Pioneers in Organic Winemaking: From Frey Vineyards Forward

May 8, 2024 9:00 AM ET

by Molly Frey, Frey Vineyards

Frey Vineyards started as a commitment to organic agriculture and winemaking when there was none. In 1980, young sweethearts Katrina and Jonathan Frey made their first barrel of wine. They both had become organic farmers under Alan Chadwick’s tutelage. Although they had respectively grown up in gardening families, after they studied under the charismatic Shakespearean teacher, together they embarked on their enterprise: founding America’s first organic winery. With the support of Jonathan’s brother Matthew, they built the first winery, became certified organic, and started fermenting Frey wine. There weren’t any other organic wineries at the time, and organics hadn’t caught the favor that it currently enjoys.

Surrounded by a hilly nature reserve in Northern California’s Mendocino County, the Frey Ranch started much earlier when doctors Paul and Beba Frey settled and raised their twelve children. Each of the Frey siblings took an interest in farming after their mother, Beba, passed on her desire from her youth spent in upstate New York growing food each summer. Since they were living on the Frey Ranch, there was a personal interest in supporting organics for the health of their community and their children (and now their grandchildren). Four generations of Freys now live in the areas surrounding the old winery site and vineyards.

Over the years, several of the Freys joined the Frey Vineyards team. Paul (Junior) has become internationally renowned as a no-sulfites-added winemaker. Luke Frey has been awarded similarly for his advancement in biodynamic agriculture. Tamara Frey has a successful career creating delicious meals with local, organic, and sustainable ingredients. Together, they made a winery that focused on more than just grapes. Nathaniel Frey’s incredible photography skill lent itself well to winery promotion. Other siblings with business acumen joined the board, and others still used their engineering skills to build the winery infrastructure further.

Read Molly's very interesting article on how Frey Vineyards changed and continues to influence the marketplace -