Tawse wins Winery of the Year at the Wine Access 2011 Canadian Wine Awards
Tawse has stayed consistent during growth by focusing on quality
Tawse Winery is a fine example of how growth in size and quality can sometimes go hand in hand. For the second year in a row, the Vineland, Ont.-based producer has won the title of Winery of the Year at the Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards (and it placed second in 2009).
Consistency during growth
It’s a remarkable demonstration of consistency, especially considering the winery has also been undergoing rapid expansion and integration of new properties.
In 2011, the winery’s production was about 20,000 to 25,000 cases, thanks to acquisitions and plantings that are now all, literally and figuratively, bearing fruit.
Compare that with the first year of production; the winery, which was started by Moray Tawse in 2001, had 35 acres of vineyards. “In 2001, we made 200 cases of riesling and 200 cases of chardonnay — in a barn,” says Tawse.
These days, the estate has grown to 144 acres, including the Lakeview and Thomas and Vaughan properties; bought in 2009 and 2010, they have been renamed the Hillside and Redstone vineyards. And the Tawse team still buys grapes from a handful of other properties, including the Laundry and Van Baers vineyards.
New facilities to accomodate a growing winery
New storage facilities are under construction, and plans are currently being drawn up for a new winemaking facility — with a new tasting room — to better accommodate growing volumes and bustling traffic. The idea is to provide a distinct production line, tasting room and storefront for the more general Sketches of Niagara and Echoes labels, while the single-vineyard, 100-percent estate wines would still be made and showcased at the original facility, located on Cherry Avenue.
Although you can sense that Moray Tawse wouldn’t say no to a good opportunity (say, a prime site for riesling), he says there is no reason to keep the recent pace of growth going. “Twenty-five thousand cases is the right size,” says Tawse.
That level of production is enough, he says, to properly amortize costs of new facilities and equipment, and to cover a range of sales networks: cellar door, wine club, restaurants and the LCBO.
Winemaker Paul Pender also seems happy with current production levels: “We still know where all the barrels are and where they’re at," he says. "We’ve just gotten more efficient.”
Focus on the vineyards
Although facilities and acquisitions have taken a lot of effort, the focus is clearly on the vineyards. They are all farmed biodynamically, and the team invests considerably to get top results. “Buying grapes would cost us 60 percent of what it costs to farm them ourselves,” Tawse says.
That approach, the team agrees, has allowed them to bring the level of the new properties up significantly. Pender says he wanted to rip out some of the vines from the Hillside and Redstone properties and start over, but admits that, with a little tender loving care, “they’re now doing great.”
The results of these improvements haven’t even been seen in the market yet. As assistant winemaker René Van Ede says, “we’ve been building up the new vineyards to be at the level we want. We just haven’t shown them yet.”
For Pender, the quality of the vineyards is almost an “unfair advantage” for Tawse, making the winemaking job exceedingly simple. “What we do, essentially, is press it, set it in a tank or a barrel and take it out in a year or so.”
Expressing the terroir, says Tawse, is what it’s all about, with the implicit confidence that the terroirs of the Niagara Peninsula have remarkable things to say.
“If we didn’t think we could make great wine here, we wouldn’t be doing this,” he says.