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New Niagara wine releases from Tawse and the new North Shore Project Syrah; plus Vintages releases and more


Tawse Winery, situated the lower slopes of the Niagara Escarpment, is no stranger to success.

Under the careful watch of winemaker Paul Pender (see photo below), Tawse unites traditional winemaking techniques in combination with state-of-the-art technology to create wines of elegance, depth and character.

The results are trumpeted in wine competition after wine competition. At the heart of the Tawse’s success is the fruit from both sourced and estate vineyards.


The grapes are harvested from old-growth, low-yield vines and are gently handled using natural gravity flow and geothermic energy. Rigorous organic and biodynamic methods are applied to every aspect of wine production and Ecocert and Demeter seals now appear on all Tawse vintages made from biodynamic vineyards.

I recently awarded the Tawse Estate Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2011 my most thrilling white wine of 2013.

Robyn’s Block, from the oldest of the estate Chardonnay plantings, has always impressed me because it is exactly the kind of wine I like to drink. It is packed with flavour without a heavy hand with the oak, a trademark of winemaker Pender, to better reveal the lovely minerality, the signature of the vineyard.

I’ve repeated my review of the Robyn’s Block here, along with reviews of other recent releases from Tawse. A few other recently tried Niagara wines are also included in this post.


Tawse Gamay Noir 2012 ($19, winery, Vintages in March, 89 points) — This second vintage of Gamay from Tawse is sourced from hand-harvested fruit from select vineyards in Niagara. The nose shows pure and ripe cherries, strawberries, currants and subtle spice notes. It’s bright and cheery on the palate with lovely red fruits, a hint of plum, licorice, spice and herbs, smooth tannins and good acidity. Great food wine to serve with charcuterie, roasted pork belly or barbecued pork tenderloin.

tawse syrah

Tawse Estate Syrah 2010, Niagara ($50, wine club only, 92 points) — The nose reveals meaty dark fruits, rich cherry notes, mocha and pepper spice, dried herbs and bramble. The fruit is concentrated on the palate and shows complexity with cracked black pepper, black olives and lovely garrigue notes through a long finish.

11_Spark_Blend_lrgTawse Estate Limestone Ridge Spark Riesling 2012 ($20, winery, Vintages in April, 90 points) — A great first effort, this Riesling sparkler is crafted from hand-harvested grapes from Limestone Ridge, Tawse’s newest estate vineyard. I love the zesty lime-citrus nose with a hint of mineral and fresh apple notes. Those bright citrus flavours on the palate are propped up by lively acidity and a steady bead of bubbles that tickle and refresh the palate with each sip. Great price for this completely dry sparkler.

Tawse Spark 2011 ($25, also $15 for 375 ml, winery only, 91 points) — A unique blend of Chardonnay (65%), Pinot Gris (22%) and Pinot Noir (13%) grapes from select Niagara Peninsula vineyards, crafted in the traditional method. It is aged on the lees for 12 months. Lots going on here on the nose, with apple, peach, citrus zing and hints of tropical fruit. It’s fresh and vibrant on the palate with a lively, persistent mousse to go with citrus-peach flavours.

Tawse Estate Limestone Ridge Riesling 2012 ($22, winery, 91 points) — This is Tawse’s newest estate vineyard on the Twenty Mile Bench. A nose that highlights lime, Mandarin orange, subtle jasmine spice with lovely chalky minerality dancing in the background. There is energy and tension on the palate, a playful tug of sweet-tart citrus flavours, peach pith and wet stone notes. Fantastic Riesling, made slightly off-dry, but balanced from stem to stern.

11_Quarry_Chardonnay_lrgTawse Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2011 ($32, winery, 91 points) — Laundry Vineyard is in the Lincoln-Lakeshore sub appellation and home to some of the oldest Cabernet Franc vines in Niagara. The wine is aged for 18 months in French oak. The nose shows bramble, wild raspberry, savoury cherry, cassis and mocha spice. It’s bursting with red fruit flavours on the palate and backed up by roasted herbs, wet tobacco leaf and mint spices on a highly structured frame. Could hold this for a couple of years. Classic Niagara Cab Franc.

Tawse Estate Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2011 ($46, winery, 94 points) — 2011 was a very good year in Niagara for Chardonnay with warm, sunny days and cool nights, which resulted in extraordinary flavour development. The Robyn’s Block was fermented and aged in 100% French oak barriques. A year in barrel was followed by six months in stainless steel before bottling. Robyn’s Block is the oldest (29 years) of the estate’s Chardonnay plantings in the Twenty Mile sub-appellation. With each passing vintage, this certified organic-biodynamic wine just keeps getting better. The nose is focused and finessed with fresh citrus, touches of green apple and quince, wet stone and a floral note that all rises above the subtle oak spices. The crisp and zesty lime-citrus fruit and minerals glide on a razor sharp beam of mouth-watering acidity and light up the palate. This is pure elegance in the mouth, a complex array generous (but never weighty) fruit flavours that are balanced out by a wisp of spice that build in intensity through a long, long finish. This is irresistible now but will continue to give pleasure for five or more years. A brilliant Chardonnay made without a heavy hand in the cellar.

Tawse Estate Quarry Road Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 ($36, winery, Vintages Direct Delivery, 90 points) — From 15-year old vines in the Vinemount Ridge sub-appellation and farmed organically and biodynamically. The nose displays elegant apple, citrus, limestone minerality and creamy spices all in perfect harmony. The pear-apple-citrus fruits on the palate are bolstered by wet stone and integrated spice notes through a long finish.


A selection of Ontario Syrahs


I’ll have a more in depth look at Ontario Syrahs with a report I’m doing for Tidings wine magazine (now called Quench) but wanted to get a few reviews out there.

The first review is from the new North Shore Project Syrah, a joint project from former Canoe Sommelier William Predhomme and Hinterland owner and winemaker Jonas Newman. The two purchase Syrah from Lake Erie North Shore’s Colio Estates and truck the grapes to Prince Edward County. This is their first effort.

North Shore Project Syrah 2012, Lake Erie North Shore ($22, only in restaurants, 91 points) — Textbook cool-climate Syrah with a nose of pepper, hickory smoke, savoury cherry, black currants and spiced grilled meat. It’s nicely balanced in the mouth with darker fruits, light oak spice, cracked black peppercorns and refreshing acidity. Touches of charcoal, tar and licorice add to the interest through the finish.

Some other Syrahs to check out from Ontario:


Muscedere Vineyards Syrah 2010, Lake Erie North Shore ($40, 91 points) — The nose shows boysenberry, plum pie, mocha-nutmeg spice, grilled meats, earth and stewed cherries. It has firm tannic structure with meaty-chewy fruits and peppery-spicy notes with a touch of anise on the smooth finish.

Viewpointe High Pointe Syrah 2007, Lake Erie North Shore ($23, 91 points) — A fully mature Syrah that is well integrated with aromas of deli meats, stewed plums, blueberries, fortified cherry and lavish spices. The bold and mature dark fruits are joined by lovely savoury pepper and spice notes and well-integrated tannins.


Jackson-Triggs Delaine Vineyard Syrah 2011, Niagara ($33, 91 points) — A nose of bold dark fruits, licorice, tar, grilled game, nutmeg, pepper and bramble. It’s lovely on the palate with robust dark fruits, savoury spices, bright acidity and ripe tannins.

Lakeview Cellars Syrah Reserve 2010, Niagara ($30, Diamond Estates winery, Vintages March 29, 90 points) — Youthful and tight with plum, cherry-raspberry fruit, cocoa and black pepper notes on the nose. This is a robust and rich Syrah on the palate with ripe red fruits, savoury spices and good tannic structure.

Creekside Syrah 2012, Niagara ($17, LCBO, 90 points) — As of the 2012 vintage, Creekside has changed the name to Syrah from Shiraz to better reflect the style more commonly associated with the Rhone. This is a bargain, a wonderful wine with blueberry, violets, currants, plums, game and defined spice on the nose. It’s well-structured and tasty with robust fruit flavours back up by savoury spices.

EastDell Black Label Shiraz 2011, Niagara ($20, Diamond Estate Winery, 88 points) — A friendly Syrah with aromas of wildberries, plum and peppery spices. It’s soft on the palate with savoury red fruits, integrated spices and cedary-smoky notes through the smooth finish.


At Vintages today

Rosewood Merlot 2011 ($22, 88 points) — Sourced from three Niagara Escarpment vineyards, this Merlot shows bramble, black cherry, savoury herbs, pepper and plums all nicely integrated on the nose. Wonderful acidity lifts the red fruits and savoury spices. Quite ripe for a 2011 red.

Also released today:

Calamus Pinot Gris 2012 ($17)

Calamus Unoaked Chardonnay 2012 ($15)

Chateau des Charmes St. Davids Bench Gewurztraminer 2012 ($20)

Flat Rock Chardonnay 2010 ($17)

Hinterbrook Riesling 2012 ($18)

Sue Ann Staff Grace’s Dry Riesling 2011 ($19)

Sue Ann Staff Loved by Lu Riesling 2012 ($17)

Aure Gamay 2011 ($15)

Balance Pinot Noir 2011 ($19)

Coyote’s Run Black Paw Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 ($22)


And a couple of other reviews from around Niagara

Lakeview Cellars Cabernet Merlot Reserve 2011 ($19, LCBO, Diamond Estates winery, 88 points) — A complex and intriguing nose of cherries, currants, plums, cigar box cedar, pepper and leafy tobacco. The fruit is juicy on the palate with a lean note through the core with notes of leather and spice on a bed of firm tannins.

EastDell Estate Black Label Cabernet Franc 2011 ($20, Diamond Estate winery, 87 points) — This Cab Franc has rich and dark cherry fruit, cocoa, mocha and smoky-earthy notes on the nose. The red and dark fruits are built around a frame of tannin, spice and racy acidity on the palate. Should work well with duck confit.