Pre-release event at Henry of Pelham

This afternoon Henry of Pelham hosted a pre-release of six wines, including its 2021 BIN 106 ‘Lost Boys” Baco Noir. This is a limited edition wine that is well worth heading to the winery to snag before it runs out. It’s from some of the oldest vines in the region (planted in 1984) and it is luscious. I’ve always thought of Baco as being one of Henry of Pelham’s outstanding offerings and so I was looking forward to trying it – but this exceeded my expectations!

Daniel Speck

I was talking to Lawrence Behler, the winemaker, about how much I enjoy Henry or Pelham’s Bacos and he said the winery has always treated Baco with a great deal of respect. I think he hit the nail on the head and I think that is particularly evident in the 2021 BIN 106.

On our way to the winery, I confessed to my friend that I didn’t know who the winemaker was. So naturally, that was the first question I asked Daniel Speck, one of the brothers who own the winery. I was so pleased to learn that it was Lawrence, who I first met at an ice wine weekend when he was the winemaker at Peller Estates in 2008. After that he headed to Colio in the Lake Erie North Shore region (Harrow) and then I knew he went out west for a time. After that I lost track of him – but he’s back in the Niagara, which is great news.

Lawrence Buhler, winemaker

The other standout for me at the tasting was their 2021 The Shadow Rock Sauvignon Blanc. Daniel Speck was pouring it and he explained that this particular parcel is near a pond. In the late afternoon it gets partially blocked and the slight coolness from the shadow helps the fruit develop different from other parts of the vineyard. Apparently, it’s also interesting because being near the pond the darkness brings out the night insects and frogs and it gets pretty lively in that patch. One other important note about the wine that makes it different from other Sauvignon Blanc is that it is lightly oaked, which makes it – yes, a Fumé Sauvignon Blanc. I asked Daniel why they decided to de-stress the “fumé” and he explained that they did so because some people think they don’t like oaked whites and so sometimes they won’t even try it. Go figure…

I’ve always enjoyed a nice Fumé Blanc – and The Shadow Rock is delicious. It has the grapefruit and pear you expect from a Sauvignon Blanc but the bit of oak gives it a round, fuller mouth feel. Next time you’re at Henry of Pelham be sure to try it – it might surprise you. Indeed, among today’s crowd, it clearly was a big hit – by the time we got to the retail shop to buy some, they had run short of it. They will have it re-stocked tomorrow morning, so we ordered it. I look forward to serving it to some friends this summer. I won’t tell them it’s an oaked Sauvignon Blanc until after they’ve tried it. I’ll be they will enjoy it and will be more open to trying a fumé blanc in the future.

The other wines introduced at the tasting were: the 2021 Dry River Riesling, the 2020 Smith & Smith Gamay, the 2020 Cabernet-Merlot Speck Family Reserve, and the 2020 Pinot Noir Speck Family Reserve.

A side trip to Jordan Village

On our way to Henry of Pelham we were a bit hungry so we decided to stop at Jordan Village to see if we could grab a bite. The GPS had us turning from Nineteenth Street onto Wismer Street and then to Main Street in Jordan Village. Well – that was a no go, as Main Street in Jordan Village is completely closed for construction. Fortunately, if you stay on Nineteenth Street (rather than turning onto Wismer St.) the Jordan Village parking area is open and you park and walk through the Village around the construction (which is supposed to be completed this summer, so we were told).

We knew there was a coffee shop in the Village but we didn’t know the name. Well, it turns out is now the RPM Bakehouse and it’s run by the folks who run the restaurant at Pearl Morissette winery. They had a lovely light menu featuring interesting sandwiches on their house made breads, as well as some coffee shop type sweets. There was indoor and outdoor seating and so we had a light lunch outside (in mid-April!). The Bakehouse was an excellent find – a very nice choice when you’re in the mood for more than just a muffin and coffee but not quite a full-service meal. It’s definitely a place to remember and return to.

RPM Bakenhouse

GreenLane Estate Winery’s New Location

IMG_0734I was driving along King Street in Vineland (near Cherry Avenue) in June and I noticed a sign announcing that GreenLane Estate Winery would be opening soon — it was on what used to be Wayne Gretzy Estate Winery, for those of you who remember that. Anyway — I was in the area last week and noticed that the sign said GreenLane is now open, so I stopped in to see it.IMG_0732

GreenLane has remodelled the place — brightened it up — and have settled in. Though they still own the property down on Green Lane (near the QEW), their new location: 3751 King Street, Vineland, is where their tasting room is now located.

August 17, 2013 they’re hosting a music night featuring a bluegrass band, so if you’re looking for an excuse to visit, that would be a terrific time to see their new digs.

Touring Tawse Winery

Tawse Winery in Vineland has been named Canadian Winery of the Year by Wine Access Magazine for three years in a row. So, when I had plans to head toward Niagara this week, I contacted Laurie McKenzie, Hospitality Coordinator at the winery, to arrange a tour.IMG_0723

Because it was late in the day and mid-week, I was treated to a one-on-one tour. Bianca started me off with some of their 2012 Grower’s Blend Rosé, which I was invited to take with me on the tour. (I don’t tend to order rosé, but after tasting this one, I’ll re-think that. It was a luscious blend that was like biting into the tastiest strawberry you’ve ever had.)

IMG_0726I knew that Tawse is certified organic and biodynamic, so I didn’t need to see any of the sheep as proof. (Indeed, I didn’t see any sheep – they were off somewhere else in the sprawling vineyard. Only the chickens were around.) My main interest that afternoon was learning about the six-story gravity fed process they use. To get the full effect, Bianca walked me up and around the back of the sloping property to the crush pad.

IMG_0724On the way we stopped to admire the view. It was a lovely clear day, so the view of the lake and Toronto in the distance was spectacular.

Though it seems high on the hill, the crush pad is basically “at ground level”. The winery production facilities are stepped down from there, which means they don’t have to use any pumping to move the wine through the production process. Eliminating the pumps means there’s less manipulation of the product, and generally less aeration.

IMG_0729The tour takes you through the different floors (levels) of the facility and through the barrel rooms. One of the interesting things Bianca pointed out in the barrel room was that each barrel is marked with the vineyard the wine is from (Tawse has a number of different properties and they also get some grapes from other growers). As well, for the wines that are from certified organic vineyards, the barrels are clearly labelled as such.

The tour brought us back to the wine boutique for some additional sampling and final questions.

After touring and tasting, it’s easy to see why Tawse Winery is so popular and acclaimed.