Canadian Wine: A November to Remember for Moray Tawse – By David Lawrason
It was a good month for Niagara’s Moray Tawse. In early November his Beamsville Bench Tawse Winery took top honours as Canada’s Winery of the Year – for the second year in a row – at the Wine Access Canadian Wine Awards. Sort of like the Grey Cup of Canadian wine. And the same week he debuted a range of fabulous Marchand-Tawse red Burgundies for trade and media at Le Select Bistro in Toronto.
It was a career- defining one-two punch, and both the Niagara and Burgundy have fed off each other, and are responsible for each other’s success.
When I first met Moray Tawse on Toronto’s tasting circuit about 15 years ago he was a Burgundy man to his pips – and not interested in Ontario wine. But like anyone who loves pinot noir and chardonnay he became aware that Niagara had potential with these varieties, and soon enough he met up with a young Canadian-born winemaker working in Burgundy named Pascal Marchand, who visited Niagara and saw the potential too.
At the turn of the millennium Moray Tawse took the plunge, and with Marchand at his side as a consultant, he opened Tawse Winery in Beamsville. In his first vintage 2001 he made 200 cases. The original intent was to focus narrowly on Burgundy varieties, with high density plantings of organically farmed chardonnay and pinot. But he bought some old riesling vines too, and as he acquired other plots – both adjacent to the estate and other sites on the Bench like Quarry Road – other varieties came into the mix.
With 25,000 cases Tawse now has one of the broadest and deepest portfolio’s in Niagara, with several single vineyard bottlings of some varieties. And as a result his wines have become a study in Niagara terroir, partially because they are extremely well made by Niagara College oenology grad Paul Pender, and assistant winemaker René Van Ede.
That combination of breadth, depth and quality earned Tawse the Winery of the Year honours, the first non-British Columbia winery to take the title since the awards began in 2001. Tawse won six golds; the largest gold haul in the history of the competition. And because wineries are ranked by the medal weight of the top six wines they entered, Tawse took the crown with ease. No matter that he took another seven silvers and eleven bronze, and that his under $20 Sketches of Niagara Riesling (see below) was White Wine of the Year.
As they were building toward success in Niagara Tawse and Marchand began plotting their partnership in Burgundy. Marchand had been making wine for others for several years, including the prestigious Domaine de la Vougeraie, an ambitious company assembled by Jean-Charles Boisset in the ‘90s. It proved an inspiration for the outward looking Marchand, who not only wanted to make his own wines in Burgundy but also in Niagara and Australia.
The arrangement in Burgundy is a bit complicated. Only Marchand’s name appears on the labels, but the company is called Marchand-Tawse. It makes wines from over 30 single vineyard plots in the Cote de Beaune and Cotes de Nuits, with Moray Tawse recently purchasing vineyards in the hallowed Chassagne-Montrachet appellation (mostly chardonnay).
Like the Niagara wines, the Marchand – Tawse Burgundies are top drawer. I had a sneak peek at the 2009 whites in France last spring, then a good run through of the 2009 reds at Le Select Bistro. There is a wonderful sense of refinement and appellation accuracy in all the wines. And, even though they are expensive, we should be thankful that Tawse’s local connection should make them fairly easy to acquire here down the road.
Here are a handful of some of my recently tasted favourites from both Niagara and Burgundy, with reviews, ratings and prices at www.WineAlign.com.