2015 Vintage Report

VINTAGE OVERVIEW

The overall growing season registered heat units and precipitation just above normal. Despite a second consecutive severely cold winter a gradual and steady onset of spring, ideal heat and ample rainfall accumulation in April and May graced the region. Apart from June, with its slightly below average temperatures, a trend of steady heat accumulation progressed throughout the growing season, enhanced by nearly ideal rainfall levels, especially during the sensitive summer months. The excess rain in May helped to sustain the vines during a slightly drier than average July. Overall, the weather was warm, with cool evenings, and relatively low in humidity, favouring steady sugar accumulation and retention of acidity. The fall provided near ideal ripening conditions, with warm days and cool nights. Although October brought slightly elevated precipitation levels, the additional moisture did not cause any difficulties with ripening. Every major variety in 2015 ripened fully and produced balanced, structured and elegant wines. Without exaggeration, we can say that this was one of the very finest vintages in our winery’s history, ranking with outstanding years such as 1988, 1991, 1999, 2002, 2005, 2007 and 2012.

THE SEASON IN DETAIL

On the heels of the unusually cold winter of 2014, the trend of extreme winter weather continued in 2015 as a record breaking cold snap hit the region in February. As in the previous year, climatologists attributed the extreme cold to a phenomenon known as a ‘Polar vortex’, whereby the Jet Stream dipped further south than normal, carrying with it frigid arctic air that settled over eastern North America for two weeks in February. Fortunately, the combination of our vineyard’s excellent protection from extreme cold and our focus on winter-hardy grape varieties left us with a relatively strong bud survival rate of 70%.

With winter behind us, daytime temperatures registered above seasonal averages. This, along with cooler than average evening temperatures and consistent, well-timed precipitation led to balanced growth in the early part of the season, with bud break and flowering occurring as normally expected in mid-May and mid-June respectively. With a reduced crop, minimal canopy management was required to maintain ideal vine balance. Ample rainfall in May and June allowed the vines to weather a slight heat spike and dry period in the first three weeks of July. Temperate weather returned, allowing for veraison to occur on schedule in mid- to late-August. In general, disease pressure was minimal, with periods of concern in early June and late August due to small peaks in precipitation combined with humid weather. However, manual vineyard management techniques, including leaf pulling and shoot thinning enabled us to maintain sound fruit and a disease-free canopy.

Harvest commenced with Pinot Noir between September 15 and October 1, followed immediately by Chardonnay and Riesling, both of which were wrapped up by October 11. While Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc all ripened within their normal windows, it is of note that Riesling was harvested about seven days earlier than the norm, suggesting that the temperate weather of the vintage particularly benefited this variety. While the second half of October can bring heavy rain to our region, in 2015 it only brought a series of short, intermittent showers of no consequence to fruit quality for Cabernet Franc, which was harvested between October 14 and 21.

In summary, 2015 was generally temperate and enjoyed well-timed rainfall throughout the growing season. The 2015 vintage will be remembered as one of the best in Niagara’s wine-growing history. The wines are showing exceptionally well in their youth, and in the case of our top Rieslings, given their structure and balance, will cellar for at least 15 years.

RIESLING

In 2015 our Rieslings show perhaps the greatest clarity, balance and complexity that we have ever seen. The temperate growing season and well-timed precipitation allowed for a near perfect pace of ripening and very clean fruit. The wines set themselves apart for their weight and taut structure. The Niagara Peninsula and Escarpment wines are very integrated and approachable, yet tightly wound. The top Estate Rieslings will require time to harmonize. For the first time, the Niagara Peninsula and Escarpment Rieslings incorporate significant proportions of indigenous yeast fermentation, while the Estate wines follow the last several vintages in utilizing this fermentation method. Expect the latter tier of wines to cellar for a minimum of 12 to 15 years.

Bud break:     May 19-23              Yield:     3.5 tonnes/acre (61 hl/ha)
Flowering:      June 24-29            °Brix:    19
Veraison:        Aug. 25-30             pH:        3.00
Harvest:          Oct. 1-11                  T.A.:      8.5 g/L

CHARDONNAY

The 2015 Chardonnays show a complex aromatic profile, with bright apricot, citrus and melon fruit alongside leesy and mineral nuances. The steady ripening of this vintage delivered wines that are generous on the palate while showing outstanding precision and detail. The Niagara Escarpment wines can be enjoyed in their youth for their upfront fruit and well-rounded mouthfeel, while our Estate Chardonnays, have the structure and extract to reward eight to 10 years of cellaring. In the case of the Chardonnay CSV, we continue to employ indigenous yeast in the fermentation as a tool to enhance the texture of the wine on the palate.

Bud break:     May 15-19              Yield:     3.5 tonnes/acre (61 hl/ha)
Flowering:     June 18-23             °Brix:     21.0
Veraison:       Aug. 20-24             pH:         3.4
Harvest:         Sept 30-Oct 11       T.A.:       8.3 g/L

PINOT NOIR

The Pinot Noir wines from 2015 are very perfumed, showing great depth of mixed dark berry fruit along with peppery overtones. The wines are quite robust on the palate, marked by firm yet silky tannins that integrate seamlessly with well-extracted flavours of plum and sour cherry. That said, they maintain the mineral freshness and delicate acidity that our terroir is known for. This is accomplished by maturing the wines almost exclusively in neutral French barriques and puncheons. At all levels, these wines are approachable in their youth and, given their core of soft tannin and ripe fruit, will reward aging in bottle for 7-9 years especially at the Estate level.

Bud break:     May 19-24              Yield:     2.9 tonnes/acre (50 hl/ha)
Flowering:     June 23-28             °Brix:     21.6
Veraison:       Aug. 23-27              pH:         3.4
Harvest:         Sept 15-Oct 1          T.A.:       8.1 g/L

CABERNET FRANC

2015 blessed us with Cabernet Francs that are at once deep and brooding and yet focused and balanced. Across the board, the wines are opaque, abundant in fruit, densely tannic and intense in flavour. Given the full structure of this vintage, the barrel regime includes up to 25% new oak, both barriques and puncheons, originating primarily from France with small percentages from Hungary and America. Despite their volume and intensity, the finished wines retain remarkable balance and elegance. From the Niagara Escarpment to the Estate tier, the ’15 Cabernet Franc’s hold great long-term ageing potential, with the top bottlings capable of holding for upwards of a decade.

Bud break:     May 19-23              Yield:     3.9 tonnes/acre (68 hl/ha)
Flowering:      June 25-29            °Brix:     21.5
Veraison:        Aug. 28-Sept 3      pH:         3.3
Harvest:          Oct 14-21                T.A.:       6 g/L