The story of Cabernet Sauvignon on our farm dates back to the mid 1990s, when my parents were looking for potential vinifera varietals to plant that would best suit our vineyard site. They had had success with Pinot Noir, but were looking for something perhaps a little less mercurial that could optimize the warmer conditions they enjoyed on the St. David’s Bench.
I think it’s safe to say that the benchmark for Niagara Cab Sauv at the time was John Marynissen, who happened to be a good friend of my grandfather, Howard Sr. I’m sure my parents were influenced by the success of John’s wines in some way, if only to give them the confidence that this late ripening grape could make a great wine in the right hands.
Our oldest Cab Sauv block was planted in 1998, and began to produce a decent crop by the turn of the millennium. The block has its share of eccentricities, including varying row widths and lengths, as well as a mixture of clones. It also represents the last block my grandfather helped us plant, a treasured memory that I will always carry with me. Shortly before we harvested the first crop, he expressed to my Dad in his uniquely humble, understated way, “Howie, you’ve really got something here.” It is a sentiment that still rings true to this day.
The 2020 Cab Sauv is a wine that validates the legacy of that fateful decision to take a chance on this varietal. The vintage conditions in 2020 were the perfect recipe to unlock the potential ripeness of Cab Sauv in Niagara. Having said that, there is still an underlying elegance to this wine that belies its bold exterior. The aromas are intense, invoking notes of black currant, cherry, violets and vanilla. Given the requisite time to fully mature, this could be a wine that we look back on as a benchmark among those made from our fruit.