Benchmarking Niagara Riesling at Cave Spring Cellars

"... Cave Spring Cellars has been, and continues to be, one of the elite, benchmark producers of Riesling in Niagara ..."

In my view, Cave Spring Cellars has been, and continues to be, one of the elite, benchmark producers of Riesling in Niagara. It’s likely that those who know Niagara wine will immediately think of their iconic “CSV” Riesling, which year after year maintains its status as an exceptional wine. But there’s much more to their story than that.

Len Pennachetti, president of Cave Spring Cellars (picture

It’s partly their history. The Pennachetti family purchased what is now Cave Spring Vineyard in 1974, and first planted Riesling and Chardonnay in 1978. These are among the oldest Riesling and Chardonnay vines on the Niagara Peninsula.

It’s partly about continuity. Len Pennachetti, the current president, worked with his father John on the development and planting of the original vineyard, and has worked in the venture ever since.

It’s partly about stability. Len and his family joined with winemaker Angelo Pavan in 1986 to found the winery, Cave Spring Cellars. Len and Angelo have worked together ever since.

It’s partly about focus. More than almost any winemaker in Niagara, Cave Spring has focused on Riesling, with at least 50% of its production in dry to off-dry table wine, supplemented by a little Riesling-based icewine and late harvest wine.

And, of course, it’s partly about terroir. The Cave Spring Vineyard has rocky clay soils of limestone and dolomite over sandstone and shale bedrock, with a micro-climate determined by Lake Ontario and the Escarpment itself.

While the Cave Spring Rieslings make their way through the LCBO and Vintages on a regular basis, I haven’t had a chance to taste across their various labels simultaneously for quite some time. So when, on the Saturday after the Icewine Gala, Tony Aspler, Michael Vaughn and I ended up at the outdoor festivities in Jordan village across from the Cave Spring tasting room, it wasn’t just the cold that drove us inside to beg for an impromptu tasting with Len!

He kindly complied, and we tasted through all six of their Riesling table wines, and also had a tasting of several Pinot Noirs with a discussion about the growing interest in Pinot Noir. But here I want to focus just on the Riesling.

The first two, labeled Niagara Peninsula VQA, are produced in larger volume, and are generally available to consumers through the LCBO system throughout the year. There is also fairly wide availability of the fourth wine, the Estate Reserve Riesling, and a few scattered bottles of the CSV, the fifth wine. All six are still available at the winery.


Cave Spring Cellars Riesling 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Vintages #234583 • $15.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
While roughly half of the fruit from this wine is from the estate's Beamsville Bench vineyard, the balance is sourced from vineyards in the Lincoln Lakeshore and Creek Shore appellations nearer the lake, hence the VQA Niagara Peninsula designation is used. The wine is definitely off-dry, though firm acidity balances the palate. The nose is lightly floral, with lemon-lime, red apple, melon and white peach notes, while on the palate the delicate sweetness adds a sense of richness to the fruit. The acidity firms on the finish, drying the sweetness and adding a mineral element. This is a superb value — the largest production of Riesling from Cave Spring, widely available through the LCBO system and highly recommended.
Tasted 1/14/2017 • CAVE SPRING CELLARS LTD., (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


Cave Spring Cellars Riesling Dry 2014, VQA Niagara Peninsula

Vintages #233635 • $15.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89/100
This is the dry sibling of Cave Spring's basic Riesling, and bears the same Niagara Peninsula designation since it is sourced from Lincoln Lakeshore and Creek Shore, as well as from the Beamsville bench. This wine is firmly dry, with vivid acidity that shows the greener side of citrus fruit and green apples, and begs to be described as crushed stones. Aromas of fresh herbs and white flowers add a subtle complexity to the nose, and the lemon-lime acidity lingers on the stony finish. Another amazing value, widely available through the LCBO.
Tasted 1/14/2017 • CAVE SPRING CELLARS LTD., (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


Cave Spring Cellars Dolomite Riesling 2015, VQA Niagara Escarpment

Vintages #0 • $17.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89.5/100
"Dolomite" refers to the dolomitic limestone found on the Niagara Escarpment, in Cave Spring's vineyards on the Beamsville and Twenty Mile benches. This is an expressive Riesling, featuring bright lemon-lime, green apple, melon and floral aromas with a mineral edge. While it is technically off-dry, the residual sugar is largely masked by firm acidity. The fruit repeats and expands on the palate, with a lovely balance that tips towards dryness on the lengthy stone and mineral finish.
Tasted 1/14/2017 • CAVE SPRING CELLARS LTD., (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


Cave Spring Cellars Estate Reserve Riesling 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench

Vintages #286377 • $18.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 90/100
From the Cave Spring estate vineyard on the Beamsville Bench, this wine shows finely etched lime, lemon, green apple and pear notes, with a dusting of fresh herbs. It is slightly off-dry, with high acidity that dries any real sense of sweetness, stopping just short of austerity. The crisp fruit flavours take on a limestone-mineral character, that grows on the lingering finish. So Niagara, and such great value!
Tasted 1/14/2017 • CAVE SPRING CELLARS LTD., (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


Cave Spring Cellars CSV Riesling 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench

Vintages #566026 • $29.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 91/100
This retasting of the 2014 CSV confirms my published review from the November 12, 2016 release, which I repeat here. The 2014 vintage of the CSV (Cave Spring Vineyard) Riesling continues its tradition of excellence. The wine is watery white, with a subtle nose that suggests crushed limestone, light notes of lemon, green apple and white flowers, with a hint of rubber. The wine is just off-dry, with vivid acidity, modest alcohol, and a lovely bright and engaging palate. Add grapefruit, grapefruit pith and honeydew melon to the fruit on the palate, and a lengthy, drying stony-mineral finish. So delicate, balanced, elegant and satisfying. This drinks beautifully now, but can age for many years if properly cellared.
Tasted 1/14/2017 • CAVE SPRING CELLARS LTD., (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


Cave Spring Cellars Riesling, The Adam Steps 2014, VQA Beamsville Bench

Vintages #0 • $24.95 • 750ml. • WD Score 89.5/100
The Adam Steps is a series of outcroppings on the Niagara Escarpment above the Cave Spring Vineyard, and this wine is sourced from a block of old vines just below the rock formation. This is the sweetest of the six Rieslings, off-dry verging on medium-dry, but with vivacious acidity that balances the sweetness. The nose is pleasantly perfumed, with notes of white flowers and apple blossoms, then red apple, honeydew melon, pears and fresh herbs, and a nuance of chalky minerality. While the sweetness adds some richness with a honeyed undertone, the acidity keeps the fruit on the palate delicate and finely-drawn, while the citrus notes linger on the drying, stony finish.
Tasted 1/14/2017 • CAVE SPRING CELLARS LTD., (Agent)Find it at your nearest LCBOShare Review


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