Niagara wine

By Rick VanSickle

The two Niagara wineries that Moray Tawse built just continue to rack up the awards and accolades with each passing vintage.

First and foremost, Tawse demands excellence at every level from his winemaking team, and the two key winemakers, Paul Pender (Tawse) and Rene Van Ede (Redfoot) deliver in spades. Between them, this super winemaking duo have racked up five Winery of the Year awards, including this year’s honour for Redstone.

The winery garnered 10 medals in total at the Canadian wine awards competition, including two platinum, three gold, two silver and three bronze medals for their wines.

Ontario wine

Van Ede, above, and Pender, who support each other at both wineries, can take a bow for all that success. And Moray Tawse can be proud that his vision for producing premium wines in Niagara is fully realized and will only get better with each passing vintage.

No stranger to the industry, Van Ede has been an integral part of the winemaking successes of sister winery Tawse for the past nine years, supporting head winemaker Pender in an assistant role. He’s been chief winemaker at Redstone from the beginning.

Michael Lowe and I recently took a deep dive into both the Tawse and Redstone new (or soon to be) releases. Here is what we can recommend. Lowe’s reviews are marked with ML after the review.

Tawse Estate Winery

Canada wineTawse Unfiltered Redfoot Vineyard Gamay 2016 ($29, winery, 100 magnums also available, 90 points) — This is the second iteration of the “natural” unfiltered Gamay from Tawse that follows in the footsteps of the natural Chardonnay winemaker Paul Pender first experimented with three years ago. Purists would not call it natural, as it sees seven months in French oak, but it’s made without filtering, without fining, without added sulphur and without additives, so, pretty close to natural. Gamay is such a great grape for low intervention wines because the flavours are so pure and clean when grown in Niagara with naturally high acidity and ripeness. This one shows aromas of highly extracted plums, cherry kirsch, raspberry pie, forest floor and subtle spice. It’s bright and juicy on the palate with high-toned cassis, cherry, raspberry and plum notes with soft tannins, and delicate spice that is full and rich through the finish. A mighty gulpable Gamay that needs to be consumed in the near-term for maximum enjoyment.

Tawse wineTawse Unfiltered Quarry Road Pinot Noir 2016 ($35, winery, 91 points) — From estate certified organic/biodynamic vineyards this sees seven months of French oak aging, and, like above, no fining, filtering, additives or sulphur. A rousing nose of black cherry, bright raspberry, cassis, undergrowth, minerals, violets and cedar accents. It shows purity of fruit on the palate and a range of juicy red fruits to go with notes of tobacco, spice, light tannins, bright acidity and a clean and fresh finish. Pinot Noir stripped down to its purest flavours. Drink in the near term.

Tawse Grower’s Blend Pinot Noir 2014 ($28, winery, 87 points) — On the nose earthy notes dominate with under-toned cherry, spice and dried floral tones. The palate expresses wood tannins, which overshadow the dried cherry and black tea lurking in the background. With some bottle age this should come together. (ML)

Tawse Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2013 ($32, winery now, Vintages this fall, 90 points) — Expect classic varietal aromas and flavours in this broad-shouldered Franc — blackberry, plum and blueberry are the big players here along with some cedar, black pepper and a touch of mint. The palate is juicy and lush with a dark berry core and savoury finish showing some lingering vanilla. This is a big, well-structured wine and a good value for the price. (ML)

Best Niagara wine

Tawse Growers Blend Rosé 2016 ($20, winery, 89 points) — A blend of Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Gamay and Pinot Gris with a lovely medium pale salmon glow in the glass and a nose of strawberry, rhubarb, cherry, raspberry and just a hint of citrus. Dry impression on the palate with refreshing, mouth-watering acidity to support the range of red fruits and earthy bits.

Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Pinot Noir Spark Rosé 2015 ($30, winery, 90 points) — A traditionally made sparkler from organic/biodynamically farmed Pinot Noir grapes with 12 months of aging on the lees. The pretty nose shows wild raspberries, light toast, minerals forever, cherries and dried violets. It’s dry on the palate with a range of succulent red fruits, creamy apple notes, a vigorous mousse and long finish aided by electric acidity. Nice bubble here.

Best Ontario wine

Tawse Spark Brut N/V ($25, winery, LCBO Vintages Direct Delivery, 89 points) — A traditionally made sparkler that combines Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. The nose shows fresh-squeezed lime, lemon crisp apple and summer peach notes. It has a mellow mousse and more creamy notes on the palate with flavours of baked apple and citrus high notes. Fun bubbly at a great price.

Tawse Quarry Road Vineyard Gewürztraminer 2016 ($25, 89 points) ­— An enticing nose of delicate orange blossom and lime opens the door to lively Mandarin orange and mango flavours. The wine is off-dry with lip-smacking acidity. This one’s a beauty for chilling on hot day and will pair well with spicy Thai dishes. (ML)

Redstone Estate Winery

Niagara wine

Redstone Pinot Noir Sparkling Rosé 2015 ($30, winery, 90 points) — This delightful bubbly pours with a persistent mousse that lifts plenty of cherry and strawberry notes to the nose. Twelve months of aging on the lees adds complexity and body, rounding out the palate. White cherry notes hang on from the middle through to the finish. Chill a bottle and get ready to celebrate summer. (ML)

Redstone Pinot Gris Redstone Vineyard 2016 ($25, winery, 88 points) — Made from the estate’s organic/biodynamic (not yet certified) vineyards. It has rich aromas of pear, peach and apple … all good things from the orchard. It’s round and ripe on the palate with flavours of peach, grapefruit, pear and apples.

Redstone Viognier Redfoot Vineyard 2015 ($25, winery, 89 points) — A personable Viognier that sees about 10 months of French oak. The nose shouts ripe apricot, guava, spiced apple, tangerine and toasted vanilla accents. Lovely mouth-feel and vibrancy with exotic tropical fruits, creamy apple, soft pear and citrus accents on the finish.

Redstone Gewurztraminer 2016 ($22, winery, 90 points) — Sourced from two undisclosed Niagara vineyards, comes this attractive Gew with its lovely golden colour and rich nose of lychee, wild honey, cloves, mature grapefruit, brown sugar and exotic tropical fruits. It’s honey-sweet on the palate with a lavish array of tropical fruits, lychee, citrus pulp, cloves and ginger. It’s soft, seductive and decadent.

Redstone Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 ($46, winery, after 2013 is sold out, 91 points) — There’s a lot going on in this robust Cab — it’s jam-packed with plenty of blackberry and cassis, a subtle eucalyptus note and framed by fragrant sandalwood and cigar-box. All those black fruit and wood notes are layered among juicy acidity on the palate with some dark chocolate on the finish. This is a well-crafted wine that, over time, will really show its stuff. Note: The 2012 vintage is being held back until the 2013 vintage is sold through as the winery feels 2013 is more approachable right now. (ML)

Redstone Cabernet Franc Redstone Vineyard 2013 ($40, winery, 91 points) — A late-released Cab Franc that sees 18 months in French oak barriques. It shows a deep red colour in the glass and rich aromas of black currants, blackberries, cedar cigar box, lavish spice notes and savoury herbs. It’s highly structured on the palate with a range of dark fruits, tobacco, earth, herbs and ripe/firm tannins. Can cellar 5+ years.