Viticultural Practices

 

In 1973 the first block of land was purchased not knowing what a valuable property it would turn out to be. The soil is clay loam with plenty of stones, which in turn have a moderating effect on temperature by absorbing heat during the day and releasing it at night. While being very detrimental to the equipment the rocks aid immensley in drainage. Due to this rich fertile soil, we have adopted a program where we till every other row, with the alternate rows being left in sod. This slows the vines vigour resulting in less vegetative characteristics in the wine.

 

There are many other techniques we use to increase varietal character in the wine including the choice of a flat bow (low cordon) trellis system. The fruiting cane is twisted around one wire and tied flat. This allows each bud the same amount of sunlight and guarantees even growth, allowing the chutes to enter the bottom pair of catch wires at the same time. The chutes will continue to grow through the multiple pairs of catch wires (with some help from our skilled workers) creating a thin, yet tall canopy maximizing the leaves exposure to the sun. Since our chutes are even so too is the fruiting zone, which helps in the manual removal of all leaves around the bunches. This leaf removal allows for good sun exposure as well as increasing the air movement in the canopy, thus decreasing the incidence of disease. At veraison, the unwanted bunches are manually removed, ensuring full concentration of flavours in the remaining ones.

 

There is a strong feeling amongst winemakers that lower yields will result in better quality. While we agree with this, we must also realize that balance is the key. If the crop is adjusted to just 10% of the norm for that site, then the vegetative characteristics will be pronounced due to excessive growth with the lighter load.

 

We, as growers, must ensure that the health of the vine will not be hampered at any point in the season. An excessively heavy crop will produce spindly canes, while the other extreme produces bull wood, both of which are not winter hardy. In the fall time the vines are mechanically buried above the graft (about 14 inches) to protect them from the cold winter temperatures. The prunings are mulched in the vineyard and left to increase the organic matter, which helps the availability and uptake of nutrition by the vines fibrous roots.

 

Nothing is guaranteed, especially when you're dealing with a variable known as "Mother Nature". At Watson's we try to control as much in the vineyards as we can in order to grow the best possible grapes. The Niagara-on-the-Lake area is greatly sheltered by the Niagara escarpment to the south, the Niagara river to the East and Lake Ontario to the North. The area is unique, and we invite you to come and visit us.