Young organic sunflowers at Frey Vineyards.
At Frey Vineyards this year we are experimenting with growing sunflowers to press for high quality organic oils. Sunflower oil is great for cooking and as a body oil. The plants also provide excellent food for our ranch bees as the flowers mature. Sunflower oil is the most important source of food oil in the world, and we are excited to start producing it here.
We chose the Russian cultivar Peredovik sunflower (Helianthus annus). While most sunflowers have an oil content of 25-35%, the peredovic can yield up to 50% oil from its small black seeds. The Peredovic sunflower also has a very short growing season of about 12 weeks which allows plenty of time to maturity despite our wet and soggy spring this year. We will harvest in the fall and press the seeds in our cold-press seed press. This year we expect about 25 gallons and hope to expand in the future.
The sunflower project fits nicely into our ever-expanding quest for more local sources of basic food products. We can harvest them with our small combine, which is also used for harvesting wheat that is interplanted in our vineyards. The spent press cake of the sunflower is a high quality feed for livestock and the stalks will make a great addition to our compost piles.
We will keep you posted about our progress!
While at Millésime Bio in Montpellier this year, Eliza Frey and Derek Dahlen met Jason Cole, an American wine educator living in France. He teaches at SupAgro as part of their European Vine and Wine Masters Program: Vinifera Euromaster. SupAgro is an international center for higher education in agricultural sciences that teaches students from around the world. Jason took a bottle of our 2009 Organic Zinfandel to share with his class. Zinfandel is a fascinating wine for Europeans, as it is a New World grape that isn't grown outside the US. The students from all over the world were thankful and intrigued by an organic wine from California in their selection, as they expressed personally bellow. Thanks Jason for exposing your class to Frey Organic Zinfandel!
Below are thank-you notes from the class:
In January 2011, Eliza Frey, Derek Dahlen and Alex Frei represented Frey Vineyards at Millésime Bio, Europe’s premier organic wine conference, held each year in Montpellier, France. Frey was awarded a bronze medal for our 2009 Pinot Noir – quite an honor for a no-sulfites-added organic wine at a French wine competition!
The conference featured over 500 producers of wines made from organically grown grapes and an ever-increasing number of producers making wines with no added sulfites. It is great to know that the additive-free wine culture in Europe is alive and well. Along with our friends Phil and Judy LaRocca of LaRocca Vineyards in Forest Ranch, California, we represented organic, non-sulfited winemaking in the USA and stressed the need for purity and the exclusion of additives as the European Union struggles to develop their organic wine standards.
Attendees at the Millésime Bio 2011, Montpellier, France.
Frey Organic Pinot Noir vineyard with clover cover crop.
Happy Spring from all of us at Frey Vineyards! It has been another wet and cold spring here in Mendocino County, Northern California. Bud break on the grapes was about 2 weeks late and we have already received well over our annual rainfall. In the vineyards, pruning is almost finished and our inter-planted grain crop is coming along nicely. In the cellar, we are racking and filtering our 2010 wines and just releasing the first whites (Organic Sauvignon Blanc) with Pinot Noir right around the corner. Please find below some news from the Vineyards and as always, a safe and healthy season to all!
After a decade of correspondence between Frey Vineyards and yeast producer Llalemand, we are happy to announce the use of our first certified organic yeast for the 2010 Frey vintage. Llalemand, our longtime yeast provider, has always been committed to GMO free production but has now raised the bar with their first certified organic product, made especially for Frey Organic Wines.
Organic yeast is manufactured by feeding the yeast cultures organic foods rich in sugar and nitrogen, such as organic molasses and organic sunflower oil. This high quality traditional organic yeast is now used in all of our 2010 organic wines. (Frey Biodynamic wines are still made with no added yeast, fermented with their own natural yeasts in accordance with Biodynamic winemaking standards.)
For the 2010 harvest we invested in new equipment to implement whole-cluster pressing for our white wines. Whole-cluster pressing is a gentler form of pressing white juice. Instead of being macerated in a crusher before entering the press, the grapes travel on a conveyor directly into the press. This technique limits the extraction of phenolics into white wines. It gives white wines smoother flavors, more fruit quality and better aging capacity. The result is a smoother, high quality white with more staying power, especially important for non-sulfited white wines. Look for the release of our delicious new 2010 whites next spring!
Frey Organic White Sauvignon Blanc grapes.
In August, our assistant winemaker Eliza Frey was interviewed on Good Dirt Radio. She talks about biodynamic grapegrowing and the benefits of eating organic. She appears about halfway through the show.
After 30 years of organic grape growing we are continually interested in diversifying our farm or bringing back lost traditions. A century ago, Mendocino County grew all of its grain, and we’re experimenting with bringing local grain production back! Much of the prime grain lands of the county have been converted to vineyards, but we are now demonstrating that grapes and grains can be grown together.
Organic wheat growing in Frey organic vineyard.
Frey Vineyards is collaborating with the Mendocino Grain Project and a handful of local vineyards and small farms to bring the tradition of grain growing back to Mendocino County. Together with the Grain Project we have purchased a small combine that can fit between vineyard rows to harvest grains and dry beans. In the fall of 2009 we inter-planted a variety of wheat, oats, barley and rye in every third row of selected organic vineyards. The combine ran through our vineyards in late July and we reaped several bushels of fresh grains. This year didn’t bring huge yields, but we identified the most productive sections of our vineyards and will fine-tune planting and cultivation practices to increase productivity in the years to come. This is an exciting project that is moving us closer to our goal of increasing local food production and rethinking what vineyards are capable of.
Doug Mosel of Mendocino Grain Project driving the mini-combine.
Wheat between the vines.
We are pleased to announce the release of our 2009 wines! 2009 was a fine year for grape growing and winemaking; good spring weather resulted in a nice fruit set and we had excellent ripening conditions throughout the summer and early fall. We collaborated with over 20 local organic family farmers to crush around 1400 tons of grapes, including those grown on our own farm.
Just released are the 2009 Organic Syrah, Organic Pinot Noir, Organic Chardonnay, and Organic Sauvignon Blanc.
We are also pleased to announce the return of Gewurztraminer, grown by local rancher Buck Guntly at Cold Creek Vineyards. The 2009 Gewurztraminer will be available in September.
The 2009 wines are smooth and fruity and ready to drink. We hope you will enjoy them as much as we do!
In contrast to the excellent 2009 grape growing season, 2008 was a challenging year for Mendocino County vintners. Late season frosts caused up to a 50% loss of fruit in several vineyards and the legendary Mendocino summer wildfires of '08 introduced winemakers to the challenge of smoke taint in some wines. We are happy to move forward with 2009, a balanced and delicious vintage!
One of the herb gardens at Frey Vineyars.
As the weather warms with spring, we find ourselves wanting to reconnect with the sun, plants and the soil. What better way than to get outside and garden? For those of you who love wine and gardening, consider planting a wine sensory garden with fruits, veggies and herbs that compliment your favorite wines.
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, the taste and texture by the mouth. But you also engage your eyes and experience the sight and colors of surrounding plants, as well as other senses to enjoy the smell, taste, and touch of the garden.
Wine sensory gardens are usually segregated into white and red sections, with sitting areas in each for tasting and dining. The gardens are arranged into blocks, each corresponding to a given varietal, such as Chardonnay or Zinfandel. Upon entering the space, you are surrounded by the color and scent of the garden, as well as 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. For instance, the Chardonnay garden would have white, yellow, and light green foliage, maybe a pear and apple tree; perhaps a beehive, and also herbs that pair well with Chardonnay, such as tarragon and lemon thyme. A Zinfandel garden could have raspberries and blackberries, as well as red-leafed plants, perhaps some sweet peppers and coriander. Cabernet gardens can have bell pepper, rosemary and chocolate mint.
Below is a list of common wine varietals, and some of the plants whose flavors are commonly used to describe their flavors.
White Wine Garden Plants
Melon, corn, sweet pepper, fennel, artichoke, lemon, grapefruit, peach, pear, apple
Chardonnay – Apple, pear, lemon, lavender, honey (beehive), gardenia.
Sauvignon Blanc – Citrus, dill, lovage, mint, cilantro, ginger, honeysuckle
Red Wine Garden Plants
Squash, tomatoes, parsley, beets, eggplant, potato, pomegranate, raspberry, blackberry, mushrooms, oak
Pinot Noir – Plum, sweet basil, oregano, mint, violets, strawberries
Sangiovese – Garlic, sage, basil, currant,
Syrah – Prune plum, sage, basil
Petite Sirah – Chives, rosemary, oregano, red pepper
Cabernet Sauvignon – Bell pepper, rosemary, chives, mustard, oak, cedar
Merlot- Bell pepper, nasturtium, patchouli
Zinfandel – Raspberry, blackberry, oregano
Once you have created a beautiful sipping space, it is time to start enjoying it! A sitting area allows you and your guests to relax and take a break from today’s busy world and enjoy the sights and scents of your garden. Perhaps share a meal cooked with fresh produce and herbs from your garden. (See previous blog below!)
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