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Dillon’s a hero in our books, plus new wines reviews for Niagara’s Tawse and Redstone

By Rick VanSickle

When Dillon’s began turning its distillery into a sanitizer factory, to keep front-line workers safe in the war against COVID-19, it was one of those stories that spoke to the best of what humans can do in desperate times.

Without a thought about the financial costs to them, the small Niagara craft distillery saw a need for hand sanitizer that no one could get in the region due to a run on the product in the face of a deadly pandemic. And more importantly, that front-line workers, those risking their lives for all of us, couldn’t get.

Niagara wines

Geoff Dillon, master distiller and co-owner of Dillon’s Distillers, recognized the need, re-purposed his stills, and began churning out 750 mL bottles of sanitizer for first responders all across Ontario free of charge. When supplies were running short and the need became even greater, friends of Dillon’s, from fellow regional distillers, wineries, and other companies, came forward to help with various aspects of the operation to keep the sanitizer flowing.

“Thanks to the support of so many local companies we have been able to distill, bottle and distribute 25,000+ 750 mL bottles of sanitizer to first responders all across Ontario,” Dillon wrote on the distillery’s website. “And the need is still there. So we will continue to make and share sanitizer to first responders for as long as they need it, free of charge.”

With the generous support of his friends, Dillon’s offered the sanitizer to the public at a price of $20 for a 750 mL bottle. When the first batch was ready for pickup on Monday, the lineup of cars and trucks to get their pre-ordered sanitizer snaked along the North Service Road just waiting their turn to get the no-contact product from Dillon himself and his hospitality manager Whitney Rorison.

“We understand that the need is there for so many others, we are distilling more of our own grape & rye based spirits (which we would normally be turning into gin + whisky) and making it available to the wider community. Each bottle of sanitizer takes the resources of two bottles of whisky or gin to produce.”

The $20 sanitizer helps cover the packaging, the ethanol (it takes 6L of our wine or 15L of our rye mash to make one bottle), the glycerin and hydrogen peroxide to the WHO guidelines and the labour it takes to distill and bottle, explained Dillon.

Whitney Rorison, left, and Geoff Dillon fill sanitizer orders Monday.

I took advantage of the offer and made my way through the speedy drive-thru on Monday. It was a calm, steady flow of traffic with Dillon and Rorison quickly filling orders and sending happy and grateful customers along their way with sanitizer safely tucked away. Our family was running low on sanitizer and hadn’t seen any in Niagara for three weeks, so this was a blessing for us. I can’t even imagine how helpful it is to those who need it most on the front line of the epidemic.

Dillon thanked a long list of companies who have helped keep the product moving, and felt it’s appropriate to shout them out:

• Andrew Peller Limited
• Vineland Estate Winery
• Volkswagen Canada
• Insite Design
• H Moore Printing Services,
• Diamond Estates
• Two Sisters Winery
• Foreign Affair Winery
• Creekside Winery
• Strewn Winery
• Quarry Ridge
• Flexo
• Stresscrete
• Canadian Liquids
• Tawse Winery
• Beatties Basics St. Catharines

These are difficult times, so a big “virtual” hug to Dillon’s for their selfless pursuit in helping others stay safe.

New wines from Tawse
and Redstone wineries

Wines In Niagara recently tasted new spring releases from the two wineries owned by Moray Tawse on the Twenty Mile Bench.

To order Tawse wines online go here and for curb-side pickup call 905-562-9500 to place an order.

To order Redstone wines online go here or call 905-563-9463 ex 210 for curbside pickup.

Here’s what we can recommend:

Tawse Quarry Road Riesling 2018 ($25, Vintages Essential, online, 92 points) — This Riesling is from certified organic and biodynamic grapes with a focused, pristine nose of citrus rind, grapefruit, lime and stony minerality. It’s off-dry with electric acidity for balance and shows profound minerality, citrus, honey, lime with tension and verve through the finish.

Tawse Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2016 ($46, online at winery, 93 points) — Consistently one of the finest Chardonnays made in Niagara and the riper 2016 version follows that winning trend. Certainly more robust than previous vintages with pronounced pear, ripe apple, saline minerality and elegant spice notes. This Chardonnay is layered and textured with ripe orchard fruits, tingly acidity, stony minerality, creamy notes and elegance that benefits from a zesty citrus accents on a finessed finish. Drinking perfectly right now, but can cellar up to three years.

Tawse Grower’s Blend Cabernet Franc 2016 ($29, online at winery, 90 points) — A ripe Cabernet Franc with fruit aromas of black cherries, cassis, raspberries, light spice and integrated herbaceous notes on the nose. It reveals juicy red berries on the palate, with firm structure, earth, spice and depth through the finish.

Tawse Gamay 2018 ($18, online ordering, 88 points) — Lighter in colour (as are most 2018s) with a pure and inviting nose of red plums, strawberry/rhubarb and light savoury notes. This is a highly gulpable Gamay on the palate with notes of plums, herbs, red fruits, touch of spice, soft tannins and vibrancy on the finish.

Tawse Meritage 2014 ($68, online store, 91 points) — The blend is 50% Cabernet Sauvignon 27% Cabernet Franc and 23% Merlot that’s nicely aged on release. I’m finding these 2014 reds are showing nicely as they age and this one fits that pattern with a well-integrated nose of black cherries, raspberries, cassis, eucalypt and a balanced approach to the spice notes. It shows harmony and balance on the palate with a range of crushed red berries, currants, smooth tannins and a vibrant finish. Drinking fine right now, can cellar 3-4 years.

Tawse Tintern Road Pinot Noir 2016 ($45, online ordering, 92 points) — The fruit is from a certified organic and biodynamic vineyard with the wine aged in French oak for 16 months. The nose shows rich black cherries, cedar cigar box, elegant oak spices, brambly raspberries and a touch of cassis. It’s bright and lively on the palate with rich and savoury red berries, anise, cloves, baking spices, medium+ tannins, finesse and a long finish. Tasty, structured Pinot with a long life ahead.

Redstone Winery

Redstone Pinot Noir Sparkling Rosé 2017 ($30, online ordering, 91 points) — This 100% Pinot Noir, traditionally-made sparkler pours a vigorous mousse and has a nose that is rich in strawberries, watermelon, brambly raspberries and subtle toasty/brioche notes. It’s a bundle of energy on the palate that highlights the full spectrum of red berries, touch of biscuit/toast, savoury notes and a fresh, lively finish.

Redstone Limestone Ridge “South Block” Riesling 2018 ($19, online ordering, 92 points) — This has a gorgeous nose of lime and grapefruit, hint of petrol, green apple and mineral notes. It’s tangy on the palate with good tension between sweet and tart fruit and showing depth of lime, lemon, honeycomb, marmalade and stony minerality with a zippy finish. Drinking great right out of the gate, but further petrol notes will come with cellaring.

Redstone Estate Cabernet Sauvignon 2016 ($46, online ordering, 90 points) — A tightly wound, dense, thick Cabernet Sauvignon from a warm vintage that shows spot-on varietal character with blackberries, black currants, oak spices and earth. On the palate, this long-lived CS shows firm structure and tannins, a complex array of dark fruits, bright acidity, toasted vanilla bean and baking spices. It’s but a baby and needs 5+ years to integrate the tannins and spice. The abundance of fruit will keep it all together for a long life, say, 7+ years.

Redstone Estate Cabernet Franc 2017 ($40, online ordering when the 2016s run out, 90 points) — A classic nose of savoury cherries, raspberry bramble, herbs, earth and spice. It has good structure on the palate with fine-grained tannins, red berries, wild herbs, licorice and spice through a perky finish. Can cellar 5+ years.