Sunday, March 22, 2015

Pruning Our Little Ones

It's pruning time for us Red Rooster Adopt-A-Row types. Boo and I have been part of this early-adopter version of a wine club for Okanagan wineries. As more and more wineries started to appear on the BC wine scene, there weren't many ways for customers to enjoy an "intimate" connection with the wineries. Red Rooster introduced the Adopt-A-Row program where "parents" do exactly that - they "adopt" a row of the Malbec vines that are planted right outside the Red Rooster winery. There may be a number of unique opportunities nowadays but I think Red Rooster might have been the very first to try something like this.

It's not like the program gives you any control over the management of the vines or in the making of the wine, but you can find your name on a row, you receive wine (naturally) and the winery throws two parties each year for the parents: a harvest party in the Fall and a pruning party, like the one at hand, in the Spring.

Boo and I haven't been able to make the last couple of celebratory weekends. So, I was happy to see that I could make the drive to the Naramata Bench this time around - sans Boo, unfortunately - but at least our vines got a little lovin' from one of their adopted daddies.

The weekend kicked into gear with a winery reception on the Friday night and, this year, they hosted a parlour game where they served up eight wines blind - a pair each of four varietal wines - where one wine was made by Karen Gillis and the Red Rooster team and the other was an international wine from a region well-versed in the particular grape variety. There were also four cheeses paired to the varietal wines. It was our job to identify the grapes AND which of the two was the Red Rooster wine and to name the type of cheese (from a list of four choices).

There were some clues to the grape varieties. So, I'll admit that I found naming the varietal wines - Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Pinot Noir - to be easy enough. Picking which one was the Red Rooster wine was a bit tougher but I figure I've quaffed enough Red Rooster over the years that I had a pretty good handle on Karen's stylistic traits. Picking the cheeses was a crap shoot.

The good news was that I was the grand prize winner and, furthermore, they announced that, for the first time when they've played this game, the winner had gotten all of the answers correct. Humble, as always, I had to admit that the cheeses were pure guesses for the most part. It was nice to know that it can pay off to drink all that wine that I have over the years.

Being solo Friday night, I was able to make an early evening of it and was even able to get up the next morning with enough time to complete a short run to fit in some training for the Half Corked Half Marathon. The race takes place through the vineyards of the Oliver-Osooyoos area and was coming up at the end of May. The region might be a half-hour down Highway 97, but it's the closest I'd be able to train on the race course.

After the run, it was time to get those pruning juices flowing. The first time we attended a pruning party, the winery actually trusted us to decide where to make the initial cut on the vines. I think they must have learned that might not have been the smartest move for the ensured longevity of the vines. Nowadays, the vineyard staff have pre-cut the vines and we parents are tasked more with clearing out the cut vines. There was plenty of cutting and carting to be accomplished though as you can see by the pile of cut vines.

Karen and vineyard manager, Rolf, also talk some about how the winery operates and why certain steps are taken. I found it interesting that, this year, the cuttings were all going to be burned - as opposed to being mulched for compost - because they felt that there were some traces of a black mould that had appeared on some vines that had been damaged by a particularly cold winter spell the previous season. They wanted to ensure that the mould wasn't introduced to any future compost.

After our efforts in the vineyard, everyone is treated to a lunch and wine tasting in the winery. A pretty good payoff for maybe an hour's work in the vineyard.

It's become a bit of tradition that the Adopt-A-Row weekend is ended with a winery dinner for those who can attend. Luckily for me, Bella Gianna was able to play "plus-one" for me in Boo's absence. She drove down from Lake Country and we had a grand afternoon touring the Naramata Bench before we headed off to the dinner.

1880.  2012 Red Rooster Reserve Malbec (VQA Okanagan Valley)

As with most wine dinners, there was a wide selection of wines served. However, since our Adopt-A-Row vines are all Malbec, it seems like a good idea to add the newest vintage to be released to The List.  With only 194 cases having been made, the Malbec is rather rare and is initially released only to Adopt-A-Row members. There isn't a lot of the wine made because Malbec isn't one of the more common grapes grown for varietal wines in the Okanagan. Rather, it is generally grown as a component of BC Bordeaux or Meritage blends.

Being a blending component was the intent for Red Rooster's Malbec vines as well; however, back in 2006, the winery team decided that the Malbec fruit and resulting wine was good enough to bottle as a varietal wine even if it might limit the Meritage production a bit. The winery has released a varietal Malbec ever since.

Bella Gianna and I were particularly blessed in our table mates that night in that winery manager (and all-around good guy and goof), Blair Dufty, joined us and, to top that off, winemaker, Karen, joined us for the main course since there was an empty seat at our table. Both Blair and Karen are always good for particularly insightful stories about the Red Rooster in particular - and the BC wine industry, as a whole, in general. Information doesn't come much more directly than that.

By the look of the count on with this bottle, this may well be the last Adopt-A-Row visit that I'll make before I hit bottle number 2001 on this little Odyssey. I'm pretty sure that it won't be the last Red Rooster wine to make The List, but I'll just have to see how I continue with the blog once that landmark goal is reached. Something tells me this won't be the last Adopt-A-Row venture that I'll write about.

Until then, it's back to The List at hand.

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