Archive for ‘Wine articles’

Malbec. Tango. Steak.

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, April 17th, 2018

I confess.  I have a glass of big bold Malbec red wine from Argentina beside me while I write this article.  What. A. Fabulous. Place.  The wines – both red & whites.  The steak.  The landscape.  The history.  I have told everyone since my trip that if you have the opportunity, jump on a plane and GO!

Argentina holds many mysteries.  Before I embarked on this trip, I did not know what to expect. I did not expect that I would learn about the wine industry while riding horseback in the Andes Mountains.  Nor did I expect that I would be touring the wine regions in a classic Citroen ‘Slowkar’ that was nearly the same age as me! I did not expect that I would be treated like a rockstar at one of Argentina’s largest wineries – Zuccardi Valle de Uco.  I did not expect that most days breakfast with coffee would cost more than a delicious steak dinner.  I also did not expect to see couples dancing tango under a tree that has been the meeting spot in Beunos Aires for over 300 years. And never did I imagine that the blue skies would dramatically turn into a hail and rain storm that pelted down so hard that collapsed the roof in the Buenos Aires airport.  Click here to see my travel photos >>

“Come and visit me at my winery anytime”.  Those words was all that I needed.  When Jose Zuccardi, Owner & President of Familia Zuccardi invited me to his homeland over a 3 hour lunch when I met him at the Vancouver International Wine Festival, I knew that this was a business card that I was going to keep.

The name Zuccardi may ring a bell, and so it should.  Like Yellow Tail and Jacobs Creek, Zuccardi’s wine – FuZion – quickly became a household name in Canada when it WOWed everyone of its quality as well as its incredible price of $7.45.  It still to this day baffles me the economics of how a bottle of delicious Malbec-Shiraz red wine can be made in the southern hemisphere, travel the world by boat and still land in my hands for less than $8.


“Malbec is Argentina’s emblematic grape because it is like a friend who will never let you down” – Edgardo del Pópolo, Argonomist


Winemaking in Argentina has a deep-rooted history.  For over 400 years, various grape varieties were grown for domestic consumption.  In the 1960 and 1970s Malbec wine was jug wine that was considered rustic.  Winemakers focused on quantity production not quality. This all changed in the mid-1980’s when famous consulting winemakers – Paul Hobbs from California, Michel Rolland and Herve Joyaux-Fabre from Franc, Roberto Cipresso and Alberto Antonini from Italy – recognized how they could dramatically adjust the existing winemaking processes to craft fine Malbec wines that could compete on the world stage. With their Midas touch, Argentinean Malbec took the world by storm.

Wines of Argentina reports that by the turn of the 21st century, there were over 1,500 wineries. Swiftly, Argentina has become the main producer of Malbec, with vines covering with nearly 40,000 hectares, compared to its neighbour Chile with about 6,000 hectares, France 5,300, South Africa about 4,000, New Zealand 80 and California has barely 45.

This stat is particularly interesting as Malbec originally stemmed from France where it was grown as a grape typically used for blending. The name Malbec was attributed to the French ‘mal bouche’ translates to ‘bad taste’, referring to the rustic characteristics of the grape that was used in small proportions in wines with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It is amazing how a ‘bad thing’ in France, eventually turned into an incredibly good fortune for Argentina.

In 1852, Malbec vines were brought to Argentina by Michel A. Pouget, a French agronomist who was hired by the Argentine government.  Less than 10 years later, the phylloxera bug decimated and destroyed the majority of the European vineyards (hit especially hard was France) and Malbec instantly disappeared.  The silver lining though is that half a world away, this grape variety was alive and flourishing. Today, with the popularity of Malbec, French winemakers are buying back Malbec vines from Argentina.

Taking a sip of my wine beside me, this Malbec wine begs for a BBQed steak, hearty stew or grilled mushrooms. Most are full bodied and heart warming – great for winters and BBQ seasons.  Winemakers in Argentina are experimenting different styles of Malbec wines to make it a wine to enjoy year round.  I have to admit, while in Argentina, temperatures soared to 38C and for me, a cold beer (not wine) was the best reprieve.

Winemakers are experimenting in every way to Malbec grapes be on everyone’s lips while they are in Argentina.  “Would you like your Malbec chilled?” we were asked at a bistro in Mendoza.  My Spanish is limited but I knew I heard the question right.  Fresh Malbec is a new style of young red wine that has not been aged in oak barrels and best enjoyed within a year.  Chilled like a white wine, this new way to drink Malbec is intended to quench the thirst as a cold beer does on a hot summer day.  “We are trying to encourage this style of wine so that people continue to drink red in heat,” explains Panos Zouboulis winemaker Bogeda Krontiras, one of the few certified biodynamic wineries in Argentina.

Visit a wine shop in Argentina, you will find shelves overflowing with Rose wines of all shades of pink made from Malbec grapes.  White, rose and red sparkling wines made with 100% Malbec are plentiful too.  This style will rapidly grow and take the world by storm with international companies such as Chandon (France), Codorniu (Spain) have established operations in Argentina and bring their talented sparkling winemakers with them.

Sweet late harvest and fortified port style wines and spirits like grappa are made with Malbec. Even Blanc de Malbec crafted by Vincentin Family Wines has turned heads when they launched in 2014 the first-of-its kind white wine made with 100% Malbec and aged in oak barrels. I would have jumped at the chance to try a white Malbec.  When you are at the LCBO or SAQ, periodically these rare Malbec wines are exported, so be on the look out!


Raise a glass to the rise of Malbec

Today – April 17 – is Malbec World Day.  Established in 2011 by Wines of Argentina, this is the day in the wine world when we uncork countless bottles of Argentinean Malbec wines at special wine events in over 70 cities around the world.

You can have your own Malbec celebration!  Here’s some of my top picks of Malbec wines at the LCBO:


Zuccardi Q Malbec 2013

This is a classic expression of Malbec. Deep and dark in colour with violet, blueberry, blackberries aromas wafting from the glass. On your first sip, there is evidence that the wine has soft tannins, juicy black fruit, black pepper tastes with a little dark chocolate on the finish.   Uncork this Malbec to enjoy with a herb encrusted pork tenderloin or Sunday roast beef with all the trimmings.

One of the things that impressed me when I visited the winery was that they are using concrete tanks rather than the typical stainless tanks commonly used in winemaking.  And there are only a few oak barrels in the cellar….the winemaking team focuses on creating wines to bring out the natural flavours without the help of oak. That is incredible and the result is pure and outstanding.


BenMarco Expresivo 2014

This wine will draw your eye to its stunning label.  A topnotch blend of 80% Malbec, 20% Cabernet Franc, loaded with fruit – pomegranate, boysenberry, ripe & juicy blackberries.

Made by one of the top female winemakers in Argentina –  Susana Balbo – this medium to full bodied red wine has a long dark chocolate and coffee finish can be enjoyed with the full range from meatloaf to prime rib.

Versado Reserva Ancient Malbec 2012

You might think that Malbec is a wine that is typically under $25, but you’ll be pleasantly surprised when you splurge on this one.  A group of renown Canadian winemakers and winery owners joined forces to purchase a vineyard with plantings of 100 year old Malbec vines. Winemaker Ann Sperling (who is head winemaker at Southbrook Vineyards in Niagara & from Sperling Vineyards in British Columbia) makes incredible Malbec wines with the grapes that she has salvaged from this old vineyard.

This wine was just released. Wine writer Tony Aspler sampled a pre-release bottle and scored it an impressive 93 points: “Dense ruby colour; spicy, floral, blackberry nose with vanilla and cedar notes; medium to full-bodied, dry, ripe blackberry and blackcurrant flavours with a mineral thread and a lively spine of acidity; silky mouth-feel finishing firmly with a chocolate note.”


This article appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Ottawa Life Magazine


Travel photos of Debbie’s trip can be seen on Savvy Company’s Facebook page – click here>>



Bubbly & potato chips – my fav NYE pairing

Posted by Debbie

Thursday, December 31st, 2015

Prepping to ring in the New Year, I started to write a blog to share secrets about sparkling wine…and then I found this article on that was loaded with interested tidbits about champagne…some really interesting factoids that I did not know.

So, grab a flute glass…err a wine glass (read more below), pop a cork & be ready to have some of the mysteries behind the bubbles unravelled with this article I found on .  I`ve selected the ones that Wowed me the most.  Click to read the full Top 10 Things you probably didn`t know about Champange.

Thanks to the folks at for sharing these need facts with us…they`ll be great conversation starters as the clock strikes midnight….I`ll raise a glass to that!

Happy New Year


Top 10 Things you probably didn`t know about Champagne



1. Champagne made in the 1800s doesn’t taste anything like today’s Champagne.

bubbles glassesWay back in 1668, when a Benedictine monk named Dom Pérignon was working at his goal to create the best wine in the world, what he was creating was nothing like the dry, brut Champagne we know and love today. Through the better part of the nineteenth century, Champagne was incredibly sweet, almost syrupy. But when Madame Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot began exporting her Champagne to England, she discovered that the English preferred dry Champagne, so she began making two Champagnes: her original sweet Champagne, indicated by its white label, and a dry version with the yellow Veuve Clicquot label we know and drink today, which was categorized as goût anglais or “English taste.”

As a side note, goût russe or “Russian taste” was used to classify the sweetest Champagne, which was about six times sweeter than our sweetest Champagne today. (Russia was a huge driver of the Champagne industry—Cristal is so-named because it was actually served in leaded crystal glass bottles to Russian tsars.)

There is still a range in the sweetness of Champagne (which comes largely from the grape juice added during its second fermentation), but as a whole, it’s much drier than its predecessors. It’s measured by dosage, or grams of sugar per liter of Champagne, from extra-brut at zero dosage, which is currently trendy, to demi-sec and doux with up to 50 dosage.

Note from Debbie: I highly recommend to read the book (while sipping on bubbly): The Widow Clicquot: The Story of a Champagne Empire and the Woman who Ruled it.  Hands down one of my favorites.

2. Champagne would be murky and yeasty if a brave woman hadn’t invented a way to get the yeast out.

When Madame Clicquot took over her husband’s Champagne house after his death (hence the name Veuve, or “widow”) Clicquot, she became the first woman to take charge of one—but to say she rose to the occasion would be an understatement. One of her great contributions to the Champagne world was to invent a riddling rack.

After Champagne is fermented once in barrels, it’s bottled and yeast is added for its second fermentation. The yeast eats the sugar, which causes Champagne’s famous effervescence, but a lot of dead yeast are left behind at the bottom of the bottle. Clicquot’s solution was to create a rack that puts the bottles at an angle, cork-side down, so that the yeast falls into the neck of the bottle in roughly two weeks and becomes a compact and easily-removable puck of yeast. Today, many houses do this process with machinery called a gyropallette, but Clicquot’s method lasted for hundreds of years and is responsible for Champagne’s clarity.

wine_tasting_sparkling3. Champagne flutes and coupes are all about decoration—to really taste it and get the most out of it, it should be drunk out of a wine glass.

While flutes and coupes are a beautiful way to present Champagne, they aren’t practical. Many of our tasting senses are connected to smell, yet these traditional glasses prevent us from getting our noses into the glasses to get a whiff. A Champagne maker once explained it is as “going to see the orchestra with earplugs.”

4. When buying expensive Champagne, you should ask if you can have a bottle from the restocking room.

When buying Champagne, especially those in a clear glass bottles (like Ruinart), you should ask if you can buy one from the store’s back room rather than from the shelf, as Champagne starts to degrade in quality when it’s exposed to light (hence, Champagne caves) so buying it straight out of its shipping box will ensure a higher quality.

6. You shouldn’t store Champagne in the refrigerator.

…When Champagnes are kept in the refrigerator, the cork dries out and shrinks so that the carbonation is able to escape, and other smells and flavors can get in. And Champagne (and all wine) should always be stored on its side to keep the cork damp and ensure a tight seal.

7. The best Champagnes come from warm and dry harvests.

The particularly warm and extremely dry summer we just had may not be a happy indicator of Mother Earth’s condition—but it’s good news for Champagne. To put it simply, heat equals ripeness, which equals sugar, and dryness means grapes won’t be water-logged by too much rain, and will be more concentrated in flavor. During these good years, Champagne houses will often release special vintages, after aging them for 7 to 10 years, so the 2006 Moët was just released. Keep your eye out for the 2015 ten years from now—rumor has it, it’ll be worth the wait.

9. Champagne wouldn’t exist without clay.

sparkling wine closeup of glassesOne of the elements that makes Champagne such a unique growing region—200 days of rain aside—is the clay in the soil and deep under the earth. It leads to some of the best growing conditions and also aging conditions. The reason so many aging caves are underground (Krug’s is actually in a warehouse) is because clay creates the perfect conditions for Champagne to rest: It maintains the perfect level of moisture, absorbs shock so the bottles don’t get shaken, and stays cool.

Interestingly enough, the bottom of the ocean has some of the same qualities of clay: Earlier this year, 170-year-old Veuve Clicquot was recovered from the Baltic Sea, and its flavor (age aside) was largely uncontaminated—the cool, dark, and very moist conditions of the sea kept it in good care.

10. Many of the largest Champagne houses—and most of those mentioned in this article —are all owned by the same company.

Champagne has long been an industry with many internal ties between companies: Madame Clicquot was the great-granddaughter of Nicolas Ruinart, and there are relationships between houses and growers that have existed since the 1700s. Today, some of the best brands included Dom Perignon, Ruinart, Veuve Clicquot, and Krug are all owned by the mega-brand, LVMH.


This posting is an excerpt of the full blog written by Leslie Stevens – a contributor on  The photos inserted here are all taken by Debbie Trenholm of Savvy Company.  The entire blog can be found on


Happy Beaujolais Nouveau Day!

Posted by Debbie

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Deb in vinesThe third Thursday of November – today – is a milestone date in the wine world –wine stores have a special delivery of Beaujolais Nouveau wine.

What is all the fuss about? Beaujolais Nouveau or ‘first wine’ is wine made from grapes that were picked in the most recent harvest.  By the time the bottles arrive at your local LCBO or wine shop, the contents are generally 7 to 9 weeks old. According to history books, over a century ago, casks of brilliant coloured ruby red wine, typically made from Gamay grapes, were shipped from the Beaujolais wine-producing region (near Lyon) to harvest festivals and bistros throughout France.

The popularity of this wine became an international phenomenon to the point that, in 1985 the French Government established that the third Thursday of November is the worldwide release date of Beaujolais Nouveau wines. Today, wine shops around the world stock their shelves to give wine lovers a taste of what this year’s grape harvest will produce with fully aged wines. Every year there is a good showing of Nouveau wines from France, a few from Italy & Canada with some bottles from other parts of the world.  This year there are 9 Nouveau wines that got in the spirit.

What to expect from Beaujolais Nouveau when you pop the cork?

Beaujolais NouveauTypically, Beaujolais is made from Gamay grapes.  This variety creates a light wine that is bright red in colour with cherry and strawberry aromas and tastes.  As Beaujolais Nouveau was picked, bottled and shipped in less than two months, consider drinking this styled wine similar to eating chocolate chip cookie dough. Fresh, easy drinking and best with simpler dishes of pasta, pizza, burgers or lots of cheese rather than a big steak or roast beef.

The general ‘rule of thumb’ is to pop the corks & enjoy the wine before Christmas, as they tend not to improve with age, rather they lose their vibrant characteristics.

With all kinds of powerhouse and velvety wines available, why would anyone want something so grapey? The reason is simple – to celebrate this year’s grape harvest.

 More info about the region, the wines & festivities can be found at



On the shelves at the LCBO

From France…

Art’s Beaujolais Primeur Nouveau
The funky design on the bottle sets the mood for this fun wine.  A light red wine that smells like candy (think Swedish berries). Each sip is loaded with cherry flavours combined with a taste that reminds me of fresh-out-of-the oven strawberry rhubarb pie. Fresh acidity on the finish.  It is an easy drinking wine that would be good with pizza, pasta or burgers.

DeBoeuf Gamay Nouveau
Georges DeBoeuf is a well-known producer of Beaujolais wines and Nouveau Beaujolais.  Uncorking a bottle of DeBoeuf Nouveau wine you’d expect quality. This one is a classic, medium bodied, solid wine full of cherry & strawberry aromas and taste – exactly what you’d expect when you open up a bottle of Nouveau.

Catalans Primeur Syrah Merlot
A French twist – breaking away from tradition & doing something completely different– making Nouveau wines with grapes other than Gamay.  The result of this experiment is a wine that reminds me more of Koolaid than red wine.  Honestly though, this is a characteristic of Beaujolais Nouveau so it is not a bad thing.  Bright ruby colour, fresh juicy cherries & cotton candy.

Mommessin Beaujolais Nouveau
Sorry – no review as this wine was not available at the tasting

From Italy…

Negrar Novello Del Veneto
I had to double check that the label stated 2014, because this wine was like no other Nouveau I have ever tried.  I was knocked over with the HUGE aromas and tastes of over ripe red fruit…perhaps that means that Italian wines from Veneto region will be big & bold this year….jury is still out.

Tollo Novello Rosso Terre di Chieti
Ask for the Nouveau wine with the lion on the label & you will be impressed with this Italian wine.  Medium to full body (uncommon for Nouveau wines), jammy over ripe fruit shows through on this one too with some acidity on the finish.  Mama Mia, bring on the pizza for this wine.

From Ontario…

The Fool Reif Estate Gamay Nouveau VQA
No foolin’ around here! Reif has created this Nouveau wine with classic characteristics that you’d expect of a  freshly made wine.  Juicy aromas and tastes of cherry pie filling or is it fresh pomegranate juice with a fruity & acidity combo. The sweetest wine of the bunch, so grab some creamy cheese to calm down the punch of the flavours that will no doubt mellow out as other Reif red wines age in the cellar.  This wine certainly shows promise that 2014 is a good vintage for Ontario wines….red wines worth waiting for.

You’ll find these in LCBO Vintages…

From France…

Beaujolais Villages Nouveau (Joseph Drouhin)
Joseph Drouhin keeps good company with Georges Duboeuf when it comes to making Beaujolais Nouveau wines.  These are definitely the leaders of the pack.  This is a good red wine that surprised me that it was Nouveau.  Cranberry & herbal combination in the aromas that continued into the taste, this wine is worth the highest price tag of the lot.

Beaujolais Villages Nouveau
It was hard to compare this wine with the $9.95 version (see above) as they were equally good red wines.  In my notebook, I have written & circled ALIVE.  Dark in colour with fresh juicy red & black cherries combined with tart cranberries that creates some lively acidity on the finish. A solid red wine.

And which one(s) to choose?

I had the time to taste all of these wines twice and for fun, I exchanged my top 4 wines with another reviewer (and extra ordinary wine teacher – afterall I caught the wine bug from him!) Vic Haradine of  Our list overlapped on just two…showing that there is a Beaujolais Nouveau for everyone.  Click to read Vic’s tasting notes.

Grab a few of these colourful wines and toast to the 2014 harvest & the red wines to come!


Taken by Debbie Trenholm, Savvy Company

Taken by Debbie Trenholm, Savvy Company




Exec Lifestyles: Be part of Ottawa’s social and networking scene

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Ottawa Business Journal – Executive Dining Guide

April 9, 2008

There is a buzz around Ottawa and it doesn’t involve politics. It is all about wine. A city once known to roll up its sidewalks by 6 p.m. now has a vibrant wine and food scene. Restaurants, wine clubs, small and large companies are hosting special events featuring gourmet menus paired with great wines to tempt palettes.

“In Ottawa, it’s easy to fill your calendar with wine and food events every week,” says David Gourlay, executive director of business development at Oracle.

Wine events can be a fun and interactive exploration into the world of wine. Here is a step-by-step guide to hosting a wine tasting for clients, employees or friends.



Depending on how formal and structured you would like the experience, a wine tasting can be conducted in a classroom-style format with rows of wine glasses waiting to be sampled, or as simple as a cocktail-style event where your guests sip wines and nibble hors d’oeuvres at food and wine stations. For a unique and memorable evening, host a sommelier-led dinner where each course is paired with wines that enhance the flavours of each dish.

Professional sommeliers can arrange all the details and lead your wine tasting. This takes the pressure off you as the event organizer, as the sommelier is well versed in themes, wines, food pairing and sourcing the equipment to make your wine tasting event the recipient of rave reviews.


Your wine tasting event can focus on exploring wines of a certain country or region, or examine one type of wine, such as pinot noirs, sauvignon blanc or chardonnays from various wine regions around the world.

Wine Selection

Greet your guests with a glass of sparkling wine as it kicks off your event with a party feeling. The bubbly cleanses and refreshes your palette, preparing it for more delicious wines and food to come.

Feature six to eight wines, as too many 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.


Wine was meant to be enjoyed with food. At a minimum, offer your guests sliced baguettes and saltine crackers to cleanse their palettes between wines. By offering an assortment of hard, soft and blue veined cheeses, your guests can experience how food can change the taste of wine. For an enhanced wine and food experience, pair each wine with hors d’oeuvres. If you are hosting a wine tasting during a meal, restaurant and hotel chefs will create a special table d’hote menu showcasing their culinary talents.

Step 2 – LET’S TASTE

Wine tasting engages all of your senses. It is as easy as eyes, nose and mouth, taking note of the aromas, the flavours and the mouth feel of the wine. There are no rules to wine tasting as everyone’s impression is personal and this makes for interesting conversation. Use the following as your wine tasting sheet.

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


Tilt the glass 45 degrees away from you. Using the white tablecloth as a backdrop, note:

the colour and clarity;

What colour does it remind you of?

– White wine descriptors – pale, straw, or golden

– Roses – cotton candy pink, salmon, terracotta

– Reds – garnet, fire engine red, cherry, purple, ink or opaque


Let the fun begin. Hold the 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?

– White wines – dry, floral, citrus, tropical fruit, pineapple, pears, apples

– Roses – floral, cherry, delicate, pink grapefruit

– Reds – cherry, strawberry, blackberry, earthy, vanilla, leather, dried fruit


Take a sip, chew the wine (as if it were mouthwash) to coat your entire mouth. Take note:

n Is the wine light, medium or full bodied?

n Does the wine taste the same as it smells?

n Do the flavours linger or disappear?

Try each wine with food and note how the food changes your enjoyment of the wine.


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 with friends and networking with clients. After all, there is this new buzz in Ottawa and you can be a part of the wine scene.

Tools of the trade

ISO wine tasting glasses: These tulip shaped glasses allow you to easily swirl two ounces of wine and the narrow rim captures the aromas. For a formal tasting, three glasses are needed per person, or a casual cocktail style event requires one glass per person. A wine tasting dinner should have a glass for each wine served.

White tablecloth: used as a white background to judge the colour of the wines

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!



Gold. Silver. Bronze.

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Ottawa Business Journal – Executive Dining Guide

November 2007

When you walk into a wine store, there are rows of wines awaiting your discovery.  But how do you to select the right one?  There are many factors to consider, and often the mention of winning a medal at a wine competition can influence your choice.  For this reason, wineries compete in wine competitions hoping to win a medal that they can promote in order to influence your purchase.

This past weekend, 117 such medals were presented at the 22nd annual Ottawa Wine and Food Show to the winners of the Cellars of the World Wine Competition.  This prestigious wine competition that attracts wineries from all corners of the world, was managed by The Savvy Grapes.  The weeks leading up to the competition day, required hours of receiving, categorizing and logging 425 bottles of wines.

On the day of the competition, swirling and sipping took place behind closed doors. A panel of 25 judges, consisting of wine writers, wine industry professionals, wine consultants and accredited Sommeliers were divided into groups based on their preference of wine styles.  Throughout the morning, each group judged 60 plus wines ‘blind’ without knowledge of the winery, country or vintage year.  The categories for this competition are based on style and grape variety then further broken down into three price points; $9-14.99, $15-19.99 and over $20.  All exhibitors at the Ottawa Wine and Food Show were invited to participate in the competition entering wines that they intend to serve at the show. As a minimum, there must be three wine entries per category.  This year, the largest category was Shiraz/Rhone varietals $9-$14.99 with over 30 entries.

The room is silent apart from the sounds of the judges swirling, sipping, spitting and writing.  Meanwhile, behind the scenes, students and graduates of the Sommelier programs of Ottawa’s Algonquin College and Gatineau’s La Cité Colléagiale orchestrate the pouring of each category.  The competition chair watches over the judges as they are prohibited to discuss their perceptions of the wines until all of the judges at the table have submitted their score sheets for tabulation.

“The results of wine competitions provide the wine-buying public with an incredible guide for their future wine purchases. The wineries, the wine agents and the general public anxiously await the results, and with good reason—it’s amongst the medal winners that everyone can find a wine to suit their taste and budget”, said Vic Harradine, co-author of the newly released book newly released book, The 500 Best-Value Wines in the LCBO and a veteran wine judge.

“Winning a medal at the Cellars of the World Wine Competition can help launch a wine as the restaurant trade and consumers are looking for award winning wines. This is particularly true with imported wines that are new to the Ontario market and for new Ontario wineries that are just starting’, explained Halina Player, owner and host of the Ottawa Wine and Food Show. Case in point, in 2006, a little known winery, Lammershoek Winery of South Africa, entered a selection of their wines into the competition and won two gold medals.  As a result, these wines can now be found on premium wine lists at some of Ottawa’s finest restaurants.  This year, Lammershoek entered their wines into the competition and won three medals including a gold.

Mark Cosgrove, Ottawa representative for the wine agency Churchill Cellars Ltd stated, “Participating in the Cellars of the World Wine Competition is important to Churchill Cellars and winning an award can have significant impact at the Ottawa Wine and Food Show. People visit our booth specifically to try the wines that have won medals.  We are proud to have received ten awards this year (2007).  We will definitely have a busy booth!”

Mountain Road Winery of Beamsville, Ontario (in the Niagara wine region) can attest to the impact of winning a medal and a busy booth.  At last years show, this wineries’ unassuming booth attracted people wanting to sample its award winning Mountain Road Red.  This blended red wine won gold and tied for the Best of Show Red Wine.  By the end of the show, winery owner Steve Kocsis reported that he was totally sold out of his inventory at the Niagara winery of this $16 wine.

The Savvy Grapes recommends these award winning wines of the Cellars of the World Wine Competition currently available at the LCBO:

Sauvignon Blanc/Semillion over $15

Gold Medal winner – Babich Sauvignon Blanc 2006, New Zealand

Chardonnay over $20

Gold Medal (tied) & Best of Show French White Wine

Jaffelin Pouilly Fuisse 2006, France

Off-Dry White Wine $9-$14.99

Silver Medal winner – Angels Gate Sussreserve Riesling VQA 2006, Canada

Other White Wine $9-14.99

Silver Medal winner – J&F Lurton Bodega Pinot Gris 2007, Argentina

Rosé Wines

Silver Medal winner – Torres DeCasta Rosé 2006, Spain

Pinot Noir $15 – $19.99

Gold Medal winner – Robert Mondavi Private Selection 2006, California, USA

Bordeaux Blends over $20

Silver Medal winner & Best of Show French Red Wine

E.A.R.L. Cyril Gillet Vieux Chateau Landon 2003, France

Other Red Wines – Old World $9-$14.99

Silver Medal winner – Cecchi Bonizio Sangiovese di Maremma 2005, Italy

Other Red Wines – New World over $20

Lammershoek Pinotage 2005, South Africa

For a complete list of the Cellars of the World Wine Competition award winning wines, visit


So many wines, so little time!

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Ottawa Business Journal – Executive Dining Guide

April 9, 2007

When it comes to buying a bottle of wine, people tend to be creatures of habit. It is too easy to select a wine label or grape variety that one knows and has enjoyed.  With wine stores full of rows upon rows of wines waiting to be enjoyed, why not be adventurous and discover some hidden gems?

To minimize the risk of purchasing an unknown wine, here are some suggested ‘Hidden Gems’ to try:

White Wines

Viognier (pronounced Vee-on-NYAY)

This white wine grape grown in the northern Rhone region of France, was once considered “rare” as the French would keep this wine for themselves. But the secret is out about this delicious wine and Australia, Spain, Italy, South Africa, California and Canada are growing this grape variety and creating outstanding dry medium bodied wines. Australia is also blending Viognier with Shiraz to give the red wine more intense aromas and a touch of sweetness.

What to expect of this white wine? Light gold in colour, this medium bodied wine has intense aromas of floral, peach, pear and mango that continue into the taste with a light acidity that makes this wine refreshing and notably different.  Perfect to enjoy on its own, or with roasted pork, chicken, ham, and shellfish.

Suggested Viogniers to try:

Domaine des Aspes, France, LCBO Vintages $15

Graham Beck Viognier, South Africa, LCBO Vintages $18

Renwood Select Series Viognier, California, LCBO Vintages $20

Albariño (pronounced al-bah-REE-nyoh)

Until I attended a wine industry conference last summer, I knew nothing of this rare white grape variety grown in the Galicia region of southern Spain. Since my introduction to this hidden gem, I have noticed more wines of this grape variety on the store shelves…and good thing as the wines are refreshing!

What to expect of this white wine? Albariño grapes are considered high premium quality grapes.  They are thick skinned, so only a small amount of juice is extracted creating an intensely flavoured, medium to full bodied white wine. The colour ranges from pale yellow to golden, rich with complex aromas of peach, pear and apricots with a zing of citrus.

Suggested Albariños to try:

Adegas d’Al Tamira Seleccion Albariño, Spain, LCBO Vintages $18

Laxas Albariño, Spain, LCBO Vintages $20

Red Wines

Aglianico (pronounced ah-LYAH-nee-koh)

This grape red variety is primarily grown in the Campania and Basilicata regions of southern Italy.  The grapes are grown to be blended, however, recently more single varietal wines (winespeak: wines made with one grape variety) of Aglianico are making their way to the store shelves.  Aglicanico wine is intended to be aged as it starts out with concentrated aromas and flavours with light acidity and tannins. Over time, this wine evolves into a nicely balanced wine with earthy and chocolate flavours.

When to enjoy with this red wine?  With younger Aglianicos, pasta with meat sauce complements the acidity in the tomatoes as well the wine. As the wine ages, serve with heartier dishes of stuffed beef tenderloin, veal marsala, lamb chops and grilled mushrooms.

An Aglianico that is currently available at the LCBO:

Tenuta del Portale Aglianico del Vulture, Italy, LCBO Vintages $17

…be on the look out for more!

Carmenère (pronounced car-men-EHR)

Truly a hidden gem….Until recently, Chilean winemakers thought this grape was Merlot.  After clinical testing it was found to be slightly different from Merlot and determined that it was a long lost grape variety originally from Bordeaux that was phased out and never replanted in France. When the immigrants left France to settle in South America, they took rootstock (thinking it was Merlot) with them and planted the vines in their new ‘home’.  Today, Carmenère grapes are only grown in Chile and the Chileans are proud of showcasing this grape as Chile’s signature wine.

What to expect from this red wine? Typically medium bodied, the wine has a deep red colour with intense aromas and flavours of spice, smoke and plum. A great wine to sip on its own, or with lamb, spareribs, BBQed beef or vegetables.

The Chileans don’t often export Carmenère wine as they like to keep it for themselves, so be on the look out!  Some currently available at the LCBO:

Casillero del Diablo Carmenère – LCBO $13

Errazuriz Estate Carmenère – LCBO $14

Concha Y Toro Terrunyo Carmenère – LCBO Vintages $30

There are many more hidden gem wines waiting to be sampled.

Wine and food events are great ways to sample a variety of wines…and find some of your own Hidden Gems.  These Ottawa events sell out quickly. Be sure to purchase your tickets in advance.

California Wine Fair – Friday April 13th 7:30-9:30pm at the Westin Hotel. 

Hidden Gems wine tasting hosted by The Savvy Grapes – Thursday April 19th 7pm at Nicholas Hoare Bookstore.

LCBO Vintages Taste Our Latest: Premium Taste and Buy Event – Monday April 30th 6:30-9:00pm at the Chateau Laurier. 1-800-266-4764

Be adventuresome and you may be pleasantly surprised with your new discoveries. 


The Riedel Revolution Continues

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Ottawa Business Journal – Executive Dining Guide

October 2007

There is a different buzz in the city this week. It’s not about the latest business acquisition or the record breaking Canadian dollar – it’s about fine crystal. Wine enthusiasts are looking forward to an elegant evening at Brookstreet Hotel on Oct. 4, when Maximilian Riedel, CEO of Riedel Crystal America, will launch Vitis, his new line of crystal glassware.

The Riedel family (pronounced REE-dle as in needle) has been in the glass business for more than 300 years, spanning 11 generations. They have revolutionized the way we taste and enjoy wines with the introduction of their delicate crystal glasses that are specifically crafted and designed to enhance the characteristics for each grape variety.

“You can serve wine in any glass, but once you drink wine in a Riedel glass, you will be amazed at the difference. The aromas and flavours of the wine are amplified and sipping the wine is delightful in the delicate crystal,” says Diane Paradis, co-owner of CA Paradis who is hosting the event.

What is the difference?

Actually, it’s both academic and scientific. In the late 1950s, Professor Claus Riedel recognized that the bouquet, taste, balance and finish of wines were affected by the shape of the glass from which they were drunk. Understanding this, he focused on developing different shapes of glasses for each grape variety to maximize the individual’s enjoyment of that wine. In 1961, Riedel launched its revolutionary portfolio of glassware with different shapes and sizes. Today, the Riedel product line has more than 400 styles of glasses and decanters that are enjoyed by thousands of wine enthusiasts around the world.

How does it work?

A wine glass is a delivery mechanism to send wine onto your tongue (or palette). There are four sensory points on your tongue – sweet (tip of tongue), salty (top of tongue), acid (sides of tongue) and bitter (back of tongue). When you take a sip of wine, the shape of the glass actually affects how the wine is delivered into your mouth. Riedel glasses are specifically shaped to send the wine directly to the areas of your tongue that correspond to the characteristics of the grape variety of that wine. For example, a sauvignon blanc typically displays tastes of citrus, herbs and a refreshing acidity. Riedel’s sauvignon blanc glasses are shaped to drive the wine straight to the sides (acidic) and back of your tongue (bitter) to amplify these specific sauvignon blanc characteristics.

“Wine seems dead in a basic glass, but comes alive when served in Riedel crystal,” says Stephen Beckta, sommelier and owner of Beckta wine & amp; dining. “The wines are more expressive and taste substantially better.”

Mr. Beckta uses Riedel glasses in his restaurant to ensure that his patron’s wine and food experience is memorable.

Riedel’s products were not an instant success. It took more than 20 years for the wine world to embrace the Riedel approach. The tipping point in Riedel’s history came in 1987, when winemakers such as Angelo Gaja, Robert Mondavi and wine publications such as The Wine Advocate, the Wine Spectator and Decanter Magazine endorsed Riedel glassware. These endorsements helped to put Riedel glasses on the tables of the wine world. Under the leadership of Georg Riedel (Maximilian’s father), Austria-based Riedel Crystal became the world’s leading wine glass company.

Those who have tried Riedel swear by it.

“We are proud to sell Riedel glasses and decanters. The product does exactly what it says it will do,” Ms. Paradis says. “A customer explained it best – it is the difference between polyester and silk.”

Wineries, winemakers and sommeliers agree. Karen Brunet, sales manager at Huff Estates Winery in Prince Edward County, says Riedel glasses are used exclusively for the sampling of Huff wines at its tasting bar and patio restaurant.

“There is a wow factor with Riedel,” she says. “The glassware is high-quality crystal, elegant yet incredibly durable. The decanters are mouth-blown crystal and one of a kind. Riedel products are works of art.”

James Bertrand, president of National Capital Sommelier Guild, is also a Riedel enthusiast. “I never really enjoy pinot noir wines until I tasted one in a Riedel pinot noir glass, then I fell in love.

Event Info

Participants at “An Evening with Maximilian Riedel” will sample a variety of wines in Riedel’s newly designed Vitis glassware. This elegant evening will include a wine tasting with award winning sommeliers including:

Veronique Rivest (Canada’s top Sommelier 2006 and internationally acclaimed Wine Woman 2007),

Stephen Beckta (owner and sommelier of Beckta wine & dining),

James Bertrand (president of the National Capital Sommelier Guild),

Vic Harradine (co-author of Wine Current) and

Debbie Trenholm, (sommelier and president of The Savvy Grapes).

Tickets are $170 per person which includes four Riedel Vitis glasses.

To purchase tickets for this Oct. 4 event to be held at the Brookstreet Hotel, contact CA Paradis on 613-731-2866 or


Emerging Trends in the Wine Industry

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Ottawa Business Journal – Executive Dining Guide

February 7, 2007

Each January, the who’s who of the North American wine industry congregates at the Unified Grape and Wine Symposium (UGWS) in Sacramento, California for the largest industry conference and tradeshow in the Western Hemisphere with an attendance in excess of 10,000 people.  Like most industry conferences, there are seminars, key note speakers, a tradeshow floor and sponsored after hour parties. During the three days at UGWS, there are very few times when your wine glass is empty.

Here, grape growers are focusing on the agricultural side of this business.  They are considering fuel efficient tractors and pruning equipment (there was a pruning robot prototype on display) while winemakers are asking the experts about new yeast products and new closures (cork, glass stoppers and screwcaps).  The winery owners and marketers are networking with the media, comparing wine club point of sale equipment (POS) and the latest labeling techniques.

Speeches and conversations included phrases such as ‘Flavour profiles’.  ‘Branding’. ‘Tasting Room Experience’. These sound bites are indicators of trends impacting an industry that in 2006 comprised of 5,970 wineries in 50 states across the United States and 299 wineries in eight provinces across Canada (source: Wine Business Monthly February 2007).  This represents a 10% growth in both countries in just one year.

The big question remains “What will be the next popular grape variety”?

This is like fortune telling and is a gamble for grape growers and winemakers as the consumer’s taste preference can change faster than the vineyards can grow grapes.  A grape grower requires a minimum of four years to produce its first harvest, and in this time, a consumer’s wine preference can shift dramatically.  It is still a guessing game as shown by the answers of industry experts and winemakers attending the conference:

‘I place my bet on Chenin Blanc as it is elegant, has great fruit characteristics and is delicate.  People are going to enjoy subtle tasting wines again as seen with the popularity of Pinot Noir.” Jordan Ferrier, Winemaker at Hogue Vineyards, Washington

“Viognier is a wonderful grape to work with and a delicious wine to drink.  The challenge is that the consumer does not know how to pronounce the word”, Ann Matson, Director of Sales and Marketing at Vino Con Brio, Lodi, California

“Reisling and Gamay grapes are underrated.  They are both easy to grow in Niagara and easy to drink.  They are versatile and you can enjoy them with appetizers or a full meal.” Natalie Spytkowsky, Wine Consultant with Vines to Vintages (formerly winemaker at Angels Gate Winery in Beamsville, Ontario)

“Something that is not Chardonnay or Merlot”, predicts Gordon Murchie, President of Vinifera Wine Growers Association in Alexandria, Virginia.  “The native American grape variety called Morton is gaining in popularity.”

“Blends will become more popular.  Winemakers have more tools to work with to create a targeted flavour profile to suit different customer segments.  Today, many wines are blended and the consumer doesn’t even know it.  By calling the wine a blend is a more honest approach”, Gary Patterson, General Manager at Nestor Enterprises Lodi, California

‘Wines made for immediate consumption.  Less than 5% of consumers are cellaring wines.  We have the technology to create balanced flavour profiles that can be enjoyed right away”, Barry Jackson, Owner and Winemaker at Equinox, Boulder Creek, California

What does the consumer want?

Simply put, the consumer is fueling the growth of this industry. The consumer appreciates the health benefits of drinking wine while enjoying the social aspect of exploring different wines from around the world. A case in point, the California wine industry was blindsided with the popularity of the movie “Sideways”, a spectacularly showcase of the little known wine region of Santa Barbara, California and its Pinot Noir wines.  “Almost overnight, demand for California Pinot Noir wines increased by 20% and wineries were completely sold out’, illustrated seminar speaker Jon Fredrickson of Gomberg, Fredrickson and Associates.

Looking ahead, what are the emerging trends in the wine industry that will continue to fuel consumer demand?

Wine as considered as ‘Brands’

Like Levi jeans and BMW cars, wineries are creating brand associations for consumers to base their buying decisions.  Keynote speaker, Don Sebastiani, President of Sebastiani and Sons stated, “Smoking Loon is our number one selling premium brand. Consumers are purchasing Smoking Loon for its quality.  We source different grapes from a variety of countries, yet the location and grape variety are secondary or do not even factor into the consumers decision making. They are fundamentally buying the brand.” In his statement, he did not even mention the word “wine” once!  Wine brands have begun to fill the Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) store shelves with popular examples such as Twin Fin and Fetzer from California or Casillero del Diablo from Chile. In the future, we may be asking – what brand would you like with your dinner?

Wine Clubs

Once considered for elite wine collectors, wine clubs is a mechanism for wineries to build a loyal customer base.  One winery reported that in three years, her wine club has grown to include over 600 members.  Rafanelli Winery in Sonoma County, California, has a five year waiting list to become a member of their wine club!  In addition to wineries, lifestyle magazines are offering special featured wines of the month club. In Ontario, wine clubs such as the Opimium Society feature international wines while The Savvy Grapes’ Savvy Selections feature Canadian wines that are not available at the LCBO.

Wine Travel

Wine regions are rapidly growing into popular travel destinations.  “Consumers are very interested in “experiencing” wine. They are traveling to the wine region, stopping in at the regional Visitor Center, winery tasting rooms and participating in vineyard seminars,” comments Mark Chandler, Executive Director of Lodi Woodbridge Winegrape Commission, California.  “Consumers are very interested in making wine a part of their lifestyle and culinary experience.”

Ontario’s newest wine region, Prince Edward County, is “Ottawa’s wine region”, as it is an easy weekend destination only a three hour drive with 12 wineries, historic inns and wine and food festivals.

Different Wine and Food experiences in Restaurants

Food and wine experiences continue to grow as customers are becoming more knowledgeable.  To enable samplings of different wines and food, restaurants are offering “Sharing Plates” with bite size portions of a culinary creation.  Ottawa’s Novotel Hotel will be launching a new restaurant that will exclusively offer menus in this sampling style.  To complement this culinary experience, wines will be sold in 3, 6 or 8 ounce portions to offer multiple wines to experiment with the different tastes of wines and food.



Bottles and Bows

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Ottawa Business Journal – Executive Dining Guide

November 29, 2004

As we approach the holiday season, we are bombarded with advertising about finding, “The Perfect Gift”.  Each year, finding this ultimate gift, whether for employees, friends or family, the task gets more difficult.

Giving the gift of wine could be your answer. With a vast array of countries, grape varieties, price points and packaging, shopping for wine gives you endless opportunities to find “The Perfect Gift”. Whether it is a bottle for the host of a party, or a package of wines to recognize your employees or for customers to thank them for their loyalty, the gift of wine is always well received.

When you embark on your shopping spree at your local wine shop, there are a few things to keep in mind.

Choosing wines to age. If you are selecting wines with the intention for them to be placed in the recipient’s wine cellar, it is recommended that you do not choose a wine in a clear glass bottle.  A dark coloured bottle protects the contents by defracting the light and is a quick indicator that the winemaker intends for the wine to be aged.

Price is not an indicator of quality.  Outstanding price tags do not necessarily mean that it is an outstanding wine.  To choose a wine that is of good value, ask a LCBO Product Consultant for their recommendation of wines in your price range.

Splurge on a bottle of something different.  Why not break away from ‘the usual’ red or white wines and select a bottle of sparkling wine, port, sherry, late harvest wine or icewine.

Add a personal touch. Since you have hand selected your gift, write a personal message on the bottle using a metallic glass marker available from a stationary supply store. Included in the message could be the reason for choosing the wine, suggest an occasion to enjoy the wine or provide food pairing suggestions.

If you do not have the time to spend roaming the aisles at the wine shop, there are other convenient ways to give the gift of wine.

Gift Packs from the LCBO

The LCBO has the “Holiday Wrapped Up” in-store promotion that takes the guesswork out of shopping for wine. The store shelves are well stocked with colourful packages of wines, some containing accessories such as wine coolers, corkscrews, music CDs or a set of wine glasses.  These gift packs are not only convenient but are great to have on hand for last minute gifts.  And the LCBO will gift wrap your selection at no additional cost. New this year, the LCBO will ship your order directly to the recipient within Ontario.  Call 1-888-LCBO-GIFT (1-888-522-6443).

Order direct from a winery

If you prefer giving a more unique gift, order wines directly from an Ontario winery. With over 80 wineries in Niagara, Pelee Island and Prince Edward County regions, there is no shortage of options.  Shopping can be done from the convenience of your office by calling the winery or visiting their web site to view the wide range of wine gifts available. Many wineries have Christmas gift programs from a single bottle to an attractive wooden crate of wine, foodstuffs, wine journals and celebrity cookbooks. All Ontario wineries will ship directly within the province, while others are licensed to ship across Canada.

Another novel idea for “The Perfect Gift” is giving a bottle of wine with your company name and logo incorporated into the label.  Private labeling is offered by a number of Canadian wineries and the minimum order is less that you may expect. The labels are professionally designed, complete with the wine details integrated into the final product. This is an innovative gift to be enjoyed by your employees and customers or to give to clients throughout the year or for special company events.

Let a Sommelier select your wine

The Accredited Sommeliers of The Savvy Grapes have the extensive knowledge of wines and the winemaker’s.  With this combined knowledge they can create an exclusive gift of wine. Ask one of their Sommeliers to accompany you on your holiday shopping spree and you will learn more about wines as you shop. Alternatively give your shopping list and budget to these experts and they will select, package and ship your perfect gifts of wine.

Still looking for more gift ideas?

· The Savvy Grapes offer gift certificates for their popular and fun winemaker’s dinners and Sommelier led dinners.  These events are memorable experiences for everyone regardless of their wine knowledge. More information is available at

· Give an evening out at an award-winning restaurant. Most restaurants have gift certificates available. Recently, the Wine Spectator’s Magazine granted wine list awards to Trattoria Caffe Italia, Vittoria Trattoria, Le Baccara, Empire Grill, Fratelli, Les Fougeres, Luxe Bistro, Meditheo, Merlot, Perspectives, Restaurant 18, Signatures, Vittoria Trattoria (Rivergate Way location), and Wilfrid’s Restaurant.

· New and classic wine accessories are available at kitchen specialty stores, gift shops, bookstores and wine shops.  Look for wine decanters, wine glasses, hand crafted wine coolers, decorative wine stoppers, wine motif napkins and wine journals.

Packaged in a gift bag, festive stocking or wooden crate, giving the gift of wine is as much fun selecting the gift as it is receiving it. Keep in mind that wine is “The Perfect Gift” anytime.

“Cheers and Happy Holidays!”

Debbie Trenholm is an accredited Sommelier who hosts fun and informative winemaker’s dinners, Sommelier led dinners and wine tastings for private and corporate clients and the general public. To receive invitations to The Savvy Grapes upcoming events, contact her at


Some Ontario wineries with exclusive Christmas gift packaging:

Angels Gate Winery

Henry of Pelham

Malivoire Wine Company

Lailey Vineyards

Vineland Estates Winery


Caught up in the ‘Crush’ of fall grape harvest

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

Ottawa Business Journal – Executive Dining Guide

October 2, 2006

At this time of the year, there is a building excitement at wine regions around the world. From Ottawa, it is an easy drive to two of Ontario’s largest wine regions in order to experience the excitement of ‘Crush’ (wine speak for the grape harvest).

Ontario, has over 15,000 acres of vineyards and more than 140 wineries located in four wine regions: Prince Edward County, Niagara Peninsula, Lake Erie North Shore and Pelee Island.  These wine regions lie in the centre of the world’s wine belt, between 41° – 44°N. They share similar climates conditions as the wine regions in Burgundy and Bordeaux, France. Unique to Ontario is the warm breeze off the Great Lakes that provide micro-climates ideal for growing premium grape varieties, which in turn produce fine wines.

Many of Canada’s winemakers have studied and worked abroad gaining knowledge and ‘hands on’ experience of grape growing and winemaking techniques.  In addition, professional winemakers are leaving the vineyards of France, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa and California to be part of the rapidly growing Canadian wine industry.

The leading question always asked of a winemaker during ‘Crush’ is…”How does this year’s crop of grapes look?”

In Niagara-on-the-Lake, Lailey Vineyard’s winemaker Derek Barnett reports, “The grapes are phenomenal this year.  I anticipated that we would harvest around September 15th or 18th.  But with the warm summer, and now the moderately cool evening temperatures that slows down the growth of the grapes, we are waiting until the Brix level (natural sugar level in the grapes) increases, which brings richer flavours to the wine. This means that we will be harvesting at the end of the September or maybe even later. The longer the grapes are on the vine, the better.”

Prince Edward County, located in the Picton area on the shores of Lake Ontario, is Ontario’s up and coming wine region. The ‘County’ as it is often referred to, is a 2 ½ to 3 hour drive from Ottawa; perfect for a day trip or a quick weekend getaway. During the past couple of years, Accredited Sommeliers of The Savvy Grapes have been visiting this area and have been impressed by how orchards and farmers fields have been transformed into vineyards and wineries. This year marks the first “Crush” for a number of new wineries as they get ready to harvest their grapes for the first time.

As wineries wait for the optimum time to pick their grapes, there is never an idle moment.  While the grapes continue to ripen in the sun, some wineries cover their acres of vines with netting to protect the juicy grapes from the birds.  Some vineyards have installed wind machines that automatically activate when the temperature drops.  These mini windmill-like machines circulate the warmer ground air throughout the vineyard in effort to prevent frost damage to the vines and the grapes.  At all of the vineyards, winemakers are found walking the rows of their vineyard picking samples of grapes to check the Brix level.  When the Brix level reaches between 20 to 25 degrees, “Crush” begins.

The weeks during “Crush”, is a chaotic and busy time to visit. Teams of pickers and tractors haul containers of grapes to the “Crush Pad” (operations area) at the winery.  From here, the grapes are hand sorted, then loaded into the “Crusher” machine where the grapes are transformed into juice. In the case of white wine, the juice is separated from the “must” (wine speak for grape skins and pips) then pumped into stainless steel tanks.  For rosé and red wines, the juice and the “must” are mixed together in the steel tanks for a few days to several weeks until the preferred colour is extracted from the pigment of the grape skins and the desired aromas and flavour are achieved. The winemaking process continues long after the excitement of “Crush” has quieted down.

For visitors to participate in “Crush”, wineries and nearby towns often host special events and harvest festivals:

In Prince Edward County:

Taste! The historic Crystal Palace in Picton will be alive with aromas that will tempt the buds. Local chefs have partnered with County wineries, brewery and cidery to create delicious culinary pairings.  Saturday October 7 from 11am to 5pm

In Niagara:

Art & Wine Show 2006 at Flat Rock Cellars, Saturday October 7 from 10am to 5pm

Artisan Wine & Cheese Seminar at Reif Estate Winery, Saturday October 14, from 5 pm to 7 pm

Dining Adventure Series – Fall Fireworks at Vineland Estates Winery, Wednesday October 18 at 6:30pm

Debbie Trenholm is an Accredited Sommelier and President of The Savvy Grapes a unique company that hosts winemaker’s dinners, Sommelier wine tastings, wine tours, and wine and food events for private and corporate clients. To receive invitations to The Savvy Grapes upcoming events, or to have The Savvy Grapes host your company’s next event, contact Debbie on or 613-851-1785.


Where to start planning your getaway to wine country? 

The Accredited Sommeliers of The Savvy Grapes, frequently visit wineries across Canada, meeting the winemakers and sampling their wines. For our suggested list of ‘must visit’ wineries and recommendations on wines to sample, contact

Pack a wine guide book to help you navigate around wine country.

A Pocket Guide to Ontario Wines, Wineries, Vineyards and Vines by Konrad Ejbich

Ontario Wine Country by Rod Phillips and Lorraine Parow

The Wines of Canada by John Schreiner

A trip to wine country not in your immediate plans?

Have wines shipped directly to you each month

Together with Canadian wineries, The Savvy Grapes Sommeliers have developed a unique monthly wine ‘club’ called The Savvy Selections.  Each month, The Savvy Grapes selects one Canadian winery to showcase and three of their premium wines that are not available at your local wine store.  The wine selection will be hand delivered directly to your home or office. The Savvy Selection includes an e-zine with an interview with the winemaker, Sommelier tasting notes for each wine and suggested recipes to enhance your enjoyment of the featured wines.

Attend the Ottawa Wine and Food Show

This year, the Ottawa Wine and Food Show will feature the wines of Canada. Many of Canada’s winemakers will be visiting Ottawa for the annual show held at the Congress Centre, November 3 to 5th, 2006.