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Cave Spring Cellars, Niagara, Canada

19th Street becomes Main Street for the mile of so passes through the centre of pretty Jordan Village in Ontario, Canada. Founded in 1799 by Mennonites displaced by the American Revolution Jordan Village is now a compact street of historic buildings housing boutiques, art galleries, restaurants a hotel and Cave Springs Cellars.

I visited to taste Cave Spring’s wines and to tour their cellars. The cellar building dates from 1871 for Jordan Vinegar Works which also produced cider and jams. Jordan Wines took over in the 1920’s. In 1986 local grape grower Leonard Pennachetti and wine maker Angelo Pavan bought the premises and co-founded Cave Spring Cellars to produce vinifera wine, and they remain owners and Angelo still makes the wines. Previously, in 1976, Leonard had rented a light aeroplane to look for vineyard locations. He found a perfect place of 12 acres at Cave Spring Farm on the Beamsville Bench, and started planting Riesling and Chardonnay. Now Cave Spring owns 140 acres and also source grapes from nearby growers.

I arrived in time for the 1.30pm public cellar tour which cost $10 with $5 off on wine purchases. A small group of visitors was led downstairs. We saw the original stone work and underpinned more recent brick as the cellar had been deepened to allow events to take place there. At the end of this cellar was a feature: a circular brick chamber with a corbelled roof from which descended a chandelier had originally been the water cistern. Off this chamber, blocked by a locked gate, one can only observe Cave Spring’s wine library of vintages dating back to the beginning.

Heading towards the barrel cellar along a narrow corridor was another tunnel which we learned goes under Main Street and surfaces in the Inn on the Twenty hotel opposite. It was originally used to transport sugar for making jams without having to cross the road or expose the sugar to rain or snow.

Stacks of French oak barrels in Canada’s oldest cellar in still in use are kept at 15C at a constant 75% humidity, controlled by ceiling water sprays, we ascended for a private tasting of two wines.

Riesling Estate 2012
VQA Beamsville Bench, 11.5% abv

From grapes grown in the original vineyard. This is supposedly dry but I found it definitely off-dry verging on sweet. As such it was pleasant to drink on its own, but I would have preferred more acidity for balance. It had a short finish.

Pinot Noir ‘Dolomite’ 2012
VQA Niagara Escarpment 12.5% abv
(available only at the winery)

The name Dolomite refers to the layer of dolomitic limestone that forms the Niagara Escarpment and gives a mineral edge to wines grown on it. Aged 13 months in 225 litre French and Hungarian oak barrels of which 25% were new. This quaffable Pinot offered bright cherry flavours with an edge of acidity rounded with vanilla. Most enjoyable.

I took lunch at the neighbouring Inn on the Twenty restaurant, owned by Cave Spring Cellars, who also own Inn on the Twenty hotel and spa across the road and Jordan House hotel and tavern.

When visiting the Niagara region, Cave Spring Cellars is well worth a visit.

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Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.

Peter F May paid for his travel, tour and tasting.

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