2009 harvest report: grapes are looking good!



Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Lailey Vineyard
Canada’s wineries delivered to your doorstep

Time flies when you are having fun…. It is hard to believe that almost four years has passed since we launched Savvy Selections in December 2004. Coincidentally, our first featured winery was Lailey Vineyard of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Since then, we have explored nearly 50 wineries with our subscribers.  We are excited to showcase again the talented winemaker at Lailey Vineyard – Derek Barnett.





For those subscribers who have been with Savvy Selections since the beginning – there are a number of you – this is an opportunity to see how Lailey’s wines have progressed in the past years.  If you still have a bottle of Lailey wine in your cellar, it is dig it out and have a mini wine tasting using this months Savvy Selections wines:


·         Riesling VQA 2008

·         Cabernet-Merlot VQA 2007

·         Pinot Noir VQA 2007  – Derek’s signature wine

·         Impromptu VQA 2007 – optional addition


In the following pages of this Savvy e-Zine, read about all that is happening at this time of the year as Derek prepares for harvest.  One thing for sure – we should all keep praying for sunshine this month! You will also find our Savvy Sommelier tasting notes and recipes specifically chosen to pair with the selected Lailey wines.


As always, when you would like more Lailey wines or bottles from other previously featured Savvy Selections, contact me directly to make the arrangements for you.


Make it a weekend getaway….

Saturday September 26 – Prince Edward County is celebrating harvest with their 8th annual TASTE! A great reason to getaway to ‘The County’ to enjoy 19 local wineries & breweries, 16 chefs from regional restaurants, cheese makers, chocolatiers, and more culinary talent all under one roof at Picton’s picturesque Crystal Palace. Tickets are $25 and available online at www.tastecelebration.ca


Special Prize – I have 2 complementary tickets available for TASTE. Be the first to email me on & the tickets are yours!


Enjoy September’s Savvy Selections (try saying that fast!)

Debbie & the Savvy Team




Lailey Vineyard

Presented by Sommelier Debbie Trenholm

When you visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, it is striking that there are more vineyards than orchards. More wineries than roadside fresh fruit stands. In fact on a recent trip to Niagara this summer, I was on the hunt for fresh Niagara cherries and found none…until I returned home, where they were awaiting me at my local grocery store.


The transformation of orchards to vineyards dates back to the 1950’s when fruit farmers started to experiment with French hybrid varieties.  William Lailey was one of these pioneers experimenting with growing vines on parcels of land amongst his pears, sweet cherry and peach orchards.  In a father-like-son fashion, David Lailey purchased the family farm in 1970 and continued transforming the orchard into vineyards.


David and his wife Donna, broke ground in the Ontario wine industry on several facets. Donna was one of the founding members of Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA).  She was crowned the first-ever Grape Queen of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival in 1991. This is a prestigious industry recognition is awarded to the best vineyard of the season. (normally crowned as Grape King, yet exceptions were made to include the first awarded female grape grower). And Lailey Vineyard was one of a handful of wineries across Canada that incubated the idea of crafting Canadian oak barrels to age their wines.  


Today, the vineyard comprises of 20+ acres with grape varieties including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal and Zweigelt.


2009 Harvest Report

I spoke with Lailey’s winemaker Derek Barnett last week while he was walking through the vineyards examining his grapes. From the end of August through early September, winemakers are constantly talking about ‘véraison’.  This is the stage when grapes change from hard lime green balls into colourful plump grapes.  Derek explains, “It is exactly the same with tomatoes in your garden. In the few weeks before harvest, tomatoes change from green to red.  In the vineyards, the clusters (winemaker speak: bunches of grapes) take on natural sugar and the acid levels come down while the colour changes.” The red grapes are the most noticeable.  Pinot Noir grapes change first.  Derek was excited to report that 90% of his Pinot Noir clusters are in véraison stage. “Pinot looks fantastic.  The grapes are small, meaning that there is lots of concentrated fruit that will show through in the wine”.  Merlot grapes are at approx 20% and Cabernet Sauvignon is 15% véraison. 


With all of the rain this summer and the slow growing fruit, Derek reports that harvest might begin later this year – Mother Nature only really knows.  In comparison to 2007 – a spectacular vintage – Derek began harvesting Pinot Noir on September 25th.  With the past weeks of solid sunshine and cool nights, Derek is ever optimistic. He predicts that he may be starting to pick his Pinot around Oct 1st.


Harvest is indeed a busy time.  It can be similar to playing chess with Mother Nature as your opponent. All of the equipment is ready, the pickers are on alert and winemakers like Derek are constantly walking the vineyard observing the fruit, tasting them and carefully measuring the Brix levels (amount of natural sugar in the grape). The process may be well defined, yet still “harvest is different every year”, Derek explains with a chuckle.


It’s stressful, but he is happy to do it

Derek has been a winemaker since 1991 where he began his career at Southbrook Farms (the same winery as Steve Byfield of Nyarai Cellars – August’s Savvy Selections featured winery). A prominent fixture at Lailey for the past 8 years, Derek absolutely loves his job. What gets him excited about winemaking? “Working with the fruit”, states Derek without missing a beat. “We grow grapes in the summer and make wine in the fall.”  Certainly there are sleepless nights, stressful moments and incredible pressure when your business is subject to all weather conditions – days of rain and heat just as equally as the extreme cold, yet it is the creativity of growing grapes to make premium wine that fuels Derek’s passion for his job. 


And Derek is not always roaming the vineyards, riding the tractor or amongst the tanks in the cellar, he is also Lailey’s ‘offical tour guide’. When your travels take you to Niagara-on-the-Lake, be sure to contact him to arrange a personal tour “of his workshop” – you will certainly have a fun time exploring Lailey’s cellar. 


Great things grow in Ontario

The team at Lailey Vineyard has been instrumental in putting Ontario and for that matter Canada, on the wine map. In the past 5 years, Derek has noticed that more people are drinking and embracing Ontario wines. “I love when people visit the winery and get excited about the whole wine experience – meeting the Lailey team, trying our wines and walking through the vineyards”, says Derek. 


All of us at Savvy Company too are excited to showcase Canadian wines in our events at the Savvy Selections. 


Here’s to great Ontario wines and their impressive winemakers.  Cheers & Enjoy!


~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~


Lailey Vineyard Riesling VQA 2008, $18

Derek recalls that 2008 was a phenomenal vintage for Riesling.  He harvested the grapes with loads of acidity to ensure that the wine would result in a crisp, dry & refreshing wine.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This wine lives up to Derek’s master plan – the acidity is noticed as soon as you uncork the bottle. Elegant aromas of fresh grated ginger, lemongrass with a hint of white grapefruit.  These aromas continue into the taste leaving you salivating for more with every sip.


Suggested Food Pairing: Serve chilled (at about 11C) on its own or light foods.  Be weary not to overpower the wine with a dish of many flavours as the elegance of the wine will be lost. A favorite of the Lailey family is a classic Alsatian Onion Tart (recipe below).  Alsace, France is renown for their dry, crisp Riesling wines – just like Lailey’s Riesling.


Cellaring: No need to wait…just chill this bottle and serve during this Indian summer weather!



Lailey Vineyard Cabernet-Merlot VQA 2007, $20

Made with Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes from the Lailey property (Lailey purchases grapes from Niagara grape growers too), Derek reports, “The berries (winemaker speak: grapes) were very small in 2007 due to the lack of rain during the summer.  The result is a concentrated wine with a lot of depth and modest amount of tannins that gives this wine aging potential.”


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Fire engine red in colour, this is a powerful wine.  Aromas reminded our Savvy Selections tasting panel of field berry jam & garden fresh beets.  The blackberry taste continues with chalky tannin texture (can you find that?).  “The wine has delicious chalky tannin in this vintage’, noted Derek.

Suggested Food Pairing: This is a versatile blend that can either be enjoyed now or put away in your cellar. As you age the wine, the blackberry taste and the chalky texture will be less prevalent. If you choose the open now, serve this Cabernet-Merlot with a hearty pasta dish, roast beef with all of the trimmings, BBQed steak or Harvest Ratatouille (recipe below) the chalky tannin texture will lessen with the food.


Cellaring: This wine is impressive as is, or as Derek reports, it has aging potential of 7 to 10 years.



Pinot Noir VQA 2007, $25 (special price to Savvy Selections subscribers – usually $30)

“I still remember the 2004 Pinot Noir.  It was one of the best that I ever made”, proudly recalls Derek.  If you subscribed to Savvy Selections back in December 2005 when we launched – and we have a number of loyal long time subscribers! – you may too remember the Pinot Noir that was one of the Savvy Selections.  Derek is definitely a master of Pinot Noirs.  Considered one of the hardest grapes to grow and temperamental to create a wine, Derek has a special touch that you will enjoy when you open this bottle of wine.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: “The colour reminds me of plush red velvet,” remarked one of our Savvy Selections tasting panelist.  The aromas? “A bouquet of long stem red roses”, commented Savvy Sommelier Debbie Trenholm. There is a stunning elegance in the wine from the colour in the glass to the floral aroma to the warm taste of red fruit. The light tannins and the long finish make this a masterpiece of a wine that it is no wonder it Derek’s signature wine.


Suggested Food Pairing: This Pinot was thoroughly enjoyed by our Savvy Selections tasting panel and Accredited Sommeliers all on its own. Grilled Salmon is a classic match, as is a mushroom ladened dish. From Lailey’s recipe box, Mushroom Bruschetta with Mushroom Syrup will be outstanding with this wine.  


Cellaring: This wine is ready to serve right now or if you choose, it could cellar it for 5 to 7 years.  


Impromptu VQA 2007, $45 (optional addition)

You are the first to receive this wine as it will be released at the winery on September 25.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This full bodied wine is absolutely delicious.  An unusual blend of 68% Syrah, 12% Malbec, 12% Petit Verdot & 8% Cabernet Sauvignon from the infamous 2007 vintage.  This is the 2nd vintage for this wine (winespeak: 2nd year this wine has been made) and won’t last long as it has a ‘cult-like’ following of wine lovers.  Smooth velvety texture, with rich flavours of blackberry, dark plums and blueberry pie with warm finish.  “I could get addicted to this wine’, commented one of the participants in the Savvy Selections tasting panel.


Suggested Food Pairing: If you choose to open the bottle now – make the accompanying meal a special occasion.  Grilled beef tenderloin and blue cheese or a rack of lamb with mint sauce would be a delicious menu for this wine. 


Cellaring: This elegant wine is ready to drink now or will continue to evolve by cellaring it 2-3 years. 




Wine & Food Pairing Tips offered by Lailey
from www.laileyvineyard.com

To understand the personality of a wine, the wine needs to be experienced alone and in the company of food. It is interesting to discover how the wine changes with different company and to learn which company highlights the aspects of the wine that you most enjoy. All of the recipes below come with wine recommendations. We encourage you to do more than accept them. We want you to experience the wine alone, then with the food. We also want you to venture from our recommendations and discover food and wine pairing for yourselves. Try orchestrating some un-convential pairings to taste what happens.

A few basic tips…
1. Wine that is high in alcohol will make hot foods taste hotter. If you serve high alcohol wines with foods that carry some sweetness, however, the sweetness will quell the alcoholic heat of the wine and, therefore, soften the experience of the wine. The sweetness may simply be in the form of a sweet sauce in an otherwise savoury dish.

2. Wine that is high in tannin (that astringent feeling you experience on your gums and the insides of your cheeks which you get mainly from red wines) sometimes tastes coarse, especially in its youth. If you taste tannic wine with salty food, the wine will become softer – less coarse.

3. White wines can often be very acidic. This may be an aspect of white wine that you enjoy and find refreshing. If you want to downplay the tartness of a wine, however, it is best to serve such a wine with highly acidic food, like a fresh summer tomato salad or a dish with lots of fresh citrus – especially lemon or lime. The acidity in the food will downplay the acidity in the wine and this will connect the wine to the food quite nicely.





Recipes to Enjoy with your Savvy Selections

With Lailey Vineyard Riesling VQA 2008

Tarte de l’Oignon

From Lailey Vineyard’s recipe box. This onion tart or flan is a French recipe from the region of Alsace, France, also the same region famous for crisp, dry Riesling wines.



7 oz flour
4 oz unsalted butter
4 Tbsps (approx) iced water
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks

2 oz butter
10 fl oz cream
1 egg
1 1/2 lbs onions, thinly sliced
nutmeg, salt, freshly ground pepper to taste




Preheat oven to 375 F


Rub the 4 oz of unsalted butter into the flour and salt, until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add a tablespoon of water at a time until a firm dough may be formed. Wrap in plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for an hour.


Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and line a 9″ flan tin. Prick the bottom with a fork and blind bake with ceramic baking beads ( alternatively, the crust may be lined with tin foil and filled with dried beans or rice). Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully remove baking beads. Allow crust to cool.


Meanwhile, make the filling. Melt the butter in a large frying pan or wok, add sliced onions, cover and cook gently for 30 minutes over low heat, stirring often. Do not allow the onions to brown. Allow onions to cool.


Mix the cream, egg, egg yolks, nutmeg, salt and pepper together. Add the onions and pour into the baked crust.


Bake for approximately 30 minutes, the eggs should be set and the top golden brown.Serve hot or cold  


With Lailey Vineyard Cabernet-Merlot VQA 2007


Harvest Ratatouille

Serves 12
From Lailey Vineyard’s recipe box & Silver Palate Cookbook


2 cups best quality olive oil
4 small eggplants, about 4 pounds in all, cut into 1 and 1/2 inch cubes
2 teaspoons salt
11/2 pounds white onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
7 medium-size zucchini, washed, trimmed, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2-inch strips
2 medium-size sweet red peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch strips

2 medium-size green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch strips
2 tablespoons minced garlic

3 cans Italian plum tomatoes, drained
1 can tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp dried basil
2 Tbsp dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper to taste




Preheat oven to 400 F


Line a large roasting pan with foil and pour in 1 cup of the olive oil. Add the eggplant, sprinkle it with salt, and toss well. Cover pan tightly with foil and bake for 35 minutes, until eggplant is done but not mushy. Uncover and set aside.


In a large skillet or in 2 small skillets, heat remaining oil. Sauté onions, zucchini, red and green peppers and garlic over medium heat until wilted and lightly coloured, about 20 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, dill, basil, oregano and black pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Add eggplant mixture and simmer for another 10 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning.

Serve hot or at room temperature.
* great to have some feta cheese or sausages to add as you serve
* some freshly grated parmesan sprinkled on top is also very nice
* leftover ratatouille heats up nicely in a pot on the stove over medium heat and may be served over a bed of pasta or rice

With Lailey Vineyard Pinot Noir VQA 2007

Mushroom Bruschetta with Mushroom Syrup

Serves 4
From Lailey Vineyard’s recipe box & Simple to Spectacular Cookbook by Jean Georges Vongerichten &Mark Bittman



2 tablespoons butter
extra-virgin olive oil as needed
8 ounces button mushrooms, washed and chopped
2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 thick slices sourdough bread or other good white bread

clove garlic, peeled and cut in halves
1 pound mixed mushrooms, trimmed, washed, drained and chopped
2 shallots, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, dill, chervil, basil, and/or tarragon
minced zest of 1 lemon
lemon wedges for serving



Preheat the broiler or prepare a grill. Put half the butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. When the butter melts, add the button mushrooms, shallots, chopped garlic, and salt and pepper to taste and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms give up their liquid and begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add 2 cups water, stir, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until slightly reduced. Strain and return the liquid to the skillet; discard the mushrooms. Cook over high heat for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until quite thick and syrupy.


Meanwhile, brush the bread on both sides with oil and grill lightly, turning once. Rub with the cut garlic clove.

Put the remaining butter and another tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. When the butter melts, add the mixed mushrooms, shallots, minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have given up their liquid and begun to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the chopped herbs and lemon zest.


To serve, spoon the mushrooms onto the grilled bread and drizzle with the mushroom syrup. Serve with lemon wedges.




Cheers & Enjoy your September Savvy Selections





Shopping Cart