Bluebird hatchlings at a Frey organic vineyard, Redwood Valley, California.
In the spring of 2020 we placed 33 birdhouses in our vineyards to help bluebirds and other species that are in need of good nesting sites. A total of 102 chicks were raised and fully fledged! The birdhouses were made mostly with recycled wood from the construction of our new winery. The organic vineyards in the spring and early summer provide lots of open space for the breeding pairs to hunt for insects. The reduced number of insects is also good for the grapevines.
The depletion of woodlands in the U.S. has made life difficult for many bird species, especially for birds that nest only in tree holes. Native birds also have to compete with larger and more aggressive invasive species for prime nesting sites. For example, the larger non-native European starling will kick out birds from a site to take it over for their own brood. The entrance hole for the birdhouses we made are just wide enough for native species to squeeze through, but too tight for starlings.
We put up the birdhouses in trees next to the vineyards and on metal stakes at the end of vineyard rows. Each birdhouse was inspected weekly. It’s important to monitor the nests and to clean out the straw and detritus after chicks have fully fledged so another breeding pair can move in, even within the same breeding season. We observed 4 birdhouses that were used twice. The birds prefer the boxes to be totally empty, no leftover nesting material inside when scouting for a site. Also, parents often abandon a nest before finishing it, and on occasion even a finished nest with eggs might be abandoned. Each birdhouse had a number written on it and a spreadsheet app was used to help keep track of so many nests!
Ten of the 33 birdhouses we set up were not used at all by any birds. Maybe these nests didn’t have enough sunlight in the morning, or they were too close to other nests. Several online sources say it’s best to separate birdhouses by 300 or 400 feet, as members of the same species are territorial. But it’s possible two different species will get along fine when nesting next to each other as each might exploit different ecological niches over the same plot of land.
For the remaining 23 birdhouses, 102 chicks fully fledged! Four species took advantage of the boxes, mostly bluebirds and tree swallows. In total there were 51 western bluebird chicks, 31 tree swallows, 11 titmice, and 9 ash-throated flycatchers. We hope to add even more birdhouses for next spring!
Birdhouses are easy to make and maintain, and we encourage you to make your own to help out your local bird population. A great resource can be found at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology website.
Birdhouses made from wood recycled from Frey Vineyards' new winery construction.
The birdhouses hung at the ends of vineyard rows were very popular with Bluebirds and Tree Swallows. The wobbly but secure high metal stakes are good protection against racoons, snakes and other predators.
Each birdhouse has a door for easy monitoring. Bluebird and Tree Swallows will not abandon the nest following a quick inspection. They will divebomb the intruder instead!
A bluebird enters a birdhouse next to organic vineyards.
A pair of tree swallows surveys the vineyard.
A bluebird dad delivers an insect to its ever-hungry brood.
Beautiful ash-throated flycatcher eggs.
Bluebird younglings ready to fly the nest!
Snack delivery by an ash-throated flycatcher.
Eva-Marie Lind is an expert in the field of aromatic raw materials and sensory perception. A recognized leader in the art of perfumery, she has designed the aromas, scents and flavors of many perfumes, health and beauty products. Frey Vineyards invited Eva-Marie to come to the winery as a sensory sommelier and merge the foundations of the art of perfumery with the art of winemaking.By Eva-Marie Lind
For a moment, let us explore our sense of smell and taste. We each have our own genetic encoded odor print. None of us, outside of identical twins, experience the sense of smell and taste in the same manner. Scents and flavors elicit psychosomatic (mind and spirit) as well as physiologic (body) responses, which, beyond our awareness, imprint themselves onto our memory. In addition, our perceptions are influenced biologically, by age, sex chemistry and environment.
We each respond to scent through a variety of circumstances unique to our individuality. This theory, called ‘learned-odor response,” is why the same aroma (scent and flavor) can affect each of us quite differently. An aroma that triggers good memories for one person, may revisit painful memories for another. Our individual histories, locked within the recesses of our mind, govern our responses and our feelings.
Of all our senses, smell may be our most acute; enabled and facilitated by the mysterious process of our olfactory nerves that, unlike most others in our physical make-up, have the capacity to renew themselves. Each olfactory neuron survives a mere sixty days and is then replaced by a new cell. When these cells renew themselves, the axons of neurons that express the same receptor always go to the exact same place. This is why our memories are able to survive all this turnover of neurons.
We have the capacity to smell and identify over one trillion odors in one square inch of the brain. Smelling is rapid in response, taking merely 0.5 seconds to register as compared to 0.9 seconds to react to pain.
Our nose and its epithelium are an ‘organ’- one that digests, assimilates and transfers odor molecules to the brain to be further processed. Registering odors is generally independent of our left hemisphere brain, which is the care-center of our mind and is responsible for our impartiality, examination and intellect. Our left brain is also responsible for governing language and speech which suggest why it is so difficult for many to adequately describe aromas with language. Odor recognition is predominately a right hemisphere brain activity. This is the area responsible for our passion, emotion, creativity, and instinctive behavior.
The senses of smell and taste are tightly joined, however tasting requires tens of thousands more molecules to register, than does smell.
Taste buds are as fascinating as our olfactory neurons. In the 17th century, Marcello Maphigi identified the papillae of our tongue, each composed of taste buds, as “organs of taste.” Taste buds also reside on the soft palate, tonsils and the upper third of the esophagus. We have nearly 10,000 buds. Sixty -five taste buds fit into the space of one typewritten period. Each papillae contain about two hundred and fifty buds. Just like our olfactory neurons, taste buds are in a constant state of flux and regeneration, shedding and renewing every ten days.
Taste buds distinguish the four qualities of sweet, salty, bitter and sour. In Japan they add a fifth quality of ‘karai, for spicy, hot and richness. In India, within the Ayurvedic tradition, there are six “rasas,’ removing spicy and adding astringent and pungent. All other tastes and flavors are detected by the olfactory receptors that reside within our nasal passages. We smell odors and flavors through our nose, as well as the passageway in the back of the mouth.
Wine tasting can be enhanced with the unique vocabulary and experiential inferences of scent. My goal is to alter your perception, encourage your imagination and facilitate a (r)evolution between the world of perfume and wine.
I arrived at Frey Vineyards after three years in Italy researching the heritage perfume of the trees of Fiori d’Arancia amara. This bitter orange produces the valued blossoms known to the perfume industry as Neroli.
So, it was with great enthusiasm that I discovered that the fields that welcomed me into the winery were planted with the classic Italian grape, Sangiovese.
Each morning with dense coffee in hand and then at dusk with my thermos of essence spiked sparkling water, I observed her (Sangiovese.) Rudolf Steiner, the father of Biodynamic agriculture, advised visual and sensory observation of the farm and the crops. Sunrise to sunset, I noticed the pollinators of the in between vine flora, the tilling and smell of the soil, as well as the fauna. Bushy skunk, momma fox, deer and most recently, baby bear, all made appearances.
I had missed budburst and full flower, arriving as the flower caps were ever so slightly fading. I watched as the caps fell away becoming joyful sets of berries. I noticed the unique visual communities each cluster formed.
Sangiovese 2016- A visual delight in the glass of dense garnet with a thin pinkish- purple roof. Opening aroma of sweet earth holding hints of air cooled by summer evening breezes. Violet leaf and blueberry with a touch of pink lotus absolute and a tinge of herb and pimento berry. The mouth feel is both light and full offering lively ripe raspberry, cherry, tea rose, pink pepper and young wild forest notes.
Opens robustly with black silky elegance, black currant and mulberry, a hint of tobacco and a feathering of licorice, clove and sweet saddle-leather.
In 2015 we set up an automatic camera in protected forestland near our organic vineyards to learn more about the local wildlife. The camera was placed at a spring high up the mountain. What a surprise it was to discover that so many animals visited to bathe and drink, including bears, foxes, deer, and many species of birds. The abundance of bears was especially surprising, as the shy and elusive creature is rarely spotted in person.
Another surprise was footage of a fisher (Pekania pennanti), a sleek and cat-like member of the weasel family, widespread in Canada. A narrow branch of their territory reaches southward to the northern Rocky Mountains, the Cascade Range in Oregon, the High Sierras, and amazingly along the Northern Coast Range of California where Frey Vineyards is located. It’s a beautiful creature that needs forestland to survive.
In 2016 we added a second camera at a bear wallow about a half mile from the first camera. Familiar faces appeared such as one particularly large, tranquil behemoth of a bear, as well as a wary bear always looking over his shoulder. In the following years we added a couple more cameras, most of which were lost in the great fire that swept through our area in 2017. The one that survived captured scenes of a slow-moving forest fire, which we’ll post soon.
The wildlife just a short walk from our home and vineyards reminds us about the importance of farming sustainably and organically, without synthetic pesticide drift to contaminate the water and ecosystems that sustain all of us. We hope you support organic food production by choosing organic when you can.
Check out our YouTube channel for the short versions.
A wonderful recipe from an Organic Wine Club member. Cover a 12 oz. bag of organic fresh cranberries with Frey organic red wine of your choice. Simmer a few minutes, until berries swell. Off heat. Add 1/2 cup chopped candied ginger, 1/2 cup (or less) raw sugar, zest and juice of one lemon. Cover and let sit a few minutes, and enjoy!
A quick video update on the progress of our new winery.
The arrival of spring has brought fresh cover crops between the rows of our organic vineyards, and is enjoyed by local wildlife on occasion. Each photo can be downloaded in higher resolution for use as your computer's desktop or wallpaper. We hope you enjoy!
Last month a bear was spotted almost daily for a few weeks as it grazed fresh grass in our organic vineyards. Normally they shun the lowlands of our valley with its dogs and people, preferring the high forests nearby. But in the aftermath of the Redwood Valley Fire last November, which wiped out whole communities near our vineyards, this old American black bear (they also come in cinnamon brown) was keen to explore newly opened territory, and perhaps driven by hunger as well. It has since moved on.
Click on a photo for a larger, screensaver image.
Following the wildfire last October, the rain and green grass quickly blanketed the lands with soothing vigor. This intrepid Great Blue Heron is lately making the rounds, hunting for frogs, insects and rodents among the new growth by our organic Syrah vines. These majestic birds, the third-largest herons on earth, usually find their meals by ponds and rivers. This one is broadening its culinary preferences by flushing out wild little edibles in the vineyards, far from the waterways.
We would like to share an update on Frey Vineyards. All of our family members and winery staff are safe.
Our beautifully rustic office buildings, tasting room, and bottling line have burned, but the main house and the insulated warehouse holding our case goods are unscathed. Our stainless steel wine tanks and the majority of the crush pad are also fine. Although vineyards typically don’t burn, with the intensity of this firestorm we did lose about 10% of our estate vineyards along the peripheries of the ranch. In addition to the home ranch, we have 300 acres of satellite vineyards scattered throughout Redwood Valley and Potter Valley that are in great shape.
Fortunately, we broke ground two months ago for our new winery site on West Rd in Redwood Valley, and this land is untouched. We are mourning the loss of many of our grand oak trees that provided summer shade and a diverse wildlife habitat, but at the same time we are grateful that healthy stands of oaks are thriving at our new location.
We would like to extend a huge thank you to our long-time friends at Barra, Fetzer, and Parducci wineries who have offered their certified organic facilities for temporary offsite winemaking. This is an invaluable help. We are looking forward to being able to bottle more wine soon with the help of a mobile bottling line arriving in the first part of November. You’ll be happy to know that we’ll be able to fill the Frey wine pipeline before the holidays.
The Redwood Complex Fire is 100% contained, especially with the help of a soothing rain last Thursday. We have deep gratitude for the teams of first responders who worked tirelessly to suppress the fire and keep all of us safe. Our hearts go out to our many, many friends and neighbors who lost their homes in this crisis. In the last weeks we have seen a tremendous outpouring of support from our local community and beyond for everyone affected by the fire. To help, please donate to the Disaster Fund for Mendocino County.
While the winery has been described in the media over the past week as “demolished”, we feel that this term doesn’t apply to our resilient spirit to rebuild. We are so grateful to live in a rugged back-to-the-land community that supports each other and has a collective power for renewal.
We are profoundly saddened by the loss of life that has occurred and the destructive force that fire can wield. Juxtaposed against a scorched aftermath, we also recognize the essential role of fire in the Biodynamic cycle. As one of the four elements, along with earth, air, and water, it demands our respect for its regenerative powers. We are heartened to hear the consoling words of a friend whose farm withstood a devastating wildfire two years ago. She said that the following spring was the most beautiful display of wildflowers on their property that she had ever seen. We’re looking forward to spring at Frey Vineyards.
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