Saturday, May 14, 2011

From One Unknown to Another

As I'm idly waiting for the Canucks' next opponent, last night's addition to my Wine Century Club application made me think "one good varietal deserves another" - even if the Valdiguie wasn't all that "good" of a varietal.

Luckily, this next varietal virgin was a lot more enjoyable.

802. 2009 Gray Monk Siegerrebe (VQA Okanagan Valley)

Unlike the Valdiguie, I've at least heard of and seen some Siegerrebe wines on the local store shelves. I can't say that I'm familiar with the grape or the resulting wine, but I have at least heard of it.

And now, I've tasted it.

And, you know, we rather enjoyed it to boot.

Siegerrebe is a cross between Gewurztraminer and Madeleine Angevine and has been called "Gewurztraminer on steroids" by one of BC's most pre-eminent wine scribes, John Schreiner. It is not, however, a commonly grown grape. Originally a Germanic varietal, there are only a handful of wineries that grow it - and many of those wineries are found in BC as even its limited prominence in Germany appears to be on the decline. Given that, you still couldn't call Siegerrebe a BC stalwart in that a 2008 BC Wine Institute study shows that the varietal accounted for less than 1% of the total white grapes grown in the province.

The primary reason that Siegerrebe is produced at Gray Monk is that it is a personal favourite of Trudy Heiss, the winery's matriarch, and the story goes that she threatened to toss her husband's clothes into the driveway if he pulled the wines that they'd planted in a trial project. Even with such a firm, spousal directive, the winery only produces 1000 cases. They've developed a bit of a cult following for the varietal though. As such, they're likely one of an extremely limited number that might make the same claim.

The project referred to was called the Becker Project and it took place in the 1970's. It saw a number of Okanagan grape growers experimentally plant a selection of primarily Germanic varietals to discover if the fruit could fully ripen in BC's cooler climate and survive the province's cold winters. Despite the fact that regional farmers now grow vinifera vines almost exclusively, back in the 70's, to do so would have been seen as pure folly. This project really was a primary force in laying the groundwork for today's BC wine industry.

Gray Monk was an enthusiastic participant in the Becker Project and, accordingly, has some of the oldest vinifera vines in the province - including their Siegerrebe.

As is my wont, I won't go into any detailed tasting profile. Suffice it to say, however, that Mr. Schreiner's definition won't find any argument in our household. Think big nose, tree fruit, acidity and some residual sugar and you'll have a good idea of what to expect.

Further, I think the Gray Monk might have even matched up better with a second round of spot prawns than the other night's Riesling did. Not bad at all.

It also gets me that one step further to the Wine Century Club dictates.

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