Archives for category: The Producers

Juice Fast: Filling the press can be painful work for crush crews

While working a harvest last fall at a winery on the bench in the Niagara Peninsula, I would leave work with new cuts and scrapes each and every day. I didn’t take much notice until the day the Riesling grapes started rolling in and I wished I could turn back time and rid myself of every open wound.

Working with a bladder press requires you to climb on top and manually push the bunches in. Sounds easy right — grapes are easy to squish! In theory it is. But there’s a little matter of the grape’s acidity, which seeps into open wounds turns this simple task into a strategic operation.

Riesling has so much acidity that if you stick a hand with an fresh cut into a press full of it, it’s like squirting lemon juice into a fresh paper cut. Since Band-Aids don’t stick, your only option is to try to avoid using that part of your body. From personal experience, I can tell you this technique usually doesn’t work.

It’s painful, to be sure, but it’s a small price to pay for a delicious glass of refreshing Riesling. ANDREA FUJARCZUK

The new issue of VINES includes a feature about talented Niagara winemakers who are working outside of the established norm. They don’t own vineyards. They don’t own wineries. But they have figured out ways to follow their passion and produce stellar Ontario wines. One of the four, Charles Baker Wines, only makes Riesling. Here is an excerpt of the article, explaining how Baker is making it work.


Baker’s Choice: Charles Baker produces two distinctive Rieslings from two contracted growers in Niagara.

“There is a big difference between myself and the other three being featured (in the article),” Charles Baker said on a break from our photo shoot. “They are bona fide winemakers… I am enabling these vineyards to be put into bottle. I am the one facilitating the introduction of somebody’s vineyard to a bottle and, after that, to somebody’s glass.”

All four of them share the same desire to find new ways of putting Niagara into a bottle, he added. Baker has just bottled the seventh vintage of the Picone Vineyard Riesling. Two years ago, he added a second site to his portfolio – the Ivan Vineyard, located near Tawse Winery in the Twenty Mile Bench sub-appellation.

“The ambition is to capture Riesling from different vineyards from across the peninsula,” Baker says.

“I only work in Niagara. I have to work within the parameters of my daily life. I have to work within the building where I am employed at Stratus, who are amazingly generous to allow me to do this. But I am not stopping it at two vineyards. The idea is to look for different expressions from different appellations.”

Baker doesn’t have a timeline for expanding his network of superior Riesling sites. He hopes that serendipity will play a role. “I think in time I will meet other grape growers who will want to work in the same vein.”

Charles Baker Wines 2010 Picone Vineyard Riesling Vinemount Ridge $35 The warmth of Niagara’s 2010 vintage is evident in this ripe, concentrated Riesling that still manages to showcase the expressive mineral, floral and savoury notes common to the Picone Vineyard. Ripe citrus and a hint of honey on the palate are nicely balanced by the wine’s natural acidity and a slightly minty/herbal note that lingers on the finish. The wine comes across as dry, which is a significant departure from the 2009 release, but is merely a reaction to the weather conditions of the growing season. 440 cases.


News reports that Australia is losing its thirst for New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc has local experts hoping that there is a growing appetite for other white varieties, especially the steely, rapier-sharp style of Riesling popular Down Under.

“Riesling is a lot more serious than Sauvignon Blanc but it does take some appreciation,” Julian Alcorso, managing director of Winemaking Tasmania, told The Mercury.

“Hopefully this is a graduation process.

“You can put a Sauvignon Blanc in the cellar for 12 months and you’d want to throw it out but a good Riesling will last forever.”

Mission Control: Winemaker John Simes lets the purity of the fruit shine in the Mission Hill Family Estate 2011 Reserve Riesling

We consider Riesling a pure and honest grape, which can offer layers of complexity and finesse. It can benefit from aging, neutral oak barrels, or bubbles, but it doesn’t require any of these practices to make a great wine. Sometimes letting the grapes take their own course is the best course of action.

Mission Hill Family Estate 2011 Reserve Riesling ($19.99, is a well-crafted refreshing wine that is distinctly shows the grape’s personality without all the bells and whistles. Stone fruit, tangerine and melon aromas greet you on the nose, with green apple notes bobbing along just behind. The palate offers flavours of cantaloupe, honey and mineral notes. Racy acidity balances well with hints of residual sugar and a long finish give the mineral notes it’s time to shine.

Winemakers who are lucky enough to receive healthy and clean Riesling grapes often think of one thing: don’t change anything and keep it healthy and clean. The grapes are trying to express where they came from and what they’ve been through, so let them tell their story. Sometimes it’s best not to mess with a good thing.


Cook Like a Pro: Grilled peaches and pork chops sing with Riesling

In honour of its 25th anniversary last year, Cave Spring Cellars called upon talented Canadian chefs to share their favourite Riesling-friendly recipes. Chef Peter George, from 360 The Restaurant at the CN Tower, Toronto, Ontario, answered with Willow Grove Farm’s Pork Chop with Cave Spring Cellars Grilled Riesling Poached. As George explains, “Riesling is my favourite way to start a meal; its light sweetness and exotic flavours excite my palate. I always have a few bottles.”

4             Willow Grove Farms pork rack chops
salt, pepper and fresh rosemary
4             Niagara free stone peaches
2 cups   Cave Spring Cellars Riesling Niagara Peninsula
½ cup   sugar
1             vanilla bean, split lengthwise
extra virgin olive oil

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the peaches. Boil for one minute; remove the peaches to an ice water bath to cool. Peel the skin from the peaches and cut in half removing the peach stone. Combine the Riesling, sugar and vanilla and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and add the peach halves. Simmer the peach halves for 3 minutes. Remove the pot from the stove and allow the peaches to cool in the Riesling. Once cool, remove the peaches from the Riesling and reduce the peach cooking liquid to a glaze, about 1/5 of its original volume.

Season the pork chops with salt, pepper, fresh rosemary and a little extra virgin olive oil. Grill the pork chops on the barbecue for 5 minutes per side. The last two minutes of cooking, grill the peach halves on the barbecue. Brush the pork chops with the Riesling reduction saving a little for the final platter.

Arrange the pork chops on a platter with the grilled peaches. Garnish with sprigs of fresh rosemary and a drizzle of the Cave Spring Cellars Riesling reduction. Enjoy!

Booster Club: Jancis Robinson singles out Riesling as the greatest white them of all

I think that Riesling is indisputably the greatest white wine grape in the world but many people think I am mad.

The problem I think, is that Riesling has so much character compared to Chardonnay, the other most obvious candidate for greatest white wine grape. Whereas Chardonnay in most cases presents the winemaker with an almost blank canvas on which to paint the traces of his techniques and processes, Riesling has its own very distinctive character, which varies immensely and excitingly according to exactly where it is grown. Riesling responds rather badly to winemaking tricks. It is happiest when it is just fermented as simply as possible and the pure fermented juice bottled with minimal resort to oak, malolactic fermentation, lees stirring and so on.

Jancis Robinson


Weis Man: Riesling superstar Nik Weis has made his family winery in the Mosel, St. Urbans-Hof, into one of Germany’s top estates

Leafing through pages from our archives, we uncovered a piece from our 2002 White Issue, when we spoke to Nik Weis, owner and winemaker of Weingut St. Urbans-Hof, about his philosophy.

[Riesling] is something that is different. It has the most wine character of all of the grapes in the world because it is fruity and it goes with a lot of food… Some wines stay the same, but Riesling changes so dramatically and it also changes the food. It’s a real adventure. Nik Weis, Owner & Winemaker, St. Urbans-Hof

Angelo Pavan is a devoted winemaker and dedicated Riesling supporter in the Ontario wine industry.

“We can say there’s a handful of wines that we have a handle on. Riesling is at the top of that list.”  Angelo Pavan, winemaker, Cave Spring Cellars (VINES Magazine, April/May 2011)

At once charming and elemental, a great Riesling runs along the knife edge between sensuality and severity, extravagance and austerity. The aromatic riches that accumulate in Riesling grapes during the longest ripening season of any great wine provide the appeal; the mineral character from the soil and the grape’s hallmark racy acidity crank up the tension. Stuart Piggott, Planet Wine: A Grape by Grape Visual Guide to the Contemporary Wine World

Grape Nut: British born, Berlin-based wine writer Stuart Piggott is dedicated to spreading the gospel of Riesling. Read more at

Teaching Terroir: Domaine Ehrhart-Pfohl 2011 Riesling

Proud Canadians are trained to love our fresh and fruity Rieslings from the moment of our very first sip. Cool, crisp and offering apple and peach flavours in a glass… what’s not to love? But there are other flavours that Riesling can offer that are just as compelling.

At first sniff, Domaine Ehrhart-Pfohl 2011 Riesling (Alsace, $13.95, 282186) is clean and offers some fascinating floral notes. Having been fermented in stainless steel like all your other favourite fresh wines, this wine from Alsace captures the local terroir, which makes the wine intriguing but is still true to the grape.

Alongside the floral aromas are lemon, apple and mineral notes. The palate is consistent with the aromas, adding lime and melon to the mix, while the finish is crisp, clean and zesty.

Whether looking at a fresh New World Riesling or an aged and layered Old World Riesling, we feel that every bottle has a time and a place that will suit your summer soundtrack.