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Tawse Estate Winery is one of the last in Niagara to release its Chardonnays from the 2012 vintage and, once again, winemaker Paul Pender has managed to showcase some stunning wines. Also in this report, we explore new wines from both Tawse and sister winery Redstone.

Tawse, a family-owned and operated estate winery, had its first harvest was in 2001, with the winery opening in 2005.

Tawse owns more than 200 acres of vineyards in the Vineland/Beamsville area and focuses its wine program on Chardonnay and Pinot Noir but also grows and makes Riesling, Cabernet Franc, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Syrah and Gamay.

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Some other key points about Tawse:

The Limestone Ridge vineyard, purchased in 2012, is the largest vineyard at Tawse at 61 acres, located above the village of Jordan.

In 2010, 2011 and 2012, Tawse was named Canada’s Winery of the Year in the Canadian Wine Awards, through Wine Access Magazine. It was the first Ontario winery to win Winery of the Year and is the only Canadian winery to achieve the distinction in three consecutive years.

All Tawse estate wines are produced using certified organic and biodynamic farming techniques. Biodynamic farming is an approach that sees the vineyard as its own self-sustaining ecological entity. It’s based on traditional agricultural practices such as planting and harvesting at certain points in the lunar calendar. The biodynamic movement originated as a set of principles in Germany in the 1920s.

It took Tawse four years to achieve its official certification in April 2011 to the international standards of biodynamic farming.

All winery operations are eco-friendly, including a geo-thermal energy system and a wetland biofilter that allows all sanitary and winery process water to be re-used. A six-level gravity flow system is used to gently move the grapes from pressing to bottling, reducing the chance of oxidization.

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Tawse owner, Moray Tawse, first opened his namesake winery in Vineland, then it was Marchand-Tawse and Domaine Tawse in Burgundy. His latest project, Redstone Winery, was officially opened in Beamsville this year.

Tawse purchased the Lincoln Lakeshore property, formerly Thomas and Vaughan Estate Winery, in 2009, citing that it was an opportunity to explore a different terroir that he simply couldn’t pass up. Inspired by the red dust which covered everything, including his boots, the first time he strolled the vineyard, he named the new winery Redstone, for its intensely red clay soil and large stones.

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The 38-acre estate vineyard, farmed organically and biodynamically, is ideal for maturing late-ripening varietals including Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah. There is also Pinot Gris on the property. Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay, from recently acquired Limestone vineyard, rounds out the estate portfolio.After working eight vintages as part of the winemaking team at Tawse, Rene Van Ede has assumed the primary winemaking duties at Redstone, with guidance from Pender,  acting in a consulting role.

Here are reviews of the latest wines releases (or soon to be released) from both Tawse and Redstone.

 Sparkling

lg-2011_redstone_sparklingRedstone Sparkling 2013 ($26, winery now, 88 points) — Made in the traditional Champagne method with an untraditional blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, this sparkler spends up to 18 months on the lees. It’s a lively and spunky bubbly with a nose of fresh citrus, apple and creamy/toasty notes. It’s driven by racy acidity on the palate and combines lemon, lime and green apple flavours.

Tawse Limestone Ridge Vineyard Spark Riesling 2014 ($20, winery now, Vintages in 2016, 88 points) — Organic and biodynamic farming, traditional method and aged 12 months on the lees, the nose shows creamy/toasty notes of citrus and lemon, ripe apple and some swirling mineral notes. It’s bright and juicy on the palate with a lively mousse and leans toward citrus fruit and minerals through a fresh finish.

Chardonnay

Lovers of this grape will be celebrating the release of the rest of the Tawse and Redstone Chardonnays from 2012. The Quarry Road 2012 Chard was released earlier in the year (previously reviewed), while the Estate, Robyn’s Block and a new Chard, sourced from South Bay fruit in Prince Edward County, has been added to the portfolio. Some stellar wines here, so watch for them.

Tawse Estate Chardonnay 2012 ($38, winery now, 91 points) — The certified organic/biodynamic grapes are from three estate vineyards — Robyn’s Block, David’s Block and Hillside Vineyard all on the Twenty Mile Bench. The wine is barrel fermented with wild yeast and aged 12 months in French oak, 30% of which is new. A lovely nose of green apple, citrus, juicy pear, river-rock minerality and subtle, integrated spice notes. It’s caressing on the palate but lively with apple/pear fruit that’s bright, clean, complete and nicely balanced.

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Tawse Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2012 ($46, January at the winery, 93 points) — This is the premier Twenty Mile Bench site for Tawse’s extensive Chardonnay program. The vines, farmed organically and biodynamically, are 32 years old and the wine is barrel fermented with wild yeast and is aged for 12 months in French oak, 20% of which is new. The 2012 version follows the incredible 2011 Robyn’s Block, my white of the year in 2014 and rated 94 points. This is very close to that, though a much different wine from the warmer 2012 vintage. It has a complex and heady nose of creamy Asian pear, elegant barrel spices, baked apple and intermingling minerals. It’s young still, but startinging to reveal it’s beautiful palate of poached pear, toasted barrel spices, vanilla and profound minerality. It has length, finesse and verve through a long, luxurious finish. Simply delicious and well suited for your cellar.

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Tawse South Bay Chardonnay 2013 (around $45, spring release, 93 points) — A first for Tawse, swapping Quarry Road Pinot Noir for Huff Estate’s South Bay Chardonnay in Prince Edward County and applying the same disciplined winemaking techniques as all Tawse Chards: barrel fermented, wild yeast, 12 months in French oak, 25% new. A beauty, with PEC minerality, a river-rock salinity that melds to swirling baked apple, pear and tangerine with soft spice notes on the nose. It’s a lovely and textured Chard on the palate, rich and broad, with a mélange of citrus, pear and apple fruit and perfectly integrated spice and minerals that are delivered on a long-lasting finish. Bravo!

Redstone Chardonnay Reserve 2012 ($39, winery now, 92 points) — From the organic/biodynamically-farmed Limestone Ridge Vineyard on the Twenty Mile Bench and aged 12 months in French oak, 30% new barrels. An attractive nose of poached pear, vanilla, toasted barrel spices and baked apple pie. It’s a voluptuous and substantive Chardy that’s loaded with spicy, ripe pear, elegant oak spices and decent acidity. Graceful, old-school Chardonnay.

Other whites

cq5dam.web.1280.1280Redstone Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon 2012 ($35, winery now, 91 points) – The blend is 60% SB and the rest Semillon with barrel fermentation and oak aging in French barrels for 12 months. A beautifully integrated and classic white blend with a nose of grapefruit, melon, apple skin, pear and lovely elegant oak spice. It’s loaded with juicy citrus on the palate to go with apple and melon notes, beautiful texture, subtle oak spice and plenty of energy and verge through the finish.

Brickyard Riesling 2014 ($14, LCBO “wines to watch program” February to July, 87 points) — From various Niagara vineyards including Limestone Ridge, the nose shows zingy grapefruit, lime, green apple, and a touch of peach and minerals. There’s nice play between ripe and tart citrus on the palate and plenty of minerality to keep this interesting. Nice, affordable Riesling.

Pinot Noir

Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 ($36, 2016 LCBO Direct Delivery Program, 90 points) — Quarry Road is in the Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation and the wine is aged in French oak for 14 months, 20% of which is new barrels. The nose shows cassis, black cherry, earthy/loamy funk and spice. It has an earthy profile on the palate with rich, savoury fruit, good spice and perky acidity.

Tawse Tintern Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 ($45, 2016 release at the winery, 89 points) — From the newly planted Tintern Vineyard, from 3-year-old vines in the Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation. There will be no more Pinot from that vineyard until the 2016 vintage (fingers crossed) due to the harsh winters in 2014-15. The nose shows deep, rich and spicy cherry fruit and touches of cassis and barrel-toasted spices. It’s vibrant and juicy on the palate with dark red fruits, earth, layered spices and firm tannic structure all balanced by freshening acidity.

Tawse Lauritzen Vineyard Pinot Noir 2013 ($45, 2016 at the winery, 90 points) — From 12-year-old vines planted and farmed organically/biodynamically in the Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation, this is a more delicate Pinot with a mélange of bright cherry, cassis, cigar-box cedar, spice, raspberry, violets and mineral notes on the nose. The acidity is electric on the palate, propping up the savoury red fruits, anise, wood spices and ripe tannins that all lead to a lingering and mouth-watering finish.

Tawse Cherry Road Pinot Noir 2013 ($60, winery now, 93 points) — This Twenty Mile Bench estate Pinot is always my favourite of the extensive red program at Tawse. It’s aged in oak for 18 months in 40% new French barrels. The nose is quite expressive, yet delicate, with cherry, raspberry, violets, subtle earthiness, mushrooms, underbrush and spice. I love the feminineness of this Pinot, even with the red-fruit-laden palate there is still a show of restraint. It is complex and finessed with underlying earth, supple tannins and length through the finish. It’s quite beautiful, delicate, nuanced, layered and tantalizingly teasing.

Other reds

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Tawse winemaker Paul Pender

Tawse Gamay 2014 ($19, winery now, 88 points) – Sourced from Niagara-on-the-Lake with light oak aging, the nose shows notes of blue plum, savoury cherry, strawberry and hints of herbs and spices. It’s woodsy and earthy on the palate with red fruits, plums, mocha and well-balanced through the finish.

Tawse Grower’s Blend Cabernet Franc 2012 ($27, winery now, LCBO Direct Delivery Program, 90 points) – Sourced from select vineyards in Niagara, most notably Wismer Vineyard, and aged in French oak for 14 months. The nose shows leather, licorice, black currants, tar, smoke, bramble and herbs. It’s dark and rich on the palate with black cherry, anise, black currants, earth, licorice and spice. It’s a fairly big CF that should age well in the cellar.

Redstone Cabernet Franc 2012 ($30, winery now, 91 points) – Sourced from three vineyards in the Lincoln Lakeshore sub-appellation and aged in French oak for 14 months, 40% of which were new barrels. A nose of rockin’ red fruits, herbs, spice, currants and toasted barrel spices. It’s thick and rich on the palate with an enjoyable package of red/dark fruits, spice, subtle herbs and all held together by a mouthful of tannins. There is plenty of depth to explore and perfectly poised through the finish.

Redstone Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($30, winery now, 89 points) – Sourced from the Wismer Vineyard and aged in French oak for 14 months. It has a rich and spicy nose with black currants, mocha, earth and bramble notes. Built on a frame of firm tannins, the dark, rich fruits emerge and are bolstered by oak spices and fairly decent acidity. Hold for five years.

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Redstone winemaker Rene Van Ede.

Redstone Syrah 2012 ($40, January release, 92 points) – From the organic/biodynamically farmed Redstone Estate Vineyard and aged in French oak for 14 months, this is the real deal. A rich and heady nose of grilled meat, sweet oak spices, currants, black pepper and dark fruits that are revealed in layers. This is big on the palate, a full-bodied, full-tannin attack of rich, flavourful dark fruits, barrel spices, funky earthy/loamy notes that’s lush and complex through the finish. Fantastic Syrah.

Redstone Merlot 2011($40, winery now, 89 points) – From the organic/biodynamically farmed Redstone Estate Vineyard and aged in French oak for 14 months. The nose displays nicely mature cassis, currants, meaty red fruits, baker’s rack spices and bramble. It’s thick and rich on the palate with dark-ish fruits, earth and spice that’s just starting to show its full potential. Great effort in a cool vintage.