Page Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Saturday, May 17th, 2014

I’m overwhelmed at the response we’ve received to our new wines and the number of keen visitors we’ve entertained over the last couple of weeks!  It is all we can do to write and apply labels fast enough to keep up.

I’ve become accustomed to putting off my vineyard work on weekends in May to stick around the barn and help the girls with tastings.  I must admit that I secretly enjoy this, as it allows me to overhear all the interesting and thoughtful reviews of my wines.  There is always a gut-wrenching fear belying my calm facade that these wines won’t live up to their predecessors.  You would think that after nine vintages of wrenching guts I might have learned to trust my palate by now, but it always takes a few satisfied customers to reassure me.

That is all part of what makes this time of year is so exciting, from the inbox full of pre-orders to the smiling faces of return visitors parading through the barn door.  The fact that people would think enough of our wines to pre-order them on spec, without even trying them first, is the ultimate in trust.  I treasure this trust as much as any award or five star review we’ve ever received.  The “pre-order” is my gold medal.

With that trust comes the pressure not to disappoint.  This challenge drives what I do in the vineyard every summer.  In the back of my mind is the knowledge that this vine I’m currently thinning will produce fruit to make a wine that someone may already have dibs on for next year.  On one hand it’s a very reassuring thought, but it also means there isn’t much room for error!

As the first buds of 2014 start to reveal themselves one precious leaf at a time, I confidently venture out to the vineyard and strive to earn more trust.




Thursday, October 24th, 2013

I’d like to thank Rick VanSickle for including us in his latest article   “The Fantastic Four: Exciting New Niagara Wineries That Are Setting The Bar For Excellence”.

It’s especially satisfying when someone takes the time to thoughtfully share the way we’ve chosen to craft and present our wines.  Rick has been a great supporter of Five Rows since we first opened back in 2008.  To hear him describe the unique manner in which my mother entertains her guests makes me happy and proud.  Rarely does a week go by wherein I don’t receive a heartfelt thank-you note from someone who has been introduced to our wines by Wilma.  I’m a very lucky Winemaker (and son).

To be featured alongside Kevin and Thomas is a fun coincidence, as our journeys have been somewhat intertwined.  It was back in 2002 that Kevin and I worked together at Creekside Estate Winery, a formative time when pie-in-the-sky dreams of starting our own wineries were just taking shape.  We spent many days discussing those future plans while working side by side in the very Queenston Road vineyard he now uses for his wonderful 2027 Cellars Pinot Noir.  Thomas discovered the Lowrey Vineyard while tasting some of the early Inniskillin Alliance Pinot Noir’s that we were fortunate to be a part of.  As mentioned in the article, he now sources fruit from our old Pinot block for his Bachelder series of wines.

Wednesday, July 24th, 2013

We’ve had the good fortune this summer to play host to a wide variety of wine enthusiasts.  Each tasting is enjoyably unique and it’s been a pleasure to meet so many new fans of our wine.  The feedback for our newest wines has been wonderfully motivational, as every thank-you note, email, review, recommendation and bottle registered on our provenance page makes working outside in the blazing July heat and humidity much easier to endure!

Here are a few recent reviews from some of those visitors:

Rick VanSickle – Wines in Niagara

Zoltan Szabo – City Bites Magazine

Fouduvin Wine Forum

Monday, August 22nd, 2011

We owe Beppi Crosariol a debt of gratitude for resurrecting our blown down sign and ultimately introducing our winery to a great group of new people.

His kind words can be read here.

The One That Got Away

Saturday, March 5th, 2011

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.

Tuesday, December 28th, 2010

Our 2008 Pinot Gris joined some exclusive company recently with its inclusion on a special year end list.  You can read about it here.

Friday, August 13th, 2010

When the back aches from successive days of thinning Pinot Gris that is trellised annoyingly too low (remind me to raise that damn bottom wire next year) its especially nice to retire to the winery for a pleasant afternoon tasting with someone who has recently “discovered” our wines.  This has happened quite a bit lately, which signals to me that our wines are finding their way to the right people despite our lack of promotion.

My mother has shouldered the load for the majority for these pop-in tastings which she quite enjoys.  Despite her claims of nervousness, I think she has really found her niche.  She is passionate about our vineyards and loves to talk wine, especially Pinot!

We both feel very lucky when we receive firsthand positive feedback from our guests.  It’s by far the most rewarding part of what we do.  I’m still humbled and tremendously grateful every time people decide to purchase our wines.

Good reviews from a wine writer are nice too.  Read what Michael Pinkus of Ontario Wine Review recently wrote about our 2007 reds here.

Wednesday, June 23rd, 2010

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!

Friday, March 19th, 2010

I must confess that on occasion I purchase a bottle of wine solely based on the packaging.  Don’t lie, I know you do too.  After narrowing my search down to a couple of contenders, I’ll often end up choosing the wine whose visual appeal I find more intriguing.  This is especially true of those wines I intend to age in my cellar.  They are the ones that look so stately all lined up on the rack, the ones I will debate over and over in my mind when to drink.  There is a strange bond formed with these wines over time, making it very heart-wrenching to finally insert the fatal corkscrew.  I see the beautiful packaging as a constant reminder that this wine is a unique, living work of art.

It has always been very important to me to have my wines showcased in a way that catches people’s attention and relays our message of quality and scarcity.  For this reason I’m very proud of our label designers, Insite Design, for some recent praise they’ve received on their work.  The Five Rows label has been commended by many global wine design sites (here is an example), as well as being included in a prestigious packaging annual entitled “Boxed and Labelled – New Approaches to Packaging Design”.

Also keep an eye out for “The Art & Design of Contemporary Wine Labels”, a soon to be released book written by Toronto author Tanya Scholes.  A true wine label aficionado, Tanya contacted me shortly after our initial launch to get some details about our winery and inquire if she could use our label and story in her book.  I look forward to seeing her finished product in August.

Tuesday, January 26th, 2010

Our 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon took a road trip recently, and ended up finding a new home in our nation’s capital.  Beckta Dining & Wine, on Nepean Street in Ottawa, is the latest member of our extended Five Rows family.  I haven’t had the opportunity to dine there yet, but countless “foodie” acquaintances have assured me that our wine is in good hands.  The refreshing philosophy at Beckta is to “change involved and sometimes intimidating culinary experiences into the comfortable and remarkable”.  Sounds like my kind of place!

Closer to home, Five Rows was recently featured in an article by wine writer Rick VanSickle of the St. Catharines Standard.  You can read it here.