The winter months of 2007–2008 were generally cold but absent of severity. Following the unusually warm and dry 2007 vintage year, ample winter and early spring precipitation, including melting snow, were sufficient to return soil moisture levels to normal by ground thaw in March.
The first three months of the growing season, April through mid-June, presented better than normal conditions in our vineyards, with sufficient precipitation and no severe storms. Bud break occurred on schedule during the second week of May under cool but sunny skies, and was followed by cooler than average temperatures. Temperatures in June were above average and flowering occurred during the third week of the month, on schedule. June also brought heavier rains throughout our region, including some thunderstorms and hail from which our vineyards were mercifully spared.
The roller-coaster ride of the year really started in July. The summer months brought lower than normal temperatures and higher precipitation than usual. In the latter part of July, a localized hailstorm caused minimal leaf shredding and some berry bruising, but, again, our vineyards escaped any significant damage. By the middle of August, the cooler temperatures and high precipitation throughout the growing season had resulted in a ripening delay of approximately seven days. Leaf removal by hand in the fruiting zone of the vines was undertaken to facilitate greater air circulation and expose the grapes to sunlight.
By the end of August and through the early part of September, the skies cleared and the vines prospered under sunny conditions without significant precipitation. The roller coaster dipped downward in mid-September with warm, wet weather resulting in high disease pressure. By the end of the month, average temperatures returned but the high humidity remained, punctuated by days of clear, cooler, and breezy weather.
Harvest of our early ripening varieties began in mid-September and, under these conditions, was a long, laborious affair. This was our most extensive hand harvest on record, encompassing several passes through the vineyards to insure selection of only sound, healthy fruit.
The weather turned again and dried out by mid-October. Under sunny skies and cooler conditions, our Riesling and Cabernet Franc benefited from additional hang time, with harvesting beginning only at the end of October and continuing into mid-November.
Icewine was picked in late December. Due to selective harvesting and cooler conditions in the fall (which prevented over-ripening), our 2008 Icewine was harvested of only sound, healthy fruit with superb acidity.
Yields in 2008 were slightly higher than usual for some varieties due to higher than average precipitation and natural cycling from the lower crop of the hot and dry 2007 vintage. The wines, in particular Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Cabernet Franc, reflect excellent varietal typicity and intense aromas. Riesling and Chardonnay both show the best aging potential since the stellar 2003 vintage, which was our best white wine vintage of the last decade.
In light of the extensive aging potential of our 2008 vintage white wines, in particular Riesling and Chardonnay, we have chosen to withhold their release much longer than in previous vintages. Wines are being released in winter of 2009–2010, ready for consumption or private cellaring, and, having benefitted from additional cellar time, showing great promise.
Our Riesling was harvested entirely by hand with very selective pickings during several passes through the vineyard blocks. The wines show very fresh, crisp apple, pink grapefruit, white peach, and citrus lime flavours and aromas. Similar to the great 2003 vintage, the wines are of medium body with a very long finish. Their great skate-blade acidity provides extensive aging potential.
Bud break: May 11 Yield: 3.5 tonnes/acre (56 hl/ha)
Flowering: June 24 ºBrix: 19.8
Veraison: Aug 26 pH: 3.10
Harvest: Late October to Mid-November TA: 9.7
The cooler growing season of the 2008 vintage year resulted in Chardonnay wines of classic typicity. Predominantly hand-harvested, our estate Chardonnay wines exhibit crisp green apple flavour and classic mineral aromas with stony texture on the palate, typical for the Cave Spring Vineyard. By limiting malolactic fermentation, we have retained acidity levels for long-term aging potential.
Bud break: May 10 Yield: 3.25 tonnes/acre (56 hl/ha)
Flowering: June 20 ºBrix: 21.3
Veraison: August 21 pH: 3.34
Harvest: October 3-13 TA: 8.0
The 2008 Pinot Noir vintage is very similar to that of 2004. Grapes were selectively handpicked due to some breakdown from warm and wet days and nights. The resulting wine is some of our most expressive Pinot ever, with red berry, floral, spicy aromas and flavours. Velvety in texture, the lighter tannins in the Pinots make them excellent for earlier consumption. Though lighter in colour due to the cooler vintage, the wines are showing very expressive Pinot aromatics and flavours.
Bud break: May 10 Yield: 2.9 tonnes/acre (50 hl/ha)
Flowering: June 22 ºBrix: 19.6
Veraison: August 21 pH: 3.25
Harvest: September 24-27 TA: 9.9
2008 yielded a lighter vintage for our Gamay, resembling the 2006 wines. Despite the light colour, (like the Pinots) our Gamay exhibits the classic Niagara terroir: a definitive pepper on the nose and sweet red berry flavours on the palate. For its freshness and vitality, the Gamay, like the Pinot, will be best enjoyed in its youth.
Bud break: May 9 Yield: 3.7 tonnes/acre (64 hl/ha)
Flowering: June 20 ºBrix: 19.8
Veraison: August 21 pH: 3.02
Harvest: September 29 TA: 10.5
BORDEAUX VARIETIES (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, now for the fourth 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. This process of desiccating the berries concentrates sugars and flavours. The resulting wines are used to add body and richness to our proprietary Estate blend, La Penna.
Bud break: May 14 Yield: 4.0 tonnes/acre (69 hl/ha)
Flowering: June 24 ºBrix: 23.1
Veraison: August 29 pH: 3.23
Harvest: October 30 to November 5 TA: 7.4