Off to Cave Springs on the Niagara peninsula with O&B

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Myself and a group of fellow team members from Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants visited the Cave Spring vineyard and winery for a lesson on their brand, culture, wine-making style and of course, a delicious sample of the fruit of the vine.

Cave Springs Vinyard, Niagara Peninsula

Cave Springs Estate has a certain beauty in landscape that is uncontested, with it’s variety of topographical wonder, wildlife and a magnificent view of lake Ontario. We were greeted by Tom Pennachetti, an enthusiastic, humorous and well-learned winemaker, he schooled us on the geography and geology of the land we stood on. We learnt about the importance of the local environment such as the forested limestone escarpment, which gives moisture and minerality to the vines, and acts as a buffer for the wind, causing a constant breeze as well as turbulence helping to toughen the vines for harsh seasons ahead.

Overhead, the sky was crystal clear with only a puff of cloud cover and we noticed something pretty cool, Hawks!

A Hawk soars over head protecting the land from pests and small birds

The cave spring emblem is a mighty hawk, which can be seen regularly soaring in the airspace above the vineyard. These beautiful birds, serve a greater purpose, in frightening away other small birds and large pests who may otherwise damage the crop. It was truly a sight to see the hawks hover gracefully, observing all the activity in the fields below.

Vertical Shoot PositioningWe moved onto touring the actual crop, learning the difference between vitis vinifera, hybrid and vitis labrusca (native grapes known for their ‘foxy’ flavour, which we later learned was not such a good thing). We were taught how vertical shoot positioning impacted the light exposure and vine density, and the importance of proximity used to employ a struggle for the vine.

Later on, we headed over to one of the wine-tasting houses and began sampling some of the blends exclusive to Oliver & Bonacini Restaurants, here are a few of the tasting notes:

  • Cave Springs ‘Jump’ Chardonnay 

Production for this white began in 1998 exclusively for Jump restaurant in Toronto. This wine has a spicyness on the nose, with a hint of pear. With only 15-20% barrel contact it is light, fresh and soft with a stony minerality in texture. This wine was an easy drink stand alone and quite pedestrian.

  • Cave Springs ‘ Canoe’ Reisling

Oliver & Bonacini ExclusivesThe first of the OB Branded bottles, this wine was started in 1996 for Canoe restaurant in Toronto. It is very fruit forward, with plenty citrus notes, lemon-lime and even white grapefruit. This a great medium-dry wine that can be drank on it’s own but is meant to pair with food, due to it’s low PH intensity I would recommend it with a ‘Lemon Riccota Ravioli’ or perhaps a tender white fish like Cherry Snapper. I thoroughly enjoyed this bottle, for it’s ideal balance of acidity with a kiss of sweetness that round off the flavour.

  • Biff’s Juicy Red

Named for it’s aromatic, crunchy and ‘JUICY’ characteristics, this wine is produce for Biff’s Bistro, but can also be found in a couple other O&B restaurants e.g. O&B Café Grill 33 Yonge. (Which happens to be right next door). Biff’s Juicy Red is a blend of Cabaranet Franc, Merlot and a dash of Pinot Noir and has a few plum notes. A versatile wine that leaves a pucker on the palette, this wine was made to pair! I would recommend it with a tomato sauce pasta e.g. OB Café Grill Spicy Sausage Penne.

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cab fra

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Lola, the resident wine-making poodle plays in the vineyard.

Lola, the resident wine-making poodle plays in the vineyard.

After sampling a couple other varietals such as the Gerwutraminer and Cabaranet Franc, we were treated to a tasty lunch box, consisting of a pulled pork sandwich, pasta salad (with capers and pearl onions), wax bean salad and a peach crumble. The Cave Spring hospitality was unmatched, they made us very welcome and took the opportunity to get to know the people who sell their product. At lunch, we were joined by two magnificent standard poodles ‘Lola’ and ‘Bruno’, who made friends rather quickly once the food arrived. After a quick nap on the back lawn, we were back on our feet and headed over to the winery for a Sparkling Seminar.

On the lawn

some of the O&B Crew eating lunch and have a siesta on the back lawn

We rode the bus into Vineland, town of Lincoln to visit the cellar itself and had a seminar on Sparkling Wine. Grapes for sparkling wine must be harvested way in advance to ensure a high sugar content (avg 18%), it is fermented once and then re-fermented in bottles to create a more complex, more bubbly wine. We had an opportunity to see and taste the evolution of sparkling wine from a faint lemony BASE WINE to a bready, toasted GORGED SAMPLES straight up to the fine 2004 BRUT. Sparkling wine must be disgorged, a process of eliminating dead yeast from fermenting base wine. Rather intriguing.

Cave Springs Wine Cellar

Cave Springs Wine Cellar

During the seminar we were offered hors d’oeuvres and sampled the O&B Sparkle and Buzz Brut. This particular bottle pairs well with raw oysters, sushi/sashimi, lightly battered seafood, omlettes, quiche and grilled seafood.

Upon concluding our tasting in the cellars, we ascended the stairs into the Cave Springs gift shop, and picked a related nic-nacs and treats for the road. They presented us with a gift bag of chocolates, wine openers and a complimentary bottle of Riesling. The folks over here took great care of us and were very knowledgeable. Truly inspirational is their passion for viticulture!

I have nothing but exceptionally great things to say about this trip. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys a great glass of wine. Only once you see it can you truly grasp the time, effort, tender love and care that go into making the bottles you love so much!

Emma samples the chardonnay at it's freshest!

Emma samples the chardonnay at it’s freshest!

Maya, extremely excited to sample some wine.

Maya, extremely excited to sample some wine.

Special Thanks to our host and tour guide, Thomas Pennachetti (VP, Sales & Marketing of Cave Spring Cellars)

Special Thanks to our host and tour guide, Thomas Pennachetti (VP, Sales & Marketing of Cave Spring Cellars)

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