Page 2018 Reds

2018 Pinot Noir

Picture a vineyard, older in its years, with crooked posts, differing row widths and bordered closely by dense headlands.  The non-uniformly spaced vines appear to be of varying age, most sporting big, old gnarly trunks, while others have a skinny, fledgling look – somewhat mismatched.  If you came in the fall, you might even notice the odd golden grape cluster amidst the sea of small, blue clusters.  It certainly does not exude precision or polish, but there is a beauty here that is homespun and palpable.

“Is this heaven?” you ask…no, this is St. Davids.

By now, you know the history of our original Five Rows of Pinot Noir (and the 15 rows planted a few years later) that inhabit this plot of land.  It has become my own personal “Field of Dreams”, a place that allows me to escape to a simpler time and iteration of our farm.  A time when you grew Vinifera vines like they were Labruscas, cluster thinning was considered a waste of valuable fruit and Leaf removal was when John Brophy pulled his goalie – a common occurrence in the 1980’s.

When I think of all the things we’ve done untraditionally or “wrong” over the years, it’s remarkable that our Pinot Noir Vineyard still churns out wines that are so alluringly similar to those from the Old World.  In fact, the 115 Clone might be the only thing about the vineyard that would be considered traditionally Burgundian.  The rest is pure Howie and Wilma Lowrey.

Each vintage, I set out to select the best representation of vines from that block to exemplify the terroir.  To that end, I feel like I’ve been chasing ghosts of Inniskillin Alliance since I started making my own Pinot back in 2007.  The 2018 Five Rows Pinot Noir might be the closest to that ultimately unreachable ideal that I’ve ever gotten – at least in its current state of drinking.  It took twelve years for it to happen, and I’m hesitant to even disclose my feelings on the matter, but I take inspiration from all the other winemakers that vinify our Pinot, who always seem to be way more excited about the fruit than I am.

The fall of 2018 was a tale of two vintages.  For the early ripening varietals like Pinot, it was pleasantly warm and dry at just the right time (See Syrah and Cab Sauv for the rest of the story).  I chose to harvest 1886kg of fruit from rows 1,2,3,4 and 8 based on previous success in similar vintages.  Fruit condition after sorting was exceptional for Pinot, so I opted for predominantly wild fermentation.  At dryness, the wine was transferred to one new barrel (Billon Select), two second-fill and two third-fill barrels for a span of 24 months.

Aromas:  cherry, strawberry, cinnamon hearts, cranberry, truffle

Palate:  dried cranberry, raspberry, vanilla; the lighter colour belies the depth of this wine; drink now or save for that special occasion in the next 5 to 10 years.

 

2018 Syrah

I’ve recently toyed with the notion of becoming a Cool-Climate Syrah Crusader based on the miracles I’ve witnessed.  At some point in every vintage I find myself doubtful that these vines will even produce a crop, never mind a decent wine, and they consistently prove me wrong.  2018 was the year that I witnessed Syrah turn (rain)water into great wine.

Just when you think everything couldn’t look better…

Is how I felt when mother nature pulled the rug out from under us in October of 2018.  The rains came fast and furious and so did the baffling disease pressure in the loose clusters of Syrah.  The berries started to shrivel and rapidly lose skin integrity right before our eyes.  Thankfully, the fruit was ripe enough (23 degrees brix) by October 10th for us to quickly get in and harvest the cleanest clusters we could find.

The initial prognosis was iffy at best, but as interesting flavours and aromas started to develop during fermentation, I couldn’t help but have my spirits lifted.  The resultant wine spent two years evolving in French Oak (20% new), and emerged as a striking “terroir beauty” to behold.

Aromas:  ripe dark fruit dominates, cherry, blackberry, spice, cured meat

Palate:  Bing cherry, sweet peppercorn, dark chocolate, coffee bean, savoury, smooth; drinking very well now, but could develop even more complexity over time.

 

2018 Cabernet Sauvignon

It’s now evident that the interesting mix of conditions we faced through the 2018 vintage (hot and dry early, wet late), ultimately did not have a negative effect on our Cabernet Sauvignon.  If anything, the wine that I was initially most worried about grew to become one of the more approachable and easy to drink Cabs we’ve ever released.

Easy to drink, maybe – but certainly not easy to make!

Foraging for ripe Cabernet Sauvignon berries and clusters is not something I recommend for the faint of heart or weak of stomach.  I set out to do just that in the late October days leading up to harvest, armed with flagging tape to mark the lucky vines and Tums to neutralize the acid in my stomach after consuming so many underripe berries.

We ended up with enough fruit from those flagged vines to fill one large fermenting bin (85%) and one small tank (15%).  The bin fermentation with FX10 yeast went off without a hitch, but the small, uninsulated tank just refused to start fermenting.  I re-inoculated with an experimental yeast for me (X-Pure), and the ferment eventually got rolling, but at a cooler temperature and slower pace than I’m usually comfortable with for reds.  The bin ferment was dry in five days, while the “little tank that could” took twice as long.

As you might have guessed, the wines produced in the two vessels were noticeably different.  The bin-fermented wine was much darker in colour and fuller-bodied, with tannic extraction typical of our previous Cabernet Sauvignons.  The slower, cooler tank fermentation was lighter in all aspects and showed a beautiful nose of red fruit.  It took a while for me to appreciate its contribution to the final blend, but the wine created in that little tank proved to be just the finishing touch needed to smooth the edges of this most interesting Cabernet Sauvignon.  86 cases were bottled on April 9th, 2021.

Aromas:  blueberry preserves, cassis, cherry, Kalamata olive

Palate:  cherry candy, raspberry; ripe and smooth for a young Cab Sauv, it should age gracefully for the next 5 years.

 

All three 2018 reds retail for $60/bottle and can be ordered at fiverows.com starting May 14th at 9am.

 

 

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