Niagara Wine Reviews

Sustainable philosophy, spectacular lineup of wines

WHAT: Tawse Winery
WHERE: 3955 Cherry Ave., Vineland.
TASTINGS: Daily 10 a. m. to 6 p. m. May to October. Open until 5 p. m. November to April. Tours by appointment.
WINEMAKER: Paul Pender with Pascal Marchand as lead consultant.
PROPRIETOR: Moray Tawse.
SPECIALITIES: Tawse and Marchand are all about the 
 Burgundian style of wine making. So think elegant Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs but don’t overlook the Niagara influence of fabulous Rieslings, Cabernet Franc and a killer Gewurztraminer.
MUST TRY: Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2008 (this “house” Riesling is about as good as it gets in the under $20 category), Tawse Quarry Road Chardonnay 2007 and Tawse 17th Street Pinot Noir 2007.
AVAILABILITY: Winery, Vintages, web.

By Rick VanSickle

At Tawse Winery in Vineland, it’s all about the gentle, natural process of turning grapes into wine. 
 From the eco-friendly vineyards, that are well on their way to being certified organic and biodynamic, to the new state-of-the-art winery, every step taken in the process is done with the best sustainable practices in mind. 
 The naturally-sloping terrain of the winery was the perfect location for Tawse’s six-level gravity-flow processing facility.

After hand-harvested, hand-sorted grapes arrive at the top level at the winery, the juice gently makes it way through the process from top to bottom, all without harsh pumping and with minimum manipulation that can cause bruising or aeration in the finished wine. 
 Each level of the process — from pressing and fermentation to the barrel cellars and blending tanks — all leads to the main floor bottling room where the wines complete their downward journey and are ready to be enjoyed by wine lovers.

It’s an expensive process but Tawse feels that sustainable farming should be extended all the way through the winery for each and every bottle produced. 
 Touring the winery and grounds is part of the experience at Tawse. From the spectacular view in the vineyards straight across Lake Ontario to Toronto to the tasting room that overlooks the winery, and finally drinking the spectacular lineup of wines is an immense pleasure that can only be experienced by visiting. And since most of Tawse’s small-batch, 10,000-case production is only available at the winery, it’s wise to make the trek to Vineland to tour, taste and buy.

Tawse is firmly built on owner Moray Tawse’s love of Burgundian wines — Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. But, as wine shop associate Bob Koruna said: “The focus is Burgundian but this is Niagara.” Which means Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are joined by what Niagara also does best — Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Gewurztraminer. 
 Tawse farms about 70 acres of vines split between two distinctive vineyards located along the Niagara Escarpment.

The Cherry Vineyard surrounds the winery and is home to three distinct blocks all named after Tawse’s children — Carly, Robyn and David — and include some of the oldest Riesling vines on the escarpment. 
 The Quarry Road Vineyard is located on the Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation of the escarpment and was only purchased in 2004. It’s a noted area for terroir-driven Riesling.

Here are some great wines available at Tawse (all winery only unless noted):

Tawse 17th Street Pinot Noir 2007 ($58, 4.5 stars) — Red cherry-raspberry jam aromas to go with vanilla and perfumed spice. On the palate, pure elegance, layered spice and persistent red fruit 
 flavours. A sensational Pinot to lay down for a few years.

Tawse Wismer Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2007 ($38, 
 4.5 stars) — Is this the red varietal that defines Niagara? Done like this, it can hold up to the best Cab Francs in the wine world. Pretty red fruits and cassis that tumble softly onto the palate adding a delicious spice note. A big, untamed red that needs decanting and/or cellaring to fully integrate.

Tawse Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2007 ($42, 4 stars) — Even after spending 12 months in French oak, this Chard still lets the pear and apple fruit do the talking. With just a kiss of oak, the fruit is broad on the palate and reveals cream rather than smoke and exaggerated spice. A very well done, balanced wine.

Tawse Gewurztraminer 2008 ($30, 4 stars) — You might wonder why a winery that specializes in Burgundian styles would fool around with Gewurz. It’s simple. Tawes purchased the Quarry Road estate vineyards and the lovely fruit from the Gewurz vines was just too good to replant. It’s loaded with grapefruit, sweet exotic spice and lychee made in an off-dry style. It caresses the palate with exciting lychee-ctirus and juicy acidity.

Tawse Sketches of Niagara Riesling 2008 ($18, Vintages, 3.5 stars) — It starts and finishes with gushing grapefruit on the nose and in the mouth, adding a firm bead of minerality in between. A textbook Niagara Riesling showing gobs of citrus, a touch of honey and firm acidity. Nice.

Tawse Wisner Foxcroft Riesling 2008($22, Winery, 
 4.5 stars) — A blast of minerality to start on the nose turning to citrus spritz, grapefruit, lime and apple. A wonderful wine in the mouth with explosive citrus fruit, some sweet notes all cut with bracing acidity and distinct minerality. A lasting finish.