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Frey Organic Wine Blog

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!

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

Time Posted: Feb 5, 2013 at 2:04 PM Permalink to Spontaneous Fermentations Permalink Comments for Spontaneous Fermentations Comments (1)
Eliza Frey
 
January 31, 2013 | Eliza Frey

Pairing Wine with Spicy Foods

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.)

Time Posted: Jan 31, 2013 at 10:22 AM Permalink to Pairing Wine with Spicy Foods Permalink Comments for Pairing Wine with Spicy Foods Comments (1)
Eliza Frey
 
January 30, 2013 | Eliza Frey

Spicy Baja Seafood Stew

This is a hearty, warm soup for cold winter nights!

Spicy Baja Seafood Stew
Spicy Baja Seafood Stew. Pairs great with many wines!

It's a very easy stew to make with minimal prep and cook time, about 30 minutes.   A wine friendly dish!  The fish and spice make it a great match for a young chardonnay, rosé or aromatic white wine, while the tomato and herb components pair well with a light to medium red wine like our organic Pinot Noir or Zinfandel.

Serves four to six.

Ingredients:
Olive Oil
1 medium yellow onion
1 large potato
1 green or yellow bell pepper
1 jalapeno pepper
1 quart fish stock, canned or homemade
½ cup Frey Organic Pinot Noir or Biodynamic Chardonnay
1 quart diced tomatoes with sauce
¼ cup tomato paste
6 large sustainably harvested prawns
1 ½ pound fillet of cod
Optional clams or mussels
Few pinches dried oregano
Few pinches dried basil
1 pinch red pepper flakes
Three cloves minced or pressed garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish with sliced avocado, lime wedge and cilantro

Directions:
Put the oil into a large thick-bottom soup pot with the onions and simmer until the onions are translucent, about 5 min. 
Chop sweet peppers into small cubes and jalapeno into small pieces.  You can remove the seeds from the jalapeno if you want the soup to be mild, or leave a few in if you want to turn up the heat. 
Cut the potato into large cubes. 
Add the chopped peppers and potatoes and cook until the potatoes are barely tender. 
Add the fish stock , tomatoes, tomato paste and wine and cook until potatoes are tender.
While the potatoes are cooking, shell the prawns and cut the fish into large chunks.
Once potatoes are tender, add prawns, fish, oregano, basil, pepper flakes and garlic.  Cook for 5-10 minutes until the prawns turn pink and the fish is flaky and opaque.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Ladle into bowls and garnish with sliced avocado, lime wedge and cilantro.
Serve with crusty toasted bread with olive oil, or quesadilla and green salad with citrus dressing.
Enjoy with your favorite Frey Organic red or white wine, as this dish goes well with both!  We recommend Frey Organic Pinot Noir, Biodynamic Chardonnay or Zinfandel.

Eliza Frey
 
April 16, 2012 | Eliza Frey

New Release! Frey 2010 Organic Tannat

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.)

Frey Organic Tannat wine
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.

Time Posted: Apr 16, 2012 at 11:02 AM Permalink to New Release! Frey 2010 Organic Tannat Permalink
Eliza Frey
 
April 15, 2012 | Eliza Frey

Make your own organic herb infused wine

The practice of infusing wine with herbs goes all the way back to ancient times, and today it’s still a fun and tasty way to enjoy and enhance the flavors of your favorite wines with the benefits of herbal extracts.

Jars full of organic wine and herbs for infusion
Organic white and red wine infused with herbs.

Herbal infused wines have a long history throughout the world.  The Egyptians used wines as a carrier for herbal remedies. Scientists from the University of Pennsylvania analyzed ceramics from Egyptian wine containers and found herbal residues dating back to over 5000 years ago!  The herbs they identified included lemon balm, coriander, sage and mint.

In tenth century Europe, Saint Hildegrad Von Bingen recommended herbal infusions in wine and vinegar for a variety of ailments from weak heart to congestion. Many contemporary North American Herbalists recommend wine infusions as a simple and enjoyable way to incorporate herbs into your diet.

If human beings made herbal infused wines for millenniums, we had to try it too!  Infusing a wine is very simple. Harvest a small handful of herbs for each bottle of wine to be infused.  Make sure the herbs are clean and dry.  Roughly chop them and blend together.  Place herbs in a clean glass bottle or jar and pour in the wine and close lid tight.  Let sit for 5 to 14 days in a cool dark place.  The wine can last for up to two weeks once infused. 

The wine takes on the flavors and characteristics of the herbs very quickly.  I recommend trying the wine after one day, and continuing to try it over the course of a few days to see how it tastes and how the concentration of the herbs increases over time. When the taste is right, strain out the herbs and enjoy.  You can also pour off a portion of the wine and leave some in the herbs to extract more flavor.  Don't overdo it with the number of herbs for each infusion.  Keep it simple and find out what you like best. 

After the wine has been strained you can store it in the refrigerator or a cool dark place.  I think it’s best to drink the finished product within about two weeks of infusing.

It's simple, healthful fun and the results were wonderfully tasty!  Below are more pictures of the steps we took.

The herbs for organic wine infusion
The herbs laid out, ready for chopping up, and some fresh lemon zest.

Herbs chopped up and in the jar
Oregano and rosemary for the red wine, lemon balm and fresh lemon zest for the white wine.

Pouring wine into the herbs
Pouring Frey Biodynamic Cabernet Sauvignon into oregano and rosemary. Five days later, a tasty herbal infusion!

Eliza Frey
 
December 12, 2011 | Eliza Frey

Harvest 2011 report

Harvest 2011 was an exciting one for North Coast grape growers here in Mendocino County, California.  Two large rainstorms in early October got growers scrambling to harvest the fruit as quickly as possible.  Our picking crew worked under gray skies during the day and at night under a Harvest Moon, successfully bringing in our entire crop in record time.  The cellar crew worked overtime to process such large volumes.  But then it cleared up and the vineyards dried out, allowing us to harvest less frantically during the final stretch.  The pressing is finished now and the wines are put to bed for the winter as they complete malolactic fermentation.  Mendocino County weathered the storms and we anticipate some great wines despite the challenging harvest.  Look for the first of our 2011 white wines in early 2012!

Organic grape harvest
Harvesting organic grapes, Mendocino County, California.

Eliza Frey
 
December 8, 2011 | Eliza Frey

Home-pressed organic grape seed and sunflower seed oils

We are thrilled to have completed the 2011 pressing of our Frey Ranch sunflower and grape seed oils, a part of our ongoing experimentation in local food production. After the red wine fermentation the grape seed was separated from the pomace, sun dried, then pressed. The grape seed oil is deep and complex with a distinct grapey flavor. The sunflowers grew quickly over the summer months and were easy to harvest with our mini-combine, which also harvests the grain crops from the vineyards. The fresh-pressed sunflower oil is new for us and a delicacy, with a rich, nutty aroma. Both are delicious oils for salads or drizzled over roasted veggies. Our seed-oil press is made in Germany and can accommodate a wide range of seeds, from grape to sesame. So far we have only experimented with grape seed and sunflower seed but we look forward to testing more oils in the future, as well as offering some of these oils, and the grains, to our customers. Stay tuned!

Grape seeds
Grape seeds ready for pressing!

Eliza Frey
 
July 28, 2011 | Eliza Frey

Organic Wine Sorbet

Organic wine sorbet

Try out this easy and delicious recipe for a refreshing summertime treat.  We made two versions of the recipe: Cabernet Sauvignon with rosemary and Sauvignon Blanc with Tarragon. But there are countless variations and you can eliminate the alcohol or adapt your sorbet to your creative whims. A quick internet search yields dozens of ideas, from champagne grapefruit to red wine with clove, and even hot toddy!  Whatever your preference, the basic recipe below will get you started and you can elaborate and embellish from there. The recipe is good for 4-6 hearty servings.  Have fun and enjoy!

Ingredients:
1 cup spring water or filtered water
3/4 cup organic sugar, or honey, or white grape juice
(Note on sweeteners:  We found that heavier red wines absorb the flavor of sugar and the sweetness is more intense for white wines.  So for white wines we recommend using a little less sweetener.)
1 1/2 cup wine
1/2 cup lemon juice
herbs and spices to taste (lemon zest is great for white wines)

We suggest either Chardonnay or Sauvignon Blanc with lemon mint, basil, tarragon, and Zinfandel or Merlot with cinnamon, ginger or cloves.  Be bold and experiment!

Directions:
1) Boil water
2) Stir in sugar, honey or juice until dissolved completely
3) Cover and cool
4) Stir in wine, lemon juice and spices
5) Taste your mixture and make any adjustments. This is your last chance to adjust the sweetness, tartness or spiciness!
6) Prepare in an ice cream maker or see the freezer instructions below.

Freezer Instructions:
If you don’t have an ice cream maker you can still make wonderful sorbet. The traditional trick is to interrupt the freezing process as many times as possible so you don’t end up with a block of flavored ice. However, if pinched for time, you can freeze it all at once, then remove it from the freezer and stir it as it softens. When it reaches the desired consistency, you can re-freeze it and serve it later.

To freeze:
1) Pour liquid sorbet mixture into a large baking dish. The depth of the liquid should be about 1/2 inch.
2) Place the dish in the freezer, making sure not to spill. 
3) Every 20-40 minutes remove the dish from the freezer and stir with a flat wooden spoon or a plastic spatula, or freeze all at once and stir as it softens, as mentioned above.

 

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