The Winery of the Year – 2017 Nationals

Winery of the Year – Redstone Winery

By David Lawrason

It will no doubt come as a surprise to many across the country that a relatively new Ontario winery making only 15,000 cases is Canada’s Winery of the Year in 2017. It is not a surprise to winemaker Rene Van Ede, nor to anyone who knows that Redstone is the latest project by Moray Tawse. Tawse Winery is a four-time winner of the Winery of Year Award.

“At heart, I am an optimist,” said Van Ede. “I always felt that Redstone had a solid portfolio – so yes, I always hoped to win Winery of the Year. But now that is a reality, I am simply overjoyed. It’s really great to get this recognition for the new project, that my team and I have enjoyed so much.”

Redstone is an important addition to the wine scene in Ontario, specifically the Niagara Escarpment sub-region west of St. Catharines. An existing winery of the same name on Highway 8 near Beamsville was purchased by Moray Tawse in 2009. After he had walked the vineyards and come out with red dust on his shoes from the high concentration of iron-ferrous clay and gravel in the soil, he immediately saw the potential for the “Bordeaux” red varietals that had been planted in 1998 by the previous owners.

He also saw the potential of the location along a well-travelled wine route to open the kind of wine focused restaurant and wine tourism destination the area badly needed. The 80-seat Restaurant at Redstone opened in 2015, complete with a massive deck and dining area that has become the place to watch Niagara sunsets.

But it wasn’t just as simple as a change in ownership. From the outset the 19 planted acres of vineyard at the Redstone site had to be converted to organic and biodynamic production – which can take several years.

As well, Tawse wanted to expand the varietal range to offer visitors great chardonnays and rieslings as well. This lay behind the purchase and organic conversion of the Limestone Vineyard South higher up the escarpment in Twenty Mile Bench. The riesling, sauvignon, chardonnay and pinot noir vines in this larger 53-acre property had been planted in 1999.

He had to build a new state-of-the-art winery from scratch and begin assembling a team to make the wine, selected and trained from within the ranks of the Tawse Winery family. Rene Van Ede, who grew up in and worked early years at wineries in Australia’s Hunter Valley, first came to Tawse in 2006. Under the guidance of Tawse winemaker Paul Pender he transitioned to the head winemaking role at Redstone.

I asked him what having the Tawse support and considerable resources behind Redstone had meant to him.

Owner Morey Tawse and Winemaker Rene Van Ede

“Freedom,” he said right away. “I am not limited to a style or a terroir, so I have the freedom to create a wine that is first and fore mostly tasty. When working on Tawse wines we have old Burgundian sensibilities, while Redstone wines blend the old and the new to create wines of place, but also wines that are simply enjoyable. I started making wine because I love it and enjoy it. That is what I want to share.”

So what is behind the Platinum and Gold level quality at Redstone? Bright, clean winemaking that accentuates varietal character and balance is certainly part of the wines broad appeal. But I think it goes back to the vineyards. The 80% of the estate fruit that Redstone is using is from vines now approaching 20 years of age. This is abetted by the fact that under organic production the yields are low, averaging 2 tons per acre across the board.

In all, Redstone took ten medals in this competition. Chardonnnay and Riesling were the power performers but other styles fared well too. The two score boosting Platinum medals went to the 2013 Limestone Riesling and the 2013 Select Vineyards Chardonnay. Gold Medals went to the 2013 Limestone Chardonnay and 2013 Niagara Chardonnay, plus the 2015 Sparkling Rose. Silver medals went to the Brickyard 2015 Riesling and 2012 Meritage, while the 2013 Cabernet Franc, 2013 Sparkling, and 2014 Riesling scored bronze.

To me the final revelation about Redstone is that the wines are good value. The Platinum winning 2013 Limestone Riesling is only $18.95! The Platinum Select Vineyards Chardonnay is $25.50, and the Gold Medal Redstone Sparkling Rosé is $29.95.

Well done!


We would like to acknowledge the following sponsors: George Brown College Centre for Hospitality and Culinary Arts for their ongoing support, Zwilling for the glassware used throughout the judging, Container World for shipping and logistics, and a special thank you to Wines of Nova Scotia. Each and every awards bottle image appearing our site as well as photos of the backroom and judging was done by Jason Dziver. You can see more of his work at Jason Dziver Photography.