Rosewood Estates Winery

Portfolio Tasting October 23, 2012

Crop thinningWilliam Roman thinning Semillon at Rosewood

I believe that I first visited Rosewood in early October of 2009, as I accepted an invitation to help pick a small block of estate Pinot Noir. Since then I've enjoyed watching the growth and development of the winery. Today's portfolio tasting in Toronto, at the Chef's House at George Brown College, was a fine opportunity to taste across the current offerings, and I'd like to briefly share some of the highlights.

In this case the back story is essential. Rosewood is a family-run winery, owned by Eugene and Renata Roman. Eugene came from a family of beekeepers, and has kept the tradition alive. In fact one of the initial motivations to establish Rosewood was to house an apiary, and to produce both honey and mead, which is wine made from honey. Their son William is the operations manager, working in the vineyard, the winery, and as the day-to-day beekeeper. Their daughter Krystina also works in the winery and the apiary, but now spends more of her time selling and marketing the wine. Krystina, along with the winemaker Natalie Spytkowski, presented the wines.

Given the importance of honey and mead to Rosewood, it was appropriate that two samples of mead were the bookends of the tasting. I find the mead very distinctive, dominated by pronounced beeswax aromas and flavours, although I can sometimes tease out more subtle floral and fruit notes. While I'm not personally attracted to the meads as pure sipping wines, the way in which I have sampled them in the past, what fascinated me was how well they work when paired with the right food.

The first, the medium sweet 2001 Harvest gold (available at the winery for $15.00 in March 2013), was successfully paired with a Chicken Tikka with Mango Chutney appetizer. But the second, the 2008 Mead Royale (just $15.00 at the winery, and at Vintages after November 10, 2012) was a revelation. This mead was firmly in the sweet spectrum, but with a little higher acidity, six months in French oak, and a considerable time in bottle, I much preferred its balance and texture. Moreover the match of the Mead Royale with Thunder Oak aged Gouda and Rosewood honey was truly superb! I'm going to experiment with other cheeses such as Manchego and of course include the Rosewood honey.

Three whites were presented: a Semillon and two Rieslings, and it's the Semillon I want to highlight. I think there have been four vintages of the Semillon, and each has been distinctive, but all very fine. While there may have been different winemaking decisions from year to year, the main driver has been the way the Semillon responds to vintage variation. It is said to be a finicky grape to grow, but Rosewood has persevered and has achieved real success.

  • 2011 Rosewood Semillon, VQA Beamsville Bench, Renaceau Vineyard, alc/vol 12%, $18.00 at the winery. The wine has a fairly intense nose with a burst of white pepper and the merest hint of fresh herbs over delicate pear and citrus aromas. The wine is just barely off dry, with lots of acidity that masks the very modest residual sugar — for example it's drier than almost all Niagara Rieslings. The fruit stays fresh on the palate, and the finish lingers. There isn't much Semillon in Niagara, but this is a wine you should make the effort to try.(9/10)

Five reds were presented: the 2009 and 2010 Reserve Pinot Noirs, the 2010 Cabernet Franc, a 2010 Merlot, and the 2010 Merlot Reserve. The two highlights for me were the 2009 Pinot Noir and the 2010 Cabernet Franc.

Cab Franc
  • 2009 Rosewood Pinot Noir Reserve, Natural Fermentation, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Wismer Vineyard, $40.00 at the winery. The nose exhibited real old world Pinot notes, of herbs, mushrooms and forest floor. The cranberry and cherry fruit were quite subdued, however, giving the wine a rather evolved presence. I know I've sampled this previously, and I'm sure that the core of red fruit was more dominant. So if this wasn't due to bottle variation, I'd say it should be enjoyed sooner than later. (8.9/10)
  • 2010 Rosewood Cabernet Franc, VQA Beamsville Bench, Renaceau Vineyard, alc/vol 14.0%, $22.00 at the winery. The wine is a deep ruby, and the nose centres on red raspberry fruit with some herbaceous notes on top and a dusty undertone. It is more than medium-bodied, with slightly chalky tannins, the fruit is fresh on the palate, and the finish is medium to long. This is a very good Niagara Cabernet Franc. (9/10)

I want to conclude with one final point about the bees. There's a lot of interest, and sometimes a lot of hype, surrounding ideas related to sustainable agriculture, and particularly with reference to organic and biodynamic farming and viticulture. But those practices are inward looking: they focus on a single vineyard with the goal of making it self sufficient. But the Rosewood bees, including additional apiaries on the Beamsville and Twenty Mile Benches extend their reach far beyond the Rosewood vineyards. They facilitate pollination in other vineyards, farms, orchards and wild unculitivated areas. I don't think that the Romans advertise this — it's just a consequence of their beekeeping enterprises — but it has a significant impact on the agriculture and plant life in Niagara.