CANADA’S WINERIES DELIVERED TO YOUR DOORSTEP
If you ask Nyarai Cellars owner & winemaker Steve Byfield where his winery is located, he might tell you “Nowhere”. This might appear to be an odd response, especially when much of the wine world is focused on the concept of terroir, which is about creating wine that illustrates a place. In fact, terroir is often described as “somewhereness”. Steve’s winery indeed has a location - it is found within the walls Calamus Estate Winery in Niagara. On our winery visits, we are discovering more “virtual wineries” like Steve’s. The word “virtual” might conjure ideas of only existing in cyberspace, but that’s not the case at all. In fact, at a virtual winery, the winemaker independently grows or purchases grapes, while using the facility & equipment at an existing winery. This alleviates the large startup investment of purchasing property, vineyard & winery. The result of Nyarai Cellars is impressive wines, as you will discover in this month’s Savvy Selections.
To give you a better taste of the partnership between a virtual winery & host winery, you will find wines from Nyarai along with wines from Calamus Estate Winery. The wineries’ common thread is Steve Byfield, owner & winemaker of Nyarai Cellars while he is also the Assistant Winemaker at Calamus. This is the first time Savvy Selections is featuring two wineries side by side! You will experience the wines from Calamus where Steve has honed his talents alongside the equally accomplished winemaker, Arthur Harder, as well as the progression of Steve’s career to his own Nyarai Cellars.
For this month’s Savvy eZine, Savvy Sommelier Derek Vollrath talked with Steve to learn how Nyarai has changed since they were last featured in Savvy Selections in July 2009 – their first month in business!
To select the wines for this month, Derek, along with 4 other Savvy Sommeliers: Julie, Doug, Velma and Erin, sampled the finest wines from Calamus Estate Winery and Nyarai Cellars.This tasting panel is pleased to present the following wines:
·Nyarai Cellars Sauvignon Blanc VQA 2010 – Steve has a growing reputation for fine Sauvignon Blancs
·Nyarai Cellars Viognier VQA 2010 - a medal winner in this year’s Ontario Wine Awards
·Calamus Estate Winery Meritage VQA 2007 – a Bordeaux blend from a remarkable vintage
You won’t find these wines at the LCBO…
With Savvy Selections, we feature wines that are not available at the LCBO. When you discover a favorite wine that you would like additional bottles of, (our tasting panel bets that you will be WOWED by Nyarai’s 2010 Viognier & will want more!), simply call or e-mail me to make arrangements and wines will be shipped to any location within Ontario – home, office or even your cottage.
Wine Tour Anyone?
As you know from the Savvy Selections wine deliveries each month, there are numerous wineries to visit. If you are looking to enjoy a weekend get away at one of Ontario’s wine regions then give us a call. Our Team of Sommeliers can help you plan a wine tour; make recommendations on wineries to visit or even accompany you on your tour. And before you go, be sure to read my blog Summer Roadtrips – Savvy tips for winery visits.
And the Savvy Team are traveling too this summer.Check our website as we might be involved in a event near you or are hosting an event for wine, artisan cheese & craft beer lovers – and we would like to meet you!
Cheers & Enjoy the summer!
Debbie & Savvy Team
Presented by Sommelier Derek Vollrath
A virtual winery is one without the “sticks & bricks”: instead of purchasing land and developing a modern winemaking facility, virtual wineries lease space and capacity from existing wineries. By doing so the proprietor, who is typically the winemaker too, is able to avoid the large upfront investments in land, building and equipment required to open a winery. Virtual wineries are a relatively new breed in Canada, but their numbers are growing at home and abroad.
Steve Byfield (left) is a trail-blazer in the Ontario wine industry. He is one of the original winemakers to establish his own virtual winery. In fact, Savvy Selections launched Nyarai Cellars in 2009 & our subscribers were Steve’s first customers!
I was curious to know how things at the winery were progressing since the beginning. “So far…so great! Not only have I been able to increase production, but I also expanded my portfolio to include other grape varietals,” Steve reports. “Aromatic whites are the foundation of the Nyarai label. These elegant wines can be released to the market relatively quicker than reds and therefore these refreshing wines can be enjoyed earlier.” (Steve is a modest type, Nyarai’s reds are outstanding too.)
During our conversation, Steve also mentioned that wine lovers as well as the industry have been extremely supportive of his winery. Most notably the incredible support from Calamus Estate Winery. Steve has been Assistant Winemaker at Calamus since 2006. Familiar with the space, Derek Saunders, co-owner of Calamus leases the cellar & winemaking equipment to Steve in order to produce Nyarai wines.
The Nyarai Philosophy
A virtual winery does not necessarily have a vineyard. Steve explains that he sources his grapes from the best growers in the Niagara region. The result is wines that are a bit of a melting pot with characteristics from many locations throughout the Niagara Region.
A Favourite Grape Variety
Sauvignon Blanc is Steve’s favourite grape variety to work with because “the grape has a lot of valuable attributes and you should be able to get consistent flavour profiles year over year.”
Sauvignon Blanc is conducive to Ontario’s manic climate of cold winters and erratic hot & thunderstorm prone summers. Steve explains that the consistency of the grape allows him to demonstrate his talent as a winemaker year after year. As he describes, Nyarai’s Sauvignon Blanc is somewhere between the herbaceous “in-your-face” New Zealand style and the more subtle elegant French style from Sancerre. We are delighted to give you the opportunity to enjoy one of Steve’s signature Sauvignon Blanc wines.
An Ever Expanding Portfolio
One of Steve’s goals when he established Nyarai was to create a core portfolio of wines. Well, since Nyarai was last profiled by Savvy Selections, his portfolio has expanded from three wines to six. His Viognier has made quite an impression along with his Sauvignon Blanc, Syrah and Bordeaux based red blends.
The latest vintage of Viognier VQA 2010 that is included in your Savvy Selections - won the gold medal at the 2011 Ontario Wine Awards under the Dry White Varietal category.
This Viognier was a hands down favorite of the Savvy Selections tasting panel too. Remember that this wine is not available at the LCBO, so you may want to consider stocking up on this impressive wine, especially for summer entertaining. Nyarai’s red wine fans are patiently waiting for the 2010 reds to be released. A Syrah as well as a Bordeaux blend are still in barrel…we are anxiously awaiting until 2012 get our hands on those.
A Winning Streak
While the Viognier took home a gold medal at the 2011 Ontario Wine Awards, at the 2011 Cuvee Wine Awards – considered the Oscars of the Ontario Wine Industry -Nyarai Cellars brought home the Best Red Assemblage award for its Veritas VQA 2007 – a blend of Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Syrah.
Congratulations to Steve on these awards & keep up the great wine work at both Nyarai and Calamus.
Cheers & Enjoy your Savvy Selections!
~ SAVVY SOMMELIER TASTING NOTES ~
Nyarai Cellars Sauvignon Blanc VQA 2010, $19.75
This is not your typical Sauvignon Blanc. Steve mixed things up by adding 8% of Sauvignon Blanc that has been barrel ferment (winespeak: wine that has spent time in barrels to pick up creamier characteristics).Aging Sauvignon Blanc in barrel is a technique first created by Robert Mondavi in California known as Fumé Blanc. The result is a creamer mouth feel & tones down the zippy acidity which is characteristic of Sauvignon Blanc. What do you think?
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:Pale straw in colour with aromas of citrus, gooseberry and melon which carry on through to the palate. The wine is dry with lower than expected acidity due to the addition of some barrel fermented wine that provides for a richer, fuller mouth feel. The finish is medium in length with lingering citrus and melon notes.
Suggested Food Pairing: A great summer sipper that would pair wonderfully with ceviche or bacon wrapped grilled scallops. The Savvy Selections tasting panel recommends a Sun-dried tomato & dill cheese cake – a simple & tasty appetizer (recipe follows).
Cellaring: This is a don’t-wait-now kind of wine, so open it up, sit back and enjoy this Ontario treasure.
Nyarai Cellars Viognier VQA 2010, $20.75
Viognier has its roots (pardon the pun!) in the Rhone Valley region of France. The varietal is making a move into the Niagara Region; however the grape is challenging to grow because it is particularly prone to many vineyard diseases. As a result, few Viognier wines are produced in the Niagara area.When you find one that you like – be sure to stock up!
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:A bright pale straw colour with a subtle & enticing pink hue. The pink colour is due to the fact that half of the grapes that went into this wine were kept on the skins for 12 hours prior to pressing. The aroma is clean with youthful aromas of peach, white flowers & apricots. This dry, medium bodied wine is loaded with well-defined fruit such as peaches, apricot & lime. The alcohol is warming and the body can be considered supple & creamy.
Suggested Food Pairing: Another summer sipper or it could be paired nicely with BBQ grilled planked salmon or pasta with a gorgonzola cream sauce. We are recommending that you enjoy this wine with grilled honey-basil chicken.
Cellaring:This wine could be cellared for 6 to 12 months Chill and enjoy over the summer.
Calamus Estate Meritage VQA 2007 $27.20
A Savvy Sommelier insider tip: if you ever come across an Ontario wine from 2007, BUY IT! As we have reported in other Savvy eZines, 2007 was an excellent vintage for Ontario. The 2007 Meritage by Calamus is an example of how fruit from an exceptional vintage can be crafted by a skilled winemaker into an outstanding wine.
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:“Delicious” pretty much sums up the Savvy Selections tasting panel’s impressions of this wine. Deep ruby red in colour with intense aromas of blackberry, fruit cake, clove & chocolate. This is a well structured wine with generous amounts of ripe berry fruit that cling to your palate, balanced acidity and soft-tannins. It is not surprising that this was a Bronze Medal winner at the 2010 Canadian Wine Awards. Congrats Calamus!
Suggested Food Pairing: This wine would pair nicely with roast beef, Yorkshire pudding and seasonal root vegetables. Our Savvy Sommeliers recommend braised lamb shanks in a tomato red wine sauce – recipe to follow.
~ RECIPES TO ENJOY WITH YOUR SAVVY SELECTIONS ~
With Nyarai Cellars Sauvignon Blanc …
Sun-Dried Tomato and Dill Cheesecake
From 175 Essential Slow Cooker Classics, Judith Finlayson
1 cup (250 mL) cracker crumbs, such as wheat thins
2 tbsp melted butter
1 package cream cheese, softened
½ cup coarsely copped dill
¼ cup sun-dried tomatoes, packed in olive oil, drained
2 tbsp finely chopped green onion or chives
¾ cup shredded Emmenthal or Swiss cheese
Method - Crust
1.In a bowl, combine cracker crumbs and melted butter.Press mixture into the bottom of prepared dish.Place in freezer until ready to use.
Method – Cheesecake
1.In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, combine cream cheese and eggs. Process until smooth.Add dill, sun-dried tomatoes and green onion. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Pulse until blended (do not over mix). Add cheese and pulse just until blended. Pour mixture over crust. Cover dish tightly with foil and secure with a string (if using a springform pan, see TIP, below)Place dish in slow cooker stoneware and pour in enough boiling water to come 1 inch (2.5cm) up the sides.
2.Cover and cook on High for 3 hours, or until edges are set and the centre is slightly jiggly. Remove from slow cooker and chill thoroughly, preferably overnight.
CHEF’S TIP: If using a springform pan, ensure that water does not seep into the cheesecake by wrapping the bottom of the pan in one large seamless piece of foil that extends up the sides and over the top. Cover the top with a single piece of foil that extends down the sides and secure with a string.
With Nyarai Cellars Viognier…
Grilled Honey-Basil Chicken
From Great Recipes of the Great Cooks, Arlene Feltman Sailhac
1½ lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts, split and pounded to an even thickness
¼ cup raspberry vinegar
¼ cup reduced-sodium soy sauce
¼ cup + 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
¼ cup honey
¼ cup + 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp freshly grounded black pepper
1.Place the chicken in a shallow glass dish.In a small mixing bowl, combine the vinegar, soy sauce, mustard, honey, basil, thyme and pepper.Whisk well and pour over the chicken.Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 4 hours, turning occasionally.
2.Preheat gas grill and spray the grill with nonstick vegetable spray.
3.When grill is hot, lift the chicken from the marinade and grill for about 4 minutes on each side, or until just cooed through.Do not overcook.
4.Transfer the marinade to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for about 5 minutes, or until reduced by half.
5.Pour the reduced marinade over the chicken and serve with seasonable vegetables.
With Calamus Estate Winery Meritage…
Braised Lamb Shanks
2 large white onions, chopped
4 lamb shanks
2 cups dry red wine
1 cup balsamic vinegar
⅓ cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, pressed
2 lemons, quartered
2 (14.5 ounce) cans diced tomatoes
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1.Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2.Place the onions in a layer in the bottom of a Dutch oven or medium roasting pan with a lid. Arrange the lamb shanks on top of the onions. Pour the wine, balsamic vinegar and olive oil over the lamb. Place a clove of pressed garlic next to each shank, and a quarter of a lemon on each side. Pour the tomatoes over everything, and then season with salt, pepper and basil.
3.Cover and place in the preheated oven. Cook for 3 hours. Use juices from the pan to make a nice flavorful gravy.
4.Serve with mushroom risotto and grilled zucchini.
Cheers & Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections!