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Archive for ‘Savvy experiences with wine’

California Dreaming…

Posted by Susan

Thursday, March 30th, 2017
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How could you start a visit to the Sonoma/Napa area without a stop in San Francisco?

It was a brilliantly sunny day when we arrived, ever-present wisps of fog drifting over the hills as we gazed out across the Pacific Ocean. San Francisco offers endless delights, from Boudin’s unique sourdough bread to Tarantino’s fresh seafood at Fisherman’s Wharf. We did all the requisite things, riding the cable car up and down the hills downtown – several cars survived the great earthquake and fire of 1906, as we learned at the Cable Car Museum and operations centre. Fisherman’s Wharf swarmed with Labour Day weekend visitors, the sea lions oblivious, as they floated alongside docking fishing boats, hoping for scraps. We visited the Mission of San Francisco de Asis (guess where the city’s name originated), which opened in 1776, days before the American Declaration of Independence was signed, and also survived intact the great 1906 earthquake and fire. Muir Woods induced awe and reverence, the never-logged forest home to giant redwoods as much as 1000 years old. And everywhere we stopped for lunch or dinner, an endless range of California wines was available for sampling.

We made our way north to Sonoma County, and from our excellent B&B there, Mediterranea, visited a number of wineries in Napa Valley and Sonoma. We also spent a day travelling out to the Pacific coast, and had an absolutely amazing lunch at the River’s End Restaurant in the small town of Jenner. Don’t miss it if you are visiting the north California Coast!

 

 

Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery

Born into the Torres wine family, Marimar Torres has been immersed in the industry all her life. With degrees in business, education in oenology and a facility for languages, she was the ideal ambassador for Torres wines in her early career. After establishing her home in California, she focused her energies on increasing awareness of Spanish wines in North America. Ten years later, the sale of Torres wines in the U.S. had grown ten-fold, and Marimar was ready for the new challenge of establishing Marimar Estate Vineyards & Winery.

The Don Miguel vineyard surrounds Marimar’s winery and tasting room, designed in the style of a Catalan farmhouse. Located in the cool climate Russian River Valley and named for her father, it was first planted in 1986 and now includes 81 acres of which 45 are planted principally to Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with growing plantings of Albariño, Syrah and Tempranillo. Marimar has also recently planted Godello, a white grape variety that grows in Galicia, like Albariño, and produces attractive dry white wines. The Doña Margarita vineyard, named for her mother, is located in the cool Sonoma Coast AVA, the 20 acres planted solely with Pinot Noir. Marimar describes the differences between the Pinot Noir from the two vineyards as follows: the Russian River Valley Pinot is more opulent, with intense flavours of black cherry and wild berry, while the Sonoma Coast Pinot has an earthier character, similar to Burgundian wines.

Marimar Estate vineyards are all certified organic, while biodynamic principles are applied in all phases of vineyard management and winemaking. According to Marimar, since the conversion to organic principles, the wines from each block have become more expressive of their unique terroir.

To ensure the quality of the fruit, thinning takes place right after fruit set; leaves are regularly removed to ensure access to the sun; vines are trimmed by machete to remove excess top growth; and at veraison, excess grape bunches are removed to further concentrate flavour in those remaining. Hand harvesting, with several passes through the vineyard, ensures that only ripe bunches are picked.

As part of its commitment to sustainability, the winery has recently completed investments that allow it to meet all energy requirements through solar power.

Marimar continues to direct activities in the winery, established in 1992, as well as the vineyards. She has not limited herself to viticulture and winemaking, but has also published two authoritative books on Spanish cuisine, The Spanish Table and The Catalan Country Kitchen. The Torres family history in the vineyard and in winemaking dates back many generations in Spain, and while responsibility for the business has traditionally passed from father to son, Marimar is setting new traditions in the U.S., where her daughter Cristina, who grew up in the vineyards and is currently pursuing an MBA at Wharton, is the natural successor at Marimar Estate.

Due to very limited production – ranging from 5,000-10,000 cases depending upon the vintage – some wines are only available to wine club members, with only a limited number finding their way to Ontario. The 2014 ‘Acero’ Chardonnay was recently released in Vintages. We had the opportunity to try the new 2015 vintage at the winery (see the notes below). The fruit for the wine comes from the Don Miguel vineyard and is especially selected for intensity and aromatics, the grapes fermented in stainless to retain the unique character of the fruit.

Several other wines were tasted during our visit to Marimar’s Russian River Green Valley estate. These included her Albariño 2015, which offers lovely floral aromas, stone fruit and citrus flavours and a lively, crisp texture; the ‘La Masía’ Chardonnay 2014, showing alluring aromas and flavours of stone and tree fruit, a refined, creamy texture, and finely honed acidity to balance the rich fruit; the ‘La Masía’ Pinot Noir 2013, where cherry/berry, sweet spice and a whiff of citrus are underpinned by fine tannins and clean acidity; and the ‘Mas Cavalls’ Pinot Noir 2013 from the Doña Margarita vineyard, where this more feminine Burgundian wine offers classic aromas of red cherry, mineral notes and underbrush, framed by subtle tannins and lively acidity.

 

Marimar Estate Don Miguel Vineyard ‘Acero’ Chardonnay 2015
Russian River Valley 13.5% alcohol

A lovely pale gold, this brims with fresh aromas of sweet woodruff, citrus, pear and quince. Dry, mid-weight, silky yet juicy and lively in texture, this unoaked Chardonnay freshens the palate with flavours of crisp apple, pear and lemon curd, delivering a lasting, tangy finish. Enjoy chilled on its own or with fresh seafood.

 

 

Rodney Strong Vineyards
Dedicated, Passionate Craftsmanship

Located just south of the quaint Sonoma County town of Healdsburg, the Rodney Strong Vineyards tasting room is surrounded by some of the founder’s extensive original vineyards. Not only can you take a self-guided tour, or taste flights of wines on the terrace, Chef Tara Watchee has developed a finely balanced wine and food pairing experience where both components shine. As an example, the lively red fruit flavours of the 2015 Rosé of Pinot Noir were complemented by a salad of watermelon, grilled corn, basil, Black Pig bacon, verjus and estate olive oil.

The winery was established in 1959 by acclaimed dancer and dance producer, Rod Strong, who had fallen in love with wine while working in Paris. Under his innovative direction, the winery thrived for over 40 years, achieving milestones such as the first single-vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon – Alexander’s Crown – which is still produced to this day. He was one of the first to plant Pinot Noir in the Russian River Valley, and the first to produce a ‘Chalk Hill’ Chardonnay. As Rod Strong was developing his wines and reputation in Sonoma County and beyond, Tom Klein was pursuing his education and subsequent career as a management consultant. With the long Klein family history and experience in farming, Tom must have seemed the ideal partner to Rod Strong when they established a consulting relationship.

Eventually, the Klein family purchased the winery in 1989, then set about acquiring additional vineyards, so that they now manage 14 outstanding estates encompassing in the order of 1400 acres, all in Sonoma County, ranging from the Alexander Valley in the north out to the Sonoma Coast. The range of vineyards and terroir ties into Tom Klein’s strong belief in the importance of place in winemaking – “Place isn’t the only thing, but place is the most important thing”. Rodney Strong wines are produced using only Sonoma County fruit and are made to Tom Klein’s exacting maxim – NO shortcuts.

With the goal of building a range of premium wines, David Ramey was hired as consultant and the ‘Artisan’ cellar was created, using smaller fermentation tanks to allow for fermentation of select rows of fruit, while additional investments were made in French oak barrels. Experimentation continues and has extended to the purchase of concrete Roman eggs for fermentation, and now to the creation of the square tank cellar, an extraordinary investment. Winemaker Justin Seidenfeld has worked with LaGarde Inox, a unique steel tank producer based in Quebec, to invent, design and produce special 6000 gallon square fermentation tanks. We’ve all seen the standard round steel tanks with dimpled cooling jackets. You may ask, why are these square tanks such an improvement? For one, they use space in the winery much more efficiently, and they have a variety of unique and highly beneficial features. As an example, autumn days are often quite warm in Sonoma County, so harvested grapes arriving from the vineyards may heat up and be at risk of spontaneous fermentation. These tanks were specified to provide more cool surface area to grapes, permitting the rapid cooling of grapes as they arrive from the vineyard – voila, reduced risk of spontaneous fermentation. A specially designed pump aperture ensures the pumped over wine covers the entire breadth of the tank, providing for better contact with the cap. Further, the shape delivers more surface area of juice to cap, providing for better extraction of colour and flavours, more softness and suppleness to the wine (as proven in blind tastings by the Rodney Strong winemaking team and owner Tom Klein). The special polishing process for the insides of the tanks, which was jointly developed by Justin and LaGarde’s engineering team, reduces water consumption for cleaning and sterilization by 50-70% (critical in drought-stricken California). Justin speaks with passion and excitement about the opportunities these tanks provide for him to enhance the quality of Rodney Strong wines, as well as the sustainability of the winery operations. It’s not surprising that this Rodney Strong innovation is now being adopted by numerous other highly reputable wineries in the U.S.

With his family background in farming, Tom Klein is strongly committed to sustainability in the vineyards and the cellar. Environmental protection is an integral part of the organization’s corporate values. Solar panels were installed as early as 2001, and along the way, Rodney Strong Vineyards has developed practices that allow them to be designated Fish-Friendly Farmers. Recently, they became Sonoma County’s first carbon neutral winery.

We’re fortunate that many Rodney Strong wines find their way through the Vintages program to the LCBO. Many of those wines were tasted during the visit, and I’ve included notes on a few of them below.

 

Rodney Strong ‘Chalk Hill’ Chardonnay 2014
Sonoma County $24.95 (LCBO# 275552) 14.5% alcohol

Notes of tropical fruit and butter, vanilla custard and hints of mineral grace the nose of this wine, produced from fruit grown on the unique volcanic white ash soil of this sub-appellation in the Russian River Valley. Dry, medium-full bodied, it’s rich and creamy in texture, yet retains freshness that is a perfect match for the lush flavours of lemon curd, sweet apple and pineapple. The mineral quality is subtly present on the palate, while nuances of warm baking spice linger on the tangy finish. Serve with pasta garnished with shrimp and scallops sautéed in olive oil and garlic.

 

Davis Bynum ‘Jane’s Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2014
Russian River Valley $ 39.95 (LCBO# 458893) 14.5% alcohol

Davis Bynum is recognized as the first winery to create, in 1973, a single vineyard Pinot Noir from Russian River Valley fruit. Rodney Strong maintains the tradition with this semi-transparent ruby gem. Notes of vanilla and sweet baking spice layer on aromas of ripe cherry/berry, complemented by earthy nuances. Dry, medium bodied, there’s a lovely freshness to the texture, well paired with the wealth of ripe red cherry and plum flavours. Delicate notes of warm spice, vanilla and cedar emerge and linger through the lengthy, tangy finish. Serve with a Provençal salad with duck confit.

Rodney Strong Pinot Noir 2014
Russian River Valley $25.95 (LCBO# 954834) 13.9% alcohol

Produced from a blend of fruit from the valley, this approachable wine offers lively aromas of red fruit, hints of earthy roast beetroot, and notions of spice and dried herbs. Dry, light-medium bodied, it’s bright with well-defined acidity and juicy with flavours of red cherry and plum, light hints of smoky oak and spice persisting through the vibrant finish. Serve with cedar-planked salmon.


Rodney Strong ‘Alexander Valley’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Alexander Valley $28.30 (LCBO# 226944) 14.5% alcohol

Showing powerful fruit while retaining a fresh texture, this deep ruby Cabernet offers intense aromas and flavours of black berry, plum and dark chocolate-coated cherry mingling with nuances of dried herbs and earth, while the extended aging in French oak layers on notes of cedar and spice. Dry, full and powerful, the wine is crafted with balance, the supple yet perceptible tannins paired with fine acidity, framing lush ripe dark fruit. Subtle notes of toast and dark chocolate drift across the palate through the lengthy finish. Enjoy now with herbed roast lamb or cellar. (Susan Desjardins)

 

Rodney Strong ‘Symmetry’ Meritage 2012
Alexander Valley $70.95 (LCBO# 641142) 14.5% alcohol

Principally Cabernet Sauvignon, blended with Merlot and small amounts of Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, each varietal is fermented separately with only the best wines used in this blend. Perfumed with floral notes and spice, offering intense fruit aromas, this is a robust well-structured wine designed for cellaring. The firm, defined tannins are a well-crafted foil for the big powerful flavours of cassis and blackberry. Luscious notes of dark chocolate-coated coffee bean and hints of spice and cedar add complexity, persisting through the lengthy dry finish. Cellar or decant the wine, to be served with rare prime rib. (Susan Desjardins)

 

 

 

E.&J. Gallo Winery Estates

We planned visits at two Gallo estates, and then made a quick stop at Louis M. Martini given its long history in the Napa Valley. Although the Gallo family has purchased a number of wineries and vineyards over the years, one of the themes that came through during our visits is their focus on retaining the unique character of the wines produced at each of the estates, while investing in the infrastructure and equipment that will honour and maintain the legacy of the original founders. E.&J. Gallo Winery remains a family business with goals of being a leader in the U.S. wine industry and a leading supplier of California wine internationally.

 

 

 

William Hill Estate Winery

After graduating with a degree in geology in his home state of Oklahoma, Bill Hill headed off to Europe. He fell in love with wine and headed to California on his return, to complete an MBA at Stanford, after which he began working in the Napa Valley. He arrived just after the 1976 Judgement of Paris had vaulted Napa Valley wines to global prominence. Given his interest in wines, he decided to purchase a 200-acre former cattle ranch on the bench lands of the Valley and in 1978, planted his first Chardonnay vines. Bill soon realized that the intense sun and heat on his property scorched the grapes; the initial vines were replaced with red Bordeaux varieties and for several years he sold his grapes to local wineries. In 1990, the winery was built and the first wines branded William Hill Estate Winery were created. Despite his success, Bill decided to sell the winery in 1992, and has since watched its evolution from his nearby home.

In 2007, the estate became a property of the Gallo family, with substantial investments made to upgrade the tasting room as well as the winery itself. Of the 200 acres, 125 are planted to vines, the bulk being Cabernet Sauvignon. William Hill wines are crafted with grapes from the estate on the Silverado Trail, as well as from fruit from vineyards in southern Napa, the Central and North Coasts.

The wines currently available at the LCBO include the Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 as well as the 2012 Chardonnay. Since then new 2013 vintage was tasted at the winery, and I expect these wines will be in a Vintages release in 2017, I’ve included my notes below. Tasted at the winery, but not available locally, were the 2015 Sauvignon Blanc, with lovely notes of white flowers and fine herbs, tropical fruit and citrus, wrapped in a vibrant texture; the lush ‘Bench Blend’ Chardonnay 2013, the creamy texture balanced with good acidity, infused with lovely flavours of pineapple, tree fruits and lemon vanilla custard; and the opulent ‘Benchland Series’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013, a full-bodied powerhouse with robust dark fruit flavours layered on well-integrated oak and velvety tannins.

 

William Hill ‘Napa Valley’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Napa Valley $44.95 (LCBO# 212951) 15.2% alcohol

Deep purple, this Cabernet is aged in French and American oak, a touch of Petite Syrah and Merlot giving added depth and complexity. Perfumed with aromas of ripe red fruit and juicy black berries, it hints at vanilla and sweet spice. Dry, full bodied, the wine displays perceptible yet supple tannins, well-integrated oak that offers notes of cinnamon toast and vanilla and a fresh texture. Bright, lively raspberry, black cherry and berry are fresh on the palate, rushing through the dry, toasty finish. Serve with beef short ribs.

 

William Hill ‘Bench Blend’ Chardonnay 2013
Napa Valley 14.9% alcohol

Blended from fruit from several vineyards, aged in French oak, this elegant Chardonnay offers lifted aromas of tree fruit, citrus and pineapple, vanilla custard infused with sweet spice. Dry, on the full side of medium bodied, the palate is lush with flavours of pear, tangy apple and lemon zest, underpinned with a refined backbone of acidity. The creamy texture and spice bring to mind creme brûlée, while delicate notions of white pepper add warmth to the long finish. Deftly balanced.

 

 

 

Louis M. Martini Estate Winery

There’s an incredible story behind this long-lived winery. The Martini family emigrated to the United States and worked as fishermen on the west coast in the early 20th century. From tasting local grapes, and then making wine for consumption by the family, young Louis M. Martini developed an interest in winemaking and eventually returned to Italy to study winemaking at the University of Alba in Piemonte. By the time he returned to the U.S., Prohibition had come into effect, making it difficult for him to pursue his passion. Nevertheless, since the family had grape holdings, they found ways to use their grapes for the production of sacramental wine, for medicinal use and in legal home winemaking kits.

As it became clear that prohibition was coming to an end in the early 1930s, the family moved its operations from the Central Valley to Sonoma, opening their new winery near St. Helena in 1933, one of the 5 original Napa wineries to be founded after Prohibition. Within 2 years, they had more than doubled production and sales, and in 1936, pioneered the use of temperature-controlled fermentation. The St. Helena site continues to be the base of their operations, and is where Louis M. Martini passed on responsibility for winemaking to his son Louis P. Martini in 1953. Louis P showed great creativity, and has been credited with creating the first wind fan used in the vineyards, with bottling the first single varietal wine – a Merlot (previously, wines were simply blends of the grapes in any given vineyard), and with first experimenting with fermentation in steel tanks. His son, Mike Martini took on responsibility for winemaking in 1974, and continued as winemaker until 2015, seeing the family business through the transition in 2002 to ownership by their friends, the Gallo family. The Martini winery offers an incredible legacy, including vineyards of bush vine Zinfandel planted in the 1880s.

 

Louis M. Martini ‘Napa Valley’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2013
Napa Valley $32.95 (LCBO# 232371) 14.5% alcohol

Opaque ruby with violet highlights, this offers captivating aromas of spiced rose, raspberry and blackberry, with a dash of spice and cedar. Dry, robustly full bodied, the wine offers great fruit intensity balanced by a fresh texture and soft tannins. Long and dry on the finish, this is an approachable, well-crafted wine offering great value.

 

 

J Vineyards

J Vineyards is the legacy of Judy Jordan, who grew up in her family’s vineyards in the Alexander Valley. Determined to travel her own road, she studied geophysics at Stanford University and, in 1986, bought an old prune factory and some surrounding acreage with the idea of making sparkling wine. Her first method traditionelle wine was released in 1991. Due to her success with sparkling wines – and despite the naysayers – she decided to beginning making still wines- Chardonnay and Pinot Noir – the first of which was released in 1994.

Unfortunately, the great Russian River flood of 1995 completely destroyed her entire operation and inventory. Determined to re-establish her business, she purchased the current property in Sonoma County in 1996, completing the winery in 1999. The site includes a remarkable ‘tear drop’ shaped vineyard which includes 20 clones of Pinot Noir on a half acre, allowing the winemakers to experiment with blending. The site also includes the Cooper vineyard, planted with Pinot Gris, and the Backdoor vineyard, home to Pinotage. The balance of the 200 acre estate properties are spread throughout the Russian River Valley.

After years of successful production, and having sold grapes for many years to the Gallo family, Judy retired from the business and took advantage of her established relationship to sell J Vineyards to the Gallo family in 2015.

At J Vineyards, we tasted the Brut Rose, composed of 66% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir and 1% Pinot Meunier, a clean, fresh wine showing a delicate and persistent mousse and lovely subtle notes of red fruit. The Cuvée 20 is an almost equal blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, again with the 1% Pinot Meunier, offering nuances of butter pastry, fresh citrus and tree fruit, the characteristic creamy, lasting mousse, and a lovely touch of pithiness through the finish. The Russian River Valley Pinot Noir is composed from the fruit of 12 different clones from 4 vineyards. It’s a dry, mid-weight wine with classic cherry cola aromas and flavours complemented by attractive notes of warm spice and toast from French oak barrel aging.

 

The only wine tasted and currently available from the LCBO is:

J Vineyards Chardonnay 2013
Russian River Valley $31.75 (LCBO# 418236) 14.3% alcohol

Produced from estate grown fruit, aged in French oak (30% new) , this wine offers lovely tropical and tree fruit aromas, hints of citrus, sweet spice and vanilla. Dry, medium bodied, the creamy texture brings to mind vanilla custard, lemon curd with a dash of zest, and ripe tree fruit. The wine retains its freshness and offers a touch of warm spice through the flavourful finish. Serve with roast lemon rosemary chicken.

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Top tips for your next visit to The County

Posted by Debbie

Monday, March 21st, 2016
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Prince Edward County…if you haven’t been…Start the car! Make a point to book a family vacation, play hooky and spend a long weekend or make a day of it. The County awaits!  To compile the 100+ things to do, I asked the locals and tourist for their tips. I was overwhelmed by the response….and as I write this article, more recommendations are flooding my inbox…and I will add updates to keep this list up to date.

101 Things (or more) to do in Prince Edward County

pec map for FBI have to admit that I haven’t done ALL the things on this list, but certainly plan to jump in my car soon! For starters… I always recommend getting off Highway 401 and taking the Glenora Ferry. This free ferry ride is less than 10 minutes (check the departure schedule). Mark my words, this ride will reset your pace to ‘County time’. Breathe in the fresh air, enjoy being surrounded by water and get the welcoming 2 fingered wave from the ferry driver as you arrive.

Water all around

Be baffled by the geography of Lake on the Mountain. This unique body of water is one of Ontario’s natural wonders defying geographical and geological theories. Ponder its mystery over a drink at the Miller House Café and Brasserie…you can stay overnight here too!

Parks & beaches too

water-sandbanks-FOSPrince Edward County is synonymous for Sandbanks Provincial Park (photo at right), yet, there are many more beaches to discover: Wellington Beach and Park, North Beach Provincial Park, Westlake Beach. Switch from white sand to smooth pebbles and wander along Little Bluff Beach.

 

Old barns

Check out some great old barns at The Old ThirdClosson ChaseKarlo EstatesThe Grange of Prince Edward County and Hinterland Winery.

Traveling with Savvy Company

Places to stay – oh so many!

Clarmont Inn & Spa, Merrill Inn, The Drake Devonshire, Waring House, Angeline’s Inn, The Manse Boutique Inn. All of these places have gourmet restaurants too – book a reservation to make sure you get a spot!

Where to dine

Sample County wines at many of the restos including East & MainBlumen Garden & The Agarian

Visit Angeline’s Inn in Bloomfield & pick up some of their neat postcards with historical photos of The County in years gone by. While you are there, book your reservation for lunch or dinner at The Hubb Eatery & Lounge. You will definitely make delicious memories here!

Craving a pizza? There are several wineries that have a wood oven pizza place including Norman Hardie Winery – the perfect place for pizza and a Pinot Noir (try saying that fast!)

Spend Sunday morning at the Sunday Market at 106 Bridge or brunch made by Chef Michael Hoy. And in the afternoon, enjoy live jazz & al fresco dining on the patio at Huff Estates Winery.

Cuddle baby lambs & explore forest trails to walk off the amazing meal of farm to table cuisine enjoyed at Windhover County – a 140 year old Victorian Farm that has been transformed into a boutique inn.

Take a break from gourmet meals and make your way to the Lighthouse Restaurant at the Picton Harbour Inn – a popular local hot spot for breakfast – best sausages ‘n eggs, mile high pancakes &french toast in town.

…or nibble

Top places for treats & tea: The Vic Café, The Pink Lunch Pail Bakery, Tall Poppy Café, Miss Lily’s

Hands down the best old fashioned doughnuts are at Schroedter’s Farm Market Bakery & Cafe. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, a bowl of homemade soup&sandwiches will hit the spot. There are great gluten free goodies too.

Take a break from visiting wineries and stop in to visit the Pyramid Ferments Gut Hut. A wide variety of artisan made Sauerkrauts, Kimchis and Kombuchas – all using seasonal ingredients – are made in small batches.

Have you tried Maple Cheddar from Black River Cheese Factory?

Nightlife

Think there’s no nightlife in The County? Ha! You haven’t been to the movies at Mustang Drive-In on County Road 1.

Picton’s Main street has got it all. At The Regent Theatre, check out the list of movies, live musical performances & special talks as well as the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival. While you are there, snap a selfie with Sir John A Macdonald. His statue is located in front of the Armory.

Best view in town

The locals share this secret: enjoy the view of Picton from the Millenium Lookout – access it from County Road 22

Ice cream’s finest

Cave in…have ice cream at Slickers County Ice Cream in Bloomfield, stop in at Black River Cheese Factory or the locals hot spot is Cones & Shakes in Picton

Love museums?

Here is a ‘hit list’- Mariner’s Park Museum in South Bay, Rose House Museum in Waupoos, Wellington Historical Museum, Macauly Heritage Park and Ameliasburgh Pioneer Village

Wines, beers, ciders…and more

Pop into The County Canteen– Picton’s first brew pub – stop in for a flight of craft beers. The Acoustic Grill is a great place to see local bands.

Meet the dogs & owners at Three Dog Winery. In the summer they do yoga in the vineyard (the owners that is!) and XC ski parties too.

Ever been to a speakeasy? Click here to find where X marks the spot.

Pop the cork & taste some of the best Canadian-made sparkling wines at HinterlandHuff Estates, The GrangeBy Chadsey’s Cairns Lighthall Vineyards.

County Cider tasting June 2015Calling all cider lovers! You’ll want to hit these places for hard ciders made with County grown apples: The County Cider Co. (in photo at left), Bergeron Estate Winery & Cider House, and Clafeld Fruit

Head down at harvest and join in picking grapes at Sandbanks WineryHalf Moon Bay Winery Broken Stone – something that the entire family can do.

Chat with Bryan at Keint-He Winery.  He’ll help you pronounce that!

An open invitation to everyone! Brett French – the brewer at Barley Days Brewery – gives anyone reading this an invitation to drop by to sample his beers…ask for him and he will give you the skinny on how he makes each. And County Road Beer Co. just opened, so be sure to stop in here too!

Prince Edward County is known as a wine region, yet there is a distillery – 66 Gilead – that is neat place to visit & try their Canadian Pine Vodka, Loyalist Gin, rums & whiskies too.

Want some exercise? 

A local favorite bike ride is along Big Island Road following the beach on the northeast shore of Prince Edward County as well as along the Loyalist Parkway (Highway 33).

Drive or bike along the Barn Quilt Trail. There are over 100 barnswith painted quilts – neat!

Get running! The day after the annual Terroir Wine & Farmers Market Festival, get your shoes on to do the 10 km Terroir Run that winds through wineries along the way. The Wellington Women’s Half Marathon in June (complete with firemen handing out water along the route!) In October, The County Marathon is a great way to explore the backroads.

…and there is still more!

Lavender Farm by DT June 7 2015See a sea of purple at the Prince Edward County Lavender Farm. Tip: plan to visit the Lavender Festival or stop in when the plants are in bloom in mid to late June. Take photos in the gardens, learn how lavender is harvested & the oil is made. If you are lucky – stay at the B&B there too.

Play life size chess in the vineyard at Casa Dea Estates Winery.

The locals raved about –Birdhouse City with over 100 birdhouses of reproductions of historic buildings, whimsical designs & other recognizable structures.

A sign that will make you laugh as you drive by:Dead People’s Stuff Antiques.

Lose yourself flipping through neat books at Books & Company or the cool consignment shop – City Revival – on Main Street in Picton.

 

OenoGalleryToo many galleries to visit in one weekend! Some to make sure to visit: Oeno Gallery (photo at right courtesy of Oeno Gallery) Huff Estates Winery, Love Nest Studios. Follow the Arts Trail to discover incredible local artists along the way.

Crazy about airplanes? Lock-Sloy (aka Camp Picton) is one of Canada’s last intact 1940 British Commonwealth Air Training sites. Driving through here, it is easy to imagine what this place was like in the hay day.

If lighthouses are your ‘thing’, then make sure to visit Point Petre and South Bay Lighthouse – bring some local wine & cheese to have a picnic.

If vintage cars are your ‘thing’, then plan your trip to Prince Edward County to take in the Street Meet in early August. It is a blast reliving the past at this annual car show with over 200 classic cars come from all corners of Ontario and Quebec.

Karlo bridgeVisit North America’s largest dry stone bridge (in photo at right) at Karlo Estates – made by the winery owner & friends. A great place for a family photo or a picnic.

Sit on the porch at a B&B or your weekend cottage and read Geoff Heinrick’s book A Fool & Forty Acres all about the hard work of getting a vineyard planted in The County.

Take a cooking class at From the Farm. Tell Cynthia that we say hi!

Festivals galore

wine festivalFestivals that will give you a taste of The County: Maple in the County in March, then in May – Terroir where winemakers and artisan food producers are all under one roof. The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in June is a weekend of 100% Canadian artisan cheese (and wine and beer too).

TASTE – Community Grown in September (in photo at left) celebrates the harvest with local wines, ciders and farm fresh goodies. Join the fun at Wassail – a pre-Christmas festival where you sing for your drink. Check www.visitthecounty.ca for a comprehensive calendar.

Dining delight – Countylicious – twice a year, 8 restos offer a prix fixe culinary celebration for $30 or $35 plus grats & tax.

Red White & Blues festival at Rosehall Run features music in the vineyard.

PosterCool Collectibles

Collect a couple or all 8 of the cool County Posters with neat illustrations of all corners of Prince Edward County to remind you of the fun discoveries you had on your County getaway (photo attached –credit illustration by Marc Keelan-Bishop).

Sisters Jane Rutter & Susan Felton have brought pieces of history & heritage memorabilia back to life at the cool shop called Cannery Row.

Local produce abounds

In the summer, stop by one of many veggie stands – Laundry FarmsHagerman FarmsCherryvale Organic Farm & Vicki’s Veggies.

Stop in at Highline to grab a box of their gourmet mushrooms.

Only have time for a quick visit?

Go to the brand new The Local Store where all kinds of County treasures, artists & food stuffs are under one roof…in a heritage Loyalist barn.

Send us your tips on PEC!

As you can see, there are oodles of things to do in The County. While only 2 hours from Toronto or 3 hours from Ottawa, it is a place where you can really switch off! In fact, there are over 1000 places where you will probably lose cell phone reception.

Have fun as you discover Prince Edward County & email us with your favorite spots!
Debbie

 

Can’t get away?  Don’t worry….The County is coming to Ottawa!

Prep for your road trip by attending County in the Capital. Meet the makers from 20+ wineries, cideries, breweries &artisan food producers – all from The County. This is a unique opportunity to Taste & Buy your new favorites

County in the Capital picEvent Details:

Date: Wednesday April 20th
Time: 7 to 9pm
Place: Ottawa City Hall
Entry: Advance Tickets only: $55 (bring a friend for $5)
www.countycomes2ottawa.eventbrite.ca

This article was written by Savvy Sommelier Debbie Trenholm & will be featured in Ottawa Life Magazine on May 22.

 

 

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Come to an Outstanding Event

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, November 17th, 2015
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Quick…before we SELL OUT! Want to sample wines, artisanal spirits & ciders from EVERY corner of Ontario? Then get your tickets now to this Outstanding in their Fields Taste & Buy – where you will meet the makers of .  That’s right…Prince Edward County, Beamsville Bench, Niaraga-on-the-Lake & for the first time ever, a winery from Lake Erie North Shore AND the Outstanding image wine glassOttawa Valley! How cool is that?!?

You name it…we’ll have it to TASTE & BUY!

Bubbles, white, red & dessert wines, refreshing ciders along with artisanal gin, vodka & rye….there will even be outstanding artisan chocolate too! Get ready to sample & stock up for the holidays.

Best shipping Promo EVER!

EXTRA BONUS! FREE shipping when you order 6, 12 or more bottles of ANY combo of your new found favorites.

 

Buy your ticket for $70 & bring a friend for FREE

 

 

Try these ciders…

County Cider CompanyPrince Edward County

County Cider (500mL) $6.95

Pear Cider (500mL) $7.90

Feral Cider (1L) $9.95

 

Vieni Estates  – Beamsville Bench (Niagara)

Sparkling Apple Cider $15.95

 

Artisan spirits…

Dillon’s Small Batch Distillers Niagara *first time featured!*

Unfiltered Gin 22 (750mL) $39.95

Rose Gin (750mL) $44.95

Cherry Gin (750mL) $49.95

The White Rye (750mL) $37.45

Method 95 Vodka (750mL) $39.95

Limoncello (375mL) $24.95

 

Craft Dark Chocolate…

Hummingbird Chocolate Maker – Almonte *first time featured!*

 

Wines from…

Amazing Wines Niagara-on-the-Lake

2013 Chardonnay $14.95

2013 Cabernet Franc $14.95

Calamus Estate WineryBeamsville Bench

2013 Steely Chardonnay $14.95

2013 Roberts Riesling $15.20

2013 White Night (Reg. $13.20)$11.20

2012 Calvin’s Cabernet $17.50

2012 Cabernet Franc $23.20


Casa-Dea Estates
Prince Edward County

2013 Dea’s Cuvée Sparkling $18.95

2012 Chardonnay $15.95

2013 Gamay $15.95

2011 Pinot Noir $19.95


Château des Charmes
Niagara-on-the-Lake

2013 Chardonnay Musqué $16.95

2013 Sauvignon Blanc $17.95

2012 Gamay Noir ‘Droit’ $16.95

2012 Cabernet Franc $25.95


Calamus Estate Winery – Beamsville Bench

2013 Steely Chardonnay $14.95

2013 Roberts Riesling $15.20

2013 White Night (Reg. $13.20)$11.20

2012 Calvin’s Cabernet $17.50

2012 Cabernet Franc $23.20


Kacaba Vineyards
Beamsville Bench (Niagara)

2013 Reserve Riesling(Reg $17.95) $15.95

2014 Pinot Gris $17.95

2013 Cabernet Sauvignon(Reg $24.95) $20.95  ***Not yet released***

2011 Terrace Vineyard Syrah $24.95


KIN Vineyards – Ottawa Valley *first time featured!*

2014 Chardonnay $29.95


North 42 Degrees Estate Winery
– Lake Erie North Shore *first time featured!*

2013 Riesling $15.95

2012 Sauvignon Blanc $17.95

2013 Sauvignon Blanc $17.95

2013 Gewürztraminer $19.95

2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $20.95


Pondview Estate Winery
Niagara-on-the-Lake

2014 Viognier $16.95

2013 Bella Terra Pinot Gris $19.95

2013 Cabernet Merlot Reserve $18.95

2013 Bella Terra Cabernet Sauvignon (Reg. $39.95) $37.95


Sandbanks Estate Winery
Prince Edward County

2014 Riesling $14.95

2014 Pinot Grigio $15.95

2014 Gewürztraminer $15.95

2013 Baco Noir $14.95

2013 Mouton Noir $19.95

2013 French Kiss $19.95

Southbrook Vineyards – Niagara-on-the-Lake

2013 Connect Organic Chardonnay $19.95

2013 ‘Wild Ferment’ Chardonnay $34.95

2013 Triomphe Cabernet Merlot $22.95

2013 ‘201’ Cabernet Franc $34.95

2007 Poetica Cabernet Merlot $54.95

2005 ‘Barrel Ferment’ Vidal Icewine (375mL) $34.95


Sue-Ann Staff Winery
 – Beamsville Bench 

2013 Fancy Farm Girl Flirty Bubbles $27.95

2013 Fancy Farm Girl Foxy Pink $17.00

2012 Pinot Grigio $18.00

2011 Robert’s Block Riesling (Reg. $26.00) $21.00

2014 Fancy Farm Girl Flamboyant Red $14.95

2012 Vidal Icewine $24.95


The Grange of Prince Edward 
Prince Edward County

2012 Select Chardonnay $19.95

2012 Select Riesling $19.95

2011 Select Gamay Noir $20.95

2011Select Cabernet Franc $24.95

Show special: 1 bottle of each wine for total of $80.00 ($5 savings)


Trail Estate Winery Prince Edward County

2014 Riesling $23.95

2014 Unoaked Chardonnay $23.95

2013 Baco Noir Reserve $30.00

2013 Cabernet Reserve $39.00

2014 Riesling Icewine $38.00


Traynor Family Vineyard
Prince Edward County

2014 Pinot Gris $24.95

2013 Chardonnay$24.95

2014 Sauvignon Blanc$24.95

2014 Alta Red$19.95

Vieni Estates  – Beamsville Bench 

Momenti Rosé Sparkling $16.95

Sparkling Bollicine $16.95

2012 Pinot Grigio $14.95

2012 Brigantine Reserve $18.95

2012 Cabernet Franc Private Reserve $29.95

 

 

Be a Very Important Taster!  

Special Advance Acess 
$25 plus your event ticket

This extra-special pass is only an additional $25 & provides you advance access to spend more time mixing & mingling with the makers and most of all sampling their products.  With your V.I.T. pass you can arrive at the Taste & Buy anytime between 5 to 7pm…then stay as long as you like for the main event. Only 125 passes available.

Event Details
DATE: Thursday November 19, 2016
V.I.T. Passholders only: 5 to 7pm
MAIN EVENT: 7 to 9pm
LOCATION: Summit Room – 29th Floor of Ottawa Marriott Hotel, 100 Kent Street


Advance Tickets Only
Regular ticket for $70

V.I.T. Pass – Buy $25 upgrade for early access
Ticket prices include wine samples, light snacks, HST….and a special Savvy wine tasting glass


Get Ready to Sip & Stock up!  

This Taste & Buy event will feature outstanding wines, ciders, artisanal spirits that you probably haven’t tried before… you definitely won’t find them at the LCBO. This event is the perfect opportunity to stock up for the holiday entertaining & gifts.   

To help you prep your power shopping, we will email you the list of everything that will be showcased.  All parcels will be hand delivered by courier to your home or office – now that is convenient! 

NEW! FREE Shipping on 6 bottles

Now this is an OUTSTANDING offer.  Order ANY combination of 6, 12 or more bottles from ANY of showcased wineries, distillery or cidery & shipping is FREE.

Unable to join us but want to order?

No problem.  The Savvy Team would be delighted to make arrangements for your wine delivery – simply call us 613-728-8926 or order online.

 

And…there’ll be Outstanding views too!

You’ll oooh & ahhh at the panoramic view of the city lights from the 29th floor of the Ottawa Marriott Hotel.  The room will revolve all night long.  Check out the fun photos from our last Taste & Buy.

See you there!
Debbie & the Savvy Team

 

 

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Fancy a trip to The County?

Posted by Debbie

Friday, September 11th, 2015
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It is harvest time in wine country!  The Savvy Bus is heading to Prince Edward County on Saturday September 26 with our Savvy Sommeliers will be your tour guides. There is always a great buzz at this time of year, so why not join us to experience it first hand?

taste-2015-mainHop on board, sit back & relax in our luxury coach as we explore the backroads of Prince Edward County.  We will stop in Picton to take in TASTE – Community Grown, a farm-to-table festival where you will meet The County’s finest winemakers, chefs, brewers and farmers too – all under one roof in the historic Crystal Palace.  Sip & sample the great wines & craft beers from the region…and even buy bottles to bring back home.  Being in the height of harvest, there will be a bounty of farm fresh produce & gourmet goodies too.

The Savvy Bus is 50% sold out  –  Book your spot on the bus >>

TASTE – Community Grown

TasteThis is the region’s premier food & wine market, celebrating their culinary community from farm to table.  Chefs, winemakers, craft beer producers and farmers will all gathered in the same place on the same day.

You can shop till you drop too!  Take home fresh produce of the season, one-of-a-kind products from our local farmers & Ontario VQA wines directly from participating wineries.

Winery tour stop #1

traynorAfter taking in TASTE, we will head off to visit wineries. First stop – Traynor Family Vineyards, the newest in The County.  Mike Traynor purchased the property back in December 2008 when it was just a frozen cornfield but he could see his vision from that moment. Since then, family & friends have been invited to the vineyard to assist with some consuming tasks. With hard work…there are fun times too!  Traynor hosts a number of events such as Prunapolooza and Harvest Soiree’s, which have been a great way to allow people to become part of the wine making process and to leave with a  warm memory and wonderful experience from The County.

Mike’s parents are retired and have purchased a place nearby the vineyard so…they are always on the ready to lend a helpful hand. On weekends, often Mike’s wife Rebecca and son Quintin are seen around the vineyard too.

The winery opened it’s doors Labour Day weekend of 2014, and since then, Mike’s vision of creating a comfortable space where people can come visit and enjoy has become a reality!

Winery tour stop #2

Keint He winemakerNext stop will be at Keint-He Winery & Vineyards  a Burgundian inspired winery right here in Ontario that produces Pinot Noir with international character.

Unlike many grape producers, at Keint-he they like to think of their vineyards as ‘a habitat for the vines’. “Our Pinot grapes prosper in harmony with their environment, not in spite of it”, explains co-owner Bryan Rogers. They’ve applied the Burgundian model of viticulture to The County microclimate. That means that the 28 acres of vines that they’ve planted now, will never exceed 35 acres – this is high density planting and they believe in it.

Keint-he produces domestic wines that exhibit European minerality and acidity. The vines are lovingly raised in the limestone rich soils of our three distinct and unique vineyards. The grape growing & winemaking team at Keint-he only focuses on those grape varietals that most effectively showcase the terroir of the region. The result is award winning, terroir-based wines that reflect our standard for quality and the character of the region in which they were produced.

Dinner anyone?

Agrarian logoTo finish off our day, a light dinner will be provided by Bloomfield’s own Agrarian Cheesemarket & Speakeasy and served amongst the vines of Keint-he Winery.

Agrarian Chef, Neil Dowson, likes to takes advantage of the wonderful produce this area has to offer as he shares his modern spin on classic comfort food and the result is delicious! From the farm, dairy, bakery and winery right to your table. On your next trip to The County, be sure to stop at the Bistro to pull-up a chair, enjoy great food and soak up the rustic warmth of our dining room.

Agrarian on tapWhat is a Speakeasy you ask?

Well according to the dictionary it’s ‘a place where alcoholic drink was sold illicitly during Prohibition’ and it comes from speak + easy (in the sense: gently, quietly).  At the Agrarian’s Speakeasy it is a funky space featuring craft brews on tap, great ciders, wine and killer cocktails. Live music on Saturday evenings are just a few of the fun events this place has to offer. Food, drink, friends!

Savvy Bus Ticket info

Advance Booking Only – click here for tickets
Savvy Special: $149 (regular $165)
Price includes absolutely everything! Roundtrip transportation in a luxury coach, Sommelier guides, admission to TASTE, winery tours, dinner in the vineyard & good ol’ HST.

The Master Plan…

The Savvy Bus will depart downtown Ottawa at 8:30am from the Ottawa Marriott (100 Kent St). We will pick up passengers at the new BRIDGEHEAD Coffee Shop in the Pinecrest Mall & Starbucks at 1151 Division Street (near the 401) in Kingston.

Our plan is to arrive at TASTE by 11:30am.

At 3pm, the Savvy Bus will continue our road-trip with a drive through Picton, take the scenic route along the Loyalist Parkway to Traynor Vineyards for a tour & tasting, then onwards to Keint-he Winery where we will be treated to a dinner surrounded by vineyards. By 8pm, the coach will depart for Ottawa. 

The fun filled day (and a delicious one at that) should wrap up around 11pm when we return back to Ottawa.

Bonus!

A Savvy Sommelier will be on the coach with you offering wine tips, telling you stories about Prince Edward County & answering any ‘County’ questions you may have along the way.

Everyone is welcome to join us on this roadtrip! 

Order your tickets now for the Savvy Bus

 

 

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DIY Wine Tasting – tips from our Sommeliers

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, February 24th, 2015
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Have you been renovating all winter? Show off your new digs by having friends and neighbours over for a do-it-yourself wine tasting?  It does not need to be an overly grand production, rather a novel ‘reason’ to have people over to ooh and ahhh about your handy work.

Like hiring a designer or contractor, you can call on a Sommelier (check out our 17 Savvy Sommeliers who are there to help you) to take care of all the details and work with a caterer to prepare a menu paired with each wine.   Here’s our tips & trick on hosting your own wine tasting:

Savvy Company - GiancarloStep 1 – It’s all about the experience

Depending on how formal and structured you would like the experience to be, a wine tasting can be conducted at a large dining room table with rows of wine glasses waiting to be sampled.  For a more casual experience, try a reception style in your family room, but the reality is that everyone may end up in the kitchen. This way they can help themselves to a table full of different wines and platters of hors d’oeuvres throughout the evening.

Step 2 – What’s your theme?

Your wine tasting event can focus on exploring wines of a certain country or region or can examine one type of wine such as Pinot Noirs, Sauvignon Blanc or Chardonnays from various wine regions around the world.

The top 5 themes for wine tastings that our Savvy Sommeliers design & host are:

A Trip Around the World in 5 Glasses
Cheese, Chocolate & Wine!
An Endless Night of Bubbles! (showcasing different styles of sparkling wines)
Passionate about Pinot (featuring Pinot Gris & Pinot Noirs from around the world)
Be Adventurous – wines under $20 you’ve never tried

Step 3 – Wine shopping made simpleCathy Law with glasses

With your theme in mind, now comes the fun part of selecting the wines.  Here are tips from the pros at Savvy Company:

Welcome your guests into your newly-renovated home with a glass of sparkling wine.  The popping of the cork sets the mood for a party (watch that it does not spray onto your freshly-painted walls or hit the ceiling!) and a glass of bubbly cleanses and refreshes your palette, preparing it for the evening ahead of delicious wines and foods.

Feature 5 to 7 wines as too many wines will ‘numb’ your palette. Each sampling of wine should be approximately two ounces (about one inch in an ISO wine tasting glass…more about glasses below).  This equates to serving 10 people per bottle of wine.

Step 4 – What about food?

Wine is made to be enjoyed with food.  At a minimum, offer your guests sliced baguettes and water crackers to cleanse & refresh their palettes between wines.  To augment the food selection, have an artisan cheese board with an assortment of hard, soft and blue veined cheeses.  Go a step further and enhance the wine and food experience by pairing each wine with hors d’oeuvres.

Tip from the pros:  leave pickles, dips & vegetable sticks for another party and serve foods like grilled vegetables, hearty meatballs, chicken satay, roasted nuts & olives …and don’t forget cheese!

Now…Let the fun begin!

Savvy Company - AmandaEnjoying wine engages all of your senses.    There are no rules to wine tasting as everyone’s impression is personal and this makes for interesting conversation. I always say, “Wine tasting is as easy as eyes, nose and mouth.” With each wine, take note of the colour (eyes), the aromas (nose) and the flavours (mouth).

Let’s taste a wine together… Pour approximately two ounces into your wine glass.

Eyes…

Tilt the glass 45 degrees away from you, using a white tablecloth as the backdrop and notice:

The colour and clarity of the wine. 

What colour does it remind you of:
Whites – pale straw or golden
Rosés – cotton candy pink, salmon or terracotta
Reds – garnet, fire engine red, cherry, purple, ink or opaque 

Nose…

Aromas or bouquet, however you call it, Sommelier pros suggest to hold the ISO tasting glass by the stem, swirl the wine in a steady circular motion to introduce air into the wine to release the aromas.

What does the wine smell like? 

Basic descriptors are:
Sparkling wines – nutty, refreshing, crisp
White wines – dry, floral, citrus, tropical fruit, pineapple, pears, apples
Reds – cherry, strawberry, blackberry, earthy, vanilla, leather, dried fruit

Mouth….

And now to taste! Take a sip, chew the wine (as if it were mouthwash) to coat your entire mouth.

Take note:
Is the wine light, medium or full bodied?
Does the wine taste the same as it smells?
Do the flavours linger or disappear?
Try each wine with food and note how the food changes your enjoyment of the wine.

Repeat…Repeat…Repeat!

After an evening of swirling, sipping and perhaps spitting, it is no wonder that a wine tasting is a fun way to explore the world of wines as well as socializing in your newly renovated home.

 

Tools of the trade

ISO wine tasting glasses: These tulip shaped glasses (right) allow you to easily swirl 2 ounces of wine and the narrow rim captures the aromas.  ISO glassesFor a formal tasting, one glass per featured wine is needed per person, or a casual cocktail style event requires one glass per person to re-use throughout the event.

White tablecloth:  drape your table with a basic white tablecloth so that your guests can use it white background to really see the colour of the wines

Pitcher of Water: for rinsing the glasses and refreshing your palette in between wines

Spitoon or bucket: used to empty unwanted wine and rinsing water.

Don’t forget the corkscrew!

 

Savvy Company - ShawnLet the experts do it for you!

If you are DIY-ed out and want a Sommelier to design and organize a fun wine event in your home, call on our Savvy Sommeliers us anytime 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926).

Or join us at our Taste & Buy events to sip and sample Ontario wines which are not available at the LCBO.

Next event: County in the Capital – Wednesday April 8th- featuring hard-to-find wines, craft beers & ciders from Prince Edward County. Tickets $65 + bring a friend for $1.  Buy your tickets quickly – this event will sell out fast!>>

Cheers!
Debbie

 

This article appears in the ‘Spaces’ issue of Ottawa Life Magazine – March/April 2015

 

 

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Discover Canada’s REAL Cranberry in The Muskokas

Posted by Susan

Tuesday, November 11th, 2014
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Looking for a getaway over the weekend?  Try visiting the Muskokas where there’s lots to see & do. Here’s something you might not have thought of….be sure to visit Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh & Muskoka Lakes Winery.  On our fall getaway, my husband & I hit a spot of bad weather & were drowned in over 100 mm of rain, which meant that our planned golf games were cancelled – greens were flooded, beaver dams were giving way there was water everywhere!

Johnston's CranberriesWhat to do when your planned game goes, literally, down the drain? Head for the small hamlet of Bala and find your way to Johnston’s Cranberry Marsh and Muskoka Lakes Winery.

The marsh is open year round and offers a fascinating walking tour that provides a great education into the production of cranberries, one of Canada’s few native fruits. No, they don’t grow in water.

The ideal cranberry marsh is dug from a peat-based soil with a stream or river nearby. The woody vines, growing low to the ground, are systematically flooded in spring to discourage insects and disease, then the berries grow dry through the summer, with the marsh flooded once again in the fall to float the berries for harvest.

Orville Johnston, who studied agriculture at my alma mater, McGill University, dreamed of a thriving cranberry industry, so he bought ideal land in the Muskokas and dug the first marsh in the late 1950s. His son, Murray, also studied agriculture (at Guelph University) and to this day carries on the cranberry marsh tradition with his family.

Muskoka LakesMurray and his wife (her family owned Gooderham and Worts Distillery and her fascination with wine led her to train as a sommelier) established Muskoka Lakes Winery in 2000, with a goal ‘to take locally grown fruit and use traditional methods to craft artisanal wine.’ Their Cranberry and Cranberry Blueberry wines, as well as the Red Maple dessert wine have won awards at the Canadian Wine Championships, and are available at the LCBO.

 

Cool Cranberry Wines

 

Muskoka Lakes Cranberry Wine 2013

Canada $15.95 (609701) 9.5% alcohol

Off-dry and fruit forward, this wine is true to its source, with aromas and flavours of lively fresh cranberry. Fermented in stainless to showcase the fruit, it’s light-medium bodied, tangy in texture and zesty through the refreshing finish. With turkey, of course!!

 

Muskoka Lakes Cranberry Blueberry Wine 2013

Canada $16.95 (609719) 10.5% alcohol

Equal proportions of cranberries and local wild blueberries are fermented together to produce a tangy, off-dry wine that offers a silky texture and fine berry aromas and flavours. It’s crisp and lively, the sweet fruit persisting on the palate, elusive notes of dried herbs and nut lingering on the finish. Slightly chilled this wine is a pleasant sipper but also a great match for roast turkey or chicken.

 

Muskoka Lakes Red Maple 2012

Canada $23.95 (50039) 15.0% alcohol (375ml)

A fortified wine, this dessert treat adds maple syrup to the cranberry wine after fermentation. The fruit shines through, with interesting notes of smoke, earth and spice. Lush and sweet, it’s fresh in texture, the purity of the cranberry and its zesty acidity shining through. A great marriage of the mouth-filling sweetness of maple and the crisp tartness of cranberry. Enjoy with a chocolate dessert.

Cheers & Enjoy these Muskoka Lakes cranberry wines!
Susan

 

 

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An enthusiast discovering wineries in Prince Edward County

Posted by Amanda

Friday, May 2nd, 2014
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If you’re looking for a day trip or a weekend away to try great wines, look no further than Prince Edward County…just 2.5 hrs drive from Ottawa. I’m always up for an outing and Easter Weekend saw me winery-hopping – and I even saw the Easter Bunny!

Take the scenic route – car, ferry & even a boat (or pedalo)

Bergeron grape picking 3Driving from Ottawa, you can take the pictoresque Glenora ferry and make your first winery stop at Devils Wishbone, just past the really cool Lake on the Mountain – where you see a pretty lake right outside your car window (you can even get out & admire it) and then hundreds of feet down a cliff is the Bay of Quinte!

First Ferry, then Lake…now Winery. Devils Wishbone was the name the earliest settlers used for this location due to poor soil conditions for farming, which can be great soil for growing grapes! You will be warmly welcomed by winery owner Paul Gallagher and his friendly staff and you can enjoy their wines either inside the old barn or sitting out on his new deck; you can taste all of his carefully crafted local wines and enjoy the breathtaking views.

Wine & cheese – a match made in heaven

Cap_CressyBe sure to stop in at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Company located at 4309 County Road 8. You can poke around, taste some cheese, visit their chees-making facility, which by the way is completely GREEN; that is they are leaders in Advanced Sustainable Design.

A couple of suggestions – to sample & to buy, are: Plain Jane, County Maple, Lavender, Dill Weed and Lemon, Lemon Thyme and Cracked Black Pepper, Garlic and Chive, Cape Vessey, both Lacey Grey and Nude hand rolled chevre logs, Lost Lake… to name but a few of their great artisan cheeses (ok…that list is long, yet there is so much at their cheese store!). So for great cheese – and sustainability – buy from Fifth Town. Store hours Sat & Sun 11am-4pm.

Is it lunch-time yet?

County Cider lunch

For those of you who have worked up an appetite, it’s only a short drive to a delectable outdoor treat (see pergola terrace in photo at right), where I savoured their thin-crust pizza from the wood burning pizza oven &  fantastic salad at The County Cider Company, located at 657 Bongards Crossing just near the Junction of County Road 8. Not only is the food great, you also get to enjoy the dramatic view from the outdoor patio perched high above Lake Ontario.  My recommendation for that neck of the woods, but do check ahead for hours open.

Last stop today…but I’m back on the trail tomorrow!

IMG_2301I stopped to see Glenn Symons, winemaker of Lighthall Vineyards, because I knew which wine I wanted to go with my succulent BBQ Salmon that I had planned for dinner – his 2011 Chardonnay of course because it bursts with flavors of Asian pear and orchard fruit.

He had some great vineyard stories – don’t forget to ask about the Luna Moth – and insisted I sample his latest releases; then at the end of his busy Saturday full of tourists, media & chefs he invited me to sit outside & sip his latest spectacular Chardonnay on the patio. Cheers amigo!

Be careful when you get behind the wheel

I guess this is a good time to mention that you really ought to have a designated driver for his kind of outing.  Sure it’s true winery hopping is not meant for drinking all you can but for sampling small sips of many different wines. It’s about discovering quality, not quantity. There’s an art to tasting wines and for those of you less familiar with oenology, I’ve shared a few tips below (at end of blog) on what I’ve learned over the past few years in this wonderful world of wine.

So I’ve covered the tiniest part of The County wineries (Marysburgh, North & South), some artisan cheese and a quick spot of lunch, but there is still much to see and do, so if you can – plan to spend the weekend.

Wine Samples…Day Two

I put my jalopy into high gear, heading straight through Picton and on through Bloomfield, Wellington into region of Hillier. For sure there many small quaint towns to see all over Ontario, but this is one spot where wine is really happenin’ so I wanted to make the most of the ‘terroir’ (wine lingo for the earth in the ground that grows the grapes that makes the wine).

Take the scenic route

Be calmed by the waves of Lake Ontario splashing against the shoreline on your left as you head into a different wine area – new soil, new ground, new wines.

karlo barnFirst stop Karlo Estates (classic barn in photo at left), located at 561 Danforth Road, where you will hear the happy laughter of Richard Karlo before you see the winemaker himself. Karlo is run by Richard & his Partner Sherry Martin (also an artist in her own right), out of a beautiful old red barn converted into a tasting bar with oodles of ambience.

They boast an extensive wine list of about 12 wines covering the full range from light to full bodied and are the only winery in the county to produce a white port, alongside it’s sister red port. The barn itself is worth the detour and be sure to wander through the field to take a closer look at their medieval-looking bridge, the largest mortarless structure in North America. A tasting experience people travel far & wide for.

Hubbs Creek Vineyard

Un vero italiano

Hubb’s Creek (see photo at right) right across the street is the home of The County’s true Italian, Battista Calvieri, a wine grower who has been cultivating grapes for over 10 years with his first release in 2012. Worth waiting for to be sure, try his Pinot Gris, the Rosé being bottled soon and for me the Pinot Noir is his signature wine. More wines will be added to the list soon. Open weekends only & full time in Summer.  A presto!

In fact for those of you on the road of wine discovery like myself, you should know that Pinot noir is one of the county’s top grape varieties. It all comes down to the soil and it doesn’t take a scientist to figure out that that PEC is laden with the best soil for Pinot noir Grapes. Yabadaadoo, my favourite wine.

Every winery has a name & every name has a story

After munchies in Wellington (I popped into the Tall Poppy Café), then headed for an afternoon saunter through some vines at Keint-He Winery, named very aptly after what is now becoming Ontario’s fastest-growing wine region.

Keint-He canoes on labelKeint-He Winery & Vineyards honours the native word Keint-He which is the name of one of the four Seneca villages in this part of Eastern Ontario; they were one of the five tribes of the Iroquois. The word Keint-He was later francocized into “Quinte” and used in English names such as the Bay of Quinte.

The painting used on their labels (Canoes in a Fog, Lake Superior in photo on left) was originally done by Canadian artist Frances Anne Hopkins.

As the afternoon progressed I had to start thinking of the dreary drive home, but not before a highly reccommended stop at By Chadsey’s Cairns – a long-winded name for a winery if ever there was one.

By Chadsey's Cairns tasting bar exterior

A warm welcome everywhere you go

Despite interrupting his lunch (with a glass of Chardonnay), winery owner Richard Johnston welcomed me with a history lesson, a tour & some great wines.  All this only made me want to learn more about the origin of his grapes and as I tasted my way through his excellent repertoire of white, off white, red & dessert wines, I was left wanting more. This isn’t just another tick in the box – it’s a place to return to.

He is well served by his partner in wine, Vida Zalnieriunas, who is  – as she would say “the winemaker”!  Richard &  Vida have an ongoing (curious) debate at the winery – is the winemaker the person who gives instructions or the one following the instructions, meaning the person doing all the slogging?

There is – again – a story behind the name of this winery – and it’s a good one if you have the time to listen and take it all in as the cairns (hand-built stone structures) are still there to this day and when you stand in the beautifully restored brick tasting room, you can almost see “Old Ira Chadsey”  in 1870 walking the vineyards.

I think this bit of local folklore is worth sharing – so here you have it as told by Richard:

cairns for Chadsey's Cairns“The story has it that Ira is alleged to have declared that he would return after his death reincarnated as a white horse, and he was building the stone markers so he could find his way home.  Then, seven years after his wife’s death, at the age of 77, Ira built a large bonfire in his maple syrup shack, located down the laneway by the cairns, and shot himself so that his body would be flung into the flames.  The fire is said to have been so intense that nothing was found but the metal barrel of his gun.”

Richard claims that it would be hard to leave Ira on that note.  “When it came time to name our vineyards, we decided Ira’s colourful and poignant tale deserved a firmer hold in time”

My day was full of rewards and I do believe that there is a Wine God.

My winery hopping tips…

Try not to cram too many winery visits into one day, amble leisurely & enjoy the atmosphere & countryside, talk to the people who pour for you & learn as you go.

Bryan at Keing-HeAsk lots of questions and try as many or as few wines as you like (check tasting pricing before you start).  Start with the whites, they whet your appetite (even if it’s just your appetite for more wine); then move to light weight reds, ending off with heavier reds and lastly sweet and/or dessert wine. See how friendly they all are – really ALL the winemakers, winery owners & staff in Prince Edward County are THIS friendly, take it from Bryan Rogers of Keint-He Winery (in photo at right).

Feel free to spit, even the experts do it; this way you are coating your palate with the exotic flavours of each wine that you try but not consuming 4 bottles of wine of an afternoon. (If you don’t see a spittoon handy, just ask).

Pick a theme for the day – taste a particular grape variety everywhere you go; or maybe you might want to do the A-Z of The County’s Chardonnay, so it’s whites from sun up to sundown; there are so many ways to taste wines, so don’t wait – get on to The County!

Final tip – Enjoy yourself, it’s a time of discovery.

What about the Easter Bunny?

Elycia at Harwood in bunny earsIn case you’re wondering about the Easter Bunny I mentioned at the top…here’s how I ‘found’ it:

My last stop (or you could say hop) in the afternoon before heading back to Ottawa was at Harwood Estates, where Elycia showed off her prowess in the wine domaine by explaining each & every one of Harwoods great wines. There was a nice cosy spot at the tasting bar to munch my sandwich (originally destined for a road-stop on the 401) while I learned about the little-known variety of St. Laurent from this very friendly bunny…oops I mean Elycia! My discovery of the day was Admiral’s Blend,  a blend of estate Pinot Noir & St. Laurent which is medium-bodied with aromas of cherry, coffee and cardamom. A complex palate of Asian spice, cherry and chocolate

Can you imagine my surprise when I came away from a winery visit with a chocolate bunny! Another great day in Prince Edward County & thank you Harwood Estates.

Enjoy your travels & call on me as well as the others in the Savvy Team anytime on 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or cheers@savvycompany.ca  for suggestions of wineries to visit all across Ontario.

A presto!

-Amanda

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Too many to count! Here’s what’s in store at County in the City

Posted by Debbie

Friday, April 4th, 2014
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Are you ready?  We certainly are! County in the City is our annual Taste & Buy events featuring Prince Edward County’s finest wines, ciders & craft beers – you won’t find any of these at the LCBO.
County in the City
At this sold out event, ticketholders have the unique opportunity to meet the cool people from The County & order any combination of their favorites from The County to be delivered by courier to a work or home. And there will be free shipping by courier on orders of 12 bottles or more.

Can’t make it? Don’t have a ticket? No worries! You can order your County favorites using our online order form.

What will be showcased when The County comes to Ottawa?

There are so many delicious discoveries that await…Here’s what will be available to sample so you can plan ahead & make your ‘I gotta try’ list.

Barley Days Brewery

Sugar Shack $8.50

Oak Aged IPA $8.50

Vin & Sail $8.50

Pumpkin Saison of the Witch $12.95

Scrimshaw Oyster Stout $12.95

County Cider Company

Waupoos Premium Cider (4 bottle pack)  $13.35

Waupoos Peach Cider $9.95

Waupoos Feral Cider $9.95

Casa-Dea Estates Winery

2012  Dea’s Cuvée Sparkling Wine $19.95

2011 Riesling $16.95

2010 Cabernet Franc $18.95

2010 Pinot Noir $19.95

Devil’s Wishbone

2012 Wicked White $19.00

2012 Riesling $22.00

2012 Cabernet Franc $25.00

2012 Pinot Noir $29.00

Harwood Estates Winery

2012 Pinot Gris $18.00

2012 Windward White $18.00

2011 Friends Rosé $18.00

2011 The Admiral’s Blend $25.00

2011 Merlot $25.00

Hubbs Creek Vineyard

2013 Pinot Gris $17.95

2012 Rosé $17.95

2011 Pinot Noir $28.95

Huff Estates

2012 Riesling Off Dry $17.95

2010 South Bay Chardonnay $29.95

2012 Merlot $19.95

2012 Gamay $24.95

Karlo Estates

2012 Riesling $22.00

2012 Chardonnay CHOA $25.00

2011 Pinot Gris $21.00

2011 Frontenac Gris Rosé $16.00

2011 Cabernet Franc $24.00

2011 Merlot $24.00

2010 Pinot Noir $29.00

2010 Quintus $35.00

2010 The 5th Element $39.00

2010 VanAlstine White Port $29.00

2009 VanAlstine Red Port $29.00

Keint-He Winery

2012 Voyageur Chardonnay $16.00

2012 Portage Chardonnay $20.00

2011 Voyageur Rosé $15.00

2011 Portage Pinot Noir $25.00

2012 Voyageur Pinot Noir $18.00

Lacey Estates Winery

2011 Chardonnay $24.00

2013 Pinot Gris $19.95

2013 Riesling $25.00

2011 Baco $20.00

Lighthall Vineyards

2012 Progression Sparkling $20.00

2011 Chardonnay $20.00 – special price

2012 Gewürztraminer $25.00

2010  Pinot Noir $25.00

Long Dog Winery

2008 Bella Riserva Chardonnay $18.00

2009 Bella Riserva Chardonnay $22.00

2010 Bella Riserva Chardonnay $25.00

2008 Top Dog Pinot Noir $24.00

2009 Top Dog Pinot Noir $30.00

2010 Top Dog Pinot Noir $30.00

Rosehall Run Vineyards 

2011 Pixie Rosé $17.95

2012 Pinot Gris Cuvée County $21.95

2011 JCR Chardonnay Rosehall Vineyard $29.95

2012 Gamay Noir Cuvée County $19.95

2011 Cabernet Franc Cuvée County $24.95

2011 JCR Pinot Noir $39.00

Sandbanks Estate Winery

2012 Shoreline White $14.95

2012 Sauvignon Blanc $16.95

2012 Cabernet Franc Réserve $29.95

2011 French Kiss (Cabernet-Merlot) $19.95

2012 Late Harvest $14.95

Stanners Vineyard

2011 Riesling $23.00

2012 Chardonnay $25.00

2011 Straw House Red $20.00

2010 Pinot Noir $30.00

2011 Pinot Noir $30.00

The Grange of Prince Edward

2012 Estate Riesling $15.95

2010 Estate Gamay Noir $14.95

2012 Estate Pinot Noir $14.95

2009 Estate Pinot Noir $16.95

 Thirty Three Vines

2012 Frontenac Blanc $15.00

2012 Chardonnay $17.00

2012 Riesling $17.00

2011 Baco Noir $15.00

2011 Merlot $15.00

2011 Cabernet Franc $25.00

2010 Pinot Noir $25.00

 

 

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Wines you’ll die for from Coffin Ridge Estates Winery

Posted by Julie

Tuesday, October 29th, 2013
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Get out your Ghoul…let the Trick or Treaters entice you into a little Black Magic this year with some great Ontario wines from Coffin Ridge Boutique Winery.  Just when I thought I knew or had heard of most Ontario wineries, I discovered a new one! Coffin Ridge is located in cottage country between Owen Sound and Meaford. In 1999, the grapes were planted on a parcel of land called Coffin Hill and it is considered as Grey County’s first commercial vineyard.

My cousin rents a cottage nearby and recently brought me back 4, yes FOUR Coffins…bottles of their wines that is. I would love a dress in the colour of their rosé ! A glistening orangey cranberry, my husband and I decided it was a colour unto its own. We were initially teased with aromas of sweet canteloupe and melon, baked pear and apples, almost streusel-like but upon tasting, the wine is bone dry with mouthwatering flavours of cranberry and rhubarb. It has zippy acidity and a fruity, raspberry finish. It is one of the loveliest rosés I have tasted all summer and we try many rosés.

What’s in a ‘horror’ific name?

I would be remiss not to mention the play on words of the Coffin Ridge wine labels. Names like “Back from the Dead Red”, “Black Magic”, “Riesling Bone Dry” plus “Resurrection Rosé” that was born 2010 (11.7% alcohol $17.80) all connotate a Halloween theme. I was also informed that the wine boxes are shaped like a coffin. The crafting of these grapes from the vineyard into the bottle also points to the “life after death” theme with every sip. Love this!

We enjoyed the bottle of Rosé wine with a plate of Raincoast cranberry & sunflower crackers along with a mild cheddar – it was one divine snack. Like every small vineyard, on account of the limited quanity, a very few of these wines can be purchased at the LCBO, so if you happen to be in that vicinity, it is definitely worth the journey. Big thanks to my cousin, Carrie.

May you have a spooooooooky Halloween this year…and sip a glass of Back from the Dead Red.

Julie 

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Beat the heat with a pitcher of Sangria!

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013
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Ole! Cool down with a pitcher of Sangria this summer.  This Spanish favorite summer drink are typically made with red wine, seasonal fruit with a splash of soda or sparkling wine (Spanish Cava is perfect) to give it a refreshing spritz. Did you know that Sangria was introduced to North America in the Spanish Pavilion at the 1964 New York’s World Fair.

Super easy to make, not to mention goes down easy too – Sangria can appeal to your friends who are not “into wine.”  You can use a variety of different wines in the recipe. Even use open bottles of wine that are sitting on your counter.

As seen on TV!

Watch me whipping up red & white wine sangria on CTV Ottawa Morning Live with host Kurt Stoodley – and you will find out my 2 secret ingredients!

Which types of wines to use?

Save your finest Bordeaux or wines that are deep in your cellar for a special occasion, when mixing up Sangria look for these grape varieties or styles of wine:

White Sangria

Pinot Gris
Muscato or Muscat
Off Dry Riesling
Prosecco (Italy) or Cava (Spain)
Chardonnay
Viognier
Vidal
Gewurztraminer
…or replace white wine with a Rosé wine – why not?

Red Sangria

Cabernet Sauvignon
Merlot
Zinfandel
Pinot Noir
Gamay Noir
Shiraz
Red wine blend

These wines are perfectly fine on their own.  I selected these grape varieties for their fruity & full bodied flavor profiles and bold style that would complement the added fruit.

Go Local!

Make this a All-Ontario summer drink by using Ontario wines, with locally grown fruit & finish off with a splash of Ottawa’s own Harvey & Vern’s Ginger Beer (available at Kichesippi Brewery or ask for it at your grocery stores).

 

Crowd Pleasing Classic Sangrai

Serves: 6 to 8 people

Easy to sip on any day of the week, with brunch, lunch or unwinding after work. Refreshing red sangria is fruit-laden without too much alcohol!

Ingredients

1 bottle of red wine (see above for list of recommended red wines)
1 lemon – cut into slices – cut into halves
1 orange cut slices – cut into halves or quarters
1 lime cut into wedges or slices
1 can of Five Alive concentrate
2 splashes of gin or triple sec (optional)
1 cup of berries (raspberries, strawberries) –  fresh or frozen
2 cups of ginger ale  **make it local by using Harvey & Vern’s Ginger Beer
ice – for WOW factor, make a large ice cube with empty plastic containers & float fruit then freeze


Method

Pour wine into one or two large pitchers.  Squeeze into the wine half of the sliced lemon, orange and lime. Once juiced, toss in the citrus fruit into pitcher.  Add remaining sliced fruit into mixture.Stir in Five Alive & Gin or triple sec if using. The best Sangrias are chilled overnight (or more) in the fridge to allow the flavors to mellow (and seep the fruit too!).

If you’d like to serve right away, use chilled red wine and serve over lots of ice.

Just before serving, add in ginger ale, berries and ice. Enjoy!

Photo credit: LyndseyLew Photography

A WOW-Pow White Sangria

Serves: 6 to 8 people

Ingredients

1 bottle of white wine (see above for list of recommended white wines)
2 oranges – thinly sliced & cut in half
1 lemon – cut into slices – cut into halves
1 lime cut into wedges or slices
1 small tin of mandarins – with juice
2 oz. Brandy (optional)
1 can of Five Alive concentrate or orange juice
2 cups of ginger ale (our pick Harvey & Vern’s Ginger Beer), club soda or sparkling wine (Cava from Spain or Prosecco from Italy)
More fruit – sliced strawberries, star fruit, peaches, nectarines, handful of fresh blueberries, a kiwi

Method

Pour white wine into a decorative pitcher.  Squeeze into the wine, the juice wedges from the orange, lemon and lime into the wine. Toss in the fruit wedges – leaving out seeds . Add brandy if desired.

Chill overnight. Just before serving, add ginger ale, club soda or sparkling wine to the pitchers.

If you’d like to serve right away, use chilled white wine and serve over lots of ice.

Photo credit: LyndseyLew Photography

Here’s to the lazy hazy days of summer!

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