When Life Gives You Lemons…

Pruning in shorts?   So much for those ultra-thermal, -70°C rated  “Tarantula”  boots my Dad got me for Christmas.  They’re still in the box.  Sap is gushing from the tips of newly pruned grapevine canes and there are pink swollen buds on my Magnolia tree – it’s only March 20th.  It was officially winter…yesterday.

Vineyard managers across the region are scratching their heads while sporting cautious grins.  They should be tremendously excited about how early this growing season  promises to be.  Three weeks early is not out of the question at this point.  But our enthusiasm is guarded.  There will no doubt be multiple frosts between now and the end of May.  The extremity of those frost events and just how advanced the buds will be when they happen are nervous variables yet to be determined.

So we sit on a precipice of possible greatness.  A vintage for the ages or an apocalyptic frost event that fries most of our delicate shoot growth.  At least I can go golfing tomorrow to calm my nerves.

Shifting gears, it’s very exciting to have our 2011 Sauvignon Blanc featured in the April/May issue of Vines magazine.  To be included in the article alongside notable Sauv Blanc producers like Hidden Bench and Creekside is a thrill for us.  The photo shoot at the Botanical Gardens was a fun change of pace and really symbolizes the vibrancy of Niagara Sauvignon Blanc.  I don’t know how they talked me into a few of those poses, but you know what they say,  “When life gives you lemons…”

I’ve received numerous inquiries about the barrel sample of 2011 Sauv Blanc that was reviewed in the article, some expressing horror that they had missed a release notice.  Not to worry – all 100 cases will be bottled on April 2nd and hopefully ready for release by May 1st.  Please let me know if you’d like to reserve a six bottle case (wes@fiverows.com).

Harvest 2008 – Part One


Vintage ‘08 is upon us and to this point things have been…well…in a word …WET!!  Enough rain already.  I mean just when I thought we were in the clear we got doused by the remnants of a hurricane, and for the record: I don’t like Ike. Thankfully, the last couple of weeks have more than made up for the rain, with plenty of sunshine and perfect ripening conditions for the early varietals.

As per usual, the “Heartbreak Grape”, Pinot Noir, lived up to its moniker and provided lots of nervous moments and second guessing.  In fact, one day in the vineyard while pondering a harvest timing decision, I found myself singing aloud to the Clash hit “Should I Stay or Should I Go”.  The Pinot were clean but slightly underripe, with threatening weather on the horizon (“If I go there will be trouble / And if I stay it will be double”).  Ultimately, we decided not to pick and wait out what suddenly became Hurricane Ike.  All the water led to some berries actually splitting and roused us into action.  Led by a Pinot-loving mother hell-bent on saving her crop, the three of us spent two mind-numbing days cutting out individually split berries and underripe clusters.  On September 16th and 17th we finally hand-picked our first two tonnes of fruit.  In the end, what came in was ripe, clean (thus receiving the Wilma stamp of approval) and fermented into some really intriguing stuff.  I experimented with a new yeast strain this season called W15, which after pressing today, is the early favourite to put into our 2 new Sirugue barrels.

The whites, Pinot Gris and Sauvignon Blanc, are happily fermenting in the cold room of our barn as I write this.  I decided to add a single barrel ferment to the Pinot Gris regime this year, in an attempt to add a bit more complexity and refined mouthfeel to the final blend.  The majority will still be fermented in stainless steel because it worked so well last season.   From “the never do that again” file, we actually bottled our 2007 Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Gris between the days we picked the 2008 crops of each varietal.  Any winery employee will profess that harvesting and bottling are not meant to intermingle, but sometimes you just have to make room for the new stuff.  The ’07 whites will be a part of our initial release slated for the beginning of November.

The Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon are still hanging strong and starting to pick up sugar and enhanced flavours on a daily basis.  I’ll keep you posted as the rest of Vintage ‘08 unfolds.  Better yet, stop by for a chat and taste a few berries yourself!