Home > Ontario Wines > Local Talent

Cave Spring Cellars in Niagara had a year of international honours in 2018, making the Wine & Spirits Top 100 Wineries list and the Wine Enthusiast Best New World Winery shortlist. Winemaker and co-founder Angelo Pavan, recipient of the 2018 Cuvée Winemaker of Excellence Award, spoke with Vintages writer Douglas Webster about these recent accolades.

Cave Spring had a big year in 2018. What do international accolades mean to you?

It’s a great honour. The high scores, the “best of” shortlists: that’s great recognition. It validates our efforts and shows that we’re doing something right. And for Ontario’s wine scene, it shows that our wines can rank with the best in the world. We’re a small industry, but sometimes small is better.

Is global attention a sign of changing tastes and bigger appetite for cool-climate wines, or is it simply that quality tends to get noticed?

It’s a quality thing. People have different palates and enjoy different types of wines, but whatever the style, that quality has to be there. That’s what it’s all about.

Personally, you received the 2018 Cuvée Winemaker of Excellence Award. What’s it like to be recognized locally?

The award was for winemaking and also for contribution to the Ontario wine industry. I’ve been making wine here in Niagara at Cave Spring since 1986. In those days, we were pioneers with vinifera wines. There were just a handful of wineries back then. It’s amazing how quickly our wine industry has evolved and matured. We now have a solid understanding of what we can do and what our vineyards are capable of. I was a founding member of the VQA standards committee and helped identify the sub-appellations in Niagara. I’m proud of my part in that.

You’ve called Beamsville Bench a “grand cru” of Ontario. What led you to plant vineyards there?

That’s actually a story that goes way back to my high school days. My friend and co-founding partner, Len Pennachetti, president of Cave Spring, and I had a geography class together. Our teacher, a Hungarian gentleman, talked about the potential for vinifera wines in Niagara. Len took note and talked to his dad, the late John Pennachetti, who was interested in wine-growing. John rented a plane and out they went to survey for the best location to grow wine grapes in Niagara. They selected the Beamsville Bench, and the rest is history.

I guess the lesson is, pay attention in geography class!

[Laughs] I guess so! Now, did we know way back then that it was a grand cru site? Of course we didn’t. I mean, it took the monks in Burgundy centuries to identify grand cru sites. But we experimented with different grape varieties in different spots and, with a little serendipity and a lot of hard work, we realized what we had.

Cave Spring was one of the first wineries certified by Sustainable Winemaking Ontario. How important is that to what you do?

It’s absolutely central. Wineries have to be in it for the long haul. Cave Spring has vineyards going back to the mid-1970s. We have a responsibility, a moral obligation, to pass things on and not to foul things up. In fact, sustainability isn’t just about keeping things the way they are over time. It’s about making things better.

The Finer Points

“In a warm year like 2016, you can make a Gewürz that shows beautiful, intense floral character and classic, full-bodied style. This one is grown in our estate vineyards.”

Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment
Aromatic & Flavourful
302059 (D) 750 mL $18.95


“Some of the fruit for this wine is from older vineyard blocks dating to the ’70s. It’s a dry-ish style with citrus, white flower and minerality.”

VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment
Aromatic & Flavourful
286377 (XD) 750 mL $19.95
A Vintages Essential


“We originally planted Musqué in the ’80s. It’s a more floral Chardonnay in a fresh style and it’s really a lovely wine.”

Cave Spring Vineyard, VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment
90 points (Louise Boutin)
Aromatic & Flavourful
246579 (D) 750 mL $17.95
A Vintages Essential


“I think we can make sparkling wines as good as those from anywhere in the world. This is 100% Chardonnay and has lots of biscuity character. It’s a great food wine.”

Traditional method, VQA Niagara Escarpment
92 points (John Szabo, MS)
Medium-bodied & Flavourful
213983 (XD) 750 mL $29.95
A Vintages Essential