An eye popping wine discovery…

Featuring Vineland Estates Winery
Canada’s wineries delivered to your doorstep

Savvy Selections is all about discovering premium wines made by winemakers across Canada.  This month we have made an incredible – not to mention delicious – discovery when we opened top-of-the-line wines from Vineland Estates Winery of Niagara.


Seriously, our eyes popped out in amazement when we sampled these elegant, well balanced and well crafted wines. We wish that we could see your reaction of discovery when you take your first sip of the Elevation Series wines in this month’s Savvy Selections:

Elevation Series Riesling VQA 2007– a signature grape variety of Vineland Estates. This is the best of the best!

Elevation Series Chardonnay VQA 2007 – a white wine that any red wine lover will enjoy

Elevation Series Cabernet VQA 2007 – a blend that has won numerous awards recently that the winery has just relabled the bottle to accommodate all of the accolades!


Vineland Estates and its owners – the Schmidt family – are familiar to many Canadian households for quality wines. More importantly, they have leant a hand and their knowledge to grape growers, restaurants and start up wineries all in effort to help build a vibrant wine industry in Ontario and across the country.  Even Brian Schmidt, Vineland’s esteemed winemaker, helped by supporting an event that The Savvy Grapes was involved in during our early days of being business…and look at us now…showcasing his premium wines to our Savvy Selections subscribers.  Thank you Brian!


In this Savvy e-Zine, read more about Brian’s down to earth winemaking style that fascinated 0ur Savvy Sommelier Wayne Walker during his interview. As always, you will find our Savvy Sommelier tasting notes and summer recipes chosen to pair with the selected wines.


Visit the winery & stay for a meal…

When your travel plans take you to Niagara, be sure to include a visit Vineland.  Not only is it a stunning historic property, be sure to make time for a gourmet meal at the restaurant located in the 1845 circa farmhouse.  Pick a table outside under the shade of the large tree and be mesmerized by the view of the rolling vineyards while Executive Chef Jan Willem-Stulp and his team create an outstanding wine and food experience for you.  More at http://www.vineland.com      


Stock up for the summer…

The Elevation Series wines will take your taste buds to new heights.  When you would like more of these wines or other wines from Vineland Estates, simply call me at any time to make the arrangements for a delivery. The wine can be sent to any Ontario address: to your home, office or even cottage.  Put us on speed dial! Savvy Company 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926).


Cheers, enjoy and most of all enjoy your summer!

Debbie & the Savvy Team


Vineland Estates Winery

Presented by Sommelier Wayne Walker

Off the beaten track, yet on a well traveled route, turn off the Q.E.W. at exit 57, head south on Victoria Avenue into the area known as Vineland. A quick right turn on Moyer Road will bring you to a remarkable landmark: a stone tower that marks the site of an 1860’s Mennonite homestead and now the home of Vineland Estates Winery. 


According to winemaker, Brian Schmidt, this is the site of the “fortunate happenstance” by Hermann Weis of Mosel, Germany in 1979. Weis attested that vinifera (winespeak: pure grape varieties – example Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, etc.) could not only survive, but flourish in the clay and limestone soils of Niagara. This brought about a “natural evolution” that Allan Schmidt (Vineland’s General Manager) and his brother Brian Schmidt have vigorously cultivated since assuming the direction and development of the winery in 1988.


Vineland Estates produces not just great wine, but a great wine experience. Its highly recommended restaurant, wonderful wine boutique, carriage-house facility for picturesque private events, phenomenal vineyards and unique wine cellar (a living record each of the 25 year history of the winery in bottle format) have all evolved from a natural sense of “working with all that we have,” as Brian explains


“Minimalist by nature” is how Brian expresses his approach to winemaking.But minimal doesn’t mean reducing to the bare bones. It means getting down to simple quality and enhancing the natural essence of the grapes.”


Brian’s insights into how he makes Riesling wine is almost a mantra for the character of the winery: “Our style is crafted from what we have been given from the vineyard. Acidity is the most consistent characteristic of grapes we can grow in Niagara. We don’t always have the conditions for high sugar and alcohol content in our crops. If we relied on those qualities for the basis of our Riesling wines we might only be successful 3 out of 10 years.” 


Brian goes on to explain, “For Riesling, we can typically get 18 to 18½ Brix (winemaker’s term for measurement of natural sugar content in grapes) consistently at each harvest. I stylize the winemaking so the acidity is adequate, yet not overpowering. It is this balanced approach that makes a great tasting wine like Elevation Riesling with only 8% alcohol and 20 grams of residual sugar.” With this explanation, our Savvy Selections tasting panel knew that it was a natural fit to include Vineland’s top end Riesling in this month’s selection.


Balance extends itself from winemaking into the vineyard. “To realize consistency of quality in the vineyard, our primary focus is to grow a healthy and balanced vine – one that is growing well considering the conditions of soil and the weather,” explains Brian in his down to earth manner. “Some wineries measure the number of tons per acre. To me, this is not as important as the sustainability of the vine and the methods we use to grow great grapes (viticulture). It’s a creative balancing act and I don’t want to handcuff our winery with expectations or quotas.”


For this reason, in some years, Brian does not craft particular wines in his portfolio. Simply put, due to rain or lack of sun hours or other natural affectations, he will not comprise quality or Vineland’s esteemed reputation with a sub-par wine. Vineland loyal customers and restaurants have expectations when they uncork a bottle of Vineland wines. Our Savvy Selections tasting panel were impressed with each of the four wines in Vineland’s Elevation Series, making it difficult for us to only pick three to showcase this month.


In addition to Riesling, Brian is inspired when he talks about Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc vineyards and the wines. In his opinion, both are very well suited to Niagara terroir resulting in complex wines.


“It is all about finding a balance. Like all pleasures, wine should not be complicated…simply enjoyed,” mentions Brian.  “Vineland Estates Winery is where great wine, fabulous food and beautiful surroundings embrace simple pleasures.”


Vineland Estates is very proud of the success of its Elevation wines in the marketplace and at wine competitions.


As a sommelier, I think that with every sip of Vineland’s wine you can taste the evolution of a winery that aims to create not only great wine, yet wine with unique character – its food friendliness, its winemaking philosophy and its sustainability. Cheers & Enjoy!




~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~

Elevation Riesling VQA 2007, $25

The fruit for these wines is harvested from the highest elevations on the property allowing them to take full advantage of temperature fluctuations (difference between day and night temperatures) that are generated by the Beamsville Bench – part of the Niagara Escarpment – along with the gentle breezes of nearby Lake Ontario. Combined, these help generate fresh acidity, ripe flavours and silky textured wines.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Pale yellow, clear and reflective, tickles your nose with aromas of clover honey, ripe apple and apricot. A soft steely texture with apple and apricot integrated with pink grapefruit. The intensity of sweetness and acidity makes for a distinct crisp taste experience – perfect for summer sipping.


Suggested Food Pairing: Serve chilled (at about 11C) on its own or with food. Quiche, ceviche, curry dishes and ginger infused desserts.  With its intensity and natural sweetness of this wine, Japanese dishes like Sushi, Shabu-shabu, Tempura or Ootoro are especially tasty – try your hand at our rolled sushi recipe below.


Cellaring: No need to wait – this wine is ready to drink this summer.



Elevation Chardonnay VQA 2007, $25

Also produced with grapes grown on the Beamsville Bench, subtle barrel aging adds to the complexity of its ripeness and silky texture. This is a white wine that any red wine drinker will enjoy.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A reflective pure straw colour, this medium-bodied wine presents good fruit aromas of crunch apple (spy apples in particular?), fresh nectarines, tangerine with a hint of pencil shavings (do you smell this?). Apple. herbs and lemon follow through on the palate and offer a balanced experience held together with good acidity and soft tannins. A medium aftertaste of apple and lemon-pepper leave a reflective impression. Delicious!


Suggested Food Pairing: This wine is like a cross-over vehicle when it comes to food pairings. It can match well with the lighter sides like fruit salads, Caesar salad, shellfish (raw and steamed). While it can also carry larger foods like honey-barbeque chicken wings, fish chowder and soft cheeses. In the meat category. oven-roasted pork, grilled chicken or white fish with garlic or citrus marinade.  Believe it or not a perfect complement with this wine is POPCORN – especially caramel corn!


Cellaring: Drinks like a dream right now. Cellaring shouldn’t exceed 2 years if you want to maintain present levels of fruit flavour. Serve at 12C to 14C.


Elevation Cabernet VQA 2007, $25
Another ‘Elevated’ experience, that takes advantage the micro-climate, it benefits from the experience and expertise of Vineland’s esteemed winemaker and friend of Savvy Company – Brian Schmidt. A blend of 70% Cabernet Franc (a very successfully nurtured grape in Niagara) and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, the sweet red bell pepper flavours of Cabernet Franc have been supported by the dark-fruit sweetness of Cabernet Sauvignon in an extremely well crafted and well-balanced wine. You are the first to receive this bottle sporting the new label that celebrates its string of recent awards – Savvy Selections membership has privileges!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A rich, transparent medium-bodied wine with aromas of ripe red berries and cinnamon then after the wine breathes a bit, the aromas extend into sweet bell red pepper, dark fruit (do you find figs and plums) and dark chocolate. The flavours evolve too! Dark juicy black cherry, mulberry, warm spice, toffee and even lemon pepper, finish off with subtle dry tannins, good acidity and warmth. A balanced experience whose medium finish leaves reflections of spicy, dark fruit.   

Suggested Food Pairing: Certainly this wine qualifies for the BBQ season! Pork chops and ribs would match best, especially when dry rubbed with herbs and spices. Tomato-based pastas, lasagna and even smoked ham would be delicious. A meal of middle-eastern or Greek cuisine lend themselves to a great match too. BBQ foods aside, probably one of the best selections would be thin crust gourmet pizza – a favorite recipe is below.

Cellaring: This wine is great for drinking right now. It could cellar quite comfortably for 5 to 7 years which would bring out its structure even more. Serve at 16C to 18C


~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

With Elevation Riesling…

Maki-zushi (Rolled Sushi)

Serves 6 or more


2 ½ cups Japanese short-grain rice (like Koshihikari)

2 ½ cups cold water

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons superfine sugar

2 teaspoons salt

Your choice of cooked or raw seafood, chopped or minced

6 sheets of nori (edible seaweed)

Soy sauce

Gari (pickled ginger)

Wasabi paste




1.      Place rice in a colander. Rinse thoroughly. Drain. Put in cold water in saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover pan and turn heat to very low and cook for 15 minutes without lifting the lid. Turn off heat and allow to stand for 10 minutes more still covered, then spoon rice into large bowl.


2.      Mix together the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl until sugar dissolves then drizzle mixture over the rice. Mix together gently to completely coat rice. Set aside to cool to room temperature.


3.      Toast each nori sheet very lightly by passing back and forth over hot stove burner. Don’t get it too close to the heat or it will quickly burn.


4.      Spread rice evenly on nori sheet on bamboo roller. Put seafood filling across centre of nori on top of rice. Roll up bamboo mat pressing forward to shape the roll. Press bamboo mat gently to shape and firm up sushi roll. Remove roll from bamboo and with a sharp knife that you wet with water, cut roll into 2 inch slices.



With Elevation Chardonnay…

Best ‘Barbie’ Chicken

Serves 6


6 chicken breast halves (preferably boneless, skinless)

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups lemon-lime flavoured carbonated beverage

1 cup soy sauce

1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder



1.   In a medium bowl combine oil, lemon-lime beverage, soy sauce and garlic powder. Stir thoroughly.


2.   Put chicken and mixture together in sealed Ziploc bags or plastic container and marinate in refrigerator for 12 to 18 hours (6 to 9 hours if using boneless, skinless breasts). 


3.   Barbeque slowly — don’t overcook. Turn often and baste with mixture on each turn. Cook until meat is no longer pink in the center and juices run clear. Discard remaining marinade.


4.   Depending on marinating time and cooking method the amount of marinade consumed will vary.


With Elevation Cabernet…

Easy to Make Thin-Crust Gourmet Pizza
Serves 1 or 2 per pizza


Olive oil

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

Pinch of sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 large flour tortillas (sandwich wraps)

1 cup shredded Asiago cheese

2/3 cup Ricotta cheese

6 to 10 Cremini (aka Button) mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced

3 Portobello mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced

½ cup spinach

½ thinly sliced red pepper



1.   Preheat oven to 450F. If using a stone for baking, allow oven and stone to heat for 15 minutes before cooking. Otherwise, use rimmed baking sheets and parchment paper and place racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven to preheat and cook.


2.   Heat one teaspoon of Olive oil in a sauté pan on medium heat. Add onions and stir until they soften. Add pinch of sugar and the Balsamic vinegar. Stir in mushrooms, spinach and red pepper slowly. Add more Olive oil if required. Cook until onions have softened and spinach is beginning to shrivel.


3.   Sprinkle some corn meal on your pizza wheel (or rimless cooking sheet) and place tortilla on top and brush with Olive oil. If you are using rimmed cookie sheets, put parchment paper on sheets, brush with Olive oil and put tortilla on top then brush tortilla with oil.


4.   Sprinkle each tortilla with ½ cup shredded Asiago cheese. Sprinkle with cooked onions, mushrooms, spinach and peppers then add bits of Ricotta cheese. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Brush lightly with Olive oil if you wish.


5.   Bake until crust is crisp and very brown (5-7 minutes if using a stone. Start with 10 minutes if using cookie sheet and check it for crisp brown texture from there.) Cut with a pizza cutter and serve.  



Cheers to “Elevating” your summer!

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