2005 Vintage Report

Ontario’s grape production areas experienced their third harsh winter in a row; one of the coldest in several years. After a bitter December and January, the mean temperatures for late winter and early spring were more seasonal. Full bloom for most cultivars occurred around the third week of June. June, July, August and September warmed up beautifully offering temperatures 2.0ºC warmer than average, and 4.0ºC warmer than the same period in 2004. Precipitation during the growing season was below normal until a couple of key rains replenished the soils. Overall the 2005 vintage was a definite improvement over the challenging 2003. Though still relatively low for the region as a whole, yields were up, with an average of 2.8 tonnes per acre at Cave Spring Vineyard. These low yields, combined with the heat of summer led to advanced ripening. Cooling temperatures along with some much needed precipitation followed in the latter half of August, with the beneficial effect of tempering ripening somewhat. Generally, no green harvesting was done as yields were naturally reduced by winter frost.

When the post-Katrina storms hit and warm September weather persisted, we were forced to pick extremely quickly to maintain fruit quality. We chose to pick tight clustered early ripeners such as pinot noir first, to avoid rot. While most vintages see a pause between varietals, 2005 was a continuous process with chardonnay and riesling coming in fast and early. Though a harried harvest, the hot summer produced great ripeness. The mid- and late-season ripeners, including gamay and cabernet franc were not affected by the rains and will make excellent wine. Unfortunately, the riesling set aside for our late harvest wines was so prematurely advanced that it suffered breakdown toward the end of September and into October. The result was the loss of most of our late harvest and icewine fruit. Finally, the 2005 growing season offered excellent budwood regeneration in the vineyard, which, combined with a mild winter, indicates a promising 2006.

Riesling
Though our riesling fruit ripened almost a month earlier than usual due to the heat of summer, somewhat surprisingly the fruit is displaying the same impeccable acidity that has become a hallmark of its Chinguacousy clay till origins. In addition to its food-friendly acid, this riesling is offering elegant peach and wet stone flavours. While this vintage may take a little longer to open up, it is already showing excellent aromatics and great evolving flavours. Our approach to this unique vintage focused on smaller production with an emphasis on our finest estate-grown fruit.

Bud break:                              May 16 – May 18
Flowering:                              June 20 – June 22
Harvest:                                  Sept. 27 – Oct. 1
Brix:                                        19.9
pH:                                          3.10
TA:                                          8.8 g/L

Average yield:                        58 hectoliter/hectare

Chardonnay
Our estate chardonnay fruit was harvested quite early, with picking complete well before the end of September – the time we would normally commence the harvest. Nonetheless, the summer’s abundant heat delivered beautifully ripe fruit with great sugar levels. With acid levels a bit lower than normal, we expect to produce plush, round and full-bodied chardonnays. Yet, by limiting malolactic fermentation, these wines will retain the vineyard’s signature crispness and mineral character. Using almost 100 percent estate fruit and offering a style we only see in warmer years, this vintage may prove to be a standout, with potential comparisons to the great 2002 chardonnays.

 Bud break:                              May 14 – May 16
Flowering:                              June 18 – June 20
Harvest:                                  Sept. 13 – Sept. 24
Brix:                                         22.6
pH:                                           3.42
TA:                                           7.2 g/L

Average yield:                        52 hectoliter/hectare

Pinot Noir
To maintain the quality of our estate pinot noir grapes we commenced picking right after the post-Katrina rains, working quickly to harvest the fruit in ideal condition. Picked fairly ripe at over 21 Brix, the 2005 pinot noir is showing remarkable dark berry colour. Already tasting beautifully, the wine balances ripe berry and cherry flavours with good acidity that will allow the wine to age nicely. We expect that 2005 will prove to be a very good year for pinot, so much so in fact, that we intend to bottle an estate level cuvée from this vintage.

 Bud break:                              May 14 – May 16
Flowering:                              June 18 – June 20
Harvest:                                  Sept. 7 – Sept. 10
Brix:                                        20.2
pH:                                          3.33
TA:                                          9.5 g/L

Average yield:                       34 hectoliter/hectare

Gamay
Similar to our 2005 pinot noir, this vintage of gamay is offering unusual dark colour and great ripe fruit flavours. Filled with big, berry character, we are hopeful that this gamay might be as good as the stunning 2002—our best gamay ever—though only time will tell. Another product of a short crop season, like almost all our Reserve wines from this vintage, the 2005 Gamay Reserve represents a limited production of the best of the best from our estate.

Bud break:                              May 15 – May 17
Flowering:                              June 19 – June 21
Harvest:                                  Sept. 19 – Sept. 28
Brix:                                        21
pH:                                          3.35
TA:                                           7.7 g/L

Average yield:                        65 hectoliter/hectare

Bordeaux Varietals
This year’s Bordeaux fruit was outstanding, comparing favorably to both the 2002 and 1998 (which is still drinking beautifully) vintages. To craft our Rosé, we picked early and used almost all estate fruit. For our 2005 Estate Cabernet Franc/Merlot blend we worked with the very finest blocks in our vineyard to create a wine that promises rare quality and flavour.

Cabernet Franc
Bud break:                              May 17 – May 18
Flowering:                              June 21 – June 23
Harvest:                                 Oct. 1 – Oct. 3
Brix:                                        23.2
pH:                                          3.33
TA:                                          7.2 g/L

Average yield:                     45 hectoliter/hectare

Merlot 
Bud break:                              May 15 – May 16
Flowering:                              June 19 – June 20
Harvest:                                  Sept. 19 – Sept. 28
Brix:                                        22.0
pH:                                          3.31
TA:                                          6.4 g/L

Average yield:                        20 hectoliter/hectare

The Cave Spring Vineyard is located along a gently sloping terrace of the Niagara Escarpment overlooking Lake Ontario, in an area known as the Beamsville Bench.  Named for the escarpment’s many caves and mineral springs, Cave Spring Vineyard benefits from stony clay till soils derived from fragments of limestone, shale and sandstone, which along with the escarpment’s slope, encourage excellent drainage.  Above the vineyard, a forest on the escarpment brow slowly releases moisture through layers of limestone into the benchlands below.  This groundwater nourishes the vines from beneath in dryer weather, while contributing the signature minerality to our wines.

Located in the heart of the world’s wine belt at 43° latitude, our vineyard enjoys a unique microclimate distinguished by on-shore lake breezes that collide with the escarpment cliffs.  This constant lake-effect air circulation provides optimal conditions year round.  In spring cool breezes prevent frost, while in summer they discourage harmful mildews.  In autumn, warm breezes extend ripening by delaying the first frost often until mid-November.  The same effect protects the vines from the cold of winter.