Put Riesling in Your Stocking

by David Loan (a.k.a Savvy Santa) Sommelier and former kitchen owner of Ottawa’s ZenKitchen restaurant


Ontario produces a single-varietal white wine that is among the best of its kind in the world. Unfortunately, it’s a variety that many people are unwilling to try. That’s a shame, because it’s wonderful on its own, fantastic with well-paired foods, and a stellar example of the kind of top-notch product that our Canadian cool-climate viticulture can offer. I’m talking, of course, about Riesling. Many of us remember Riesling as that sweet-ish white that we tried as teenagers, possibly poured from a black tower-shaped bottle. We’re all too sophisticated to drink that today, right? If you think so, the holidays-Christmas, New Year’s, even Valentine’s Day-are a wonderful opportunity to give Ontario Riesling a fresh taste. It’s true that there’s possibly a hint of honey in many Rieslings, but that sweetness is there to balance the sharp citrusy notes from the high acidity in the wine. A good Ontario Riesling is rarely sweet, though. It’s fruity and tangy with a distinctive whiff of ripeness sometimes described as “petrol”. The Ontario examples often bring a muscular minerality to the glass, too. Best of all, Riesling goes so well with many traditional holiday foods. Serve it with canapés, or hard cheeses, or with this lovely olive-fig tapenade and crackers (recipe below). You’ll want to make Riesling an annual holiday tradition. You’ll find fantastic examples of Riesling from Tawse in the Niagara Escarpment, Southbrook Vineyard in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region, and from Huff Estates in Prince Edward County.


From our kitchen to yours!


French Fig Olive Tapenade

From David’s Kitchen – Makes 1 ½ cups


5 cups of pitted brined & cured olives, canned or from a jar

1 large clove of garlic

8 dried black figs, stemmed

1 tablespoon of capers, drained

1 small bunch of mint, stemmed (about 3 large tablespoons)

2 tablespoons of olive oil

Method 1 : Place all ingredients except the olive oil in a food processor and pulse to form a chunky purée.

Method 2: Add the olive oil and pulse until it forms a smooth mass. It is best to make this tapenade at least one day before you intend to serve it which allows the flavours to meld and develop.

Additions & Variations: The texture of this tapenade is totally up to you! You can even chop it by hand for a chunkier version if you prefer. Other herbs can be substituted for the mint, like fresh rosemary or thyme. And if you want it sweeter, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.

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