The Irony and Necessity of Thinning


Alright, your precious buds have made it through a long winter and recently survived a few very close calls with frost – now what is their reward?  Knock half of them off!

Arguably the most important job through the grape-growing season is “thinning” or the selective removal of excess shoots and clusters.  We normally start to focus on shoot-thinning at this time of year, as it becomes evident how many buds are viable and how crowded the vine is with growth.  Getting an early start is extremely important, as these growing shoots tend to explode towards the sun at rapid pace, especially in warmer spring weather like we are currently experiencing.  By my reckoning we are about 7-10 days ahead of the average season at this stage, boding well for getting things ripe at season’s end.

Shoot-thinning aids the growing vine in a number of ways.  It gives the remaining shoots a boost in resources, reduces the crop load on the vine, and prevents over-crowding in the canopy.  The goal is to get the vine to a stage where it can adequately ripen the crop load you are comfortable with.  A less dense canopy is advantageous because it allows better air flow for mildew and botrytis control and increased sun exposure for the clusters.  The finishing touch is cluster-thinning around veraison, which helps endow our wines with the concentrated flavours and aromas we are after.  I don’t even want to think about cluster-thinning yet, so I’ll tackle that subject at a later date!

I’d also like announce the arrival of the newest addition to our family, a puppy named Lucy.  She is an eight week old Nova Scotia Duck Tolling Retriever who will be in charge of bird control and public relations.  As for her guard dog skills, I’m skeptical at best, so we’ll spare her that chore for now.   I love Lucy.


David Lawrason Review


We are very humbled to have David Lawrason review our wines.  He is a very prominent Canadian wine writer whose opinions are held in the highest regard within our industry.  Here is what David had to say about our wines:

Five Rows Cabernet Sauvignon 2004
89 points
Only two barrels were produced of this inaugural wine – 45 cases, which sold
out quickly. Lowrey Vineyards has been farmed for five generations, but this
is the first wine; and a dandy.  It is a light cabernet sauvignon but very
tasty and savoury with lifted, well integrated aromas of red currant,
raspberry, tea, mocha and spice. It’s very supple, smooth and juicy on the
palate with very soft tannin and excellent length.

Five Rows Sauvignon Blanc 2007
91 points
Only 47 cases were produced from a vineyard but this is very much worth
mentioning for the quality that has been rendered by grower Wes Lowrey’s
first vintage. These grapes have also supplied Creekside’s successful
sauvignons. Fermented in old French oak this  has an almost impeccably
smooth, creamy yet not the least fat texture. The nose is ripe, fresh, light
spicy and semi-tropical (I thought immediately of Cloudy Bay) with
lemon-lime, green melon and vaguely minty notes. Very focused on the finish
with excellent length. Very classy wine.

Five Rows Pinot Gris 2007
88 points
From fully ripened grapes this a mellow, mild, richly textured pinot gris
with fruit aromas in the realm of green fig, green banana and ripe pear.
It’s full bodied, very smooth and satiny on the palate with a warm, slightly
sweet ambiance. Very good length.

Filling the Gaps


What do you do when a grapevine dies?  The simple answer is that you plant another one in its place.  As you navigate the process, however, you come to the realization that there is nothing simple about it!

Due to some cold winter temperatures a few years back, many of our vineyard blocks were left with significant vine death (up to 25% in some spots).  Of the surviving vines, many suffered trunk damage to the extent where new suckers had to be brought up from the ground to re-establish the trellis.  As a result, our yields were reduced for four consecutive years until the vines recovered and/or were replaced.

Once planted, a replacement vine usually doesn’t usually produce fruit until its third season.  They are finicky little buggers that need copious amounts of sun, water, nutrition, protection, structural support and general TLC.  They are usually flanked by two old, grumpy vines with deep roots (who were getting used to the extra leg room) that are unwilling to yield any of those aforementioned necessities to this new kid on the block.  You begin to see the conundrum.  The vineyard as a whole still has to be farmed the same in terms of tilling, hoeing, etc.; but now every practice has to be tailored around these fragile young vines.

The first line of protection for the little guys is the insertion a small stake beside each vine.  This prevents the tractor-operated grape hoe from ripping them out of the ground as it removes weeds between the other mature vines.  The second line of defence is a “jacket”, of sorts, that envelopes the vine and protects it from herbicides, mechanical damage and rodents.  Known as “grow tubes”,  they also provide some insulation on those frosty, nervous mornings in the spring.

The temptation is to try to get fruit by the second season of growth, but the smart farmer knows that fruit takes energy from the growing vine, and deep roots are more important than a temporary gain in crop.  For this reason the replants are pruned right back to a couple of buds over winter, and any clusters of grapes that do appear the next season are trimmed off.

So the next time you stop by our winery, make sure to take a stroll out to the Sauvignon Blanc and take a peek into the ugly pink grow tubes that dot the vineyard.  The little vine you see inside may one day produce fruit that makes the cut in one of our wines.  Until then, I just hope Dad doesn’t plow it under by mistake…