Niagara Wine Reviews

A decade’s worth of iconic CSV Riesling

What: Cave Spring Cellars Riesling CSV, the winery’s top Riesling made from vines at least 25 years old.
Where: 3836 Main St., Jordan
Winemaker: Angelo Pavan
Proprietors: Pennachetti Family, Pavan.
Must try: Available for sale at the winery are the back vintages 2002 ($50), 2004 ($55) and 2005 ($40). The current release is the 2007 ($30) with a little kicking around Vintages and the 2008 ($30) released in March.
Availability: Winery, Web, Vintages.
Website: www.cavespring.caThis is one phone call you do not want to miss. It goes something like this.

By Rick VanSickle

“Rick, Tom Pennachetti. Listen, I know it’s short notice but can you come over and taste some wine,” he asks.

“We just opened a decade’s worth of our CSV Riesling.”

OK, so basically, that’s music to my ears. A decade’s worth of Cave Spring Riesling from the Jordan estate’s top wine, the legendary CSV? Are you kidding me? “I’m on my way.”

Tom Pennachetti of Cave Spring.
Tom Pennachetti of Cave Spring. Photo by Bob Tymczyszyn, courtesy St. Catharines Standard.

Pennachetti, who along with his brother Len and winemaker Angelo Pavan make up the inner core of Cave Spring Cellars, doesn’t often crack open a vertical of his iconic Riesling, perhaps the most famous in Canada, so it’s easy to justify dropping whatever you are doing to get there and taste with him and Pavan as quickly as possible.

The wines were opened as a preview for a spectacular tasting Pavan participated in last weekend at the prestigious Rona VinoExcellence and Merano Wine Festival in Rome, Italy. The event brings together principals from some of the finest wineries in the world, including the best of Bordeaux, Burgundy and Italy, and only two North American wineries: Viader from Napa Valley and Cave Spring Cellars. Some of the most influential international wine journalists are also in attendance and tasting at the event.

Pavan was to present his vertical (a lineup of the same wine from different vintages) of CSV at a round table of 16 great Rieslings from around the world.

Pavan also showed off his vertical at the wine festival in a special tasting that would make most wine lovers drool with envy. Cave Spring was to join a lineup that included verticals of Chateau Chasse Spleen (with wines dating back to 1962), Chateau de Camensac, Cheval Blanc, Viader, Sassicaia, and Chianti Classico Badia a Coltibuono (back to 1965) to name a few of the participants.

Obviously quite an honour for Cave Spring to be included in the festival but also a great representative from Canada and an opportunity to show the international wine community that we make more than just icewine in Canada.

The honour is fitting considering the vintage this fall will be the 25th for the Cave Spring CSV (which stands for Cave Spring Vineyard) Riesling. CSV is made from the two oldest blocks of Riesling at the Cave Spring Vineyard on the Beamsville Bench and gets its personality and “terroir” from the gravelly, limestone-rich clay soil found there.

It’s always interesting to taste a vertical of a particular wine to see not only how a wine ages over time but also how different growing seasons change a wine. If the winemaking and vineyards are consistent what effect, then, does weather have on a wine?

The CSV Rieslings are proving to be long-lasting and interesting in their old age. The 1999 vintage was fascinating to taste as it has developed an interesting lanolin/honeycomb quality while maintaining classic citrus-mineral notes. At over 10 years old, it’s still a lovely wine and showing further signs of longevity.
In fact, all the warmer season vintages (1999, 2002, 2005 and 2007) showed consistency in the mineral (slate, wet stone) attributes while the cooler vintages displayed a more vibrant, juicy core of fruit flavours.

That being said, there is still a thread of consistency with all the wines regardless of the vintage. Honeysuckle, peach, guava and judicious residual sugars (cool season more, warm season dialed back) along with varying degrees of mineral notes define all the CSV Rieslings. And that’s what makes the CSV Riesling a benchmark for this varietal in Canada.

Here’s a look at the 2008 CSV:

Cave Spring CSV Riesling 2008 ($30, Vintages, winery, web, 4.5 stars) — The ’08 version of this wine will undoubtedly be counted among the best from the CSV vintages. It’s youthful on the nose and tightly wound but showing exotic tropical fruit aromas to go with profound talc and mineral notes. It’s made with slightly more residual sugar to balance out the high acids and reveals white peach, grapefruit, tropical and apple fruits that are playfully sweet and tart in the mouth. The minerality of this wine is just starting to poke through the rousing fruit flavours. Should age beautifully.