In mid-September, I dropped in at Cave Spring Cellars in Jordan, Ont. In the tank-room, Gabriel DeMarco had just walked in with a bag of grapes in each hand, and they looked perfect.
Gabriel is the Assistant Winemaker, is cautiously excited about the 2018 Harvest with the Pinot Noir already in the tanks. I say cautiously, as at harvest time the weather can be crucial. Fruit that has been painstakingly cared for and grown beautifully all summer can be compromised by rain at the wrong time.
This year, so far so good, despite the season being burdened with a poor diurnal shift. Commonly, where there can be very warm days in wine regions, this is usually relieved by cool nights. In Sonoma California for example, there can easily be a shift of over 50 degrees Fahrenheit from the daytime high to the nighttime low.
Riesling is a major varietal for Cave Spring, and as harvest approaches, it has to be monitored very carefully for what Gabe referred to as “melt” – or sour rot. It is caused by various microorganisms which can be spread by birds and insects. It can spread rapidly, with the fruit becoming soft and watery. Fortunately, this year it was not a factor.
Gabriel indicated that the 2018 Riesling provided a lighter crop, but the quality is high.
Cave Spring has made a conscious decision to grow only the varietals that they believe are best suited for their property on the Niagara Bench. Among the reds, we find Gamay Noir, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir, and Gamay.
They have only one Gamay Noir currently, which retails for $16.95 at the LCBO. We can look forward to the 2018 when it is finished and finally released, as the crop this year is beautiful: “very ripe, and very clean,” says Gabe, and they are hoping to have an ‘Estate’ version, an example of their best production.
As for the Cabernet Franc, as recently as two weeks ago it was still hanging on the vine.
The 2016 Cabernet Franc VQA, $17.95, is soft and quite approachable with some smoke, mint, and pepper notes. It was aged in a combination of French, Hungarian, and northern forest American oak.
A very special red is the 2015 Beamsville Bench Estate La Penna, $44.95, available from the winery. This wine takes a page from the Veneto’s Amarone, with the grapes air-dried for up to 3 months prior to fermentation, and it is then combined with the Estate Cabernet Franc. It spends two and a half years in barrel.
It is heady and focused, and almost slaps you in the face to make you pay attention. It is inky, meaty, intense and deep, finishing rich and complex. In both quality and price, it is comparable to a very good Amarone, albeit made from a different grape.
Gabe explained that he likes to see how a wine will evolve, even over four days, for example – this would certainly provide an informative experience with a wine like the La Penna!
In whites, Cave Spring Cellars offer just one each of Pinot Gris and Gewurztraminer, but when it comes to Chardonnay and Riesling we find no less than five Chardonnays and eight Rieslings, including two sweet versions.
Of the 25 wines available at the winery, a full 18 are also available through the LCBO, most of which can be found online if not in the stores.
The 2017 Pinot Gris. $16.95, has been very well received. Though dry, it has a creamy mouthfeel and enough fruit to give a tinge of sweetness before finishing crisply. This is a terrific wine for seafood.
The 2016 Estate Gewurztraminer, $18.95, offers classic ‘Gewurz’ character. Expect lychee and ginger, and orange citrus acidity, all with good body and complexity. This makes a great pairing with Asian cuisine.
With the Rieslings, the offerings range from a medium-dry example (currently the 2016 Riesling is $1 off at $14.95) to the 2016 CSV at $29.95. There are also the two dessert wines, the Indian Summer SLH (Select Late Harvest) and the Riesling Ice Wine.
Gabriel Demarco explained that they are starting to focus on ‘terroir’, or origin of production, as each vineyard can impart different characteristics to the wine. The off-dry example mentioned above comes from multiple sites currently. It has a lush, lovely body that is delicate but still substantial. It carries 18 grams of sugar per litre.
The 2016 ‘Dolomite’, $17.95, available at the winery give the nod to the soil in which it is grown. Layers of dolomitic limestone and calcareous clays give verve to this wine which is available through wineshop.cavespring.ca.2016 Cave Spring Estate Riesling, $18.95 in Vintages, demonstrates wonderful phenolic ripeness, with ample time on lees. It has a round texture and only eight grams of sugar per litre. The U.S. publication Wine Enthusiast gave it a stunning 93 points, calling it “age-worthy, succulent and polished to perfection,” suggesting it can be laid down and enjoyed anytime from 2020 to 2035!
The CSV 216 Riesling, $29.95, comes from the oldest, low-yielding blocks, planted in the 70s. The fermentation on wild yeasts is monitored carefully, and the wine is built to age. Acidity is key here, with the winery referencing “piquant lime” and “bristling grapefruit” concluding that “a tight thread of acidity stitches together the body and fruit from start to finish.”
With the Chardonnays, the 2016 Estate version at $18.95 sees 50 per cent stainless steel and 50 per cent oak fermentation along with a year on the lees which gives creaminess to the texture. The oak is subtle, with citrus, apple and melon flavours apparent on the palate along with a mineral note.
The 2016 CSV Chardonnay, $29.95 is made from fruit from a select four rows, and is aged in 90 per cent old French oak. It has a beautiful mouthfeel and rivals a very good French Burgundy. The effect is soft and balanced, and the wine is just rounding into form. It will drink well for some time to come. The Wine Enthusiast awarded this a 94, calling it a sensational value for its impressive depth and intensity. It is on the Oct. 27 release.
Chardonnay Musqué is made from a particular Chardonnay clone that produces very aromatic fruit. Cave Spring Cellars has championed this style, and their 2016, $17.95, is clean, dry, very expressive of the fruit, and well matched for Asian dishes. At Cave Spring they follow “Angelo’s Rule,” as winemaker Angelo Pavan insists that the Musqué only be fermented and aged in stainless steel. It is both refreshing and supple, and has just a little residual sweetness (6 g/l.).
Cave Spring Cellars is one of Ontario’s most respected wineries, one of the handful that started up the fine wine industry in Niagara. From the beginning, it has produced wines that carry their vision and bear their stamp. At every level of production, you can be sure of quality and craftsmanship.
October 27 Vintages Release
Cathedral Cellar Chardonnay 2015, $16.95, from South Africa is said to present butterscotch and vanilla on the nose, with great energy and a long finish. 94 - Decanter International Wine Awards.
Fontanfredda Pradaluppo Roero Arneis 2017, $17.95, is new to the LCBO. Five months on its lees in stainless steel help give the wine a nose of pear and honey, as well as a smooth mouthfeel. Expect some pear and peach along with a good acidic zip.
Pierre Sparr Réserve Gewurztraminer 2016, $18.95, from Alsace has a 91 from Natalie MacLean who calls it terrific and classic with aromas of “lychee, rosewater, grapefruit and baking spice.”Redstone Chardonnay 2015, $19.95 from the Niagara Peninsula is, according to the Vintages panel, “wonderfully balanced” and carrying notes of “apple, pear, creamy vanilla and butterscotch.”
Cais Da Ribeira Reserva 2015, $13.95 is a traditional Duoro blend from Portugal showing dark plum, spice and leather accompanied by dusty tannins and bright acidity according to quercusvino.ca - 89.
Chapillon Siendra 2015, $15.95, from Spain is a blend of 80 per cent Garnacha along with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in equal measure. It has good reviews, including one by James Suckling which mentions “rich and ripe dark fruits as well as a dark, braised, meaty edge” – 92.
Mas des Bressades Cuvée Tradition 2016, $16.95, from the Rhone is a perennial favourite with consistent good quality. “Black cherries and blueberries soar from the glass”. Relatively full-bodied, it carries spice notes and coffee to the finish – robertparker.com – 90.
3 Rings Shiraz 2015, $19.95 is a popular Australian offer. The Wine Spectator acknowledges “strawberry, spice and black tea flavors” and calls it “dense and creamy on the finish” – 89.Ruffino Riserva Ducale Oro Gran Selezione Chianti Classico 2014, $47.95. The “Gran Selezione” category was only introduced a few years ago as the epitome of Chianti, but Ruffino has been making the Riserva Ducale Oro since the 70s. Here is a wine that needs time in the cellar or several hours of decanting in order for it to demonstrate its pedigree. It has significant depth, and oodles of fruit that would be masked without aeration at this time. Earth notes and dark cherry/blueberry present themselves and are carried forward on a long, long finish. Dry, smooth, deep and dark. It will be wonderful with hearty dishes and the best steak you can find.