In less than fifteen years, Tawse Winery has become one of the most revered estates in Canada. It began in 2001 after Moray Tawse, a devoted Burgundy lover, was wowed by a bottle of Niagara Chardonnay and set out to buy 9.1 acres of vines. Nearly fifteen years later, Tawse now owns 225 acres of vineyards and in the last couple years has launched a sister winery called Redstone. As Ben MacPhee-Sigurdson pointed out in a post last year, Tawse was named Winery of the Year by Wine Access Magazine three years in a row (2010-2012).
Lauded by both consumers and sommeliers, the wines are poured in many of the province's best restaurants. Tawse has made a push towards sustainable viticulture, where many of their vineyards are farmed organically, free of pesticides, and many have been taken one step further into the holistic realm of biodynamics. Winemaker Paul Pender, with consulting help from Pascal Marchand, has put together such a deep portfolio of varieties and styles, it's hard to pinpoint what exactly Tawse does best. It's no surprise they get much attention for the star varieties of Moray's favourite region, Burgundy: Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. I also think they make some of the best Riesling and Cabernet Franc in Niagara and they should both be considered benchmarks. I recently had the chance to sit down and taste through many of the current releases and here were some of my favourites:
Quarry Road's limestone and clay soils impart a distinct minerality into the wines, particularly Chardonnay, which takes up 9 of the 42 acres of vines. This is not a buttery, overt, in-your-face Chardonnay, but one that relies on finesse and elegance. There is a vibrant vein of acidity that runs through each sip; apple blossoms, lemon, green apple, brioche, and crushed quartz characters. The mineral quality is obvious in both the character and texture. This is a great example of top tier Niagara Chardonnay.
This is only Tawse’s second vintage of Riesling grown from their newest estate vineyard, Limestone Ridge. It is home to 40 acres of Riesling vines that are 15-years-old and farmed organically and biodynamically. This is a light and pretty style of Riesling—less about the linear and punchy characters of lime and minerality, but softer, with characters of orange blossom, honey suckle, mandarin orange, and grapefruit. This Riesling is far from dry (20.2 grams of sugar per liter), but it’s a level of sweetness you would be hard-pressed to notice immediately, because the acidity is also very much on point. Plus, the touch of sweetness opens the door for so many foods to pair with.
This was my first time tasting the Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc, and it was the standout bottle for me from a big lineup. It's a little lighter and more elegant than Tawse's 2011 Growers Blend Cabernet Franc, another wine I really enjoy. The Laundry Vineyard packs in so many subtle layers of soft red fruit and spice—sour cherry, plums, cedar, and allspice. The balance is fantastic and the lengthy finish is very impressive.
Jake Skakun is a writer and sommelier from Vancouver, currently living in Toronto. He can be found most days pulling corks and twisting caps at the Black Hoof. He Tweets and Instagrams @jakeskakun.