Wines In Niagara

A local perspective

Tag: Twenty Mile Bench (page 2 of 2)

In the barrel cellars with Flat Rock’s Ed Madronich

Ed Madronich walks around his various barrel cellars, thief in hand, with a lively spring in his step. He deftly draws unfinished wine from this barrel or that one as if they were his children, all with unique and special personalities that will come together, sometime down the road, as one big happy family.

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The bees add buzz to Beamsville winery

What: Rosewood Estates Winery and Meadery
Where: 4352 Mountainview Rd., Beamsville
Tastings: Winter hours are 11 a. m. to 5 p. m. Thursday to Monday
Winemaker: Natalie Spytkowsky
Owners: Eugene and Renata Roman
Specialties: On the wine side, Spytkowsky is crafting some lovely Rieslings, a rare 100% Semillon, and the just-released reds are delicious. The winery also makes mead, or honey wine, from flower nectar collected by honeybees on the estate. The first Pinot Noir mead combines the power of grapes with the lush, organic sweetness of honey and has just been released.
Must try: Rosewood Estates Natalie’s Sussreserve Riesling 2008, Rosewood Estates Cabernet Franc 2007.
Availability: Winery, limited LCBO.

By Rick VanSickle

Ever since the first grapes were planted in 2003, there’s been quite a buzz surrounding Rosewood Estates in Beamsville. 
 And it’s not all because of the wines being crafted at this Mountainview Road winery. It’s also, quite literally, because of the bees, millions of stinging, swarming bees, that buzz around the winery making honey that winemaker Natalie Spytkowsky converts into various styles of mead, including an outrageously delicious and unique Pinot Noir mead.

The winery and meadery, owned by Eugene (a second generation apiarist) and Renata Roman, sits on 40 acres of prime Beamsville Bench terroir. Just over 15 acres are planted to grapes while two acres are dedicated to the apiary and the rest left as a forested area on the beautiful Niagara Escarpment. The family also owns vineyards in Jordan along the Twenty Mile Bench.

The first wines from the 2006 vintage (from vines that were planted in 2003) at Rosewood were only released a year ago but have already found a steady following. Wine lovers have fallen in love with the small-batch, artisanal wines that are made from mostly estate hand-picked grapes as well as the various meads made by Spytkowsky. 
 The wine portfolio at Rosewood consists primarily of vinifera varietals (or blends) with a strong Riesling program and even a rarely made (at least in Niagara) 100% Semillon.

The 2007 Bordeaux-style reds showed nicely at a recently-held release party. 
 I was only able to try one mead-style wine, the new Mead Noir 2008 ($25 at the winery). The mead was fermented with Pinot Noir juice and completely changed the profile of the Pinot. With a honey-spice sweetness, the Pinot still has typical red fruits but also notes of dried apricot, pear and toffee. There is some acidity that’s balanced off by the sweetness. A perfect complement to Thai and Indian food.

Rosewood also makes a traditional style mead called Harvest Gold, a specialty mead, Mon Cherie, made from Niagara cherries and blended with local honey and the signature mead, Grand Reserve Ambrosia, which follows closely the ancient recipe for crafting honey wines.

Here are some highlights from the grape wines tasted at the winery (all available at the winery):

Rosewood Estates Semillon 2008 ($18, 3.5 stars) — A nose of white peach and soft, ripe melon. The peach is amplified on the palate with nice acidity and a lasting finish.

Rosewood Estates Riesling Reserve 2007 ($25, 4 stars) — Only 52 cases of this reserve Riesling, the first from the estate’s Renaceau vineyard on the Beamsville Bench, are available for sale. Bold aromas of lime, peach and grapefruit to start. It’s flinty and slightly off-dry on the palate with ripe, juicy fruits and a touch of minerality.

Rosewood Estates Natalie’s Sussreserve Riesling 2008 ($18, 4.5 stars) — Sussreserve is unfermented Riesling grape juice that’s added back just before bottling which increases complexity, structure and natural acidity. The end result is a lighter style of wine (less alcohol) with fresh lime and citrus notes that are subtle on the nose. But it’s a fruit bomb on the palate with blasts of lime and peach on a backbone of juicy acidity. A delight.

Rosewood Estates Cabernet Franc Renaceau Vineyard 2007 ($22, 4 stars) — An estate wine that shows red fruits mingling with vanilla, oak and spice on the nose. The fruits are ripe and explosive on the palate with complementary vanilla, spice and even floral notes.

Rosewood Estates Merlot Renaceau Vineyard 2007 ($18, 4 stars) — Wonderful black cherry, cassis and sweet spices on the nose. In the mouth, ripe cherry/kirsch notes to go with roasted coffee bean and herbs on the finish.

Rosewood Estates Pinot Noir 2008 ($18, 3.5 stars) — A first look at the ’08 Pinot with cherry, earth, spice and cedar aromas. The palate reveals nice cherry, raspberry and vanilla to go with charred oak and spice. 


Nothing beats a glass of Niagara Riesling

By Rick VanSickle

Of all the wonderful wines that are crafted in Niagara, Riesling stands taller than all the others. 
 It is the one grape that thrives year after year in the soils and climate of Niagara’s unpredictable growing season. Seldom does a vintage pass by without yielding a bevy of beautiful Rieslings.

Whether it’s a hot season such as 2007, with its voluptuous and fleshy wines, or a cooler season such as 2008, with gorgeous flavours and mouth-watering acidity, Riesling seems to be the one constant when the quality of other varieties can vary vintage to vintage. 
 It is arguably Niagara’s most important varietal, and when it’s made right, nothing beats a glass of crisp Niagara Riesling.

A group of wine fans recently decided to find the most exciting Rieslings in Ontario and used Twitter (you can follow me at rickwine) as the sounding board. Once the call was put out to the Twitterverse, the favourites poured in. 
 Much debate raged. Different tasters liked different styles. Bench Rieslings have what some described as “terroir” while other Rieslings are fruit-driven.

About the only thing the tasters could agree on were the two leaders in the Ontario Riesling hierarchy — Cave Spring Cellars and Thirty Bench Wine Makers, both of which specialize in Riesling and have reputations staked on that grape. You can view full group results at 
 What follows is a list of great Rieslings from Ontario, not the definitive list, but a great starting point.

Quintessential Rieslings — Two Riesling producers rise to the top of most tasters’ lists. Both Cave Spring Cellars and Thirty Bench Wine Makers have intense Riesling programs that represent all that is good about this variety in Niagara. Here are two of the best Rieslings made in Ontario:

Cave Spring Cellars CSV Riesling 2007 ($30, winery, Vintages) — A fabulous Riesling and a benchmark for this varietal in Niagara. It’s just now starting to open up with notes of honeysuckle, citrus, stoney mineral and white peach on the nose. It really shows its pedigree on the palate. A core of summer peach followed by grapefruit and a touch of sweetness that is balanced by moderate acidity.

Thirty Bench Wine Makers Small Lot Riesling The Wood Post 2008 ($30, winery, Vintages) — This single-vineyard Riesling from the famous trilogy at Thirty Bench is a blockbuster. It’s all about the minerality, the quince, the white peach and white flowers all neatly stitched together. It’s a layered, complex wine that combines citrus, wet stone and grapefruit. 
 New Kids on the Block– Riesling is a grape winemakers love to craft with. It can be so personable and unique from winery to winery. These two relatively new Rieslings show the creative side of Riesling.

Charles Baker Riesling 2007 ($35, available at Stratus) — Riesling purists love the minerality this grape can show and Vinemount Ridge, where these grapes were harvested, is always loaded with minerals that show from the opening sniff. What follows are nice lemon-citrus scents with a hint of diesel. The palate reveals grapefruit, peach and lemon-lime all in broad strokes. It’s a fleshy wine that gives generously.

Ravine Vineyard Riesling 2007 ($28, sold out but the 2008 should be released soon) — A lemon-lime-grapefruit powerhouse that draws its personality from 25% botrytis-affected grapes. This is such a unique and utterly profound wine with honey, mineral, peach, lime, quince flavours and wonderful mouth-feel. 
 Single-vineyard Rieslings– It is my opinion that Riesling is best expressed when picked in a single vineyard that shows unique personality. Here are a few to try.

Hillebrand Showcase Riesling Ghost Creek 
 Vineyard 2008 ($25, winery) — This wine possesses a sensational nose of white peach, pineapple, tropical fruits and a mineral edge. It’s downright electrifying on the palate, with bracing acidity followed by lime, citrus and peach all focused and pure in the mouth.

Creekside Butler’s Grant Riesling 2007 ($16, winery) — From a nice little vineyard on the Twenty Mile Bench, this is a unique expression of Riesling. The aromas range from grapefruit, honey and subtle petrol notes to ginger and peach. It reveals more citrus acidity than other ’07s, with gushing grapefruit and peach flavours and a balanced, playful interaction between sweet and tart.

Flat Rock Cellars Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling 2008 ($20, winery) — Another Riesling from the Twenty Mile Bench. It shows white peach, mineral, melon, citrus and apple notes on the nose. It’s made in a dry style that delivers precise citrus fruit on a backbone of acid. It’s tight and focused with a lemon zap on the finish. 
 A Riesling to watch– There’s no doubt Stratus is making some fine juice at its high-end artisanal Niagara-on- the-Lake winery. The grapes for its Riesling come from Vinemount Ridge, a mecca of sorts for this grape.

Stratus Riesling 2008 ($29, winery) — A refined Riesling with pretty aromas of grapefruit and peach in harmony. The laser sharp acidity of the vintage hits the palate with a juicy, mouth-watering citrus blast. This wine will improve with time in the cellar.

Some other great Rieslings — I’ve written up some other Rieslings lately that deserve to be on a list such as this. They include: 
 Tawse Wisner Vineyard Foxcroft Block Riesling 2008 ($22, winery), Fielding Estate Lot No. 17 Riesling 2008 ($25, winery), Calamus Estate Vinemount Ridge Riesling 2007 ($17, winery), Inniskillin Legacy Series Riesling 2008 (not yet released, $25-$30.) 


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