Savvy Selections e-Zine featuring Pillitteri Estates Winery


Featuring Pillitteri Estates Winery
Canada’s wineries delivered to your doorstep

It certainly has been a chilly winter so far!  Over a glass of wine (no less!), my colleague Gina and I were talking about how we embrace the season by strapping on skis or lacing up skates…but we have to confess that the recent temperatures have defeated us once or twice already. When the wind chill dips below minus 30, we both have an urge to spend more time in the kitchen, stirring up some of our favorite comfort food – stews, hearty soups, oven roasted and braised meats.  These recipes fill our homes with the aromas of a home cooked meal, setting the stage to be accompanied with a heart warming glass of wine.


With this month’s Savvy Selections, we have a variety of wines from Pillitteri Estates Winery from light and medium bodied whites and a well aged red.  The Pillitteri family immigrated from Italy to Niagara where they have been making wines for over 20 years.  Their winemaking philosophy is simple: “To produce the finest wines possible from the highest quality Niagara Peninsula grapes.” With this approach, Pillitteri has been recognized around the world with their award winning wines and has become the largest estate icewine producer in the world. (winespeak: this title means that all of the grapes used for their icewine have been grown in the Pillitteri vineyards).  Visit www.pillitteri.com to see the long list of impressive awards that they have accumulated over the years.


Your February Savvy Selections includes:

·         2007 Pinot Grigio VQA – a refreshing wine that will remind you of summer

·         2007 Sur Lie Chardonnay VQA – perfect to sip on as you prepare your hearty meal

·         2002 Merlot Reserve VQA – aged at the winery and ready to uncork and enjoy

·         2004 Sparkling Vidal Icewine VQA – optional wine on request…heaven in a bottle!


In this month’s Savvy e-Zine you can read about how Dr. Marc Bradshaw embarked on a personal trek from Australia to South Africa and several places in between. His visit to Canada was intended to be a short stop, yet several years later, he is now Pillitteri’s winemaster at a family run winery that is deeply rooted in its Italian heritage. Our Savvy Sommelier – Gina, enjoyed interviewing him to learn about his winemaking adventures…and I think she enjoyed listening to his Aussie accent too!


What do you think?

Your feedback is always welcome, so please let us know what you think of this months wine selection. If you would like to order additional Pillitteri wines or wines from other featured wineries in the Savvy Selections, just give me a call….it would be my pleasure to organize a shipment for you.


Cheers and keep warm!

Debbie & the Savvy Team



Pillitteri Estates Winery
presented by Sommelier Gina Wohlgemuth  

It is with great pleasure that we are once again showcasing wines from PiIlitteri Estates Winery in the Savvy Selections.  Since the first feature in March 2006, the winery has continued to impress the world wine stage with award-winning VQA wines, celebrated its 20th anniversary in business, expanded its production facilities at the winery and hired a new winemaker – the talented and enthusiastic winemaker Dr. Marc Bradshaw.  

Originally from Queensland, Australia, Marc had never considered entering the wine industry while pursuing his studies, yet once he experienced his first “crush” (winespeak: grape harvest), he was smitten.  Marc worked for wineries in his home country as well as South Africa and Germany before finding his way to Canada.  He had always hoped to visit and take on a various ‘small’ jobs at a Canadian winery for a couple of months.  Yet, when he was offered the position as assistant winemaker at Pillitteri, it evolved over time into winemaster, his plans of a short stay in Canada dramatically changed – three years later, Marc has not looked back.

Pillitteri is well known as the world’s largest estate producer of icewine so when I tried to pin down Marc in January – at the height of icewine production – for an interview, it took some persistent chasing on my part.  Marc reports that the crew started picking on December 22, 2008 and completed picking the icewine grapes in mid-January.  While teams of brave women and men are picking the grapes in the vineyards (really is entails snapping the bunches of grapes off bare vines), a team of people are on the crush pad located outside of the winery, pressing the grapes.  Marc reports that all of this activity continued even as the pipes in the pressing room froze!   Harvest is always a beehive of activity despite the cold.

Before coming to Pillitteri, Marc had little experience with icewine.  As assistant winemaker, it was “baptism by fire”. Now with several years under his belt, the Aussie says he “loves” making icewine because of its challenges and rewards. In particular, the frigid working environment (by government regulations, icewine grapes have to be picked when the outside temperature is below – 8 degrees Celcius or colder), frequently working throughout the night into the wee hours of the morning along with the constant monitoring of fermentation.

Pillitteri’s devotion to perfecting icewine has not gone unnoticed.  They have won hundreds of prestigious awards worldwide.  For Marc, the most coveted award was gold in 2008 for their 2006 Shiraz icewine at the “Syrah du Monde” competition in France’s Northern Rhone Valley.  This year, Pillitteri is producing more than ten different varietals of icewine including Semillon, Merlot, Gerwürztraminer and Sangiovese along with their Vidal and Riesling in both still and the one of a kind sparkling icewine.

When I pressed Marc to choose his favourite varietal to make wine, after some consideration Marc, stated, “I think it would have to be Pinot Grigio”. Why?  He has fond memories of Pinot Grigio wines in Australia and his travels. Although he explains that Pinot Grigio must be watched carefully throughout its production, he enjoys crafting the refreshing drink with it’s a slightly pinkish hue. As far as Marc’s favourite Pillitteri wine to drink, Sur Lie Chardonnay is his current pick.  Both of these white wines are included in this month’s Savvy Selections.  Yet, Marc boldly states that, even though a winemaker, he never turns down a cold beer!

Marc is thoroughly enjoying his time working at Pillitteri.  The Pillitteri family has given him leeway to create wines in a slightly different style than what had been created in the past, however, Marc repeatedly states that winemaking is a team effort.  With Niagara’s climate being so varied from year to year, he admits that winemaking can be very challenging and it keeps him on his toes.  Marc’s winemaking philosophies is “listen to the fruit and to go with the flow”. 

Cheers & Enjoy!


~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~

Pillitteri Estates Pinot Grigio VQA 2007, $15
Produced in the Old World Italian style, this 100% Pinot Grigio is classified as “dry” (winespeak: very little residual sugar following fermentation).  Dry  can also be rated as a ‘0’ on the sugar code.  Despite its crispness & refreshing acidity, it tastes lush because of all the natural fruit sweetness.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Marc specifically crafted this wine to have a pretty pale peach hue.  The aromas of citrus, melon and light floral notes are reminiscent of spring and the promise of warmth – good thoughts to have in the middle of a cold winter.  This is a light refreshing wine filled with spritzy fruit flavours and a clean finish.

Suggested Food Pairing:  This wine is easily enjoyed on its own or with appetizers – see the quesadillas recipe below, with roasted chicken or pork chops.

Cellaring:  Enjoy now or put away in your cellar until the summer to sip while sitting on your patio in the sunshine.


Pillitteri Estates Sur Lie Chardonnay VQA 2007, $15
The fruit for this wine was crushed, pressed and then fermented in stainless steel tanks.  No oak was used during its production.  The complex aromas and flavours were developed by leaving the wine on its lees (winespeak: the remnants of the yeast cells used for fermentation and coarse sediment) with periodic bâttonage (winespeak: daily stirring) for eight months. 

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Look for aromas and a palate of citrus and tropical fruits as well as pleasant nutty characteristics.  Lively acidity balances out the fruit in this flavorful chardonnay.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Serve with roasted chicken, poached salmon or comforting shepherd’s pie.

Cellaring:  2007 was a fantastic year for Niagara wines.  This one is definitely delicious now or it can be properly stored for another year or two.


Pillitteri Estates Reserve Merlot VQA 2002, $25
We are excited to offer this fine wine from the sensational harvest of 2002.  Following primary fermentation and malolactic fermentation (winespeak: the process by which stronger malic acid is converted into the softer, more desirable lactic acid), the wine was aged in a combination of brand new barrels French and American oak barrels as well as some barrels that were one or two years old and some that have been re-coopered (rebuilt and re-toasted).  All in all, the wine aged in the barrels for over 20 months to soften and integrate the flavours of this Merlot.  

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Gina and her tasting panel noted that the nose on this Merlot is reminiscent of black cherries and blackberries, chocolate and leather as well as earthy undertones. Generous acidity and mild tannins make it a food-friendly red wine.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Try this wine with a big plate of spaghetti and meatballs, a meaty casserole or your favourite winter comfort food.

Cellaring: “No need to wait – drink now!” comments Gina. Keep in mind that this wine has already aged 7 years. Consider decanting it to allow the wine to ‘breathe’. As it has aged, the wine has mellowed, transforming from a full bodied Merlot to one that is more medium bodied, complex and well balanced.  Enjoy!


~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

With Pillitteri’s Pinot Grigio…
Grilled Quesadillas
These make a tasty appetizer, lunch or light supper.  A nonstick skillet works just as well as the grill so no need to wait for summer to enjoy.

Recipe from Anne Lindsay’s “New Light Cooking”
Makes 8

1 small avocado
1 tomato, diced
½ c. corn kernels (canned is fine)
¼ chopped canned green chilies or green onion
¼ tsp. salt
pinch of pepper
8 flour tortillas (8 inch)
1 c. grated part-skim mozzarella or cheddar cheese
1/3 c. chopped cilantro or parsley
Your favourite salsa


1.      Peel and pit avocado.  Place half in bowl and mash until smooth.  Chop remaining half and stir into same bowl with tomato, corn, chilies, salt and pepper.

2.      Spread mixture evenly over half of each tortilla.  Sprinkle cheese and coriander over mixture.  Fold uncovered half over filling and gently press edges together.

3.      In nonstick skillet or on grill over medium heat, cook quesadillas for 1 – ½ minutes until bottom is lightly browned.  Turn and cook for another 1- ½ minutes or until filling is heated through and cheese is melted.

4.      Serve with your favourite salsa.


With Pillitteri’s Sur Lie Chardonnay
Roasted Butterflied Chicken & Fennel Mash Potatoes
This easy technique makes for a whole chicken with crispy, golden skin and juicy meat that cooks in little time.  Serve with a creamy risotto or with my fennel mashed potato recipe.

Serves 4

1 3-4 lb. chicken
olive oil
coarsely ground black pepper and sea salt to taste
½ c. chicken broth 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place chicken on a cutting board and cut chicken up the back.  Open it up and lay it flat, skin side up.  Press down along centre to flatten even more.  Rub skin with olive oil and sprinkle with pepper and sea salt

Pour broth into roasting pan just large enough to fit flattened chicken snugly.  Place prepared chicken on top.  Roast uncovered for approximately 1 hour 15 minutes or until juices run clear.

Fennel Mashed Potatoes
Recipe from Margaret Chisholm, “The Girls Who Dish”
Serves 4

2 tsp. unsalted butter
1 small fennel bulb, stalks removed, chopped into ½ inch pieces
5 large Yukon Gold potatoes
2 tsp. coarse salt
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
¾ c. hot milk
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Melt the 2 tsp. butter in small frying pan over medium-low heat.  Add the fennel and cook stirring occasionally until tender, approximately 15 minutes.  Set aside.

Peel the potatoes and cut into pieces.  Place in medium saucepan and cover with cold water and the coarse salt.  Bring to a boil and cook over medium heat for approximately 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

Drain in colander and return potatoes to the pot.  Place over low heat and toss the pan a few times to dry them out.  One or two minutes should be plenty.  Put the potatoes through a potato ricer or mash with potato masher.  Return them to the pot.  Beat in the 2 Tbsp butter with a wooden spoon.  Beat the hot milk in a bit at a time.  Stir in the fennel.  Season to taste with salt and pepper. 


With Pillitteri’s Merlot Reserve…
Braised Lamb Stew with Rosemary Dumplings
Recipe from John Bishop’s “Cooking at My House”
Serves 4

1 1/4 lbs. boneless leg of lamb
salt and pepper
1 cup flour
2 Tbsp vegetable oil for frying
½ c. finely chopped onion
½ c. finely diced carrot
½ c. finely diced celery
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup red wine
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 cups stock or water


Ingredients for Rosemary Dumplings 
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 tsp chopped rosemary leaves
2 Tbsp olive oil
½ cup milk

Trim lamb and cut meat into 2- or 3-inch cubes.  Season with salt and pepper.  Dip each cube into the flour, coating all sides.

Heat vegetable oil in frying pan on medium-high heat.  Add the lamb chunks and sauté until all sides are sealed and browned.  Remove the lamb from the pan and place it in a casserole or baking dish.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Place the frying pan back on the burner on medium-high heat.  Add the chopped vegetables and sauté for approximately 5 minutes.  Add the tomato paste, red wine and fennel seeds.  Stir together well then pour it over the lamb.  Top up with the water or stock.  Cover the baking dish with a lid or aluminum foil and bake for 1.5 hours.

Just before the stew is ready, prepare dumpling mixture: Combine flour, baking powder, salt and rosemary in a bowl.  Add the olive oil and milk. 

Mix together to form a soft dough.  Divide the dumpling dough into six pieces.

Remove stew from oven.  Taste and add salt and pepper if necessary.  Place dumplings on top of the stew.  Cover and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.  The dumplings should be light and fluffy when they are ready.


Great wine & food ideas to warm you up on a cold February day.
Cheers & Enjoy!


When you would like to order additional Pillitteri wines or wines from other featured wineries in the Savvy Selections, simply contact the Savvy Team and we will organize a shipment for you.


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