First a winery in Tuscany… now a winery in Niagara

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Savvy Selections wine of the month club
features Alvento Winery
Canada’s wineries delivered to your doorstep
 

On a warm day in March this year, a team of Savvy Sommeliers – Susan, Wayne, Julie & Doug – met up with Bruno Moos & Elyane Grenier, the friendly couple who are co-owners of Alvento Winery. While the foursome wandered through the vineyards on this spring-like day with Bruno, he expressed his concern about the vines due to the mild winter & early warm weather. Like all grape growers, he is constantly watching Mother Nature’s effect in his vineyard & experimenting at every stage of the growing season. When we visit wineries, we often hear winemakers say, “wine is made in the vineyard” – what happens in the vineyard is just as (or more important) than what happens during harvest & in the cellar.

 

This deeply rooted couple has a rich history that helps explain how their approach to viticulture & winemaking at Alvento. Elyane & Bruno met in Montreal in 1975. Bruno was trained as an architect, yet his wine connection is with his Swiss grandparents who were winemakers & his father was a wine connoisseur. When the couple tired of city living & the long Canadian winters, their thoughts turned to living a more rural lifestyle & to living ‘from the land’. In 1983, they moved to Europe, traveling through the wine regions of Spain & Italy looking for just the right location for a winery of their own. They found it in the hills of Tuscany, near Pisa, where Soiana Winery was born – on the site of an ancient fortress that had been destroyed during the war of 1498 between Florence & Pisa. Their 100-metre cellar was beneath the castle ruins, part of the original fortification.

 

The 1980s was a time of crisis in the Italian wine industry – vineyards were readily available, winemakers were challenged to find buyers for their product in a marketplace inundated with inexpensive & low-quality wine. Elyane & Bruno reminisce about the great fortune they had when they met the experienced & knowledgeable local viticulturalists & winemakers, who helped them establish their Soiana. “We learned the hard way, yet were also very lucky. We met Piero Salvadori, a retired winery owner & oenologist with generations of knowledge of viticulture & wine making. He agreed to share his knowledge with one condition: that we commit to work hard & make the best wine in Italy. In addition to this wealth of information, we were fortunate to live next door to Renzo Belcari, whose family had their own winery for generations & gained his skills from notable Professor Racca – a teacher at Pisa University who had developed specialized pruning methods & other very meticulous viticulture practices after the phyloxera crisis”, recalls Bruno.

 

Soiana wines first become known in Northern Europe, while Tuscan wines became an alternative to French wines. With the advent of Super Tuscans, which Soiana was producing using rigorously selected grapes & low yields, the winery gained international profile & a reputation for high quality wine. Their commitment to hard work was rewarded; soon their wines had a cult following & were sold out before they were released. Soiana is the pedigree of Alvento – read on to learn about Bruno & Elyane’s move back to Canada & the creation of Alvento.

 

We’re pleased to featured three unique Alvento wines (from different vintages):

§   Alvento Vio VQA 2007

§   Alvento Emilie VQA 2006

§   Alvento Elige VQA 2005

 

Enjoy these fine wines & matching recipes – one was provided by Elyane. We’re just a click away should you wish to order more Alvento wines or others featured in the Savvy Selections. If your travels take you to Niagara, Bruno & Elyane would be delighted to welcome you to Alvento.

 

Cheers & Enjoy!

Debbie & Savvy Team

 

 

ALVENTO WINERY
Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins

 

After much consideration, Bruno & his wife Elyane decided to move back to Canada, after selling Soiana in 1999. About 10 years earlier, they had met Morrie Neiss, a Montreal businessman, philanthropist & wine collector. Over a number of years, Morrie & his wife visited the couple & participated in the harvest at Soiana. When Bruno & Elyane decided to establish a winery in Niagara, he partnered with them.

They searched for a property where they could implement some of the techniques they had learned through their years in Tuscany. In 2001, they found a 5-acre fruit orchard on the current site in Vineland. Says Elyane, “The land was planted as an orchard with cherries, peaches, pears, apples and plums. Cherry & peach trees are an indicator of good land for vines, according to Tuscan wisdom. And the property is near Lake Ontario and takes advantage of the cool breeze in the summer, facilitating photosynthesis even on very hot days.”

Most of the vines were planted in 2001: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot & Vigonier – using tightly spaced planting techniques to reduce yields but increase the concentration of the fruit. In 2002, Bruno decided to plant Nebbiolo, as he felt this grape could do well in Niagara given that it grows at quite high altitudes in Piemonte, Italy. The winery was named Alvento (translation: facing the wind) since the wind is omnipresent in the vineyard.

The wind did seem to be blowing against them for a few years! Although the vines grew quickly, the cold winter of 2003 destroyed the buds on the vines. While the roots survived, the new growth demanded substantial pruning to control the vigorous growth and to shape the vines for future production. Hard to believe, but this happened again in 2004 & 2005. Despite these setbacks, they were more determined than ever to create the wines they dreamed of at Alvento. Like their neighbours, they invested in a wind machine to protect the vines from the cold.

Finally, in 2006, the weather co-operated & they were able to harvest their first grapes & produce their first commercial vintage.

Their focus is on three different styles of Bordeaux-type blends:

          Elige is in the style of Medoc (a wine region in France)

          Sondra in the style of Pomerol

          Emilie in the style of St-Emilion.

These three blends were aged 18 months in Burgundian-style oak barrels.

In terms of white wines, only Viognier is crafted. Viognier is a popular grape variety stemming from France that is now starting to grow in other countries. The 2007 Viognier included in your Savvy Selections is unoaked unlike the previous vintage (it was interesting to try the 2 vintages side by side to taste the difference). They expect to release the 2007 reds later this year or early next. As our subscribers know from other Savvy eZine reports, 2007 was an outstanding vintage in Ontario – we look forward to tasting Bruno’s reds!

Bruno explains, “We spend many, many hours in the vineyard taking care of the vines. What we learned in Italy is that you cannot make a great wine without excellent grapes. Many of the practices of oenology consist of adding substances to the wine that in reality imitate the qualities of grapes that are fully mature. To obtain that level and character, grapes have to be continuously attended to by hand to make sure that there is no rot or that there is no over production. It takes many hours of vineyard work and it can not be done by machine. While you cannot cut corners in the cellar, or use inadequate equipment, the most sophisticated apparatus & the use of the most recent oenological innovations cannot replace good mature grapes.”

While these wines come to you, the Alvento team – Bruno, Elyane & Greg, their assistant – continue to monitor the vines. Spring warmth was followed by a cold snap, but with the help of their wind machine, the vines were saved. Greg, who completes his diploma in Oenology & Viticulture this year & who will become a father in September, is convinced this will be a good vintage – he’ll be putting aside a few bottles to open on his child’s eighteenth birthday!

Cheers & Enjoy!

-Susan

 

~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~

Alvento Vio 2007 VQA, $25.95

Produced from hand-harvested grapes, this Viognier was fermented sur lie (winespeak: with the yeast) in stainless steel to retain the lively fruit aromas and flavours.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Pale gold & clear, the wine has a subtle & appealing nose of sweet stone fruit & light notes of white flowers & pineapple. It’s a dry mid-weight wine, with fresh vibrant flavours of ripe apricots, juicy nectarines & a hint of exotic tropical fruits with a splash of citrus. Lively acidity & fresh fruits linger on the finish.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Slightly chilled, this wine will pair well with fresh summer salads, grilled fish, or light appetizers.

Cellaring:  Drinking well now, this wine may be cellared for up to 2 more years.

 

 

Alvento Elige 2005 VQA, $24.95

A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc and 20% Merlot, this blend went through malolactic fermentation in stainless, followed by aging for 18 months in part new, part seasoned Burgundian barrels.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  A regal, semi-opaque ruby, this elegant wine offers rich & complex aromas of berries, vanilla, sweet spice and some underlying notes of cedar and exotic dried fruits. It’s dry, with ripe well-integrated tannins, fresh cherry and red berry fruit—raspberry and field strawberries—and underlying notes of toast and cocoa. Medium bodied, it has lovely balance and a lengthy finish.  . 

Suggested Food Pairing: Bring on the beef!  Elyane has shared one of her special recipes for this wine on the following pages.

Cellaring:  Designed to be aged, the wine would benefit from decanting for about an hour if you plan to enjoy it now.

 

 

Alvento Emilie 2006 VQA $23.95

Grown on the sandy loam of Alvento’s waterfront property, the grapes for this unique blend were tended by hand on the vine & hand harvested – as with all Alvento grapes. The blend includes 70% Cabernet Franc & 30% Merlot, fermented in similar fashion to the Elige, & aged 18 months in French barrels, a slightly higher proportion of them being new.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Displaying a well-defined garnet hue, this wine displays alluring aromas of chocolate, exotic spice, sweet kitchen herbs (bay and sage), black fruits, vanilla & toast. It’s dry, medium-full bodied, with silky round tannins, pleasant crispness & ripe fruity flavours of field berries underlaid with tangy hints of pepper. Well balanced, with well-integrated toasty oak notes, it delivers a full-flavoured and lingering finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: A classic match for this food-friendly wine would be grilled lamb or beef, or later in the year, a hearty vegetable and beef ragout .

Cellaring:  This wine will also age well and benefits from decanting. Our tasting panel noted that the wine changed dramatically in the glass!

 

~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

With Alvento Vio VQA…

Grilled Chicken & Mushroom Salad

From LCBO Food & Drink Magazine

Serves 4-6

Ingredients
1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 oz. oyster mushrooms, trimmed

4 0z. shitake mushrooms, stemmed
8 C mixed greens

1 Tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp Dijon or grainy mustard

Freshly ground pepper

 

Method

1.      In a large bowl, combine 2 Tbsp of the oil, mustard, rosemary & garlic. Add chicken and turn to coat. Place on greased grill over medium-high heat & grill chicken, turning once, for about 12 minutes or until no longer pink inside. Remove to cutting board & slice thinly.

 

2.      Toss mushrooms with 1-2 Tbsp oil & place on greased grill over medium-high heat. Grill, turning once, for about 5 minutes or until tender and golden. Remove to plate.   

 

3.      Place greens on large platter and top with sliced grilled chicken and mushrooms.

 

4.      Whisk together remaining oil, lemon juice, mustard and pepper to taste and drizzle over salad. Enjoy!

 

 

With Alvento Elige VQA …

Tagliata with Arugula

From the kitchen of Elyane Grenier, Alvento Winery

Serves 4

Ingredients
¼ C balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ lb. beef tenderloin
2 Tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 Tbsp coarse salt
2 C sliced arugula
1 lemon, halved

High quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese shavings

 

Method

1.   Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk first 3 ingredients in a small bowl. 

 

2.   Place beef on platter, spoon marinade over and turn to coat completely. Let stand 1 hour. Sprinkle meat all over with salt & pepper. Heat olive oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add beef and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes (the meat may be grilled on the BBQ) 

 

3.   Transfer beef to platter and let rest 10 minutes.

 

4.   Slice beef thinly and divide among 4 plates. Drizzle any juices from platter over beef. Sprinkle with salt & top with arugula. Squeeze lemon over, then drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

 

5.   Enjoy with Alvento Elige!

 

 

With Alvento Emilie VQA…

Peppered Beef with Balsamic Strawberry Relish

Serves 4

Ingredients
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp whole peppercorns, cracked
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ lb. grilling steak (~ 1” thick)

Strawberry Relish
1 ½ C chopped strawberries
3 Tbsp chopped red onion
2 Tbsp chopped sweet yellow pepper (optional)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp granulated sugar
Salt & pepper to taste

Method

1.  In a small bowl, combine mustard, cracked peppercorns, garlic; rub an even coating on both sides of meat. Grill steak over high heat or broil for about 4 minutes each side for medium-rare, or until desired degree of doneness.

2.  For the relish: In a bowl, combine strawberries, onion, yellow pepper, parsley, vinegar, oil, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Slice steak thinly across the grain and serve with a dollop of the strawberry relish.  

 

Cheers & Enjoy!

 

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