Our discovery: Ridge Road Winery makes great wines under $20!

Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Ridge Road Estate Winery
– June 2012 –

Ridge Road Estate Winery occupies a coveted position atop the north-eastern edge of the Niagara Escarpment, a designated UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve.  Owners Jayne and Sean Douglas along with their four children, recognize the great value of this ecosystem and are committed to carrying on the family tradition of stewardship of the land, while offering unique small-lot hand-crafted wines.
Once you leave the QEW near Stoney Creek, the road to the winery winds up the Escarpment along switchbacks and through lush vegetation. The winery tasting room sits like an invitation in an attractive rural setting, the pond is loud with croaking frogs while offers water for the visiting deer. And the property is on a major raptor migration route, so you can expect to see birders sitting on the patio, glass of wine in hand, binoculars nearby focused on the raptors in the fruit trees. In fact, Jayne explained that her four children had the opportunity to watch peregrine chicks hatch last spring.
The creation of this winery is a story of the agricultural evolution of the region, of the unique environment in which the property is situated and of the life-long dream of this couple. The farm, comprising 60 acres, has been in Jayne’s family since 1875. In fact, E.D Smith was the original mortgage holder on the property and great-great-grandfather sold his fruit to this iconic Canadian food company.
While on a trip to France 25 years ago, Jayne and Sean caught the wine bug! With fulltime careers in Burlington, they dreamed of purchasing the family property, still a working fruit farm, and transforming part of it into a vineyard and winery. Their idea came into fruition with the purchase of the family property 16 years ago. Eager to get to work, Sean enrolled in winemaking and viticulture courses, while gradually building the structure which today is the winery tasting bar and barrel cellar. They developed their expertise in the 12-acre vineyard, selling their grapes to local winemaking hobbyists and Sean practiced as an amateur winemaker. After careful deliberation, they opened the winery in September 2009 and in 2010, they took the plunge to become full-time winery proprietors.
Our Savvy Sommelier Susan, found a meeting with Jayne and Sean is like a visit with friends or relatives that you don’t see very often. You can pick up the threads of the relationship in no time! After discovering Ridge Road shortly after they opened, we were eager to introduce them to our Savvy Selections subscribers. Our tasting panel selected the following wines for you to enjoy this summer:

Pinot Gris VQA 2011 – a lively, well-balanced white wine with honey notes

Pinot Noir VQA 2009
a dry, smoky classic cool climate Pinot
Merlot VQA 2010
– a subtle red wine offering chocolate notes as it dances on the tongue.

Stock up for the summer – all under $20

Being such a small winery, you won’t find Ridge Road wines at the LCBO. So, if you found a new favorite wine and would like additional bottles, give me a call and I will take care of ordering more for you.
Cheers & Enjoy!
Debbie & Savvy Team

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Ridge Road Estate Winery

Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins

Jayne remembers the joy of her childhood visits to ‘the farm’. “My Gramma Verna Stuart owned the farm where we would have large family gatherings and pot luck picnics there on weekends. My brother, cousins and I would run wild through the 60 acre fields & orchards, chasing and trying to ride the poor cows! We would hike in the forested area along the Niagara Escarpment – it was a fabulous weekend getaway for us ‘city kids’. Today, my own 4 children enjoy the same open spaces, hikes and adventures discovering wildlife like bull frogs and salamanders, snakes, deer, raptors, lynx, coyotes—even a generation later, it’s still a great weekend getaway for city kids!”
The property offers a unique growing environment, with lake breezes flowing up and over the escarpment and clay loam soils. The ubiquitous Escarpment limestone offers a mineral component to the wines. Sean explains, ‘Although on average the temperature is 1°C cooler up here in the winter, it’s often warmer in the summer. The site benefits from consistent breezes that quickly dry the grapes after a rain, and that tend to push the late spring frosts up over the escarpment—fortunately, wind machines are redundant for us!”
The focus is on quality at Ridge Road, with hand harvesting and sorting in the production of their small-batch wines. Sean is the winemaker, with over 20 years’ experience both as an enthusiastic amateur winemaker and in his current role at the winery. Fifteen years of amateur winemaking, as well as valuable product knowledge gained through supplying grapes to other wineries and amateur winemakers, gave the couple the confidence to ‘go pro’ and create their first commercial vintage in 2007.
Jayne remembers, “Sean believes that the grape should shine through. Based on the climatic conditions of the vintage, yeasts are chosen to accentuate what the grape is projecting. Minimal fining and movement is practiced so as not to bruise the wines. And we’ve moved toward the Stelvin closure (winespeak: screwcap) to preserve the freshness of the wine and avoid microbial infection.”
After getting some initial advice on appropriate varietals, Sean and Jayne planted Chardonnay, Riesling and Cabernet Franc, along with Vidal and Baco Noir grape varietis. They’ve been experimenting with other varietals too, and recently added Pinot Noir, Syrah and Gamay Noir to their vineyard. In addition to these varietals, their property is the one of only three trial sites in Ontario for Traminette – a hybrid varietal created at the University of Indiana in 1965 by crossing Gewürztraminer with the little known varietal called Joannes Seyve. The cross was sent to Cornell for development and has produced a wine grape well adapted to a cool climate region like Niagara, displaying cold hardiness, good productivity and resistance to fungal diseases. When combined with Geisenheim and Vidal grapes in Ridge Road’s ‘Vineridge Blend’, it results in a zesty, fresh white wine with high-toned aromatics of floral, citrus and tropical notes, along with a mineral quality and a silky texture.
Sean and Jayne have purposely retained a large portion of the home farm as a fruit orchard and natural habitat for the varied local flora, birds and as Jane says…‘critters’. Working with the local conservation authority, they are planning to establish a walking trail through part of the property to a nearby waterfall. If you are a bird lover, Ridge Road invites you to their Raptor Festival, and spare binoculars are always available for the uninitiated wine-tasting birdwatcher!
Even with their short time in business, the quality of Ridge Road’s wines has been recognized with two gold medals for their 2009 Riesling and Vidal at the 2010 All Canadian Wine Championships. Jayne feels their approach accounts for this: “Our focus is to make hand-crafted wines that showcase our terroir. We create two blends each year— Call Me a Cab and Intersection White – and adjust our single varietal portfolio annually in response to the vintage. We’ve also found that our property produces very crisp, fruity sparkling wines, ideal for causal occasions. We plan to expand that part of our portfolio in the future.”
We are fortunate to feature Ridge Road early in the summer, as their wines are usually sold out by early fall. They are expanding to 4500 cases over the next two years, with a long-term plan to cap production at 10,000 cases. “We really believe that for us, that’s the maximum volume that will allow us to continue to put the care and effort we feel is required into each wine.”
Enjoy your Savvy Selections!


~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~

Ridge Road Pinot Gris 2011 VQA, $16.95

The first Pinot Gris produced at Ridge Road, this is a unique wine. The grapes were divided into two lots, the first given extended maceration to create a pinkish hue and then fermented in stainless. The second batch was whole cluster pressed, the fermented in new French oak, then blended with the first to create this mouth-filling wine.
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Finely crafted and well balanced, this Pinot Gris offers great weight. texture and length. Honeyed fruit aromas dominate with pear, nectarine and crunchy Gala apple. Palate pleasing and silky, lively citrusy acidity balances the honeyed orchard fruit, while a nutty note persists on the long tangy finish.
Suggested Food Pairing: Enjoy this wine with a grilled chicken Caesar salad, or with shellfish. The recipe for Spaghetti with Shrimp is on the following pages for you to try your hand at with this wine.
Cellaring: No need to wait – enjoy it now!

Ridge Road Pinot Noir 2009 VQA, $19.95

2009 was a cool wet vintage, but produced attractive Pinot Noir like this one. The grapes were sourced from older vines from a neighboring vineyard as well as from Ridge Road’s first growth vines. Older French oak barrels were used to showcase the bright tangy fruit.
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: There’s interesting complexity in the aromas—red cherry, hints of smoke and cedar, and a whiff of vanilla and tomato leaf. Dry, mid weight, the wine has a tangy texture, red fruit garnished with spice, notes of roasted red pepper and a lengthy peppery finish.
Suggested Food Pairing:  Grilled salmon, chicken alfredo, or warm Brie with red pepper jelly are ideal matches. Susan shares her recipe for Pork Chops to serve with this wine.
Cellaring: Enjoy the wine now or Sean remarks that it could be cellared for 3-5 years

Ridge Road Merlot 2010 VQA $18.95 

This Merlot was bottled as a varietal wine due to unique representation it offers of the vintage, the vineyards and Sean’s winemaking style. The wine is a blend of six specially selected barrels, predominantly new and older French oak, with one American oak barrel ‘making the cut’.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  From a great vintage, this Merlot displays aromas and flavours of black berry and plum, chocolate coated cherries as well as dried cherries with an underlying mineral note. Dry, mid weight, the subtle structure, round tannins and clean texture frame layered fruit flavours, recurring chocolate notes and sweet spice that lingers on the finish.
Suggested Food Pairing: Serve this wine with pork with a burgundy sauce or grilled veal chops.

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

~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

With Ridge Road Pinot Gris …
Spaghetti with Shrimp

The Eating Well Cookbook
Serves 4
1 Tbsp olive oil
5 garlic cloves, minced (or to taste)
1 tsp tomato paste
1 ¼ C dry white wine
2-3 tsp grated lemon zest
1 ½ lb medium-sized shrimp, peeled & deveined
¼ C minced fresh parsley
Salt & pepper to taste
1 lb spaghetti
1/3 C fresh bread crumbs, toasted
Fresh grated parmigiano (optional)

  1. In a large deep saucepan, heat oil over low heat. Add garlic & tomato paste and sauté for 2-3 minutes, or until the garlic begins to stick to the bottom of the pan. Add wine and lemon zest. Increase heat to medium & simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes or until garlic has softened. Add shrimp & cook for about 3 minutes longer, of just until shrimp are pink. Add parsley & season with salt & pepper.
  2. Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in a large pot of boiling, salted water until it is tender but still firm. Drain the spaghetti in a colander & transfer to a large, warm shallow serving bowl. Toss with shrimp sauce.
  3. Taste & adjust seasonings. Sprinkle with toasted bread crumbs (and parmigiano cheese) and serve immediately.


With Ridge Road Pinot Noir

Pork Chops with Fresh Tomato, Onion & Feta

Serves 4
1 large onion, halved & thinly sliced
2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided
4 pork loin chops, 1” thick
salt & pepper to taste
sliced garlic cloves
½ pint red grape tomatoes, halved
½ pint yellow grapes tomatoes, halved
2 cloves garlic, diced
1 Tbsp dried basil
2 ½ tsp balsamic vinegar
2 oz. crumbled feta, or to taste

  1. Heat 1 Tbsp oil in skillet over medium heat. Stir in the onion & cook until golden brown. Set aside.
  2. Add ½ Tbsp oil to skillet & heat. Season pork chops by rubbing garlic clove over, then sprinkling with salt & pepper. Cook to desired doneness. Set aside, keeping warm.
  3. Heat remaining oil in skillet. Return onions to skillet, stir in tomatoes, garlic and basil. Cook, stirring for 3-4 minutes, until tomatoes are tender. Mix in balsamic vinegar & season with salt & pepper.
  4. Top chops with the onion & tomato mixture & sprinkle with feta. Enjoy!


With Ridge Road Merlot…

‘Merloted’ Grilled Beef

Serves 4
4 filets of beef
½ C Merlot
1 Tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
4 cloves garlic (or to taste), minced
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp fresh-cracked pepper

  1. Stir together Merlot, Worcestershire sauce, garlic, brown sugar and pepper.
  2. Add beef fillets and marinate at least 10 minutes and up to 2 hours.  
  3. Place marinated meat on hot grill and cook to desired doneness. Serve with grilled veggies and rice.

Option: You can create extra marinade, bring it to a boil in a small saucepan, reducing by 1/3, then pour over the fillets.

 Cheers & Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections!

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