“Tawse-ing” my senses with Ontario goodness
Last Friday evening, after a week full of wine adventures, I attended a tasting of Tawse Winery wines, hosted by the vineyard’s sommelier, Daniel Lafleur. I was excited to attend this eve for reasons outside the obvious (I mean, who doesn’t welcome a chance to try new wines?)– despite the twitter wine geekery which had already taken place between Daniel and myself, I had not yet met with him and welcomed this opportunity to finally do so! New wine, new wine-mind– it was a win/win situation from the first scent, through to the finish.
Speaking candidly with Daniel about the philosophy and history of wines produced at Tawse, he gave me a thorough insight into the standards, viticultural methods, and the vineyards, themselves. Winner of Canadian Winery of the year for three years running, 2010-2012, this family-owned winery situated on the lower slopes of the Niagara escarpment operates under 100% organic and biodynamic methods of production. Their wines are crafted through old-growth vines with low-yield vines and the quality shines through. If you have not had the opportunity to visit this vineyard or taste any of its wines, I certainly recommend that you add it near the top of your list.
The tasting featured three top wines from Tawse: two whites and a red. I have included my commentary for each wine, along with a few details about the vintage itself. I hope you find it useful to negotiate which of the three you will try first!
‘Echos’ (Sketches) Riesling, Niagara
This wine features 100% riesling grapes which are purchased by Tawse. The grapes are grown off-premisis, from vines that lie within an 8-10km radius of the vineyard in the Beamsville Bench region. Although the grapes are non-organic, the viticultural methods of production are, thus this wine still retains characteristics that are inherent among Tawse vintages.
The riesling itself was full of bright citrusy aromas, prominently grapefruit. On the palate, it maintained a refreshingly high acidity and slight tartness, which added to its lively character. On the finish, lingering citrus left me wanting more. I would serve this wine chilled, for a brunch or starter course and pair it with goat cheese and leek tart.
‘Robyn’s Block’ Chardonnay
Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara
As I learned from Daniel, the Cherry Avenue Vineyard, located in the Twenty Mile Bench sub appellation, is the estate vineyard of Tawse. Each of these three blocks is named for one of the family’s children. ‘Robyn’s Block’ has been planted with both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, in separate growing seasons. This 2010 vintage is considered to be the flagship Chardonnay for Tawse. Aged 12 months in French oak (20% new oak), the wine revealed a complexity of aromatics that was fragrant but not in the least overpowering. Green apple blossom, peach, and honey, along with notes of buttery pie crust lured me in. Silky smooth without being heavy, this chardonnay had a well-balanced acidity and slight tropical fruits on the finish. Yum. Much more complimentary to serve this chardonnay just below room temperature, perhaps next to grilled white fish and avocado, pineapple, kiwi salsa? I could go for that!
The last in the series of three was this tasty red Cabernet-Merlot blend. Comprised of 58% Cabernet Franc, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 15% Merlot grapes, and aged in new French oak, this was a lovely wine with which to wrap up my night.
Bursting with deep plum and currants, mocha, oregano and slight cigar box qualities, I was impressed at the lack of any sharp edges in this wine, which I had expected–judging from the high content of Cabernet Franc. Instead, the winemaker achieved a wine brimming full of ripe raspberry, sour cherries and smooth soft tannins, especially for such a youthful wine. On the finish, I picked up slight smoke and musty earthiness. Rare sirloin and pungent gorgonzola with a side of grilled asparagus would be my pick to serve alongside this wine. Perhaps even with hors d’oeuvres of figs stuffed with walnuts and blue cheese. If all else fails, it would be just as pleasing on its own, served at room temperature or just slightly below.
Although it is not easy for me to pick a favourite from these three very good wines, I must say that the Riesling’s citrus character won me over from the start, but all three are worth a try, should you have the opportunity. And, if so–I would love to hear your thoughts and comments!