In Niagara, Canada (1) an evening with Big Head, Creekside, Rosewood, MW Cellars and 13th Street

It’s good to be back in Canada again. I arrived in Toronto late afternoon and drove through a thunderstorm to Big Head winery in Niagara, where I met up with fellow judges from the National Wine Awards of Canada for a welcome evening. It involved an informal tasting of the wines of five producers, followed by some nice food from a new restaurant in St Catherines.


Tasting with William Roman. Rosewood are one of the most interesting of the naturally inclined producers in Niagara.

Rosewood Charmat NV
This is a blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, and the base wine is a solera started in 2016, and this wine was bottled in 2023. The idea is to add complexity and tertiary flavours without a long time on lees and it works. Nice toast and spice, with notes of apples and lemons. Some oxidative hints, with toast and nice complexity. 91/100

Rosewood Semillon 2022
9 months in stainless steel, full malolactic, with sulfites added only prior to bottling. Lovely weight of apple and pear fruit with some peach and spice. Nicely textured with a lemony finish. 92/100

Rosewood Sauvignon Blanc 2021
18 months in 500 litre puncheons. Nice purity of fruit with good texture and nice concentration, as well as a touch of creaminess under the fruit. Has a stony edge. 90/100

Rosewood Flora Rosé 2023
This is a blend of all sorts. It’s textured and stony with a bit of sweetness under the pear, cherry and strawberry fruit. 89/100

Big Head


Another of Niagara’s most interesting wineries. Jakub and his father Andrzej are making bold, brave wines. They use a lot of carbonic maceration for the whites (whole cluster, 7 days, then press) and for many of the reds they use appassimento where the grapes are dried for 6 weeks. All wild ferment. With the dried grapes and wild ferments they often end up with high volatile acidity, so they use reverse osmosis and ion exchange to bring this down. Other than this, the approach is pretty natural in the winery.

Big Head Viognier 2021
There’s a bit of botrytis. Carbonic maceration then fermentation finishes in concrete, and the wine is aged in large oak. Textured and lively with nice weight, and pear and peach fruit with a twist of apricot. Lovely chalky texture here. 93/100

Big Head Savagnin 2021 Lincoln Lakeshore
Carbonic then large oak (1000 litres). Powerful with apple and pear fruit as well as some lemon. Has nice weight and intensity with good acidity and some oxidative hints. Nice depth here. 92/100

Big Head Chenin Blanc 2021
Big Head get their Chenin from Rick Smith, and have planted some of their own, with first harvest 2023. Carbonic then 1000 litre oak. Quite a bit of botrytis this year. Powerful and lively with great acidity and notes of apple and white peach. Good texture here with some spiciness and well integrated acidity. 93/100

Big Head Raw Chenin Blanc 2022
Free run juice into concrete for 11 months. Powerful and energetic with some apple and spice. Has lovely energy. Deep coloured but very fresh with a hint of apricot and spice., Such energy. 94/100

Big Head Petit Verdot 2021
From Kenny Hunter’s vineyard. Appassimento for 6 weeks, then carbonic, then finishing fermentation in oak. Complex, rich and spicy with some earthy grip as well as robust berry fruits. Has some oxidative character. 90/100

Big Head Raw Cabernet Sauvignon 2022
Appassimento, carbonic and then concrete. Lovely complexity here with rich blackcurrant fruit and nice structure. Has a lush, liqueur-like mid-palate with nice grip and a touch of saltiness. 93/100

Big Head Syrah 2020
5% Viognier in the blend. Appassimento and then carbonic, then 22 months in oak. Dense with nice weight. Spicy with a bit of grip and a sleek, ripe mid-palate. Firm on the finish. 90/100

Big Head Raw Syrah 2020
13.3% alcohol. My favourite Big Head wine, and one of Canada’s best expressions of this variety. It’s fleshy, peppery and ripe with textured black cherries, blackcurrants and some nice freshness. Floral and expressive with lovely focus and freshness. 95/100


Rob Power is the winemaker here, and he was showing three interesting wines, including a brilliant traditional method sparkler. He jokes that their over-optimistic projections on fizz sales means he’s been able to keep this on lees for longer, and the result is impressive.

Creekside The Trad 2019
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with a 5 g/l dosage. Powerful with nice weight, and notes of pear and peach with lovely citrus fruit. Lively with toasty depth as well as some apple and pear. Very stylish. 92/100

Creekside Iconoclast Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2022
Lovely texture here: fresh and light with some elderflower detail, and some pear and lemon, with a stony edge. 90/100

Creekside Iconoclast Sauvignon Blanc Semillon 2020
Fresh and supple with a green hint to the citrus fruit, and some floral detail. Fruity and expressive. 89/100

13th Street

Benjamin Whitty

Benjamin Whitty showed these wines from his family’s winery, where winemaker Jean-Pierre Colas has been doing good things for many years. The Whitty family have been on the farm for four generations, and as well as making wine, they grow fruit and have a thriving bakery.

13th Street Premier Cuvée 2018
12.5% alcohol. Bright and lively with nice acidity. No dosage here. Lemony and precise with hood acidity. Very pure and fine. 92/100

13th Street Gamay Vin Gris 2023 Creek Shores
First made in 2016, this wine has been a great success. Pale pink in colour. Bright and linear with nice purity to the cherry and strawberry fruit with nice weight and balance. A grown-up rosé. 91/100

13th Street Reserve Viognier 2022 Niagara Peninsular
Lovely weight here with appealing pear and apricot fruit and a touch of peach, and also some nice acidity. Has real detail. Very stylish. 92/100

MW Cellars

Marty and Eden Werner have an import business that they opened during the pandemic, and are making traditional method sparkling wine under the York label. But they also saw a need for more wines priced so that they could be by-the-glass offerings in restaurants, hence MW cellars. These retail at around CA$20.

MW Cellars Pinot Blanc 2023
Made in 600 litre puncheons. Fresh, linear and bright with pear, grape and a touch of peach. Fruity and grapey. 89/100

MW Cellars Aligoté 2023
Stainless steel. Stony, bright and vivid with nice acidity. This has bright fruit and it’s a really delicious expression of Aligoté. 90/100