Paul Pender and the winemaking team at Tawse Winery have successfully climbed the ranks to become one of Canada’s top producers, thanks in large part to their success with organically-grown Pinot Noir and Chardonnay that get every measure of winemaking TLC imaginable.
So when the talented winemaker gestures towards a bottle on the winery’s tasting bar and eagerly says: “This is the sort of wine that I want to drink these days.” Your eyes quickly seek out the object of his affection.
Surprisingly, it isn’t a bottle of Cherry Avenue Estate Pinot Noir, a remarkable wine made from the vineyard behind the winery that is ploughed by quarter horses in a bid to keep the soils healthy and stimulate root growth. It’s not the Quarry Road Estate Chardonnay either, a white from a nearby site that Pender has shepherded from being a headache to the source of beautiful pristine wines with exciting freshness and focus.
Instead, it’s an unfamiliar label. The winery’s first attempt at Gamay Noir, made with fruit purchased in 2011 from a grower in Niagara-on-the-Lake.
“It’s the bottle I open for dinner and discover that it’s been drained. It’s just so juicy and enjoyable,” says Pender, who continues to say his only regret is that he didn’t make more. The good news is the project will continue with an even more exciting 2012 edition.
The inaugural release is quintessential Gamay Noir, with bold cherry and raspberry flavours that make it truly refreshing. Pender explains that the original idea was to use those grapes as part of the blend for the winery’s Sketches of Niagara Rosé. But he found other options as he saw the potential for the Gamay Noir increase through the winemaking process.
Tawse Winery’s 2011 Gamay Noir sells for $18.95, which adds to its attraction considering that’s roughly half price of its most affordable Pinot Noir.
Its short supply means it will only be available in Ontario. The LCBO has snatched up some for a release at its Vintages outlets later this year. A portion will be sold at the winery and online at tawsewinery.ca and the rest will be made available to restaurants.
Pender sees it as being a natural for the growing number of small urban restaurants taking root in Toronto, Hamilton and most every city across the province and country that offer cheese and charcuterie boards as well as other French bistro staples. It’s an affordable, lively red wine that works just as well in juice jars or tumblers as polished crystal wine glasses.
The signature red wine of the Beaujolais region of France, which is enjoying small scale success in the wine regions of Ontario and British Columbia, Gamay Noir isn’t likely to topple Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon or Pinot Noir from the top of the red wine heap. It produces wines that are lighter in style than the two selections reviewed today, but it a suitable option for those looking to drink differently.
Wines of the Week:
Bodega Catena Zapata 2010 Catena Malbec, Mendoza, Argentina
BC $22.95 (478727) | AB $22 | ON $19.95 (478727)
Malbec is no longer the red hot success story it was, but solid examples like this remind why it enjoyed a run as the world’s It-Grape. It’s ripe, robust and round, with bold fruit, spice and chocolate flavours. A flavourful red like this is sure to make red meat entrees sing.
Wolf Blass 2010 Yellow Label Cabernet Sauvignon, South Australia, Australia
BC $17.99 (251876) | AB $18 | MB $16.99 (251876) | ON $16.95 (251876)
As one of Canada’s longstanding best selling red wines, Wolf Blass Yellow Label has introduced its share of people to Australian wine and to the generous flavours of ripe Cabernet. The new vintage offers classic mint and rich fruit as well as a smooth texture which gives this mass appeal.