(Written by Carolyn Brown, landscaper and gardener at Frey Vineyards.)
In 1924 Rudolf Steiner, the founder of Bio Dynamic Agriculture, discussed in his Agriculture Lectures how we must view the soil as being alive and full of life-giving forces. Also, how a living soil is akin to a plant and how plants themselves are an extension of the soil. This vitality is passed on to us through the energy contained in foods grown from healthy, living soils. That wellspring of life energy is not to be found in soils that have plant nutrients applied in a synthetic, chemical form. Steiner also stressed the importance of making a farm so self contained that it becomes self sustaining; its soil’s fertility is generated, conserved and recycled and the farm becomes its own entity. Creating and applying compost made from spent plants, cover crops and animal manure produced on site is the best way to realize this. The farm’s soil fertility becomes individualized to the land. How different this is from relying on importing soil amendments from different regions or even from different countries.
Current scientific research is discovering how very complex the living soil is. There is a complex relationship between soil mycorrhizae – bacteria and fungi – and the plant kingdom. Plants produce sugars through photosynthesis. These sugars are exuded from plants’ roots into the surrounding soil, which feeds the soil fungi and bacteria. In turn, these soil borne microorganisms help dissolve minerals and nutrients essential for plant growth and make them available in a form that plants can use. The end result is that we get food which is much richer in vitamins and minerals than vegetables grown with synthetic fertilizers. These microorganisms also allow plants to communicate with one and another! Mycorrhizae form a giant underground web connecting plants together. Plants that are being attacked by harmful insect pests pass the word on to other plants, which may protect themselves by making bad tasting chemicals, or chemicals that mimic predatory insect pheromones. These pheromones draw the plant allies into the farm or garden and they keep the bad bugs in check. What a great system! Bio Dynamics means “life engenders life” and healthy living soil creats vibrant, healthy ecosystems and people – a wonderful testimony to this way of farming.
The new winery site on West Road in Redwood Valley
At Frey Vineyards we are looking forward to breaking ground at our new winery this spring, and several of us are enjoying these rainy winter days making plans for the landscaping. The site is surrounded by oak-forested hillsides and reflects the incredible natural beauty of Mendocino County. In the middle of the vineyard is an irrigation pond fringed with cattails, which hosts an abundance of frogs, birds, insects and other wildlife. Garden themes will bridge the exquisite natural landscape with the art of winemaking and culinary pairings. The garden will include edible foodscapes as well as plantings of drought-tolerant California natives that are host plants for pollinators, beneficial insects, and Monarch butterflies.
At this winter’s Biodynamic Farm and Garden meeting I learned about Jail Industries, a two-acre nursery in Sonoma County that produces a wide variety of ornamental nursery stock including many California natives. It is the perfect plant resource for our new project. The nursery is part of Sonoma County Jail’s vocational program and provides low cost trees to cities, counties, schools and public agencies. In addition, it has provided over 50 schools with free vegetable starts and seeds. Their nursery is open to the general public by appointment and during their three plant-sales each year. All of the revenue goes toward funding the Agriculture Vocational Education Program for the inmates.
We are looking forward to working with this innovative project, which aims to help individuals gain practical life skills, as well as helping to preserve and protect the environment. To find out more go to: scoe.org/jailindustries
We look forward to having you visit our new winery in 2018!
Frosty organic grapevines.
As the dead of winter passes and visions of spring are in the air, life in the vineyards is once again returning. Our annual pruning work is well underway and we are now in the process of preparing for the eminent bud-break of the vines. With the emergence of fresh green growth on the vines we must have all of our frost protection systems in place.
Spring frost is one of the primary challenges to growing winegrapes on the North Coast of California. From the first signs of emergence from dormancy in early March until the last frosts of May, Mendocino County grape growers must be on call to protect their precious vines from freezing temperatures due to sudden cold snaps. There are a number of agricultural measures which can allow for lower temperatures to occur without damaging vines. These include late pruning to delay bud-break, mowing down cover crops early, increasing cold air drainage out of the vineyard and restricting cold air movement into the vineyard.
Unfortunately, these passive measures are often not enough to eliminate frost damage in colder areas. For the majority of vineyards in Mendocino County the only effective solution to control spring frost events is to use water. The concept behind this technique is based on the latent heat released as water moves from a liquid to a solid state. By continuously applying water to the vineyard, the water changing from a liquid to a solid state on the vines creates heat and protects the vegetation from frost damage, but only down to 25°F
In a standard-sized overhead sprinkler system, we need to supply 50 gallons of water per minute per acre. These rotating head sprinklers wet the entire vineyard canopy and floor. They typically rotate every 30-60 seconds, and 30 sprinklers are needed per acre regardless of the vine spacing or trellis type. Fortunately, we have adequate water supplies in the spring to deliver the quantities of water needed to protect our vineyards during frost events.
Frosty grape leaves on the ground.
The infrastructure necessary to provide the water required to protect our 330 acres of vineyards in Redwood Valley and Potter Valley is quite extensive. We have ponds, pumps, filters, valves, weather stations, thermometers, miles of plumbing and hundreds of sprinkler heads. Not to mention the manpower required to operate and maintain these systems.
On any given night from March through May we have 4 people on call if temperatures drop below 35°F. At this temperature, alarms go off and frost patrol begins. We have to monitor 13 different sites and be prepared to pump water to run sprinklers if any site drops below 33°F.
Frost patrol and protection can be one the most grueling tasks of the year. There are many sleepless nights and stressful mornings for those working frost patrol as there is so much on the line. One night of vines getting burned by frost can ruin the entire crop for more than one vintage.
On the other hand, frost has a number of benefits for grapevines. Cold temperatures slow down the spread of powdery mildew and inhibit many insect pests. Without frost, vines would never go dormant and vine pests and diseases would run rampant. The addition of extra water in the Spring can also help boost vine growth and increase productivity. Without frost patrol, grape growers would have a lot less spring work and a lot less to complain about. Keeping busy definitely helps to keep us out of trouble.
Snow on grape bud.
During a visit to Bali I got inspired by the local dishes. I loved their use of gingers – aromatic ginger, turmeric root, galangal and the fresh ginger root that we are more familiar with. Balinese also use a nut called a candlenut which adds texture and flavor. It’s similar to a macadamia nut. They use the leafy part of celery, which most people don’t, and which I’ve always liked because it’s so flavorful. Their chilies are red and quite hot and are served on the side in thin rounds. I used green serrano chilies for this recipe. Habaneros would be great also, if you like it hot. The Balinese also use an incredibly aromatic Indonesian lemon basil, called kemangi, and the pungent kaffir lime. Use them if you can get some. Also use lemon grass (cut it into one inch chunks and simmer it in the chili) if you can get it fresh. If you make this dish, please let us know your thoughts!
It pairs well with Frey Organic Pinot Grigio.
2 cups dried cannellini beans (any white bean can be used)
Cover with water a few inches above the beans, to allow for expansion, and let sit overnight. Drain and add water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil and simmer until beans are soft and creamy.
3 deboned skinned chicken thighs. Cut into ½ inch cubes. (Can instead use tofu, or any meat or fish)
2 heaping cups green beans – cut into ½ inch chunks.
2 heaping cups ½ inch chunks of peeled, seeded fresh pumpkin (or winter squash or sweet potatoes)
1 thinly sliced large fresh serrano pepper (or jalapeno or habanero chili)
5 large shallots – peeled and minced
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh ginger root
5 cloves minced garlic
4 tablespoons chopped celery leaves (some stalk can be with it as well)
6 tablespoons finely chopped macadamia nuts
2 cans coconut milk
2 tablespoons coconut oil
1 ½ cups thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
Fresh lime wedges for – garnish
Thinly sliced fresh chili slices – for garnish.
Do this step a day in advance. In a pot cover the dried cannellini beans with water a few inches above the beans (to allow for expansion) and let sit overnight. Then drain and add water to cover the beans. Bring to a boil and simmer until beans are soft and creamy. (You can just cook the beans on the same day, but it is better to soak them overnight first.)
Meanwhile, prep all other ingredients and place in bowls ready to cook.
When the beans are done, add the coconut milk, pumpkin pieces, cut green beans and celery leaves and simmer.
Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a sauté pan and cook the chicken pieces, shallots, garlic and chile slices for a few minutes over medium heat until done.
Then add to the simmering soup and season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the slivered basil right before serving.
Serve in bowls with fresh lime wedges and chili slices on the side and each guest can squeeze in fresh lime juice to taste, along with the chilies for desired flavor.
Enjoy with a glass of Frey Organic Pinot Grigio.
Ingredients ready for cooking!
Sautéing in the pan!
Adding chopped basil to chili.
Winter on the Frey Ranch has been filled with rain this year. Mendocino County seems to be experiencing a Real Winter after many years of drought; the greens in all hues are vibrantly coloring the landscape of the ranch as the fields, pastures, and hedgerows have taken in water to a full saturation point. Gratefully, the weather has been coming in stormy spurts that allow a proper level of percolation between rainy downpours, and nature's irrigation program has been nearing perfection!
In the barnyard, extra rains mean extra worms, and the chickens have been happily foraging each day for the juiciest selections the earth promises to yield. The sheep, goats, and cows all seem to be tolerating the pouring heavens, although I believe that they are more interested in the prospects of delicious fodder in the months to come than the actual rain right now.
I was mucking the goat pen the other day: a process which involves gathering the pee and poo-soaked straw into wheelbarrows and bringing the earthy offerings to a pile nearby where compost can commence. We try our best to keep the pens cozy, but the added weather has been better for compost than for barn hospitality I'm afraid. Because our animals get to graze in the vineyard rows at this time of year, they have lots of time to frolic and stretch out their limbs in the great outdoors. Being able to run about on the gravel roads and rocky outcroppings allows them to maintain better foot/hoof health, and they love finding rare treats on their forays. Madrone leaves have been a particular favorite as of late. It's a true thing of beauty to be out in the vineyards, watching the goats find edible bites here and there, browsing between wild greens and cover crop legume sprouts.
Speaking of the goats, our herd has expanded for the winter. Some dear friends have brought their small herd of pack goats to play with ours for the winter months while they vacation in warmer climes. For those that haven't heard of pack goats, the concept is not unlike using horses, burros, or donkeys to carry the load for walking expeditions. The goats are usually given a modest pack to carry along on hikes; they dine on whatever is fresh and available, so there is no need to bring along food for them. In fact, the ladies offer up fresh milk to the humans, making them ideal companions on the trail. Because our friends’ pack goats like to spend their summers in the Trinity Alps of California's northern wilderness, and are used to lots of exercise, they have been fitting right into our daily walking adventures on the land. Both of their female goats and two of our goats are pregnant and due to kid this spring, when the sun has returned to longer, warmer days.
Until then, we're finding the best dry days to muck out the barn and savor extra-long walks among the dormant grape vines. Away in a manger, life smells of summer-cured alfalfa and grass hay. There might even be a tomten tucked up in the rafters, singing songs of sunnier days to the ruminating barnyard.
Mariposa Creek is enchanting. It has long been a sanctuary for hikers, and a cool refuge from the summer’s heat. With its low temperatures and persistent summer flow, Mariposa Creek currently hosts a high quality habitat for resident steelhead trout, a salmon species that has been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act, and it is likely that it once provided refuge to vibrant Coho salmon as well. Russian River steelhead runs in California once ranked as the third largest, behind the Klamath and Sacramento rivers. During the 1930’s and on through the 1950’s, the Russian River was renowned as one of the world’s finest steelhead rivers, and a healthy economy thrived on fishing activity.
Mariposa Creek is a tributary of the west fork of the Russian River, and at their confluence the river’s pools can completely dry up in the summer when streamflows become subsurface below the gravel. For young fish, access to the upper reaches of the watershed where cooler canyons are fed by spring flow is critical for their survival. On the lower portion of Mariposa Creek, two fish passage barriers exist that inhibit migratory fish from accessing upstream habitat to spawn and rear. The first barrier exists at the Tomki Road culvert that was rebuilt in 1972, and the second barrier, which is only three quarters of a mile upstream, is a reservoir spillway. The reservoir was constructed in the 1960’s, and at the time was specifically designed to provide fish passage. Unfortunately, stream conditions changed over time and the depth of the channel became greater, creating a total barrier to fish.
Jonathan Frey, Alex Strassel (DOT), Josh Fuller (NMFS), Dan Wilson (NMFS, and Anna Halligan (TU) at Mariposa Park
Frey Vineyards and their neighbor Cathy Monroe of the Easterbrook Ranch have been enthusiastic proponents of restoring steelhead to Mariposa Creek. This neighborhood-led, voluntary restoration effort began in 2001 and now is gaining momentum due to the collaborative efforts of several interested stakeholders. Thanks to the efforts of Frey Vineyards and Cathy Monroe, and with the help of their agent, North Coast Resource Management, Trout Unlimited, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the County of Mendocino, a high priority salmon stream has entered into a preliminary design phase for exploring fisheries restoration options. Funding for this preliminary design phase of the project was provided by the NOAA Habitat Blueprint Program which is a strategic program that aims to integrate habitat conservation into existing agency programs by focusing efforts on priority areas, like the Russian River watershed. The program intends to increase the effectiveness of NOAA efforts to improve habitat conditions for fisheries along with other economic, cultural, and environmental benefits our society needs and enjoys. The preliminary designs will help the stakeholders explore the available options for restoration for both the on-stream reservoir and the county road culvert on Mariposa Creek. The project stakeholders will evaluate each option and then collaboratively select the best alternative that will achieve multiple benefits for fish, wildlife, and the surrounding community. Future phases of the project will most likely rely on securing grant funds in order to complete engineered designs and eventually construction activities.
We enjoy this family favorite with roasted root vegetables and a farm fresh garden salad. This dish pairs nicely with Pinot Noir due to the earthy flavors of the nuts, dried berries, and root vegetables.
Serves 4 to 6
4.5 cups water
1 cup sugar
6 (2-inch) strips orange zest thinly sliced
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into ¼-inch pieces
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon saffron threads, crumbled
½ teaspoon ground cardamom
1½ cups basmati rice, rinsed
½ cup dried cranberries
½ cup dried currants
¼ cup almonds, roughly chopped and toasted
¼ cup pistachios, roughly chopped and toasted
1.) Bring 2 cups of water and sugar to boil in small saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir in orange zest and carrots, simmer until carrots are tender, 12-15 minutes. Drain and allow to cool on a plate.
2.) Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and 1 ½ teaspoons salt and cook until the onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in saffron and cardamom and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Stir in rice, and cook for about 3 minutes or until the edges begin to turn translucent. Stir in 2 ¼ cups water and bring to a simmer. Reduce to low, cover, an simmer until liquid is absorbed and rice is tender, 18-20 minutes.
3.) Remove pot from heat and sprinkle candied carrots and orange zest, cranberries, and currants over rice. Place clean, dry dish towel over pot and return the lid to the pot with the towel underneath. Allow to stand for 10 minutes. Add almonds and pistachios and gently fluff with fork. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Vegan Holiday Cinnamon Chocolate Chip Cookies
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 20 mins
Total time: 30 mins
Serves: 12-15 cookies
½ cup coconut oil
1 cup brown sugar
¼ cup chocolate almond milk
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups all purpose flour (please note alternate flours WILL change the outcome of the recipe!)
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup vegan chocolate chips
Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees. Cream (thoroughly mix) together the coconut oil and brown sugar, then add the almond milk and vanilla. The mixture may be liquidy. This is OK. In a separate bowl mix the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Combine the wet and dry ingredients (it WILL BE crumbly - this is OK), then fold in the chocolate morsels and any other mix-ins of your choosing. Roll into Tbsp sized balls and place them on an ungreased cookie sheet (or on a sheet of parchment paper on the baking sheet), then flatten them out a bit with your palm. The dough may be a little crumbly, but just smoosh it together and it will work fine. Bake for 7-10 minutes. (We did 8 which was perfect). Enjoy with a glass of Frey Biodynamic Cabernet
For two 12 inch tarts
One of my favorite dishes is a tomato tart that I learned at the California Culinary Academy so many years ago (don’t ask how many!). In this new dish tomatoes get demoted to the role of garnish and, just in time for autumn, mushrooms and leeks take the leading role! It paired nicely with Frey Organic Syrah, which I also used for the sauté.
Heat oven to 350F.
2 sliced leeks (rinse to wash out dirt)
1 large red pepper (cut in half and then into strips)
4 cloves garlic, chopped fine
½ pound cremini mushrooms (sliced)
½ pound shitake mushrooms (sliced)
2 oz. dried porcini mushrooms
1 stick of butter
2 tablespoon Herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons honey
2 cups Frey Organic Syrah red wine
2 cups whole-wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted cold butter (cut into pieces)
2 tablespoons cold water
½ pound Gruyere cheese (grated)
½ pound Gorgonzola cheese (crumbled)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (for painting the tart shells)
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Cherry tomato halves for garnish
Prepping the filling
In a sauce pan, sauté the leeks, red peppers, garlic, cremini mushrooms and shitake mushrooms, the stick of butter and herbes de Provence until done. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
Place the dry porcini mushrooms in a saucepan with the Frey Organic Syrah red wine and the honey. Simmer for about 15 minutes until the wine is reduced and thickened.
Making the tart shell
Place the whole-wheat pastry flour, cold chopped butter, fresh chopped rosemary and salt into a Cuisinart, or use a mixing bowl. If you have a Cuisinart, use the blade and pulse it a few times until the butter is the size of peas. Slowly add the cold water or ice water until the dough is not too dry, not too wet. If you’re using a bowl, rub the flour, butter, etc., between your hands until the butter is the size of peas. Add very cold water or ice water until dough not too dry, not too wet.
Now whip out the rolling pin! Roll half the dough on a floured surface to about ¼ inch thick. Make it a circle just over the width of your tart pan or pie pan, so you have plenty to fit up the side and for crimping. Now let’s get the rolled dough into the tart pan. With tart pan nearby, gently roll-up the dough around the rolling pin. Lightly sprinkle with more flour as needed, so that the dough doesn’t stick to everything. Unroll the dough onto your tart pan. You can also fold the dough in quarters before lifting it to the tart pan. Pinch and prod your dough until it fits nicely into the pan. Cut the dough sides flush with the edge.
Note: You could buy pre-made pie crusts at the supermarket. But don’t be intimidated by making the dough yourself. Have a culinary adventure! You’ll enjoy the dish that much more when you make it fresh and nothing like taking a little risk in the kitchen to make everything taste better.
Baking the tart shells
Gently lay a piece of tin foil over the crust and carefully form it into the shape of the crust (up the sides and a little bit over the edges). Cover the bottom with a single layer of raw beans. This weighs down your dough as it cooks. Bake the tart shells at 350F. After baking 15 minutes gently lift off the foil with the beans in it. (The beans are still good for another day.) Cook another 10 to 15 minutes or until the tart shells are golden brown. Remove from oven and cool for 10 minutes.
Assembling the tarts
Paint the bottom of the baked tart shells with the mustard and sprinkle with a third of the grated Gruyere cheese. Mix another third of the grated Gruyere cheese, along with the crumbled Gorgonzola cheese, into the mushroom and leek filling. Then distribute the filling evenly between the two tarts. Arrange the cherry tomato-halves in an attractive pattern on top and sprinkle with the remainder of the grated Gruyere. Add a few sprigs of rosemary for a final touch.
Bake the tarts in the oven, still at 350F, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the tart is hot and the cheese melted. Remove from the oven and serve immediately. Bon appetite!
Chef Tamara rolling the pie dough.
Pinching the pie edge.
Chopped veggies, ready to sauté!
Ready to serve!
Panzanella Salad with Frey Organic Pinot Grigio
• ½ loaf of Sourdough bread (about 10oz), cubed
• 2 cups cherry tomatoes
• 2-3 large heirloom tomatoes
• ½ red onion, thinly sliced
• 1 English cucumber, peeled and cut into chunks
• Handful of basil leaves, torn into small pieces
• 1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
• ½ cup of extra-virgin olive oil (divided)
• 3 cloves of garlic (crushed)
• Salt and pepper to taste
• Heat the oven to 350 degrees.
• Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat.
• Remove the skillet from the heat, add crushed garlic and bread and mix well.
• Transfer skillet to the oven and bake for 15 minutes until the bread is golden brown. Let it cool down.
• In the meantime, prepare the tomatoes. Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, and core and slice the large tomatoes into medium cubes.
• In a large bowl, mix tomatoes, cucumbers and onions.
• Combine vinegar with remaining olive oil, salt and pepper and pour over the salad. Mix well.
• Add toasted bread and basil, and toss everything together.
• Enjoy with a glass of Frey Organic Pinot Grigio!
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