BIODYNAMIC® and organic wines are winning rave reviews throughout the world. Take one sip and you won’t need a connoisseur to tell you why.
Frey Vineyards, nestled in the heart of wine country in California’s Mendocino County, serves as an excellent example of this high quality. Through their words, distilled below, Derek Dahlen, vineyard manager, and Eliza Frey, granddaughter to the vineyard’s founders, take me on a palatable journey through the oldest and largest all-organic vineyard and the first certified biodynamic® winery in the U.S.
What is Frey’s wine-making philosophy?
We work with nature’s processes to create delicious wines. We have always been organic because our founders believed “you would never put poison on your land.” Our philosophy is to make a very clean product with the cleanest form of agriculture we can find.
What does organic and biodynamic® viticulture incorporate (or not incorporate) compared to conventional viticulture?
At first glance you can almost tell if a vineyard is being treated conventionally or organically. On our vineyards you will see green grass and birds playing and singing songs. Many animals live here, whereas in conventional fields all the sprays that are used kill everything. The fruit that we are getting here and that we are buying from other organic growers is of the utmost quality. It is a totally clean product without any pesticides. We do not use any additives or preservatives. No sulfites are added. Our wines are a truer reflection of the vintage year and everything that happened that season. The rain, the frost and the drought are in that bottle. A lot of conventional wineries pretty much have a recipe, so it does not really matter what a wine [the grapes] tastes like or how it grows. The yeast used to make our wines comes from the skin of the grapes versus commercial yeast used in conventional agriculture, which often contains GMOs [genetically modified organisms].
Why did Frey choose to go beyond organic and farm some grapes biodynamically?
Biodynamics® is the oldest certified form of ecological agriculture in the world. Everyone at Frey liked the idea of doing biodynamics® because it brings richness to the soil and plants and helps integrate different crops and animals. Biodynamics® develops a consciousness for the whole farm. Rather than compensating for soil deficiencies, we are feeding the soil and increasing the farm’s natural intelligence.
The word “sulfite” has recently run abuzz in the world of wines. What are sulfites and why the attention?
Sulfites are naturally occurring in grapes. However, in conventional wines they are artificially produced and added to wines as preservatives. They are very reactive molecules. Sulfites will bind to and immobilize bacteria and yeast in the wine, thus preserving it. Not all sulfites are used up in this reaction process, so when wine is consumed it can react with tissues of the body, can affect breathing and can cause headaches, among other reactions. The naturally occurring antioxidants in our grapes function as preservatives. Being biodynamic® and organic, our grapes have much richer plant chemistry that helps preserve our wines. ...THE QUALITY of Frey’s wine is detectable far beyond the organic and biodynamic® insignias that mark the simple glass bottles.
Award winning many times over (all of their biodynamic® wines have received top prizes), the pure wines impart delicate flavors reminiscent of wild berry pickings and sun-drenched orchards. Frey’s various “free of” mantras, including GMOs and added acids and sulfites, result in wines full of smooth, balanced tastes that leave dry, off-dry and sweet wine lovers raising their glasses.
A sampling (and editor’s picks) of two of Frey’s most prized biodynamic® wines—a red and a white:
CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2004
Redwood Valley, Red Wine
This Cab displays loads of complex fruit such as cherry, currant and blackberry, enhanced by a moderate level of acidity. The result is an elegant wine with a long, lingering finish. Complements grilled meats or vegetables and chocolate cake.
Alcohol: 13.6% by volume; Total sulfite, naturally occurring: BATF analysis, 0 ppm Total production: 1,700 cases
Silver: Florida State Fair International Wine Competition Silver: Rated “Highly Recommended” and “Best Buy” by the Beverage Testing Institute, Illinois
Editor’s Notes: The warm fruit flavors are perfectly blended—not too dry and not too sweet. Each sip is as smooth as the last without a hint of bitterness. Friends agree.
Redwood Valley, White Wine
Fermented on our vineyard’s natural wild yeast, this aromatic wine shares scents of apricot and honeyed pears. A smooth vanilla-oak finish pairs well with creamy sauces for pasta primavera or free-range chicken.
Alcohol: 13.9% by volume; Total sulfite, naturally occurring: BATF analysis, 1 ppm Total production: 400 cases
Bronze: Mendocino County Wine Competition
Editor’s Notes: In one sip a sun-dappled summer afternoon meets a crisp autumn morning. The light fruit essences blend like the seasons of nature. A vacation for a day. jb