Beets, Wines & Terroir?!?


Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery
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Autumn is one of my most favourite times of the year – bright coloured leaves, crisp air, country fairs and harvesting my vegetable garden in preparation for a Thanksgiving feast with family and friends.  In the days leading up to the long weekend, like most of you, I play around with the menu to include many family favorites. New at my table this year will be a dish of colourful beets that I grew as part of an experiment to illustrate the wine term – terroir.


What do beets have to do with wine you ask? Well…when I lead wine tastings, I am often asked about the word terroir. Explaining the significance of the soil, climate, growing, pruning, weather – all of the components that go into grape growing – often is met with glazed over eyes.  Frankly, few of us grow grapes, so terroir is something that has to be imagined.  Enter in the beets (and I did the same thing with tomatoes last year). Figuring that I could illustrate terroir with a vegetable that people are familiar with growing, there would be a direct association and greater learning experience. To get the ball rolling, I invited three other wine and food loving friends to take part in this project – all living in different areas of Ottawa.  The beet growers were Ron Eade, Food Editor of the Ottawa Citizen, Chef André Sanché from Epicuria Fine Foods & Catering, Caroline Ives, Producer of News at Noon for CTV Ottawa and me.


After periodically checking in with each other throughout the summer, we dug up our beets, steamed them and got together to compare.  We were instantly amazed at the difference in size, texture, taste and colour of our beets. This was particularly remarkable since all of the beet seeds came from packets supplied to us by Stuart of Bryson Farms!  We grew three varieties: White Mangel, Yellow Mangel and Red Chioggia (candy cane striped). In addition to the beets, we brought a handful of the soil that the beets were grown in. This too was interesting to see the variance of the composition of the soil. Ron grew his in MiracleGrow, while André’s garden was 100% nature compost.  Caroline and I had noticeable amounts of sand in our soil. All of this illustrates the significance of the wine term terroir. Read Ron’s blog (with great photos).


If you would like to join us next year in my terroir experiment, let me know.  We are thinking about growing cucumbers.


A winery who highlights the importance of terroir is Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery located on the Beamsville Bench in Niagara. Increasingly, they are crafting wines using the grapes from a single vineyard.  For example, Peninsula Ridge has three Sauvignon Blanc wines – each using grapes exclusively from the designated vineyard. With each sip of the different wines, you can taste the differences in soil, climate, etc…When this distinction is not made, then the grapes are sourced from a number of vineyard properties.


For October’s Savvy Selections, we offer you these wines to serve at your Thanksgiving dinner:

2007 Viognier VQA

2005 Beal Vineyards Reserve Merlot VQA

2007 Meritage VQA 

2005 Ratafia – on special request


Read on to discover the recent developments at Peninsula Ridge as well as our Savvy Sommelier tasting notes and favourite recipes, specifically chosen to pair with the selected Peninsula Ridge Estates wines.  As always, when you would like more Peninsula Ridge wines or bottles from other previously featured Savvy Selections, contact me directly to make the arrangements for you.


Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!   

Debbie & the Savvy Team


Introducing Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery

Presented by Sommelier Gina Wohlgemuth


October has arrived.  For the past month, many of us have been busy getting back into our routines – kids are back in school, evenings are filled with meetings and committees and most of us (sadly) have finished our vacations.  At the wineries across Ontario, they too are getting into their own routine around harvest – preparing everyone for the busiest time of the year.


In last month’s Savvy e-Zine Debbie touched on some of the many tasks required in the vineyard in preparation for harvest.  Right now, at Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery, they are in the middle of a “bottling blitz” as reported by Sales Director Jonathan Kuhling (some of our Savvy Subscribers met Jonathan at our Savvy Supper event this past June).  The winery staff are transferring the finished wine from the large stainless steel tanks to the bottles, making room in the tanks to receive this year’s harvest.   By the time you read this e-Zine, Jonathan anticipates that the Sauvignon Blanc and possibly the Chardonnay grapes will be ready for picking, if not already harvested off the vines. 


Sauvignon Blanc has become Peninsula Ridge’s “signature grape” and they have it growing in three different vineyards, producing three separate wines from the fruit of each distinct site.  The grape grows well for the winery and with it they’ve produced award winning wines such as the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Wismer Vineyards and the 2006 Fumé Blanc which tied for 1st place at this year’s Cuvée – the “Oscars” of the Ontario wine industry.


Looking Back and Moving Forward


Peninsula Ridge Estate Winery opened in August 2000 and for the first seven to eight years, the focus was on growing fewer different grape varietals.  In the past few years they have “branched out”, by planting some Pinot Noir vines and adding to their portfolio is a small amount of Dry Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines (the highly anticipated Gewürztraminer was not considered ‘Ready’ by the winemaker to be included in this month’s Savvy Selections.  Instead, it will be released later in October. If you would like some, let us know and we will make the arrangements to ship bottles to you). 


Other news at the winery is the arrival of winemaker Jamie Evans.  He has been involved in the wine industry since 1997, working as Cellar Master then Assistant Winemaker at Strewn Winery and then moved to Stonechurch Estate Winery in 2007 to be Head Winemaker.  He is a graduate of the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University, with a reputation in the Ontario wine industry for making excellent red wines – noted by numerous awards.  


Norm Beal, the winery owner and president explains, “Like our wines, Jamie is a product of Ontario.  He was raised in Ontario and his education in the wine program at Brock combined with over 13 years of home grown experience means that he has an intimate understanding of our unique Niagara terroir and winemaking.  He has an excellent reputation as one of the province’s best winemaking talents.” 


Given that Jamie only just recently started with Peninsula Ridge and that it is harvest time – he has hit the ground running. With several harvest experiences, it will be interesting to taste his 2009 wine creations.


Pinning down any winery staff for a chat at this time of year is simply put – a miracle.  There is a long TO DO list in preparation for harvest time.  I am very grateful to Jonathan for taking the time for an interview. 


Jonathan has been with Peninsula Ridge for eight years and during this time has witnessed first hand the positive changes in Ontario winemaking.  “The quality of Ontario wines is ever improving, which I think is directly related to the incredible influx of winemaking talent grown here in Canada and with winemakers coming to us with international experience. Combined with maturing vineyards and increasing investment in the wine industry, Ontario and Canada for that matter is growing rapidly.” 


In addition to leading the sales section of the winery, Jonathan is frequently found in one of Peninsula Ridge’s vineyards, in the cellar or barrel room, following the progression of the wines.  Like so many in the wine industry that I have interviewed in the past, Jonathan affirms that, “it’s fun to have a hand in the making of our wine – overall just be a part of it”.


Food & wine – need more reasons to visit?


For those who have yet to visit Peninsula Ridge, the winery is located near the town of Beamsville and sits on 80 acres on the Niagara Escarpment’s Beamsville Bench.  Peninsula Ridge offers gourmet food and wine experiences in their recently re-opened restaurant, The Kitchen House. Chef Ross and his wife Wendy look forward to your visit.  One look at their menu and you’ll be sure to include a stop on your wine trip.


Here’s to what is in store for the harvest of 2009 – good luck Jamie and the Peninsula Ridge team! 

Cheers & Enjoy!




~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~

Viognier VQA 2007 $14.75

Pronounced vee-on-yeah, very few wineries in Ontario produce wine with this grape variety that I consider is a ‘hidden gem’.  All of us at Savvy Company enjoy Viogniers from around the world.  We take every chance to showcase this unique grape variety. The perfect weather in 2007 with its abundant sunshine helped Viognier grapes ripen to its fullest – and this sunshine shows through each glass of the wine.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This aromatic wine will fill your nose with sweet scents of floral, apricot, honey and a touch of spice (nutmeg or pepper perhaps?).  There is a silky feel in the mouth with the flavours of apricots and honey coming through in a pleasantly dry style. Yummy!


Suggested Food Pairing: We selected this wine as it would be perfect to serve with your turkey because it will equally complement the white and dark meat as well as the sweetness of the fresh vegetables.  Additionally, this Viognier would go very well with mildly to moderately spicy Indian or Thai curry dishes – one of my easy chicken curry recipes is below. 

Hint from Gina: Be weary not to over-chill the wine or you will miss out on some of its aroma characters and flavours.


Cellaring: This wine is ready to drink now.



Beal Vineyards Reserve Merlot VQA 2005 $15.75

Jonathan explained that the harsh winter of 2004-2005 was cruel to Ontario vineyards, creating a severe grape crop shortage.  Picked from the vineyard directly behind the winery sloping upwards to the top of the Niagara Escarpment (aka Beamsville Bench), Peninsula Ridge only had enough grapes to produce two hundred cases of this Merlot.  We are lucky to be able to have access to this delicious wine.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  The inviting aromas of black cherry, raspberry, vanilla and sweet smoke replay themselves beautifully into on the palate (winespeak: in the taste).  This medium bodied wine shows light tannins and with a long, slightly sweet finish.


Suggested Food Pairing: Look no further for a red wine to serve this Thanksgiving weekend.  In addition to turkey, this well aged Merlot would pair nicely with roasted poultry, duck or goose or leg of lamb – either  roasted or grilled.  If you have a favorite recipe for a braised beef dish – this wine would be a perfect match. Below is a recipe that I use all the time.


Cellaring: The winery has aged this wine for you already.  We think that it is at its prime.  Enjoy now!


A remarkable price! This could easily become your house wine. Call on us to arrange more for you – remember it is in limited supply. 


Meritage VQA 2007, $22.95

Meritage (pronounced to rhyme with heritage) is a term that the North American wine industry created to call a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  These same grapes are the ‘ingredients’ of a Bordeaux blend, however winemakers outside of France were looking for their ‘own’ term…hence the name Meritage.  The percentages of each grape will vary (sometimes quite dramatically) as the winemaker works to showcase the most desirable characteristics of each grape in that specific vintage.  In this case, however, the proportions are identical.  Perhaps it is a reflection of 2007 – the best year to date in Ontario winemaking history.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: The wine’s dark cherry colour promises of good things to come – rich aromas and flavours of dark cherry, black currant, stewed plum, vanilla and a touch of cigar box.  Its tannins are soft and its finish is long and delicious.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Where to start?!  Hearty, full flavoured beef dishes like casseroles and stews, roast beef with a rich wine-reduction gravy, grilled steak.  Lamb ragout and more leg of lamb.  Game such as wild boar and venison stew.  Cheesy lasagna and osso buco would also be delicious with this wine. 

Cellaring:  Drink now or cellar for 3-5 years

2005 Ratafia VQA (optional addition to Savvy Selections wines) $30.80

Popular in Burgundy, this wine is made from 100% chardonnay grapes whose fermentation is stopped halfway through by the addition of plum brandy.  With fermentation arrested, much of the sweetness of the grape remains.  It is then aged in French oak to create a rich and flavourful treat.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  This wine offers sherry-like aromas of caramel, citrus peel (marmalade perhaps?) and ripe yellow plums.  It is full bodied and luscious in the mouth with flavours of sweet fruit, caramel and a light almond touch.  The finish is warm and sweet.


Suggested Food Pairing: Serve very cold as an aperitif or digestive, with blue cheese, fresh apple or pumpkin pie or drizzle over a bowl of vanilla ice cream.


Cellaring: No need to wait – ready to enjoy now. It can be kept for a few more years.


~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

With Peninsula Ridge Viognier…

Quick and Easy Chicken Curry

Serves 4

Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine.  This is amazingly easy!  Put on a pot of rice on and by the time it is done, this chicken dish is ready.  I like to include a side of steamed green beans.



3 tablespoons butter

4 boneless chicken breasts cut into one inch chunks

4 teaspoons curry powder

3 tablespoons brandy

2 teaspoons flour

½ cup chicken broth

½ cup sour cream

3 tablespoons mango chutney




Melt butter in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and sauté until just cooked through.  Transfer chicken to plate.


Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet.  Add curry powder and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.


Add brandy and cook until almost evaporated, standing back in case brandy ignites. 


Mix in flour.  Add broth, sour cream and chutney and stir until smooth.


Increase heat and boil 2 minute, stirring constantly until sauce coats spoon lightly.


Return chicken and any collected juices to skillet.  Cook just until chicken is heated through, about 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.


With Peninsula Ridge Merlot…

Braised Lamb Shanks

Serves 6
From The Girls Who Dish! Cookbook.  Okay – this recipe is not as quick as the above chicken curry but it is very rewarding and can be prepared ahead.  Simply reheat and serve with freshly mashed potatoes.


¼ cup vegetable oil

6 lamb shanks, about 1 pound (454 grams) each

salt and pepper to taste

2 medium white onions, cut into ¼ inch dice

2 stalks celery, cut into ¼ inch dice

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice

4 ounces (113 grams) pancetta or bacon cut into ¼ dice

6 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeds removed and cut into ¼ inch dice

¼ cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

3 anchovies, chopped

2 cups dry sherry

6 cups unsalted chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 cinnamon stick, about 4 inches (10 cm) long

3 whole cloves

1 orange, cut into quarters



Preheat oven to 350F.


Heat vegetable oil to smoking hot in large pan.  Season lamb with salt and pepper and brown on all sides.  Do a couple at a time to make sure all sides are brown.  Place shanks in an ovenproof dish or roasting pan large enough to hold them in one layer.


Heat olive oil in large pot.  Add the chopped onions, celery, carrots, pancetta and garlic.  Cook over medium heat, stirring until the vegetables begin to turn brown.  Add the chopped anchovies and tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes longer.


Stir in the sherry and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, bay leaf, thyme, cinnamon stick and cloves.  Squeeze the juice from the orange quarters into the sauce and then add the pieces.  Bring to a boil and pour over the lamb shanks. 


Cover with foil and place in oven for about 2 hours or until the meat falls off the bone.  Turn the shanks after 1 hour so they cook evenly.


 Remove the shanks from the sauce and keep warm.  Strain the sauce and keep the vegetables but discard the orange pieces, cinnamon stick and cloves (if you can find them).  Bring the sauce back to a boil and reduce until it thickens slightly.  Pour the vegetables and sauce over the meat.





With Peninsula Ridge Meritage…

Beef Tenderloin with Double-Smoked Bacon and Porcini Mushrooms

Serves 6 to 8
From The Lesley Stowe Fine Foods Cookbook.  This recipe will impress any beef-loving dinner party guest!



1 cup (250ml) dried porcini mushrooms

1 beef tenderloin, 3 to 4 pounds (1.5 to 2 kg)

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

6 tablespoons olive oil

5 strips double-smoked bacon, cut into ¼ inch pieces

1 cup shallots, sliced

4 cloves garlic, sliced

½ sprig fresh rosemary

4 cups dark veal stock

1 cup port

2 tablespoons cold butter



Preheat oven to 375F.


In a bowl, pour 1 cup boiling water over the porcini mushrooms and let stand until softened, about 20 minutes.


Remove the thin membrane and any fat on the outside of the tenderloin.  Season the meat with salt and pepper.  In a heavy skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat and brown the tenderloin on all sides for about 1 minute per side.  Transfer to a roasting pan.  Pour off all the fat from the skillet. 


In the same skillet, cook the bacon until almost crisp.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Drain off the bacon fat and discard.


Drain the mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid.  In the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil over medium heat.  Sauté the mushrooms until soft and golden.  Remove from the pan, season with salt and pepper and set aside.


Add the remaining oil to the pan and sauté the shallots, garlic and rosemary until shallots are soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the bacon, veal stock, port and reserved soaking liquid from the mushrooms.  Simmer over medium heat until liquid is reduced by half.  Set aside.


Roast the tenderloin in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  Transfer the meat to a cutting board and any juices in the roasting pan to the reduced liquid from step 6.  Heat this liquid over medium-high heat and simmer until reduced by one third.  Whisk in the cold butter, a bit at a time until smooth.  Add the mushrooms and stir gently.


Slice the tenderloin and arrange on warm plates.  Spoon the mushroom sauce over top and serve immediately.




Cheers & Enjoy your October Savvy Selections


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