Although Cave Spring Cellars was formed in 1986, the seeds for its creation can be traced back to the homemade wine of Giuseppe Pennachetti, who immigrated to Niagara in the 1920s. As with most European immigrants, wine formed a part of the daily routine and was considered an integral part of the dinner table rather than an addition to the meal.
Once retired from his concrete business, Pennachetti began growing grapes in Niagara and spent countless hours working the vineyard with his son and grandson, but the focus was always on quantity rather than quality. Giuseppe’s grandson Len was particularly inspired by the experience with his grandfather and decided to pursue viticulture and grape growing. Len believed that there was something special about the land in Niagara’s Beamsville Bench and, with his father, planted Chardonnay and Riesling in 1978, among the first European grape varietals to be planted in the area.
Since those first plantings of Riesling, the Pennachetti family name has become synonymous with the grape. Today, Cave Spring Cellars is considered to be one of the finest Riesling producers in North America.
Riesling might be the world’s most misunderstood grape varietal. It’s received a bad rap due to the all-too-pervasive lacklustre, sweet apple, juicy-style wines that our parents drank in the 1970s. But fortunately, the image of this noblest of varieties is on the mend, thanks in part to wines from producers like Cave Spring, which highlight its vibrancy, diversity and versatility.
The beauty of Riesling lies not just in its fruit and floral aromatics or in its stunning ability to provide wine lovers with the perfect example of balancing sweetness with acidity, but also in its ability to express a sense of place, its multitude of textures, its ability to age and its affinity with food.
At a recent tasting I had the opportunity to taste through a number of vintages of Cave Spring’s Cave Spring Vineyard (CSV) Riesling with Tom Pennachetti. Cave Spring winemaker Angelo Pavan’s notes below on each vintage are followed by my tasting notes.
The tasting reinforced what most wine lovers already know … we all need to drink more Riesling.
Cave Spring Cellars CSV Riesling 2009, Beamsville Bench ($38)
Extremely cool growing season, coolest on record for the winery, with above-normal precipitation in summer. Very high level of acidity at harvest and in bottle. 20.0 g/L residual sugar (RS) makes this wine medium-dry in style. Definitely a wine that will age gracefully because of acidity and RS balance and will develop nuanced complexity with aging.
Cave Spring Cellars CSV Riesling 2008, Beamsville Bench ($38)
Cooler growing season with just-below-normal heat units and a wetter than normal summer. High level of acidity at harvest and with 11.0 g/L RS in the bottle, this wine is barely off-dry in style. A very tight wine in its youth, this should mellow with aging and hold up well for at least 15 years.
Cave Spring Cellars CSV Riesling 2007, Beamsville Bench ($46)
A warm, almost hot growing season and very dry from spring to harvest. But surprisingly good level of acidity retained due to old vines of 30 to 34 years. This wine is just off dry in style with 15.4 g/L RS. Even though this is a warm vintage, this wine should keep well for 15 years from vintage without fear of losing balance or structure because of good acidity and low pH of 2.87.