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.
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
We live in a time where we have access to almost all cuisines from across the globe and wine is no longer being overlooked as a compliment for spicy or ethnic foods. In the past spicy food wine pairings were limited to white wines but there are wonderful options among rosés and reds. For spice loving foodies it’s time to start sipping outside the box!
Spicy foods are as varied as the wines they can be paired with. Low alcohol wines are best for the spiciest dishes, since spice can accentuate alcohol and make high alcohol wines taste hot and abrasive. Spice can also enhance the astringency of tannins in wine, so heavy red wines are not a good choice with fiery dishes. The spice of ginger, with citrus and lemongrass, is balanced well by wines with crisp acidity and floral aromas, like Sauvignon Blanc and other aromatic whites. Savory spice like garlic, onions, oregano, sage and rosemary are right at home with deep spicy reds like Zinfandel and Petite Sirah. Brown, earthy spice like cumin, coriander and cardamom are best paired with earthy Syrahs and low tannin Merlots.
Below is a list of Frey wines that are best served with spicy fare, and pairing suggestions that will highlight both the food and wine.
Frey Organic Rosé – The floral acidity of our rosé is great with sweet and spicy foods like southern barbeque, Jamaican Jerk spice or Tom Kha Thai coconut soup with lemongrass, galangal (ginger’s spicy cousin) and chilies.
Frey Organic Gewurztraminer – The spicy aromatic nose of gewürztraminer is slightly sweet. We enjoy it with ginger flavored stir-fries and coconut curry dishes with kefir lime.
Frey Organic Sauvignon Blanc – Our Sauvignon Blanc is grown in a warm climate and has tropical aromas and flavors with not too rigid acidity. We recommend it with the cilantro, lime and zest of Mexican and Southwest dishes.
Frey Organic Pinot Noir – Wonderful with spicy Baja fish stew (see our recipe below!), chile verde sauce or basil and eggplant sautéed with garlic and hot peppers.
Frey Organic Zinfandel – Zinfandel has a naturally fruity and spicy character that lends itself to ethnic foods. Great with garlicky dishes like Shrimp Diablo, spicy meat dishes and sautéed pardon peppers.
Frey Biodynamic Chardonnay – The roundness of Chardonnay can cut through the spice and smoke in chipotle sauce. Since Chardonnay is a full bodied white wine it can stand up well to dishes that include chicken or other poultry.
Frey Biodynamic Syrah – The spicy notes of Syrah go great with Indian and Middle Eastern dishes with warm spices like cumin, coriander, fennel or cardamom. The wine’s earthiness is great with the lentils, chickpeas and potatoes often found in such fare.
Frey Organic Petite Sirah – Petite Sirah is known for its peppery character and is a great choice for heavier, tomato based dishes like spicy tomato gratin, or spicy chutney with grilled lamb.
As with all wine and food pairing, at the end of it all we should drink and eat what we love. Combine what sounds good to you, and always remember to try new dishes with wine and food – in moderation of course.
Cheers and Bon Appetite!
(Copyrighted © Eliza Frey, Frey Vineyards, 2013. All right reserved.)
Frey Vineyards 2011 Field Blend was crafted specifically for Whole Foods customers. Our goal with Field Blend was to produce a Biodynamic® example of terroir at its finest expression, where soil, varietal character, and vintage culminate in an authentic representation of our vineyards.
Field Blend is graced with a subtle nose of red currant, a hint of star anise, iron, and rose hips. The flavors lend themselves to an available freshness showing dewberry, white pepper, red beet, and a touch of licorice. The finish is balanced with apricot, kola nut, and cherry bark. While 2011 presented a challenging growing season for much of Northern California, it also prompted us to take a creative approach with some unconventional blends. For Field Blend, we took the best of our estate-grown grapes, starting with our Syrah for composed structure, melding it with our Zinfandel for added spice, and rounding everything out with our soft, plummy Merlot. Field Blend pairs harmoniously with grilled flank steak with olive sauce, paella with spicy sausage, or penne with porcini mushrooms.
The Field Blend label was designed by our wine club director, Nicole Paisley Martensen. It incorporates a collage of vintage astrological charts and farmers’ almanacs, evoking the origins of Biodynamic farming and its founder, Rudolf Steiner, along with photographs of grapevines and tractor treads at Frey Vineyards.
Surrounding our estate organic and biodynamic vineyards are woodlands and forests that harbor wildlife and sustain local biodiversity, including the wild honeybee. This vital pollinating insect is suffering worldwide from colony collapse disorder, widely believed due to it's extreme sensitivity to modern pollutants, including agricultural pesticides, that weaken their immune system. So last year when we spotted a hive in need of help right at the edge of our Petite Sirah vineyard, we quickly gave them a hand.
The hive was located inside this fallen fir tree.
The bees had their home high up in a fir tree, inside the rotted and hollow interior. A windstorm snapped the tree halfway up and the hive fell. Much of it shattered on impact with crushed honeycombs seeping across the splintered trunk. We were tempted to eat some of the honey, but this food was vital to the bees if they were to survive the rest of the winter, so it was hands off the sweet ambrosia. Luke Frey quickly brought an empty beehive box and put the surviving humming mass of bees in it along with every drop of their precious honey. Then he placed it on top of the fallen tree right next to the old hive.
Here's a short video with some live footage of these beautiful wild honeybees.
It was soon apparent the queen did not survive the fall so a frame with two capped queen cells were put in. We crossed our fingers that the orphaned honeybees would take to their new home and raise a new queen. A few weeks later they were still there! Following the coronation the hive raised a new brood into the spring and summer. But then they were gone! We suspect that they swarmed and made a new hive in an old wine barrel by our Merlot vineyard. It's also possible the colony perished.
Wild honeybees and their shattered, exposed hive.
The location of the honeybee's new hive is circled, next to the Frey Biodynamic Petite Sirah vineyard.
The harvest of 2012 promises to be one of exceptional quality here at Frey Vineyards for our organic and Biodynamic® vineyards. After two challenging years, 2010 and 2011, which were marked with late soggy springs and early wet falls, we finally have a picture perfect year.
During early June when the grapes were flowering, the weather was just right: moderate temperatures, clear skies and no wind. If it is windy during the 10 day flowering period the delicate blossoms can “shatter,” which means they fall off and the clumps are tattered. We’ve had a hot, but not too hot, dry summer that our organic grapes have loved. Biodynamic sprays have protected the vines and there was very little, if any, mildew problems here in Mendocino County.
Harvest began in early October with the picking of Gewurztraminer, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. In addition to our permanent vineyard crew, we’ve had the help of fifteen extra people to work in the cellar and the vineyards. Everyone worked really hard to get the grapes in with the most amount of care. In contrast to the previous two years, all our varieties will be picked before the first rains, except for the Cabernet, which is known for its weather resistance and thick skins that can hold up to moisture. All of our 2012 fruit is of beautiful quality: perfect sugars, great acidity, and no mold. The wines of 2012 will show slightly higher alcohol levels than the past two vintages because sugars are higher when the grapes are allowed to come to full maturation.
In the next two weeks in the vineyards we’ll plant this year’s winter grains, as well as our traditional cover crops of legumes that add nitrogen to the soil. Our work in the vineyard is always looking ahead, but we relish the thought of enjoying this memorable 2012 organic vintage!
Attention California Voters –
Vote Yes on Prop 37! It’s our Right to Know!
Endorse! Volunteer! Donate! www.carighttoknow.org
Did you know that 80-85% of the processed foods you buy in America contain Genetically Engineered ingredients? Did you know that 61 other countries require the labeling of Genetically Engineered ingredients?
On November 6th, 2012 California voters will go to the polls for Proposition 37, the California Right to Know Act, which will require labeling of Genetically Engineered ingredients on food labels. This landmark initiative will confirm Californians’ Right to Know what they are eating and it will pave the way for ingredient labeling across the nation.
Studies show that 90% of Americans across party lines favor labeling of GMO foods. That is why No on Prop 37 is spending 1 million dollars a day to run misleading ads on all the main stream media and pushing blatant misinformation on California voters. Due to huge contributions from billion dollar companies Prop 37 now has the potential to be the most funded initiative in the history of the state.
The No on Prop 37 Coalition is using scare tactics and false information to convince voters that prop 37 will raise food prices and provide exemptions for special interests. They are lying! The Organic Consumers association has a great write up that clearly debunks the lies being spewed by the No on 37 campaign, you can view it here.
Frey Vineyards has partnered with the Institute for Responsible Technology to sponsor a day of free online viewing of the film Genetic Roulette. This is an excellent film that showcases the lack of oversight provided by the FDA when approving GE foods and provides convincing evidence about why labeling is needed. Please watch it and encourage others to do the same! You can download the film here.
The viewing will be available until October 31, 2012.
Proposition 37 is a common sense initiative that gives consumers access to information about the food they eat. Despite being approved for human consumption by the FDA, Genetically Engineered foods have never been subject to long term studies proving their safety. Proposition 37 is the first chance that America has had to choose whether or not to eat GE foods.
Here at Frey Vineyards, we are endorsing Prop 37 because we believe that billion dollar corporations should not be allowed bypass federal regulations and expose the public to unknown health risks. The FDA has failed us and introduced GE foods into the American food supply without proper safety testing. It is now up to us to demand labeling of the foods we eat!
For a full list of endorsers you can visit the Yes on 37 website.
It is time for America and California to join the 61 other countries that require GMO labeling! We have the opportunity to make this groundbreaking change for our Nation; lets make our voices heard on November 6th! Whether you live in California or elsewhere, please consider offering support by endorsing the campaign, donating funds to keep ads running or volunteering for a slot on the Right to Know Phone Bank, their goal is to call 1 million voters in the state before election day.
We created Organic Agriculturist for Whole Foods customers (later to be available to all stores) and we’re proud to report that Whole Foods has named it one of their Top Ten Picks for Holiday 2012!
Organic Agriculturist is the first in a proprietary line for Whole Foods and is a delicious blend of Carignan, Merlot, and Syrah grapes. These traditional Rhone and Bordeaux varietals are processed without added sugars, acids, or preservatives, creating a fruit-forward California-grown red wine. Our overall pursuit with Organic Agriculturist was to blend an exceptionally food-friendly wine. A spicy, aromatic nose gives way to damson plum and plush berry tones on the palate. The firm structure and grippy tannins of the Carignan and Syrah provide a well-balanced backbone for savory roasted meats, while the softness of the Merlot informs a delicate touch that would compliment vegetarian cuisine. Aged with a touch of French oak, the wine has a lingering cedary finish along with a hint of allspice that makes this a perfect holiday choice.
The Organic Agriculturist label was designed by our wine club director, Nicole Paisley Martensen. In creating the look, Nicole looked to vintage paper goods and an updated nostalgia for an agrarian lifestyle. "Frey Ranch is a unique wrinkle in time, and we wanted to translate the cyclical nature of the hard work involved in caring for the land, and the bounty and enjoyment it provides," she states.
Organic Agriculturist will be available in many Whole Foods stores nationwide starting November 1st. We’ll also be offering it to wine club members only as a limited release in the upcoming Holiday Wine Club Shipment. It pairs well with spice-crusted rack of lamb, caramelized shallots and roasted root vegetables, or a fennel and blood-orange salad.
What is a wine sensory garden? The following is the work of Shannon Jasie during her summer internship at Frey Vineyards.
"Tasting wine is a full-body experience. Wherever you taste wine, the colors and smells of the tasting area, as well as your mood and state of mind, influence how a wine tastes. Wine sensory gardens deepen the sensory experience by incorporating sight and touch. When tasting wine in a garden, the aroma is enjoyed by the nose, and the taste and texture by the mouth. Upon entering the space, you are surrounded by the color and scent of the garden and the plants whose flavors are used to describe the particular varietal. This enhances your tasting experience and compliments the flavor and aroma of the wine."
How to do a wine sensory garden tasting:
While you sip a glass of Frey wine, take a walk through the garden. As you meander through the herb
and flowerbeds, pick a sprig, leaf, or petal from the herbs and flowers whose aromas and flavors will compliment the wine. As you taste each herb, sip your wine and savor the new flavors that are exposed through the pairing.
Try our suggested pairings of Frey wine with garden herbs and edible flowers.
Anise, Thyme, Sage, Honey, Tarragon, Lavender, Squash, Blossoms, Lemon Verbena Violets.
Gewurztraminer: Rose Petals, Mint, Lavender, Rosemary, Lemon Verbena, Honey, Nasturtium, Rose, Geranium, Jasmine Blossoms, Cornflower.
Sauvignon Blanc: Lavender, Tarragon, Rosemary, Cilantro, Parsley, Sorrel, Lovage, Dill, Hay & Green Grass, Lemon Verbena.
Natural White: Tarragon, Marjoram, Thyme, Chevril.
Photo by Molly Frey
Cabernet Sauvignon & Merlot: Sage, Rosemary, Oregano, Chocolate Mint, Chives, Nasturtium, Dill, Bee Balm, Pansy, Snapdragons Chrysanthemum.
Pinot Noir: Violets, Squash Blossoms, Fennel, Sweet Basil, Oregano, Chocolate Mint, Bee Balm, Pansy.
Petite Sirah: Chives, Rosemary, Oregano, Lavender, Sage.
Zinfandel & Syrah: Rose Petals, Lavender, Sage, Basil, Oregano, Nasturtium, Calendula, Marigold.
Natural Red: Basil, Thyme, Sage, Marigold, Calendula.
Sangiovese: Rose Petals, Anise, Basil, Fennel, Sage, Oregano, Pansy, Marjoram.
Photo by Molly Frey
Summer is certainly the time that bees seem most at home in the world, flying all about the garden, buzzing throughout the warmth of the season's days, and kissing all the flowering blossoms that need the bee magic to produce.
On the Frey farm we have been experimenting with several different styles of creative bee hive designs. The hive that I've been tending and observing the most this past year is a Warre style hive that my woodworking neighbor Kevin designed and built. The hive currently drips with honeybees, coming and going from their floral pursuits (see images below). It's built in the top bar style with multiple pieces of parallel wood spanning the top of each hive-body box. Unique to this model is that the hive-body is built in the form of a hexagon, to honor the bees own sacred geometric building. Kevin also built the hive completely without the use of metal to respect the bees' keen sensitivity to vibrations in their home. This particular model is on the roof of my bedroom, to protect it from unwanted visitors, such as bears, who have been known to go out of their way to taste the farm honey! On certain days, if I sit quietly on my bed, I can hear the bees buzzing and vibrating through the walls!
I've seen the hive swarm twice this year, each time swirling in elaborate lemniscate patterns, up higher and higher until they landed on nearby redwoods: too high for me to reach safely. I hoped these brave convoys made new homes successfully in the surrounding woods. We harvested a small amount of honey recently, which was a deep rich golden/bronze color and tasted of the Spring flora. As the summer winds down, the bees will travel far and wide to seek out late blooms to help flush out their sweet stores for the rest of the year, when forage becomes less and less available. But, for now, the bees are a buzz!
Warre style honeybee hive.
Honeybees taking off from the beehiveHoneybee launch pad!
View inside the beehiveTop of hive-box body.
We are pleased to announce the release of our first vintage ever of Tannat wine, from our West Road Vineyard. (Very limited production, available only at the winery or you may order online.)
First-time release of Frey Organic Tannat! Available online.
For those of you who love a rich, full-bodied tannic wine, you must try our Organic Tannat! It is rarely found in the U.S. today. We like it because of its intense fruity mouth-feel, sumptuous tannic structure and spicy finish. The 2010 production is limited to just 180 cases and Frey Wine Club members will enjoy a pre-release bottle with their April shipment. For more information about our Wine Club that offers specialty wines and year round discounts, please check here.
We planted one-acre of Tannat in 2007 and it’s been a thrill to work with this new grape. Tannat berries are thick-skinned and inky colored. It’s one of the most tannic grapes available, similar to a heavy Cabernet or Syrah. The color and depth of the resulting wine is impressive and the flavors are heightened with exposure to French Oak and some aging.
Tannat’s homeland is in the Basque region of southwest France in the appellation of Madiran near the Pyrenees Mountains, grown since the 17th century and highly prized. It is also the national grape of Uruguay and called Harriague by the Uruguayans, and the wine is softer and lighter than its French and American counterparts.
Tannat was first introduced to the US in the late 1800’s by the University of California at Berkeley and was primarily used as a blending grape for Meritage blends, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sangiovese. It is now grown in California, Arizona, Virginia and Oregon and gaining increased notoriety as its own varietal.
We look forward to many delicious vintages of this unique wine to come.
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