Page Validation

March 4th, 2011 is a day that will forever live in Five Rows lore.  It is the day our roadside sign was stolen.  We put it out in the morning and it was gone at the end of the day.  That hand-painted little red sign has probably helped sell more wines than I have.  I hate to see it go.

But this day, the day my sister Catherine turned 30,  had an interesting and unforseen twist in store.  Later on that evening at the Cuvee 2011 Gala, an annual competition celebrating the best in Ontario wines, our name was called in two categories: 2nd place for Best Sauvignon Blanc and 1st place for Best Pinot Gris.   We were surprised and thrilled to be recognized at such a prestigious event.  As longtime Niagara grape growers, Cuvee has always held a special place in our heart.  In past years when our friends at Creekside won awards for wines featuring our grapes, it always felt neat to know we played a small role.  To win this year with wines that I crafted from our own fruit is a completely different feeling that I’m frankly having a hard time getting my head around.

As a rookie winemaker, I’m always nervous having my wines subjectively judged by others.  I make wines that appeal to my palate, but worry they may not always appeal to yours.  The fact that Cuvee winners are judged by my winemaking peers gives me an uplifting feeling of validation and acceptance.  So many days as a winemaker are spent banging your head off a barrel repeatedly in frustration, that its nice to have a night where your head can swell for an altogether different reason.  Don’t worry, my pruning tuque still fit this morning (thankfully it stretches).  In all seriousness, I don’t see this award as a pat on the back, but as more of a kick in the ass to keep working hard and striving to get better.

In the days leading up to the Gala I read a couple of reviews from Michael Pinkus and John Szabo that gave me an inkling our wines might have shown well.  Both writers felt our 2009 Sauvignon Blanc merited inclusion in their personal Top 5 lists from a pre-Cuvee media tasting.  These reviews meant a lot to me, but I still didn’t hold out much hope of bringing home any hardware in a room filled with award-winning juggernauts.

Surprise, surprise.

PS: The irony of losing a sign on the day you win some big wine awards is that people still manage to find you the next day.

4 Responses to “Validation”


Many congrats from your friends at Insite! It’s well deserved Wes but yes, keep kicking yourself if that’s what it takes to continue making awesome wines.

Oh, will you autograph a little winery sign I have?


Wright Lowrey

Way to go Wes on your recent award!
Julia and I will have to make it down to see you and your operation.
I must ad too that your have a very nice web site, great design and great graphics.
say hi to your mom and dad,

Diana McIlroy

Wes; CONGRATULATIONS!!!!!!!! CUVEE AWARD!!!!!!! Way To Go!!!!!!! Just thought we’d tell you how excited we are for you & how heart-warming it was to read about the win in Niagara This Week today .Tim & I have talked to Wright & Julia( when we got together at Christmas) and said hey!!! we must take a little walk down the hill from Stamford and visit Five Rows , say hello to your Mom & Dad …& HaPpY BeLaTeD to the little BELLA Catharine!!!!! xo Tim & Diana

P.S. Sorry to hear about your sign …hope the lardouse ( italian word ) brings it back !!!!

Andy Vanderkaay

Oh, did you want your sign back Wes?


Leave a Reply