Our area of Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment experienced a cool vintage year in 2006, similar in many ways to the 2004 vintage, and without the harsh, damaging cold endured in 2005. The light crop in 2005, and the mild winter going into the 2006 vintage year provided the vines optimum conditions for excellent budwood regeneration and healthy grape development which allowed the vines to carry a heavier crop than the recent light vintages.
Temperatures throughout the year were moderate, just slightly lower than normal. Bud break for all varieties occurred in the second week of May, with bloom and veraison beginning on schedule during the last week of June and third week of August, respectively. Due to higher than average precipitation in June and July, extensive leaf plucking was undertaken to keep canopies open, enhance air circulation to avoid formation of mildew. August was unusually dry and provided optimum sunshine to facilitate ripening. Wet weather returned in September, reinforcing the judicious nature of our selective harvesting practice: carefully hand-picking to ensure the best fruit for our top estate wines. Selective picking was especially important for the early ripening varieties, in particular, Pinot Noir. Despite the rain, our Chardonnay held up well and came in on time and without pressure to harvest early.
Our mid- and late-season ripeners, Riesling, Gamay and the Bordeaux varietals, were not affected by the fall rains and, in fact, benefited from extended hang time allowing further, slow flavour development in the grapes. With dryer conditions, we delayed harvesting until late October and into early November.
Conditions later in the year were ideal for our late harvest wines. The first partial freeze came in early December, and with significant ripeness and temperatures hovering around the freezing mark, harvesting for Indian Summer could continue unabated through the month and into January. The vintage was brought to a close in mid-January when our Icewine was harvested
during -10° Celsius temperatures on January 17. Although later than usual, our Icewine harvest yielded some of the soundest fruit in this decade, in excellent shape and remarkably clean due to the consistent cool temperatures through December and January. In all, 2006 was a classic vintage for cool climate varieties. Riesling and Chardonnay, in particular, excelled, once again validating our commitment to their breed.
2006 may well turn out to be one of our most expressive Riesling vintages, at least in part due to the very late harvest. The grapes benefited from the longer growing season and extended hang time allowing for slow flavor development. Due to the cooler growing season, ideal for Riesling, the wines are very aromatic, exhibiting citrus/lime flavours typical for the Beamsville Bench. The wines have excellent acid structure and surprisingly good weight, with a fine balance between acidity and residual sugar. These wines are very approachable and drinking well already.
Bud break: May 13 Yield: 60 hl/ha
Flowering: June 25 ºBrix: 19.3
Veraison: Aug. 11 – 23 pH: 3.15
Harvest: Oct. 18 - 25 TA: 8.8 g/L
Another variety benefiting from the cooler vintage year, our 2006 Chardonnay wines have excellent fruit definition with lovely apple and grapefruit aromas and flavours. The wines can be likened to Chablis, with mineral character and a crisp acidity giving way to an extremely long finish.
Bud break: May 10 Yield: 60 hl/ha
Flowering: June 23 ºBrix: 21.3
Veraison: Aug. 16 - 17 pH: 3.31
Harvest: Sept. 30 – Oct. 8 TA: 8.7 g/L
We were forced by the precipitation and warm days in September to be extremely vigilant in guarding against breakdown in our Pinot Noir vineyard plots and harvesting was extremely selective. The selection did yield fruit suitable for our estate bottling, which is not produced in poor or weaker vintages. The resulting wines are light in colour, but very fragrant with typical red berry, raspberry in particular, aromas and flavours. Very fruit forward, our Pinot Noir wines from this vintage will show well young.
Bud break: May 10 Yield: 57 hl/ha
Flowering: June 20 ºBrix: 22.0
Veraison: Aug. 14 - 16 pH: 3.24
Harvest: Sept. 18 – Oct. 7 TA: 8.25 g/L
2006 was a very typical vintage for Niagara Gamay. The late season ripening and extensive hang time allowed by the better weather conditions in October produced fruit suitable for our estate bottling which, as with Pinot Noir, is only done in better vintages. The wines are very fruity, showing red berry aroma and flavours, along with sour cherry and earth tones typical of the variety. Spice and pepper notes, a defining characteristic of our Gamay, are also present.
Bud break: May 8 Yield: 66 hl/ha
Flowering: June 17 ºBrix: 21.6
Veraison: Aug. 17 – 20 pH: 3.3
Harvest: Nov. 1 - 3 TA: 8.5 g/L
Bordeaux Varietals (Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon)
It is difficult at this early stage to determine how our Cabernet Franc, by far the most significant of our Bordeaux varietals, will evolve. It is, like our Pinot Noir and Gamay, quite fragrant, showing herbal and mint aromas typical for our region. We continued, for the second year, experimenting with the traditional Veronese appassimento (air-drying) method, whereby we place our Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes on racks to dry in closed quarters, well ventilated by natural breezes of the escarpment. By desiccating the berries the process concentrates sugars and flavours. The resulting wines are used to add body and richness to our estate Bordeaux blend.
Bud break: May 12 Yield: 57 hl/ha
Flowering: June 26 ºBrix: 23.1
Veraison: Aug. 20 - 22 pH: 3.3
Harvest: Nov. 6 - 7 TA: 7.0 g/L