Stop two on the Niagara journey was at Redstone winery in Beamsville, to taste their wines but also those of sister (or more correctly, parent) winery Tawse. We were hosted by assistant winemakers Devin Campbell and Jessica Lyng.
I visited Tawse on my first visit to Niagara in 2013, and the write up is here, an impressive venture from Moray Tawse, who caught the wine bug, fell in love with Burgundy, but became convinced enough by the potential quality in Ontario that he began Tawse. It has now has grown to 200 acres of vineyards, all farmed biodynamically. That is quite a challenge in Niagara, which gets pretty humid.
Tawse has become one of Niagara’s most celebrated wineries, and in 2009 Moray added Redstone to the family when he bought the Thomas and Vaughan property on Highway 8 in Beamsville. Initially, the idea was to use this site, which is ideal for Bordeaux-style red varieties, to supplement the Tawse portfolio, but after the first wines were made in 2010 Moray decided to create a new winery. Because of its ideal location, the main focus of Redstone is hospitality: it has a beautiful visitor centre and high-end restaurant. But the wines are serious, too. Redstone’s vineyards are farmed organically, but not biodynamically. They also buy in some grapes in, as well as sharing one estate vineyard (The Limestone Vineyard) with Tawse.
Tawse and Redstone are two separate entities, but they share the same production facilities. This can make it a bit tricky for the winemaking team who have to keep everything separate, which is easy enough for the wines, but must create a challenge for dry goods and equipment, for example.
This was a poignant tasting because it’s the first time I’ve been back here since the untimely death in February of long-term winemaker Paul Pender, who oversaw both Tawse and Redstone for many years.
Redstone Limestone Vineyard Sparkling 2017 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara
80% Chardonnay, 20% Pinot Noir, from the Limestone vineyard near Jordan, on the edge of the escarpment. Planted 1999. Lively, bright and focused with lovely fresh citrus fruit and a touch of pithiness. There’s a hint of marmalade here as well as lime. Nice, pure, chiselled, linear but with some exotic fruitiness too. 91/100
Redstone White Meritage 2020 Niagara Peninsula
54% Sauvignon, 46% Semillon. This is really pretty: it’s supple, fruity and expressive with some melon, elderflower and grapefruit, with nice weight and fruit purity. This is really fruity and almost tropical. 90/100
Redstone Limestone Vineyard South Riesling 2020 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara
11% alcohol. This is very fruity and expressive with lemon and lime fruit. It’s juicy and a bit chalky, with good acidity and nice pithy hints. Fruity and layered, with a stony finish. Crisp and delicious, tasting dry but with a touch of sweetness (25 g/litre). 92/100
Redstone Redstone Vineyard Syrah 2018 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara
This is fresh and supple with lovely black cherry and plum, with some pepper and meat hints. It shows nice volume and texture, with good acidity. Has some iron and blood character, with firm tannins. Such a lovely expressive Syrah with real personality. 93/100
Redstone Cabernet Franc Redstone Vineyard 2018 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara
Aromatic, fine and leafy on the nose with floral red cherry and plum fruit. The palate is fleshy and chalky with some spice and a hint of autumn leaves. Fruity and supple with lovely depth and drinkability. This is impressive and fleshy, and shows the variety well. 92/100
Redstone Merlot Redstone Vineyard 2015 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara
This is quite elegant, with lovely cherry and plum, nice texture, with some spicy detail. Autumnal with fine spices, a brown tea note, and very fine herbal characters. Has a mineral core with nice development. Very stylish. 93/100
Redstone Meritage 2012 Niagara Peninsula, Niagara
60% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon. This is focused and grippy with nice density to the blackcurrant and blackberry fruit. It’s juicy and bright with some spice and earth, and a touch of iodine. Developing in interesting ways with nice grippy structure and some savoury notes on the finish. 93/100
Redstone Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine 2019 Niagara on The Lake
9.5% alcohol. This is really expressive with rhubarb and stewed strawberry flavours, as well as some marmalade and cherry. Concentrated and fresh with lovely detail. Powerful, very sweet and with nice intensity, showing almost perfect balance. 94/100
Tawse Spark Laundry Vineyard Blanc de Noirs 2013 Lincoln Lakeshore, Niagara
12% alcohol. Pinot Noir, single vineyard. Six years on lees, disgorged July 2021, 7 g/litre dosage. This is complex and mouthfilling with cherry and almond notes, as well as some nuttiness. This is quite savoury, with hints of toast and spice. Marzipan, cream and wax, with good acidity. 90/100
Tawse Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2012 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara
One of the estate vineyards, with grey clay and some limestone. This has lovely aromatics with fine toast and spice and lovely citrus fruit, with some white peach. It’s so textural with fine grained structure and hints of toast, but the emphasis is on beautiful layered white peach and pear fruit. Such finesse here: this is developing really beautifully and still tastes youthful. Layered and detailed with real finesse. 95/100
Tawse Robyn’s Block Chardonnay 2019 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara
Complex, layered and quite pure with very fine toast and nut notes as well as a main theme of citrus and pear, with fine-grained structure. Has lovely volume in the mouth with a fresh, finely spiced, limey edge. This is clearly similar to the 2012 in the way the fruit expresses itself. So lovely. 94/100
Tawse Quarry Road Chardonnay 2019 Vinemount Ridge, Niagara
This is the biggest Chardonnay block. Windy site. This is fresh and lively with bright pear and citrus fruit, with good acidity and a fine spiciness. It’s very bright and focused: there’s some mid-palate richness but also good acidity. There’s a bit of structure, too. The oak is really well integrated. 94/100
Tawse Carly’s Riesling 2019 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara
10% alcohol. 41 g/l residual sugar. Powerful and intense with powerful lime fruit, a touch of mango and apricot, and really high acidity, offset by a bit of sweetness. Lots of concentration here and the sugar doesn’t make it taste particularly sweet, but adds some honeyed richness and balance. 93/100
Tawse Growers Blend Rosé 2020 Niagara Peninsula
Full pink with a hint of orange. Juicy strawberry and cherry fruit with some hints of watermelon. Quite rich in style with a touch of rhubarb on the finish. Lovely hints of green here, too, finishing with a touch of sweetness. 88/100
Tawse Cherry Ave Vineyard Pinot Noir 2019 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara
12.5% alcohol. A blend of David’s Block and Robyn’s Block. Whole berry ferment, and this was the first year with the optical sorter (this was through Vineland’s, the year before they got theirs). Sweetly aromatic, this has red cherries and spice on the nose, and follows through to a structured palate with nice firm, grippy tannins. There’s a grainy, savoury quality with some iodine and blood. This is so detailed and expressive, finishing dry and taut. This is almost Nebbiolo like in its quality. 94/100
Tawse David’s Block Cabernet Franc 2019 Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara
This is remarkable. It’s supple and perfumed with lovely black cherry and blackberry fruit, showing good acidity and texture. There’s a slight chalky edge here with nice grippy structure, but the star of the show is the bright, well-proportioned fruit. Such finesse here: very fine. 95/100
Tawse Meritage 2018 Niagara Peninsula, Niagara
43% Cabernet Franc, 29% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Merlot. 13% alcohol. 16 months with 30% new oak. This is quite structured and dense with firm blackcurrant and cherry fruit, with a grippy edge. It’s classically styled and well balanced with a focus on the blackcurrant, supported by good oak. Nicely weight and expressive, with a good future ahead of it. Not too heavy and jammy, focusing on the structure. 94/100