Still Woodinville’s only producing vineyard!

Dijon Pinot Noir Clones

Dijon Pinot Noir Clones

We have a unique vision in Woodinville, to produce wine from grapes grown in Woodinville. We are the only winery in Woodinville that has taken on this task of growing grapes at our winery and producing a wine that we sell at our tasting room just feet from the vineyard. It has been a labor of love that has not always produced grapes, but I was bitten by the grapegrowing bug before I really got into winemaking and it’s still my first passion. I think no matter where I go, I will always have a small vineyard nearby.

This all started back in 1998 when I attended a grape growing class at Bainbridge Island Vineyards/Winery and I fell in love with the idea of growing grapes in my backyard and making wine. After living in the Seattle area for several years I just never thought we could do it in the Puget Sound region. I learned it was a matter of finding a good piece of land and planting the proper grapes.

We found our current vineyard on a drive through the “country” to get our first son to sleep. (Those of you with kids know what I mean about the magic of driving a cranky kid around in a car) There was this house for sale on a hill with a couple of acres. We were kind of looking around for a house because becky was pregnant with our 2nd son at the time and we needed more room and the price was right, it just needed a lot of work. BUT, there was about 1.5 acres of open land that I could plant grapes on and eventually have a winery.

Fast forward about 10 years and I am still the only vineyard in town…. well not 100% true since Chateau St. Michelle has a pretty nice looking vineyard out front and I have heard that the winemaking staff has tried to make wine once in a while with the grapes, but it’s not for sale. My vineyard, at the time of planting, was going to be a showcase for what grapes we could grow and make great wine. I picked the latest and greatest clones of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay on the best rootstocks. I’ve learned a lot in 16 years of growing grapes and if I had to do it all over again, I would make different choices. Chardonnay as it turns out, actually ripens later than Pinot Noir. Everything I had read was that it ripened the same time. Not true really. We have only gotten 3 Chardonnay harvests in 10 producing years due to inadequate ripening.

On the other hand, Pinot Noir has turned out to be quite nice. I have only missed a couple of harvests in 10 years. Like last year where we had 7 inches of rain in one month. 7 times the normal amount of rain. All the grapes rotted on the vine, but that happens even in the best growing regions. For instance, this year 2014, many vineyards in Burgundy were  wiped out by hail. We all have our cross to bear…

If you are at all interested in very locally grown wine, stop in and see what we are doing. We have probably the most unique tasting room experience in Woodinville!

On my soapbox – Bees and grapes

BeeDon’t get me wrong, I am a huge fan of bees. I do everything I can to reduce my impact on them and we plant many flowering plants they like. From what I see the native bee population is healthy here on Hollywood Hill. Most are the bumblebee type of bee and I do occasionally see honeybees. Blackberry flowers are winding down this time of year and there were huge numbers of bees on the wild blackberries. I love to try and count all the different types I can. I swear I’ve seen at least 10 different types of bees. Lavender is next around here and bees love them too.

The reason for my soapbox are these list going around the internet and particularly on Facebook where the list shows the crops that we would not have if we didn’t have bees. On several lists, I have seen grapes listed. Don’t believe it for a second. The reason is that domesticated grapes are self fertile, not requiring intervention by insects to carry pollen from flower to flower. The reason they are self fertile is that most of domestic grapes are hermaphroditic, meaning they contain male and female sex organs in their flowers.

How could that happen? Easy! Way back maybe 10,000 years ago. Humans harvested wild grapes by climbing up trees and picking them. In the wild, grapes have male and female plants. They mainly use the wind for pollination with some assistance from insects. It’s not clear how much help they offer or not. Grape pollen is extremely small and can be carried by the wind to the next vine over on the next tree. But what ancient humans found was that occasionally the would find a vine that seemed to produce a good crop every year. What they didn’t know was that they were hermaphroditic. Grape vines are ridiculously easy to start from cuttings. Basically cut a vine in winter from last year’s growth and stick it in the ground. I have done this hundreds of times. This is called cloning. Humans selected hermaphrodites because the produced a more consistent crop.

Fast forward to modern times. Almost 100% of table, juice and wine grapes are hermaphrodites. When the flower opens, the pollen is right there and fertilizes the ovaries giving us grapes. No bees needed. So if you see grapes on one of these lists, politely correct them.

For more information, read here:

and here: (Grapes are listed as Zero impact from pollnators)

June, 2014. El Nino Yet?

June2014GDDBack in April there was a lot of talk that this would be an El Nino year. Warm water was coming up to the surface out in the middle of the Pacific ocean and during El Nino we get some of the warmest and driest weather we see. Albeit, we basically go into a drought situation every summer here in the Pacific Northwest, but during El Nino it gets even drier and hotter. It was with great anticipation that I looked forward to this year and the grapes I would get from my vineyard. In April we got off to a great start and by the beginning of June it looked like it was going to be living up to expectations, but then what typically happens in June around here we get into the June gloom. I’m beginning to wonder if the El Nino is falling apart already or we just haven’t seen it show up yet.

14dayforecastOne thing I have been noticing from the climate prediction center that their medium range forecasts are getting wetter but not necessarily cooler. The image on the left shows the 14 day forecast from June 19th. I would probably bring my umbrella for your 4th of July fireworks if this holds out and again not looking very good for the grapes. It especially doesn’t look good for the east coast where it’s supposed to be hot and rainy which means thunderstorms and tornadoes this time of the year. The 1 month and 3 month outlooks still look good, but we shall see!

Auxerrois in the Puget Sound AVA

AuxerroisPaul Gregutt wrote an article a while back about the grape Auxerrois. He did a good job explaining where the grape comes from and what it characteristics are about but I wanted to add some more background around this grape.

Auxerrois (pronounced ohk-sair-wah) probably originated in Burgundy near the town of Auxerre in the Chablis district of Burgundy. It has the same two parents as Chardonnay (Pinot Noir and Gouais blanc) and looks very similar in the vineyard. I’ve had it in my experimental row for about 7 years now and it has ripened every year. Auxerrois appears to be less vigorous than Chardonnay, has smaller clusters. Ripens earlier with less acid, but not necessarily more sugar, which could be a condition of the climate. I once had an Auxerrois from Oregon (mentioned in the above article) that was over 14% alcohol, so I know it will go higher in a warmer climate.

The things that really impress me about the grape here in the Puget Sound region, is the ability to drop acid, reach full maturity (brown seeds, brown stems), compact size, naturally low crops and great flavors. The other interesting thing about this grape is that it is the sibling of Chardonnay. So, it has many of the same characteristics of Chardonnay, but ripens a little earlier with less acid. The flavors are not considered as fine as a really good Chardonnay, but are really close and can make an excellent wine on it’s own. If you want a French Burgundy styled white grape here in the Puget Sound, this just might be the grape to plant. I plan on expanding my plantings enough so that I might be able to make a single varietal bottling. Most likely, it will be blended with the Chardonnay to give a little lift. I really like the way it grows in the vineyard. Chardonnay is a very vigorous vine and needs way more space that I gave it, even on rootstock. I have own rooted Auxerrois and it’s a nice compact vine. Last year (2013) it gave me a really nice crop when the Chardonnay just didn’t make it.

Currently there are not any commercial sized plantings of Auxerrois in the Puget Sound, just a couple of experiments here and there. The largest plantings in the USA are in Oregon and Michigan. There are some descriptions stating it can have a cabbage like flavor, but I’ve never experienced that in any of the wines I’ve tasted.

Growing Pinot Noir in the Puget Sound AVA

Dijon Pinot Noir Clones

Dijon Pinot Noir Clones

I have written a lot about grapes that will work  in the Puget Sound AVA. Some are about hard to find grape varieties and other are about well known grapes like Chardonnay and Pinot Gris. It dawned on me that I have never written an entry about Pinot Noir in general. Pinot Noir is a very complex grape with a long history and it’s not everywhere in the world where it will grow so the areas that can produce a high quality Pinot are highly prized. The Puget Sound AVA is one of those areas. I have proven on several occasions that Pinot Noirs grown in this region can produce world class wines. My 2009 Estate Grown Pinot Noir was rated 90 points in Wine Enthusiast. Other wineries have also produced excellent results over the years and I am sure many more vintages in the future will produce excellent Pinot Noirs.

Let’s start off saying that of all the grapes I have grown over the years (probably 30 different varietals) Pinot Noir remains one of the most challenging grapes to grow in the vineyard. (I haven’t found it any easier or harder to make wine from the grape, you just need a subtle hand in the winery) It is prone to powdery mildew and does not like to grow straight up and down. It gives a much smaller crop than many other grapes. It is prone to rotting at the first sign of rain. But when it all comes together, the wines are ethereal! BTW, I do not recommend growing pinot noir in your backyard unless you are glutton for punishment. It is a very high maintenance grape requiring multiple sprays a growing season. Also, you must be in one of the warmer locations to ripening Pinot Noir (except maybe the Precoce clone) so take that into consideration when planting. All these clones need at least 1800 growing degree days to ripen.

So, what are the choices we have in front us as growers here in the pacific northwest? There are many and I will outline what our choices are and what you should be looking at to plant.

Let’s start with the first clones to make their way into Oregon and Western Washington state. It all started in the late 1960’s with a couple of adventurous growers in the Willamette valley. They had limited material to work from, but the two main clones they had were Mariafeld and Pommard.

Pommard – (Aka UCD 4 or 5) Was one of the first officially named clones in North America. Pinot had been grown in California for a long time but UC Davis made this one of their first official selections back in the 1950s. Pommard is considered an all around good choice in that it’s flavors are not one dimensional like many of the Dijon clones can sometimes be. It was the clone that Gerard Bentryn brought in in the 1980s and planted on Bainbridge Island. I grew it on Maury Island. It does well here in the Puget Sound. It tends to ripen a little later than the Dijon clones with less intense colors. It has small compact clusters and is no more or less susceptible to the various maladies that Pinot always seems to get around here. Still a decent choice, especially if you have a lot of land and want to blend clones.

Wadenswil  – (aka UCD 1A or 2A) Another one of the old clones to come out of UC Davis in the 1950s. This was originally from Switzerland and was selected for it high quality and early ripening. Unfortunately for us, it seems to ripen a little too late and the quality for us in the Puget Sound is not that great. When Gary Moulton was running the grape trials at WSU Mt. Vernon back in the 1998-2006 time period, he did rootstock testing with Wadenswil I think because that’s all he could import at that time. There might be some planted out there, but nobody I know is planting it now. But Gary did get it to ripen in the heat challenged vineyards at Mt. Vernon. I would choose one of the Dijon clones over this one.

Then came the Dijon invasion in the 1990s. A group of growers paid money to import the latest and greatest clones of Pinot Noir from France into Oregon and these became known as the Dijon clones because of the research institute they were imported from. There are many “Dijon” clones but only a few are available to use and useful to use and they are:

Clone 115 – There were a couple of waves Dijon clones of Pinot Noir. The first to arrive were the 113, 114 and 115 clones. 113 and 114 are available to import into WA state, but the star of these three clones is the 115 clone. I have never grown it personally because I got caught up in the 2nd wave of Dijon clones when it came time to plant my vineyard. I have always wanted to put in a row of this and might some day. As with all the Dijon clones, they are earlier ripening, in a normal year the 1st or 2nd week of October. Have similar characteristics to all these dijon clones which is small clusters, weak growth, small crop, darker and more dense colors and more balanced aromatics than the so called older clones. You really can’t go wrong with this clone here in the Puget Sound.

Clone 667 – When I went to plant my vineyard, I was able to pick from the latest and greatest Dijon clones in 2005 so I went with 667 and 777 thinking I could get the earliest and best crop possible. I still think I made a pretty good choice with the clones, but not the rootstock selections. I put 667 on 101-14 and then 777 on 3309. I think I made a mistake with 101-14. I thought it would reduce vigor and enhance ripening. It might do the later, but my vines are huge! But, I have to say that my 667 does ripen almost every year regardless of how much of a jungle it is out there. Very small clusters, the size of a fist and I don’t get a lot of fruit. But my wine in 2009 was about 75% 667 and 25% 777 because my 777 vines were still a little immature. It made a heck of a wine. It is very susceptible to botrytis. Color not as deep as 777. I highly recommend growing it.

Clone 777 – My second planting at my vineyard was clone 777 on 3309 rootstock and I have say I think this is a better combination than the one above. The vigor seems much reduced and the clusters seem slightly larger. Seems to ripen almost the same time as 667 but seems to have more intense color and flavors. This is my favorite clone that I have personally grown and I highly recommend it for the Puget Sound AVA.

There there is one more that we need to discuss which I have not personally grown, but I am planting it this year and that is:

Pinot Noir Precoce (aka Fruhburgunder) – Sometime in the early 2000s, Gary Moulton was trying to tell everyone about this new clone of Pinot Noir that he got from Canada that supposedly ripened 2 weeks earlier than anything else out there. Unfortunately, the die had been cast at my vineyard by the time this clone hit the market. There is some controversy about this clone. Is it a clone of Pinot Noir? or a cross between two vines of Pinot Noir? Some say genetic analysis says it not Pinot Noir but as of now I’m going with the theory that it’s a mutation similar to Pinot Meunier and Pinot Gris. What we have is a red grape, that tastes exactly like Pinot Noir that ripens a full two weeks earlier than the very early Dijon clones. Fruhburgunder are vines that come from northern Germany. In Germany, there are 5 clones to choose from. Legends vary, but the vines were imported sometime in the middle ages to Germany and have found a home since. There are very few places where this grape would would and the Puget Sound AVA is one. It is almost too early for Oregon because it is a bit warmer down there. This clone could mean we get a red grape harvest every year. The downside to this grape is that it supposedly has very feeble crops and very compact vines. I have heard one person tell me the wine is crap but I’ve had a few Fruhburgunders from Germany and they are decent enough. This grape could be relegated to blending with other Pinot to boost sugar and drop acids. Supposedly it drops acids super fast and the color is not dark at all. Having said that I plan on putting in a row next year to do my own trials. It will be on it’s own roots since we don’t have phyloxera and it doesn’t need help in ripening. I recommend it with caution for now until we have more information on flavors. But what the hell! It’s red and it ripens early and it taste like Pinot!

There are literally hundreds of Pinot Clones available for you to try. Not all have been planted here in the Puget Sound yet at least not on any large scale. As I mentioned, Dijon Clone 113 and 114 would probably do well here, but the general consensus in Oregon and elsewhere is that 115 is the best clone of the three. There two other significant Dijon clones, 828 and 943. Both being Dijon clones are expected to ripen around the same time as the other Dijon clones. There are supposedly problems with both though. Clone 828 was a “suitcase” clone at one time, which means someone illegally brought it into this country and it wasn’t certified and made virus free. You can read the whole story here: I would be cautious of where you get your vines labelled 828. Clone 943 is really too new for any long track record of success in this country. It does have the unique feature of having super small clusters and almost seedless grapes. It seems like a niche clone for now. I would stick with the tried and true.

As for growing conditions, you need the warmest location you can find. You should have over 1800 growing degree days on a consistent basis from year to year. You should have sunny, full sun all day long at your location. Typically, they should be planted on a hillside. Using rootstock and be advantageous. But growing grapes on their own roots is still a viable option here in the Puget Sound AVA due to the lack of phylloxera and the fact that there are so few vineyards that it is unlikely to spread. Don’t expect to get a big powerhouse wine out of these grapes. Most years you will be lucky to get the grapes to 21-22 brix range, but that’s OK because the acid levels tend to be pretty low for us at those sugar levels. I have made perfectly drinkable wine out of 18 brix pinot. I originally thought that I would try the super dense spacing they do in Burgundy, but my 3′ spacing is too close, even with rootstocked vines. I suggest 4′ apart or more. I also my vines trained at 18″ off the ground and that is simply too low and back breaking. I suggest 24″ or higher, maybe 30″. 

In conclusion, I would stick with the 6 clones mentioned above. They should give you plenty to choose from. In a large scale operation, I would use several clones to blend. In a backyard grow operation, you could choose all the same or mix several clones. Make sure you buy them from a certified nursery like Cloud Mountain Farms.

2014 is going to be a El Nino year?

El NinoI started seeing some news on the mainstream press that we might be heading into an El Nino year, which has me dancing a little jig! We have all heard the term El Nino/La Nina, but what does it mean to me here in the Pacific Northwest?

As you can see from this image on the left, when the El Nino is in command the jet stream and storm track heads straight into California (which will be a good thing for them and their drought) leaving us alone here the in the PNW and generally giving us warm and sunny conditions. Which is always a good thing for the grapes here. The timing and strength of this El Nino are still being debated and the computers are chugging away trying to figure it out, but the general consensus is that we will start to feel the effects of El Nino some time this summer and generally they last for several months to a year or so. The early predictions are calling for a fairly strong El Nino, maybe not like we have seen since 1998. I first started growing grapes in 1998 and I remember how hot it was that summer. The vintage down in Oregon was big and the grapes got really ripe and it was dry all the way through harvest. We experienced something similar in 2012, but nearly as strong as 1998. These vintages are for the red grapes, Pinot Noir, Regent mainly. If I were a betting man, I would be planting a lot of tomatoes in the garden this year. Here is to hoping that we get a hot/dry summer here in the Seattle area!

Pinot Noir Precoce (Fruhburgunder)

Precoce from Cloud Mountain Farms

Precoce from Cloud Mountain Farms

I have talked about Fruhburgunder (Pinot Noir Precoce) before in this blog. I am very excited about the potential of this grape in the Puget Sound AVA. I think it could revolutionize grape growing west of the Cascade mountain in Washington state.

For those that haven’t heard of this clone let me give you a little background…

Pinot Noir Precoce or Fruhburgunder in German. Precoce means early in French and Fruhburgunder means early Burgundy in German.

I started hearing about this clone about 6-7 years ago when Gary Moulton at the WSU Mt. Vernon Agriculture Research Center started telling local growers that he had found this new (actually pretty old, but new to us) clone of Pinot Noir. It came from Germany and it ripened a full two weeks ahead of any other Pinot Noir clone. Needless to say, I was skeptical. I had been down this road before in my search for the holy grail of grapes.

Way back when I started this whole thing, one of the things that Jeff Jernegan and I started to do is try and find a red grape that would ripen before Pinot Noir in our climate. Many books said that St. Laurent and Zweigelt and Garanoir and so forth would ripen before Pinot Noir… but as the years went on we found out that nothing other than a few old French/American hybrids like Leon Millot (which makes OK wine, not great) ripened before Pinot Noir. In fact the old clone Pommard that Gerard Bentryn had planted at Bainbridge Island Vineyards was one of the best so far…

So, I turned my efforts into finding the earliest ripening clones of Pinot Noir. When I finally had to make a decision I planted Dijon clones 667 and 777 at Hollywood Hill Vineyards starting in 2004. They’ve done pretty good for me, but at that time Gary Moulton was starting to tell people that this clone of his was ripening a full two week before his other clones at Mt. Vernon, WA. I was intrigued and put in a few vines.

As time has gone on, people report that it’s a very weak growing vine with very small  amounts of fruit, which could be a candidate for closer spacing. I wouldn’t put it on rootstock here in the Puget Sound AVA just because we don’t seem to be getting phylloxera in this state and we don’t need to speed up ripening. But everyone universally is saying that Precoce does ripen up to two weeks earlier than the earliest Dijon clones and the wine is OK. The verdict is still out on quality but enough evidence is coming in that it is going to be a key grape in this region going forward.

In the meantime, I’ve always been worried about the fruit quality. An acquaintance of mine on Vancouver Island said it was a poor quality clone of Pinot Noir and people on the island were ripping it out. I couldn’t find any information to support that. Several commercial vineyards growing Precoce are coming online soon and barrels of wine will be made and we will finally know if we have something great or mediocre.

I was searching the web a few days ago for Precoce because I hadn’t looked for a year or so and wanted to see if anything popped. I found two recent entries from England about how good the wines from Precoce vines are here and here. So I have high hopes that this might just be the red grape for the Puget Sound AVA.

Müller-Thurgau in the Puget Sound

In my never ending series of grapes that are grown or can be grown in the Puget Sound AVA, we come to Muller-Thurgau (The U in Muller should have an umlaut, but here in the USA we are umlaut challenged!)

What is Muller-Thurgau? (MT for short) Müller-Thurgau is a variety of white grape which was created by Hermann Müller from the Swiss Canton of Thurgau in 1882. It gained popularity throughout the 20th century, especially in Germany where it’s popularity peaked around the 1970s. It can grow in a wider range of sites than Riesling and can produce large crops of grapes that make pleasant, if uninteresting wines. Originally, it was thought that Dr. Muller had combined Riesling and Sylvaner to come up with MT. Then in recent decades it was though that it was Riesling and Chasselas but DNA testing has conclusively proved that MT is the offspring of Riesling and a grape called Madeleine Royale. Madeleine Royale is a cross between Pinot Noir and Trollinger.

Sounds like a great match for the Puget Sound climate and it is for the most part. The main problem with Muller-Thurgau is that it ripens about the same time as many other white grapes, such as Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Chardonnay etc. The other problem is it’s name, it’s not very sexy and those people that know about the grape know that it’s mainly used to produce low quality wines. As Oz Clarke says in his Encyclopedia of Grapes book “but the problem is that to produce a top Muller-Thurgau you need a top Riesling site, which is a terrible waste of a top Riesling site”. I couldn’t agree more. There are so many other grapes to choose from that make much more interesting wines. On the other hand, I have had some very expensive and excellent MT from Italy and makes me want to plant some.

I grew MT at Maury Island Vineyards for six years and it is a joy to grow. It grows upright, gives a nice big crop and it seemed to be quite a bit more mildew resistant than the Pinot family. It usually ripened in the 2nd week of October, right along with Chardonnay.

Not to say that all MT is plonk. I had Gerard Bentryn once roll out a 12 year vertical for me of his MTs going back into the 1980s. Some of the older vintages were spectacular and you would have a hard time distinguishing them from Riesling. There in lies the problem, I have a hunch, from some limited testing, that we could actually grow a decent Riesling here in the Puget Sound if you got the right clone and rootstock matched up to a nice warm site. Rendering the need for a grape like MT obsolete.

My suggestions with MT is that if you have an existing vineyard, no need to rip it out if it’s working for you. The only way I would plant more Muller-Thurgau is if you want to have a block of grapes that produces a high volume,  lower priced wine. MT can carry crop at over 4 tons an acre and still get pretty ripe. (most Chardonnay and Pinot Gris will only ripen 2-3 tons an acre around here) Maybe it can be used in a blend with Madeleine Angevine and Siegerrebe. Bainbridge Island Vineyards made an excellent blend with MT, Madeleine and Siegerrebe that I loved. I have made excellent sparkling wine from MT also.

All in all, it’s a versatile grape that can make a decent wine if crop levels are kept down, but competes in the vineyard with other higher value grapes and has an image problem with the regular wine drinker. Best used in a blend or come up with a unique name for the wine.

2014 Puget Sound AVA Grape Growing Class

Update 3/27/14: I have had some interest in running another class in the near future. If you are interested, please contact Steve. You can reach him at the email on the right.
Following on a tradition I learned at other local vineyards, I’m putting on my 4th annual Puget Sound/Cool Climate Grape Growing class. This is a full day class for people interested in growing grapes in their backyard or people that want to take the next step and run a commercial vineyard in the Puget Sound/British Columbia region. This class is focused on growing grapes in the Puget Sound region, but these principles could be applied to a wide variety of locations from Oregon to British Columbia.For those that are interested, here is a little about me: I’m going into my 14th year of growing grapes commercially. I first started at Maury Island Vineyards in 1998 where we had 3 acres of grapes in the ground. In 2003, we moved to Woodinville and started Hollywood Hill Vineyards where we farm 1.5 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. We also test about 20 different varieties to see how they do in this climate. I have lectured at a variety of conferences, conventions and meetings including: Focus On Farming, Western Washington Horticultural Association and the Northwest Agribusiness Center. I was a part time teacher for two years at the Northwest Wine Academy at South Seattle Community College where I taught Viticulture classes.In this class, we will be focusing on how to grow grapes here in Western Washington. The class will go from 9am to 4pm. We cover a lot of ground in the class. We’ll provide the food, coffee and wine and also give you a notebook of the slides from the class. At lunch we will taste some of my Puget Sound wines and other wines from the Puget Sound AVA. During the last hour of the class, we’ll get some hands on time pruning in our estate vineyard and you can take some cuttings home with you to start for yourself.Topics covered by the class will be:
- History of Puget Sound wine growing
- Puget Sound Climate
- Site Selection
- Grape variety selection
- Site Prep
- Starting cuttings
- How to train vines
- Cost to establish a vineyard
- Pest control
- Harvest Parameters
- And Much More!

Class will be on Sunday February 23rd, 9am-4pm. Cost $125 per person.

Coffee, morning snack, lunch and wine tasting provided.

Email Steve at or call (425-753-0093) to purchase a seat in the class. We have room for about 20 people and seats go fast.

The Regent Grape

Regent Grape

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!