Savvy Selections wine of the month club
features Niagara College Teaching Winery
Canada’s wineries delivered to your doorstep
My comments may have been lighthearted in past editions of the Savvy e-Zine, yet frankly, the truth is that selecting the wines to be featured in the Savvy Selections is a job that the Savvy Team of Sommeliers take very seriously. The featured winery usually provides a choice of six or seven wines. From there, our goal is to choose the best three wines that are sent to all of our subscribers across Ontario. On some occasions, the range of wines are so impressive that it is hard to decide on just three wines. Instead of settling the dispute over a good old fashioned arm wrestling competition, we let you make the decision by suggesting a fourth wine as an available option to add to your monthly delivery of wine. November is definitely a different story.
This month Savvy Selections features wines from the Niagara College Teaching Winery. The professional winemaking school opened its doors in 2000 and from this point onwards, the wine industry of Ontario took a quantum leap forward. Steve Gill, the General Manager of the Winery and Viticulture program at Niagara provided us a selection of nine wines to sample. Selecting three wines from six is challenging enough, but selecting three wines to feature from nine was next to impossible (wink, wink). Much discussion was had and the arm wrestle decision making technique was considered!
We are delighted to introduce you the following wines in your Savvy Selections:
· Unoaked Chardonnay VQA 2009
· Meritage VQA 2005
· Cabernet Sauvignon VQA 2007
We couldn’t stop there. The wines crafted by the students were simply remarkable. A+ in fact. The wines were certainly more than a class project. When I emailed you to see if you would like optional wines added to your delivery, I was overwhelmed with the positive response. If after reading this Savvy eZine you would like more of these great (and hard to find wines), simply email or call me to make the arrangements for a delivery. The optional wines included:
· Cabernet Sauvignon VQA 2006
· Meritage VQA 2007
· Savant Ice Wine VQA 2007
This month is unique in that we are able to offer two mini verticals (winespeak: two wines of the same variety from different years). Sampling the Cabernet Sauvignon 2006 & 2007 side by side will give you a taste of how the difference in weather during the growing season impacts the final product. Sampling the Meritage 2005 & 2007 at the same time will give you an idea of how the blend evolves as it ages. In the following pages, Derek spends some time describing vintage variation to further your enjoyment (and knowledge!).
If you are curious about the concept of vintage variation and did not order the optional 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon feel free to contact me so that I can arrange to have a bottle (or two) shipped to you or any of the other Savvy Selections featured wines for that matter.
Cheers & Enjoy!
Niagara College Teaching Winery
Presented by Sommelier Derek Vollrath
When I finished high school, pursuing an education in the field of viticulture and winemaking was just not possible and pursing a career in that very field would have been out of the question. In the famous words of Bob Dylan, “The Times they are a-Changin”.
At Niagara College, Steve Gill is the main man on campus. He is the General Manager of Wine Operations at the College’s Teaching Winery. I spent a few hours with him earlier this month to learn about the program and what the courses entail.
A very cool school
The Niagara College program is dedicated to teaching the real life skills and developing the skills required to produce premium wine. In addition, the program teaches its students the business side of the wine industry.
The Teaching Winery is a state of the art and fully operational winery within Niagara College, but I found out that it was not always that way. When it first began in 2000, the students would visit wineries throughout the Niagara Region in order to attain the required hands-on experience. To strengthen the program, the College applied for and was granted a winery license by the Ontario Alcohol and Gaming Commission. By having its own winery on premise the students now have direct and convenient access to a functional winery.
At anytime there are 55 to 60 students enrolled. When the winery opened the College had 5 acres under vine. In a few short years its vineyard has expanded to 38 acres, planted primarily with Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay vines.
Aside from the wine, one of the many benefits of belonging to the Savvy Selection club is the monthly Savvy eZine. One of my goals in writing these eZines is to provide you with insight & knowledge about selected wine. November is an ‘educational’ treat in that two wine varietals are available that showcase the concept of vintage variation.
In the wine world, Ontario is considered to have a marginal climate. What does this mean? Well, unlike California or Australia where the climate is consistent year over year, the growing climate in Ontario is relatively unstable as it is prone to significant climactic changes. For example, in some years, an early frost can significantly damage the crop, whereas, in other years frost does not rear its cold ugly head. These climatic swings will produce variations in the fruit both in quantity and quality. This difference in the fruit will in turn produce noticeable differences in the final wine. The term used to describe the changes in wine as a result of changes in the climate is known as vintage variation.
The wines that display these climatic variations are the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and the optional 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. Both wines were harvested at roughly the same time and both wines were crafted in the exact same manner. Both wines were also aged in a combination of American and French oak for approximately the same period of time. The only variation is the climate that the vines were exposed to.
2006 was a wet, relatively cold year which lacked a great deal of sun. When these types of conditions occur the fruit (i.e. the grapes) are not able to achieve an ideal level of ripeness. This is evident on both the nose as well as the palate as the wines will tend to be more herbaceous or earthy in nature.
2007 on the other hand was a fantastic year. There was a great deal of sun and heat and just the correct amount of rain. When these climatic conditions occur the berries tend to produce a wine that is fuller in body and more fruit forward in nature.
If you don’t believe me, taste the differences between the 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon and the 2006 Cabernet Sauvignon. Both wines are well made, however it is just personal preference as to the style you prefer. Which camp do you fall into? The earthy herbaceous style or the fruit forward full body style?
~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~
Unoaked Chardonnay VQA 2009, $14.95
The temperatures in 2009 were cooler resulting in a wine that is fresh and slightly herbaceous. The 2009 vintages was estate grown as all of the fruit came from St. David’s Bench, a vineyard located on the grounds of the College. This is the first wine produced by the College that has a Stelvin enclosure (winespeak: screwcap).
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This wine is polished pale yellow in colour. The nose has intense aromas of citrus, green apple and cut grass which carry through to the palate. This medium-bodied dry wine has great acidity with a relatively short citrus finish. As a result of the acidity and fresh flavours this wine could easily be mistaken for a Sauvignon Blanc. The price of $14.95 is also impressive.
Suggested Food Pairing: Seafood risotto or poached salmon are potential pairing partners with this wine. The tasting panel is recommending seared chicken and green beans amandine, which accompanies this e-Zine.
Cellaring: In general white wines are not intended to be aged. For the 2009 vintage we recommend keeping this for 12 to 18 months.
Cabernet Sauvignon VQA 2007, $18.95
2007 was a hot year with near draught conditions. These factors will naturally ‘stress’ the vine. As a result, the vine will produce berries with a greater concentration of sugars and acids. Better berries will help the winemaker in creating a wine that is richer and more-full bodied.
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This is a classic Cabernet Sauvignon with aromas of fruit cake and cocoa; accented with herbaceous notes of bell pepper, tobacco leaf and pencil shavings. On the palate the wine is very fruit forward with flavours of black berry and plum. The acidity, concentration of fruit flavours and length of finish make this a quality wine at a very affordable price.
Suggested Food Pairing: Grilled bacon-wrapped beef tenderloin or pasta with bolognaises sauce would work well with this wine. For something different but easy to prepare the tasting panel is recommending Moroccan Spice Beef prepared in a slow cooker – the recipe is on the following pages.
Cellaring: This Cabernet Sauvignon is drinking now or if you so desire you could cellar it for 2 to 5 years.
Meritage VQA 2005 $32.95 (special price for Savvy Selections subscribers. Regular $39.95)
In keeping with other Meritage (pronounced Merry-tage) wines this is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: The 2005 Meritage is dark ruby red with a complex nose of dark fruit, dark chocolate and to the palate as you experience black current, cedar and pepper notes. This medium-bodied dry wine has soft tannins and a noticeably long complex peppery finish.
Suggested Food Pairing: Peppercorn steak or pork tenderloin with fruit chutney and fingerling potatoes would be a great match. However, try the Beef & Pears recipe provided. I especially like the fact that the dish is easy to prepare. In addition to that the variety of flavours and textures nicely complements this wine.
Cellaring: The wine is already 5 years and as such we recommend either enjoying the wine now or if you wish it could cellar for another 3 years.
~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes for Optional Wines~Cabernet Sauvignon VQA 2006, $15.95
The climatic conditions in 2006 were not stellar. In fact, 2006 was a wet year that lacked sunshine and heat. The resulting fruit tends to lead to wines that are earthy and more vegetal in nature.
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This ruby red wine falls on the herbaceous side of the aroma wheel with notes of bell pepper, leather and wet earth. On the palate, there are noticeable flavours of cherry and plum along with cedar and leather. The wine is dry with a medium tannic finish. It is an excellent example of a Cabernet Sauvignon that is made in the Bordeaux style.
Suggested Food Pairing: This wine would pair well with grilled red meats such as steak or lamb chops.
Cellaring: This wine could easily be cellared for another 4 years as the tannins do need some time to soften.
Meritage VQA 2007, $47.95
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Almost opaque Ruby red in colour. It has a great nose of Christmas fruit cake, dark chocolate and stewed fruit with slight undertones of bell pepper. On the palate it displays flavours of blackberry, dark cherry complemented with notes of smoke and cedar. This is a full-bodied dry red wine. The finish is long as the fruit flavours hang in there.
Suggested Food Pairing: The complexity on the nose and palate along with the body of the wine transpire to make this a powerful wine. We recommend a charcuterie platter of flavourful meats along with artisan cheeses. For something different; gourmet burgers with blue cheese or feta would also be a great pairing.
Cellaring: This Meritage is drinking well now or it could be cellared for up to another 6 years.
Dean’s List Savant Ice Wine 2008 VQA $69.95
This is a blend of 44% Cabernet Franc, 25% Merlot, 23% Cabernet Sauvignon and 8 % Pinot Noir. All of the grapes for this wine were harvest from the St. David’s Bench appellation which is part of the College’s campus; therefore the students had direct control over the management of the vineyard as well as the harvesting of the fruit that goes into this wine.
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Amber in colour this 2008 ice wine displays aromas of lychee, peach cobbler and honey. The aromas on the nose come through on the palate as you will taste honey and peach as well as hints of strawberry. The wine is well balanced with a long sweet finish held together with mouth-watering acidity. On our first sip, everyone on the Savvy Selections tasting panel was speechless. Someone broke the silence with the comment, “OMG this is YUMMMMMMMY”.
Suggested Food Pairing: This wine is absolutely stunning on its own. Alternatively, it would be a great accompaniment to a selection of artisan cheeses from Ontario.
Cellaring: This would make wine can be enjoyed now. As a result of the fruit and acidity in the wine it can easily cellar for 3 to 5 years.
~ Recipes to Enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~
With Niagara College Unoaked Chardonnay…
Seared Chicken and Green Beans Amandine
4 large skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
½ tsp (2 mL) salt
1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil
¾ lb (375g) thin fresh green beans
3 large plum tomatoes
4 oz (125 g) bacon or 4 to 6 slices
½ cup (125 g) slices or slivered almonds, divided
1 tbsp (15 mL) all purpose flour
½ cup (125 mL) chicken broth
½ cup (125 mL) dry white wine
½ tsp (2 mL) pepper
½ cup (125 mL) whipping cream
¼ cup (50 mL) chopped fresh parsley
1. Place chicken pieces between plastic wrap; flatten to ¾ – inch (2-cm) thickness using the flat side of a meat pounder or rolling pin. Arrange in a single layer in a glass 9 x 13 inch (3-L) dish; sprinkle both sides with salt. Zest and juice lemon; sprinkle zest over chicken. Whisk oil with squeezed juice; pour over chicken. Let stand at 30 minutes at room temperature, turning once or twice. (If making ahead cover and refrigerate for up to half a day.)
2. Remove stems from green beans; cut tomatoes lengthwise, seed and dice. Add 1 inch (2.5 cm) water to a medium saucepan or steamer; place over low heat. Cut bacon crosswise into ¼-inch (5-mm) slices. Have all ingredients ready before next step as this is a la minute cooking.
3. Place almonds in a dry large frying pan over medium heat; shake frequently for 3 to 4 minutes or until almonds are golden. Transfer to a bowl to cool; return frying pan to a heat. Add bacon. Fry for 5 to 8 minutes or until browned and crisp; remove bits for pan to a paper towel. Do not drain fat from hot pan.
4. Drain chicken and discard marinade. Leaving all fat in pan, increase temperature to between medium and medium-high; add chicken. Sauté 6 to 8 minutes per side or until golden and firm to touch. Boil water in saucepan; boil or steam green beans for 4 to 5 minutes or until bright green and barely tender; drain and keep warm. Remove chicken from pan; keep warm.
5. Drain and discard all but 1 tablespoon (15 mL) of fat in pan. Add flour to fat in pan; stir to mix. Slowly stir in chicken broth and white wine; when smooth and just bubbling, add tomatoes and bacon bits. Cook 1 minute; stir in pepper, cream, half of toasted almonds and parsley. Let bubble for a minute or 2 or until slightly thickened. Taste and add pinches of salt if needed.
6. Arrange chicken and beans on warm serving plates. Nap with sauce and garnish with remaining almonds and additional chopped parsley. Serve with basmati rice or mashed potatoes.
With Niagara College Cabernet Sauvignon…
From 175 Essential Slow Cooker Classics
Serves 6 to 8
1 tbsp (15 mL) vegetable oil
2 lbs (1 kg) stewing beef, trimmed of fat and cut into 1-inch (2.5cm) cubes and patted dry
2 onions, chopped
4 large carrots peeled and chopped
4 large parsnips peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp (5 mL) cracked black peppercorns
1 cinnamon stick piece
2 tbsp (30 mL) cumin seeds, toasted and ground
2 tsp (10 mL) coriander seeds, toasted and ground
2 tbsp (30 mL) all purpose flour
1 can (28 oz / 796 mL) tomatoes, drained and chopped
1 tbsp (15 mL) tomato paste
1 cup beef stock
½ cup (120 mL) dry red wine
½ tsp (2 mL) cayenne pepper
1 tbsp (15 mL) freshly squeezed lemon juice
1. In a skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat for 30 seconds. Add beef, in batches, and cook, stirring, adding a bit more oil if necessary, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes per batch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer to slow cooker stoneware.
2. Reduce heat to medium. Add onions, carrots and parsnips to pan and cool, stirring, until carrots are softened, about 7 minutes. Add garlic, peppercorns, cinnamon stick and toasted seeds and cook, stirring constantly for about 1 minute. Add flour and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, stock and red wine and bring to a boil, stirring. Add salt to taste.
3. Transfer to slow cooker stoneware. Cover and cook on Low for 8 hours or on High for 4 hours, until vegetables are tender. Dissolve cayenne in lemon juice and stir into mixture. Garnish liberally with parsley before serving.
4. Service with couscous or brown rice.
Note: This dish can be partially prepared before it is cooked. Complete Step 2, heating 1 tbsp (15 mL) oil in pan before softening the vegetables. Cover and refrigerate mixture overnight. The next morning, brown beef (Step 1), or it you are pressed for time, omit this step and add meat directly to stoneware. Continue cooking as directed in Step 3.
With Niagara College Meritage…
Beef and Pears in Wine
1 to 1 ½ (450 – 680 g) beef tenderloin roast
2 tsp (10 mL) cooking oil
4 tsp (20 mL) cooking oil
4 tbsp (60 mL) finely chopped onion
2 cup (500 mL) dry red wine
4 tbsp (60 mL) red currant jelly
4 tsp (20 mL) Dijon mustard
2 firm medium pear, peeled, cored and quartered
1. Place roast on greased wire rack in small roasting pan. Drizzle with first amount of cooking oil. Sprinkle with pepper. Cook uncovered, in 350°F (175°C) oven for 40 to 45 minutes until meat thermometer reads 140°F (60°C) for medium doneness or until desired doneness. Cover with foil and let stand for 10 minutes.
2. Heat second amount of cooking oil in medium saucepan on medium-low. Add onion. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until onion is soft. Add wine, jelly and mustard. Heat and stir on medium until jelly is liquid. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low.
3. Add pear to wine, jelly and mustard mixture. Simmer, uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until pear is soft. Remove pear and keep warm.
4. Strain wine mixture. Discard solids. Return wine mixture to same saucepan. Boil, uncovered, on medium-high for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until thickened. Makes 1/3 cup (75 mL) sauce. Drizzle sauce over sliced beef and pear on individual plates.
5. Serve with seasonal vegetables and garlic mashed potatoes
Cheers & Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections!