RICK VANSICKLE/Wines in Niagara
The Cave Spring Vineyard, located high up on a terrace of the Niagara Escarpment overlooking Lake Ontario on the Beamsville Bench, is easily one of Canada’s top three Riesling vineyards.
In 1978, John Pennachetti, Sr. and his son Leonard planted some of Niagara’s first European varietal vines at this vineyard. The site caught their attention for its gentle slope and stony, limestone-rich soils, holding great promise for cool-climate viticulture.
In 1986, together with winemaker Angelo Pavan, the family founded Cave Spring Cellars.
Today, Cave Spring produces its wines from more than 75 hectares of vineyards on the Beamsville Bench and the Twenty Mile Bench of the Niagara Peninsula.
Its signature bottling is the Cave Spring CSV Riesling, which represents the ultimate expression of the estate vineyard’s terroir. It is handcrafted almost exclusively from the oldest vines using approximately the top five per cent of grapes from Cave Spring Vineyard.
The rest of the grapes from the vineyard go into several different bottlings in the Cave Spring family.
So when I heard whispers that Cave Spring was releasing a new label from this historic vineyard I rushed down to the Jordan store to grab a bottle.
It has an intriguing name: Cave Spring The Adam Steps Cave Spring Vineyard Riesling 2011. What’s that? A special block from within the CSV vineyard? Now, that’s exciting.
Thomas Pennachetti, managing partner and the guy in charge of marketing and sales for Cave Spring, confirmed that the new wine is from a single block of Riesling at the estate vineyard, “much like the CSV, which comes from the two oldest blocks of vines,” he said.
“You have to keep in mind that we have over 40 acres and eight different blocks of Riesling at the Estate (not to mention two blocks that we work with on the lakeshore in the Lincoln Lakeshore area).
“The Adam Steps comes from one of two blocks (depending on the year) in the shadows of ‘The Adam Steps’ at Cave Spring Vineyard, which comprise a series of large outcrops in the escarpment above the central/main portion of our vineyard.”
Pennachetti says the new wine is an exploration of style as much as site, for example, the tension between the natural fruit of Riesling and its acidity.
“It is lower in alcohol than the Estate or CSV Rieslings, with somewhat more residual sugar. Call it more a wine of the push-pull between fruit-sweetness and of lightness than of pure weight and body, which is what the CSV is all about,” he says. “To coin what can be an empty cliché, it’s a little more like a traditional Mosel Riesling than, say, a fuller bodied Pfalz or Rheingau Riesling. It is very much a part from our other two Estate Rieslings.”
After I started talking about this wine on Twitter and Facebook, I received a number of emails about the mysterious history of the Adam Steps. Niagara winemaker Arthur Harder pointed me to this passage in the book, Mysteries of Ontario, by John Robert Colombo.
“Legends are legion about this rocky tract of land at the foot of the Niagara Escarpment which runs southeast of Beamsville. It was the domain of the Neutral Indians, the farmland of the Loyalist settlers who arrived in 1798.
“The story is told that during the War of 1812 disgruntled soldiers seized the payroll and hid it in these woods. During World War 1, flashing lights on the crest of the Escarpment led local residents to maintain that German spies were planted in the area. In 1948, on a ledge accessible from the Adam Steps, which leads to the top of the Escarpment, archeologist Kenneth E. Kidd uncovered two heads half a foot high carved in living rock. The rock heads showed “protohistoric” features.
“An ‘underground lake’ is said to connect Lake Erie and Lake Ontario. As folklorist William E. Rannie noted, there is ‘the intriguing fact that somewhere on the hillside at Cave Springs there exists today, and perhaps forever, a secret repository holding safe the remnants of a civilization that flourished on these acres long ago.’ ”
Well, quite a story!
And, I must say, quite a wine.
Here are our three WIN wines of the week, including the new Adam Steps:
Cave Spring The Adam Steps Cave Spring Vineyard Riesling 2011
($25, winery only, 92 points)
Wet pebbles and riverbed minerality is the first impression on the nose then the citrus zest, grapefruit, and summer peach follows.
The off-dry sweetness, partially driven by the ripeness of the fruit, is jarring in the mouth as you don’t expect this from Cave Spring. But the honey-sweet flavours are delivered on a racy beam of acidity that presents mouth-watering tension on the palate.
The citrus, stone fruits and interesting minerals are clean, fresh, airy and lithe on the palate and the flavours linger on the finish. A beauty.
Coyote’s Run Pinot Noir 2010
($20, LCBO, winery, 88 points)
Built at a pretty good price for top-quality Pinot in Niagara, this basic-tier version shows the ripe fruit of the vintage with black cherry, cassis, bramble, roasted Espresso bean, sandalwood and earth.
The fruit is smooth and juicy on the palate with ripe tannins and decent acidity to balance it all out. Nothing too complicated here yet not simple either; just a good, honest Pinot from a very good vintage.
Vintages releases Saturday:
Malivoire Pinot Gris 2011
($20, at Vintages Saturday, 87 points)
A ripe and bold nose of melon, blood orange, peach, ripe summer apples and an interesting note of fennel.
It’s very friendly on the palate with bold orchard fruits balanced out by zesty citrus notes.
Rick Vansickle is a veteran journalist, wine reviewer and publisher of Wines in Niagara. His reviews appear each Friday in Bullet News.
Rick can be found on the web atwww.winesinniagara.com.
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