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Archive for ‘Traveling to wine regions’

If I only had $100, I would buy….wines from Argentina!

Posted by Julie

Thursday, January 19th, 2017

This time last year, my husband and I spent a month in Buenos Aires, so when I saw that this release focused on Argentina, I was VERY excited to see what new wines would come into LCBO’s Vintages. Here are 3 wines from Mendoza (Argentina’s largest wine region) since it is the leader in quantity and quality of Malbec wines.

Three interesting facts Argentina & their wine:

Fact #1 – 80% of the country’s wine production is centered in this desert region located sandwiched between the Andes Mountain range (that borders Chile) and about 650 miles west of Buenos Aires. The region rarely sees challenges of insects, fungi or mould due to the high altitude and low humidity. And honestly, the daily temperatures ranged between 26C to 30C…that is certainly sounding pretty good right now as we suffer through a cold snap.

Fact #2 – In 2010, the Argentina government declared wine as Argentina’s national liquor. Tuck that one away for trivia night!

Fact #3 – Canada is the 3rd largest market for Argentina wines…behind England & the US.

As they say in Argentina ‘Salud’,

-Julie

 

If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday January 21, 2017

 

Joseph Cattin Brut Rosé Crémant D’Alsace

Méthode Traditionnelle, AC, France
$19.95 (Vintages #264572)

Before I get into the Argentina feature, I must shine the spotlight on this sparkling wine.  Often found gracing the Vintages shelves, this beautiful pale cranberry coloured bubbly is always an elegant crowd-pleaser. For those of you who like sparkling wine and Rosé, it is a first class choice.

Made entirely from the Pinot Noir grapes, it’s characterised by cherry and currant flavours. It’s dry, creamy and refreshing. A perfect aperitif, celebration wine or even served with dessert – a strawberry cheesecake or fruit torte it could be magical. I’m definitely going to give it a try!  Now if I could only find juicy strawberries in January…

 

Colome Torrontes 2015

Calchaqui Valley, Salta, Argentina 
$15.95 (Vintages # 357913) 13.5% alcohol

Whenever I serve Torrontes wine to guests, people always ask what wine I am serving, where it comes from, where they can buy it. It is a great find! Often there are one or two Torrontes wines available in the Vintages section of the LCBO. While not common, Torrontes has become the signature white wine of Argentina.

Dry as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio, there’s a little lanolin or honeyed taste that coats the palate while many soft citrus flavours explode. Mandarin oranges, lemons, apricots with lingering finishes of savory and grass.

It’s a great tapas wine: sardines, almonds, olives, chips or just on its own.

 

Fabre Montmayou Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2014 

Mendoza, Argentina  
$18.95 (Vintages # 261891) 14.5% alcohol

Although Christmas is long gone, that heavenly aroma of traditional fruit cake and Christmas pudding loaded with dark ripe dried fruit and nuts reminded me of how great wine aromas like this one can trigger memories & fill your senses.

Medium bodied and dry, dark red/blackberry flavours dance on the palate and your senses are filled with some divine vanilla in the aftertaste.  It’s a great on its own or with the usual grilled fare.  Absolutely. Delicious.

 

Zuccardi Q Malbec 2013

Uco Valley, Province of Mendoza, Argentina
$19.95 (Vintages #723478) 14% alcohol

This is a classic expression of Malbec. Deep and dark in colour, violet aromas tantalize and blueberry blackberries and savoury play on the palate. Tannins are soft and smooth with a little mocha and tar on the finish.

Last month, Savvy Sommelier Debbie Trenholm spent a day at the new Zuccardi Winery and was WOWed by the setting, the vineyards,  the hospitality & of course…the wines.  “What impressed me is that the winery is using concrete tanks rather than the typical stainless tanks commonly used.  And there are only a few oak barrels in the cellar….the winemaking team at Zuccardi focuses on creating wines to bring out the natural flavours without the help of oak. That is incredible and the result is pure and outstanding.”

Uncork this red wine to enjoy with a herb encrusted pork tenderloin or Sunday roast beef. Guaranteed that there will be smiles around the table.

 

Susana Balbo Signature Cabernet Sauvignon 2014

Uco Valley, Province of Mendoza, Argentina
$19.95 (Vintages #260919) 14% alcohol 

With over 20 years as a consultant winemaker for national and international wine companies, when Susana decided to build a winery, she did in style and with much panache.  In 1981, she was the first woman in Argentina to receive a degree in enology, and in 2012, she was recognized as one of the most influential women winemakers by The Drink Business Magazine.

This Cabernet Sauvignon is one charmer from start to finish. Full-bodied, ripe currants, herbal notes, tobacco, savoury – loads of complexity and backbone. This red wine overflows with character and strength.  Roasts or grill meats & vegetables would be fabulous.

 

Grand Total – $ 94.75

Top tips for your next visit to The County

Posted by Debbie

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Prince Edward County…if you haven’t been…Start the car! Make a point to book a family vacation, play hooky and spend a long weekend or make a day of it. The County awaits!  To compile the 100+ things to do, I asked the locals and tourist for their tips. I was overwhelmed by the response….and as I write this article, more recommendations are flooding my inbox…and I will add updates to keep this list up to date.

101 Things (or more) to do in Prince Edward County

pec map for FBI have to admit that I haven’t done ALL the things on this list, but certainly plan to jump in my car soon! For starters… I always recommend getting off Highway 401 and taking the Glenora Ferry. This free ferry ride is less than 10 minutes (check the departure schedule). Mark my words, this ride will reset your pace to ‘County time’. Breathe in the fresh air, enjoy being surrounded by water and get the welcoming 2 fingered wave from the ferry driver as you arrive.

Water all around

Be baffled by the geography of Lake on the Mountain. This unique body of water is one of Ontario’s natural wonders defying geographical and geological theories. Ponder its mystery over a drink at the Miller House Café and Brasserie…you can stay overnight here too!

Parks & beaches too

water-sandbanks-FOSPrince Edward County is synonymous for Sandbanks Provincial Park (photo at right), yet, there are many more beaches to discover: Wellington Beach and Park, North Beach Provincial Park, Westlake Beach. Switch from white sand to smooth pebbles and wander along Little Bluff Beach.

 

Old barns

Check out some great old barns at The Old ThirdClosson ChaseKarlo EstatesThe Grange of Prince Edward County and Hinterland Winery.

Traveling with Savvy Company

Places to stay – oh so many!

Clarmont Inn & Spa, Merrill Inn, The Drake Devonshire, Waring House, Angeline’s Inn, The Manse Boutique Inn. All of these places have gourmet restaurants too – book a reservation to make sure you get a spot!

Where to dine

Sample County wines at many of the restos including East & MainBlumen Garden & The Agarian

Visit Angeline’s Inn in Bloomfield & pick up some of their neat postcards with historical photos of The County in years gone by. While you are there, book your reservation for lunch or dinner at The Hubb Eatery & Lounge. You will definitely make delicious memories here!

Craving a pizza? There are several wineries that have a wood oven pizza place including Norman Hardie Winery – the perfect place for pizza and a Pinot Noir (try saying that fast!)

Spend Sunday morning at the Sunday Market at 106 Bridge or brunch made by Chef Michael Hoy. And in the afternoon, enjoy live jazz & al fresco dining on the patio at Huff Estates Winery.

Cuddle baby lambs & explore forest trails to walk off the amazing meal of farm to table cuisine enjoyed at Windhover County – a 140 year old Victorian Farm that has been transformed into a boutique inn.

Take a break from gourmet meals and make your way to the Lighthouse Restaurant at the Picton Harbour Inn – a popular local hot spot for breakfast – best sausages ‘n eggs, mile high pancakes &french toast in town.

…or nibble

Top places for treats & tea: The Vic Café, The Pink Lunch Pail Bakery, Tall Poppy Café, Miss Lily’s

Hands down the best old fashioned doughnuts are at Schroedter’s Farm Market Bakery & Cafe. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, a bowl of homemade soup&sandwiches will hit the spot. There are great gluten free goodies too.

Take a break from visiting wineries and stop in to visit the Pyramid Ferments Gut Hut. A wide variety of artisan made Sauerkrauts, Kimchis and Kombuchas – all using seasonal ingredients – are made in small batches.

Have you tried Maple Cheddar from Black River Cheese Factory?

Nightlife

Think there’s no nightlife in The County? Ha! You haven’t been to the movies at Mustang Drive-In on County Road 1.

Picton’s Main street has got it all. At The Regent Theatre, check out the list of movies, live musical performances & special talks as well as the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival. While you are there, snap a selfie with Sir John A Macdonald. His statue is located in front of the Armory.

Best view in town

The locals share this secret: enjoy the view of Picton from the Millenium Lookout – access it from County Road 22

Ice cream’s finest

Cave in…have ice cream at Slickers County Ice Cream in Bloomfield, stop in at Black River Cheese Factory or the locals hot spot is Cones & Shakes in Picton

Love museums?

Here is a ‘hit list’- Mariner’s Park Museum in South Bay, Rose House Museum in Waupoos, Wellington Historical Museum, Macauly Heritage Park and Ameliasburgh Pioneer Village

Wines, beers, ciders…and more

Pop into The County Canteen– Picton’s first brew pub – stop in for a flight of craft beers. The Acoustic Grill is a great place to see local bands.

Meet the dogs & owners at Three Dog Winery. In the summer they do yoga in the vineyard (the owners that is!) and XC ski parties too.

Ever been to a speakeasy? Click here to find where X marks the spot.

Pop the cork & taste some of the best Canadian-made sparkling wines at HinterlandHuff Estates, The GrangeBy Chadsey’s Cairns Lighthall Vineyards.

County Cider tasting June 2015Calling all cider lovers! You’ll want to hit these places for hard ciders made with County grown apples: The County Cider Co. (in photo at left), Bergeron Estate Winery & Cider House, and Clafeld Fruit

Head down at harvest and join in picking grapes at Sandbanks WineryHalf Moon Bay Winery Broken Stone – something that the entire family can do.

Chat with Bryan at Keint-He Winery.  He’ll help you pronounce that!

An open invitation to everyone! Brett French – the brewer at Barley Days Brewery – gives anyone reading this an invitation to drop by to sample his beers…ask for him and he will give you the skinny on how he makes each. And County Road Beer Co. just opened, so be sure to stop in here too!

Prince Edward County is known as a wine region, yet there is a distillery – 66 Gilead – that is neat place to visit & try their Canadian Pine Vodka, Loyalist Gin, rums & whiskies too.

Want some exercise? 

A local favorite bike ride is along Big Island Road following the beach on the northeast shore of Prince Edward County as well as along the Loyalist Parkway (Highway 33).

Drive or bike along the Barn Quilt Trail. There are over 100 barnswith painted quilts – neat!

Get running! The day after the annual Terroir Wine & Farmers Market Festival, get your shoes on to do the 10 km Terroir Run that winds through wineries along the way. The Wellington Women’s Half Marathon in June (complete with firemen handing out water along the route!) In October, The County Marathon is a great way to explore the backroads.

…and there is still more!

Lavender Farm by DT June 7 2015See a sea of purple at the Prince Edward County Lavender Farm. Tip: plan to visit the Lavender Festival or stop in when the plants are in bloom in mid to late June. Take photos in the gardens, learn how lavender is harvested & the oil is made. If you are lucky – stay at the B&B there too.

Play life size chess in the vineyard at Casa Dea Estates Winery.

The locals raved about –Birdhouse City with over 100 birdhouses of reproductions of historic buildings, whimsical designs & other recognizable structures.

A sign that will make you laugh as you drive by:Dead People’s Stuff Antiques.

Lose yourself flipping through neat books at Books & Company or the cool consignment shop – City Revival – on Main Street in Picton.

 

OenoGalleryToo many galleries to visit in one weekend! Some to make sure to visit: Oeno Gallery (photo at right courtesy of Oeno Gallery) Huff Estates Winery, Love Nest Studios. Follow the Arts Trail to discover incredible local artists along the way.

Crazy about airplanes? Lock-Sloy (aka Camp Picton) is one of Canada’s last intact 1940 British Commonwealth Air Training sites. Driving through here, it is easy to imagine what this place was like in the hay day.

If lighthouses are your ‘thing’, then make sure to visit Point Petre and South Bay Lighthouse – bring some local wine & cheese to have a picnic.

If vintage cars are your ‘thing’, then plan your trip to Prince Edward County to take in the Street Meet in early August. It is a blast reliving the past at this annual car show with over 200 classic cars come from all corners of Ontario and Quebec.

Karlo bridgeVisit North America’s largest dry stone bridge (in photo at right) at Karlo Estates – made by the winery owner & friends. A great place for a family photo or a picnic.

Sit on the porch at a B&B or your weekend cottage and read Geoff Heinrick’s book A Fool & Forty Acres all about the hard work of getting a vineyard planted in The County.

Take a cooking class at From the Farm. Tell Cynthia that we say hi!

Festivals galore

wine festivalFestivals that will give you a taste of The County: Maple in the County in March, then in May – Terroir where winemakers and artisan food producers are all under one roof. The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in June is a weekend of 100% Canadian artisan cheese (and wine and beer too).

TASTE – Community Grown in September (in photo at left) celebrates the harvest with local wines, ciders and farm fresh goodies. Join the fun at Wassail – a pre-Christmas festival where you sing for your drink. Check www.visitthecounty.ca for a comprehensive calendar.

Dining delight – Countylicious – twice a year, 8 restos offer a prix fixe culinary celebration for $30 or $35 plus grats & tax.

Red White & Blues festival at Rosehall Run features music in the vineyard.

PosterCool Collectibles

Collect a couple or all 8 of the cool County Posters with neat illustrations of all corners of Prince Edward County to remind you of the fun discoveries you had on your County getaway (photo attached –credit illustration by Marc Keelan-Bishop).

Sisters Jane Rutter & Susan Felton have brought pieces of history & heritage memorabilia back to life at the cool shop called Cannery Row.

Local produce abounds

In the summer, stop by one of many veggie stands – Laundry FarmsHagerman FarmsCherryvale Organic Farm & Vicki’s Veggies.

Stop in at Highline to grab a box of their gourmet mushrooms.

Only have time for a quick visit?

Go to the brand new The Local Store where all kinds of County treasures, artists & food stuffs are under one roof…in a heritage Loyalist barn.

Send us your tips on PEC!

As you can see, there are oodles of things to do in The County. While only 2 hours from Toronto or 3 hours from Ottawa, it is a place where you can really switch off! In fact, there are over 1000 places where you will probably lose cell phone reception.

Have fun as you discover Prince Edward County & email us with your favorite spots!
Debbie

 

Can’t get away?  Don’t worry….The County is coming to Ottawa!

Prep for your road trip by attending County in the Capital. Meet the makers from 20+ wineries, cideries, breweries &artisan food producers – all from The County. This is a unique opportunity to Taste & Buy your new favorites

County in the Capital picEvent Details:

Date: Wednesday April 20th
Time: 7 to 9pm
Place: Ottawa City Hall
Entry: Advance Tickets only: $55 (bring a friend for $5)
www.countycomes2ottawa.eventbrite.ca

This article was written by Savvy Sommelier Debbie Trenholm & will be featured in Ottawa Life Magazine on May 22.

 

 

Backroad stops in Prince Edward County

Posted by Susan

Monday, October 19th, 2015

I was visiting a friend near Wellington in Prince Edward County recently and discovered that the farmhouse in which we stayed was walking distance to a couple of wineries.

Hubbs Creek VineyardWe wandered down the road and up the drive of Hubbs Creek Vineyard, into the modest winery building that houses a small, well-staffed tasting bar, behind which are the fermentation tanks, barrel, and wine-making premises. John Battista Calvieri, joint owner, winemaker and viticuluralist with brothers Nick and Joe, was front and centre, radiating a warm welcome and pride in this family undertaking.

Of the 5 wines on the chalkboard, 2 are already sold out. We tasted his Pinot Gris 2014, Chardonnay 2014, and the Pinot Noir 2012. Get in your car now, drive to the County, and get some of these amazing wines – Hubbs only produces 800-1000 cases annually.

The Calvieri family has been growing grapes in the County for about 15 years. A few years ago, John Battista, an Electron Microscopist with the University of Toronto, won an amateur winemaking award for a wine he crafted from his County grapes. That’s when he and his brothers decided it was time to stop selling their grapes and to start making their own wines.

Ask John Battista about the wines and his passion shines through, as he says, ‘what I really do here is out there, in the vineyards’. He is a purist, using only his own estate-grown grapes to produce outstanding wines that show the character of the estate and the region. ‘I go to Italy regularly,’ says John Battista. ‘My family is from there, after all. I like to talk to the winemakers there – the really good ones tell you, you have to focus on your vineyards, your fruit, your winemaking if you truly want to make the best wines.’ Lessons well learned, as you’ll discover when you taste his wines.

Stache on MainWhile you’re in Wellington, visit Stache on Main, a quaint piano bar by night and gallery by day featuring local artists. It’s owned and run by Gloria Schmed, a native of Brooklyn, New York who came of age during the civil rights movement in the U.S., her Swiss husband Karl, a lithographer, and their daughter Kyla, who was a driving force behind the new venture. Until recently, Gloria was managing the career of her elder daughter, Shakura S’aida, an accomplished blues singer. It’s a relaxing venue with live jazz, radiating the warmth and elegance of its owners. We wandered in on a Monday evening, and by 7:30 p.m., every chair was taken as the local piano player charmed the patrons, and the family personally welcomed locals and tourists alike with fine local wines, craft beer and light ‘snack-ity snacks.’

Try these Hubbs Creek Estate Wines:

Hubbs Creek Pinot Gris 2014

VQA Prince Edward County $21.95 12.5% alcohol

Made in the Alsatian style, this dry, light-medium bodied wine offers enticing aromas of pear, citrus, melon and mineral. Produced from the fruit of 15-year-old densely planted vines, it’s crisp and bright, showing roundness and purity in the ripe fruit flavours, and the classic mineral character of County wines. Well structured, vibrant in texture, the clean finish seems never-ending. 

Hubbs Creek Pinot Noir 2012

Hubbs Creek wine labelVQA Prince Edward County $31.95 12.0% alcohol

From the wonderfully warm 2012 vintage, this Burgundian-style wine is a great find for Pinot-philes. Its sister wine, the now sold-out ‘Reserve’, won a silver medal in the All-Canada Wine Championships. The nose offers subtle, complex notes of red berries, Morello cherry, earth, mineral and a whiff of spice. Dry, medium bodied and beautifully silky in texture, the notion of cinnamon toast on the palate is witness to twelve months aging in seasoned French oak. Tightly wrought, the wine displays intensity in the ripe red berry, cherry and currant flavours, and in the well-defined structure of subtle tannins and bright acidity. Finely crafted and elegant, finishing long and dry, you’ll enjoy sipping this Pinot with a mushroom and Brie tart, or with grilled steelhead trout.

Hubbs Creek Chardonnay 2014

VQA Prince Edward County $27.95 12.0% alcohol

Fresh from the bottling line, this wine still needs a bit of time to come together. Produced from the fruit of seven-year-old vines, 20% fermented in seasoned French oak, the wine offers notes of apple and citrus, hints of pear and toasted nut. Dry, medium bodied, its tangy and pithy, flavours of grapefruit, lemon-lime and green apple to the fore. The texture is zesty, the finish long and dry. Hold the bottles for a few weeks, then enjoy with halibut with a lemon-caper cream sauce, or with seafood pasta.

There is so much to see & do (and drink) in Prince Edward County…why not taste your way along the County roads one winery at a time.

Happy travels!
Susan

 

Fancy a trip to The County?

Posted by Debbie

Friday, September 11th, 2015

It is harvest time in wine country!  The Savvy Bus is heading to Prince Edward County on Saturday September 26 with our Savvy Sommeliers will be your tour guides. There is always a great buzz at this time of year, so why not join us to experience it first hand?

taste-2015-mainHop on board, sit back & relax in our luxury coach as we explore the backroads of Prince Edward County.  We will stop in Picton to take in TASTE – Community Grown, a farm-to-table festival where you will meet The County’s finest winemakers, chefs, brewers and farmers too – all under one roof in the historic Crystal Palace.  Sip & sample the great wines & craft beers from the region…and even buy bottles to bring back home.  Being in the height of harvest, there will be a bounty of farm fresh produce & gourmet goodies too.

The Savvy Bus is 50% sold out  –  Book your spot on the bus >>

TASTE – Community Grown

TasteThis is the region’s premier food & wine market, celebrating their culinary community from farm to table.  Chefs, winemakers, craft beer producers and farmers will all gathered in the same place on the same day.

You can shop till you drop too!  Take home fresh produce of the season, one-of-a-kind products from our local farmers & Ontario VQA wines directly from participating wineries.

Winery tour stop #1

traynorAfter taking in TASTE, we will head off to visit wineries. First stop – Traynor Family Vineyards, the newest in The County.  Mike Traynor purchased the property back in December 2008 when it was just a frozen cornfield but he could see his vision from that moment. Since then, family & friends have been invited to the vineyard to assist with some consuming tasks. With hard work…there are fun times too!  Traynor hosts a number of events such as Prunapolooza and Harvest Soiree’s, which have been a great way to allow people to become part of the wine making process and to leave with a  warm memory and wonderful experience from The County.

Mike’s parents are retired and have purchased a place nearby the vineyard so…they are always on the ready to lend a helpful hand. On weekends, often Mike’s wife Rebecca and son Quintin are seen around the vineyard too.

The winery opened it’s doors Labour Day weekend of 2014, and since then, Mike’s vision of creating a comfortable space where people can come visit and enjoy has become a reality!

Winery tour stop #2

Keint He winemakerNext stop will be at Keint-He Winery & Vineyards  a Burgundian inspired winery right here in Ontario that produces Pinot Noir with international character.

Unlike many grape producers, at Keint-he they like to think of their vineyards as ‘a habitat for the vines’. “Our Pinot grapes prosper in harmony with their environment, not in spite of it”, explains co-owner Bryan Rogers. They’ve applied the Burgundian model of viticulture to The County microclimate. That means that the 28 acres of vines that they’ve planted now, will never exceed 35 acres – this is high density planting and they believe in it.

Keint-he produces domestic wines that exhibit European minerality and acidity. The vines are lovingly raised in the limestone rich soils of our three distinct and unique vineyards. The grape growing & winemaking team at Keint-he only focuses on those grape varietals that most effectively showcase the terroir of the region. The result is award winning, terroir-based wines that reflect our standard for quality and the character of the region in which they were produced.

Dinner anyone?

Agrarian logoTo finish off our day, a light dinner will be provided by Bloomfield’s own Agrarian Cheesemarket & Speakeasy and served amongst the vines of Keint-he Winery.

Agrarian Chef, Neil Dowson, likes to takes advantage of the wonderful produce this area has to offer as he shares his modern spin on classic comfort food and the result is delicious! From the farm, dairy, bakery and winery right to your table. On your next trip to The County, be sure to stop at the Bistro to pull-up a chair, enjoy great food and soak up the rustic warmth of our dining room.

Agrarian on tapWhat is a Speakeasy you ask?

Well according to the dictionary it’s ‘a place where alcoholic drink was sold illicitly during Prohibition’ and it comes from speak + easy (in the sense: gently, quietly).  At the Agrarian’s Speakeasy it is a funky space featuring craft brews on tap, great ciders, wine and killer cocktails. Live music on Saturday evenings are just a few of the fun events this place has to offer. Food, drink, friends!

Savvy Bus Ticket info

Advance Booking Only – click here for tickets
Savvy Special: $149 (regular $165)
Price includes absolutely everything! Roundtrip transportation in a luxury coach, Sommelier guides, admission to TASTE, winery tours, dinner in the vineyard & good ol’ HST.

The Master Plan…

The Savvy Bus will depart downtown Ottawa at 8:30am from the Ottawa Marriott (100 Kent St). We will pick up passengers at the new BRIDGEHEAD Coffee Shop in the Pinecrest Mall & Starbucks at 1151 Division Street (near the 401) in Kingston.

Our plan is to arrive at TASTE by 11:30am.

At 3pm, the Savvy Bus will continue our road-trip with a drive through Picton, take the scenic route along the Loyalist Parkway to Traynor Vineyards for a tour & tasting, then onwards to Keint-he Winery where we will be treated to a dinner surrounded by vineyards. By 8pm, the coach will depart for Ottawa. 

The fun filled day (and a delicious one at that) should wrap up around 11pm when we return back to Ottawa.

Bonus!

A Savvy Sommelier will be on the coach with you offering wine tips, telling you stories about Prince Edward County & answering any ‘County’ questions you may have along the way.

Everyone is welcome to join us on this roadtrip! 

Order your tickets now for the Savvy Bus

 

 

Savvy Roadtrip to Prince Edward County

Posted by Debbie

Monday, May 25th, 2015

Hop on the Savvy Bus! We’re going to  The Great Canadian Cheese Festival on Saturday June 6. Ready for a delicious day of enjoying artisan cheeses from across Canada while also exploring Prince Edward County? We’re making it easy for you to enjoy an action-packed daytrip, with a roundtrip coach package from Ottawa & Kingston.

festival logoAt The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, you will quickly learn that Canadian cheese is so MUCH more than just cheddar! It will be a fun day meeting & learning from the dynamic people who put their heart & soul into crafting the cheeses. 

As great cheese goes with wine, ciders & craft beer, there will be several wineries, cideries & breweries from across Ontario at this year’s festival.

wapoos cider

And there is more!

After a cheese-laden afternoon, we will tour the back roads of The Country and take you to off the beaten track to a local cidery & a winery.  Here’s the inside scoop on what you’ll see at The County Cider Company, where they specialize in mouth-watering hard ciders.

wineandcrackersThree Dog Winery always tells visitors “we are the first winery you’ll get to when driving from Ottawa – we’re just over the bridge”. Enjoy the warm welcome from John Squaire and his wife Sacha, not to mention their lovely dogs Jersey, Rieki, and Bakkus.

They opened their doors in 2013 but have been planting and working the vines since 2003. It’s a great place to stop, sip & relax.

Later in the afternoon it’s back to the Crystal Palace for ‘Makers+Mongers’ dinner where you will nosh on gourmet appetizers, the best cheeseburgers on the planet & desserts that ooze cheese!

Makers+Mongers in Cheeseburger Paradise

Makers+MongersUnbelievably tasty cheeseburgers made by the grillmasters at Burger Revolution and Trade Craft Good Food using the exceptional beef from Enright Cattle Company where animals are raised on a natural, all-vegetable diet without the use of artificial hormones

Superb sausage by Seed To Sausage

Vegetarian options, too

Artisan appetizers and Canadian Cheese Grand Prix winners

Scrumptious desserts

PLUS Jimmy Buffett music performed live by Brian Neale:

On a diet? It’ll just have to wait! 


Advance Bookings Only

Early Birds… get the cheese! Register before May 30 $149 per person (regular $165)

Tickets still available for the Savvy Bus

This price includes: round-trip luxury coach transportation, admission to the Cheese Festival, tasting tours of County Cider Co & 3 Dog Winery, a ticket for Makers + Mongers dinner & good ‘ol HST.
Book Now!

The Master Plan… 

The Savvy Bus will depart downtown Ottawa at 8:30am from the Ottawa Marriot (100 Kent St). Then we will head downtown to pick up passengers at Ottawa’s Pinecrest Mall & Starbucks on Princess Street (near the 401) in Kingston.

Our plan is to arrive at the Cheese Festival by 11:30am. By 3pm, we will head off ‘on tour’ to visit County Cider Co & Three Dog Winery, then return for the ‘Makers+ Mongers’ dinner on the lawn of the festival. The coach will leave the Crystal Palace (in Picton) by 7pm & be back in the Ottawa area around 10 pm.  

Bonus – wine experts on board!

Savvy Sommelier will be on the coach with you offering wine tips, telling you stories about Prince Edward County & answering any ‘County’ questions you may have along the way.

Hope to see you on the bus

Everyone is welcome to join us on this Savvy Roadtrip to Prince Edward County & The Great Canadian Cheese Festival. Click here for tickets.

 

 

 

 

Hop on the Savvy Bus to Terroir Festival & Prince Edward County

Posted by Amanda

Friday, April 24th, 2015

Join our Savvy Sommeliers for a day discovering Prince Edward County on Saturday May 8.  The Savvy Bus is back by popular demand & we’re making it easy for you to enjoy a day out in The County with a Sommelier as your tour guide.

It’s a Road-trip!

terroir2011v4.cdrSit back & relax in our luxury coach as we explore the backroads of Prince Edward County.  We will stop in Picton to take in Terroir Wine & Farmers Market to discover all of the great wines & foods under one roof at the historic Crystal Palace. Many County wineries will introduce their new spring releases & pair their wines with locally made gourmet foods right before your eyes!

Your Savvy Bus Tour will continue as we visit The County’s only craft brewery – Barley Days Brewery for a taste of something different.  Then to top it all off, dinner will be served in the vineyard at Casa-Dea Estates.

It will be a fun day meeting the dynamic people who are involved in the growing reputation of ‘The County’.

Advance Booking Only

Savvy Special: $149 (regular $165)

Price includes absolutely everything!
– Roundtrip transportation in a luxury coach
– Sommelier guides
– Admission to Terroir Wine & Farmers Market
– Winery and brewery tours
– Dinner in the vineyard
– and…good ol’ HST

Only 10 spots left! Book your seat on the bus >>

The Master Plan…

5 team members standing-001The Savvy Bus will depart downtown Ottawa at 8am from the Ottawa Marriot (100 Kent St). We will pick up passengers at Starbucks in Pinecrest Mall & Starbucks on Princess Street (near the 401) in Kingston.

We are aiming to arrive at Terroir Wine & Farmers Market by 11:30am.

Check out this long list of participating vendors who will WOW you with their locally-produced food & wine. Local wineries include:

Broken Stone Winery
By Chadsey’s Cairns Winery & Vineyard
Casa-Dea Estates Winery
Closson Chase Winery
Devils Wishbone Winery
Half Moon Bay Winery
Harwood Estate Vineyards
Hillier Creek Estates
Huff Estates Winery
Karlo Estates
Keint-he Winery & Vineyards
Lacey Estates Winery
Lighthall Vineyards & Lighthall Cheese
Norman Hardie Winery & Vineyard
Rosehall Run Winery
Sandbanks Winery
Sugarbush Vineyards
Thirty Three Vines Winery

Learn while you Taste…

There will be 3 fun & informative sessions on during the day – including a blind wine tasting hosted by our own Debbie Trenholm as well as these seminars:

Everything You Need To Know About Growing Heirloom Tomatoes

If you have a small back yard garden or deck or  balcony… you can grow heirloom tomatoes. Vicki Emlaw will answer any questions you have and a selection of good old fashioned tasting tomato plants will be available for sale.

What Kind of Cool Are You?

Join The Cellar Sisters in an exploration of cool-climate Chardonnay and determine your “kind of cool” – crisp, fruity, rich or smooth. Blind taste four different PEC Chardonnays and select the one style which appeals to you most. Learn about each wine and receive a handout detailing all the unique Chardonnay available at Terroir for tasting and purchase so you can continue seeking out your “kind of cool” throughout the afternoon!

Compelled to Can

Bree Seeley advocates that preserving food is more than a twee hobby, it is a dynamic practice that powerfully shapes the identity of our regional cuisine. Preserving food allows cooks to fortify a commitment to Ontario terroir and asserts a role in supporting more sustainable food networks. The delicious results create unique contours in meals and hospitality. Join Bree as she outlines how enthusiasm for robust flavours gives way to a fulsome pantry and colourful year-round Ontario eating.

And the bus goes on…

Barley Days logoAt 2:30pm, we will roam the country roads bound for Barley Days Brewery for a tour & tasting, then onwards to Casa-Dea Estates where we will be treated to a dinner surrounded by vineyards. By 8:30pm, the coach will depart for Ottawa.

Paul Battliana Casa-DeaThis schedule gives you time to enjoy all of the activities at Terroir, see the picturesque countryside & discover The County’s only brewery followed by a delicious dinner with Casa-Dea’s winemaker Paul Battliana (in photo at left) who MacLeans Magazine has named as ‘One to Watch’ in Canada.

Bonus! A Savvy Sommelier will be on the coach with you offering wine tips, telling you stories about Prince Edward County & answering any ‘County’ questions you may have along the way.

 

Everyone is welcome to join us on this road-trip!
Book your seat on the bus >>

101 Things to do in Prince Edward County

Posted by Debbie

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Where are you going this Long Weekend? We are always asked for travel tips. One destination we are frequently asked about is Prince Edward County.  Just a short 3 hour drive from Ottawa or 2 hours from Toronto, you can go for the day or a weekend getaway.

Stanners Vineyard vinesThis region, surrounded by water, is turning heads as Canada’s fastest growing wine region.  And it is not all about the wine either! The County has been named as Maclean’s Magazine’s Canada TOP 10 Places You’ve Got to See in 2014.

To help you discover all the neat things that are going on in The County, we got the Savvy Team together (over a glass of wine of course!) & jotted down 101 of our favorite (and there are still many more) things to do in Prince Edward County.

How far down the list can you get?  Do you know about other fun things to see & do in PEC that we can add to our list?

101 Things to Do in Prince Edward County Wine Country

 

1. Visit North America’s largest dry stone bridge at Karlo Estates.

2. Visit the Oeno Gallery at Huff Estates.

3. Do the Creepy Corn Maze (Oct).

4. Eat some freshly baked pizza at Norman Hardie’s.

5. Check out some great old barns at The Old Third, Closson Chase, Karlo Estates, The Grange of Prince Edward County and Hinterland Winery.

6. Sample amazing aperitif and dessert wines (and ports) – Sandbanks Winery, Hillier Creek, Keint-He Winery, Karlo Estates

wine_tasting_sparkling7. Taste some of the best Canadian-made sparkling wines at Hinterland, Huff Estates, The Grange, By Chadsey’s Cairns & Lighthall Vineyards.

8. Cheese Please!  All weekend long at the Great Canadian Cheese Festival (June).

9. Sample County wines at great local restos – East & Main, Blumen Garden & The Hubb.

10. Buy some artisan cheese to go with your wine at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co.

11. Toronto’s Drake Hotel now has a County location – Drake Devonshire.  Stay over or go for dinner.

12. Indulge in poutine and milkshakes at the Dari Bar in Wellington.

13. Enjoy some great apple cider & lunch of lamb burgers The County County Cider.

14. Need some coffee after sampling wine? Miss Lily’s Café or the Bean Counter in Picton.

15. Find your favorite mantra pinned to the wall in the Cherry Valley General Store (hint: they’re all about slowing down to smell the roses!).

16. Stop by one of many veggie stands – Laundry Farms, Hagerman Farms, Cherryvale Organic Farm.

17. Sit on the porch at a B&B or your weekend cottage and read Geoff Heinrick’s book A Fool & Forty Acres.

18. Pop in to the Agrarian Cheese Market & Speakeasy, featuring craft brews on tap, great ciders, wine and killer cocktails with live music on Fridays & Saturdays.

19. Take a cooking class at From the Farm.

20. Dining delight – Countylicious – twice a year, 8 restos offer a prix fixe culinary celebration for $30 or $35 plus grats & tax.

21. Chat with Bryan at Keint-He Winery.  He’ll help you pronounce that!

22. Get on your bike & ride the backroads or along the Loyalist Parkway.

Terroir wine festival23. Take in Terroir Wine Festival at the Crystal Palace (May).

24. Plan for a beach day at Sandbanks Provincial Park.

25. Attend the PEC Jazz Festival (summer).

26. Discover new local music talent at The Acoustic Grill in Picton.

27. Slide down the dunes at West Lake.

28. Harvest grapes with Norman Hardie & celebrate afterwards with a pig roast & bbq (fall).

29. Take a billion pix of the gorgeous gardens at Closson Chase then indulge in their wines.

30. Spend a Sunday afternoon on the patio at Huff Estates Winery listening to live jazz.

31. Red White & Blues festival at Rosehall Run features music in the vineyard.

32. Meet the dogs & owners at Three Dog Winery.

33. Get lost on the back roads.

34. Hear James call his Chardonnay vines ‘Bella’ at Long Dog Winery.

35. Stock up on your picnic goodies at Chef Michael Hoy’s Weekend Market at 106 Bridge Street in Picton.

36. Best bacon & eggs in town are at Picton Harbour Inn.

Debbie at 2012 harvest37. Harvest parties at Sandbanks Winery, Half Moon Bay Winery & Broken Stone are fun for the entire family. Here I am (photo at right) picking grapes at last year’s harvest – boy that was hard work!

38. Book a room at The Manse, Newsroom Suites, The Inn at Huff Estates, Merrill Inn or the cottage at Angeline’s.

39. Take an early morning walk on the ‘secret’ beach (at the bottom of Cold Creek Road).

40. Ice cream at Slickers.

41. Go apple picking at Campbell’s Orchards.

42. Sparkling wine awaits at Hinterland Vineyards – and peach slushies for the kids.

43. Visit the old-time school house at the Ameliasburgh Historical Museum.

44. Drinks & Dinner at Merrill Inn –guaranteed delicious!

45. What the heck is Wassail?  Ask around about this pre-Christmas festival where you sing for your drink. Does this photo get you thinking about Christmas?

46. Do a County Chardonnay-a-thon trying every Chard you can find.  Be sure not to miss Lighthall, Stanners, Exultet, Rosehall, Karlo….is just a start.

maple_web_logo47. Pull a pint of Pumpkin Ale at Barley Days Brewing Co.

48. Maple in the County is a great spring getaway

49. All aboard!  Stop in at the red caboose at 33 Vines Winery – it is their tasting room.

50. Visit the Lavender Farm when the lavender is in full bloom (June).

51. Chat with Pat at Del-Gatto Estates…where he lives la dolce vita!

52. Kick back & chillax in a Muskoka chair with a glass of Sandbanks wine…in their vineyard (must trys – Cabernet Franc Reserve, Baco Noir, Marchel Foch).

53. Go antiquing.

artstrail-bluesign54. Follow the Arts Trail & meet incredible artists along the way.

55. In the summer, sip Rose wines around the Wine Trail – see how they all are different – different grapes used, hues of pink…and tastes!

56. Catch a movie at the Regent Theatre.

57. Visit the gallery at Small Pond Arts to see Milé Murtanovski’s paintings made with wine.

58. Unwind one of the few classic drive-in movie theatres in Ontario: Mustang Drive-In

59. Take a break for wine touring & leisurely shop on Bloomfield Main Street.

60. Six Barrels for Six Chefs at Huff Estates Winery (June).

61. Get your heirloom tomatoes and lots of other fresh from the farm veggies at Vicki’s Veggies

62. How about a visit to Dead Peoples Stuff? (antique store).

63. Enjoy heaven in a glass with a sip of VanAlstine White Port at Karlo Estates.

64. Lunch al fresco at Casa Dea Estates Winery, Huff Estates, The Grange or Norman Hardie Winery.

65. Go house hunting – it does not cost anything to dream!

66. It might be a wine region, yet there is a distillery – 66 Gilead – that is a must visit.  Especially for their Canadian Pine Vodka, Loyalist Gin, rums & whiskies too.

67. Watch the sunset at North Beach.

68. Enjoy incredible classical music in a small church during the Prince Edward County Music Festival (September)

69. Make annual family traditions by renting one of the many of the Sunrise cottages.

70. Drop by Highline mushrooms to buy fresh gourmet mushrooms.

71. Homemade donuts like my grandfather would make await at Schroedter’s Market on Hwy 62.

72. Spend an hour or two checking out City Revival – a high end consignment shop.

73. Be marvelled by Lake On The Mountain – it’s mystical up there.

Premium Goat Milk Cheddar, Back Forty Artisan Cheese Co. and Black River Cheese Company74. Stop at Black River Cheese Co in Milford to try…and buy…all kinds of cheese.  Savvy Cheese Sommelier, Vanessa Simmons recommends: Maple Cheddar & fresh curds (TIP – when you put curds in the fridge, they lose their squeak)

75. Where else can wines be as easy as Not Red, Almost Red and Not White? At Sugarbush Wines.

76. Ride the waves at North Beach Provincial Park.

77. Go strawberry, raspberry or blueberry picking on the roadside – they grow wild!

78. Grab some wine after your round of golf at Picton Golf Course, Barcovan Golf Club or Wellington On The Lake Golf Course.

79. Pop in & out of all of the cool shops along Picton Main Street.

80. Bird-watching!! And don’t miss BirdHouse City.

81. Take the scenic route. Drive along the Loyalist Parkway – Hwy 33.  Start in Kingston or Napanee and it will meander all the way to Trenton.

82. Order everything on the chalkboard at The Hubb Restaurant in Bloomfield.

83. TASTE! at the Crystal Palace (late September).

84. Have afternoon tea or a treat at Tall Poppy Café in Wellington.

85. The December Busy Hands Craft Sale at Books and Company & Miss Lily’s Café, hosted by Vicki’s Veggies – great sale for gifts.

86. Pop into Greer Road Grocer at Rosehall Run Winery for neat locally made gourmet goodies.

87. Play life size chess in the vineyard at Casa Dea Estates.

88. Stop for Italian thin crust pizza at Bergeron’s Estate Winery…and have a glass of wine too!

89. Take photos of Lake Ontario with morning fog near Moonlight on the Lake B&B.

90. Buy Ontario wine – and beer! – not available in the LCBO – shop directly at the wineries & brewery in Prince Edward County!

91. Get married!

92. Running and drinking…drinking and running during Terroir Run (June) or county Marathon (Oct).

93. Taste wine in a converted cheese factory that now houses Exultet Estates.

94. Rent a cottage on the water for a week and really live The County life.

95. Stop at a garage sale.

96. Take the free Glenora Ferry.

97. Take a workshop at The Red Barns, an artisan’s playground, featuring blown and stained glass, pottery, and iron art.

98. Visit Canada’s first off-grid winery Redtail Vineyard.

99. Browse the books and say hello to Miss Ella Vader, the new book mascot at Books & Company.

100. Spend a weekend at Claramount Inn & Spa. Heavenly.

101. Stop by Huff Estates and get your picture taken with the giant steel pinecones.

…and the list goes on!   Even more tips and calendar of events can be found on Prince Edward County’s tourism web site is prince-edward-county.com

 

Wherever you decide to go this Long Weekend…or anytime, why not work your way through this long list of things to see and do in Prince Edward County. It’s a beautiful place where you can make great memories of food, wine, great scenery – and more.  Call on our Savvy Sommeliers anytime on 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) for tips of places to visit.

Enjoy Prince Edward County!
Debbie

 

 

 

An enthusiast discovering wineries in Prince Edward County

Posted by Amanda

Friday, May 2nd, 2014

If you’re looking for a day trip or a weekend away to try great wines, look no further than Prince Edward County…just 2.5 hrs drive from Ottawa. I’m always up for an outing and Easter Weekend saw me winery-hopping – and I even saw the Easter Bunny!

Take the scenic route – car, ferry & even a boat (or pedalo)

Bergeron grape picking 3Driving from Ottawa, you can take the pictoresque Glenora ferry and make your first winery stop at Devils Wishbone, just past the really cool Lake on the Mountain – where you see a pretty lake right outside your car window (you can even get out & admire it) and then hundreds of feet down a cliff is the Bay of Quinte!

First Ferry, then Lake…now Winery. Devils Wishbone was the name the earliest settlers used for this location due to poor soil conditions for farming, which can be great soil for growing grapes! You will be warmly welcomed by winery owner Paul Gallagher and his friendly staff and you can enjoy their wines either inside the old barn or sitting out on his new deck; you can taste all of his carefully crafted local wines and enjoy the breathtaking views.

Wine & cheese – a match made in heaven

Cap_CressyBe sure to stop in at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Company located at 4309 County Road 8. You can poke around, taste some cheese, visit their chees-making facility, which by the way is completely GREEN; that is they are leaders in Advanced Sustainable Design.

A couple of suggestions – to sample & to buy, are: Plain Jane, County Maple, Lavender, Dill Weed and Lemon, Lemon Thyme and Cracked Black Pepper, Garlic and Chive, Cape Vessey, both Lacey Grey and Nude hand rolled chevre logs, Lost Lake… to name but a few of their great artisan cheeses (ok…that list is long, yet there is so much at their cheese store!). So for great cheese – and sustainability – buy from Fifth Town. Store hours Sat & Sun 11am-4pm.

Is it lunch-time yet?

County Cider lunch

For those of you who have worked up an appetite, it’s only a short drive to a delectable outdoor treat (see pergola terrace in photo at right), where I savoured their thin-crust pizza from the wood burning pizza oven &  fantastic salad at The County Cider Company, located at 657 Bongards Crossing just near the Junction of County Road 8. Not only is the food great, you also get to enjoy the dramatic view from the outdoor patio perched high above Lake Ontario.  My recommendation for that neck of the woods, but do check ahead for hours open.

Last stop today…but I’m back on the trail tomorrow!

IMG_2301I stopped to see Glenn Symons, winemaker of Lighthall Vineyards, because I knew which wine I wanted to go with my succulent BBQ Salmon that I had planned for dinner – his 2011 Chardonnay of course because it bursts with flavors of Asian pear and orchard fruit.

He had some great vineyard stories – don’t forget to ask about the Luna Moth – and insisted I sample his latest releases; then at the end of his busy Saturday full of tourists, media & chefs he invited me to sit outside & sip his latest spectacular Chardonnay on the patio. Cheers amigo!

Be careful when you get behind the wheel

I guess this is a good time to mention that you really ought to have a designated driver for his kind of outing.  Sure it’s true winery hopping is not meant for drinking all you can but for sampling small sips of many different wines. It’s about discovering quality, not quantity. There’s an art to tasting wines and for those of you less familiar with oenology, I’ve shared a few tips below (at end of blog) on what I’ve learned over the past few years in this wonderful world of wine.

So I’ve covered the tiniest part of The County wineries (Marysburgh, North & South), some artisan cheese and a quick spot of lunch, but there is still much to see and do, so if you can – plan to spend the weekend.

Wine Samples…Day Two

I put my jalopy into high gear, heading straight through Picton and on through Bloomfield, Wellington into region of Hillier. For sure there many small quaint towns to see all over Ontario, but this is one spot where wine is really happenin’ so I wanted to make the most of the ‘terroir’ (wine lingo for the earth in the ground that grows the grapes that makes the wine).

Take the scenic route

Be calmed by the waves of Lake Ontario splashing against the shoreline on your left as you head into a different wine area – new soil, new ground, new wines.

karlo barnFirst stop Karlo Estates (classic barn in photo at left), located at 561 Danforth Road, where you will hear the happy laughter of Richard Karlo before you see the winemaker himself. Karlo is run by Richard & his Partner Sherry Martin (also an artist in her own right), out of a beautiful old red barn converted into a tasting bar with oodles of ambience.

They boast an extensive wine list of about 12 wines covering the full range from light to full bodied and are the only winery in the county to produce a white port, alongside it’s sister red port. The barn itself is worth the detour and be sure to wander through the field to take a closer look at their medieval-looking bridge, the largest mortarless structure in North America. A tasting experience people travel far & wide for.

Hubbs Creek Vineyard

Un vero italiano

Hubb’s Creek (see photo at right) right across the street is the home of The County’s true Italian, Battista Calvieri, a wine grower who has been cultivating grapes for over 10 years with his first release in 2012. Worth waiting for to be sure, try his Pinot Gris, the Rosé being bottled soon and for me the Pinot Noir is his signature wine. More wines will be added to the list soon. Open weekends only & full time in Summer.  A presto!

In fact for those of you on the road of wine discovery like myself, you should know that Pinot noir is one of the county’s top grape varieties. It all comes down to the soil and it doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that that PEC is laden with the best soil for Pinot noir Grapes. Yabadaadoo, my favourite wine.

Every winery has a name & every name has a story

After munchies in Wellington (I popped into the Tall Poppy Café), then headed for an afternoon saunter through some vines at Keint-He Winery, named very aptly after what is now becoming Ontario’s fastest-growing wine region.

Keint-He canoes on labelKeint-He Winery & Vineyards honours the native word Keint-He which is the name of one of the four Seneca villages in this part of Eastern Ontario; they were one of the five tribes of the Iroquois. The word Keint-He was later francocized into “Quinte” and used in English names such as the Bay of Quinte.

The painting used on their labels (Canoes in a Fog, Lake Superior in photo on left) was originally done by Canadian artist Frances Anne Hopkins.

As the afternoon progressed I had to start thinking of the dreary drive home, but not before a highly reccommended stop at By Chadsey’s Cairns – a long-winded name for a winery if ever there was one.

By Chadsey's Cairns tasting bar exterior

A warm welcome everywhere you go

Despite interrupting his lunch (with a glass of Chardonnay), winery owner Richard Johnston welcomed me with a history lesson, a tour & some great wines.  All this only made me want to learn more about the origin of his grapes and as I tasted my way through his excellent repertoire of white, off white, red & dessert wines, I was left wanting more. This isn’t just another tick in the box – it’s a place to return to.

He is well served by his partner in wine, Vida Zalnieriunas, who is  – as she would say “the winemaker”!  Richard &  Vida have an ongoing (curious) debate at the winery – is the winemaker the person who gives instructions or the one following the instructions, meaning the person doing all the slogging?

There is – again – a story behind the name of this winery – and it’s a good one if you have the time to listen and take it all in as the cairns (hand-built stone structures) are still there to this day and when you stand in the beautifully restored brick tasting room, you can almost see “Old Ira Chadsey”  in 1870 walking the vineyards.

I think this bit of local folklore is worth sharing – so here you have it as told by Richard:

cairns for Chadsey's Cairns“The story has it that Ira is alleged to have declared that he would return after his death reincarnated as a white horse, and he was building the stone markers so he could find his way home.  Then, seven years after his wife’s death, at the age of 77, Ira built a large bonfire in his maple syrup shack, located down the laneway by the cairns, and shot himself so that his body would be flung into the flames.  The fire is said to have been so intense that nothing was found but the metal barrel of his gun.”

Richard claims that it would be hard to leave Ira on that note.  “When it came time to name our vineyards, we decided Ira’s colourful and poignant tale deserved a firmer hold in time”

My day was full of rewards and I do believe that there is a Wine God.

My winery hopping tips…

Try not to cram too many winery visits into one day, amble leisurely & enjoy the atmosphere & countryside, talk to the people who pour for you & learn as you go.

Bryan at Keing-HeAsk lots of questions and try as many or as few wines as you like (check tasting pricing before you start).  Start with the whites, they whet your appetite (even if it’s just your appetite for more wine); then move to light weight reds, ending off with heavier reds and lastly sweet and/or dessert wine. See how friendly they all are – really ALL the winemakers, winery owners & staff in Prince Edward County are THIS friendly, take it from Bryan Rogers of Keint-He Winery (in photo at right).

Feel free to spit, even the experts do it; this way you are coating your palate with the exotic flavours of each wine that you try but not consuming 4 bottles of wine of an afternoon. (If you don’t see a spittoon handy, just ask).

Pick a theme for the day – taste a particular grape variety everywhere you go; or maybe you might want to do the A-Z of The County’s Chardonnay, so it’s whites from sun up to sundown; there are so many ways to taste wines, so don’t wait – get on to The County!

Final tip – Enjoy yourself, it’s a time of discovery.

What about the Easter Bunny?

Elycia at Harwood in bunny earsIn case you’re wondering about the Easter Bunny I mentioned at the top…here’s how I ‘found’ it:

My last stop (or you could say hop) in the afternoon before heading back to Ottawa was at Harwood Estates, where Elycia showed off her prowess in the wine domaine by explaining each & every one of Harwoods great wines. There was a nice cosy spot at the tasting bar to munch my sandwich (originally destined for a road-stop on the 401) while I learned about the little-known variety of St. Laurent from this very friendly bunny…oops I mean Elycia! My discovery of the day was Admiral’s Blend,  a blend of estate Pinot Noir & St. Laurent which is medium-bodied with aromas of cherry, coffee and cardamom. A complex palate of Asian spice, cherry and chocolate

Can you imagine my surprise when I came away from a winery visit with a chocolate bunny! Another great day in Prince Edward County & thank you Harwood Estates.

Enjoy your travels & call on me as well as the others in the Savvy Team anytime on 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or cheers@savvycompany.ca  for suggestions of wineries to visit all across Ontario.

A presto!

-Amanda

Another reason to head to Prince Edward County: Terroir Wine & Farmers Market

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Terroir is decanting once again for its 10th year to celebrate Spring! This anticipated annual event presented by Prince Edward County Winegrowers Association returns to the beautiful Crystal Palace in Picton, next Saturday – May 3rd, 2014

Just announced: Terroir is the first Wine sampling event & Farmers’ Market in Ontario licensed to sell VQA wines onsite. This means for the first time in Ontario, guests will be able to purchase wine while at the event, and take it home with them!

pec pix 1Bryan Rogers from Keinte-He Winery says, “This is a really great opportunity for people coming out next Saturday! They can try wines and then, for the first time ever, they can buy those wines right there and then and walk out the door with them. It’s an exciting time to be drinking Prince Edward County wines.”

The Grape Growers of Ontario and The Wine Council of Ontario have been working with The AGCO to allow VQA Wines for sale at Farmers markets and “it has finally happened” says festival organizer Scott Rondeau. “They [AGCO] are really trying to support the local wineries. It’s really great that they are showing so much support for local wines and allowing us to do this.”

“It is really good to see the government creating a new way to sell 100% Ontario wines. Farmers’ Market sales will be particularly helpful to the smaller wineries who don’t currently have a presence at the LCBO” says Richard Karlo of Karlo Estates.

Jump on the Savvy Bus!

Discover The County with the Savvy Sommeliers.  Enjoy Terroir to the fullest, $99 per person – includes round-trip transportation on a luxury coach, your ticket to Terroir, a visit to a County winery. . . or two!  The bus will depart from downtown Ottawa with pick-up stops enroute in west Ottawa as well as Kingston.

Reserve your spot now > >

So much awaits you at Terroir

wine tasting at TerroirMany County wineries will be sampling and selling their new spring releases and unique wines while pairing them with delicious gourmet food tastings. Guests will have the opportunity to meet the winemakers themselves, take part in seminars and demonstrations, enjoy live music, shop for baked goods, preserves, meats, sauces, veggies and more, while tasting some of Ontario’s finest wines.

With over 30 wineries, Prince Edward County has much to experience. The County was named one of the 14 Must-Visit Destinations of 2014 by enRoute magazine

A Wine & Cheese…with a TWIST

Debbie at TerroirOur Savvy Team of Sommeliers will be at Terroir.  Be sure to make time to join Wine Sommelier Debbie Trenholm & our Cheese Sommelier Vanessa Simmons for their Wine & Cheese with a TWIST ‘seminar’.

During this half hour, sip & nibble as you learn about County wines & cheeses from the Savvy gals who are constantly visiting the backroads of The County.

 

 

Who will you meet at Terroir?

Featured Wineries

Broken Stone Winery
By Chadsey’s Cairns Winery & Vineyard
Casa Dea Estates Winery
Closson Chase Vineyards
Devil’s Wishbone Winery
The Grange of Prince Edward County
Half Moon Bay Vineyards
Harwood Estates Winery
Hillier Creek Estate Winery
Huff Estates Inn & Winery
Karlo Estates
Keint-He Winery & Vineyard
Lacey Estates Vineyard & Winery
Lighthall Vineyards
Norman Hardie Winery & Vineyard
Rosehall Run Winery
Sandbanks Estate Winery
Stanners Vineyard
Three Dog Winery
Thirty Three Vines Winery 

Participating Food Vendors

Niagara College Culinary Program
Urban Herb on the Curb
Picnic PEC
Empire Cheese
Agrarian Bistro & Speakeasy
East and MainIced Cupcakery 

Farmers’ Market Vendors

Humble Bread
Nyman Farms
Emerson Pringle Carpentry
Essential Relaxation
PEC Hot Sauce Co.
Thyme Again Garden
Portland Bridge Pickling Society
PEC FareVikki’s Veggies
Jo’s Backyard Doughs
Raw Food
Barking up the Green Tree
PEC Lavender Farm
County Cooperage Wine Vinegar
Scottish AccentsPink Lunch Pail 

Admission

The event’s $35 in advance ticket price includes all wine samples and three food pairings. Additional food items are available for purchase.

$40 at the door (subject to availability)

Tickets can be purchased at www.countyterroir.com

 

Hope to see you there!

Debbie & the Savvy Team

 

Fresh Starts & Fine Wines in the Okanagan Valley

Posted by Susan

Monday, March 17th, 2014

Each trip to B.C.’s Okanagan Valley is a new adventure – tasting wines from a new vintage, visiting old friends at existing wineries, or talking to individuals who have decided to turn their minds, hearts and hands to the cultivation of grapes and the vinification of unique wines. My recent visit was no exception, providing an exceptional opportunity to take an extensive tour of the Triggs’ family new venture, Culmina Family Estate Winery on the Golden Mile, and to visit Platinum Bench Estate Winery on the Black Sage Bench as well as Spierhead Winery in southeast Kelowna.

Culmina Winery

Donal TriggsThe Golden Mile bench in the south Okanagan, between Oliver and Osoyoos, is legendary, named not so much for the quality of the soil for tree fruits and grape vines, but rather for the gold mines that were worked in the area in the late 1800s. Don Triggs greeted us when we arrived, brimming with energy and enthusiasm for this new project.  After the sale of Vincor (which included Jackson-Triggs, co-founded by Triggs) in 2006, Don took a year off – ‘but I got bored, so I talked to Elaine and the family about starting a new winery. My youngest daughter Sara said she’d be interested, so here we are . . .’. In 2007, the Triggs family purchased an existing property which included some established vines.

Reaching for the peak

Don had a very clear notion of what he wanted to achieve: ‘Culmina means summit, and our goal is to reach for the peak in Bordeaux-style wines, producing premium wines that are the best that can be achieved from our estate. Culmina is also the root of the word culmination, and this winery is the ultimate expression of our family and its values in the wine business.’  The estate honors members of the Triggs family, the principle 48-acre vineyard named ‘Arise’ after the estate of an ancestor of Don’s who was awarded 10 acres in Barbados in the late 1600’s by the British monarch after serving as a ship’s purser. Margaret’s bench, a 10-acre vineyard which has to be one of the highest on the Golden Mile, is named after Don’s mother, while Stan’s bench, also 10 acres, is named after Elaine’s father.

 Taking the tour

Our tour of the property made it clear that the latest in technology has guided and continues to support the Triggs family’s focus on outstanding quality in its vineyards and wines. Don discussed the research that went into selecting and then assessing the site; how numerous soil test pits were dug in the vineyards, how water retention in the soils was measured, to the extent that the Arise vineyard is subdivided into 1.25 acre micro-sites, each planted with unique root stocks and clones of Syrah and the Bordeaux varieties. Degree days were measured, once again to ensure that the appropriate grape varieties were planted in the optimal temperature zones. The Arise vineyard has the highest overall number of degree days at 1500, Margaret’s bench, the lowest at 1280-1350 (look for Riesling, Chardonnay and Grüner on this property), while Stan’s bench offers an interesting dichotomy – a south-facing rock wall along a reach of this vineyard retains heat and drives up degree days to as much as 1800 (you’ll find the Malbec, Petit Verdot and Viognier here), while the part of the vineyard without the rock wall has degree days half way between the Arise vineyard and Margaret’s bench.

It’s all in the sun & the shade

Okanagan vineyard in fallSatellite imaging was used to assess the extent and impact of the afternoon shadows that slip down the mountain and across the vineyard, determining where the Merlot would be planted so that it benefits from the cooling effects of the afternoon shade. Small solar panels dot the vineyards, powering batteries that feed the environmental monitoring systems measuring soil moisture, temperature and other data.  Interested in the technology? Sara Triggs is not only a partner in this venture, but an outstanding tasting room hostess, and the brains behind the Culmina website, where you can find maps and diagrams of the ‘vineyard mapping’ undertaken by the family.

 Ever heard of dry-land farming?

Don has.  Recognizing the risk of water shortages in the coming decades, he has also initiated an experimental planting of dry-land farmed vines. Grafted to vigorous, drought-resistant rootstock that will send their roots up to 30 metres down in search of water, the 1000 vines of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Syrah have been planted 2×2 metres apart on a steep slope without disturbing the natural vegetation. Drip irrigation will be used for the first 3 years, with the intent to eliminate watering once the vines reach that stage. At maturity, the vines will be pruned to the goblet, or ‘bush vine’ shape to enhance their survivability in this desert landscape.

 Arts & Science at Culmina

culmina winery logoThe family’s prior experience and their appreciation of the arts and sciences manifests itself in all aspects of Culmina. The winery graphic is a fine and unique representation of the old bush vines found in such dry, windy climates as the east coast of Spain and the south of France. Displaying clean, modern lines and materials, the winery tasting room and outdoor patio is architecturally inviting and warm. The environmental monitoring system is the first major installation of this type in Canada. The initial research was extensive, and the data collection continues, providing an ongoing record that can be used to adjust and adapt as required. The technology is married to age-hold practices of hand-planting, hand-pruning and hand-picking the fruit. And there is a strong emphasis on sustainability, manifested in the cover crops between the rows, designed to attract beneficial insect populations and to manage the vigor of the vines, sourcing of local cow manure as fertilizer, the use of hand-split cedar posts or galvanized steel to eliminate chemical leaching, use of under-canopy irrigation to minimize water usage, as well as construction of the winery to optimize solar gain and energy efficiency.

 Drawing on expertise from Bordeaux

To produce his iconic wines, Don Triggs turned to Alain Sutre and Pascal Madevon, both sons of Bordeaux, whom he worked with in the early days of the Osoyoos-Larose joint venture. Pascal joined Culmina as winemaker in January of this year and, in this, his first vintage at the winery, was hovering between the sorting table and the de-stemmer as the Merlot made its way from vine to fermentation tank in the gravity-flow winery. As we talked about Culmina, he spoke passionately about this new venture and the potential of the fruit coming off the vineyards.

Taste the real fruit

The Triggs’ family have a flavour profile in mind for their wines. Says Don, ‘Let the fruit be uninterfered with as possible’. The fruit from each block goes into its own tank and goes through extended fermentation to soften the tannins. Fermentation is held to lower temperatures to ensure the sustainability of the aromatics. Grapes and fermenting wine are tasted, the wine created to match the desired profile. French oak is used in aging, the barrels specified by Alain Sutre, purchased from 5 coopers who use a mix of barrel staves from four renowned French oak forests. Literally no stone is left unturned, no detail too small to be addressed.

 Striving for perfection

To quote the Triggs family, their focus is on ‘three fundamental principles: first, their love and appreciation for art and design; second their understanding that by applying scientific principles, it’s possible to reach high calibre results; third, that only in striving for perfection is there the possibility of achieving excellence.’

 Tasting wines at Culmina…a Dilemma

Culmina opened in late August, 2013, offering tasting and sale of their initial vintage, 2011 Dilemma (Chardonnay) and Hypothesis (Bordeaux blend of Cabernet Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon), as well as their 2012 Saignée Rosé (Cabernet Sauvignon and Gamay). The wines deliver on the promise: the rosé a fine balance of lovely red fruit, floral notes and clean acidity, offering a silky yet crisp texture; Dilemma, produced from the original 20-year vines on the estate (after waiting 3 years to taste his own Chardonnay grapes at maturity, Don made the decision – it was a dilemma, says he – to tear out the old vines), fermented in new French oak and aged partly in barrel, partly in stainless, very expressive, with attractive minerality, hints of toasted nut, orchard fruit and tropical notes, showing an outstanding integration of oak and a creamy yet fresh texture; Hypothesis, the icon, described by Don as offering Cab Franc on the nose, Merlot through the mid-palate, with Cab Sauv securing the long finish, is an elegant yet full-bodied cellar-worthy wine with complex aromas and flavours—floral notes, earth, berries, spice and toast—with the lovely tension of clean acidity and fine-grained tannins married to well-ripened fruit.

Where to buy? Head to BC!

Alas, the wines are available only at Culmina or through the wine club, but we can look forward to on-line ordering in the future, perhaps when the 2013 vintage is released. Based on the conditions of the vintage and the fruit at harvest, Don is expecting ripe, elegant wines – the summer heat brought the sugars to an ideal level, then the cooler weather in September allowed the tannins to ripen, and October again brought warm temperature, allowing the fruit to mature.

If you travel to the Okanagan, don’t miss the opportunity to reserve your own tour and tasting at Culmina! Or get on Sara’s mailing list so that you’re the first to know about direct ordering from Culmina.

 

Platinum Bench Estate Winery

Pickers are in the vineyard and the warm scent of fresh-baked bread is drifting through the doorway as I arrive at Platinum Bench Estate Winery. Fiona Duncan is up to her elbows in flour and bread dough, a timer always in her pocket or on the counter – ‘If you can wait 5 minutes, the bread will be out of the oven and we can do a tasting’.

cheeses1I browse the wines, and the tiny fridge, which advertises artisanal cheeses from Poplar Grove and Kootenay Alpine Cheese Company (their Alpindon is a favorite). A young couple hangs out on the deck overlooking the hills behind the Black Sage bench, waiting for their soprasata and swiss cheese mini-loaf. They’re heading home to Vancouver, and couldn’t resist just one more taste of Fiona’s unique bread with their Platinum Estate Cab Sauv, once they get home, of course.

Outgoing and friendly, Fiona and her husband are the team that makes Platinum Bench work. He’s in the vineyard, she’s in the small kitchen, baking bread, and in the tasting room, insisting you try the entire flight of wines, with the bread, of course, and perhaps a taste of local cheeses. Their philosophy: ‘to achieve a great wine, one must first approach the land and vines with meticulous care, cropping, and respect . . .’

The winery & the bakery go hand in hand at Platinum

Originally from Vancouver via Winnipeg, Fiona decided a few years ago that she wanted to become an expert croissant maker. After a year and a half of experimenting, with mixed but generally satisfying results, she decided to formally enroll in a course. But she had to complete her ‘bread level’s first; consequently she became a qualified baker as well as a croissant expert! So when the couple decided they wanted to buy a vineyard and make wine in the Okanagan, the germ of an idea was born. How about a winery that is also an artisanal bakery, featuring local cheeses? And, then Fiona came up with these uniquely flavoured breads to taste with the wine:  Double cream brie and pear is paired with the whites; soprasata and swiss generally pairs with the lighter reds; gorgonzola and fig is reserved for the heavier reds.

 Taste the real fruit

Platinum Bench wineryWith the help of Harry McWatters, the couple patiently waited for a vineyard suitable for the style of wine they wanted to produce to come on the market. The property they eventually purchased is one of the first planted on the Black Sage Bench, with vines that are now almost 20 years old. They moved out to the Okanagan in 2011, after the purchase of the property. Says Fiona, ‘We were lucky, as the site had 15 acres under vine, as well as a winery building and a small apartment where the former vineyard manager lived. We moved right in and immediately started taking viticulture and viniculture courses. Our focus is really on quality fruit – we still sell some grapes, as well as producing our own wine.’

In between the beeps of the timer (I admit to having arrived right at opening), Fiona offers a tasting of their first vintage, as well as her delicious breads (they’re shaped like a chain of tiny stuffed buns). The 2011 Chardonnay was blended from wines aged in stainless, new French oak and neutral French oak. Showcasing a clean crisp texture, it offers lovely flavours of orchard fruit, a touch of spice and delicious honeyed butterscotch.

Due to the late bud break, the 2011 Merlot was cropped early, providing a better opportunity for the sugars to concentrate in the grapes, then the long warm autumn allowed the tannins to soften, creating a nicely balanced wine. Dry, medium bodied, there’s the lovely tang of red fruits, subtle oaky notes and a touch of pepper on the finish.

The 2011 Cabernet Franc offers attractive floral and herbal aromas, hints of roasted red pepper, ripe berries and a touch of peppery spice. The 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon is firmly structured, spicy, toasty, showcasing blackberry and red berry, finishing tangy and clean.

The 2011 Platinum Bench Red is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (60%), Merlot (35%) and Gamay (5%), displaying attractive floral notes, rich fruit aromas and a nicely balanced structure. Dry, medium bodied, the fine-grained tannins balance a rush of fresh, well-ripened fruit. Platinum Bench also releases two styles of  Gamay, one in the spring, described by Fiona as a white wine on steroids (unfortunately, it was sold out), and a fall version that’s small-batch fermented and aged 10 months in new French oak, described by Fiona as fuller, rounder, and very smooth. If you want the ultimate in on-site food and wine pairing, make tracks for Platinum Bench!

Spierhead Estate Winery

 Before catching my flight out of Kelowna, I headed to Spierhead Estate Winery, located above the lakeshore southeast of the city. The winery was established six years ago on an abandoned hiilside apple orchard that used to be part of the Turton family estate. The vines are now 4 years old, covering 20.4 acres and the winery has won numerous accolades: best winery in B.C. in 2012;  best Pinot Noir for their 2010 (a first vintage) at the 2012 Canadian Wine Awards; double gold for their Pinot Noir Rosé at the 2013 All Canadian Wine Championships; and gold for their Pinot Gris (unfortunately sold out) at the recent Okanagan fall wine festival.

wineryEstablished by a partnership of 3 individuals, including an Okanagan-based winery photographer, the estate is situated on sandy, rocky soil, produces about 3000 cases of wine and grows its own Chardonnay, Riesling and Pinot Noir. For its Pursuit and Vanguard Bordeaux-style blends, Spierhead sources its grapes from a south-Okanagan vineyard owned and overseen by one of the modern Okanagan wine industry’s best-known pioneers, Harry McWatters.

The 2011 Riesling has a lovely delicate nose of flowers, fruit and mineral, with a lively crisp lemon-lime texture. The 2011 Chardonnay is only slightly oaked (20% of the fruit spent 10 months in French oak), showcasing stone fruit, floral notes, mineral and a touch of passionfruit. It’s dry, fresh and tangy, balancing flavours of orchard fruit and citrus with a refined note of toasted nut.

The 2012 Pinot Noir and Pinot Noir Reserve were released 2 days before my visit (what luck!), both aged 10 months in oak, the latter crafted from select barrels. The Pinot Noir is light-medium bodied, tangy in texture, showcasing mineral, red berry and a touch of toast, while the Reserve is medium-full bodied, rich and silky in texture, perfumed with red and black fruits, spice and a hint of toast, finishing long and smooth.

okanagan red grapesThe 2011 Pursuit is primarily an equal blend of Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a dash of Cabernet Franc, aged 18 months in oak. Dry, medium-full bodied, it offers complex lifted aromas, subtle structure and a clean texture, a basket of ripe red and black fruits garnished with notes of spice, herbs and red peppers.

The 2011 Vanguard is primarily Merlot, blended with equal shares of the Cabernets. There’s a subtle nose of black cherry and berries, vanilla and cedar. It’s dry, firm, full bodied, with a nice balance of fine-grained tannins, fresh acidity and ripe plum, cherry and berry mingling with notes of peppery spice. Spierhead wines are available at the winery, but may also be ordered directly through the wine club.

Enjoy these wonderful new BC wines!

Susan