’04 and ’05 Cabernet Sauvignon Tasting

The bottle you see above is one of a lot of two barrels of 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, 100% sourced from Lowrey Vineyards.  It was bottled last summer following two anxious years of aging in older French oak barrels.  That lot is very special to us because it represents the first wine we will release under our yet-to-be-named winery label.

A couple of weeks ago, we bottled our 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon after a similar aging period in a somewhat different barrel regimen.  The two barrels of ‘05s were initially aged in older Frenchies like the ’04s.  After an initial tasting of the ‘05s, I surmised that adding an American oak barrel to the mix after the second racking (12 months in) would help frame the slightly bigger tannins and bolder overall mouthfeel.

It was one recent evening on our annual trip to Bobcaygeon that I decided to recruit some unbiased family palates to conduct our first ever cross-vintage wine tasting.  Exciting stuff!  After nervously setting up the blind tasting, I was intrigued to watch my father skip the aromatic profile altogether, swig back the wine and conclude that “It tastes good.”  The more sophisticated family members assured me that both wines showed well and I was impressed that some were even able to recognize the subtle differences between vintages.  Thanks guys!

Look for the ‘04s sometime soon and the ‘05s early next year after some quality time in bottle.

An undeniable (and at times dangerous) passion


My vineyard and wine philosophies will become clear over the course of these entries, but I stress that at my core I have a passion for what I do.  This passion is anchored in the same sense of place that I hope to share in my wines.

For those interested in a similar path, I caution that at different times this passion has led to:  tears, vinegar, “tractor ear” or selective hearing, the love of diesel fumes, a strange desire to talk to grapevines, the ability to hum the Weather Network theme, and occasional doubts of sanity.  Most disturbingly, however, growing up on a grape farm has left me scarred for life with a chronic case of separation anxiety.  My first failed attempt to leave the vineyard was four blurry years at the University of Guelph spent grinding out an honours degree in Microbiology.  Over that time I became enamoured with yeast and fermentation dynamics, skills that would later come in handy as I ended up back home (surprise) completing a Masters degree in Viticulture at Brock University.

A second attempt at leaving home brought me to the “sunny” shores of Wolfville, Nova Scotia to run a small winery called Blomidon Estate.  It was an amazing experience that thrust me into the challenging world of marketing and selling wine, while at the same time allowing me to hone my fledgling winemaking skills.  After three rewarding vintages, I knew the time was right to return home to good old St. Davids and get to work on my new wine vision.

I relish the opportunity to finally craft wines from our own fruit.  The goal is to let these wines give you a sense of place by showcasing our unique St. David’s Bench terroir.   Individual varietals will be the focus:  Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc.  That way I can really capture the subtle characters of each variety, and provide those interested with an appellation education in every bottle.

My Legacy


Over the coming weeks and months I hope to provide you with a raw, uncensored look at the travails and joys associated with opening a small, craft winery.  Am I crazy?  Perhaps. In fact, some have suggested just that. I would argue, however, that it may be the only way to satisfy my burning desire to make small quantities of great wine from our storied family vineyard.

Our farm dates back five generations to the days of David Jackson Lowrey, who planted Niagara’s first commercial vineyard in the late 1800s.   Fast forward four generations to today and you’ll find my two personal heroes still farming this land.  The vines have changed and the “tractors” don’t have legs anymore, but I’m sure my parents Howie and Wilma still worry about their crops the same way David Jackson did back in his day.  Each generation has had to adapt and evolve with the times, and I see this small winery as my opportunity to do the same.

My parents bought the farm, so to speak, from my grandparents back in the 1970s when it was planted mainly with old Labrusca and Hybrid grapevines, which were common in Niagara at the time.  My father and grandfather, the two Howards, worked as a formidable tandem to manage the farm, as my first vivid childhood memories can attest.

A sweeping grapevine pull-out program, prompted by the pending Free Trade agreement of the mid-80s, forced my parents to make many difficult and thankfully “wine-friendly” decisions.  Amid the worries of a future without vineyards, it was Karl Kaiser of Inniskillin Wines who suggested that our site would be perfectly suited for the hard to grow, vinifera grape varieties that were beginning to show promise in the Niagara Region.  So it was with skepticism and crossed fingers that we decided to plant five trial rows of Pinot Noir in 1987.  The rest, as they say, is history.  I can only hope that our new winery ensures that the farm is sustainable for generations to come.