semmtwoWith nearly a quarter of all their estate vines laid waste by the polar vortex episode of 2014, Rosewood Estates on the Beamsville Bench has had to make some hard decisions.

Hard decisions that will change the personality of the popular family winery and meadery, but decisions that needed to be made for a stronger portfolio better suited to the sometimes harsh and unpredictable climate of Niagara.

polar_vortexThe 2013 Semillon, reviewed below, is the last that will be made at Rosewood after six consecutive vintages from that lovely variety planted on the Beamsville Bench.

The Semillon was destroyed by the brutal winter of 2014 that caused so much damage in vineyards across Ontario.

“The polar vortex also wiped out Merlot (all of which died and most will not be replanted) as well as Sauvignon Blanc and Gewurz,” said Krystina Roman, head of marketing at Rosewood. 

“We lost nearly 11 acres of our 45 acres of planted vines. A lot.”

Semillon is not being replanted despite its loyal following and deliciousness of the wine vintage to vintage.

Rosewood3“After consulting with many people, grape growers and the legends in our industry we made a decision not to (re)plant Semillon,” Roman, pictured above, explained.

“It broke my heart but I also made the final call. We strongly believe that Niagara/Ontario doesn’t have an identity and in order to help build towards an identity on the type of wine our region makes well, we sacrificed Semillon.”

Roman said the family loved working with the grape but the yields were variable and not suited to the climate.

rew_winery-pond“It was a tough call, and I’ve broken many hearts, but we think it’s the right thing to do to help Ontario get more of an identity,” she said.

As for Merlot, until now another key wine in the Rosewood portfolio, both vineyard sites — Beamsville Bench and Twenty Mile Bench — took a big hit.

“Each year the yields, similar to Semillon, were variable and struggled, and again we made the decision to focus on what Ontario should be growing vs. our first passion,” said Roman.

rew_honeybee(1)“After being in the industry a bit we’ve learned a lot and Merlot is an amazing wine but seems to struggle in the vineyard and in the wine shop,” she said. “It plays a very important role in our blend so we’ll continue to work with it in Lock, Stock & Barrel (the flagship red blend), but other than that, the 2013 Merlot is the final Merlot we’ll do.”

As well, the 2012 Origin Merlot (reviewed below) will be the final “wild fermented” Merlot made from the Beamsville Bench, ending a near six-year stretch (2011 was not made).

As hard as it is to let go of the past, Roman says the family is excited about the next chapter for Rosewood.

Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc and Gamay will be planted at the home vineyard on the Beamsville Bench to replace what a terrible has taken. As well, some big red varietals will be planted for the Lock, Stock & Barrel. Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Sauvignon will added to fill the empty spaces left by the polar vortex. 

“All the changes were hard to make and swallow,” said Roman. “You become so passionate about your vines as they become a part of you. They are so serene and beautiful it’s painful to let them go. We’ve all become connected to them and it was difficult making these decisions and I took them very hard.” 

willWhile the vineyards might look a little bare at the moment, the Roman family, led by founders Eugene and Renata, with their children William, pictured above, and Krystina now playing key roles in the day-to-day operation, and the winemaking team led by Ross Wise, it’s a chance to turn to a new chapter in the evolution of their winery.

Call it “Rosewood 2.0, or something like that,” said Krystina.

The irony is this: The Semillon from 2013 and the Merlots from 2012 were some of the best wines made from those varieties at Rosewood. They will be missed.

Here’s what I can recommend from the recent releases:

semmRosewood Select Series Semillon 2013, Niagara ($18, 90 points) — Sadly, this is the last vintage of Rosewood’s remarkable Semillon; the vineyard was wiped out by the Polar Vortex episode during the winter of 2014 in Ontario. The nose shows lovely notes of pear, honeysuckle, melon, crisp apple and acacia blossoms. It is bright and lively on the palate with citrus, melon and gooseberry flavours in a perfectly balanced package.

Rosewood Origin Series La Fume 2013 ($26, 89 points) — A blend of 95% Sauvignon Blanc and 5% Semillon, with 72% of the parcels aged for five months in French puncheons, then blended and aged for four more months. The nose shows citrus, gooseberries, melon, creamy marmalade and spices. It has lovely texture on the palate with citrus fruits, pear, creamy notes, spice and nicely balanced through the finish. Nothing overdone here.

86Rosewood Origin Series Eighty-Six’d Chardonnay 2013 ($30, 90 points) — Made with love from William Roman for his sister Krystina, with the fruit coming from a vineyard planted in 1986 (her birth year). This Chardonnay is wild fermented and unfiltered and unfined. The nose shows baked apple, citrus, tangerine and toasted vanilla spice. It’s quite delicious in the mouth and well balanced with mango, apple and subtle citrus against a backdrop of cream and spice. Shows finesses through the finish.

Rosewood Select Series Mima’s Block Riesling 2013 ($18, 88 points) — A nose that’s rich in lime, minerals, fresh-squeezed lemon and a touch of tangerine. Lime, citrus and apple fruit fill the mouth with underlying sweetness and stony minerality.

merlotsRosewood Select Series Merlot 2012 ($22, 90 points) — The fruit for this wine is sourced from three premium vineyards on the Beamsville and Twenty Mile Bench. The nose shows a rich concentration of plums, cassis, cherry, nutmeg and oak spices. It shows the hallmarks of the vintage on the palate with a lavish display of black fruits and black cherry with an abundance of spice and ripe tannins. Wonderful Merlot and offered at a bargain price.

Rosewood Origin Series Merlot 2012 ($36, 91 points) — From the estate’s Renaceau Vineyard on the Beamsville Bench, this is a Merlot that stands among the best made in Niagara in 2012. A pleasurable and enticing nose of pure black cherry, ripe plum, cigar-box cedar, vanilla toast and sweet oak spices. What takes this wine to a new level is the poise, grace and finesse on the palate, nothing over done, yet packed with ripe cherry and plum fruit with touches of campfire smoke, oak spice and length through the finish. It’s balanced and stylish and should cellar beautifully for five-plus years. Bravo. This 2012 Origin Merlot is the final wild fermented Merlot from the estate’s Beamsville Bench, ending a near six-year stretch, so you might want to stock up.