The Terroir of St. Davids Bench

The friendly little town of St. David’s was a great place to grow up.   Family members lived around every corner, and the public school playground was within walking distance.  Grandma Lowrey’s house was always a hub of activity after school, as my cousins and I feasted on cookies and went exploring around the farm until our parents got off work.  Little did we know that the dirt we came home covered in would one day be heralded for  “uniquely expressing regional wine character”.

“Terroir”, the French word for “soil”, means many things to many people, and has evolved into an all-encompassing term.  I like to think of it as the combination of environmental, biochemical and geological factors that influence both the fruit of a growing grapevine and the resultant wine.  It’s the “je ne sais quoi” behind many of the world’s greatest wines.  That part of the wine that is seemingly out of our control and expressed in its unique taste, aroma and texture.  The cool thing is that single varietal wines crafted from the same vineyard terroir tend to produce similar characteristics year after year.

We are located in the VQA Ontario “St. David’s Bench” Appellation.  I’m not sure whether my Great, Great Grandfather was aware of all the potential “vinifera-growing” benefits of this site when settling here, but he did have a keen intuition for which fruit crops to plant back in his day.  I’ll spare you the geology lesson, but the Bench and Niagara Escarpment combine to provide excellent air circulation, drainage, and groundwater supply.  The ancient shores of glacial Lake Iroquois have left our vineyard with soils that range from sandy loam to clay loam and hard clay.   Limestone deposits are also abundant, helping to add to the overall mineral complexity.

Looking back at some newspaper clippings of wines made from our Pinot Noir over the years, I was amazed to see the similarities in flavour descriptors used by the reviewers.  In 1993, the Inniskillin Alliance Pinot Noir was described as having flavours of “candied cherry, raspberry, anise, earth, pepper, vanilla and firm tannin”.   The 1999 Creekside Pinot showed “raspberry, violets and a touch of pepper” and the 2001 Creekside Pinot featured “cherry, beet root and smoky notes”.  Our 2007 Pinot Noir is in its infancy right now, but the preceding characteristics could aptly describe this wine as well.  I take no credit for this…chalk it up to the terroir.

Our First Review! :  Check out the “Last Drop” column of the Jan/Feb edition of Vines Magazine (seen above) for a review of our 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon.

Five Rows Launch

With great excitement we are pleased to announce that our long journey to a finished product is finally nearing completion.  Our first wines have passed VQA sensory and lab evaluations, and the labels have gone to press.  We are now accepting orders for our Five Rows 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, 2007 Pinot Gris and 2007 Sauvignon Blanc.  These wines will all be available in special 6-bottle case allotments, with red wines retailing for $300/case and whites $150/case.  We hope to have a short run of labels in hand soon, however getting labeled wines to customers pre-Christmas might prove to be a little challenging.  I assure we will do our best to get orders out as expediently as possible, even if it means fashioning some temporary labels with markers and duct tape.  Please call us at 905-262-5113 or email with any orders or queries.

2007 Five Rows Sauvignon Blanc

Like other varietals in the Lowrey Vineyard, my parents planted Sauvignon Blanc Clone 297 in separate years and in varying soil profiles to help add complexity to Creekside Estate Winery’s portfolio of wines.  Clone 297 has proven to be anything but “farmer-friendly” with a weird combination of extremely low winter hardiness and eye-popping vine vigour.   However, when the winter co-operates and the vines are tended aggressively – great wines can be achieved.  2007 was that Vintage.  Older French Oak barrels (2003 & 2005 Berthomieu) were used to ferment this Sauvignon Blanc.  Following treatment with a pectinase enzyme, one barrel was fermented wild and the other with BA11.   The yeast mix seemed to pull different aromatics and flavours from each batch with the wild being more tropical, and the BA11 bringing more citrus notes.  47 cases were bottled Sept 25, 2008.  This Sauvignon Blanc was bottled untraditionally in stretch hock glass because…well…that’s what we had!

2007 Five Rows Pinot Gris

The warm, dry Vintage of 2007 taught me an important lesson in Pinot Gris ripening.  In early September, my wife and I decided to take a pre-harvest “recharging” trip to New York to see Broken Social Scene play at McCarren Park Pool in Brooklyn.  When we left, the Pinot Gris looked and tasted great with tiny berries, intense flavours and bountiful acidity.  Upon returning three days later on Sept 10th, I nonchalantly grabbed a berry sample of the Gris, and to my astonishment it was showing a sugar level of 24.4 Degrees Brix and a Titratable Acidity (TA) of 6.5 g/L!   The TA was taking a nosedive, and if we had decided to stay any longer in NYC I might have missed these perfect winemaking parameters!  I hesitantly concede that there won’t be any more early September vacations for me.  The quick decision was made to pick our roughly one tonne of Pinot Gris later that afternoon.  The ferment was established in a stainless steel tank with a yeast strain called R2 that is renowned for long, cold ferments and great varietal character development.  Over the next four weeks, the wine slowly chugged away while I occasionally stirred the lees to add some mouthfeel and complexity.  I decided to stop the ferment at a specific gravity of 0.998 to leave the wine with a touch of residual sugar.  38 cases were bottled Sept 25, 2008.