Friday, November 11, 2011

Childress Red

So, this is the last post before we head off on a bit of vacation. For our last couple nights, I grabbed a couple of wines that draw upon our recent weekend away to the Okanagan and allude to the trip about to unfold.

The Okanagan connection is from Boo's and my trip up to Lake Country for my cousin's wedding. As mentioned in those posts, we rarely get to Kelowna and the Northern Okanagan; so, I wanted to take advantage of our passing through and stop in at a couple of wineries for the first time. Grey Monk was one of them. It's not often that I get the chance to hold a bottle of wine that "came" from the very vines - while laden with grapes - that provided the fruit. Such was the case with this Grey Monk "rarity."

975. Gray Monk Rotberger (VQA Okanagan Valley)

This is a very interesting wine - not necessarily because it sells for thousands of dollars or is only made once a decade because of extraordinary conditions. Rather, I find it intriguing because the varietal is one that you're not going to run across very often. In fact, most readers likely wouldn't know that the wine is called "Rotberger" simply because that's the name of the grape and this is a 100% varietal wine.

I know the first thing that comes to mind - at least for me - is "Rotberger" or "Rotgut?" The varietal is actually pronounced "Rote-berger" and not "Rot" and you don't see it very often because hardly anyone grows it. Grey Monk may even be the only winery that grows Rotberger in North America - and, other than some wineries in Germany, Austria and Liechtenstein (really?), you're not likely to find it. Even the limited wineries that grow the grape generally only use it for blending.

To make things even a little more difficult, Rotberger is not to be confused with Rotburger - the latter being another name for the red grape Zweigelt. No wonder most wine drinkers don't know their way past the standard, noble varietals like Cab, Merlot and so on.

The exact heritage of the grape isn't conclusively determined; however, standard understanding has it developed at the Geisenheim Grape Breeding Institute in Germany during the late 1920's. It is generally thought to be a cross between the Trollinger and Riesling grapes and is known to produce a fruity, light red wine in cool climate regions. The fact that Rotberger, being a red grape, and Kerner, a white grape, are crosses of the same two parent grapes shows that the cross-breeding of grapes cannot be relied upon to consistently deliver the same result.

Grey Monk's proprietor, George Heiss, knew the characteristics of the Kerner varietal, however, so he decided to experiment with a few rows - six to be more precise - of Rotberger to see how the varietal might fare in the Okanagan. The result was positive enough that Grey Monk's plantings had increased to six acres at one point. Part os those plantings had to be given up to an expansion of the winery and the parking lot; however, Grey Monk's Rotberger has a bit of cult following and should be available for those wanting a fix.

As for the wine itself, the high acidity of the grape requires a bit of residual sugar to counter-balance the otherwise tart flavour. Grey Monk vinifies its Rotberger in a Rosé style that is often seen as having a profile of spice and cranberry. Hence, the winery recommends the wine as a great pairing with turkey and that's what we thought we try it with. "Trouble" was that there wasn't much wine being drunk at Thanksgiving dinner this year and we didn't need the extra bottle. Just meant that the bottle was still around and available for trying so many weeks later.

And, I naturally get to add another varietal to my Wine Century Club list. I doubt too many members will have Rotberger on their lists.

If the Rotberger was picked up on the recent Okanagan venture, the second bottle in this post was sent to us from North Carolina - where we just happen to be heading off to on a visit.

976. N.V. Childress Red (North Carolina - US)

This was one of the bottles that Boo's twin, HDR3, included in a Carolina wine care package. Now to be fair to HDR3, he did ask us, "Why in the world would you want any wine from around this neck of the woods?" My response was, "Well, because we can." That's part of the beauty of trying wines from every nook and cranny.

Winery owner, Richard Childress, is a NASCAR team owner who hails from the Tarheel State. During his years in auto racing, he'd often find himself on tracks that were near the Californian wineries. He developed a passion for wine and grape growing that he hoped to pursue in his native state.

There is a nascent wine industry on the mid-eastern seaboard and Childress has taken a position right in the forefront. "Go big or go home" seems to be a mantra upon the ex-racer's return home. The tasting room and facilities testify to the money being put into the effort. In 2008, Wine Enthusiast magazine named Childress as having one of the Top 25 tasting rooms in the country.

The winery's website boasts a wide selection of wines and styles - but I couldn't find out much on this bottle. The Classic Red is part of the house wine series and it's meant to be "easy, smooth, uncomplicated." I suppose I can give it that - but the simplicity of taste here didn't do a whole lot for me. I don't know what varietals of grape went into the wine - and there wasn't enough of profile to distinguish any sort of a profile to hazard a guess. The wine is non-vintage; so, it could easily be a blend of whatever grapes are available or left behind after the more premium wines have been made. At $10, most folks likely aren't that concerned.

I wouldn't mind visiting the winery if the opportunity arises when we hit Greensboro, but I'm going to have to agree with HDR3's assessment of the wine. As far as the entry level wines go, I won't hold out much excitement to try another.

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