Award honours best vineyard practices

This photo of Cabernet Sauvignon Clone 169 was taken after Wes Lowrey thinned some clusters before veraison.  
(L-R), Grape Growers of Ontario chair, Matthias Oppenlaender, Cuvée Vineyard of Excellence winners Wes Lowrey and Howard Lowrey, Julia Harnal, BASF Canada Inc.

Sometimes it takes an award to shine a light on years of quiet diligence. That’s the case with father-and-son Howard and Wes Lowrey, who recently received Cuvée Vineyard of Excellence Award sponsored by BASF Canada Inc. The award is given annually for viticulture excellence in Ontario. 

Organized by Brock University’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute (CCOVI), the Cuvée event is one of the largest celebrations of Ontario’s VQA wine, showcasing each 
winemaker’s favourite selection to a crowd of 800 guests in Niagara Falls.  

The Cuvée Vineyard of Excellence award winner is chosen by an expert panel that makes field visits throughout the growing season to monitor quality. This year’s judges included Kevin Ker, Helen Fisher, Andy Reynolds and Jim Willwerth.  

The Lowrey’s were recognized for their three-acre Cabernet Sauvignon block located within their family-run, 5th generation vineyard located on the St. David’s bench in the Niagara peninsula. 

“With Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s pretty hard to ripen in our climate,” says Wes Lowrey. “At St. David’s, we have a few more degree growing days.” 

This particular block was hand-planted in the late 1990s with a known clone and rootstock. The soil varies from sandy to sandy loam to heavy clay – a fact that’s immediately evident when disking. Some vines are vigorous while others are held back by the heavy clay.  

“You have to get to know each row and each vine,” says Lowrey, who carries a pocket notebook and scribbles notes frequently. “After 20 years, I treat them as individuals.”

After soil samples are analyzed, the Lowrey’s top up with N-P-K supplement when needed.  

Hand thinning and leaf removal are part of the management routine. Until recently, deleafing was considered a practice that should be gentle, not disturbing the plant. However, the Lowrey’s have experimented with mechanical deleafing in Cabernet Franc and Riesling varieties. They were pleasantly surprised by the results.  

“For premium wines, we still like to deleaf by hand,” says Lowrey.  

The intensive vineyard management extends to scouting for disease, particularly downy and powdery mildew. Fungicide use is timed with the weather.

The judges visit mid-season, after bloom, then again prior to harvest. At this point, they are looking for vine balance – the ratio of canopy to the crop and fruit maturity. The grapes are laboratory tested for sugar, 
tritable acidity, pH and phenolics. The judges then use both vineyard scores and fruit quality assessments to make their final decision.   

“As the leader in grape crop protection, it is a great honour to have the opportunity to recognize excellence in viticulture, and the Lowreys are deserving recipients,” says Scott Hodgins, horticulture brand manager with BASF. 

For a sense of their farming philosophy, go to Lowrey writes: 

“Five Rows Craft Wine and the Lowrey vineyard are family-run operations that keep us in the boots most days.  We welcome you to visit but apologize if you find us on the tractor or under vine.”


Publish date: 
Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Click to leave a comment

For security purposes, please confirm you are not a robot!


On top of the latest labour-saving equipment

Carrot, parsnip and onion grower Doug Van Luyk is one of those in the Holland Marsh who has expanded to 500 acres in both muck and mineral soils with the help of labour-saving technology. Here, his son Bradley stands on top of a self-propelled, two-row carrot harvester near Newmarket, Ontario. Photo by Glenn Lowson.

Spearheading change with asparagus allies

For the last two years, Rebecca Compton has chaired the Asparagus Farmers of Ontario through a challenging marketing period. While managing 60 acres and an on-farm retail outlet, Big Red Barn near Delhi, Ontario, she encourages her young children – Sable and Anson – to be at home in the field.

Breeding local apples for multiple micro-climates

Many apple growers are converting to high-density orchards with top-selling consumer favourites:  Honeycrisp, Ambrosia and Gala. The search for new varieties is arduous as Cathy McKay, vice-chair of the Ontario Apple Growers, attests. She’s been one of the champions of a new Canadian Apple Breeding Consortium.

Cannabis clouds competitiveness of greenhouse vegetable sector

Canada’s greenhouse vegetable sector is feeling the heat from energy prices to carbon taxes to cannabis conversions. But Duffy Kniaziew, owner, Orangeline Farms, is sticking with what he knows: peppers.

Seasonal workers a win-win, says apple producer

In the Canadian Horticultural Council’s latest video, British Columbia apple grower Nirwal Dhaliwal talks about the importance of international workers, both to running his operation, and personally, as friends and neighbours.