To make great wine, you first need a great vineyard site. This is what Eugene had in mind when he purchased and planted two very unique vineyards on the prestigious Niagara Escarpment. The escarpment provides a soil and climate combination that has proven to be ideal for the production of premium cool climate wine styles. Limestone rich clay soils are what lie beneath many famous old world wine regions, and this is exactly what exists along the Niagara Escarpment. The escarpment provides protection from the prevailing winds from the south, and also enables cooling breezes to circulate from Lake Ontario on hot summer days. In addition, the bees we manage benefit from the natural flora, forests and conservation sites scattered along the Escarpment.
RENACEAU VINEYARD, VQA BEAMSVILLE BENCH
The first vineyard to be established, started in 2003, was the 10-acre Renaceau Vineyard on the Beamsville Bench. This site has deep clay soils with shale, sandstone and dolomitic limestone components from the bedrock also present. Breezes coming off Lake Ontario to the North help to moderate the heat and keep humidity in check during the hottest days of summer. The slope of the vineyard ensures high sunlight hours and good heat accumulation, and leads to well ripened and mature grapes every vintage. The original varietals chosen for this site included Riesling, Chardonnay, Semillon, Pinot Noir, Merlot, and Cabernet Franc, and more recent additions include Gamay Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Petit Verdot. The Renaceau Vineyard is also the site of the winery, tasting room and apiary.
BLACKJACK VINEYARD, VQA TWENTY MILE BENCH
Planted in 2008, the 21st Street Vineyard is located on the Twenty Mile Bench above the town of Jordan. The soils for this 20-acre vineyard are made up of shallow limestone rich clay and shale, with a bed of solid dolomitic limestone beneath. The long gentle slopes allow for good water drainage, and also extended sunlight exposure in the summer. The 21st Street vineyard is slightly cooler than the Renaceau Vineyard, due to its higher elevation on the escarpment and its greater exposure to temperature moderating breezes. This cooler sub-climate and the low vigour nature of this site helps to create concentrated and intense wines that display great minerality and acidity. Riesling, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc make up the plantings in this vineyard.
Both our vineyards are farmed in an environmentally sustainable manner, and we are a proud member of Sustainable Winemaking Ontario. We use an Integrated Pest Management (IPM) program to minimize the chemical inputs into our vineyards. To reduce the amount of fungicide used in our vineyards, we intensively manage our vineyard canopy by hand to maximize airflow and sun exposure to the vines and grapes. To eliminate the need for chemical herbicides, we use mechanical under vine weed removal. And to protect our bees and eliminate the use of insecticides we employ alternative insect control methods such as mating disruption, as well as encouraging beneficial insects with strategic cover crop, and border plant selections. To offset the use of chemical fertilizers, we make our own compost from organic materials resulting from the grape harvest, and other materials sourced from local farmers. This compost is then added back to the soil in the spring to add nutrients, as well as improve soil microbiology, structure, and overall health.
During the growing season we manage our vines with both vine and crop balance in mind. All canopy management activities are carried out by hand, including shoot thinning, shoot tucking and positioning, leaf plucking and fruit thinning. By tending to our vines by hand we can ensure the canopy is healthy, balanced, and absorbing the energy-giving sunlight efficiently. Vigour control is an important consideration for us, as we try to achieve a good balance between vegetative growth and crop level. All our vines are planted on vigour reducing rootstock, and we also carefully choose cover crops to plant between our vineyard rows to absorb moisture in the soil and thus reduce vine vigour further, while providing a natural source of nectar for our bees. Our yields are also judiciously managed, and most of our varietals are cropped between 1.5 to 2.5 tonnes per acre. This low crop level ensures all fruit has the ability to obtain good levels of ripeness, as well as rich concentration and pronounced aromatic and flavour intensity.