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Frey Organic Wine Blog

Molly Frey
 
January 1, 2015 | Molly Frey

Annual Winter Biodynamic Association of Northern CA (BDANC) Meeting

BDANC poster


The weekend begins Friday January 9th, with a lecture from Dennis Klocek of the Coros Institute on the topic Where is the Elemental World? From the course description: "The fundamental question is how can those who work with nature establish a relationship that is personal to the forces and activities that lie behind natural phenomena? Starting in the crystal heavens of the alchemists, Dennis will present the layers of forces consolidating from the cosmic etheric realm through the etheric formative realm to the elemental realm. At each stage meditations will be suggested that can help to link the consciousness of the worker to these particular kinds of phenomena and the beings who stand behind them. Topics will include: the four ethers; crystallization of gems; alchemical planetary influences through the seasons; salt and sulfur in plant growth as symbolic consciousness; and the spagyric process of the alchemist Paracelsus as a meditative tool for research."

The lecture begins at 9am and goes until 5pm. There will be a lunch break and a suggested donation of $85-100; nobody will be turned away for a lack of funds. Registration is available at the door.

Saturday the schedule is open to the public and free (for the full schedule with a timeline please go here). There will be a keynote speech by Dennis Klocek at 10am and also a Nature Walk with local author Kate Marianchild at 2pm (her book, "Secrets of the Oak Woodlands" was published by Heyday this year). Bring a potluck item to share at a delicious farmer lunch gathering midday. Biodynamic preparations are often available for purchase, and for those interested in more information about biodynamics and the BDANC, this is a fine event to attend! Sunday's meeting brings together the BDANC staff to discuss topics within the organization.

Molly Frey
 
August 20, 2014 | Molly Frey

Horse Power!

Pull horse tilling organic garden

I recently interviewed Julia Dakin, a local horse woman here in Mendocino County, California, about the horse powered work that’s been happening on the Frey farm. A life-long horse enthusiast, Julia got interested in draft horses a few years ago. She wondered if it would be possible for local vineyards to convert to horse power to do the work currently done by tractors. She met up with Luke and Lily Frey, who have been experimenting with draft horse work on the farm for the past several years.

Luke and Lily have been working to develop a rapport with draft horses on the Frey farm. As they built relationships with the horses, they have branched out to harnessing the horses and accomplishing farm tasks and logging with the horses on the land. Julia noted that logging with horses is one of the most environmental ways to do forestry management, as the horses are able to get into more narrow and tight spaces with far less impact than a road and heavy machinery. The horses get to exercise, and the land gets tended more gently. This last spring, Andy, Bonnie and Lola (the horses), accompanied by Luke, Lily and Julia (the humans), pulled logs out of the forest, tilled the garden beds on the ranch’s biodynamic farm, and tested various implements in the vineyard. 

Horse pulls logs

Forestry horse

From experiences with the horses, Julia took her research a step farther and enrolled in online classes by Elaine Ingham in soil science. Her studies led her to the field of no-till agriculture. As she’s been delving into the world of soil, she’s been postulating that horses might be able to create a niche for vineyard management, by practicing no-till methods with a roller-crimper tool that is hitched to the horses.  Instead of tilling up the soil with a disc, which disturbs the soil life (worms, bacteria, fungi), the roller-crimper moves between the vineyard rows to smash down the cover crop.

Pull horse

If Julia’s work with the horses is successful, they may have a more efficient system of converting cover crops into soil fertility. Also, using the roller-crimper helps sequester carbon in the land, while protecting and nourishing the layers of soil ecology already in place. Julia also hopes to find through current research on test plots, that the soil being worked with the roller-crimper both enriches the land and could prove to be a cost-effective enterprise for local grape farmers, whether or not they use horses. Julia currently has horses that she’s working with to amass some data to look at the roller-crimper horse-power at different sites. Should her efforts prove qualitatively impressive, Julia would like to expand the ways that local vineyards become carbon sinks instead of a carbon source, by transitioning to more horse-powered tasks: seeding cover crops, mowing, roller-crimper, and perhaps harvesting.

Luke applying preps

Additionally, as part of the biodynamics program on the farm, we prepare a unique blend of organic, homeopathic herbal sprays that we apply to the crops to nurture soil fertility. At present, Julia and Luke have been having some horse-powered spraying sessions to see how the horses fare as the deliver mechanism for these potent land medicines.

There are several factors to weigh in about how and if a farm would convert to a horse-powered technology. Julia is quick to note that with the prevalence of cheap oil and the speed of mechanical inventions, horses have been relegated to a technology of the past.  However, with the use of more innovative techniques, like no-till, horses may well prove themselves to be able to compete with mechanized technologyfor the lesser impact they have on the carbon footprint of the land and for the potentially important contribution to increased soil fertility.

For more information on Julia’s research with the horses, follow her blog at www.rganicnotill.com.

Click here for a YouTube video clip.

Setting up the plow

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.

Christian Saretzki
 
August 19, 2013 | Christian Saretzki

Cheesemaking on the Frey Farm

Organic hand-crafted cheese
Milked by hand, made by hand! (Our cheese is not for retail sale, but you can try it at ourWine Club events at the winery!)

Milk was never appealing to me. It was rather tasteless and too watery, not to mention the fact that it came in a plastic bag on which the words “homogenized” and “pasteurized” were clearly highlighted. That is part of what I experienced growing up in a big city like Bogotá, Colombia. At least, to balance things out, home-made cooking was the norm and grandma’s love for the kitchen could turn any store-bought produce into a delicious meal.

For the past six months I have been working and apprenticing at Luke Frey’s Biodynamic Farm at the Frey Ranch in Redwood Valley where I have been given the task of milking two lovely Jersey cows and turning their milk into a variety of dairy products, especially cheese.

Lovely cheese-making cows
Where it all begins.

Could raw milk really taste so delicious? Could real butter seem so yellow? Could fresh whey be so sweet? Could the cream that rises to the top be so thick? Could one fall in love with the art of making cheese and devote oneself to tending the wheels as if they were tender living creatures? These are some of the questions that confronted me as I entered into this commonsensical way of living.

In the cheese cellar
Ripening cheese.

The farm also produces an abundance of seasonal vegetables, herbs and fruits as well as fresh eggs. Meat is harvested once or twice a year from the different farm animals in a humane and conscious way.

With this vast array of wholesome ingredients the possibility of creation is limitless and the sacrificial act of cooking and eating brings satisfaction beyond measure. When one sits at a table and beholds the many simple delicacies that have been handcrafted and gathered within an eighth of a mile radius, it becomes a healing experience that nourishes the whole of man.  At least this has been my experience.

Emily and Christian and the final product.
Emily (wife of Luke Frey) and Christian with the final product!

Thus, it’s not surprising to find that when one participates harmoniously with the stream of life, it has the potential to evolve further through our own efforts. So, in a sense, real alchemy is at our fingertips as long as we become familiar with and respect the integrity of life.  For this, the farm environment offers an ideal setting for greater learning, enjoyment and exploration.

Our cheese is not for retail sale, but you can try it at our Wine Club events at the winery!

Molly Frey
 
August 16, 2013 | Molly Frey

Food in the Vineyards

Hedgerow of blackberries in Frey Vineyards
Blackberry hedge next to Frey organic and biodynamic Chardonnay vineyard.

Hot summer days have brewed up delicious batches of tomatoes, cucumbers, eggplants, and basil. Our Mediterranean climate offers us a diverse crop of annuals to accompany the vast bounty of vineyards coming into fruition. The gardens are producing all kinds of delectable veggies, but the grapes are still getting the solar power they need for their glory in the Fall. I watch the grapes ripening each morning as I walk the rows, the clusters getting bigger and bigger as the weeks go by and the sun shines down. When the summer heat has passed, the fruit will be plenty plump and their sugars rich enough for the harvest!

Ripening organic grapes
Ripening organic grapes.

In Spring, my food foraging walks in the vineyards began with ripe mulberries; now there are peaches, too. The blackberries in the hedgerows are wildly stretching their tendrils. Besides providing food and habitat to local wildlife, they are one of my favorite foraging delights.

Peaches by organic vineyard
Ripe peaches in the vineyard!

The grapes take center stage as the heat wanes and the season shifts to cooler days and longer nights. Last but not least, our olive trees will be ready to give their gifts to the press for full-bodied oils. When enjoying a bottle of Frey Biodynamic wine, we hope you will appreciate the terroir of the land that encompasses the richness of not just the grapevines, but the diverse array of flavors, in concert.

Organic olive tree by the vineyard
Organic olive tree in Frey biodynamic vineyard.

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."

Molly Frey
 
April 4, 2013 | Molly Frey

Cow adopts goat (as temporary favor to mother goat!)

We waited five months for all the baby goats to arrive and finally last March our herd of mothers delivered the next generation!

Goats in the vineyard
Baby goats in vineyard.

Ten baby goats joined the farm family with 8 of those being billy goats (males). Only a few weeks old, they're already learning how to play with each other by butting heads and frolicking in the fields. Each day Daniel herds the rambunctious crew to the vineyard in front of the winery where the grass is particularly lush this season. We've been having lots of visitors who come to meet the goats.

Baby goat
Baby goat nibling on a grape stem.

Last week, in all the excitement of walking the goats back from their pasture to the barn, one baby black goat got left behind. The little billy must have been hiding with the cows or the sheep who were also enjoying the pasture when the goats were called in. When we went back to get him, we were delighted to find that the little goat made new friends with his pasture neighbors the cows. In fact, he had established a special bond with Maybelle, who happily allowed him to nurse to keep his energy up while his goat mother was unavailable!

Baby goat suckling cow
Sweet spring days of milk on the Frey farm! This orphaned goat found a bovine surrogate while its new step-sibling looked on. Later it was returned to its mama goat.

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.

Molly Frey
 
April 26, 2012 | Molly Frey

Bees swarm, spring sun warms

Our Warre beehive swarmed today! We gathered to watch as the buzz intensified, rose up into the air, and found a place to rest in a tall redwood tree.

Close up of bees swarming
Honeybees swarming!

Life on the farm is full, as baby goats, little lambs, and spring plants take in the warm sunshine and thrive in the lush green landscapes of the farm and vineyards. This past weekend the Frey family hosted an Earth day celebration with foods from the land, to honor the abundance of life in the spring, and to appreciate the land that we all are grateful to be working with.

In biodynamic news, our preparations went to the BD prep-making conference in Colorado the first week of March along with Luke Frey, the farmer who made them. His preparations were judged to be the best of the conference for their substance, smell, and texture in a panel comparison of all the different preparations being made domestically. Go Luke!

Molly Frey
 
March 8, 2012 | Molly Frey

Spring in the air!

Newborn lamb

Today we had twin lambs born to a mother sheep under the warm sunshine, while bees buzzed to and from between the plum blossoms and their hives. We're hoping that we get the rain that would be so greatly appreciated in this dry year; and yet, I hope that the fruit trees get a good run at pollination before those rains come down so that we can have a fine set of fruit later in the year. Farmers and gardeners in our climate hardly had a break this past winter. More days than not the weather has been so warm that hibernation just wasn't an option. As seed flats are promising sprouts for the spring and summer, we're looking to make more and more time in the garden to prepare beds for this growing season. Luckily we have had enough rain that the grains in the vineyards are growing steadily, and all our ruminant friends are pleased with this years crop of grasses and pasture options.

Fruit trees in blossom

Mother sheep and baby lamb

 

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