We are in the midst of a summer for the ages – and that’s all I’m willing to say at the moment. I will spare the superlatives in an effort not to tempt fate. So much can (and probably will) go wrong between now and the end of harvest. Suffice it to say we are mere days away from taking in the first of our fruit. That’s silly early!
While experiencing these ideal conditions I like to reminisce about years when we weren’t so fortunate. I remember well the late, cool and wet summer of 2009. Conditions were optimal for the early varieties, but proved a serious challenge for ripening Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. We thinned down to ridiculous levels (a few bunches per vine) but the acid levels in the grapes remained very high in both varieties. I clearly remember making the sad decision not to harvest any of this fruit for our Five Rows wines. It was decided to sell the Shiraz to another winery and hang the Cab Sauv for Icewine. Before the Icewine nets went up, my ever optimistic Mother made the suggestion to go through our Cab Sauv blocks and select only the ripest of bunches in an effort to salvage a couple barrels worth of fruit. Every ounce of winemaker in me screamed no, but how could I say no to Wilma? The next day we set out to do our tedious selective picking.
So begins the tale of our 2009 Cabernet Sauvignon or as I like to call it “The wine that almost wasn’t”. This elegant wine is now for sale in our barn, which is a minor miracle based on how many times it was written off.
It was intensely aromatic from the get go, but took 30 months in some magical old barrels to achieve it’s current mouthfeel, structure and flavour profile. During those 30 months in my beloved (but soon to be retired) 2002 Gillet barrels, this wine was always an afterthought. In fact, I even looked into selling it as bulk a couple of times just to get it out of the barn. Fortunately, there were no takers. Sometime around the two year mark spent in barrel, things began to change and those two black sheep began to get my attention. I found myself tasting them at least once a week, just to make sure I wasn’t going nuts. I began to feel that this 2009 Cab could actually one day don a Five Rows label. My first thought was to use it as a silent partner with our 2010 Cab, but the blending trials flopped. I proceeded to try a Shiraz/Cab Sauv blend, but that idea was also eventually nixed.
The resilient 2009 Five Rows Cabernet Sauvignon had managed to dodge every bullet I could muster. There was no other option than to let it rightfully stand on its own. I now consider this wine to be a secret bonus for those open-minded oenophiles who don’t practice vintage discrimination. There are people who will never try this wine simply because it was made in 2009. That just leaves more for the rest of us. This Cab is texturally gorgeous and delivers classic Lowrey Cab Sauv aromatics (blackberry, cherry, cassis) and wonderful balance that literally appeared out of nowhere. 50 cases were bottled on April 6th, 2012. It will be fun to compare and contrast this wine with the big bombers on the horizon (2010 and 2012).