The wines of Tawse
Visiting wine country in Ontario, Canada, part 4


Moray Tawse and Paul Pender

Paul Pender is the winemaker at Tawse, one of Niagara’s top wineries. Along with Southbrook, they are farming biodynamically here. ‘It has been a challenging year,’ says Paul, ‘with rain all the time. We are on to our eighth spray already.’ And it’s late July, so there’s some time to go until harvest. 

The key to working effectively with biodynamics in a challenging climate? ‘Good solid viticulture.’ Paul says. ‘The preps are a support. We make sure the vines are clean.’ He has used under 3 kg/ha of copper this year, which is good considering the challenges. He keeps the fruit zone clear mechanically, and by using sheep – they eat the leaves but not the grapes.

‘If I want to make a terroir wine, it has to be a clean wine,’ he continues. ‘I want to make a see-through wine so you can see the vineyard.’

We are joined to taste through the wines by owner, Moray Tawse. Moray’s first job was in restaurants, and he worked as a sommelier. ‘I’ve always loved wine, and always had a palate for wine,’ he says. He began his career in the financial services and his business became successful. He travelled around quite a bit and fell in love with Burgundy, so he decided he’d like to make an investment there. So he started looking around. 

But when he came back to Canada, he tried some Ontario wines. ‘I thought they were horrible before, but I had a bottle of the 1997 Chardonnay from Deborah Paksus,’ he recalls. This changed his mind: Ontario clearly could make great wine. ‘So I bought a small piece of land here,’ says Moray. ‘I thought I’d just do a little vineyard, with 400 cases in the first year. I became enamoured with the business, bought more vineyards, built a winery, and 2001 was the first vintage.’ 

Tawse was helped by French/Canadian Burgundy-based winemaker Pascal Marchand, and in 2006 switched to bdiodynamics. By 2012 he was certified biodynamic in most of the estate vineyards. 

Despite his change of heart and success in Ontario, Tawse is still a Burgundy nut. He owns several vineyards and a negocciant operation in Burgundy in collaboration with Pascal Marchand, called Marchand Tawse (although on the label the wines say ‘Pascal Marchand’). In 2012 Tawse significantly added to his interests in Burgundy with the purchase of Domaine Maume, in Gevrey Chambertin. 

As to the quality, Tawse thinks you can happily put Ontario Chardonnays blind into line-ups of premier cru white Burgundies. For Pinot Noir, vine age is still an issue. ‘I really think that to make a great Pinot Noir you need 30 year old vines,’ he says. The Pinot vines at Tawse are now 8 years old. ‘Last year the wine changed completely,’ says Moray. ‘The vines hit another layer of soil.’

I was impressed by these wines. Chardonnay is a real strength, illustrated by a new release six-pack of five single vineyard Chardonnays, plus a blend of all five that shows that sometimes there’s a reason to keep vineyards separate. Cabernet Franc, which Paul describes as an ‘unsung hero,’ is also a strength here. The limited-production Syrah shows that it could do well in the right sites in Niagara.


Tawse Hillside Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Canada
Fresh and quite mineral with some flinty notes. Nice tight citrus fruit here, with good acidity. This comes from shallow soils on limestone. Some limey notes and great precision. 92/100

Tawse Muhl Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 VQA Beamsville Bench, Canada
This was later-picked and the grapes experienced some oxidation on the vine. Taut, nutty, appley and herby. Nice precision here with apple and pear fruit. Distinctive. 91/100

Tawse Eastman Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 VQA Beamsville Bench, Canada
40 year old vines. Subtle herb and nut nose, with lively citrus, white peach, pear and mineral characters. Very distinctive fruity style. Lively and terpenic. Interesting. 90/100

Tawse David’s Block Chardonnay 2011 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Canada
From behind the winery. Lovely taut, pure pear, apple and white peach fruit with some spice. Good precision and definition, showing restraint. 92/100

Tawse Lenko Vineyard Chardonnay 2011 VQA Beamsville Bench, Canada
This was the first vinifera vineyard in Canada and these vines are now 52 years old, so this is quite a historic vineyard. Rounded smooth-textured pear fruit with nice weight and good concentration. Some nuts and minerals, and lovely purity. Very fine and expressive. 93/100

Tawse Celebration Chardonnay 2011 VQA Niagara Escarpment, Canada
Textured and rounded with nice freshness and some nuttiness. Taut yet broad at the same time with pear, apples and spice. 90/100

Tawse Lauritzer Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 VQA Vinemount Ridge, Canada
Fresh, pure red cherry fruit. Sweetly fruited but with a bit of grip and some sappy notes. Direct, pure and supple. 92/100

Tawse Cherry Avenue Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Canada
Warm and bright with sweet cherry fruit and some plumminess. Dense with some structure. There’s a richness here. Pure, grippy, full. 90/100

Tawse Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2010 VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Canada
Lovely pure sweet cherry and plum fruit nose is aromatic and ripe. The palate is elegant and supple, with sweet, bright fruit. Real elegance with freshness as well as sweet pure fruit. 93/100

Tawse Van Bers Vineyard Cabernet Franc 2009 VQA Creek Shore, Canada
Elegant, open, sweet nose. Sweet berry and cherry fruit palate is ripe with some grippy structure. Lovely precision and weight here. 92/100

Tawse Members Select Wine Club Syrah 2011 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Very aromatic with floral violet notes as well as some white pepper. The palate is fresh and really lovely with black cherries to the fore and some olive notes. Beautifully fresh cool climate style. 93/100

Tawse Members Select Wine Club Syrah 2010 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Ripe sweet, floral black cherry nose with some meat and olives. Very fine with black fruits as well as pepper and olive notes on the palate. Such a concentration of flavour with great freshness. 94/100

Tawse Meritage 2010 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Canada
Stylish, taut blackcurrant and black cherry fruit with some gravel and chalk notes. Pure flavours and lovely precision. Delicious. 93/100

Tawse Vintner’s Reserve Cabernet Franc 2002 VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Canada
Elegant with fresh cherry and plum fruit on the nose. Lovely fresh, pure, vivid elegant style with the fruit still quite primary at 11 years old. Fresh and expressive. 94/100

Tawse Vintner’s Reserve Cabernet Franc 2006 VQA Lincoln Lakeshore, Canada
Spicy, lively, tarry black fruits nose, but there’s some bitterness on the palate, which is grippy and angular. 86/100

Tawse Carly’s Block Riesling 2011 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Canada
Petrolly, lively, citrussy and bright with some pithy notes. Piercing and limey with high acidity. 90/100

Tawse Carly’s Block Riesling 2006 VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Canada
Lovely grapefruit, tangerine and lemon nose. Open palate is sweetly fruited with lively personality. Stylish and open, this has evolved really nicely. 92/100


Pearl Morissette
Hidden Bench

Closson Chase
Huff Estates
Rosehall Run
Norman Hardie

Wines tasted 07/13  
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