Niagara Wine Reviews

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.