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Let's toast to a beautiful day and life," says Matthew Frey, raising his glass. One of 12 brothers and sisters who own Frey Vineyards in Mendocino County, Frey is speaking to fellow food and wine innovators who've gathered to taste the fruits of their labor in a sumptuous supper created by John Ash, culinary director of Fetzer and Bonterra Vineyards.
There are salmon and seaweed from the coast; apples, pears, wild mushrooms, and nuts from the land; and wines that reflect the quality of the soil right here in the Bonterra vineyards.
This large, somewhat isolated Northern California county attracts environmentalists and independent thinkers. Frey offers a theory: "All the wild people went west. When they hit the ocean, they went north." These adventurers made a difference.
The Lolonis family, of Lolonis Winery, and Charlie Barra, owner of Barra of Mendocino, started growing grapes without chemical fertilizers and pesticides more than 50 years ago. The method became a movement when the Fetzer and Frey families started farming organically at their estate vineyards in the early 1980s.
"To me, Mendocino means being environmentally aware," says Eric Schramm of Mendocino Mushroom. Ash explains the mind-set: "What we consume has an impact on the whole planet, in how foods are grown, raised, harvested, and distributed. Ultimately, we are the stewards of the land and oceans." His menu, created from Mendocino's organic bounty, makes stewardship a pleasure.
Up to 5 days ahead: Prepare agrodolce dressing.
Up to 2 days ahead: Make mushroom pâté.
Up to 1 day ahead: Bake apple-pear gratin.
Up to 6 hours ahead: Prepare melon salad through step 3.
Up to 4 hours ahead: Marinate salmon and prepare cucumbers through step 2.
About 1 hour ahead: Remove mushroom pâté from refrigerator.
About 30 minutes ahead: Arrange cherry tomatoes and olives in bowls; slice bread for dipping in olive oil.
About 10 minutes ahead: Cook fish, dress the cucumbers and the melon salad, and garnish pâté.
About 15 minutes before dessert: Reheat apple-pear gratin if cold.
Our guests: John Ash of Fetzer and Bonterra Vineyards, Bob Blue of Bonterra Vineyards, Patrick Cordrey of Oz Farm, Jim Fetzer of Ceago Vinegarden, Matthey Frey of Frey Vineyards, Sue Ellery of Stella Cadente Olive Oil Company, Katherine Roberts Marianchild of Rising Tide Sea Vegetables, Guinness McFadden of McFadden Farm, and Don Schmitt of the Apple Farm.