Review: Frey Vineyards

Please let me start off this review by saying I love wine, but I don’t have the wine connoisseur’s vocabulary. So I’m writing my review from the perspective of an everyday wine lover that has experience tasting a variety of wines from a variety of vineyards. I heard about Frey Vineyards when I was reading a book called Ecoholic, and was curious to try their organic and biodynamic wines, that have no detectable sulfites. Also, as a California native, I’m partial to how delicious California wines are! As it turns out, I’m actually connected to the Frey family through friends of friends (isn’t it funny how that often works out!)

Frey (pronounced “fry”) Vineyards is located in Mendocino County, California. The winery is low-key and family owned and primarily family operated. It also the oldest and largest all-organic winery in the United States! In 1965 the Frey family planted forty acres of Cabernet Sauvignon and Grey Riesling grapevines on their 99 acre Redwood Valley property, and in the 1970’s the winemaking began. At first they, sold grapes to other wineries, yet, after their grapes won a gold medal for a Santa Cruz winery, the family realized the vineyard’s potential. In 1980, Frey Vineyards was founded. Finally, in 1996 the family started farming biodynamically.

Since the concept of organic has become trendy, a lot of companies claim to be “natural," which is a non-regulated label, to sell their product. Yet, the product may not be what it seems at first, making many consumers skeptical of such buzzwords. However, Frey Vineyards can accurately label their wines USDA Organic and Demeter certified biodynamic because they are consistent with regulations. Understandably, seeing the terms “organic” and “biodynamic” on a wine label can be a little confusing at first, what it means is:

Organic wine – “Organic” is a word that is regulated by the federal government, so when it is used on a bottle of wine, it means that the wine has met stringent qualifications. To be considered organic, the grapes were grown without chemical pesticides or fertilizers, and they were turned into wine without nonorganic additives used.
Biodynamic wine – The word “biodynamic” stems from the agricultural theories of Austrian scientist Rudolf Steiner. The purpose of biodynamic practices is to restore vitality to the soil. To do so, the farm is managed as a self-sustaining ecosystem, using special composting methods and specific planting times. Demeter is the biodynamic certification organization (Frey Vineyards was the first American winery fully certified by Demeter).
No added sulfates – The Department of Agriculture considers sulfur to be a nonorganic preservative. Therefore organic wines are made without sulfur.

Frey Vineyards generously provided me with six of their wines to sample. My impression is that their years of expertise at organic and biodynamic winemaking are clearly apparent in the high quality and excellent taste of Frey Wines. (As you can see in the picture above, I was eager to begin sampling!)

The first wine I tasted was the Frey 2007 Biodynamic Petite Sirah. Something special about this type of grape is its adaptation to California climates and its ability to age well. I was immediately impressed by the smooth texture, rich berry flavor, and hint of black pepper in the Frey Petite Sirah. It is a bold wine that pairs well with a rich meal. This wine won the silver medal at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

Pinot wines are among the most popular in the world. By volume most Pinot noir in America is grown in California with Oregon coming in second.(source). The Frey 2007 Biodynamic Pinot Noir is pleasantly rich, fruity, and smooth. This wine pairs nicely with a light meal such as fish and vegetables.

Two weeks ago a group of ten friends gathered at my house for a late evening party. We tasted the 2009 Organic Sauvignon Blanc, 2007 Organic Late Harvest Zinfandel, and 2009 Organic Chardonnay. Prior to explaining that we were testing wines that I would soon be reviewing, each of my friends commented on how much they loved each wine and asked where I got them. They were surprised to learn that the wines were organic. It hadn’t occurred to some of my friends to drink organic wine, and for my eco-friendly friends they were pleased that an organic and sustainable wine could have a superior flavor!

The 2009 Organic Sauvignon Blanc is one of my favorite wines from Frey Vineyards. It worked nicely as a dessert wine because it is light and sweet, with a hint of tropical fruits. Yet, since it can be paired with such a large variety of foods, it is considered "the ultimate food friendly wine." I think it would be great for a picnic or other summer gatherings!

One of the predominant characteristics of Chardonnay is its diversity in food pairings and in its malleability – as it reflects and takes on the impression of both its terroir (the characteristics of the specific vineyard) and winemaker – making each Chardonnay very unique. The Frey Vineyards 2009 Organic Chardonnay is certainly unique and memorable! What won me over is the smooth pear and vanilla flavor. It can easily be savored in a variety of settings and occasions. The 2009 Organic Chardonnay is a wine that I will likely keep on hand for regular enjoyment.

Zinfandel is a common red grape in California vineyards. It is also a grape that may be harvested late and allowed to ripen to maximum sweetness. Mendocino County Zinfandels are considered to be high quality, yet not heavily marketed (Robert Whitley, 2006). The Frey 2007 Organic Late Harvest Zinfandel is equally sweet and rich. Although I enjoyed it with dessert, I could see myself drinking a glass of the Frey Zinfandel alone for a luscious guilty pleasure. This wine also took home the silver medal at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition.

The first thing I noticed about the Frey 2009 Organic Syrah is the distinguishable blueberry and plum flavors. Yet, as the sniffed the wine in my glass and it lingered in my mouth I could also taste the essence of dark chocolate. Like other types of grapes, California Syrahs vary a great deal based on the climate and terroir of the grapes. The Frey Syrah is a rich and full-bodied wine that nicely completes a hearty meal. Another one of my favorites!

Would I recommend Frey Vineyards: Absolutely!
Will I be enjoying a glass of Frey wine tonight? Definitely!

Buy It: If you don't live near Redwood Valley, CA, Frey wines are available for purchase from Frey Vineyards online.

Disclosure: I received sample product from Frey Vineyards in order to facilitate my review. No other compensation was received. This post is based on my own personal opinions and experiences.

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