Frey Vineyards: blending tradition with innovation

A harmonious blend of old and new


Wandering through the newly reconstructed Frey Vineyards winery in Mendocino County’s Redwood Valley, one can’t help but marvel at the synergy between state-of-the-art technology and age-old winemaking traditions. Jonathan and Katrina Frey, pioneers in organic and biodynamic wine, have cultivated more than just grapes; they’ve nurtured a philosophy. “Our customers are looking for good wine without additives, and that’s exactly what we aim to provide,” Katrina says, guiding the way through the winery’s latest incarnation.

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Roger Coryell photo

No additives, just pure wine

The ethos of Frey Vineyards draws on a rich history of organic agriculture. “It all started with a subscription to Rodale’s ‘Organic Gardening,'” Jonathan recalls, a smile evident in his voice. “That, and our time spent in Alan Chadwick’s garden, laid the groundwork for what we would eventually build here.”

Today, Frey Vineyards produces over 220,000 cases annually. With a thoughtful glance toward stacks of cases ready to ship, Katrina highlights the importance of their early partnership with Whole Foods. “John Mackey was one of our first big supporters. Collaborating with Whole Foods helped us reach a wider audience who shared our values for purity in winemaking.” This relationship underscored the demand for wines produced without synthetic interventions, paving the way for Frey Vineyards’ growth.

Innovation post-adversity

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Roger Coryell photo

The vineyard is surrounded by folks living in mobile homes, still rebuilding their homes. “That one is just like the 25-footer we lived in,” says Jonathan, pointing to a temporary dwelling in the distance. The 2017 fires could have spelled the end for lesser spirits, but the Frey team is moving forward. “Our new facility is operational, and every element is designed with sustainability in mind,” Katrina explains. Navigating through the construction of their new tasting room, it’s evident that Frey Vineyards is crafting more than just a spot to try their latest vintages. Katrina describes the upcoming tasting room space: “This is a space that embodies our story, our bounce back from the fires, and where we’re heading next.” With its debut just around the corner, the tasting room is set to offer a deep dive into the flavors and ethos of Mendocino County.

The Freys express nuanced perspectives on the term “sustainable,” touching on the complexities of greenwashing and the critical role standards play in the organic and biodynamic winemaking sector. “That’s a tough one,” says Katrina, explaining that for many wine drinkers, the most crucial aspect is a standard behind the labeling. This emphasis on standards is a bulwark against greenwashing, ensuring that terms like “organic” and “biodynamic” are not merely marketing terms but are backed by rigorous, certifiable practices and principles. “But to me, the most important thing is that there’s a standard…That people are starting to understand,” Katrina points out. She understands this well as the current board president of Demeter USA, the organization that certifies biodynamic farms and products

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Roger Coryell photo

Frey Vineyards is a beacon of environmental stewardship, from solar panels that dot the landscape to the innovative use of water through worm-based reclamation systems. “Our philosophy is simple,” Jonathan summarizes as we conclude our tour. Make good wine, care for the earth, and always listen to what the land tells you.”

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