Reif Estates Winery: 25 years & still growing…


Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Reif Estates Winery

Canada’s wineries delivered to your doorstep

Who could imagine that a wine tradition that began in Germany’s Rhine Valley half a millennium ago would cross the Atlantic to Niagara-on-the-Lake?  Such is the depth of tradition and expertise which characterizes our featured winery this month, Reif Estate Winery.


As a young agriculture student in Germany, Ewald Reif listened with great interest as one of his instructors spoke of his travels to Canada and to the vine-growing area of Niagara.  Years later, in the 1960s, he followed in his teacher’s footsteps and visited the Niagara area, talking with local fruit and grape growers.  In 1977, after a call from Karl Kaiser, he flew to Canada and purchased a former fruit orchard on the fertile banks of the Niagara River  He planted select vitis vinifera vines, as well as some French hybrids, and developed that plot of land so that 6 years later, in 1983, Reif Estate Winery offered its first commercial vintage. In fact, Klaus Reif, the current owner and President of the winery, spent the summer of 1978 planting some of those first vines with his uncle – more about Klaus & his pioneering grapegrowing in the following pages. 


Reif’s (pronounced ry-fe) vineyard is located in the Niagara River sub-appellation of the larger Niagara VQA appellation.  The soil is sandy, encouraging the roots of the vines to deeply penetrate the soil in search of reliable moisture.  And the influence of the nearby Niagara River moderates vineyard temperatures and extends the growing season.  Vineyards are planted on east-facing slopes, which contributes to the ability of Reif Estates to grow tender red varietals and produce some of the more full-bodied and intense red wines of the region.  In fact, at a Wine Council of Ontario event in February of this year, I had the opportunity to taste Klaus’ 2002 First Growth Pinot Noir which was a blockbuster, dark, muscular and intense, produced from vines planted in 1988 and aged 3 years in French and American oak.  When would he produce another wine like this his peers asked?  “2007 provided ideal conditions for the creation of another outstanding First Growth Pinot Noir”, replied Klaus.  Be on watch for this wine!


As Reif Estate Winery has grown, so has the range of varietals grown and the wine produced.  To the original varieties Pinot Noir and Merlot, as well as Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon have been added to their repertoire. 


In this month’s Savvy Selections, we are delighted to feature:

·         2008 Chenin Blanc VQA

·         2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve VQA

·         2007 Meritage VQA

·         2007 Silver Meritage VQA – on special request


We’re always pleased to hear from our Savvy Selections subscribers.  Let us know how you enjoyed these specially selected wines, as well as the matching recipes.  If you would like to order more of these wines, simply contact us.  For a great tasting experience, don’t forget to visit Reif Estate Winery on your next trip to Niagara.


Cheers & Enjoy!

Debbie & Savvy Team

Introducing Reif Estate Winery
Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins

The passionate commitment of Klaus Reif (left) to his vision and philosophy – purity, integrity, tradition – is clear in every word as we discuss how he and his team envision the future for Reif Estate Winery.

But first, how it all started for him….

As a young teenager, Klaus accompanied his father to Niagara in 1978 to visit his uncle Ewald’s new vineyard and winery. “I liked Canada”, said Klaus, “so I returned again in 1979 and 1980.” As he worked side by side with Ewald that first summer, he also had the opportunity to visit family friends working in some of the small number of local Niagara wineries.  These were the early days for the resurgent wine industry, and Klaus recognized tremendous opportunity to produce quality wines.  On his return home, he set a personal commitment to join his uncle in Niagara.  In 1982, the year the winery was licensed, he completed his emigration to Canada. He returned to Germany to complete his degree in Oenology and Viticulture at the famed Geisenheim Institute.  Then in 1987, he moved permanently to Niagara and purchased Reif Estate Winery from Ewald to become its President and Oenologist – and it’s driving force.

There’s an undenial energy and excitement in the air as Klaus Reif and Andrea Kaiser, Director of Marketing, talk about the Reif terroir and their wines.  With 127 acres, this winery is truly able to control the quality of their wines from vine to bottle.  The Reif crest on the bottle recognizes the 13th generation of winemaking in this family, while a focus on core varietals that benefit from the Niagara River sub-appellation speaks to the terroir.  While Klaus is actively involved in all aspects of viticulture and viniculture, he partners with Roberto diDomenico in winemaking.  Roberto came to Reif as a summer student from the University of Guelph, then in 1988 he joined the winemaking team.  Says Klaus with obvious pride, “There’s a saying in the local wine industry, that it’s ‘Reif for Life’ when you become a member of our team.”

With the strong belief that great wines start in the vineyard, over time Klaus and Roberto have focused on improving the quality of grapes in the vineyard, using such techniques as thinning and pruning of the vines.  This has led to a natural improvement of the quality of the fruit.  At the same time, Klaus has focused on select varietals which best express the Niagara River terroir.  The 1st growth wines, such as the Pinot Noir mentioned earlier, are the ultimate expression of Reif’s terroir. While maintaining traditional methods and winemaking techniques, Klaus has added new technology. He has gradually developed the estate and the winery over the last 25 years to include a refined tasting room and retail area surrounded by attractive flower and herb gardens.

Reif has a long history of innovation that continues to this day.  For instance, they produced the first Late Harvest wine in 1987. Late Harvest has now become wine style category in the Canadian wine industry.  “We are always on the edge of technology.” At present, in collaboration with the NRC, Klaus is experimenting with the use of tobacco drying kilns for 2 different processes.  In one kiln, grapes will be dried as they are for the passito-style wines of Italy.  In another, grapes will be introduced to conditions which should produce botrytis-affected fruit – such as that used to create Sauternes.  You can sense his excitement as he talks about these new projects!

So what’s next for a man who has taken a business from inception to its resounding success?   His eyes light up as he says, “I’m ready for a new challenge!”  He remembers the fun of the early days of the winery, when he was directly involved in everything from viticulture to harvest to winemaking, from bookkeeping to marketing. With the strong team he now has in place, Klaus has the energy and opportunity to focus on his passion – excellence in winemaking.  “As a mid-sized winery, we can be driven by the vineyards and the winemaking process – I might even experiment with some batches of my own!”  So be Savvy, stay tuned for more outstanding wines from Klaus and his team!



 ~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~

Reif Estate Chenin Blanc VQA 2008, $18.95

Chenin Blanc is a little-known and often underappreciated grape variety – best known as the great white grape of France’s Loire Valley. At Reif, the grapes underwent cold-controlled fermentation, then aged in stainless steel tanks to maintain its fruity character and excellent acidity.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Intense aromatics waft from the glass – hints of melon, pink grapefruit and white flowers. Enjoy the layers of fruit flavors on the palate.  Crisp on the attack, yet silky smooth, this well-balanced wine has a lingering pithy finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Serve chilled, with poached or grilled scallops. White fish, or with the lemon risotto recipe that follows.

Cellaring:  No need to wait…this wine is ready to drink now. It can cellar for up to 2 years.



Reif Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve VQA 2006, $24.95

A well-made wine, this Cabernet Sauvignon was selected by Ontario’s MPPs as the VQA wine to be served at official functions. The grapes benefited from warm temperatures into mid-November, when it was harvested.  The added complexity comes from oak barrel fermentation as well as aging in French and Hungarian oak.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Linger over the aromas of sweet black currants and spices, along with hints of vanilla and coca.  A complex well-integrated wine, enjoy the sweet berry flavors complemented by refreshing acidity and ripe tannins.  Balanced and smooth, the wine has a spicy lingering finish.  

Suggested Food Pairing:  A versatile wine, serve with aged gouda, roasted meats or a Moroccan tagine loaded with dried fruit and sweet spices.

Cellaring: Drinking well now, the wine will could cellar for another 5 years.


Reif Estate Meritage VQA 2007 $26.95
From the outstanding 2007 vintage, this wine has just been released in time to be included in your Savvy Selections!  This blend is primarily Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a measure of Cabernet Franc.  The fruit was picked at optimum ripeness, fermented for 18 days in stainless steel tanks, then aged in French oak.     

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Our Savvy Selections tasting panel hands down agreed with the winemaker – this is a superior wine.  The aromas of ripe fruit, vanilla and cedar evolve and amplify as the wine relaxes in the glass.  Well structured and balanced, the wine displays layers of flavors – cassis, plums, dark berries, vanilla and dark chocolate.  The rich fruit is well supported by a seam of acidity and integrated tannins that linger on the finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: We have paired this wonderful wine with a simple roast beef tenderloin.  Other options – consider lamb tenderloin or a medley of grilled autumn vegetables.  Or, as the Savvy Selections tasting panel did, simply savour this wine with chunks of hard cheese.

Cellaring: This wine is designed for aging, and could certainly cellar for 7 or more years.  But if you can’t resist tasting it now, we know you’ll want to order a case to share with your friends!


~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

With Reif Estate Chenin Blanc…

Lemon Risotto

Adapted from Cook at Home Cookbook by Anna Olson

Serves 2

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp minced shallot
¼ C Arborio rice
2 Tbsp white wine
1 ½ tsp finely grated lemon zest
pinch Spanish saffron
1 ½ C water or dilute chicken stock
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp honey

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat and add onion, stirring until translucent. 
Add rice and stir for 3 minutes to coat rice with oil.  Add white wine all at once and stir until absorbed.  Stir in lemon zest and saffron.   

Add water (or stock), about ½ cup at a time, stirring aftere each addition and then stirring frequently, adding next addition of liquid only after the previous one has been fully absorbed.  Check doneness of rice by tasting.


Serve with pan fired scallops or filet of halibut.   



With Reif Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve….

Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Caramelized Shallots & Red Wine Sauce

Recipe from Susan’s friend Jennifer McLagan

Serves 6

2 ½-3 lb. piece centre-cut beef tenderloin
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 shallots, peeled & thinly sliced
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 C dry red wine
1 C beef stock


Preheat oven to 450 F.

Brush tenderloin with oil and place in a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil.  Season beef with salt & pepper to taste.   


Over medium heat, melt butter in a frying pan.  When hot, add shallots, thyme sprig & pinch of salt. 
Cook, stirring over medium heat until the shallots soften & begin to caramelize, ~10-15 minutes.


While the shallots are cooking, place beef in the oven & roast for 25 minutes for rare, 30 minutes for medium, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 120F for rare, 125F for medium.  When beef is cooked, remove it from oven, wrap it in aluminum foil & let rest for 10-15 minutes.


Pour the red wine into the frying pan with the caramelized shallots & bring to a boil to deglaze pan by scraping bottom.  Add stock & boil gently ~5-7 minutes or until you have about 1 of sauce.  Remove the thyme & season with salt or pepper as required. 


Unwrap tenderloin & place on carving board.  Add any juices from the meat to the sauce.  Slice the meat & spoon sauce over.


With Reif Estate Meritage…

Beef Filet Roasted with Mustard Peppercorn Crust

Recipe from Anne Lindsay’s Light Kitchen Cookbook

Serves 6-8

2 ½ lb.  beef tenderloin
¼ C Dijon mustard
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
2 Tbsp black peppercorns (or to taste)

Trim any fat or muscle covering from meat; place in roasting pan. (Or grill on the BBQ)

Combine mustard & garlic; spread over beef.

In food processor or with mallet, crush peppercorns; pat onto mustard coating.  Let stand for 1 hour.


Roast in 425F oven for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350F; roast for 25 minutes or until medium-rare. 


Remove & let stand for 8-10 minutes before carving.  Serve with new potatoes and sautéed mushrooms.




Cheers & enjoy this months Savvy Selections!

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