Winemaker’s Cut - Winery Profile

Classical Frequencies: Harnessing Mozart & Bach at Winemaker’s CUT, Okanagan Valley

By John Szabo MS

This feature was commissioned by Winemaker’s Cut Winery.

Head south from Oliver on Okanagan Highway 97. Before you reach Osoyoos and the US border just beyond, you’ll see the Burrowing Owl Estate on your left, above Black Sage Road. Slow your car down and direct your attention, especially your ears, to the right side of the valley. Here, at the entrance of the “Golden Mile”, emanating from Deadman Lake vineyard nestled up against the hills, you’ll hear the soothing sounds of Mozart, or perhaps Bach, depending on the time and the day. Although humans enjoy the music, it’s not really playing for them. It’s playing mostly for the vines.

This is the story of Winemaker’s CUT, a recent addition to the Okanagan wine scene. It’s about Slovak national Michal Mosny, a classically-trained musician, and his wife. Around a decade ago, they watched a television documentary in their little Slovakian village of Častá, near the Hungarian, Austrian and Czechian borders, decided to pack up a few bags, sell everything else and move to British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley. Their plan: to make wine. Along the way, they stumbled upon a little-known fact in the world of botany: music makes not only people happy; it makes plants happy, too.

The gentle, east-facing slopes of Deadman’s Lake vineyard

A Life-Altering Documentary

But back to the Mosnys. That life-altering documentary was an early episode of Hollywood and Vines TV, hosted by Terry David Mulligan and Jason Priestly, showcasing the Okanagan Valley. “It was the first we learned that wine was even produced in BC”, reveals Mosny. A quick bit of google research later, and the couple were decided. They arrived in the Okanagan in 2012.

Although Mosny doesn’t hail from a family of winemakers, and had been trained and played as a classical violinist, he had also been making wine for many years prior to his arrival in BC. Through a combination of experience, self-learning, and a few formal winemaking courses, Mosny had learned the craft, working with local varieties like grüner veltliner and blaufränkisch. He was comfortable with cool climate regions, and while the growing conditions of southern Slovakia and the Okanagan Valley are hardly identical, there was enough familiarity to get started.

But the first step, both for financial considerations and the need to get to know and understand the Okanagan, was to start a small vineyard management company and winemaking consultancy. For three years, Mosny hired himself out, travelling the length and breadth of the valley for various clients, familiarizing himself with the Okanagan’s highly varied terroirs.

Michal Mosny adjusting one of the 13 speakers in Deadman Lake vineyard

Welcome to Deadman’s Lake

By 2015, he had pinpointed the vineyard he wanted to work with: Deadman Lake vineyard, an 8.5-acre site between Oliver and Osoyoos on the western side of the Valley. He cut a deal with the owners, the Stevens family, to lease the vineyard along with a small fruit packing shed on site that he would convert into a makeshift winery. Until then, the Stevens’ had been selling all of their grapes to notable Okanagan wineries like Le Vieux Pin, their own plans to start a winery never coming to fruition.

The vineyard had been planted in 2005-2007 with sauvignon blanc, cabernet franc and syrah. But Mosny was attracted to it not for the varieties planted, but rather for the unusual soil profile – different from most other parts of the Okanagan. Less sandy and gravelly, Deadman Lake soils are uncommonly dark in colour with a high percentage of humus mixed with shale, a soil type termed “chernozemic”, from the Russian chernozyom, meaning “black soil”. They were reminiscent of the cooler, more moisture-retentive clays he had farmed back home, so he knew the different vineyard management techniques required to mitigate their inherent fertility and vigor. They also allowed him to work towards dry farming with minimal irrigation, impossible in most parts of the southern Okanagan.

Dark, hummus-rich ‘chernozem’ soils, Deadman Lake vineyard

Mosny produced 200 cases of syrah in 2015, the first wine under the Winemaker’s CUT label. And in a stroke of good fortune, he managed to sell the majority of it to celebrated Vancouver restaurant Hawksworth, a high-profile listing that immediately put the winery on the map.

By 2019, production had grown to 7000 cases, with fruit now also drawn from two additional leased vineyards, one north of Oliver planted to Bordeaux varieties, riesling, gewürztraminer and muscat canelli, and a second vineyard on the celebrated Naramata Bench planted with sauvignon blanc and semillon. Grüner veltliner was also added to Deadman Lake in 2020, as well as other “experimental varieties”. The ultimate goal is to reach 10,000 case production, “the maximum my wife and I can manage on our own”.

Winemaker’s CUT has no tasting room and thus no cellar door sales; the vast majority of production is sold through restaurants, as well as through a handful of BC’s private wine shops and a bit of export to the United States.

So, when restaurants shuttered due to the Covid pandemic, Mosny thought he would have to close the winery. “I saw no future, basically. But it taught me to take one day after another. One door closes, another opens”. Mosny found unexpected support through private wine clubs, and, as for many wineries over the last five months, online wine sales grew exponentially. “But we have to work hard to sell every case.”

Deadman Lake Vineyard, wild and natural, but calm

Good Vibrations

But now back to music in the vineyard. Classical music has always been a big part of Mosny’s life. It’s deeply embedded in the culture of his corner of Europe. Mosny’s village Častá (Chas-tah) is next door to a village frequented by Beethoven, where he, “used to go to chase girls”, and where he wrote his famous composition, Für Elise. Here, classical music is infused into every stone, every timber, every imagination.

In addition to playing the violin, Mosny had always listened to classical music on headphones while working in both vineyards and the cellar, relishing in the serenity and calm it brought. Then one sunny Okanagan afternoon, while discussing with his wife, they suddenly hit upon the conclusion that if listening to music makes them happy while working, “why not expose the whole winemaking process to the music?” They wanted to bring “some spirit, some human terroir, like us, into the equation”.

Mosny started playing music in the vineyards for several hours a day. “And I really noticed a difference. Maybe it’s just me, maybe I’m crazy, but I really saw a difference. The shoots closest to the speakers were growing faster than those further way. And in the cellar, during fermentation, I really noticed that the fermentation kinetics were much smoother. And I’m still playing music now, and I’m very happy with the results.”

He plays different types of music, but mostly Mozart and Bach. “I came to those two composers, just because they are recommended to pregnant women because they are calming. The vine is a bush, it grows wild, so to calm it down we need to play more relaxing music.” Perhaps without really knowing it, Mosny had hit upon one of the mysteries of the universe.

Mosny had not done much research into the effects of music on plant growth, working more by intuition and feeling, than hard scientific evidence. Running a small start-up winery operation is all consuming and doesn’t leave much time for google searches. Besides, says Mosny, “we also talk to our plants at home, you know? When you put more positive energy and positive vibes in, it makes a difference. It’s clear.”

Wine raised by Classical Music

And it turns out that music does affect plant growth and health. As early as 1962 Dr. T.C. Singh, head of the Botany Department at India’s Annamalai University, had been curious to test out if music could have the same uplifting effects on plants as it does on people.

Experimenting with different types of music on balsam plants, he discovered some remarkable results.

When exposed to classical music, plants showed a 72% increase in biomass, and grew 20% faster than controls. He experimented with other types of music, and a wide range of different instruments, and found that plants exposed to music invariably grew faster than those growing in silence. In the end, Dr. Singh concluded that the violin has the greatest positive effects on a plant’s growth rate. A finding I’m sure, Mosny would be happy to accept.

Other botanists have since conducted similar studies with similar results. In 1973, Dorothy Retallack published a book called The Sound of Music and Plants, detailing her experiments at the Colorado Woman’s College in Denver using the school’s three Biotronic Control Chambers. Retallack placed plants in each chamber and played various sounds and styles of music, and recorded their daily growth.

Like Singh, she made some rather astounding discoveries. Plant growth was clearly affected not only by the type of music, but also the length of time the plants were exposed to it. The results were eerily similar to those obtained from experiments performed by the Muzak Corporation in the early 1940s to determine the effect of background music on factory workers. The continuous playing of music apparently not only causes more fatigue and lower productivity in workers, it also kills plants. Retallack’s green victims exposed to a constant tone died within 14 days. Those for which the tone was played for just short intervals of a few hours, several times a day, thrived.

Deadman Lake Vineyard

Like Your Mother Said, Rock & Roll is Evil

In another twisted experiment that would not have been possible in Singh’s time, Retallack exposed plants to rock music, specifically Jimi Hendrix and Led Zepplin. The plants physically grew away from the speakers in the chambers, up to 70º in the opposite direction in what Retallack termed “abnormal vertical growth”, as though trying to escape the noxious vibes (no offense to Zepplin and Hendrix fans, but gets you thinking…).

In the end, Retallack concluded that it wasn’t the genre of music itself, but rather the frequencies of sound waves, and the instruments used, that most seriously impact plant development. Like Singh, she found that string instruments have the most positive effect on plant growth  as well as “positive” music, like that composed by Mozart and Bach, in contrast to “negative”(dischordant) classical music by such composers like modernists Arnold Schönberg or Anton Webern. I suppose then, that Stairway to Heaven played on the violin would probably be good for your plants. (Read more about positive and negative music.)

So, as Mosny inadvertently discovered, playing the right music for a short period each day can genuinely have a positive effect on vine growth, and without stretching the imagination, yeast activity. He’s not the only winegrower in the world to use music to gain a competitive advantage in the crowded wine market. Il Paradiso di Frassina in Montalcino, for example, has been playing Mozart in their vineyards on the Montosoli hill for many years, the result of “serious agronomic and scientific research concerning the beneficial effects of musical frequencies on the vines (Vitis Vinifera), supported by the Universities of Florence and Pisa, and from the center of agronomic research of Arezzo, and sponsored by the prestigious company BOSE, specialized in the production of audio systems.” And Chilean Aurelio Montes plays Gregorian chants to his prestige wines in his Colchagua Valley-based cellar, to name but a couple of examples among many. But to my knowledge, Mosny is the only one playing music in Okanagan vineyards.

And in case you were wondering, Mosny’s 13 speakers in the Deadman Lake vineyard are positioned such that that the music plays towards the vines, for their benefit and those working within them, and without disturbing the neighbors. “They haven’t really even noticed”., he says. Though one imagines that music would be more pleasant than bird bangers and windmills in any case.

The interrelated world of wine and music

The Wines

Mozart infusions aside, Mosny’s wines are uniformly vibrant and lively, which is particularly surprising considering the cuvées from the southerly Deadman Lake vineyard, the warmest section of the Okanagan Valley. Mosny credits a combination of factors for the unusual freshness: For one, there are those cooler, more humid chernozem soils, which slows down sugar accumulation. Deadman Lake also faces east, enjoying the gentler morning sun, and is shaded from the much hotter afternoon sun by the hills above.

He harvests a little earlier than many of his neighbors, finding that the ambient yeasts in his spontaneously-fermented lots struggle less, thanks to lower osmotic (sugar) pressure and alcohol toxicity, and produce “cleaner” aromas. Higher natural acids (lower pH) also allow Mosny to use minimal sulfur; his wines rarely come in above 50-80ppm total, with around 20ppm of free sulfur at bottling (these are low numbers, below even organic certification standards). Aside from the occasional use of selected organic yeasts and bentonite fining to clarify certain wines, nothing else is used in the cellar.

Below are some recommended wines from Winemaker’s Cut. Crank up the Mozart and enjoy.

(Editor’s Note: You can purchase a case of any of these wines directly from the winery by clicking on the link to the wine and then on the Buy a Case button)

Winemaker’s Cut Gruner Veltliner 2019, VQA Okanagan Valley ($26.00)

John Szabo – Not a widely planted grape but a successful one in the Okanagan Valley, based on this example and a small handful of others. This captures the lively, fresh, crunchy side of the variety mixing white and yellow fruit with some appealing earthiness and typical white pepper character. I like the succulent, juicy acids and the fleshy yet vibrant texture. Very good length, too. Solid stuff – a terrific little find.

Winemaker’s Cut Muscat Canelli 2019 , VQA Okanagan Valley ($24.00)

John Szabo – Clean, well made, highly fragrant in the varietal idiom, off-dry, this is Winemaker’s Cut’s answer to moscato d’Asti, a joyful and fresh wine to capture while youthful on fruity-floral flavours. Length and depth a quite decent. Well made, well done, uncomplicated.

Winemaker’s Cut Boho Zen 2019, VQA Okanagan Valley ($26.00)

John Szabo – A syrah-merlot blend, wild fermented and unoaked, relatively light in colour considering the grapes involved and the region of origin, this is an attractively fresh and crunchy wine that really captures the zeitgeist of modern wine lovers, checking in at a mere 12.5% alcohol declared. It manages to avoid overly shrill acids, as is often the case for early-harvested wines in this type of extreme climate, though there is an appealing, sour cherry, red currant edge. Tannins are light and dusty. This is a wine to chill lightly and enjoy with some salty protein from the BBQ; it will please widely, but also satisfy the punters as well.

Winemaker’s Cut Bohemian Cuvee 2018, VQA Okanagan Valley ($36.00)

John Szabo – Cab, merlot, cab franc and syrah compose this ‘Bohemian Cuvée’ from vineyards around Oliver, though to me, it’s the syrah component that dominates the nose for the moment. Cold smoke, creosote and black licorice are prominent features, alongside wild violets and savoury herbs as well as ripe-fresh black fruit. The palate is equally savoury, lively in the contemporary fashion, with modest tannins, moderate oak influence and crunchy acids. Flavours hang on and on. It’s still a touch raw overall, but nothing a year or two in the cellar won’t remedy, and I’m excited to revisit – should be a decidedly savoury-delicious bottle.

Winemaker’s Cut Syrah 2018, VQA Okanagan Valley ($34.00)

John Szabo – An appealing, classically styled, cool climate syrah in the fashion that BC does so well, from newcomers Winemaker’s Cut. It’s not surprising to learn that the fruit from this vineyard, Deadman’s Lake, was formerly used in Le Vieux Pin’s excellent syrah program. This is fashioned in the contemporary style, with oak a minimal flavour feature, and extraction and ripeness nicely contained, while succulence and zesty appeal are high. The overall complexity and long finish indicate genuine concentration/lower yields. Nicely done, best after 2022.


This feature was commissioned by Winemaker’s Cut Limited. As a regular feature, WineAlign tastes wines submitted by a single winery. Our writers independently, as always, taste, review and rate the wines – good, bad and indifferent, and those reviews are posted on WineAlign. We then independently recommend wines to appear in the winery profile. Wineries and wine agents pay for this service. Ads for some wines may appear at the same time, but the decision on which wines to put forward in our report, and its content, is entirely up to WineAlign.