A New Place to Taste


We are thrilled to announce that two of our wines (2004 Cabernet Sauvignon & 2007 Sauvignon Blanc) are now available at The Stone Road Grille in Niagara-on-the-Lake.  “Rest” is a great supporter of local wines and consistently spoils its patrons with the finest of culinary delights to pair with them.  In fact, some of my most memorable dining experiences were enjoyed at the Grille.

On a bittersweet note, we are now sold out of our 2007 Pinot Gris.  A winemaker knows (hopes!)  this day will come, but it always feels a little sad to know that this lot is gone for good.  A business like ours doesn’t allow you to get sentimental though,  as the next vintage is never too far away.


The Fish of 1000 Casts


The weather over the last few weeks has left many farmers cursing their luck and already looking ahead to next year. Cold temperatures, rain and periodic hail have left us wondering if and when summer will finally arrive.

Determined not to let this “dampen” our annual trip to Bobcaygeon, I threw together a few barrel samples and we hit the road with an excited puppy in tow. I always look forward to this brief respite from the farm as it allows me to indulge in one of my true passions: the pursuit of the elusive Muskellunge.

Muskies are large, vicious predators that feast on other fish, small water fowl, and the occasional unlucky swimmer.  One encounter with these toothy monsters is all it took to breed my obsession.  I will caution, however, that muskie fishing can lead to extreme frustration, nightmares and hooks being painfully lodged into various body parts.

Come to think of it, fishing for muskies is a lot like growing and crafting Pinot Noir.  Both are very “results driven” hobbies that require the utmost patience.  I’ve learned that the joy must come in the anticipation and pursuit of that “result” or else you will be disappointed more often then not.  The near misses that one encounters in each of these endeavors can be as character building as they are heartbreaking.  For me, the thrill is knowing that the biggest and best is still lurking out there, just waiting to be caught or crafted.   Alas, despite many hours and thousands of casts, I came up empty on my muskie hunt this year.  There was one mighty strike though, and that is more than enough to satisfy my passion for another year.

I was a little luckier with the wine samples, as they were a big hit at one of our cottage feasts.  We tasted a bottle of our 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon and a barrel sample of the 2007 Pinot Noir in an effort to decide on a release date.  Understandably, the 2005 Cab was miles ahead of the 2007 Pinot in terms of being ready to drink, but the Pinot showed some exciting signs of maturity since the last time we tried it.  The tannins are finally starting to soften, allowing the classic Pinot flavours and satiny mouthfeel to shine through.  Aromatically, the 2007 Pinot has always packed a punch, but this particular blend took a while to open up, but once it did…oh my.  It was decided to bottle this wine soon, with hopes of a spring 2010 release. Look for the 2005 Cab in late November.

July 19th – Store Closed


Our weekend retail hours have proved to be an extremely positive experience.  We’ve been able to forge some great relationships over the last couple of months that I’m sure will last for years to come.  It’s so exciting to hear that people have enjoyed their visit to Five Rows.  Tour Director and Sommelier Andrew Brooks (Crush on Niagara Wine Tours) recently had this to say in his latest web update:

“Wes Lowrey is another newcomer to release micro amounts of crafted wine. Wines are sold out of the barn on the charming grow site at the base of the St. David’s Bench (off York Road in Niagara on the Lake). Wes has a contagious enthusiasm that makes you want to sell your house, quit your job and plant a vineyard!”

One quick note:  Our store will be closed on Sunday, July 19th for a previous family commitment.  I do encourage you to come visit us any weekday,  just give a quick call ahead to set up a time.

The Joys of Hand Labour


To me, a day spent grunting your way through hard, manual labour offers the ultimate in satisfaction.  Granted, there is the physical pain, the mental fatigue and the dragging hours – but at the end of that day you can look back and be proud of what you’ve accomplished, however big or small.

I am truly at peace when working in the vineyard.  It’s a time of introspection and reflection blended with intense focus on the job at hand.  This is where the “feel” aspect of viticulture comes into play.  I don’t know if I actually think about what I’m doing anymore, it just sort of comes naturally.   Years of suckering, thinning, shoot positioning and leaf removal have transformed me into a grape-trellising robot of sorts.

There are many levels of satisfaction involved with vineyard hand labour.  First is the feeling that you are helping the vine by removing excess growth.  There is also the visual appeal of a clean and vertically positioned vine versus a chaotic canopy.  As a neat freak I have an extremely low tolerance for chaos, so bringing order to the vineyard gives me a special joy.  Finding a proper spot for each shoot and grape bunch within the canopy is an important job that I am currently undertaking.   Large amounts of rain have made that canopy extremely crowded, and the job gets exponentially  harder each day as the vine starts growing laterally at a rapid pace.  I tend to perceive each vine as a puzzle that needs to be solved, which really gets my creative juices flowing.  The pictures below give you a good “before and after” look at our Sauvignon Blanc.

The advent of the iPod has added yet another enjoyment level to this work.  I find that the right song at the right time can elicit crazy emotions ranging from pride to the depths of sadness.  Ultimately, it helps break the monotony and makes the job go by quicker.  Working alone allows me to sing as loud as I want and even throw in the odd dance move if the mood strikes.

Finally, there is a weird spiritual vibe you get while working on a farm that dates back many generations.  You can’t help but feel many indelible ties to the past.  I must admit that there are days when I feel a definite presence alongside me while working among the vines.  It can be in the damp chill of an early morning fog, the flight of a majestic hawk and sometimes in the faint smell of pipe tobacco.  Hard to explain, but usually very vivid and strangely calming.

I feel lucky to be able to spend my summer days in the vineyard.  Being able to positively effect our 2009 vintage on a daily basis via my method of choice is a luxury that few winemakers are afforded.  It’s one of the things that makes Five Rows unique among wineries.