Page Archive for the ‘Pinot Gris’ Category

Monday, April 23rd, 2018

2015 Pinot Noir

On particularly trying winemaking days, I can usually convince myself that I would be perfectly content just growing and selling grapes.  This assumption was emboldened by a recent accolade received by all the wines made from Lowrey Pinot Noir.

With the stressful filtering and bottling sessions behind us, I nervously pour myself the first glass of newly bottled 2015 Five Rows Pinot Noir…and all the reasons we started a winery in the first place come swirling back.  The familiar hallmarks of our terroir leap from the glass and reassure my skeptical nose.  I experience the wine first in aromas and flavours, then in memories (good and bad) of my days spent in that vineyard.  The balanced finish and pleasing tannins give me hope that the 2015 Pinot Noir will create future memories for all those who choose to cellar it.

Thanks to Rick Vansickle for his kind words, and to all the Winemakers who do such wonderful things with our fruit.  Most of all, I thank the late Karl Kaiser – my words will never be enough to adequately honour him for the legacy he helped inspire.

 

2015 Syrah

After a second consecutive extreme winter in 2014-15, most of our Syrah vines simply said “uncle”.  The majority of primary buds were dead, and many of those that did bud out eventually collapsed.  We were left with a shoot here and a cluster there, making it very difficult to look after the vineyard in a balanced manner.  It was a pleasant surprise when we were able to eke out enough fruit for 4 barrels.

I will always associate the 2015 Syrah with living in a trailer beside the barn during harvest (our home was undergoing major renovation).  Those memorable Airstream days featured a leaky roof, cool weather, sleeping in a small bed with three dogs, exciting playoff baseball (the Jays losing ALCS Game 6 to the Royals – ugh) and, eventually, nice ripe Syrah!

The 2015 Syrah features a uniquely smoky nose, with hints of pepper and cassis.  The palate is more fruit-driven than the nose lets on, and exhibits the typical cool climate Syrah savouriness and texture that I love.

 

2015 Cabernet Sauvignon

I’ve been crafting Cab Sauv longer than any other varietal, and this – the 11th Five Rows Cab – is a striking amalgam of its forebears.  It has the noticeable concentration of 2005 (another short crop year), the unmistakeable ripeness of 2004, 2007 and 2010, the floral subtleties of 2008 and 2009, the wonderful aromatic strength of 2011 and 2012, and it shows the versatility of being drinkable now and potentially ageable like the 2013 and 2014.

Then again, aren’t we all a patchwork of those that came before?

 

2017 Sauvignon Blanc

The summer rains of 2017 made vine vigour and crop level control in Sauv Blanc absolutely paramount.  The vintage was rescued by the dry heat of September, which helped to ripen what were now massive berries and clusters.  For once, we had the luxury of harvesting the crop with as much acidity as was desired (we opted for 8.5 g/L).

I’ve always enjoyed my Sauv Blanc a little on the “crisper” side, both as a food pair and sipping wine.  The 2017 is an example of that style, more so because of the conditions we faced than anything done differently in the winery.  We stuck with the tried and true formula of a 75% older French oak / 25% stainless steel fermentation ratio – all with X5 yeast.  The amount of malolactic fermentation that took place is my only secret…mainly because I have no idea.

 

2017 Pinot Gris

I think it’s okay to reveal that I’m usually partial to the barrel-fermented portion of our Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.  Of all the wines we crafted in the 2017, however, my favourite was the tank-fermented Pinot Gris.

It was so tropical and lush that I toyed with the idea of keeping it separate and releasing it on its own.  The problem became one of logistics, as it was only 300L or so – making it an awkward volume to support a one-off bottling.  In the end, the final blend proved to be far more complex than the individual components, so I don’t regret the decision to give my precious tank over to the barrels.  We’ll always have that month of fermentation…

 

2017 Riesling

I consider Jean’s Block Riesling to be the most “personal” of our wines for many reasons, but mainly because I dial it in to my palate specifically.  I taste the fermentation constantly near the end of its time, and stop it at the precise point where I feel the residual sugar level balances the natural acidity.

It occurs to me now that the fatal flaw in “personal” winemaking is this:  you are the only one to blame if the wine is perceived to be out of balance by everyone else!  Thankfully for yours truly, the aromatics of this wine are the real star, and rival the Sauv Blanc in intensity – something I’d never have been willing to concede in year’s past.

 

The Five Rows Barn is set to re-open on weekends starting June 2nd, 2018.  See you soon!

Friday, April 21st, 2017

2016 Sauv Blanc

2014 Pinot Noir

Production: 143 cases

Aromas –  cherry, floral (violet), red licorice (Nibs), truffle, earth, mushroom

Palate –  typical “Lowrey terroir” profile of ripe cherry, pleasing acidity and evolved tannic structure

 

2014 Syrah

Production: 122 cases

Aromas –  wild black raspberry, pepper, cooked meat, tobacco

Palate –  ripe red fruit (cherry, plum), savoury core, smooth tannins make it hard not to drink right now

 

2014 Cabernet Sauvignon

Production: 123 cases

Aromas –  wild black raspberry, cherry, bell pepper, violet

Palate –  cherry flavoured candy, currant, dark chocolate, structural versatility to enjoy now with meats and cheeses or to lay down for another few years

 

2016 Sauvignon Blanc

Production: 220 cases

Aromas –  pineapple, starfruit, grapefruit, peach drink, vanilla bean

Palate –  ripe tropical flavours balanced by crisp citrus notes, lingering finish, best enjoyed just below room temperature

 

2016 Pinot Gris

Production: 110 cases

Aromas –  honeydew melon, apricot, whispers of single malt scotch

Palate –  full-bodied, balanced, signature Lowrey Pinot Gris texture, tastes like Wilma’s homemade butter tarts

 

2016 “Jean’s Block” Riesling

Production: 119 cases

Aromas –  intense and alluring, floral notes with strong citrus undertones, apple

Palate –  zippy acidity, a real depth of flavour, balanced finish, excellent food pairing wine, serve slightly chilled

Tuesday, April 26th, 2016

I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.  The story of our 2015 Sauvignon Blanc is filled with both.  The bad news starts with the amount of damage sustained by the vines after a second consecutive harsh winter.  Very few of the suckers that were brought up to become new trunks in 2014 actually made it into the 2015 growing season.  There were those that looked like they were going to bud out, only to agonizingly collapse a couple of weeks later.  The sheer number of dead buds made for disproportionate growth and vine vigour issues – meaning lots of extra work.  The far north end of the block looked more like the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse than a vineyard, replete with half-dead, split trunks oozing crown gall tumours…

The good news is that we had any Sauvignon Blanc fruit at all!  In fact, 2015 was an amazing growing season for whites, with moderate heat and cool nights during peak ripening time.  The lighter crop ripened very quickly, ultimately leading to intense concentration of flavours and aromatics.  I stuck with my tried and true formula in the winery, with 75% of the juice fermented and aged in my trusty old French oak barrels and 25% done in tank.  The finished wine was blended, filtered and then bottled on April 6th, 2016.

Aromas:  “a nose for days”; candied pear, lemon/lime, melon, grilled pineapple

Palate:  rounder, riper, more weighty mouthfeel; pineapple, hint of lime; enjoyed best at cellar temperature (60-65°F)

Production:  210 cases

 

2015 Pinot Gris

Our Pinot Gris sustained similar winter damage to it’s neighbouring Sauvignon Blanc, which was surprising because it is considered a much more winter-hardy varietal.  Another sobering reminder of just how much sustained extreme cold the vines experienced in the winter of 2014.

The very light crop (about 40% of a normal year) made the vineyard work easier to stay on top of, ultimately producing some of the cleanest fruit we’ve ever seen in that block.  Pinot Gris is my favourite varietal to walk through in the fall because of the cool look of the tight, metallic-pink coloured clusters and the intense aromas in the air.  Tasting each berry is a treat, as flavours explode in your mouth.  You can almost anticipate the texture of the wine they will soon create.

We harvested our ripe Pinot Gris on September 18, 2015.  Believe it or not, one of the challenges I face crafting my whites is finding good, used white wine barrels.  It seems that more and more winemakers are holding onto their prized neutral wood – and I can’t blame them!  I was fortunate this past vintage to pick up some great older white barrels from J.L. Groux at Stratus, and about 66% of my 2015 Pinot Gris juice was the direct beneficiary.  All juice was fermented with R2 yeast and likely went through a partial, wild malolactic fermentation.

Appearance:  golden pink colour

Aromas:  honey, peach, vanilla, Honeycrisp apple, cream soda

Palate:  velvety texture, good balance with ample acidity; important not to drink too cold – 60°F is good

Production:  110 cases

 

2015 “Jean’s Block” Riesling

Many experts feel that it takes about ten years for a planting of grapes to really come into its own.  I feel like the wine from “Jean’s Block” is getting more complex with each vintage and it bodes well for this relatively young, 9-year old Riesling block.

What I like most about Riesling is their reliability from a growing perspective.  They crop well, ripen without issue and always seem to have enough acidity to make a nice wine, whether your preferred style is dry or off-dry.

We harvested the 2015 crop on October 8th and the fruit came in at 18.3 degrees Brix.  Previous vintages have taught me that “two yeasts are better than one” in terms of wine complexity, so I split the juice into two tanks: 900L fermented with W15 and 375L with R2.  What resulted was one of the longest fermentations I’ve ever experienced – the ferments started on October 16th and didn’t reach a “balance” point (Specific Gravity 1.003)  until December 1st!  This was not done by choice, but the results were a pleasant surprise.  Sometimes yeast just become a little sluggish in high-acid/low pH must.  There were times when I thought the fermentation was stuck, but I chose not to re-inoculate and patience paid off in the end.

I love the nose produced by Clone 49 Riesling – it’s just so fresh and intense!  We bottled this wine on April 6th, 2016.

Aromas:  apricot, peach, lemon, green apple

Palate:  both sweet and sour notes perceptible; resolves into crisp, dry balance

Production:  130 cases

Saturday, October 4th, 2014

What a luxury it was to be given a dry stretch of days to harvest all of our early varietals.  I don’t recall a ripening period this ideal in all the years I’ve made wine.

Fall picking decisions are usually based upon rotten fruit and looming rain in the forecast.  We weren’t entirely spared the former, but the lack of the latter allowed us to delay harvest dates until all the important parameters reached absolute perfection.  Warm days to drive photosynthesis and accumulate sugar, and cool nights to maintain acidity and control fruit flies.  I actually felt a bit greedy leaving some of our fruit on the vine as long as we did, but this rare ripening window was just too tempting not to take advantage of.

The Pinot Noir fermentations smell absolutely splendid!  The Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc were allowed to hang long enough to develop the most wonderful flavours to go with the desired sugar and acidity levels.  As expected, crop levels were light, but the fact we had any fruit to harvest this vintage is a victory in itself.

It appears as if this little run of nice weather might be coming to an end, but I will not soon forget the exquisite fall scene of 2014.

WesDogs-1

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

I’d like to thank Rick VanSickle for including us in his latest article   “The Fantastic Four: Exciting New Niagara Wineries That Are Setting The Bar For Excellence”.

It’s especially satisfying when someone takes the time to thoughtfully share the way we’ve chosen to craft and present our wines.  Rick has been a great supporter of Five Rows since we first opened back in 2008.  To hear him describe the unique manner in which my mother entertains her guests makes me happy and proud.  Rarely does a week go by wherein I don’t receive a heartfelt thank-you note from someone who has been introduced to our wines by Wilma.  I’m a very lucky Winemaker (and son).

To be featured alongside Kevin and Thomas is a fun coincidence, as our journeys have been somewhat intertwined.  It was back in 2002 that Kevin and I worked together at Creekside Estate Winery, a formative time when pie-in-the-sky dreams of starting our own wineries were just taking shape.  We spent many days discussing those future plans while working side by side in the very Queenston Road vineyard he now uses for his wonderful 2027 Cellars Pinot Noir.  Thomas discovered the Lowrey Vineyard while tasting some of the early Inniskillin Alliance Pinot Noir’s that we were fortunate to be a part of.  As mentioned in the article, he now sources fruit from our old Pinot block for his Bachelder series of wines.

Sunday, September 22nd, 2013

Cue the broken record…the 2013 Pinot Noir is rotting on the vine.  We’ve done everything in our ability to nurse along these bursting clusters, but this last stretch of humid weather and looming rainfall (100% P.O.P.) has made our harvest decision an easy one.  Excess rain brings the potential for berry split, the spread of sour rot and the dilution of all components within the grape pulp.

Thankfully, the fruit is ready to come off – wonderful flavours, browning seeds, shriveling berries and perfect acidity (TA 7.5 g/L).  The sugar levels aren’t the highest they’ve ever been, but that’s not the most critical indicator of ripeness in my opinion.  Others may disagree and choose to wait out the coming rain in an effort to squeeze out a few more degrees Brix.  I envy their optimism, but my years (and tears) of experience with this fickle “heartbreak grape” will not allow me to take that risk.  I will not sleep soundly until my Pinot is cooly soaking in sealed bins.

Prior to harvest I will scour my rows for rotten berries and clusters, surgically removing them where necessary.  On the day of the pick we will re-sort every cluster to cull anything that was missed in the vineyard.  If all goes according to plan (and it rarely does) I believe that each of the early varietals from 2013 could rival the tremendous wines of 2009.

Update  22/11/13:  Over two barnstorming days dodging yellow jackets and ladybugs, we were able to harvest all rows of Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir!  As forecasted, the rain arrived on Saturday in the form of an all day soaker – 54mm total.  For the record I am now sleeping soundly.

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

We’ve had the good fortune this summer to play host to a wide variety of wine enthusiasts.  Each tasting is enjoyably unique and it’s been a pleasure to meet so many new fans of our wine.  The feedback for our newest wines has been wonderfully motivational, as every thank-you note, email, review, recommendation and bottle registered on our provenance page makes working outside in the blazing July heat and humidity much easier to endure!

Here are a few recent reviews from some of those visitors:

Rick VanSickle – Wines in Niagara

Zoltan Szabo – City Bites Magazine

Fouduvin Wine Forum

Sunday, January 20th, 2013

We can now announce some details regarding a couple of exciting winter events we have in the works.

Firstly, I am floored by the response to our Treadwell’s Winemaker Dinner on January 26.  Based on the turnout to previous dinners, James and I had anticipated the usual 25-30 loyal Five Rows fans who had joined us in the past.  However, within a week of the dinner announcement this year it became apparent that we were going to need a bigger boat.  The enthusiastic request for seats meant the entire restaurant would have to be closed down to accommodate our ever-expanding group of friends.

What a great night it should be!  I’ve had a chance to preview the proposed menu and can report that Stephen and James have outdone themselves yet again.  The wines we have chosen to showcase are:  2011 Pinot Gris, 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, 2009 Pinot Noir, 2008 Shiraz and 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine.  Most of these wines have been sold out for a while, so we had to source them from Wilma’s personal library (it took some convincing).  I also plan to bring along a surprise barrel sample, as this was very well received last year.  Any requests?

The 25th Anniversary Cuvée Celebration will take place March 1-3rd.  In an effort to reflect the nostalgic theme this year, we’ve decided to dip into our library for the Cuvée En Route tasting sessions.  Anyone wishing to visit us over that weekend is invited to participate in the first ever Five Rows Pinot Noir vertical tasting, featuring wines from 2007, 2008 and 2009.  I hope to collect some useful feedback to better advise those who’ve resisted temptation and continue to age these wines in their cellar.  Please email or call if you plan to stop in over the weekend so we can determine how many bottles might be required.

Wednesday, September 19th, 2012

The last couple of weeks saw a flurry of action at our family vineyard.  The “perfect” summer of 2012 ended with a stretch of wet weather that spawned nervous moments and tough decisions.  Looking back, I probably worried more than I should have (what’s new) because the fruit hung on wonderfully through the intense downpours and resultant humidity.  In a nine day span we were able to harvest all of our Pinot Noir, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.  It’s rare that all four of these varietals mature within such a short window.  Perhaps that is what we will remember most when we enjoy the wines of 2012, just how early and quickly everything ripened.  Even the later varietals taste like they are not too far off – a very exciting prospect!

As I fall into my daily ritual of fermentation checks (specific gravity, temperature and taste), I ponder whether this may be my favourite time to be a winemaker.  I enjoy the solemnity of this stage,  the wines are mine and mine alone.  It won’t be long until I share them with my friends, but for now they are mine to protect and nurture.  Each day there are surprises and letdowns, comebacks and revelations, but most of all there is respect for a process that I did not invent, nor will I ever perfect.  I will only get so many chances to do this in my lifetime.

I used to feel pressure at this stage to repeat past successes, but now I know that it is a foolish pursuit.  The wines will be what they were destined to be the moment the grapes were clipped from the mother vine.  The job of the farmer is what crafts these wines.  Sure, I control the fermentation with choice of yeast, temperature and nutrition, but I can no longer impact the natural elements of the harvested grape.  It is those natural elements, supplied by the Terroir, that make a wine special.

I hold out high hopes for these young wines as they bubble their way through fermentation.  The Pinot Noir is particularly intriguing this year.  The aromatics are so intense!  There are few things I enjoy more than punching down a bin of actively fermenting Pinot.  It is a grunt at times, but also very therapeutic and mesmerizing (according to Wilma).  Your entire year’s work reduced down to a single vessel of beautiful aromas and colours.  As I said, a good time to be a winemaker.

Monday, May 7th, 2012

2011 Five Rows Sauvignon Blanc:

The fight for quality Sauvignon Blanc grapes begins in earnest during the long, cold nights of winter.  Its buds are amongst the most sensitive of all Vitis vinifera cultivars.  Providing those buds make it through the rigours of winter and frosts of spring, the job only intensifies.  Picture the most vigorous growing vine or weed in your garden, then imagine somehow trying to harness it’s raw desire to grow, but not so much to harm its delicate fruit.  Now you’re talking Sauvignon Blanc!

Thanks to a cooler than normal spring, the 2011 growing season got off to a lazy start.  A hot, dry summer helped put things back on track, with Sauv Blanc ripening right around schedule in late September.  One vineyard trick we’ve employed in recent years is to remove leaves around the clusters early in the season on the cooler, “morning sun” (east-facing) side of the canopy only.  Then later in the season, after veraison, we remove leaves from the “afternoon side” as the daytime heat subsides.  This helps preserve flavour and acidity in the ripening berries and prevents sunscald.

750 kg of fruit was harvested from each of our two Sauvignon Blanc Vineyard blocks on September 22, 2011.  The conditions for fruit ripening were perfect.  Acid levels (TA) hovered around 7.5 to 8.0 g/L, but threatened to fall as warm conditions loomed later in the week.  The decision to take both blocks in one day was made.

As usual, the younger clay-based block was slightly higher in sugar (22.3°Brix) than the old-vine, sandy loam block (20.6).   I always find it difficult to describe just how intense the flavours are in these ripe Sauv Blanc berries.  Best just to visit us in September and sneak a few for yourself!

Four older French oak barrels (2 x 2007 DAMY and 2 x 2003 Berthomieu) were used to ferment 75% of the juice.  The rest was fermented in stainless steel.  All fermentations were carried out with X5 yeast at an average temperature of 12°C.  The fermentations were stopped at a specific gravity of 0.998 or, unscientifically, when I thought they tasted good.   99 cases were bottled on April 2, 2012.

Price:  $25.00/bottle

Aromas:  citrus (lemon/lime), grilled pineapple, gooseberry

Palate:  lime, star fruit, great balance


2011 Five Rows Pinot Gris:

I relish the challenges involved in successfully crafting Pinot Gris each vintage.  From thinning and leaf removal decisions to barrel/tank ratio and residual sugar content, the complex set of variables is alluring.  Every choice made affects the end product and must be considered carefully.  I’ve fallen asleep on countless nights labouring over such decisions.  In the end, it only makes a winemaker appreciate the finished product that much more.

We harvested 1.5 tonnes of Pinot Gris on September 22, 2011.  The fruit was adequately ripe (23°Brix) but starting to show signs of breaking down and rapidly losing acidity.  You come to realize that Pinot Gris tells you when to harvest, you don’t tell it.

After gentle pressing and a four-day cold settle, the juice was racked to three older French oak barrels and one tank.  It was then inoculated with R2 yeast at the normal rate of 300 ppm.  The fermentation proceeded very slowly over the next month with an average temperature of 11°C, until being stopped at a specific gravity of 0.998 and total alcohol of 13.0%.  Bentonite fining and coarse filtration were carried out before bottling 102 cases on April 2, 2012.

Visually, this Pinot Gris shows a distinct pinkish hue from the brief amount of skin contact.  The striking aromatics include apple, pear torte, vanilla and tropical fruit nuances.  The weighty yet velvety smooth texture resolves into flavours of ripe apple, melon, honey and cinnamon.  It truly leaves you wanting another sip.

Production:  102 cases

Price:  $25.00/bottle

Cellaring: 2012-2014

Serving:  serve slightly chilled (10°C) and decant if consumed in 2012