Friday, December 2nd, 2011
Now that I have a few moments on my hands, it’s probably a good time to do a little housekeeping and update everyone as to which wines we currently have available. After a busy summer, I regret to inform that the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris have officially been sold out, but the following two wines can now be enjoyed:
2008 Five Rows Cabernet Sauvignon
Much will be written about the fabulous “Bordeaux” reds from Niagara in 2007 and 2010. Little to nothing will be written about the late-ripening reds from 2008 and 2009. For that reason, I am perhaps more proud of the Cabernet Sauvignon we grew and vinified in 2008, than any other wine we’ve produced.
Trying climatic circumstances called for extreme measures in the vineyard. As the harvest approached, it became apparent that early season thinning and leaf removal efforts were not going to cut it in 2008. We doubled our efforts and dropped more fruit than I am normally comfortable with. The winery I envisioned, however, could only be built on these tough decisions.
On October 24th we harvested only 68 picking boxes from two full rows of our Clone 169 Block. The fruit was very clean and showed surprising ripeness in both flavour and tannin for its 22.5 degrees Brix. It was a pleasure to pick and process. We went on to harvest 82 more picking boxes from our “Old Block” on November 2, after extracting as much life as we possibly could from the dwindling foliage.
The two blocks of fruit were processed into separate one tonne bins, and cold-soaked on the skins for five days. I decided to try a new yeast strain, Zymaflore FX10, with the slightly riper Clone 169 fruit. FX10 is known to produce wines defined by their elegance through a combination of structure, volume on the palate and intense colour. The Old Block fruit was fermented with F15, a new favourite yeast of mine after a successful experiment in 2007. Both ferments concluded uneventfully after six days with peak temperatures around 30C. The wine was left on the skins for a further 4 days of post-ferment maceration before pressing.
Malolactic fermentation was carried out in 1 new and 3 older French oak barrels. It was left in oak for 24 months before final blending and bottling on April 6th, 2011. Based on previous vintages, I felt that two full years spent in barrel and resisting the temptation to use more new oak were essential to properly aging this Cab Sauv.
The two blocks produced remarkably different wines, ultimately leading to an interesting, complex blend. I’m always amazed at the differences between individual barrels of wine from the same vineyard. Is it due to terroir, clonal difference, oak influence, yeast strain, fermentation dynamics or all of the above? As the years go by I hope to peel back the layers and discover just what makes our Cab Sauv end up the way it does.
The 2008 is an elegant wine, with an aromatic intensity that is unexpected by many who’ve tried it. It has a delicate, soft mid-palate that suggests early drinkability, unlike 2007. It is very reminiscent of the 2004 Five Rows Cabernet Sauvignon at this early stage.
2010 Five Rows Riesling “Jean’s Block”
The 2010 vintage was a hot one. Niagara vineyards amassed more growing degree days than any year in current recorded history. This is perfect for ripening reds but can present challenges to producing crisp, aromatic whites. It was very easy to produce “flabby” and “blousy” white wines in 2010 if grapes were over-thinned, over-exposed to sunlight or left hanging too long.
We harvested and pressed about one tonne of Riesling from Jean’s Block on Septmeber 30, a full two weeks earlier than in 2009. The picking decision was based strictly on acid and flavour. Around mid-September the grapes had plenty of sugar (19 degrees brix) to make the style of Riesling I was after, but it took a while to coax out the wonderful flavours I remembered from last year. Waiting too much longer to pick was a risk, however, as acid levels were declining quickly in the late summer sun. So September 30th was the day I pulled the trigger.
Following the addition of pectinase enzyme, pressed juice was cold-settled at 4 degrees Celsius for two days. The clear rackings were then inoculated with W15 yeast, a great choice for optimizing bright fruit characters in aromatic whites. It’s also a good cool-fermenter, able to withstand temperatures as low as 10C.
I was able to stretch the ferment over two months at an average temperature of 11C. It was stopped at a specific gravity of 1.005, a level that I felt exhibited balance to my palate. You have to be careful when stopping a ferment for off-dry balance as sometimes the carbon dioxide bubbles can lead to a raised perception of acidity, tempting you to halt the ferment too soon. My rule of thumb is to taste often until I find the right balance, then wait 12 hours before killing the ferment. It seems to have worked for most of my whites thus far.
Over the course of the next three months, the wine was cold stabilized, fined with bentonite and sterile filtered. 78 cases were bottled on April 6, 2011. As with the 2009, this Riesling went through a lengthy period of bottle shock before I was comfortable that it had returned to the wine I remembered in tank. Consequently, we waited to release the Riesling three months later than our other 2010 whites. In the end this proved advantageous, as the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris both sold out very quickly.
Aromatics: citrus, peach, floral notes
Palate: a surprisingly weighty Riesling, it has ample acid to balance the slight amount of residual sugar; pleasing minerality and fruit characters
Production: 78 cases