Page Archive for the ‘Winemaker’s Dinner’ Category

Saturday, January 23rd, 2016

Perhaps the number one thing I look forward to each winter season is the opportunity to participate in a few Winemaker Dinners with my family.  When the vines are dormant I tend to be as well, so invitations to be a part of these lavish evenings are received with great joy!

We were very fortunate this year to be featured at a dinner hosted by the Ontario Wine Society (Toronto Chapter) where the theme was a celebration of Lowrey Vineyard Terroir through a comparison of wines made from our fruit.  The OWS brought together a wonderful group of winemakers who’ve worked with our grapes over the years – specifically Pinot Noir.  The event took place at Barque Butcher Bar and the pairings were facilitated by Michael Godel, who spoke very kindly and shared some flattering observations about our humble little vineyard in St. David’s.

Thomas Bachelder acted as host for the evening and I would’ve been perfectly content to listen to Thomas wax poetic about Terroir and Pinot Noir for the entire night if it was up to me!  Ilya Senchuk of Leaning Post Wines also brought some very interesting insight to the Terroir debate, as well as some stellar wines.  He pointed out that he sees hallmarks of Lowrey Terroir not only among certain varietals like Pinot, but across varietals as well.  We all agreed that there are distinctive elements that define the Lowrey flavour and aromatic profile, as well as textural and mouthfeel similarities.  Ilya also noted that as our collective wines age (that is wines made by Bachelder, Five Rows and Leaning Post from Lowrey fruit) the similarities of Terroir tend to become more pronounced.  The effect of the winemaker giving way to the effect of Terroir over time is a very interesting concept indeed.

I feel very proud that Mario Adamo thought enough of our Five Rows wines to inquire about purchasing some of our fruit for his own winery venture.  The dynamic brother-sister duo of Julie and John Paul Adamo joined us for the evening, and Julie did a great job taking us through their journey to start a winery in the hills of Hockley Valley.  It was exciting for me to see what an excellent job they’ve done with the Pinot Noir from our 2008 planting.  I see great potential for this block based on their initial efforts, and I highly recommend giving the wines of Adamo Estate Winery a try sometime soon!

Highlights of the dinner were detailed in the latest OWS newsletter and can be read here.

The Grand Crew

 

Thursday, December 18th, 2014

Do you have any plans for the evenings of January 10th or February 7th?  I’m hoping that nothing immediately pops to mind and you have the chance to join us at our annual Treadwell Winemaker’s Dinner.  These nights have been such a blast over the years that we’ve decided to tack on an encore gig in 2015.  Truthfully, the demand for tickets last year caught us a little off guard and we didn’t want to leave anybody out.

The dinners will feature some tantalizing Treadwell dishes paired with our 2011 reds and 2013 whites.  I will have to brush up on my knowledge of these wines, as they’ve not been present in our barn for quite a while.  I could certainly wax poetic about the freshly fermented 2014 Cab Sauv, but you probably wouldn’t want to drink that one right now.  Perhaps I will just wait until the night of the first dinner and we can discover how the wines have evolved together.  It’s always more fun to tell old farm stories than bore you with technical wine jargon anyway.

Please visit the Treadwell website for details or call James at 905-934-9797 to book your seat.  We hope to see you there!

Monday, December 16th, 2013

As massive black clouds of starlings swirl ominously overhead, contrasting against the pure white snow, I retire to my cosy barn to reflect on the year 2013.  I fear these flocks no more because the barrels and tanks are full, finally put to bed after what seemed like an oddly long growing season.  The apparent quality of these young wines fills me with hope.

I won’t lie – there were certainly moments of doubt, well chronicled (if not over-dramatized) in previous entires of this blog.  It became increasingly frustrating as we waited and waited for the fields to dry out and for eventual flavour concentration in our late-ripening varietals (Riesling, Cab Sauv and Syrah). Thankfully, frustration can sometimes yield immense satisfaction.  This was reflected in the purple toothed grin I saw on my Dad’s face while tasting the freshly squeezed Cabernet Sauvignon directly from the press tray,  “You could bottle this and drink it right now!”, he exclaimed.  Easy now Pops.

Winter allows for the completion of some jobs that I treasure most as a Winemaker.  A recent day spent racking the 2013 whites filled the barn with the most splendid aromas – I was in Sauv Blanc heaven!  Equally excitng were the blending trials featuring the soon to be bottled 2011 reds.  As early blends begin to take shape, I’m becoming more convinced that the 2011 vintage has a chance to be one our strongest across the board.  It rivals 2010 in aromatic intensity and is perhaps more approachable even at this early stage.  Easy now Son.

As we enter the winter months and start to sharpen up the pruners, we’ve decided to close the barn for a couple of months to catch our breath.  This will allow me plenty of time to get the new wines ready to bottle in the spring.  I wish to thank all who have visited over the past year and contributed to our most successful summer to date.  It’s hard to believe our barn has been open for five years now and I look forward to more great visits and more new faces enjoying Five Rows wines in the year to come.

A couple of traditional events that we are planning for the winter are a Winemaker’s Dinner at Treadwell’s and Cuvée 2014.  Details for these events will follow in future posts.  Happy Holidays to all!

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.

Thursday, December 27th, 2012

I feel it fitting, in this my 100th blog entry, to festively announce the erection of a new Five Rows roadside sign.

I can hear you all in unison: “Well, it’s about time!”

However, it is not without some sentimental regret that we retire our old red sandwich board.  At various times it was stolen, returned, run over, blown over, repainted, amusingly observed by Beppi and cursed by all those who didn’t see it on first pass.  A useful (if not reliable) sign it was.

As is evident in the following photographic essay, the beautiful new sign was hung with typical Five Rows grace and ingenuity.  I ask anyone working for the Ontario Workplace Safety Insurance Board to kindly avert your eyes.  A special thanks to Barry Imber for his fine craftmanship.

New Sign

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Broken Leg Waiting to Happen

Don't ever do this!

Howie & Wilma

The End of an Era

I wish you all a Happy New Year and invite you to join us for our third annual Treadwell’s Winemaker Dinner on January 26th, 2013.   Wine pairing details coming soon!

Monday, April 16th, 2012

There aren’t many days on the farm that I don’t encounter an unknown automobile meandering slowly down our driveway.  They approach very cautiously, sometimes stopping multiple times, seemingly contemplating whether this could possibly be the place they were looking for.  If I’m working in the grape rows anywhere near the driveway I try to flag down these folks and invite them in for a tasting.  Most times I end up chasing their vehicle while waving my arms wildly.  Come to think of it, perhaps that is exactly why most of them speed away in a cloud of dust.

Then there are cars that come in with a purpose.  They see me in working in the rows before I see them, and they end up scaring the crap out of me as they sneak up and snap me out of my iPod-induced trance.  For some reason these are usually the unabashed people I end up becoming fast friends with.  Steven and Jennifer Vipond fall into this category.

Last summer I watched as a red Volkswagen Beetle pulled right up to where I was doggedly defoliating some Clone 7 Shiraz vines.  I trotted out to meet them and noticed the “Bruce Wine Bar” logo on their rear window.  We exchanged pleasantries and I subsequently sent them up to our barn for a tasting with Wilma.  Two hours later, I watched from the far end of that Shiraz row as the red Beetle pulled away.  That was how our relationship with Steven and Jennifer began.

They are the proprietors of Bruce Wine Bar and Kitchen, located in Thornbury, Ontario.  The Lowreys and the Viponds hit it off right away and Jennifer even ventured all the way from Thornbury to help us hand pick our 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon.  What an enjoyable time that was, our last hand pick of the season on a gorgeous Fall day.  They have carried our wine at Bruce ever since that fortuitous first meeting.

I’m pleased to say that I finally have the chance to travel to Thornbury and dine at Bruce.   They will be hosting a Winemaker’s Dinner featuring Five Rows on Wednesday, May 9th.  The menu will feature our 2008 Shiraz, 2009 Cab Sauv Icewine and mark the debut of our 2011 Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris.  If you would like to join us and meet Steven and Jennifer, please contact them at the restaurant or flag down the next red Beetle you see.  You just might get lucky.

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

Thursday, January 12th, 2012

We are currently finalizing plans for our second annual Winemaker’s Dinner to be held once again at Treadwell Farm to Table Cuisine in Port Dalhousie.  For those interested in attending, it will take place on Saturday, January 28.  I’m told that most of the seats are spoken for by returnees from last year, but there may be a few spots still up for grabs.  Best to contact James ASAP (905-934-9797).

The menu and wine pairings are still being conceptualized.  You’d be amazed at the amount of thought and debate involved in this process!  I don’t want to give too much away, but I may have convinced my mother to part with our final few bottles of 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, 2010 Pinot Gris and 2007 Pinot Noir to pour for the occasion.  I can’t think of a better curtain call for these wines.

Over the next couple of weekends (Jan. 14-15th and the 22nd) our barn will be open for tastings from 11-5.  We welcome anyone planning to attend the Icewine Festival to stop in for a complimentary sample of our 2009 Single Press Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine.

I’m proud to say that my little sister will be getting married on January 21, so we’ve elected to close Five Rows for the day and use the barn for pictures and festivities.  Congratulations Catherine and Steve!

Thursday, February 3rd, 2011

I want to take the opportunity to sincerely thank everyone who attended our first Winemaker’s dinner this past Saturday at Treadwell’s.   It was an amazing night of food, wine and merriment.

James was a great host, as always, and his astute pairings worked out perfectly.  He really gave our wines a chance to shine.  In the end, we all agreed that we should do this more often!

Menu