2009 Planting


Planting a new vineyard is always a time of apprehension and crossed fingers.  Could these little wax-covered sticks present us with an opportunity to produce some world class wines?   Only time will tell.

In a moment of weakness, it was decided last year amongst the Lowrey Vineyards brain trust (and I use that term very loosely) to plant nine more rows of Pinot Noir.  If you’ve read previous entries of  this blog, you’ve no doubt heard me describe some of the challenges we’ve faced growing Pinot over the years.  So why opt for more punishment you say?  I found myself wondering that exact thing as we planted the vines this past Tuesday.  Why not plant something easy to grow like Chardonnay or Cabernet Franc?  Therein lies the allure of Pinot Noir.  It gets in your blood, it messes with your mind and  it leads to irrational decisions.  I liken Pinot to a parasite who’s goal is not to have its host die, but rather suffer just enough to allow itself to thrive.

In a nutshell, the thing that makes Pinot so tough to grow are it’s tight little clusters of thin-skinned berries.  These clusters are like ticking time bombs just waiting for the opportunity to explode.  If one single berry in the middle of that cluster were to split, the whole bunch is usually compromised with botrytis or sour rot.  Once this rot has taken hold within the canopy, it spreads like wildfire from cluster to cluster aided by the dreaded fruit fly.  This sad fate has befallen many of the most promising crops of Pinot Noir.  The end, however, more than justifies the means.  If you can survive the gauntlet, Pinot Noir will reward your hard work.  That is why we planted the nine rows:  a shot at glory!

To add complexity to future wines we decided to experiment with different clones and rootstocks in this block.  Our older Pinot vines are all famed Dijon clone 115 on S04 rootstock.  In the new planting, we’ve included equal portions of clones 777, 667 and more 115.  The two new clones are known to have slightly looser clusters and thicker skins, producing wines with stronger black fruit and gamey notes.  To help control vine growth, we had the vines grafted to lower vigour rootstocks (101-14 and 3309) and planted them more densely in a patch of clay-based soil.

Since Tuesday, we’ve thankfully had two substantial rainfall’s to help the little guys along.  I would like to thank Wes Weins and his staff at Gemmrich W. Nursery for providing us with vines grown to our exact specifications.


Bottling Quandry


One large hurdle that a small winery must overcome is figuring out the best way to bottle their wine.  The simple act of getting the wine into the bottle can frustrate even the most seasoned of winemakers.  Larger wineries can usually  justify purchasing a bottling line based on their projected cash flow and volume of wine produced.  For us, however, this is a bit of a grey area that thankfully presents a few options.

In the midst of this busy vineyard season, bottling wine is about the last thing I want think about.  My initial plan was to bottle our 2008 whites late in the summer, but due to the popularity of our 2007 Pinot Gris (only 12 cases left) we are mulling over the “good” problem of having to move that date up a bit.  In the past, our bottling runs were done by the seat of our pants in conjunction with the good folks at Creekside.  Once my wines were ready I was able to white-knuckle them over the QEW in the back of our truck to the “trusty” old Creekside bottling line.  Held together with enough duct tape to make even Red Green jealous, that line bore witness to its fair share of tears, shonks and damn good wine before being retired last year.

Another option we are looking into is the mobile bottling line, essentially everything you need in the back of a semi-trailer.  Hook up your hose to one end of the trailer and packaged wine magically appears from the other end.  Convenience aside, I’m still not convinced that this is the most cost effective method for small runs like ours (50-100 cases). It would be ideal if all our wines, white and red, were ready at the same time and I could hire the mobile line to bottle them in one day, but that will likely never be the case.

Due to the success of our unfiltered 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon, I plan to experiment with more unfiltered products in future releases.  It’s risky, but I think a few unfiltered cases of each wine is doable.  As long as our customers bear with us, I’m willing to give it a shot.  Given this, I suppose it’s possible to manually bottle small amounts of wine the old fashion way.  Wouldn’t that be fun?  No one says you have to bottle your wine all at once.  You could call in your order in the morning and I would bottle it fresh from the barrel that afternoon.  The next day you wake up and it’s on your front step,  just like the milk man!  Perhaps a little pie in the sky but you never know…