Page Archive for the ‘Riesling’ Category

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

 

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

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

Wednesday, November 11th, 2015

battle scars

As yet another memorable harvest draws to a close, I delight in sharing some of the bizarre things that have crept into my exhausted mind over the last couple of months.  It can be a grind at times, so pulling back the curtain a bit to reveal some of the lighter moments keeps me from taking it too seriously.

While conducting a final cull of rotten berries in our original planting of Pinot Noir early in September, I found myself uttering a few choice words at these cursedly tight clusters.  It culminated in a rather aggressive flick attempt with my clippers to remove a rotten berry which, in turn, produced a wild spray of acidic juice directly into my face.  This moment surely sums up the give and take relationship I have with these old vines, a relationship that began to take human form.

In fact, as I wiped the burning juice from my eyes, I surmised that these five rows are like the brother I never had.  We are of similar age (although I am slightly older and wiser) and we have grown up on this farm together.  We compete for my parents’ attention and can get very jealous of one another, yet our individual success is completely reliant upon the other.  There are epic fights, but if anyone else is critical of my Pinot vines – I’ll kick their ass.  We always have each other’s back because our tangled roots run ever deep in this soil.

While pacing around the barn on a weekend that saw a forecasted 15-20mm of rain balloon to a record 86mm, I realized just how tied to the weather my mood becomes during harvest.  A rainy day may as well be the end of the world in my mind.  Everything is planned around them, you can’t do anything during them, and nothing good ever comes as a result of them!  I become consumed with regrets:  Should we have picked earlier? Did I just ruin everything good I’ve done all year by letting them hang through a hail storm?  How long will this field take to dry out?

Conversely, when the sun is shining – so am I.  Strutting around the farm with a wide smile and time enough for everyone, I ooze positivity.  It doesn’t get any better than walking through a block of ripe, clean grapes knowing you could pick them whenever you like.  I taste each berry thoroughly and make a mental note of which vines and rows will make the cut this year.  As you are probably aware, this happens with extreme rarity.

More often I’m faced with a scenario akin to the following:  We finish pressing Pinot Noir and I finally have a chance to get out and take a good look at the Riesling.  I walk over to the block and think to myself, “Ahh, the patience of Riesling…I can leave them to the end every year and they never let me down!”

It only takes few minutes to realize I’ve waited WAY to long to thin out these vines and now I’ve got a tinderbox of Botrytis on my hands.  I flash back to those times during the year when I’d walk by the Riesling and pay them but a fleeting glance before moving on to more pressing concerns.  Perhaps I knew deep down that the day of reckoning would come soon enough.

It is reminiscent of a scene from Pee-Wee’s Big Adventure where Pee-Wee is faced with saving all the pets from a burning pet store.  Of course he saves the cute puppies and bunnies first, each time running past the terrarium of snakes with a look of terror that I know all too well.  The scene ends with a hysterical Pee-Wee running out of the store with fistfuls of snakes and collapsing to the ground.

Before I know it I’m covered in a sticky lather of sweat and juice, hurriedly extricating botrytized clusters of Riesling with my bare hands and high-stepping to the end of the row to hurl them into the headlands…

Crazy, you say?

I know you are, but what am I.    (P.W. Herman 1985)

 

 

 

 

Saturday, October 19th, 2013

It is not the most glamorous time to be a grape grower.  I’m reminded of this in the midst of a downpour, as I trudge through shin deep mud on my way to cut rotten bunches out of barely ripe Riesling.  I pull my hood tight and turn on my radio headphones in hopes of a distraction from the gloom.  “There will likely be snow next week,” the announcer says as I slop past many tons of yet to be harvested Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.  Icewine anyone?

It’s been that kind of year.  As farmers we’re quite accustomed to being at the mercy of mother nature, and have in fact been spoiled by six consecutive years of decent growing conditions – with a couple of real beauties sprinkled in!  It’s rare in any type of farming to have more than a few good years in row.  Hence, you’re never as rich as your best year and you’re never as poor as your worst.

At times like this it’s important to remember that you can only do everything in your power to give yourself the chance to produce premium fruit.  I’m confident we’ve done just that and I still believe it a possibility to craft great wines from these grapes, albeit with less room for error.

My parents remind me of the “old days” when wet vintages seemed to be a little more common.  Tales of stuck harvesters and trucks  – and fields so saturated with water that the only choice was to hand pick and hand load (no tractor!) whole vineyard blocks thick with fruit.  It stands to reason that in wet years the crop is usually much heavier and far more difficult to harvest.

I finally get to Jean’s Block and in the time it takes me to knock the clods of mud off my boots, the rain abruptly stops.  Halfway down the first row I fail to discover as many rotten clusters as I had anticipated and the sun even threatens to peek out of the clouds.  As I approach the old pear tree hill that is now Ravine Vineyard I start to smell the most amazing aromas coming from atop the hill.  I’m reminded of the hearty lunches that we traditionally enjoy on those cold harvest days.  With that, the glamour returns.

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

Tuesday, June 4th, 2013

2012 “Jean’s Block” Riesling

Vineyard:  Our Clone 49 Riesling vines budded out very early in 2012, perhaps two weeks ahead of a normal year.  Although this may sound advantageous, it was actually problematic.  A sudden frost followed bud-break and many fragile buds were frozen dead.  Luckily, we left an extra cane that could be tied down to add a few precious growing shoots to the sparse canopy.  The summer growth period proceeded nicely with warm temperatures and little rain.  A lighter crop load required less thinning and ripened quickly near the end of August.

Winery:  The bulk of our Riesling is purchased by Fielding Estate Winery.  In talking with Winemaker (and friend) Richie Roberts, I learned that he likes to harvest Riesling with fairly high acidity to give some vibrant life to the resultant wine.  As a bit of a “Riesling rookie” myself, I decided to experiment with this approach and harvest our 2012 crop at a higher TA value than I normally would.  We brought in our Riesling on September 13th (earlier than ever) and the pressed juice tasted beautiful!  The higher TA meant a juice with lower pH, and consequently a sluggish start to the fermentation.  Eventually, with the help of a little extra nutrient, the W15 yeast hit its stride and worked at a nice slow pace over the next month and a half.  The fermentation was finally halted on Halloween at a specific gravity of 1.006, a point where I perceived balance on my palate.  Over the winter months the wine was protein and cold stabilized prior to coarse filtration.  We bottled 96 cases on March 26, 2013.  The 2012 “Jean’s Block” Riesling is now available for purchase in our barn.

Price: $25.00

Alcohol: 12.0%

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, July 2nd, 2012

Many oenophiles consider Riesling to be the best-suited white grape varietal for the rigours of Niagara regional terroir.  It’s a treat to grow, with good crop levels and minimal finicky hand-labour compared to tight-clustered Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.  It has decent winter hardiness and tends to thrive in our slightly “cooler climate” (my current air conditioning bill might disagree with this categorization).

Vinifying Riesling is where things get a little more complicated.  So many different styles and so many variables to experiment with.  Although we grow Alsatian Clone 49 in Jean’s Block, the resultant wines I’ve crafted tend to be an amalgam of varying Riesling profiles.  The 2011 vintage features the subtle, mineral-laden nose of an Alsace Riesling, but the richness and depth of flavour of my favourite German styles.  The natural acidity is the strength of the wine, balanced with a touch of residual sugar.  Over the years, I’ve found that Riesling takes a while to open up after the stress of filtration and bottling, so we usually release it later than our other whites.  Riesling fans will tell you that it’s a mistake to drink it too young anyway!

In the ongoing quest to improve wine quality, we decided to employ a different pressing technique in the fall of 2011 – a gentle, whole-bunch squeeze in our old wooden basket press.  It proved to be very time consuming and a huge headache to clean out, but I think the end product justifies the extra effort.  I also experimented with a different yeast, R2, on 50% of the juice, while using my old standby, W15, on the other half.  Fans of our Pinot Gris might recognize some of the elements that R2 brings – rounder mouthfeel, tropical fruit notes – in this Riesling.

2011 “Jean’s Block” Riesling is a wine that means a lot to me personally.  I welcome you to come by starting this weekend to give it a try.  There are only 48 cases available, so we must limit purchases to 4 bottles per customer.  Retail price is $25 per bottle.

Wednesday, February 1st, 2012

A winemaker prepares for a “Winemaker’s Dinner” with the hope that his or her wines will show their best and contribute positively to the evening’s festivities and fare.  My pre-dinner jitters were immediately settled when I walked into Treadwell’s on Saturday and was greeted by so many familiar faces.  It was like walking into the warm atmosphere of a family dinner.

As we drove to Port Dalhousie, I’d managed to convince myself that by now people must be sick of hearing me rattle on about leaf-removal techniques in Pinot Gris or the benefits of whole-bunch pressing in Riesling, but surprisingly that was not the case!  People expressed genuine interest in hearing the behind the scenes viticultural and enological practices that we employ at Five Rows.  I found this very encouraging and flattering.  But let’s not kid ourselves, the people came to hear Howie and Wilma tell their stories – and those two never disappoint!

As one might anticipate, the true star on this night was the food.  James, Jason and staff completely outdid themselves, coming up with a stunning menu that left everyone raving.  The liveliest debate was reserved for deciding which course and pairing was our favourite.  I was partial to the Pinot and Tuna.

It’s always amazing to me that our wines just seem to smell and taste more intense when served at Treadwell’s.  Perhaps it’s the heightened anticipation of the senses or maybe its the proper serving temperature and stemware.   Whatever it is, I was relieved that each wine seemed to go over well.

I decided to use this group as guinea pigs (they seemed rather willing) to demo a blending trial of our yet to be released 2009 Pinot Noir.  The 2009 vintage was a dream for Niagara Pinot growers, who were treated to perfect ripening conditions for a change.  I put together a blend of 85%  2009  Pinot and  5% from each of three different barrels of 2010 Pinot.  The blend composition was determined based on some areas where I felt the wine could use a lift.  One of the 2010 barrels was Clone 777 (first crop), which added an interesting fresh raspberry dimension to the aromatics.  It plays well off the typical burgundian notes always present in the  Clone 115 Old Vine Lowrey Pinot.

We decided to pit this 2009 blend against our 2007 Pinot Noir to see how it stacked up.  I felt that the 2007 had gained some aromatic complexity since I last tried it, but it’s lively tannins tell me that this wine could still benefit from a bit more time in the cellar.  It was agreed that the 2009 blend really showed promise, and some people even preferred it over the 2007!  We will bottle the 2009 (maybe this exact blend) in April, with a release anticipated for early in the summer.

Thanks to all who attended for making this such a memorable experience!

splendid menu

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

Price: $25.00/bottle

Production: 78 cases