One of Niagara’s most important producers is Cave Spring. They are probably most famous for their Rieslings, but everything they make is worth attention. The home site is a 64 hectare vineyard on the Beamsville Bench, but they also own 21 hectares across three sites on the Lincoln Lakeshore. They would be entirely working with estate fruit save for the fact that one of these Lincoln Lakeshore vineyards is owned and farmed by their vineyard manager, Christopher Andrewes. 75% of production is white varieties.
The history of Cave Spring goes back to 1973 when John Pennachetti first purchased some land on Cave Spring Road in the Beamsville Bench. This was at a time when there were very few vineyards planted to Vitis vinifera varieties in the region. Five years later, with his son Len, he planted a 5 hectare vineyard with Chardonnay and Riesling. The latter was the famous clone 21 Riesling that was brought into Canada by the Weis family of St Urbanshof, and some of the 1978 plantings of this clone can also be found in the Okanagan, notably at Tantalus who use it to make their old vine Riesling. Herman Weis also planted vineyards in Niagara, and Len’s son Tom (in charge of sales and marketing) ended up marrying Herman’s Daughter Anne.
The first wines released under the Cave Spring label were made in 1986 with winemaker Angelo Pavan. Angelo still makes the wines, but has now been joined by Gabe Demarco.
The Beamsville Bench site has glacial till soils derived mainly from the sedimentary rocks of the Niagara Escarpment, including limestone, shale and sandstone. These soils are relatively low in organic matter, which helps to control vigour. Lake Ontario is found 3.5 km north and contributes temperate breezes during the summer. These meet the cliff of the escarpment behind the vineyards and then circulate, with this airflow reducing disease pressure and also helping counter frosts.
All the wines are wild ferment except the base wines from the sparkling wine. Where oak is used, it is old, and there’s quite a bit of larger-format oak in the cellar.
Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs Brut NV Beamsville Bench, Niagara
12% alcohol. 4 g/l dosage, 36 months on lees, no malolactic. 100% 2018 vintage, this bottling. This is taut and fine with some nice toasty hints. It’s juicy and precise with a slight pithy edge to the lemony fruit, and also some nice fine toast and bread notes. Very fine and expressive with lovely balance. 93/100
Cave Spring Blanc de Blancs CSV 2015 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
12% alcohol. No dosage. Lively and precise with crystalline lemony notes. This is really expressive with some nuts and fine toast. Very lively and expressive with nice intensity and a lovely precision. There’s a lovely purity to this wine. 93/100
Cave Spring Riesling Estate 2020 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
12.5% alcohol. 6 g/l rs. From four large parcels (1.5-2 ha each), average vine age 25 years. Three of those parcels have a micro-cru selection that goes into the CSV. Lively, textural, lovely lemony fruit with some juiciness. Clean and direct with nice purity, showing lime and lemon with some pear and peach richness. Very fine. 92/100 ($21.95)
Cave Spring Riesling CSV 2019 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
12.5% alcohol. 4 g/l rs. Have been breaking in some large casks and in 2021 this wine was fermented in those. About 10% barrel ferment in 2019. Powerful, intense and limey with taut citrus fruit and a touch of pithiness. It has a steely, mineral edge. Lovely supple, textured Riesling of great purity, with layers. Tasted twice with consistent notes and the same score. 94/100
Cave Spring Prova Riesling 2018 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
12% alcohol. 50% full skin fermented (aged in old 500 litre oak), and 50% soak for 12 h (stainless steel ferment). Full yellow colour. This is distinctive and bold. It has a slightly unusual earthy, musty edge to the palate. Lots to like but I find it hard to get past that character. 84/100
Cave Spring Adam Steps Riesling 2019 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
10% alcohol. 24 g/l rs, stainless steel ferment. Intense, vivid and off dry with lovely citrus fruit, some melon and a touch of table grape. Such purity and balance here. Lovely balance and structure with such precision. 93/100 ($27)
Cave Spring Chardonnay Estate 2019 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
13.5% alcohol. This is 50/50 barrel and stainless steel. It’s fresh and linear with nice ripeness showing pear and white peach with some spicy framing. Very expressive with a slight salinity on the finish. 93/100
Cave Spring Chardonnay CSV 2020 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
13.5% alcohol. This took 20 months to ferment. Half in a neutral cask and half in barrique. This is powerful and rounded with sweet pear and peach fruit, and some fine toast and spice. There’s mid-palate richness and intensity here with a mealy, spicy quality and some fruit sweetness, and also an acid sweetness from the slightly elevated VA. Tasted twice with consistent notes and the same score. 93/100
Cave Spring Chardonnay Musqué 2020 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
14% alcohol. This has 16 h of skin contact – it’s the only Chardonnay clone that takes skin contact well. 40% neutral oak, 60% stainless steel. This is powerful and taut with fine spicy notes as well as flavours of table grapes and lemon with some orange peel and mandarin. This is really pretty. 92/100
Cave Spring Gewürztraminer Estate 2020 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
14.5% alcohol. 8 h skin soak, 15% skin fermented. Pretty, expressive, nice table grape and lychee character with a bit of grip. Lively and expressive with some nice balance. Has a salty edge. 90/100
Cave Spring Pinot Gris Estate 2020 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
13.5% alcohol. Has some colour. Soaked 16 h, then cask fermented. Lively and spicy with orange peel, cherry, pear and table grape. Textural and detailed with nice interest: this has texture and spiciness, and lovely depth in flavour. 92/100
Cave Spring Estate Rosé 2020 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
14% alcohol. Cabernet Franc, 12 h skin contact, 50% oak. This is bright with cherries and strawberries, and nice softness, too. Textured and well balanced with a sour cherry finish. 89/100
Cave Spring Gamay Estate 2020 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
Haven’t made this since 2007. 30 day maceration, aged in neutral and used oak. Juicy, bright and vivid with raspberry and red cherry fruit. There’s some nice grip here under the sweet fruit. It’s textured and supple with a nice grainy quality and a bit of structure. A really impressive wine with a bit of grip as well as nice sweet fruit. 92/100
Cave Spring Pinot Noir Estate 2019 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
13.5% alcohol. This is fresh, silky and juicy with lovely ripe strawberry and cherry fruit with a nice sour cherry edge. Has a sense of silkiness, but then also has nice acidity and some savoury hints. Fine grained and detailed. Lovely balance. 93/100
Cave Spring Cabernet Franc Estate 2019 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
14.5% alcohol. Lovely texture to this wine: chalky and gravelly but also expansive with lovely depth. Bold and rich with nice green hints meshing well with the rich blackcurrant and berry fruit. Lovely depth to this wine. So textural. 93/100
Cave Spring Prova 2019 Beamsville Bench, Niagara
This year the element is Cabernet Franc done in an anaerobic fermentation: a 1 ton steel bin with a custom rigged cap submerger. Whole cluster at the bottom, then fed in an open vat fermenting. Then when the cap rose it was submerged. This has a slight lift and bright cherry and spice notes. It’s grainy, lively and detailed with great focus and nice fine tannins. So interesting. 94/100
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