source of employment for tens of thousands of agricultural workers. In addition to their recycling program, ReCork has partnered with QUERCUS (the Portuguese National Association for Nature Conservation) and Criar Bosques, a tree planting initiative in Portugal, and planted over 8,000 cork oaks in the Mediterranean.

Want to know how to get involved? The simplest way is to drop off your corks at a ReCork Public Collection Partner in your area. We’ve been collecting our corks at the Frey Ranch and then dropping them off at our local Ukiah Food Co-op, but you can use ReCork’s nifty drop-off locater to find a location near you. If there is no partner in your area, you can send your corks directly to ReCork in 15lb increments, shipping charges paid. 15lbs equals about 1650 corks (that’s a lot of Frey wine!) so we recommend banding together with your neighbors or workplace to make a joint effort in collecting. By recycling a simple cork stopper we can visualize the product source, its evolution into a useful natural product, and its potential for an extended life far beyond its first use in a bottle of fine wine.

Eliza Frey
 
August 17, 2013 | Eliza Frey

Announcing the Organic Vineyard Alliance!

Organic Vineyard Alliance logo"The Organic Vineyard Alliance (OVA) is a group of winemakers, retailers and distributors who have come together to educate, inform and enlighten you about the benefits of organic wine." - From the OVA Website.

For those of you who love staying informed about the latest in the organic wine industry, a great new website has just been launched. The Organic Vineyard Alliance has been spearheaded by seasoned industry members and offers knowledge and clarification around organic wine.

The site is easy to navigate and full of great information.  There is a series of videos featuring our executive director Katrina Frey and other organic winemakers.  Also check out the awesome table that lays out the differences between wine categories including USDA Organic, Made with Organically grown grapes, Biodynamic and more.

As time goes on this website is sure to become a clearinghouse for the savvy consumer who wants to keep up to date on the latest and greatest that the industry has to offer.  Start exploring now!

Frey Vineyards
 
April 17, 2013 | Frey Vineyards

Experimenting with Biodynamic® Dyes

In January of this year, Craig Wilkinson, founder of Quantum Culture, a venture creating and trading biodynamically produced and processed goods, visited us here at the winery during the annual Biodynamic Association of Northern California (BDANC) meeting. Craig had been looking forward to conducting an experiment with Biodynamic® dyes for some time, so the weekend BDANC conference at Frey Vineyards was the ideal testing ground. Craig prepared biodynamically grown cotton tee shirts and bandannas in a mordant of alum, and formulated three dye baths: one made from grape lees, another from a filtered grape juice, and one from actual finished wine. Of his experiments, Craig provides the following notes:

- The first dye bath was made from a slightly diluted soupy batch of grape lees, which are the sediment left following the grape crush. The mix was heated for several hours and again the following day. The colors it produced were the lightest of the three baths.
- The second dye bath was made from ‘waste wine,’ which is grape juice collected from the pre- and post-pumping process. The colors were very nice with darker results.
- The third bath was made from nearly a case of 2005 Frey Biodynamic® Syrah made from biodynamically grown grapes. The color was beautiful, and the darkest of the three. The color set very quickly for both the juice and wine, and required no filtering, which made it easier and efficient to work with. Luke Frey and I enjoyed a glass of the Syrah while opening and pouring bottles of wine into the dye vat.

We’re excited about the range of colors, the colorfastness, and the potential for a volume dye bath made from biodynamic winemaking byproducts, and we’re appreciative of Craig’s dedication to the project. Please visit quantumculture.com to view the scope of the research project and find more products made from biodynamically grown cotton.

Lovely organic ladies
Ann Krohn & Eliza Frey in tee’s dyed with grape juice and the 2005 Frey Biodynamic® Syrah pictured here.

Katrina Frey
 
April 16, 2013 | Katrina Frey

Sacred Agriculture – Part 2

Frey Vineyards’ core values include purity, quality, truth in labeling and transparency. We choose to hang our hats on the Demeter Biodynamic Farming and Processing Standard that embodies all of these same principles.

This chart shows a concise history of the Biodynamic timeline and the foundations of Demeter:

Biodynamics Timeline
Click for larger picture.

Biodynamic® is defined by the Demeter Farm and Processing Standards and is protected via a certification mark, which is an inclusive type of trademark. Demeter International is the first, and remains, the only ecological association consisting of a network of individual certification organizations in 45 countries around the world. Demeter US has 163 members and reaches over 10,000 certified acres.

I’d like to point out that Demeter US was formed seventeen years before the USDA National Organic Program (NOP); following the evolution of farming practices in the last century, one could suggest that Biodynamic agriculture is the parent of organic. At Frey Vineyards we adhere to the Demeter Farm Standard, which incorporates NOP practices, but goes a step further because it retains the view of the farm as an integrated whole.

The Demeter standard requires whole farm certification. 10% of total acreage must be set-aside as wild area to promote biodiversity. Because the farm is managed as a self-contained system, fertility is generated via the integration of livestock, compost, green manure, and careful crop rotation. Disease and insect control are addressed through botanical species diversity, predator habitat, and attention to light penetration and air flow. The use of the preparations is required. There are eight preparations in all, made from herbs, mineral substances and animal manures, that are utilized in field sprays and compost inoculants applied in minute doses, much like homeopathic remedies are for humans.

The Farm Standard is historically significant because it dates back to the beginning of the modern sustainable agriculture movement and captures key agronomic principles not comprehensively addressed within any other agriculture certification system. As such, Biodynamic agriculture represents one of the highest paradigms of sustainable farming, and offers one of the smallest carbon footprints of any agricultural method.

Standards are developed democratically, seeking input from farmers and processors and then vetted and voted upon annually by the international Demeter board. The standards are living and evolving and deserve respect from everyone who cares about Biodynamic agriculture and anthroposophy.

Sheep in biodynamic vineyard
Lily Frey by Biodynamic Cabernet vineyard.

You’ll notice that the standard does not attempt to certify a farmer’s spirituality or understanding of Rudolf Steiner’s anthroposophy. We believe this is outside the scope of our work. However, we do observe that once a farmer begins to seriously apply the principles and practices of the Demeter standard, they are often quickly led to powerful personal insights.

Steps in biodynamics

So how does the Demeter standard inform what we do at Frey Vineyards? We plant leguminous cover crops for soil fertility (top left in photo above). We make our own compost from on farm ingredients (top right). All the herbs for the preparations are grown on the farm, and then applied to the vineyards and gardens (bottom left). And eventually the grapes are harvested at the peak of ripeness. Frey wines are then crafted and labeled in accordance to the Demeter Biodynamic Wine Standard (bottom right).

No GMO & solar powered

Over 32 years we’ve trained several hundred interns and aspiring farmers. Other Frey ranch activities include working winter grains into our cover crop rotations. We are doing everything we can to battle GMO’s and educate our customers and fellow farmers. And we continue to develop appropriate power for the winery.

Sacred Connections

In conclusion, Frey Vineyards is committed to the spirit and spread of biodynamic farming, starting with our children, our family, and our community.

John Muir was thinking about Sacred Connections when he wrote:

"When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find that it is bound fast, by a thousand invisible cords, that cannot be broken, to everything in the universe."

Eliza Frey
 
April 15, 2013 | Eliza Frey

Detectable Pesticides in Non-organic Wine

Testing by EXCELL Laboratories in France from the 2009 and 2010 vintages found that only 10% of 300 French wines were free of pesticide residue*. The majority of residues found were fungicides, which are applied late into the growing season. EXCELL Laboratory, which is owned and operated by Pascal Chatonnet, an innovative figure in the French wine business, now plans to offer pesticide residue testing to winery clients. Wines tested that contain no more than five substances in levels 100 times lower than the Maxium Residue Limits Set by the EEC** will be able to use EXCELL’s certification, called “+ Nature”. The idea is to have a scale of pesticide residue that can be put on wine labels so that consumers can choose wines with less contamination.

Frey Petite Sirah grapes
Frey Biodynamic Petite Sirah, pesticide-free.

A similar study by the European Pesticide Action Network in 2008 found that 100% of conventionally farmed wines in Europe contained pesticide residues. Many of the wines contained traces of several different pesticides. (View a PDF of the report here.) The organic wines tested in the study were all free of pesticides except one; researchers expected the presence of pesticides in the organic wine was due to chemical drift.

The EPA in the US and the EEA (European Environment Agency) would tell you not to worry because the levels of all pesticides were within the legal acceptable limits for each individual substance. This approach fails to look at cumulative levels of all pesticides that were found. Also, lack of research about how these substances interact in combination is a valid concern. As Chatonnet explains, “It is possible that the presence of several molecules combined is more harmful than a higher level of a single molecule.” Chatonnet and others advocate an industry wide shift towards less toxic pesticides, coupled with more precise application methods to avoid overuse of toxic substances.

These studies indicate the benefit of choosing Organic and Biodynamic wines and wines made from Organic and Biodynamic grapes. Not only do they lessen the impact on the environment, they lessen the consumer’s chemical burden. And now, with consistent growth in the Organic and Biodynamic wine sectors, there is more variety than ever before. Cheers To Your Health!

* You can read Decantuer magazine’s summary of EXCELL’s research here.

** The EEC is the EU-Eco Regulation, which is label for products and services that have a reduced environmental impact in the European Union. While raw agricultural commodities are subject to Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) set by EEC agreements, MRLs do not apply to processed foods, including wine. More info can be found here.

Eliza Frey
 
February 5, 2013 | Eliza Frey

Spontaneous Fermentations

At Frey Vineyards, we began working with spontaneous fermentations in 1996 when we released the first certified Biodynamic wine in North America.  We are now big fans of how spontaneous fermentations uniquely bring out the terroir of a site and allow the wine drinker to have a tasting experience that mirrors climate, vintage and vineyard.

Closeup of Biodynamic grapes
Frey Biodynamic Cabernet after a light rain.

What is spontaneous fermentation? During the grape crush, yeast is usually added to the grape juice to “kick start” the fermentation.  For our line of organic wines, we use certified organic yeast.  For our line of Biodynamic wines we rely on spontaneous fermentation – no kick-starter yeast is added.  Instead natural yeasts that already live on the grape skins get the fermenting going. Yeast ferments the grape juice by eating up the sugar, which gets converted into alcohol. Later, the yeast sinks to the bottom of the tanks.

The goal of Biodynamic winemaking standards is to promote the production of wines that are in sync with the core principles of Biodynamic farming: reliance on site available inputs, sustainability and diversity.  Spontaneous fermentations are required to ensure that each wine is the result of the local yeast populations of the vineyard where the grapes are grown.  This allows the wines to express the complexity of the vineyard biology and it allows the wine drinker to experience the nuances between different vineyards and vintages.

At Frey Vineyards, we are relative newcomers to this age-old practice.  People have been making wine through wild fermentations for thousands of years.  Grapes are one of the few fruits that have enough natural sugar to ferment spontaneously.  Grape fermentations also served as the original starters for other fermentations, from sourdough bread to beer.  While people knew that wine would result when grapes were crushed and left to sit, they didn’t need to understand the life cycles of yeast or the extent and complexity of their populations.

Louis Pasteur first isolated and identified yeast in the 1800’s.  By that time people had already refined and industrialized the process of fermentation.  The wine business was huge, with global production, trade and distribution.  While Pasteur’s discovery didn’t change the way wine was produced overnight, it led the way to the standardization of wines. Once yeasts were identified, people began to study them and isolate them and eventually to control which yeasts carried out fermentations. 

There are several genera of yeast in the world and spontaneous fermentations involve numerous strains of wild yeasts that are localized in the vineyard.  Grapes fresh off the vine are teeming with wild yeasts.  In spontaneous fermentations each of the yeasts does a little bit of the fermenting, with the more fragile, less alcohol-tolerant strains starting the fermentation and the more robust ones finishing off in higher alcohol environments.  Each strain of yeast is best suited to certain conditions and each produces specific byproducts that affect the flavor and aroma of the wine.  The result is a wine that is more complex and that is a unique expression of the site where it was grown.

Winemakers in the past had to get by with whatever populations of yeast were found in their vineyards and wineries.  Once people understood what yeast were and how they grow and reproduce they were able to isolate and grow certain strains by taking yeast from active fermentations, isolating them and growing them on a substrate (some kind of sugar).  Yeasts were selected for certain characteristics, such as flavor profile, alcohol, temperature, pH and sulfite tolerance.  People could overpower native yeast populations with introduced strains.  They could pasteurize juice that was rotten, then effectively ferment it.  Such approaches allow more uniformity in the winemaking process.  For mass produced, large-scale industrial winemaking this approach works well because the results are predictable in spite of fluctuations in climate and growing region.  This advance also results in a loss of complexity and flavors because the fermentation environment is essentially a monoculture.

At Frey Vineyards, we are big fans of natural processes and diversity and it has been exciting and rewarding to produce Biodynamic wines through spontaneous fermentations.  We have noticed that our wild fermented wines have an increased complexity of aroma and flavor and we love the surprises that come from each year.  We hope you join us in this return to age-old methods by trying some of our Biodynamic, wild fermented wines.  From the vineyard to the table, they are delicious examples of the natural chemistry of grapes and wild yeasts.

Glass of Biodynamic Chardonnay wine
Glass of Biodynamic Chardonnay

Katrina Frey
 
January 28, 2013 | Katrina Frey

Sacred Agriculture – Part 1

When I heard the words “Sacred Agriculture,” the first thing that popped into my head was that I was raised by a mother who believed in fairies.  I’d like to tell you how those fairies led me to Biodynamics and eventually to the beautiful land in Mendocino County in Northern California that was to become Frey Vineyards. My mother discovered her fairies in the woods and brooks of Vermont, but managed to find them again in the perennial garden she created in the backyard of our little house in Holland, MI. 

Katrina Frey's with dad, mom, sister.

I would spend hours nose down in the lilies of the valley under the lilac bush daydreaming about the hidden intricate world of the fairies and sometimes spotting evidence; a broken stem or little flower caps strewn upon the ground were signs of a night of wild revels.

But eventually I grew up, went to a Quaker College, became a Vietnam War activist and a hippie and moved to California, and generally got distracted from the fairies. Still, I managed to spend parts of each summer working with my grandfather in his perennial garden.  He would chat with his garden and ask it what it wanted him to do next. I came to see the dozens of beds as a responsive and living being.  By now I was seriously considering a career in the nursery business, so when I heard about a Biodynamic Agriculture conference at High Mowing Waldorf School in New Hampshire, I decided to check it out. I was thunderstruck with the beauty of a display of sensitive crystallization images. 

Sensitive crystalization detail
Sensitive crystallization provides the viewer with a visual preview of the unique fingerprint possessed by a given substance.

The deep, hidden, exquisite intricate order thrust me back into the land of fairy and I vowed to learn more about Biodynamics.

Returning to California, I apprenticed with Alan Chadwick.  Fellow apprentices were Jonathan Frey, who was to become my husband, and Chris Tebbutt of Filigreen Farm in nearby Anderson Valley

Alan Chadwick
Alan Chadwick raspberry pruning demonstration.

Chadwick saw man’s central occupation as a gardener and farmer, always giving back to the land selflessly and being rewarded with the glorious abundance of nature. He taught us the French Intensive Biodynamic method, lectured on Rudolf Steiner, introduced me to the Revolutionibus, the rhythms of the cosmos, the Archangels and the elemental beings.  My fairies were back.

After a year and a half of apprenticeship, Jonathan and I got married and moved to the Frey Ranch in Mendocino County and started to lay the groundwork for Frey Vineyards.  Today we have grown from 100 to 1000 acres. 

Frey Vineyards from above
Frey Vineyards in Redwood Valley, California

We farm 140 of the 1000 acres with the vineyards meeting the edges of the forest.  At Frey Vineyards we delight in the biodiversity of our land, whether it be the native wildlife in our forestland, the cover crops replenishing our soil, or the multi-talented four generations of the Frey Family who live here.  Each of them has their unique experience of SACRED AGRICULTURE.

Members of the Frey Family
Clockwise from top left: Luke Frey; Johnny Frey; Karla, Rob & Leora Gitlin; Matthew Frey.

Luke Frey, my brother-in-law, has made it his job to produce all of our Biodynamic preparations and to care for our farm animals with great devotion. He is a master prep maker, studying with Hugh Courtney at the Josephine Porter Institute and completing Dennis Klokec’s Consciousness Studies Program.

We have a lot of hard-core gardeners on the ranch.  My son Johnny, seen here double digging our garlic bed, is a devotee of Yogananda, who saw God in all mankind and taught man to seek for meaningful work and then perform it in a sprit of gratitude and service.

Karla Frey’s garden anchors her to the Jewish cycles of celebrations.  The Sukkat festival reminds us that God will provide for man’s needs and man in turn must be grateful.

Brother-in-law Matthew married Sandra from Bolivia and has embraced the Inca philosophy of no separation between man and nature. Matthew’s garden is his sense of connection.  He says,  “If I’m late at planting it, it calls me.  I save my seeds and somehow they know me the next year.  Every time I add a garden vegetable to my meal, it becomes a part of me and keeps my body and mind and spirit balanced.”

As you can see, we have a beautiful rainbow of philosophies about SACRED AGRICULTURE.  At the same time Frey Vineyards is a big business selling 92,000 cases of wine across North America, Europe and Asia.  So how do we communicate our agricultural practices to our customers?

Stay tuned for the second part of Katrina’s article on Sacred Agriculture in our Spring Newsletter.

Frey Vineyards
 
July 28, 2011 | Frey Vineyards

Survey finds most people want their food organic

Demand for organic food is ever growing, as confirmed by another poll. This is always good news as organic food production is better for everyone's health, and for the planet, in so many ways.

As summarized from ThePacker.com: "...A majority of Americans pick organically produced foods over conventionally produced when given the choice, according to a new poll... Among the reasons for choosing organic, survey participants cited supporting local growers and health concerns..."

Paul Frey planting organic melons.
Winemaker and vegetarian Paul Frey and his sons planting organic watermelons in vineyard.

Derek Dahlen
 
July 26, 2011 | Derek Dahlen

Wheat between the vines – Year 2

We just completed our second wheat harvest, all of it grown between rows of our organic vineyards. This cereal harvest is a part of our ongoing experimentation with growing local organic food with the wine grapes.

Organic wheat in wine grape vineyard.
Ripe organic wheat ready for harvest between the vines.

This year brought some changes to the wheat program, as Frey Vineyards bought out the other members of the group that originally purchased the mini-combine, while they upgraded their own machine for wheat harvesting in Mendocino County.  Check out their website at Mendocino Grain Project.  Having our own combine now gives us more flexibility for timing the harvest and experimenting with different crops. 

Combine harvesting wheat in wine grape vineyard.
Matthew Frey running the combine in the Frey Potter Valley vineyard.

A repair on the combine allowed us to harvest the wheat more efficiently. It now reaps a much larger percentage of the crop and the grains are coming out cleaner. The grinding stone also got a facelift, as Matthew Frey installed a new motor with variable speed, allowing us to fine-tune the grinding process. 

Harvesting wheat in grape vineyard.
Derek and Matthew harvesting organic wheat from between rows of organic winegrapes.

The crop in our Redwood Valley vineyards weighed in at over one thousand pounds. At our Potter Valley vineyard, which has very fertile soils, we pulled in over 3,000 pounds!  Time to get baking!  We hope to offer samples of the flour to our wine club members.  You can join here! We will also be serving bread from our homegrown wheat at our upcoming midsummer party, Saturday, August 6th. Come and taste the wonder of fresh ground grains!

 

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