Page Archive for the ‘sauvignon blanc’ 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

Friday, June 24th, 2016

Vineyard workers sneeze in unison as the unmistakable smell of grapevines in bloom wafts across the peninsula.  Each pull of a shoot or yank of a sucker knocks thousands of pollen particles into the air – and eventually into our collective nasal passages to create one mighty “sonic bloom”.

What a difference a year makes.  I remember the abject despair with which I traversed these rows last spring, as one vine after another collapsed into oblivion.  The growing season of 2015 became more about rejuvenation than celebration in a number of varietals – particularly Syrah and Sauvignon Blanc.

I can’t begin to describe the relief in watching the tender suckers I white-knuckled together last season become the strong, fully-budding trunks I see before me now.  There are still failures, but not nearly in the magnitude of 2015.  Ideal weather conditions have helped get us back on track and now I can shift my focus back to formulating a plan to shape and position these burgeoning vines.

Please stay with me here as I attempt to outline a mindset that some may find perplexing.  I was a weird kid (you can debate whether this has changed) who always found comfort in a well-organized strategy.  Toys were for displaying and cataloging, not playing with.  Upon receipt of the official Toronto Maple Leaf 1984-85 Fact Book, I set out to memorize the birthdays and relevant personal facts of the entire roster, just so I could be prepared if anyone ever asked me.  Kids growing up in the Google age will never experience the joys of memorizing useless facts – like Walt Poddubny’s pre-game meal or Bill Derlago’s favourite out of town restaurant.

So here is where my head is at when I look out over the vineyard on this first day of summer: roughly 150 rows to tackle, at an average of 3 rows per day, means that I should be able to finish properly fashioning my vines in about 50 days.  Factoring in that my progress will be slower as the days get hotter and the vine growth intensifies, and throwing in the odd “wife-mandated” day off, I should be done thinning in about two months.

I’m most efficient working down each row from left to right and prefer not to leave an unfinished row at the end of the day.  One veteran move is to always work on the shady side of the row (west side in the morning, east side in the afternoon), as it will keep you cooler throughout the day and the contrast will be better for locating unwanted growth.

My traditional starting point would be the Pinot Noir blocks, but the Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon are showing the strongest vigour this year, with an inordinate amount of secondary shoots and an explosion of centrally located growth – all of which must go!

There is a method to this mindset, as I find greater motivation when jobs have a clear start and end point.  It is one reason why we release wines only once per year.  The wine is bottled and the wine is sold, then we start all over again.  It may be what appeals to me most about farming – every season has a harvest, an ultimate prize to work toward and celebrate upon it’s completion.

That’s enough typing for now…I’ve got three rows to finish.

 

 

 

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.

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Tuesday, September 9th, 2014

If I’m guilty of anything during the busy build-up to harvest, it’s failing to take the time to appreciate the wonderful summer we’ve just had welcoming so many visitors to our barn.  I tend to spend these days with blinders on, dutifully focused on protecting my delicate grapes from birds, fruit flies, rot and botrytis.  A little rosy reflection always helps keep my chin up.

I never would have fathomed that a barn jam-packed with 750 cases of wine could be reduced to what I see today, a mere four months from the initial release in May.  Every one of our visitors has contributed to this case reduction – one bottle, one case at a time.  I was touched this year by the number of fellow winemakers and industry personnel who took time out of their busy schedules to stop by and purchase our wine.  This is a favour I vow to repay very soon!

It is through the tireless hosting efforts of Wilma, Tracy and Katie that we’ve somehow been able to sell nearly every hand-numbered, hand-labeled bottle of Five Rows wine that was bottled and waxed this Spring.   Selling out of wines is always a sad time despite what you might think.  A common refrain we hear is that this is a “good” problem, but I would argue that there is no such thing as a “good” problem.  Having no wine to offer those who’ve traveled far and wide to locate our barn, only to discover we are sold out of their treasured new find is excruciating for visitor and host alike.

This situation always provokes a sinking feeling, as it was never my intention to make a wine that became more “sought after” than actually bought and enjoyed.  The goal every year is to make memorable wines, but not for the wrong reason.  Do we need to produce more Sauv Blanc?  Would that make more people happy?  Perhaps, but maybe not…

The logistics of producing more wine the way we currently go about it (i.e. one guy doing all the tractor work and one guy doing all the winemaking)  is not conducive to a dramatic increase in volume.  Moreover, I’m an intense creature of habit (and by habit I mean stubborn and superstitious), so making a change to a formula that works is not something I’m comfortable with.  Change is my kryptonite.

As I’ve written in the past, it is the reliable patronage and warm compliments from our friends and supporters that drive my passion for making wine.  For these people we will gladly endeavor to keep the Five Rows experience a familiar one.

I’m happy to report that we still do have a limited quantity of 2011 Pinot Noir available, so please join us for a chat and taste over the exciting months of harvest.   Don’t let the bird bangers scare you away!

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

Saturday, February 9th, 2013

Rounding up the family and heading out to a fancy dinner is a foreign experience for many farmers.  The Clampett’s…err…Lowrey’s are no exception, and really don’t get out much.  My own culinary expertise is limited to impeccably microwaved Michelina’s (down to the second!) and hastily constructed lunchtime wraps.

“Pa”, however, puts me to shame with his mastery of outdoor, open-flame cooking.  He is aloof in the kitchen, but can skillet fry just about anything over his gnarled pile of burning grape trunks.  I once saw him make perfect toast using welding gloves, a long-handled frying pan and diesel fuel.  He ended the show by flipping eggs with a one-iron (he could never hit it anyway).

Suffice it to say, we always jump at the chance to get dolled up and host a civilized Winemaker’s dinner every year at Treadwell’s.  Thankfully for the patrons, we are only responsible for bringing the wine.   Seriously, we treasure the opportunity to share this annual experience with so many of our supporters.  The signed menu, seen below, has become a treasured memento for us, growing in names each year.  It’s something we display with pride in our barn and reflect on fondly with many of our guests.

As you can see, this year’s menu was a masterpiece.  I can easily recall the distinct flavours of each dish as I write this, a sure sign of a wonderfully skilled kitchen and chef.  My compliments to James and the entire staff for the seeming ease at which they managed each course.

Of the wines I tried on this evening, the 2008 Syrah was a highlight for me – perhaps for sentimental reasons.  We decided to raid the cellar and bring our last case to share on this appropriate occasion.  The smoked duck was an astute pair, picking up on the smoky, earthy and savoury elements of the Syrah.  Many commented on how much the flavours and mouthfeel had changed since they last tried it.  The classic Syrah pepper, earth and floral elements were still there, but the once subtle dark fruit components had come to the fore both aromatically and on the palate.   It leads me to think that this wine is probably best consumed during this exciting time in its evolution (for those who still have a bottle).

The sumptuous “pulled pork” course might have been James’ nod to our participation in the most recent Pigs and Pinot celebration in Healdsburg, California.  My parents were thrilled to visit Sonoma and represent Canada at the “Pinot Smackdown”, which they managed to escape without a scratch.

We ended the night with a barrel sample of the 2012 Sauvignon Blanc.  I figured this was appropriate given that Sauvignon Blanc is, in many ways, the reason we have forged such a strong relationship with Treadwell’s.  The feedback was promising with many not letting me leave without guaranteeing them at least a six-pack.

The 2012 has a ripe nose very reminiscent of the 2010, which makes sense because both were generally warm, dry years.  The mouthfeel and flavours were still a work in progress though, following bentonite fining, cold stabilization and possibly ongoing malolacitc fermentation.  As with most classy dames she didn’t want to give away all her secrets on the first date!

A heartfelt thanks to all who attended.

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Our Friends

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.