Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Daniel Lenko Estate Winery
- August 2013 -
A visit to Daniel Lenko Estate Winery is like a casual stroll over to your neighbour’s house, where you sit down at the kitchen table for a chat over a cup of coffee, tea or in this case, a glass of wine! Our Savvy Sommelier Susan Desjardins visited the winery to meet Daniel Lenko & hear the wonderful story of this boutique winery.
This is the tale of a Ukrainian family that emigrated to Manitoba in 1934 and established themselves as farmers, then moved to the Niagara Peninsula in 1947. Daniel`s family story began when his grandparents came to a wedding in Ontario and after one look at the fall colours, the flowers and the peach trees, his grandmother said “That’s it!! We’ve already had snow on the ground back home in Manitoba. I want to move here.” And so they did, purchasing property in Niagara where they established themselves as farmers growing tree fruit and some of the first grape vines in the region. And that's how his family ended up on the Beamsville Bench.
Vines over 50 years old!
By 1959, Bill Lenko, Daniel’s father, was planting his first vitis vinifera vines, which provided the Chardonnay grapes for the wine included in your Savvy Selections. In the 1960s, he ripped out all his non-vinifera vines (winespeak: hybrid grapes) to make way for Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, and other sought-after varieties. He continued to cultivate fruit trees until 1985, while selling his grapes to some of the best-known wineries in the area.
Bill was honored Grape King in 1990 – a highly acclaimed award of top viticulturalists in Ontario. And in 2006, Bill was honoured with the Tony Aspler Cuvée Award of Excellence, the first grape grower to receive this recognition. A few years ago, Bill passed away at the age of 85. While he was a hard working farmer and a hands-on man, his son Daniel carries on the Lenko tradition in a similar manner. Like father like son.
With this Savvy Selections arriving in the midst of summer, our Team of Accredited Sommeliers purposely chose wines that you can enjoy from your deck chair or serve with anything off the BBQ. Daniel Lenko wines are available only from the winery, generally by the case (12 bottles), or at select restaurants. We are delighted to feature the wines this month to give you the unique opportunity to purchase these limited production wines by the bottle.
In your Savvy Selections. you will find:
White Cabernet VQA 2011 - very aromatic and crisp Rosé wine – like you have never had before!
Old Vines Chardonnay VQA 2010 – a classic, finely-balanced Chardonnay barrel aged in French oak
Old Vines Merlot 2008 - a BIG fruit filled red wine.
OPTIONAL WINES: There were many wines that impressed our Sommeliers. We also offered the 2008 Gewürztraminer for its satiny texture and medley of tropical fruits, and the 2009 White Merlot, which offers a crowd-pleasing balance of sweet fruit and fresh acidity. These optional wines are still available to you – just let me know & I will make the arrangements. Don’t wait long as Daniel Lenko wines sell out quickly.
These are hard to find wines!
Daniel Lenko wines quickly sell out at the winery and rarely you will find them at the LCBO. Once you have been wowed by this month’s Savvy Selections & you would like additional bottles of your new favourite, let me know & I will arrange a special delivery for you. Simply email me or call 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926).
Cheers & Enjoy!
Debbie & the Savvy Team
Daniel Lenko Estate Winery
As I sat tasting wines in the Lenko family farmhouse kitchen, Daniel made suggestions of what I should taste in the wines, his intense pride in his wines an almost palpable presence. He’s particularly proud to have the oldest Chardonnay and Merlot vines in Canada. The Chardonnay was planted by his father in 1959 followed by the Merlot vines in 1974.
Daniel grew up on the family farm, where the work ethic is strong and the passion for the land is high. What drew his grandparents to Niagara wasn’t just the more temperate weather, it was the opportunity to grow fruit. His grandparents were very excited about growing peaches. Around the kitchen table, Daniel shared stories about his grandparent’s move to Ontario: “When my grandfather told his friends he was selling his two large farms out in Manitoba, they told him he was crazy to leave. His response was that when they move to Ontario, they would have a paved road in front of their house.” And so it was and ever since then, the Niagara area has flourished, while on the other hand, the small town in Manitoba they left, has unfortunately not seen the same success.
It started with Concord grapes, then Chardonnay
The Lenko family farm produced 50% soft fruit and 50% grapes, including table grapes such as Concord. Bill sold his grapes to the local processors and wineries of the time and eventually developed a relationship with the field manager at one of the wineries. This fellow suggested planting the experimental French vines (the Chardonnay), and committed that his winery would always buy them. So with this hand shake, Bill immediately planted five acres and the following year, another five.
As the fruit industry became less financially viable and the demand for high quality wine grapes grew, the Lenko family had a major decision to make. In 1985, Bill Lenko (right) tore out all his tree fruit and planted more vines – this time all vitis vinifera varieties – such as Merlot & Chardonnay.
The notion of a winery was in the back of Bill’s mind, but it was Daniel, the third generation grape grower, who realized that vision in 1999 with the opening of Daniel Lenko Estate Winery. Daniel has lived on the farm most of his life. He worked as a mechanic for a while and has a large investment in machinery on the farm, for his own use and for his business, which includes installing drainage systems for other wineries.
“My dad wasn’t too keen on turning over his farm to me" Daniel explained, "but I’m the oldest son, and all my brothers and sisters have followed other careers. I had a fairly major car accident that really gave my folks at jolt. Right after that, my parents said ‘We’re selling you the farm’. And that same year, I opened the winery.”
No turning back…
Daniel’s efforts were rewarded with a Gold Medal at the Cuvée Wine Awards for his 1999 Old Vines Merlot. Then in 2002, following in his father’s footsteps, Daniel was named Grape King.
What is his greatest achievement? “In 2006, Jancis Robinson (highly acclaimed international wine critic from England) blind tasted about 300 Canadian wines at George Brown College. She named our 2002 Syrah as the best red wine in Canada.”
Small, but making a big impression
The winery operates on a small scale, each year producing about 3500 cases of wine from estate-grown fruit, grown by Daniel and his vineyard manager, Abraham Fehr – everything is bottled on site. When Daniel first opened the winery, he consulted with Jim Warren (renowned amateur and professional winemaker who co-founded Stoney Ridge Winery and was instrumental in initiating the winemaking program at Niagara College). Jim advised Daniel that ‘if you have good grapes, then you have at least a good chance of making good wine.’ Daniel has taken this to heart, focusing on viticultural management, low yields and a winemaking approach that lets the fruit quality shine through.
“I’ve made 10-12 wines over the last 15 years. In some cases, the first attempt produced the results we wanted, in others we needed to experiment a bit, develop the process to create the style we were looking for. We’re artists, building a unique business that has value to it.” Daniel is in and out of the tasting room on the weekends, chatting up customers while during the week, he’s managing the farm and his construction business. But at harvest time, he’s 100% dedicated to the vines and the wine: “You’re watching the pot all the time when you’re making wine.”
Daniel is the now the primary winemaker with a winemaking consultant at his side. As he says “from vine to glass, you know, when you uncork a bottle of Daniel Lenko wine, I’ve touched that bottle many times!”
Cheers & Enjoy your Savvy Selections!
~ SAVVY SOMMELIER TASTING NOTES ~
“This is what we should do with our Cabernet in Niagara” says Daniel. Cold-fermented for 4 weeks, the wine is treated like a white to retain the wonderfully pure fruit flavours.
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: An elegant, dry, medium-bodied salmon-hued wine, this is crisp and juicy with hints of dried herbs and flavours of cherries and berries. Smooth and silky, it finishes dry and tangy. .
Suggested Food Pairing: Rosé wines are remarkably versatile, pairing with light meats, salads, charcuteries and cheese. Try this one with our beef & strawberry salad – recipe follows.
Cellaring: Enjoy it now!
And we mean old – the first vines were planted by Daniel’s father Bill in 1959. The vines were cropped back to 2 tonnes per acre to ensure highest quality fruit. The wine was aged in French oak for 18 months. Stunning!
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Dry, medium-full bodied and beautifully balanced, this wine offers subtle alluring nutty aromas, notes of pear, ripe apple, vanilla and butter pastry. It’s warm, round and lush with a lovely toasty finish.
Suggested Food Pairing: An ideal match for seafood, pork or chicken.
Cellaring: This wine will cellar a further 2-3 years.
From the cloudy, wet 2008 vintage, Daniel has managed to create an intensely flavourful wine. The vines are almost 40 years old, also cropped to 2 tons/acre, hand harvested and aged 12 months in French oak.
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Ruby red, this is a tasty, dry mid-weight wine with loads of flavour. Black cherry, ripe red berries, vanilla, and hints of pepper, toast and dark chocolate mingle on the palate. It’s well structured with fine-grained tannins and fresh acidity pacing the ripe fruit. It finishes dry, toasty and fruit-filled.
Suggested Food Pairing: Serve with grilled meat, sausages or try your hand at our rib recipe on the following pages.
Cellaring: Drinking well now, it will cellar a further 2 years.
~RECIPES TO ENJOY WITH YOUR SAVVY SELECTIONS~
With Daniel Lenko White Cabernet…
Teriyaki Steak & Berries
3 Tbsp seasoned rice vinegar
3 Tbsp canola oil
2 Tbsp teriyaki sauce
2 tsp each finely minced ginger & liquid honey
Freshly ground black pepper
12 oz. top sirloin grilling steak
4 C torn spinach leaves
4 C torn romaine leaves
3 C halved strawberries
2 C sliced brown mushrooms
2 green onions, diagonally sliced
4 tsp toasted sesame seeds
In a small bowl or measuring cup, whisk together dressing ingredients.
Sprinkle both sides of steak with pepper to taste. Place on greased grill over medium-high heat; close lid & grill for about 4 minutes per side for medium-rare or until desired doneness.
Let stand for 5 minutes before thinly slicing across the grain.
In large bowl, combine spinach, romaine, strawberries, mushrooms & green onions.
Set aside 2 Tbsp of dressing; toss salad with remaining dressing. Arrange on platter or salad plates; toss with beef, drizzle with reserved dressing; sprinkle with sesame seeds.
With Daniel Lenko Old Vines Chardonnay…
Steamed Lobster Tails
When the Savvy Selections tasting panel tried this wine, we all thought immediately that it would be perfectly paired with lobster. Whether you cook the lobster yourself – whichever way you prefer – or use already steamed lobster tails, this wine will be delicious.
1 Tbsp sea salt
4 (or more!) lobster tails
Butter & lemon juice to taste
Using kitchen shears, cut the lobster shell (only the shell) down the middle to the tail. Pull the shell up and away from the flesh.
Pour about 1” of water in a large pot & bring it to a boil.
Add the salt & place a steamer insert into the pot so it is just above the water level.
Put the lobster tails on the rack and cover the pot. Steam for 8-10 minutes, until the flesh is opaque.
Melt butter & squeeze in lemon.
With Daniel Lenko Old Vines Merlot…
Baked Ribs with Whitehouse Sauce
Adapted from the White House Restaurant recipe, Winnipeg
From: ‘Flower of the Flames’ Rub
K. Putnam, Championship BBQ Secrets for Real Smoked Food
½ C sweet Hungarian paprika
3/8 C fine kosher or sea salt
¼ C freshly ground black pepper
¼ C chili powder
¼ C ground cumin
¼ packed brown sugar
¼ C garlic powder
1/8 C granulated sugar
1/8 C ground celery seed (optional)
1 Tbsp ground oregano
1 C tomato ketchup
2 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tsp salt (optional)
¾ C brown sugar
½ tsp ginger powder
½ tsp cayenne
½ Tbsp chili powder
Remove membranes from 2 racks baby back ribs. Cut the racks to fit a high-sided pan.
Mix all spices in the rub into a bowl. Using as much of the mixture that you like, generously coat & rub both sides of the racks. Any remaining rub mix can be stored in a jar in the fridge. Set ribs aside to tenderize for up to 1 hour.
To prepare the sauce, whisk all ingredients in a small sauce pan & bring to a boil. Cover & simmer gently about 20 minutes. Cool.
Preheat oven to 375F. Place ribs in the pan, in a single layer if possible. If not, overlap slightly. Cover tightly with aluminum foil & bake ribs 90 minutes in pre-heated oven. Allow the ribs to cool slightly, still covered. Cover the cooked ribs generously with the sauce. Ribs may be covered & refrigerated until ready to BBQ.
Barbeque the ribs on low heat, brushing generously with the sauce on both sides, for about 15 minutes, or until the ribs have a nicely-browned coating of sauce. Alternately, the ribs can be cooked under the broiler in the oven – watch carefully!
Enjoy your Savvy Selections!