Posts Tagged ‘Accredited Sommelier Velma Leblanc’

Kicking 2017 off with Kacaba Vineyards

Posted by Velma

Thursday, January 26th, 2017

To kickstart this year, we’re so pleased to offer you three outstanding wines this month from Kacaba Vineyards & Winery. The Pinot Gris was a best seller at our Outstanding in their Fields Taste & Buy event last month, and the two Syrahs are award-winning wines that showcase just how exceptional Kacaba is at producing cold-climate reds.

Kacaba does Syrah particularly well! It was the first winery in Ontario and the second in Canada to plant syrah grapes, some 20 years ago, and its experience shines through in every bottle!  It is also the only Ontario winery to have competed and won a medal in the table wine category at the Syrah de Mode Competition in Northern Rhone, the birthplace of syrah and where the only grape grown is syrah.

The Syrah wines we are featuring this month are special in many ways – they are both from the same vintage produced from grapes grown on two different blocks of land on the Kacaba property, each with very different terroir. The Proprieters Block syrah is from the oldest vineyard on the property, and the Silver Bridge from the newest. Why not taste them side by side to challenge yourself to see if you can notice any differences…let us know which one is your favourite!

Both wines were produced following techniques that support a philosophy of environmental sustainability, which is explained in more detail in this month’s e-zine. The e-zine features Vadim Chelekhov (in photo) – the 28-year-old assistant winemaker at Kacaba – who shares his passion for Kacaba, its philosophy, and its outstanding wines. Enjoy!

Our Savvy Sommeliers selected for you:

2015 Jennifer’s Pinot Gris – a beautiful, rich, and flavouful pinot gris named after one of the three daughters of owner Michael Kacaba.

2013 Proprietors Block Syrah – a delightful, well-balanced red wine that recently won a silver medal at the 2016 WineAlign National Awards of Canada.

2013 Silver Bridge Syrah – a scrumptious red wine with an aging potential up to 7 years, that was also a silver-medal award winner at the 2016 WineAlign National Awards of Canada.

You definitely won’t find these wines at the LCBO

Every month, our Savvy Sommeliers seek out wines with you in mind. We take into consideration wines to enjoy with the seasonal cuisine, interesting wine experiences (like 2 syrahs from same vintage yet different terroirs) and interesting grape varieties…as starting examples.

As you enjoy the wines in your Savvy Selections, at any time you find a new favorite wine and would like to stock up, call our Savvy Team any time at 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) for additional bottles. Also call us even if you have a yearning for wines from other wineries we have featured in previous Savvy Selections.

Cheers & wishing you the very best for a fantastic 2017!
Debbie & Savvy Team



Kacaba Vineyards & Estate Winery
presented by Sommelier Velma LeBlanc

Passion. It’s the word that comes immediately to mind when talking with Vadim Chelekhov, the 28-year-old assistant winemaker at Kacaba (pronounced “ka-sa’-ba) Vineyards and Winery. Passion for his chosen profession, passion for the winery’s commitment to be environmentally sustainable and, most of all, passion for the wonderful award-winning wines ultimately produced.  “We are a small-batch winery that produces hand-crafted premium wines,” says Vadim, who has worked at Kacaba since 2011 and as the assistant winemaker since 2014. “Only two people are involved in production – me and the wine maker – which makes us go the extra mile. We give all of our attention to every single tank, every single barrel, every single wine we produce.”

His early years

Vadim’s passion and appreciation for wine was sparked at an early age. He was born in Russia, in the republic of Kazakhstan, which was the last of the Soviet republics to declare independence. With independence, came the freedom to travel, and he accompanied his family on many trips to some of the oldest wine-making regions in the world: Germany, France, Italy, and Spain.

“Although I was very young, it was on those trips that I fell in love with the everyday life and culture of vineyards and winemakers.”

One memory in particular stands out. “I was stunned by the centuries-old cellars of the Loire Valley. The French don’t often do cellar tours, but as a little kid, they were much softer on me, so they let me into some of the oldest cellars in the world. They let me see the barrels, the olds casks, the old fermenters.”

Becoming part of the Kacaba team

Vadim arrived in Canada in 2002, completed high school in Hamilton, Ontario, and attended the University of Western Ontario, faculty of Health Sciences. Rather than pursue a doctorate, the path taken by many family members, his love of wine and winemaking beckoned. He joined the vineyard crew at Kacaba in 2011 and, in 2012, enrolled in the two-year Viticulture and Oenology program at Niagara College, while continuing to work at Kacaba as a cellar hand. In 2014, he was offered the assistant winemaker position and, since then, has worked alongside industry-respected winemaker, John Tummon (in photo on right).
“John has over 40 years of experience in winemaking and competing. He has a refined palate, is an advocate in the wine industry and also a wine judge. I was drawn to him because I want to learn from the best and learn about all aspects of the industry, not just one. For me, he is an inspiration.”

An environmentally sustainable winery

Vadim has also been inspired by the vineyard’s owner and namesake, Michael Kacaba, and his vision and philosophy. “Since Michael Kacaba first started growing grapes, in the mid-1990s, he has had a philosophy of being an environmentally sustainable and minimalistic vineyard and winery, and he has never deviated from that vision.”

Sustainability involves everything from carefully managing the vineyard’s water usage to energy conservation to pesticide use. “We use water sparingly; we minimize the use of heaters; and we use things that are found naturally in the vineyard to prevent disease. Sulphur or chalk, for example, is dissolved in water and sprayed on the plants, versus using harsh pesticides.”

The vineyard crew also tries to minimize the use of tractors and other heavy machinery, which means the majority of work in the vineyard – such as tying, pruning, leaf removal, shoot positioning and cluster removal – is done by hand. (Note: By removing leaves from the vines, more nutrients can travel to the prized grapes rather than the foliage. Similarly, by removing clusters of grapes, flavour is concentrated in those remaining on the vine. Although less wine is ultimately produced, this practice yields higher quality and more robust and flavourful wines.)

About the vineyard

Kacaba is located on a slightly elevated 32-acre property on the Niagara Escarpment; 26 of those acres are dedicated to growing grapes. The unique microclimate of the Escarpment means that winters are relatively mild and arrive later than in other parts of Ontario; as a result, the red grapes can remain on the vines much longer, making it possible to produce much bolder red wines than are typically associated with colder climates. In 2016, the cabernet sauvignon grapes were harvested on November 21st; in 2014, on December 3rd.

“In this amazing little microclimate, the treeline on the Escarpment captures the wind and brings it down to ground level, which is what warms up the environment around the vines.”

Syrah – the signature, award-winning grape of Kacaba

Although Kacaba grows a variety of grapes – including cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, and viognier – its signature varietal is syrah. Kacaba, in fact, was the first vineyard in Ontario to plant syrah, some twenty years ago, and has since become known for producing high-quality Northern Rhone-style wines. Kacaba is the only Ontario winery that has competed and won (in 2016) a medal (Silver) for a table wine in the Syrah de Mode competition in Northern Rhone (France). (Note: Northern Rhone is believed to be the birthplace of syrah and where the only red grape allowed to be grown is syrah.)

The same syrah clone is planted in three different Kacaba vineyards, each with a distinct terroir and each producing very different wines. In this month’s Savvy Selections, subscribers have the chance to taste and compare syrah grapes grown in two of the vineyards: the Silver Bridge vineyard (Kacaba’s oldest vineyard, planted in 1997); and the youngest vineyard – the Proprietor’s Block – planted in 2007, and which Vadim cites as being very promising.

The whites are great too 

Kacaba also produces incredible, approachable white wines (including the pinot gris in this month’s Savvy Selections). The only white grape actually grown on its property, however, is viognier, which is used to add softness to its syrahs, making them more consistent with those from Northern Rhone.

The growing of its other white grape varietals – including pinot gris, chardonnay, and riesling – are contracted to local craft wine growers. These partners grow the grapes in accordance with Kacaba’s stringent specifications, adhering to the philosopy of sustainability (e.g., no pesticides or herbicides). Kacaba then turns these grapes into beautiful white wine on the Kacaba site.

In years when it is cold enough, Kacaba also produces icewine.  Although Ontario regulation allows grapes for icewine to be picked when temperatures hit -8 degrees Celsius, Kacaba prefers to wait until the mercury plummets to -14 degrees Celsius. “We prolong picking to much lower temperatures, which gives us lower volumes, but concentrates the flavour,” says Vadim. “The flavours of strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries are amplified at lower temperatures.”

If you are planning to go to this month’s Niagara Icewine Festival be sure to visit the Kacaba team and be treated to a sampling of the 2013 Cabernet Franc icewine which will be paired with Cajun-lime buttered jumbo prawns. That is an interesting pairing!  This two weekend festival is also a great opportunity to taste many of Kacaba’s other great wines and to meet Vadim. The Festival runs over three weekends (January 13-15, 20-22, and 27-29).  Be sure to tell Vadim, John and others at the winery that you are a Savvy Selections subscriber….they will probably roll out the red carpet for you!



2015 Jennifer’s Pinot Gris


Savvy Sommelier Tastings Notes: This approachable Pinot Gris is an easy sipping wine, with fruit forward grapefruit, floral, lychee and tropical characteristics. The finish highlights notes of apple and citrus.

Suggested Food Pairings: This white wine would pair extremely well with light seafood and shellfish dishes; creamy pastas; and cheese-based appetizers. A baked brie topped with a fig spread would be particularly lovely, as would be a hot artichoke or crab dip, or a cheese fondue (see recipe below).

Cellaring:  To be enjoyed now, with the opportunity to cellar for up to two years.


2013 Proprietors Block Syrah

$27.95 (special Savvy price.  Regular $29.95)

Savvy Sommelier Tastings Notes: This award-winning Syrah is rich, soft, and velvety on the palate, exuding notes of black pepper, licorice, and raspberries. It is a wonderful example of a cool-climate Syrah, similar in structure and taste to its Northern Rhone cousins.

Suggested Food Pairings: This lovely Syrah works well with many dishes, including lamb, Mediterranean dishes, and even Indian curries. Vadim likes to use it to marinate lamp chops – together with tomatoes, black pepper, onions, a bay leaf, and a sprinkle of cumin – for a day or two before cooking the chops over a medium hot BBQ.

Cellaring: Drinking well now. Can cellar up to 5 years.


2013 Silver Bridge Syrah

$27.95 (special Savvy price.  Regular $29.95)

See the silver bridge in the photo below??

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This medium-bodied Syrah boasts big flavours of black pepper, blueberries and blackberries. Smooth and rich-tasting on the palate, it is an easy sipping wine with lovely tannins on the finish.

Suggested Food Pairings: This Syrah is able to stand up to big proteins, including steak, ribs, and even such game meat as duck, elk, and deer.

Cellaring: Enjoy this now or save it for a special future occasion. It’s aging capacity is 6-7 years.



With Kacaba Pinot Gris…

Classic Cheese Fondue

By Gourmet Magazine, February 2005
Photo credit: Vanessa Simmons, Savvy Company
Serves 6

Items to use for dipping

Cubes of French bread
Slices or cubes of apple and pear
Roasted potatoes
Julienned raw red bell pepper
Blanched broccoli florets


1 garlic clove, halved crosswise
1 1/2 cups dry white wine
1 Tablespoon cornstarch
2 teaspoons kirsch (optional)
1/2 pound Emmental cheese, coarsely grated (2 cups)
1/2 pound Gruyère, coarsely grated (2 cups)


Rub inside of a 4-quart heavy pot with cut sides of garlic, then discard garlic. Add wine to pot and bring just to a simmer over moderate heat.

Stir together cornstarch and kirsch (if using; otherwise, use water or wine) in a cup.

Gradually add cheese to pot and cook, stirring constantly in a zigzag pattern (not a circular motion) to prevent cheese from balling up, until cheese is just melted and creamy (do not let boil). Stir cornstarch mixture again and stir into fondue. Bring fondue to a simmer and cook, stirring, until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes. Transfer to fondue pot set over a flame.


With Kacaba Silver Bridge Syrah…

Boeuf Bourguinon

By the Canadian Living Test Kitchen, Canadian Living Magazine, December 2004
Serves 8


1 pkg (14 g) dried porcini mushroom
3 lbs boneless beef cross rib pot roasts
4 oz thickly sliced bacon chopped
3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
1 onion chopped
1 carrots chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 bottle (750 ml) red wine (such as Pinot Noir or Merlot)
1 1/2 cup beef broth
3 fresh parsley
2 fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
1 pkg (10 oz/284 g) pearl onions
1 Tablespoon butter
3 cups button mushrooms
2 tablespoons brandy
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley


Click here to see step-by-step instructions with photographs. 

Soak dried mushrooms in 1/2 cup (125 mL) hot water for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, trim fat from beef; cut meat into 1-1/2-inch (4 cm) cubes and set aside.

In Dutch oven, sauté bacon over medium-high heat until crisp; transfer to paper towel-lined plate. Drain fat from pan.  Add 1 Tbsp (15 mL) of the oil to pan; brown beef, in 3 batches and adding remaining oil as necessary. Transfer to bowl. Drain fat from pan.

Add chopped onion, carrot, garlic, salt and pepper to pan; cook over medium heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Sprinkle with flour; cook, stirring, for 1 minute.

Reserving soaking liquid, remove mushrooms and chop; add to pan along with soaking liquid, wine and broth. Bring to boil, scraping up any brown bits. Tie parsley, thyme and bay leaves together with string. Add to pan along with bacon, beef and any juices. Cover and braise in 325°F (160°C) oven until meat is fork-tender, 2-1/2 to 3 hours.

Meanwhile, in pot of boiling water, boil pearl onions for 3 minutes; drain and chill in cold water. Peel and trim, leaving root ends intact. In skillet, melt butter over medium heat; brown pearl onions, about 5 minutes. With slotted spoon, transfer to bowl.

Add mushrooms to skillet; fry until browned, about 5 minutes. With slotted spoon, remove beef to separate bowl. Add pearl onions, mushrooms and brandy to liquid in Dutch oven; bring to boil over medium-high heat. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, until thickened and onions are tender, about 25 minutes. Discard herbs. Return beef to pan and heat through. Sprinkle with parsley.


With the Kacaba Proprietors Block Syrah…

Grilled Leg of Lamb with Rosemary, Garlic & Mustard

By Sisi & Wil Carroll, Bon Appétit, April 2010
Serves 10-12

Ingredient tip: Start with a boneless 7-pound leg of lamb. When all fat and sinew are trimmed, it will weigh about 6 pounds.


1 well-trimmed 6-pound boneless leg of lamb, butterflied to even 2-inch thickness
8 garlic cloves, peeled, divided
1/2 cup whole grain Dijon mustard
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 Tablespoons finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
Fresh rosemary sprigs and fresh Italian parsley sprigs


Open lamb like book on work surface. Using tip of small knife, make 1/2-inch-deep slits all over lamb. Thinly slice 4 garlic cloves. Insert garlic slices into slits in lamb. Combine remaining 4 garlic cloves, mustard, olive oil, white wine, rosemary, and lemon juice in processor. Blend until coarse puree forms. Spread underside of lamb with half of puree. Place lamb, seasoned side down, in 15 x 10 x 2-inch glass baking dish. Spread remaining puree over top of lamb. Cover lamb with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

Let lamb stand at room temperature 2 hours. Coat grill rack with nonstick spray and prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Sprinkle lamb generously with salt and pepper on both sides. Grill lamb to desired doneness, about 17 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer lamb to cutting board; let rest 10 to 20 minutes.

Thinly slice lamb against grain. Overlap slices on platter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Garnish with fresh herb sprigs.


Enjoy your Savvy Selections!


There is a Fancy Farm Girl in all of us!

Posted by Velma

Wednesday, March 11th, 2015

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Savvy Selections wine of the month club 
Sue-Ann Staff Estates Winery

– March 2015 –

Timing is everything.  When I visited Sue-Ann in August last year, we walked through the vineyards & I suggested that we feature her this month; at that moment in time neither Sue-Ann nor I knew that March would be a turning point for her.  Sue-Ann Staff is, to use her words, “going at it on my own”.  She is shedding her responsibilities as a winemaker at other wineries and focusing 100% on her own winery: Sue-Ann Staff Estates Winery.  This is a big leap for anyone, yet, in my humble opinion, this remarkable woman can do anything.

Sue-Ann & I have been friends since I started The Savvy Grapes over 13 years ago.  She was the first woman winemaker we featured at a winemakers dinner showcasing her talent at Pillitteri Estates Winery.  And she wowed everyone with the delicious wines she made and most of all, her charm. Read on as our Savvy Sommelier Velma LeBlanc captures more about the dynamic Sue-Ann & her deeply rooted ties to Niagara’s vineyards.

In your Savvy Selections, you will find:

Robert’s Block Riesling VQA 2011

Pinot Grigio VQA 2012

Cabernet Franc VQA 2011

“I believe in letting the fruit do the walking and talking & letting it express where it is grown. I also want to make wines that are consumer friendly – approachable, drinkable & price savvy.” explains Sue-Ann when Velma asked about her winemaking style.  Although Sue-Ann would never disclose her favourite grape variety – it’s like picking your favourite child – she does have an affection for Rieslings (70% of the vines on her property are Riesling).  She makes many different styles from this grape variety – dry (as you will taste in the Robert’s Block), off-dry, semi-dry & sparkling. She also has a sparkling ice-wine, but it is sold out.  Bar none, Sue-Ann can make magic with Rieslings.

SAS bio photoMeet Sue-Ann!

You are the first to know….The Fancy Farm Girl herself is coming to Ottawa.  We are delighted to host a portfolio tasting on Wednesday April 22nd at the Orange Art Gallery, where Sue-Ann will be showcasing all of her wines – and perhaps some barrel samples too. This event will also showcase Pondview Estates Winery of Niagara-on-the-Lake.  We are just nailing down the final details, so watch your inbox for your invitation.

As a Savvy Selections subscriber, 2 complementary tickets await you.  To be added to the guest list, email me directly

Can’t attend?  You can still order the featured Sue-Ann & Pondview wines.  And share the experience by giving the tickets to friends.

Debbie & Savvy Team

Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery

Presented by Sommelier Velma LeBlanc

“Years back, while tending my family farm, I had a revelation,” said Sue-Ann Staff, the accomplished winemaker…“I loved the farm life. This is my Paris, my Australia, my South Africa, my freedom. So, I dress the part and enjoy life through the rose-coloured glass of the fancy farm girl. The farm is a metaphor, the attire an approach. The reality? There is a fancy farm girl in all of us.”

Fancy Farm GirlThese marketing words are behind the winery’s new Fancy Farm Girl label – available in 60+ LCBO locations until May 7 as one of the “Wines to Watch” –  but they also capture the very essence of Sue-Ann, who has received more than 450 national and international wine awards and has twice been recognized as one of the world’s top four “Women in Wine” by the International Wine and Spirits Society in London, England.

“The best day for me is when I start out in steel-toed work boots and ripped jeans, get up to my elbows in the vineyards or tank room, and then head home, shower, pop on a gala dress and go to pour wine at a splashy event. I love the contrast, the diversity, the glamour.  But my roots are in the farm,” matter-of-factly states Sue-Ann.

A Family History of Growing Grapes

And those roots run deep. The Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery is located in Jordan, along the Niagara Escarpment, on land that has been owned by her family for seven generations. The last five generations have grown grapes, making it one of the oldest commercial vineyards in Canada (perhaps even the oldest). When Sue-Ann was growing up, it was also the largest privately owned fruit farm in Canada, with more than 800 acres of grapes, most of which were destined for the industrial Jordan Wines.

SAS grandfathers tractor - winery cameraAs early as the age of seven, she began spending time in the vineyard with her grandmother, who managed the crews that were tying and thinning the vines. By 13, she was driving tractors and cultivators. “We had over 30 varieties of grapes and we were one of the first to plant Riesling, Chardonnay, Gamay, and Baco Noir. Grapes were a big part of our lives and a big discussion around the dinner table every night.”

Sue-Ann is the first member of the family to become a winemaker, a career she decided to pursue when she was 16 years old.  “My grandfather was very much of the mindset that we were farmers first (photo of his tractor at right). As well, the whole estate winery thing didn’t exist at the time. Wineries were factories and they processed wine, so it was a totally different feel back then.”

Today at her winery, she manages 104 acres of land, 35 of which are devoted to grape vines and, of those, 70 percent to Riesling. Until now, however, focusing on her own vineyard has been a part-time job or, as she describes it, “an expensive hobby”. All of that is about to change.

Food Truck festivalFrom the time she completed her studies (first with a double major in horticulture and bio-technology from the University of Guelph, followed by a graduate degree in winemaking from the University of Adelaide in South Australia), Sue-Ann has been paying the bills by using her talents to help advance other wineries. She worked for 10 years as the winemaker at Pillitteri Estate Winery (where she won many awards for her icewine) and then worked for the original management team at 20 Bees Winery, until it went into receivership. That was a turning point in her life.

“I was 37 at the time and had a cat, of course” she laughs. “I thought if I can’t start a winery now and support a cat, it will never happen.”

She launched the Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery in 2008 and opened it to the public in 2009. About the same time, John Howard (of John Howard Cellars of Distinction) invited her to be the winemaker for Megalomaniac in nearby Vineland.  This position would include liaising with its sister property – Château La Confession – in St. Emillion, Bordeaux, France. “With the travel, it sounded pretty enticing,” she says.

The reality is that more than 50 percent of her time was spent at Megalomaniac, while her own winery took back seat for the past six years.

Focusing 100% on Sue-Ann Staff Winery

Sue-Ann recently made the decision to alter her course. Beginning this April, she will refocus 100% of her attention on her own winery.  “I’ve given a lot at Megalomaniac and we’ve grown quite a bit and have done well too. I’m sad to leave that behind, but at the same time my own winery hasn’t really taken off and it needs to. If I’m going to do this, I need to get two feet behind it & give it my all.”

“It’s exciting, it’s scary, it’s sad (to be leaving Megalomanic), it’s happy.”  Mostly, though, she sounds excited about taking her winery to a new level.

sue ann at workAmong her plans, she wants to increase production to 10,000 cases and export some of her ice wines. She earned the reputation of being the “Ice Queen” when she was at Pillitteri and laughs that, “at least I hope they were talking about the wine!”  She is also anticipating that her new Fancy Farm Girl label does well at the LCBO over the next couple of months, so it will be considered for inclusion in the general listing, which would represent a huge step for her. Give it a try – the Savvy Team were impressed with both the ‘Frivolous White’ and ‘Flamboyant Red’.  At $14.95 – she’s giving it away!

Sue-Ann is also looking forward to increasing her focus on hosting special events on the estate property, an area of her business that has been growing rapidly for her over the last several years.  A 4000-square foot tent, complete with chandeliers and a dance floor, overlooking a two-acre pond, plays centre role in weddings and other events, including a recent Family Day party, where the pond was transformed into a large skating rink. “It’s fun having people come in and enjoy the property. It’s a special place in the world.”

Sue Ann Staff propertyThe large picturesque Victorian farm house on the estate is where Sue-Ann lives as well as the winery,  It is the same home that belonged to her grandparents and in where she spent a lot of time as a youngster.  This homestead now hosts many visitors casually in the kitchen. It has undergone extensive renovations – “it’s done up a bit more fancy than the average farmhouse” – and today plays a double role as the winery’s retail space. “People love it – they think it’s fantastic – but sometimes I just want to make a grilled cheese sandwich,” she laughs. “So, I would like to get my kitchen back.” Part of her four-year plan is to move the retail shop to a different building.

By the time you crack the seal on one of Sue-Ann’s wines in your Savvy Selections, Sue-Ann will be in Düsseldorf, Germany for “Prowein” – the largest wine trade show in the world.  This marks a milestone as this visit will be the first international show where the only wine that Sue-Ann will be showcasing is the wine from her winery.

Good luck, Sue-Ann, and best wishes on the next chapter of your winemaking career!




Sue-Ann Staff Robert's Block RieslingRobert Block Riesling VQA 2011, $26.00

This award-winning wine comes from 15-year-old vines, which are planted in thin soil where the roots literally sit on the rocks of the Niagara escarpment. This is the oldest block of Riesling at the winery and Sue-Ann only makes this wine in premium Riesling years – 2011 was one.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This classic Riesling exudes notes of petrol and minerals and has a silky, rich texture. It is nicely balanced and has a beautiful long finish.

Suggested Food Pairings: This versatile Riesling would pair well with a wide range of dishes, from very rich to acidic. On the following pages we’ve included a recipe for Coquilles St. Jacques – a lovely way to end (hopefully!) the winter.

Cellaring: No need to cellar – enjoy the wine has Sue-Ann intended – refresh & aromatic.


Sue-Ann Staff Pinot GrigioPinot Grigio VQA 2012, $18.00

This may be the last Pinot Grigio that Sue-Ann makes at her winery. It would definitely be a shame. Enjoy every drop! The delicate vines suffered last year, and this winter has been even colder.  Sue-Ann is not sure whether the vines will survive, so enjoy this bottle!  It may be the last from this winery for a while, depending on what the spring brings.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This is an elegant, light, dry and aromatic wine, with notes of smoke, spice, almonds, and melons. It would be great with food, but also lovely just to sip.

Cellaring: Why wait?  Chill & serve now.  Sip & imagine that spring is on its way….

Sue Ann Staff Caberent Franc

Cabernet Franc VQA 2011, $21.95

The Cabernet Franc comes from 50-year vines and has been aged in French oak barrels for 14 months. “It has so much intensity and complexity,” says Sue-Ann, “that it gives me a lot of hope for the future. As it matures, it will get better and better.”

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This approachable medium-bodied wine has a smooth juicy texture, with subtle tannins and fine acidity that helps to showcase rather than dominate the fruit. It has hints of red cherry and pomegranate, and Sue-Ann recommends it be served slightly chilled. 

Suggested Food Pairing:  This Cabernet Franc has a nice elegance to it, and would pair extremely well with lamb, sausages, grilled meats and braised ribs. With Easter just around the corner, we’ve included a recipe for a leg of lamb, with a crushed mint baste. 

Cellaring: Just released in December, this red wine impressed the Savvy Team.  There is enough backbone to cellar for 4 to 7 years, yet at the same token, the fruit & subtle tannins make the quandary of cellaring a difficult one to justify.   Take a sip and call us for more bottles to continue to enjoy now or cellar for later.



With Robert’s Block Riesling …

Coquilles St.- Jacques

Excerpted from Mom’s Secret Recipe File Cookbook by Chris Styler
Online recipe at


1 ¾  cups water
¾  cup dry white wine
1 small onion, chopped
Bouquet garni (see Mom’s Tip below)
1 teaspoon lemon juice
1 pound very fresh scallops
8 ounces mushrooms, washed and chopped
6 Tablespoons butter
4 Tablespoons flour
½ cup heavy cream
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Bread crumbs
Grated Swiss or Gruyère cheese

Mom’s Tip: To make a bouquet garni, wrap a sprig or two of parsley, two bay leaves, and a sprig of fresh thyme (or ½  teaspoon of dried thyme leaves) in some cheesecloth. Tie into a neat bundle with thread or clean string.  This make it super easy to remove these herbs when instructed below.


Heat the water, wine, onion, bouquet garni, and lemon juice to a boil in a saucepan. Add the scallops, cover, and simmer on very low heat until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Remove the scallops with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Add the mushrooms to the scallop poaching liquid and simmer uncovered for 10 minutes. Strain, discarding the bouquet garni and reserving the liquid and mushrooms separately.

Cut the scallops into 1/2-inch-thick slices. If too long, cut in half horizontally.

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan and whisk in the flour. Do not let it get dark. Add 2 or 3 tablespoons of the scallop liquid and mix until blended. Over very low heat, blend the flour mixture into the scallop liquid. Add the cream and simmer and stir until blended and thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the scallops and mushrooms, and stir.

Fill 6 scallop shells or shallow 6-inch ramekins almost to the top with the scallop mixture. Dust the top lightly with bread crumbs and sprinkle with the grated cheese. (If you’re not ready to serve the scallops, cover them with plastic wrap and refrigerate.)

Preheat the broiler. Broil the scallops until the mixture bubbles and the cheese melts and turns golden brown. 

With Sue-Ann Staff Pinot Grigio…

Maple Salmon



Photo from

Photo from

1/4 cup maple syrup
2 tablespoonssoy sauce
1 clovegarlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoonground black pepper
1 pound salmon


In a small bowl, mix the maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, garlic salt, and pepper.

Place salmon in a shallow glass baking dish, and coat with the maple syrup mixture. Cover the dish, and marinate salmon in the refrigerator 30 minutes, turning once.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Place the baking dish in the preheated oven, and bake salmon uncovered 20 minutes, or until easily flaked with a fork.

With Sue-Ann Staff Cabernet Franc …

Easter Lamb –  brushed with mashed-up garlic mint

A Jamie Oliver recipe


1 quality leg of lamb, about 2kg
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 large bunch fresh mint, leaves picked
1 clove garlic, peeled
125 ml olive oil
250 ml organic chicken stock
600 g new potatoes, sliced thickly
100 g baby fennel, trimmed and cut in half lengthways
225 g baby carrots, tops trimmed
100 g baby leeks, trimmed
200 g zucchini, sliced lengthways
250 g fine or yellow beans, trimmed
150 g asparagus, trimmed to 6cm lengths


Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Score the lamb all over and season.

Using a pestle and mortar, or in a food processor, pound or blend the mint leaves with the garlic and seasoning until smooth. Slowly add the olive oil to your mixture then brush all over the lamb.

Roast in the oven for 1½ hours, brushing with the seasoned oil regularly until the lamb is cooked.

While the meat is resting, remove the fat from the roasting tin. Add the stock to the tin and make a light, tasty broth by boiling and dissolving all the goodness at the bottom.

Cook the potatoes in a large pan of boiling, salted water for 5 minutes. Add the fennel and carrots and cook for a further 5 minutes. Then add the rest of the vegetables and simmer for another 5 minutes.

Carve your lamb then serve the vegetables in a shallow bowl with the lamb on top and a little broth and mint oil drizzled over.

SAS with Brix - Stephen Elphick

Bon Appetit & Enjoy your Savvy Selections!





Taste the different terroir makes

Posted by Velma

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Coyote’s Run Estate Winery

–  November 2013 –

Coyote’s Run is a small, family-owned vineyard, situated in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region, which has been blessed with two very distinct and geographically separated types of soil – a heavy black clay loam and a rich red one.  When you’re talking about wine with other wine enthusiasts, a topic that ultimately comes up at some point is that of “terroir” – wine speak for the influence that the environment can have on grapes and, ultimately, the wine created from them.

What is Terroir?

It’s all about the environment & the grapes and how they work together, particularly as it relates to the soil in which the grapes are grown. This is of great interest to Jeff Aubry, the president and founding partner of Coyote’s Run Estate Winery, this month’s featured winery. Having two different soils on the same property (where other environmental factors such as sun and temperature remain the same) has made it possible for the winery to experiment with terroir. 

Jeff, who has planted the same grape varietals on both the “Red Paw” Vineyard and the “Black Paw” Vineyard, knows from first-hand experience that terroir certainly can make a difference.  During our Savvy Tasting Panel of Coyote’s Run wines last month, we had the opportunity to taste two 2011 Cabernet Sauvignons – one from the Red Paw Vineyard and one from the Black Paw Vineyard. Needless to say we had a lot of fun with the ‘dirty’ experiment. After a lot of discussion about terroir, our Sommeliers were able to make their short list for you.

In your your November Savvy Selections you will find:

2012 Dave Sheppard Vintage 30 Gewurztraminer – This premium wine celebrates winemaker Dave Sheppard’s 30th vintage & is now sold out!

2011 Red Paw Vineyard Chardonnay – A class act.

2011 Black Paw Cabernet Sauvignon  – This is the first Cabernet Sauvignon from the Black Paw Vineyard. Hearty stews or Sunday roasts – here we come!

OPTIONAL WINES: Have your own mini-wine tasting!

Coyote’s Run of NOTL has a unique property. Half of their vineyard is grown in red soil & the other half in black soil.   Taste the difference the soil makes by trying these 2 wines (Black Paw Cabernet Sauvignon & Red Paw Cabernet Sauvignon)  side by side. They are similar in weight & texture, yet noticeably different.  Warning: it will spark great dinner party conversations!

2011 Red Paw Cabernet Sauvignon  – Similar to Black Paw Cab Sauv in weight & texture, yet noticeably different. 

Similar to other wineries we have featured in Savvy Selections, some Coyote’s Run wines are at the LCBO, yet many are not.  If you would like additional bottles of your favourite Coyote’s Run wine – or other featured Ontario wineries – just give me a call on 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or send me an email to to arrange an additional delivery for you. It is always my pleasure to introduce you to wonderful new Ontario wines! 


Debbie & the Savvy Team 


Coyote’s Run Estate Winery

Presented by Savvy Sommelier Velma LeBlanc 


I remember the first time I came across Coyote’s Run Estate Winery. It was at a Taste and Buy event that Savvy Company was hosting at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa several years ago. At the time, I was new to the Savvy Team and Debbie encouraged me to take a ‘tour’ around the event & talk to the winemakers – Coyote’s Run stood out for me. 

In front of the wine bottles on the table were two handfuls of dirt from its vineyards – one red and one black – and I thought to myself “what a great way to engage people in conversation about the influence that soil and other elements in nature have on wine production”. 

I had the opportunity to catch up with Jeff Aubry, the co-founder, while he was in Ottawa. Here’s what I learned about Jeff and his family-owned winery that prides itself on producing wines that reflect its unique terroir and microclimate. 

The wine business is so unique

When Jeff was laid off from a high-tech company for the second time in three years, he decided it was time to change careers. 

“I had had my fill of working for other people and big companies and not being able to do what I wanted to express my excitement and energy. My father and I were talking one day and I said ‘You know, I really dig the wine business. I think it would be fun.’ My father said, ‘Let’s do it’.” 

And do it, they did. In April 2003, after a six-month search, they purchased an existing vineyard in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region, about 20 minutes from St. Catherine’s – where Jeff now lives. By September, less than six months later, Coyote’s Run Winery was up and running, and Jeff hasn’t looked back. 

“What intrigued me most about the wine business was the uniqueness of the product. In the high-tech business, you are selling minutes or packets on a network and those minutes and packets are undifferentiable. A Cisco packet is the same as a Nortel packet which is the same as a Juniper packet. At the end of the day, they are all the same. 

“The wine business is the complete opposite. We create and sell a product that is entirely unique. No one else can reproduce the wines we make from our property. Ours are unique to what we do in the vineyard, to the ground we have, to what we do in the cellar, to the winemaker we have. And, for me, that’s attractive.” Savvy Sommelier & founder Debbie Trenholm visited Coyote’s Run Winery just before harvest this year, in the photo at left they are inspecting the grapes at Coyote’s Run.

‘Red Paw’ vs ‘Black Paw’ soil…can you taste the difference?

The uniqueness of the soil that’s found in the vineyards also attracted Jeff. The property boasts two very different kinds of soil that are geographically separated from each other. The red Trafalgar clay loam, which is quite scarce in the region, is stony, iron-rich, and rather infertile, creating ideal conditions for premium grapes. The heavier black Toledo clay loam contains more organic matter than the red soil, which means it holds more water and heat. That combination makes it more challenging to grow grapes (which thrive more in austere conditions) but that also produce rich, robust wines. Wines produced from grapes grown in the red soil are marketed as “Red Paw” and those grown in the black soil as “Black Paw”. 

“I knew going in that the soils would be really interesting and would add some complexity to the grapes, but I didn’t really understand at the time just how profound that difference would be. Wine derives a lot of its flavour and structure from the soil, so when the soil changes, you get a different wine.” 

Over the years, the winery has experimented with the impact of soil on the grapes by planting the same grape varietals in both types of soil and then comparing the results. To date, they’ve done comparisons with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. 

“We see the terroir effect shining through each and every time. For us, that’s exciting.” 

Naming the winery

In addition to the different soil types at the vineyard, another key point of interest that people want to know about is the name of the winery. 

Jeff says he had no interest in naming the winery after himself and didn’t feel the property featured anything geographically or historically significant that would lend itself obviously to a name. “We don’t have any rivers or lakes or streams or hills or mountains. What we do have, though, are coyotes – and lots of them – running from one side of the property to the other. So, naturally, we called it Coyote’s Run”. 

Although the coyotes are primarily out in the evening or early morning, Jeff has occasionally come in close contact with them while out in the vineyards walking his dog.

Flying the flag for Ontario wineries

Jeff’s days are busy and varied, ranging from meetings, to managing up to 15 employees at one time, to dumping boxes of grapes into bins. He also engages in many promotional efforts. Jeff explains, “You have to fly the flag. There are thousands of wineries trying to sell wine in Ontario. We are up against a tsunami of subsidized wines from other countries. The wines we make here are as good as, if not better than, other regions of the world.  So, you have to be out there, pouring your wine, and telling your story.” 

Which is something that Jeff loves to do.  “The wine business is unbeatable. I love it. To make this unique product and sell it is good, good fun. I would never go back to anything else.”

In the photo at left, Debbie strolls through the vineyards with Coyote’s Run owner, Jeff Aubry.


Cheers & enjoy your Savvy Selections!  




2012 Vintage 30 Gewurztraminer $24.95

As soon as the grapes arrived on the crush pad at Coyote’s Run, the winery team knew they would be producing their white wine of the year. Through the skill of winemaker Dave Shepperd and his ability to give full expression to the fruit, that belief became reality, creating a wine that has sold faster than any other of their wines to date. Savvy Selections subscribers, in fact, are getting the very last of this premium wine, – it has all sold out! 

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This slightly off-dry Gewürztraminer is extremely aromatic and well-balanced with floral and fruit notes and a long peppery finish. 

Suggested Food Pairing:  This premium wine can be sipped on its own or enjoyed with Asian and/or other spicy food such as the stir-fried shrimp with pepper sauce recipe below.


2011 Red Paw Vineyard Chardonnay $19.95

This full-bodied Chardonnay – the first from the Red Paw Vineyard – gets its subtle oak flavour from Hungarian oak. 

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Aromas of tropical fruit and butterscotch come through on both the nose and palette, as do hints of vanilla and pear. This subtly oaked Chardonnay also boats a nice buttery finish. 

Suggested Food Pairing: This wine can be enjoyed on its own or with a rich meat or poultry dish that includes butter, oil or cream. Try it with the Chicken Marbella recipe below for lunch or supper on a cold winter day, along with some garlic bread. 


2011 Black Paw Cabernet Sauvignon  $21.95

This is the first Cabernet Sauvignon from the Black Paw Vineyard, and is extremely food friendly. 

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: More full-bodied than a typical cold-climate Cab, this is a well-balanced wine that features aromas and tastes of pepper, cloves, cherry, raspberry and mint. 

Suggested Food Pairing: Would pair well with any pork or red meat dish, including a roast or stew. Try it with the meat loaf below and mashed potatoes for a casual Friday night dinner with friends. 


With Coyote’s Run Gewürztraminer…

Stir-Fried Shrimp with Pepper Sauce

From Foods of the World, TimeLife Books and


1 pound fresh shrimp in their shells (about 26 to 30 to the pound)
1 Tablespoon finely chopped, peeled fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped garlic
4 scallions, including the green tops, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or pale dry sherry
2 tablespoons soy sauce1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato catsup
 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in2 tablespoons cold chicken stock, fresh or canned, or cold water
2 tablespoons peanut oil, or flavorless vegetable oil 


Shell and devein the shrimp. Then wash them under cold running water, drain and pat them dry with paper towels. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Have the shrimp, and the oil, ginger, garlic, scallions, red-pepper flakes, wine, soy sauce, tomato catsup, sugar, salt and cornstarch mixture within easy reach.

Set a 12-inch work or skillet over high heat for about 30 seconds. Pour in 2 tablespoons of oil, swirl it about in the pan and heat for another 30 seconds, reducing the heat to moderate if the oil begins to smoke.

Immediately add the chopped ginger, garlic, scallions and red-pepper flakes, stir-fry for about 20 seconds, and drop in the shrimp.

Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 or 2 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink and firm. Add the wine, soy sauce and tomato catsup, sugar and salt; stir once or twice.

Give the cornstarch mixture a quick stir to recombine it and add it to the pan, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens and coats the shrimp with a translucent glaze. Transfer to a heated platter and serve at once.


With Coyote’s Run Chardonnay…

Chicken Marbella

From Silver Palate Cookbook
Servings 10-12 servings


4 chickens  approx. 2 ½ pounds each, quartered
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
1/4 cup dried oregano
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.

Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.

With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.

To serve Chicken Marbella cold, cool to room temperature in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juices over chicken.


With Coyote’s Run 2011 Black Paw Cabernet Sauvignon…

Best Ever Meat Loaf

From Canadian Living Magazine
serves 8

Tips from the kitchen: This loaf maybe frozen baked or unbaked if using fresh grd. beef. So it can be made ahead. This is definitely one meat loaf you can serve to company. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.


2 eggs, beaten lightly with a fork
2/3 cup milk
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
3 slices fresh bread, crumbled
1 chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1-1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup or chili sauce, or both
1 tbsp prepared mustard


Beat eggs in large bowl. Add milk, salt, pepper and crumbled bread; beat until bread disintegrated.  Add onion, carrot, cheese & beef mixing well. Then pack into 9×5″ loaf pan.

Combine brown sugar, ketchup, chili sauce & mustard and spread the mixture over loaf.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 1 hr. Let stand 10 mins., remove from pan. Serve hot or cold. Make 8 hot slices or 12 cold slices.

TIP: A food processor comes in handy as everything can be chopped in it. 


Enjoy your Savvy Selections!


Wine-making and film-making at Long Dog Winery

Posted by Velma

Thursday, January 3rd, 2013

Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Long Dog Vineyard & Winery
–  December 2012 –


When IMAX filmmaker James Lahti, his wife Victoria Rose, and his good friend Steven Rapkin bought property in Prince Edward County in 1999, it was not with the intention of growing grapes or making wine. The purchase of one of the oldest deeds in the County was meant to be a weekend getaway from their hectic lives in busy Toronto.

Two years later, inspired by others in the region who were successfully growing grapes, they planted 1000 vines and, three years after that, produced their first vintage – three barrels of Pinot Noir. Although the vines were young, James produced a Pinot that reminded him of his first incredible taste of this grape 40 years before in Burgundy, France. His first thought, as he recalls the memory, was “Wow! If we can produce this kind of wine with three year old vines, what are we going to be making in 10 to 15 years?”  This was the seed that started Long Dog Vineyard and Winery.

Fast forward ten years, to 2012, and the Savvy Team can answer James’ question: James can make great wines! Five of us from the team conducted a tasting several weeks ago and, I have to say, we had a hard time selecting the wines to be named Savvy Selections from the four Pinot Noirs and two Chardonnays that James sent us to sample. It was a tough job, but what can I say – someone had to do it, and I’m awfully glad it was us!

Our Savvy Sommelier Velma Leblanc also talked with James about his first taste of Pinot Noir wine in the early 1970s, about the similarities between winemaking and filmmaking, and where the name “Long Dog” comes from. Read all of these stories in the following pages of this month’s Savvy eZine.

In the end, our tasting panel selected, for your enjoyment this holiday season, three wonderful wines that have been created, as all Long Dog wines are, with 100% of grapes grown on the property of this boutique Prince Edward Country vineyard.

In your Savvy Selections, you will find:

Bella Chardonnay Riserva 2008 – a medium-bodied, well-balanced, cool-climate white, with
just a hint of oak

Otto Pinot Noir 2009an aromatic, classic Pinot Noir with a cherry finish  

Top Dog Pinot Noir 2009 – a beautiful rich red Pinot Noir that one member of the panel described
as having a velvety Santa Claus finish and that others simply described as “yummy”

Ever tried a vertical?

Vertical is wine speak for having the same variety from one particular winery from consecutive years. Long Dog has Pinot Noir from 2007, 2008 & 2009 and our Savvy Sommeliers had a delicious vertical experience during the Savvy Selections tasting panel.  We selected our top favorites for you to enjoy, yet if you would like to order additional bottles to have a Long Dog vertical, just let me know & I will arrange for additional bottles to be sent to you.

OPTIONAL WINES – Long Dog Pinot Noirs:

Top Dog Pinot Noir 2008, $30 – in the glass it looks like a light red wine, but that is totally misleading.  The aromas & taste will surprise you & blow you away! Medium bodied with BIG aromas & tastes of ripe cherries, raspberries, blackberries with velvety tannins. Ready to drink now.

Otto Pinot Noir 2007, $36 – loads of black cherry aromas that follow into the taste with lots of acidity & tannins that should mellow as it is cellared for a few more years.  This Pinot is definitely well made & will continue to evolve as it ages.  Afterall, it was from the highly acclaimed 2007 vintage.

Cheers & have a wonderful holiday!
Debbie & Savvy Team 


Long Dog Vineyard & Winery

Presented by Savvy Sommelier Velma LeBlanc


It happened 40 years ago, but it was a moment James Lahti has never forgotten.  He was 19 years old, travelling across Europe on a motorcycle, and was in the heart of wine country: Burgundy, France. He had picked up a bottle of wine at a local store, a baguette and some cheese and had stopped by the side of a river to enjoy his purchases. He opened the bottle and – at a time when most Canadians back home were sipping Baby Duck – tried his first-ever Pinot Noir red wine.

“I couldn’t believe wine could taste so good,” he said.  “Pinot has been following me around ever since,” he laughed.

Today, James is a well-known and respected IMAX filmmaker who has been in the movie business for more than 30 years.  For the last 13 years, he’s also been in the wine business.

In 1997, James (left), along with his wife Victoria Rose (middle), also a filmmaker, and a good friend Steven Rapkin, a lawyer (right), bought a 300-acre property in Prince Edward Country as a vacation getaway. It housed eight buildings, including a 150-year old home, and was meant to be a place to retreat to on weekends.

Within a year, however, James and Victoria moved their film-making business to their new property and James caught the grape-growing bug.  Inspired by others in the County who were successfully growing grapes – and after much research, soil sampling, and consultation – they planted 1000 vines: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Gamay and Pinot Blanche.

Three years later they produced their first vintage: a Pinot that exhibited some of the characteristics of the great Pinot James had tasted in Burgundy 40 years before. His first thought, was “Wow! If we can produce this kind of wine on three-year-old vines, what are we going to be making in 10 to 15 years?”

Today, Long Dog is producing some excellent wines and the 1000 vines have expanded to 25,000. More than half are Pinot Noir. Seventy percent of the other half are Chardonnay and the remainder Pinot Gris and Gamay.

“Winemaking and film-making are both creative processes, which is why I think so many people in the film business end up owning wineries,” he explained.  “As a producer and film editor, a lot of stuff gets dumped onto my desk and I say ‘OK, let’s make a movie’.  Making wine is a similar process. You have 25,000 vines giving you different fruit from virtually every vine and you say ‘OK, how am I going to make the best wine out of this?’”

James believes that a great wine starts with great grapes and, as such, takes pride in producing the best grapes possible.  A lot of it has to do with terroir – the soil and environment in which the grapes grow. “You can take the exact same grape variety and grow it and ferment it the same way, but if one vine is grown in clay soil and the other in stony limestone, you get totally different wines.”

Winemaking is as easy as A, B, C & D 

The Long Dog Vineyard is divided into four blocks – A, B, C, and D – each with a different soil type. “I keep everything separate. All my blocks (wine speak: parcels of property) are separate. All my clones are separate. And, now with the progress of the vineyard, I’m actually down to keeping some rows separate.”

The reason?  It offers him flexibility and variety when it comes to blending those grapes to make the best wines possible.  “The science is the real fun of it.”

To also guarantee great grapes, James is a “real stickler” for picking and harvesting, ensuring that no more than 30 minutes go by from the time a grape is picked to when it reaches the cool room (monitored at 5 to 6 degrees Celsius). “The minute you pick the grapes, they start to break down. The quicker you can get them cooled, the better your chances of making a good wine like Chardonnay or Pinot Noir.”

James is also a great believer in a French expression that says “the road to a great wine starts with small footsteps in the vineyard”.  He takes this quite literally and, every night, at 6 p.m. with a glass of wine in hand, 10 legs go walking – his and those of his and Victoria’s two wire-haired dachshunds dogs: Bella and Flora.

Why the name?

“Bella” is the name on the label of one of the wines from this month’s Savvy Selections, as is “Otto,” the name of the dachshund that James and Victoria had when they first moved to Prince Edward County.

Their love of dachshunds inspired the name of “Long Dog” for the winery, which James says puts a smile on many peoples’ faces when they finally come to the end of the winding country road & lay their eyes on the quaint picturesque winery & historic buildings.

“And, that’s what it’s all about,” says James, “the satisfaction of putting a smile on someone else’s face and knowing they’re enjoying your wine and your labour.


It’s the satisfaction you get when they come up to you or send you an e-mail that says ‘Hey, we just had a bottle of your wine last night and it was fantastic.”

“And, from my experience in traveling, and tasting Pinot Noirs and Chardonnays from around the world, we are producing some fantastic wines here in Prince Edward County and Niagara. We can hold our heads high, and it’s only going to get better.”



Long Dog Bella Riserva Chardonnay 2008, $18.00

Savvy Sommelier & Savvy Company founder Debbie fondly remembers her first visit to Long Dog and walking through the vineyard with James on a cool summer day.  James repeatedly called the Chardonnay vines “his girls”. Tall, trimmed with a great canopy of leaves at the top like an umbrella shading the grapes from the harsh sun.  This ensures that the grapes are slow & evenly ripen.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A well-balanced, medium-bodied, cool-climate Chardonnay that offers classic hints of butterscotch, vanilla, and tropical fruit. Very rich, smooth, and warming, with a long finish, that could be enjoyed on its own or with food.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Delivered to you in time for the holiday season, this wine would be a lovely sipping wine and would pair exceptionally well with such appetizers as savoury shortbreads (see recipe below), spicy nuts, or parmesan crisps.

Cellaring: No need to wait – enjoy it now!


Long Dog “Otto” Pinot Noir 2009 $28.00

James has 3 tiers of his Pinot Noirs – Otto is the mid-tier with Top Dog being the premium – of course! Crafting a good Pinot Noir is considered by winemakers as the pinnacle of winemaking. Pinots are difficult to grow in the vineyards and in the cellar, the wine can change so fast – for the better or worse – as it ages in the barrel.

James does an incredible job each year with his multiple Pinot Noirs – very impressive undertaking!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This aromatic, well-balanced Pinot Noir has aromas and flavours of dried and fresh cherries. Its tannins are velvety and its finish long.

Suggested Food Pairing: The Savvy Team imagined that mushroom risotto would be absolutely delicious with this wine.  Enjoy the recipe below, mushroom crêpes, and grilled salmon. All are classic food pairings with Pinot Noir wines and this Otto is definitely a classic!

Cellaring: Enjoy the wine now or cellar it for 2-3 years.


Long Dog Top Dog Pinot Noir 2009

$35.00 (special price for Savvy Selections subscribers)

Wines named as “Top Dog” are a blend of the James’ favourite barrels.  Each wine is vinified separately according to age, location, and clone. The result is the best wine possible – naturally.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Stunning red in colour, with hints of violet, cardamom warm spice and leather.  This earthy Pinot Noir has smooth tannins and a velvety finish. To enjoy it at its best advantage, we recommend to decant for 10-15 minutes.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Serve this wine with baked trout.

Cellaring: Drinking well now, this wine will cellar 2-3 years.



With Long Dog Chardonnay…

Savoury Parmesan Shortbread Rounds

Bon Appétit Magazine, December 2007
Makes 24


1 ¾ cups all purpose flour
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)
1 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
½ small garlic clove, mincedPinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup (2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes 


Preheat oven to 350°F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Mix flour, 3/4 cup Parmesan cheese, salt, garlic, and cayenne pepper in processor. Add butter and, using on/off turns, process until dough begins to come together. Gather dough into ball. Divide dough in half. Roll each half into 12-inch log, and cut each log into 1-inch pieces.

Roll each piece into ball. Arrange dough balls on prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1 1/2 inches apart. Press each ball into 2-inch-diameter round. Sprinkle remaining 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese over.

Bake shortbread rounds until tops are dry and bottoms are golden brown, about 20 minutes. Transfer shortbread rounds to rack and cool completely.

DO AHEAD: Shortbread rounds can be made 1 week ahead. Store rounds in airtight container at room temperature, or freeze up to 1 month.


With Long Dog ‘Otto’ Pinot Noir

Mushroom Risotto

Gourmet Magazine, April 2005 (Velma has edited slightly)
Serves 6


1 cup dried porcini – optional
3 ¾ cups hot water
5 ¼ cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tablespoon soy sauce1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
1 small onion, finely chopped (approx. 1 cup)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 lb fresh cremini mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 lb Arborio rice (2 1/3 cups)
2/3 cup dry white wine
½ cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley


Soak porcini (if using) in 1 ½ cups hot water in a bowl until softened, about 20 minutes. Lift porcini out, squeezing liquid back into bowl. Rinse to remove any grit and coarsely chop. Pour soaking liquid through a sieve lined with a coffee filter or a dampened paper towel into a 3- to 4-quart saucepan, then add broth, soy sauce, and remaining 21/4 cups water to pan and bring to a simmer.

Meanwhile, heat oil with 1 tablespoon butter in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then sauté onion, stirring, until just softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and fresh mushrooms and sauté, stirring, until mushrooms are browned and any liquid they give off is evaporated, about 8 minutes. Stir in porcini and cook, stirring, 1 minute, then add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Stir 1 cup simmering broth into rice and cook, stirring constantly and keeping at a strong simmer, until absorbed. Continue cooking and adding broth, about 1 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is tender and creamy looking but still al dente, 18 to 20 minutes. Thin with some of remaining broth if necessary. (You will have about 1 cup left over.) Remove from heat. Stir in cheese, salt, pepper, and remaining 5 tablespoons butter until butter is melted.

If reserving some risotto to make one of the following recipes, set aside 3 cups and cool to room temperature, then chill, covered with plastic wrap.

Stir parsley into remaining risotto and serve immediately.

With Top Dog Pinot Noir…

Maple Salmon on Asian Inspired Greens

Canadian Living Magazine
Serves 8


1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
2 lb Pacific salmon
6 Tbsp vegetable oil
6 Tbsp soy sauce
2/3 cup rice vinegar
4 cloves garlic
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 whole red onion, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp finely minced gingerroot
2 lbs assorted mushrooms
6 Tbsp teriyaki sauce
6 to 8 cups baby spinach
2 Tbsp sesame seeds



In a small bowl, mix the maple syrup, soy sauce, garlic, garlic salt, and pepper.

Place salmon in a shallow glass baking dish, and coat with the maple syrup mixture. Cover the dish, and marinate salmon in the refrigerator 20 minutes, turning once.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C).

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, mix oil, soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, mustard, onion and gingerroot; set aside.

Place the baking dish in the preheated oven, and bake salmon uncovered 10 minutes, or until easily flaked with a fork.

Pile mushrooms in centre of large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil. Drizzle with teriyaki sauce. Fold edges and ends to seal well. Place in over for the last 10 minutes to which the salmon in cooking.

Warm up the dressing which was set aside earlier in a sauce pan just until boiling.

Divide baby spinach evenly among 8 dinner plates. Top with steaming mushrooms and drizzle with warm dressing. Place 1 of salmon piece over each plate of spinach. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds for presentation.

Cheers & enjoy your Savvy Selections

 Happy Holidays to you & your family!