December 17, 2013
With the holidays approaching and so many celebrations to plan, today we’re spotlighting a holiday favorite of ours: the first and only Non-GMO Project Verified wine on the marketplace, from Frey Vineyards!
Katrina Frey, one of the owners, recently shared some of Frey’s story with me, and I learned so much about why organic wines are important, and the adventure their family undertook to bring you a non-GMO wine. I hope you enjoy the season with a glass of Frey Vineyard wine.
Isabel Vanderslice, Outreach Coordinator
Katrina’s Husband, John, is the oldest of 12 children born to Paul and Beba Frey. Most of them are involved with work for the winery in some way.
Frey Vineyards grows one-third of their grapes on their property in Northern California, and buys the rest from neighboring organic farms. Through a partnership with Frey, many local farms have been able to switch to organic agriculture.
Because of the unique climate on the property, days can reach over 100 degrees, allowing grapes like Syrah, Cabernet, and Zinfandel to fully ripen, while that night cooling to 50 degrees and preserving the acidity in the fruit. This makes for full, flavorful wines with excellent structure and balance.
Wine drinkers may not realize that alcoholic beverages are not required to list ingredients in the same way as other foods and beverages. Do you know what is in your wine? Today, it is very common for wines to contain up to 80 additives, including sulfites, color, stabilizers, yeast nutrients–not to mention pesticides and herbicides from growing the grapes.
Frey recognized its passion for quality food and became America’s first organic winery in 1980. Next they went a step further and became Demeter Certified Biodynamic. Then, in early 2013, they became the first vineyard to earn Non-GMO Project Verification. Their wines have one ingredient: grapes!
Wine isn’t just grape juice, though. Yeast is an ancient partner to humans, helping us make wines, beer, breads and countless other foods. However, the prevalence of genetically modified yeast, and yeasts grown on a matrix of GMO ingredients create a GMO risk for winemakers–and wine lovers! To make the yeast to sell to wineries, cultures are grown on sugars and nutrients produced from GMO corn and sugar beets.
Frey Vineyards challenged Llalemand, a major wine yeast manufacturer, to develop an organic, non-GMO yeast, a process which took three years. It is now a requirement for all organic wines!
Frey’s sulfite-free, organic wine philosophy first began with their original winemaker, Jonathan Frey. Learning techniques from Coturri winery in Sonoma County, Jonathan strove to make their wine a true organic product from the start in 1980. After training his younger brother Paul for many years, he handed him the bulk of the winemaking duties, allowing him time to care for broader issues such as new development, financing and compliance.
Paul treats his job as head winemaker as an ongoing education. He constantly experiments with new techniques and communicates regularly with the leading sulfite-free researchers in Europe. Paul is regarded as one of the leading experts in organic winemaking and with the help of his assistant and niece Eliza Frey (working hard in this picture!), continues to improve the quality and balance of their award-winning wines.
With a background in science from UC Santa Cruz, Jonathan and Katrina studied with the acclaimed English Gardener Alan Chadwick, whose teachings of bio-intensive farming have guided the winery in its farming techniques. Jonathan’s interest and continual research in food quality and optimum nutrition shows in Frey’s quality wines.
Frey is dedicated to sustainability in every way, beyond producing organic and non-GMO wines. Mark Frey makes sure the solar panels are carefully cleaned of dust to produce electricity at optimum efficiency, and Matthew Frey, an engineer, repairs, customizes and updates used equipment and machinery the winery buys, saving on money and landfill space.
Frey Vineyards is a model of hard-working family agriculture that is dedicated to quality foods and sustainable farming practices. The family’s dedication is so deep, you can taste it. In fact, we encourage you to! Whether for the holidays or any day, serve Frey wines at your table. And if you are ever in Northern California, be sure to stop by the winery for a tasting. Click to learn more about Frey Vineyards.