Tastecamp Day 2 Part 1: Tawse & Vineland

Day two of Tastecamp started early, with attendees supposed to be on the bus (“just” a touring bus today, no fancy double-decker) at 8am. A few were late as there was extreme congestion around the Starbucks coffee bar at White Oaks Resort at that time of the morning. We finally were all loaded and off we went towards Tawse Winery, enjoying pastries with our coffee en route.

I’ve followed Paul Pender on twitter for a while, and met him at Fiesta Buckhorn, but I had never seen him speak in front of a group of people. He is very comfortable and comes across as an expert who really loves what he does. Paul went through some of the features of biodynamics, and while I didn’t feel that he buys into all the “spiritual” aspects of it, it’s obvious that the natural care and attention paid to the plants through the sheer hours in the vineyard is an aspect he is fully behind. He spoke of the benefits of only putting natural products back into the soil – and looking from the high point at Tawse, it was easy to see that any chemicals could eventually end up in Lake Ontario, the source of drinking water for much of the most populated region of Canada.

Tawse received their Bio-Dynamic (“Bio D”) certification for their 2010 Estate Series wines, with 2 bottled so far and more coming. Tawse currently bottles 20,000+ cases. Single vineyards and small tanks keep the craft in the winery despite that volume.

Paul then demonstrated the difference the soil can make in a wine. We sampled the Robin’s Block (from vineyard with heavier soils) and Quarry Road (less soil, more minerality). Even though the wines were both picked within 1 week of each other and both at 2 1/4 tons/acre, and followed the same process, there is a huge difference in the two wines. After a brief tasting room visit, we were back on the bus. Although the skies threatened rain, we managed to avoid it for this leg of the visit.

Brian Schmidt, Winemaker Vineland Estates

Next stop was Vineland Estates. Just as winemaker Brian Schmidt welcomed us and started speaking, our luck ran out and the rain started. We managed to get a few shots of the vineyard and the very late bud break before heading in.

Late Bud Break at Vineland

With busy season starting – many of the outbuildings at Vineland were in use for a wedding and other events, so we headed inside into the processing room.

Brian is the most collegial host. After a brief discussion (where his inability to hide his passion about Riesling was energizing), we then sampled some of the St. Urban’s 2010 Riesling. St Urban Vineyard is so named as Hermann St. Urban planted the vineyard in the late 70s to demonstrate what was possible here in Ontario. These are now (some of?) the oldest Riesling vines in Ontario. Here’s part of the library which is located in one of the cellars:

After a light boxed lunch, the Grand Tasting got underway. The following wineries were present – I highlighted a couple wines from each that I found interesting

Vineland Estate Winery: The aged Rieslings that Brian pulled out of the Vineland library. We sampled a both a ’98 and an ’89! Wow! It was fascinating to see what time will do to a good Riesling. On a previous visit here last November, I became so enamoured with the concept that I have a case of St. Urban’s aging in the cellar now…it is hard to leave it alone though!

Hidden Bench Winery: Both 2008 Roman’s Block and 2008 Estate Riesling were both superb examples of “Bench” Riesling.

Fielding Estate Winery We love the whites coming out of Fielding and the 2010’s we sampled were no exception – 2010 Estate Bottled Pinot Gris & 2010 Estate Bottled Riesling. Hard to believe the Reisling has 20g or residual sugar…

GreenLane Estate Winery: Loved the 2010 Old Vines Riesling but price point is a bit steep at $30 when compared to something like St. Urbans with older vines and better price point.

Peninsula Ridge Winery: My wife fell in love with the 2009 Barrle Aged Chardonnay with it’s sweet, creamy & smooth palate, which at $14.75 is a great value wine. I preferred the Sauvignon Blanc, with a slight nod to the 2010 Wismer Vineyard over the Vintners Private Reserve (which is aged in oak for 4 months).

Angels Gate Winery: I went back to the 2007 Merlot a couple of times. It’s a bit different, but I really enjoyed it. I could drink it alone or with some rare beef.
13th Street Winery: 13th Street 2009 Gamay Noir was a great example, as was their 13th Street Cuvee 13 Rosé. The Rosé would be a fantastic party starter on a hot summer night.

The Good Earth Winery: I’d have to give a slight edge to the 2009 Medium Dry Riesling over the 2009 Riesling, but I like rsidual sugar in my Rieslings. Both great examples again. Are you getting the idea that there is some great Riesling on the Bench?

Henry of Pelham Family Estate Winery:Cuvee Catharine Rose Brut again showed great example of pink sparkling wine in Ontario. The 2007 Pinot Noir and 2007 Cabernet-Merlot (both Reserve I think) again showcased the great reds Ontario can produce when the weather cooperates. (Consistency year-to-year is always a problem in cool climate regions, but that’s what makes the industry so interesting!)

Malivoire Wine: We really enjoy Malivoire wines and the 2010 Gewurztraminer VQA was a highlight for sure. With just a hint of colour, the sweet citrus & lychee palate was just itching for some Thai food accompaniment.

Rosewood Estate: For a first vintage, the 2009 Pinot Noir blew me away. Superb value too! I’ve told everyone that this is going to be a wine to watch from Rosewood.

Kacaba Vineyards: Kacaba pulled out some of the big reds for this event and they did not disappoint! Their Cab Franc was one of the nicest I have had in Ontario.

Cave Spring Cellars: In all my trips to Niagara, I’ve never made it to Cave Springs. With the two Rieslings (2008 Riesling CSV and 2009 Estate Riesling ) and 2004 Blanc de Blancs Brut CSV Estate Bottled, they have become a must-visit for my next tour.

After far too much spitting, we departed for the last winery stop of the day, Flat Rock Cellars.

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  1. Pingback: TasteCamp North: the Coverage | Tastecamp 2011 [Niagara]

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