It runs in the family: Riverview Cellars Estate Winery

It’s a familiar story in Niagara, a young immigrant family with roots in the earth, toiling at other jobs until the opportunity arises to purchase a farm property. This is the story of Sam and Lina Pillitteri, the founders of Riverview Cellars Estate Winery. Married in 1965, Sam worked as a draftsman and Lina as a nurse, until the opportunity arose to purchase a fruit farm on the Niagara River in 1975. With their three daughters and young son, Michael, helping out on Riverview Farms, the family maintained the historic storefront on their property, selling their produce to tourists and local alike. From that early beginning, they were known for their warm friendly welcome.

When he first walked the property, Sam knew that he had a very special site. The soil profile varied from the river to the boundary on Concession road 1, from pliable, silty loam to denser clay loam, then to sandy loam, with patches of tough clay that help control vine vigour. As the children grew and Sam assessed the future, he decided to begin planting vitis vinifera, delivering his harvests to his brother’s winery. The first vines, Gewürztraminer, were planted in 1992, followed by Vidal in 1993 and Cabernet Sauvignon in 1998. The family continued to plant other varietals through 2006, including Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The focus is on vitis vinifera but Vidal is used for ice wine production and the family maintains several rows of Baco Noir for their popular limited-edition table wine. Twenty-two of the 25 acres are under vine, and 98% of their wines are produced from estate fruit.

Sam had always dreamed of establishing a family run winery. And, like many boutique wineries in the area, the creation of Riverview Cellars was a family affair. The daughters offered their creative talents in design and décor, while son Michael, pursued a degree at McMaster, shuttled back and forth to help out in the development of the winery business. In 2000, Riverview Cellars tasting room was officially opened for visitors. Sam continues as President, Michael is the General Manager, and Angela Kasimos has taken on duties as winemaker. It was great to experience that warm welcome from Michael and Angela on a recent visit. And you can’t help but notice the quiet enthusiasm and pride they both exude.

Riverview celebrated its 10th anniversary last September, so we couldn’t resist including a couple of wines produced in honor of the founding of the winery. Our tasting panel had a difficult time selecting just three wines to showcase in this month Savvy Selections:
Sauvignon Blanc VQA 2010 – we arranged for a special allocation of this wine several months ago so we could offer this impressive wine in Savvy Selections. Enjoy this bottle!
Gewürztraminer VQA 2010
– a not-so-common grape variety grown in Niagara – and this wine is outstanding!
Cabernet Franc VQA 2009
– our tasting panel loved this vibrant red wine – we are certain that you will too

You won’t find these wines at the LCBO
If there is a particular Riverview wine that you enjoyed, feel free to contact me and I would be more than happy to arrange a delivery of additional bottles to be sent to you.

Cheers & Enjoy…and Happy Thanksgiving!

Debbie & Savvy Team

Savvy Company


Riverview Cellars Estate Winery
Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins

As Sam Pillitteri began thinking of producing his own wine in the late 1990s, he naturally looked to his family to join in this new venture. Though willing to offer their talents in the new venture, his three daughters were well established in their own lives and careers. His young son Michael was just about to head off to McMaster to do his undergrad in Business Economics. The big question loomed – was Michael willing to take on a key role in the winery, while juggling between the university in Hamilton and the winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake?

Michael was only in high school when his family first harvested Gewürztraminer grapes in 1995. Over the next three years, Sam and Lina recognized Michael`s interest and commitment to establishing a family run winery business. The winery opened in September 2000 just as Michael headed off to McMaster to do his undergrad! “It was like having a full-time job while I was at school! I did almost all my projects on the wine industry, and I still remember sitting in my dorm room ordering skids of bottles for the winery.”

Riverview has experienced steady growth over the years, as well as early upstart challenges. Recently the focus is on managing expansion and increased volume. “My dad has always taken quite a conservative approach to building the business”, which Michael credits as one of the keys to their successful & manageable growth. In the early days, they produced about 200 cases in 2000, now 11 years on, the winery now produces 5000 cases. Their growing reputation is attracting more notice & visitors.

Looking ahead, Michael is working on their brand recognition in Ontario, while devoted to help build the profile of Niagara wines around the world. He always talks enthusiastically about his neighbouring wineries Niagara-on-the-Lake who have joined together to collectively promote and market their wines on the world stage.

Although already seems that he is a busy man, Michael has a quiet ambition and a great balance in his life. “I thought of continuing my education by pursuing an MBA, but realistically, I’m a husband and now a dad. And for fun, I’m a member of a band. “ To top it all off, he is a great cook too! “Every two weeks I meet with a bunch of guys and we prepare a five-course meal – food for dudes – with matching wine of course!“

Michael credits his success to the great partnership with his dad, whose role is to focus on the vineyard, and his winemaker, Angela Kasimos, whose broad interests and focused attention to quality winemaking make her a great asset to Riverview Cellars.

Angela joined the family business while complementing her chemistry undergrad degree with studies at Brock Unviersity’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute. She remembers with a laugh, “I had to race from the vineyard to convocation, because we were harvesting Riesling that day!”, At first, she was hired to work with consulting winemaker Jamie Evans, then soon took on the role of winemaker. ‘I’ve had really good challenges here; the first 2-3 vintages were so different, there was a huge learning curve. And after working with Sam and Mike in the vineyard, I can’t imagine making wine without going into the vineyard every day.” In addition to working in the cellar and vineyard, Angela can also be found in the tasting room. “The clients provide direct feedback and offer preferences. This is really helpful to me and shapes our decisions about wines. We created a Riesling/Gewürztraminer blend due to this feedback – and it’s one of our bestsellers!”

Their clients have had a dramatic influence on wine selection, with an expansion from 7 wines offered in 2005 to now 22 wines in their portfolio. Michael explains, “We’d like to think that there is wine style for almost anyone who comes through our door.”

Cheers and enjoy your Savvy Selections!


Riverview Cellars ‘10th Anniversary Series’ Sauvignon Blanc VQA 2010, $16.95

Sourced from Joseph diProfio’s Mia Cara vineyard in Jordan, the grapes were hand-harvested in September. After primary fermentation, the wine was aged in stainless steel tanks.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Pale straw, this is a bold zesty wine. There’s a medley of tropical fruit, lemon-lime, grapefruit and crisp apple, with a whiff of pungent gooseberry and pine resin on the nose. Light-medium bodied, there’s impact and length on the finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Seafood, for sure, like mussels in a white wine sauce, or the classic salad with goat cheese and strawberries.

Cellaring: Crisp, fresh, and dying to be enjoyed right now!

Riverview Cellars ‘10th Anniversary Series’ Gewürztraminer VQA 2010, $16.95

Cropped to a low output of just over 1 tonne per acre, the grapes underwent an overnight cool maceration (wine term explained by Angela: vin d’une nuit) – the result of this process is an enhanced aromatic wine. Gently pressed, the wine was cool-fermented in stainless steel.
We are excited to showcase this wine in the Savvy Selections as is comes from good stock. The 2009 vintage won the impressive award of Best White Wine at the Ontario wine industry`s Academy Awards competition entitled Cuvée 2011. Congrats to Angela, Sam and Michael!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: If this wine were an actor, it would be right in character! The aromas burst from the glass—floral, spice, tropical notes of lychee, mango and pineapple. A beautiful satiny texture and a lasting finish with that characteristic bite round out the package.

Suggested Food Pairing: Gewürztraminer wine is the perfect match for spicy dishes, like buttermilk curried chicken. Or try it with apricot-glazed pork – Susan’s recipe below.

Cellaring: Enjoy now, or cellar short term.

Riverview Estate Cabernet Franc VQA 2009, $16.95

Sourced from estate fruit grown on sandy loam, the grapes were given extended hang time, harvested in early November. The wine aged in 5 once-used French oak barrels and one American oak barrel.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Dry, medium-bodied and vibrant on the palate, you’ll love the character of this wine. Alluring aromas of raspberry, black cherry, violet, chocolate and herbs replay in the flavours that wash across the palate. Perceptible tannins and fresh acidity offer balance and the promise of age. The finish is dry yet fruity.

Suggested Food Pairing: Match this wine to roast leg of lamb, duck cassoulet or your favorite steak.

Cellaring: Drinking well now, this wine will cellar for 3-5 years.


With Riverview Sauvignon Blanc…

Gingery Grilled Salmon
From Eating Well Magazine
Serves 4


¼ C nonfat plain yogurt
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp freshly grated lime zest
1 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp canola oil
½ tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground pepper

4 4-5 oz. pieces salmon fillet, ~ 1” thick


1. Whisk together marinade ingredients.

2. Place salmon in a shallow glass dish and pour marinade over it, turning to coat all sides. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator fro 20-30 minutes, turning once or twice.

3. Heat grill. Using long-handled BBQ brush, coat grill rack with oil. Place salmon, skin-side up, on grill. Cook for 5 minutes. Using 2 metal spatulas, carefully turn the salmon pieces over and cook just until opaque in the centre, 6-8 minutes longer. With 2 spatulas, remove salmon from grill and slip off skin.

4. Serve over mixed greens with a simple lime, canola oil and honey dressing.

With Riverview Gewürztraminer

Buttermilk Curry Chicken

A favorite (and easy!) recipe from the kitchen of Savvy Selections subscriber – Danielle Strickland
Source: Clean Eating Magazine
Serves 4


4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 C low-fat buttermilk
2 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper


1. Whisk together the marinade ingredients (the marinade may be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for several days).

2. Place chicken breasts in a shallow dish and pour over enough marinade to coat all surfaces. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 2 and up to several hours.

3. Heat BBQ to medium heat, and grill chicken until done. Serve with grilled pineapple and mixed wild and brown rice.

Cabernet Franc…

Grilled Lamb Loin with Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette
Anna & Michael Olson, Cook at Home
Serves 6



1/3 C diced sundried tomatoes
1/3 C chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

1 oz. extra virgin olive oil

1 oz. balsamic vinegar
1 oz. water

Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

For Lamb
6 boneless lamb loins

3 cloves garlic, crushed (or to taste)

1 ½ tsp chopped fresh thyme

1 tsp cracked black pepper

1 oz. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp coarse salt


1. For vinaigrette, purée all ingredients in a food processor and season to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

2. For lamb, preheat grill to highest setting. Marinate the lamb in the garlic, thyme, pepper and oil at room temperature for 20 minutes. Add salt & place on grill. After 4 minutes, turn lamb over and reduce heat to medium. Cook 5 minutes for medium doneness.

3. To serve, slice lamb loin into 5 pieces diagonally across the grain of the meat. Fan out the meat, overlapping the slices on the plate or platter, and top with vinaigrette. Smashed new potatoes and carrots with green beans and a glass of Riverview Cellars Cab Franc seem in order!

Cheers & Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections!

Shopping Cart