Now that pruning is in full swing and somewhat under control, I finally have some time to devote to tying up a few loose ends in the winery.  One of the challenges of sustaining a vineyard and winery operation of this size (ie. no other employees) is deciding which “hat” to wear on a daily basis.  Luckily, my cellar work is fairly minimal at this time of year, with a main focus on protein and cold stabilization in the 2008 whites.  I like to use bentonite to obtain protein stability, at a minimal rate, so as not to upset the delicate nature of these aromatic wines.  Fining with too much bento can actually have the negative effect of binding and stripping flavour compounds as well as unwanted proteins.

Another important consideration at this time of year is to assess the entire inventory in an attempt to come up with a bottling and release plan for the coming season.  Needless to say, this is a daunting task!  At the completion of this all-encompassing tasting session, a couple of things became abundantly clear.   The first being that the 2008 vintage is a lot more promising than many people touted at the outset,  and the second is that our 2007 reds are not quite ready to unleash on the public.  These wines are so youthful and intense that further time in barrel is a must in my opinion.  From a winery sales perspective this creates a bit of a conundrum.  Initially, my intention was to bottle these wines sometime early next summer and have them ready for the fall of 2009, but now I’m leaning towards pushing those dates back.  I truly feel that it would be a disservice to these wines to release them prematurely, just to meet budgetary demands.

I’m of the opinion that for Niagara to make the next step on the world stage, we have to make a concerted effort to demonstrate the ageability of our premium wines.  The temptation and current trend is to release wines too early, mainly out of cash flow necessity.  It is my hope that doing things on a smaller scale will afford us the opportunity to wait for the right time to release, without too much disruption in our business plan.  That is the precise reason we decided to make small lots of Cabernet Sauvignon in 2004 and 2005 – to buy time for this kind of scenario.

The good news is that the 2007’s have a chance to be something very special, and lets hope there are enough of them around at the peak of their existence to prove Niagara can age some great wines.