Vineyard Update

It dawned on me today, as I  hurriedly thinned Pinot Gris in the midst of an earthquake, that I hadn’t given a thorough vineyard update in a while.  So here goes…

Mother nature is two weeks ahead.  I’m three weeks behind.  This good news / bad news situation is the familiar refrain I’ve heard in talking to many grape growers throughout the peninsula.  We’ve seen a boon of growth in all vines over the last couple of weeks, leaving us scrambling to keep up with the expedited hand labour chores.  Adequate rainfall, heat, and blistering sun are making my vines very happy, but leaving me a little worried.  Disease pressure has been low to this point (kiss of death) but the current humid conditions will challenge even the best of viticultural practices.

The accelerated growth creates the need to shoot-thin and shoot-position all vines before we are able to start hedging.  As always, vine vigour was particularly problematic in our Shiraz blocks, so I targeted them first.  After two weeks of what felt like hacking through a rainforest with a dull machete, I was happy to kiss the Shiraz good-bye and move on to the more manageable Cabernet  Sauvignon.  We are well through bloom in all varieties, and very close to berry touch stage in the Pinot Gris.  Air flow through the canopy is critical at this stage, as is fruit exposure for optimum fungicide penetration.

I’m happy to report that the young Pinot Noir vines we planted last season are doing very well, with less than 5% vine failure.  In the spirit of Father’s Day, I give my dad all the credit for these thriving vines.  It was he who ploughed the field ad nauseam to his own exacting specifications, he who sat vigil through many winter and spring evenings waiting to fire up the windmill, and he who artfully maneuvered the grape-hoe around each baby vine with the deft touch of a surgeon.  Judging by a couple of the catastrophic first year fields I’ve witnessed while out consulting this year (upwards of 60% vine death), I really believe that the use of the windmill combined with proper site selection and field preparation helped save our bacon.

PS:  I send a special thank-you and congratulations to Insite Design for designing an Ontario Wine Awards silver medal winning wine label that still makes me proud every time I slap one on a bottle!

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon

I want to personally thank all the people who made the trek to our first ever Customer Appreciation Weekend!  It was great to catch up with those we hadn’t seen in a while and also meet some new friends along the way.  We decided to give people a sneak preview of upcoming Five Rows releases including the 2007 Pinot Noir and 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon.  After some gentle prodding, it was decided to also tap into some promising tank samples of our 2008 Shiraz and 2009 Riesling.  I sincerely appreciate all the constructive feedback.

We are now filling orders for the 2007 Pinot Noir, so you’re welcome to pick up your pre-ordered case if you haven’t already done so.  The 2007 Cab Sauv also generated a lot of interest over the weekend, so I now feel confident releasing this wine for sale.

2007 Five Rows Cabernet Sauvignon

Vinification Notes:

My third crack at crafting a single-varietal Cabernet Sauvignon sourced from our own vineyard was by far the least stressful to date.  We hand picked just under a tonne (900kg) of ripe, clean fruit on October 25th, 2007.  This harvest date really snuck up on us, as we hadn’t really anticipated the Cab being that ripe, that early.  For growers of multiple grape varietals, harvest time is a crazy sprint from the first Pinot’s of mid-September to the last of the Cab Sauv in November.  To pick ripe Cab in October is a luxury we are rarely afforded.

Normally a row of Cabernet Sauvignon in our vineyard would yield about 500kg of fruit, but the 4 rows we sourced for this wine were thinned down to one bunch per shoot resulting in a yield of 225kg/row.  The fruit came in like sweet little black marbles, at a shade under 24 degrees brix.  After processing and a brief cold soak, the fruit was warmed back up for fermentation.  I decided to use Zymaflore F15 yeast for this wine to maximize glycerolic production.  I figured this would be a big wine from the get-go, so any added elements to help round out the mouthfeel would eventually pay dividends.  Fermentation was carried out at a nice moderate pace over 7 days, with peak temperature of 26.8 degrees Celsius.  Malolactic fermentation was completed in barrel to aid in oak integration.

After 24 months in one old and one new French oak barrel, this wine was blended to a stainless steel tank for final settling.  50 cases were eventually bottled on February 18, 2010.  My only regret at the end of this process is that I didn’t have the foresight to make more Cabernet Sauvignon form this superb vintage.

Aromas:  blueberry pie, black cherry, mint, oak spice, red licorice

Flavours:  raspberry, blueberry, dark chocolate, powerful length

Cellaring:  Drinking well now, but should age gracefully for 20+ years

Price: $50 / bottle

2007 Pinot Noir Vinification Notes

2007 Five Rows Pinot Noir

Vinification Notes:

The hot summer of 2007 brought ideal picking conditions to the St. David’s Bench.  Roughly three tonnes of Pinot Noir were hand-picked on September 23 at just under 22 degrees brix, having TA of 6.55 and pH 3.31.  Prior to picking, seed and skin tannins were both showing excellent maturity, and flavours were reminiscent of ripe seasons past (1998, 2001).

It was decided to source equal amounts of fruit from the three Lowrey Pinot blocks of differing ages (20 years, 15 years and 10 years).  Each block was processed into open-top fermentors, with 15% of the fruit being left as whole-bunch.  Bins were then sealed and underwent a lengthy cold soak to promote extraction.

Ferments were generally quick and warm, with peak temperatures in the low 30s.  The wines were pressed into five French oak barrels (2 new, 3 old). Malolactic fermentation was carried out over the next few weeks in barrel.

After about a year of aging, it was apparent that the 2007 reds packed a real punch in both flavour and tannin.  To mellow the mouthfeel, it was decided after bench-top trials to fine the wines with small volumes of Pinot Gris lees from the 2008 vintage.  Following a few days settling, the wines were racked off all lees.

24 months and countless blending trials later, the final cut was married together in a stainless steel tank for final settling and stabilization.  99 cases of this wine were bottled on February 18, 2010.

Aromas:  cherry, strawberry, raspberry, earth, and faint tobacco leaf

Palate:  flavours of luscious black cherry, great balance, and ample tannin for optimal aging potential

Price: $50 / bottle.  Your order can be directed to