The Regent grape has the potential to revolutionize grape growing in cool climate around the world, if we only let it!
On the left is a picture of a Regent cluster from 2002 at Maury Island Vineyards on Maury/Vashon Island.
I’m really psyched about this grape. First some technical details. It’s an interspecific hybrid, which means that it’s a cross between European grapes and american grapes. Specifically, it’s a cross between Diana (Muller-Thurgau x Silvaner) x Chambourcin which is a complex crossed vine in itself. It was bred by the Geilweilerhof Institute in Germany mainly for the Organic wine growers to keep spraying to a minimum. It was also bred to be a deeply colored grape, which can be a challenge in a German climate. Germans have been enjoying more red wine over the years and the breeders goals were to reduce spraying in the vineyard and to make an age worthy, deep red wine.
I’ve been growing it off and on for about 10 years. We had a row of 20 Regent vines we got from Gary Moulton at the WSU Mt. Vernon Ag Research Center in about 1998 along with several other “test” varieties that had just come in from a research station that was shutting down in British Columbia. Jeff Jernegan and I planted them at Maury Island Vineyards and I made wine from Regent for a couple of years. I only made about five gallons and I still have a bottle or two in my collection. The vine is a wonder to work with. It grows upright and unlike Pinot Noir the vine is well behaved in the vineyard. It’s fairly vigorous and grows right up to the first frost so it can accumulate sugars until very late in the season. It is late to drop it’s leaves, unlike Pinot Noir and Chardonnay which like to shed their leaves in October, Regent stays green and vibrant and seems to grow at a lower temperature.
But, usually you won’t need to wait that long. We always picked it when we picked our Pinot Noir vines, which was the first week or second week in October. It was always a brix or two riper than Pinot Noir (Pommard clone). It has a deeply colored skin that when fermented gives a very deep color. Acids are usually lower than Pinot Noir. Many compare the flavors to Rhone wines, but in our climate we have the crisp, fruitiness that your don’t get in warmer climates.
I was lucky enough to help out a friend get his vineyard started about 5-6 years ago. Ron Nelson came out and got cuttings from Maury Island Vineyards of a bunch of different vines. After a couple of years, he gave up on his vinifera vines (Pinot Noir, St. Laurent, Zweigelt, etc) and is ripping them out and replacing them with Regent. This fall we got our first harvest from him and I have to say I’m pretty impressed by what he’s done and the grape. Ron didn’t spray a single time this year and we had a very challenging year for growing in 2007. We had frequent rains and cloud cover that made it very difficult to grow grapes. I barely saw a sign of powdery mildew and on the clusters there was only a couple of berries (out of 700lbs) that had botrytis on them.
2009 was an epic growing season and we made 100 case of Regent. I couldn’t call the wine Regent as the grape name on the label because the name is not on the official grape names for the TTB, but I called my wine “Regent” with Red Table Wine in little tiny letters below. It got a fair amount of press and was rated by Wine Advocate, which I thought was an amazing accomplishment! BTW, I still have many cases of the 2009 Regent for sale and it’s a bargain at $28/bottle. I may not ever make this wine again since I am not in contact with the vineyard owner anymore and I don’t think anyone else has planted many acres of this vine since. It makes a wonderful wine that is very reminiscent of a Cru Beaujolais from say Morgon or Fleurie. Grape-y and fruity with intense color. Very much like Gamay Noir which it is not related to at all. Takes to oak well as I aged this wine in 50% new oak and it integrates very nicely with the Regent grape flavors. Call or email if you would like a special bottle of wine where you can find anywhere else in the USA.
I highly recommend this grape for growers in cool climates all over the world and especially here in the Puget Sound!