Posts Tagged ‘great wines from Niagara’

What do Organic Wine Labels mean?

Posted by Debbie

Thursday, August 9th, 2018

These days, products labelled as “organic, green, gluten free or vegan” are often confusing and have different meanings depending on whether the item is eggs, apples or grapes. Personally, in general terms, I tend to think organic wine is one that has not had pesticides or other chemicals used in its vineyard or winemaking process. If that is indeed the case, I can’t help but wonder if this extra attention results in a difference in taste too.

My curiosity gets the better of me and nose dive into some ‘research’.

The David Suzuki Foundation offers some great explanations of terms that I have interchanged. For example, when the wine label states “made with organically grown grapes”, this means that the wine is made with a minimum of 70% organic grapes.  Turns out this is not the same as certified organic grapes.  The term Certified Organic means that the producers use 100% organic grapes and cannot use toxic pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers that would infiltrate both the soil and the grapes.

Biodynamic wine is defined by renowned winemaker Ann Sperling (of Sperling Vineyards, Southbrook Vineyards and Versado) as, “Uber organic”.  Biodynamic is organic but natural resources are used to cultivate grapes and must meet the standards imposed for organic-certified farming. This kind of wine production also takes into consideration the lunar calendar, astrology, plants, animals, insects;  it’s not just about the grapes.

I admit that I find the idea of the slant of the moon’s light on a vineyard making a difference in grape-growing a little mind-boggling. In order for a winery to declare itself as biodynamic, it must have achieved the highest level of certification through Demeter Canada and maintained it for a minimum of three years. It’s no wonder that there are only a handful of biodynamic wineries across the country.

Wine Country Ontario lists wineries in Ontario that sell organic, vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian and biodynamic wines. All these labels embrace sustainable winemaking or economical farming practices. Whether the wine tastes any different with these labels depends on your opinion.

The recent release at LCBO’s Vintages is promoting several organic wines. I have a couple of recommendations from this release and also suggestions in the general list of organic wines. Many LCBO stores have an organic wine section, so have a look the next time you are in one. You might find something new from this issue to impress your vegan friends!

From the August 4 release. 


Murviedro Luna Organic Brut Cava

$17.95 (Vintages #547224) 11.6% alcohol

Cava in Spain is akin to Prosecco in Italy and it never hurts to have one of these chilling in the fridge. This happens to be a Gold Medal winner at the 2017 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. Whenever I see those gold labels, it’s never a risk to buy the bottle.

Cava is known for its light sparkling citrusy moussey bubbles, made from the Macabeo grapes and is always a delight for brunch, Happy Hour or to kick off a party.



Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2016

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
$24.95 (Vintages #172338) 12% alcohol

Southbrook Vineyards is known as the first winery in Canada to earn both organic and biodynamic certification in the vineyard. It is also one impressive winery to visit in Niagara. The architecture of this biodynamic winery is different from its neighbors and their elegant wines are always memorable.

During the release tasting, I did not get to sample this 2016, but previous Chardonnays made by Ann Sperling have been knock out delicious.

Enjoy a glass in the sunshine, unwinding while the sun goes down, with fish or chicken off the BBQ or a summertime salad.


Montes Alpha Syrah 2015

Colchagua Valley, Chile
$19.95 (Vintages #612) 14.5% alcohol

The label on the bottle of this dark blackberry nectar states “dry farmed”.  What does this mean? Basically the grapes are cultivated without any irrigation in regions where there is little rain. The grapes feed off any residual moisture in the soil which deeply extends their vine roots and consequently their flavour.

I really liked the leathery finish on this wine.  It would be great with any grilled chops.


Organic Wines available all year round at the LCBO


Lurton Piedra Negra Pinot Grigio Organic

$13.80 (Vintages #55674) 12.5% alcohol

This is a “pretty” soft white, dry, medium-bodied white wine. Luscious tropical and citrus flavours present loads of fresh fruit on the palate.

I picked this up on my lookout for general list organic wines at the LCBO (regularly available on the main store shelves) and it has easily become a favourite in my house.

It’s refreshing and delicious on its own or served with fish tacos, sushi, cold pasta salad.



El Abuelo Organic Tempranillo Monastrell

Almanzo D.O., Spain
$9.95 (Vintages #524520)  14% alcohol

Don’t let the price fool you. This great organic wine from Spain is full-bodied with loads of black fruit flavours.

Bone dry and smooth, it packs lots of punch at 14% alcohol but does not taste hot on the palate.

It goes well with burgers or spaghetti or just to sip in a glass.


Travel tip and wine stop in Hockley Valley, Mono, Ontario 


My husband and I recently returned from a trip to the Hockley Valley Resort (North of Toronto near Orangeville) and discovered the Adamo Winery Estate. The resort offers a shuttle to the winery, but if you prefer to walk, it’s a short distance but all uphill.

The resort and winery are family owned and operated, clearly taking great pride in both their wines and the upscale resort. Have a look at the pictures online, it is indeed as lovely as it looks.

The farming practices in the 25 acre winery are both organic and biodynamic. Shauna White, Vineyard and Winery Manager, uses thermal blankets in the winter to cover the vines so that they are insulated and protected from ice and snow. This method is done instead of hilling up vines (burying them in the earth), like they do in Prince Edward County.

At the winery, the Paddock Café offers small plates of local cheeses, olives and charcuteries overlooking the 23,000 vines. It is also a wonderful photo-op beside an amazing golf course. We visited the winery 3 times in 3 days to take in the ambience and sample more wines. The Rieslings and Viognier wines were favourites with many grapes being sourced from the Niagara region.

Coincidentally, 6 years ago, I had met Shauna when I interviewed her for our Savvy Selections wine-o-month club featuring Ravine Estate Winery.  Shauna was the winemaker. Needless to say, the surprise to see her again at Adamo was a delight and made for an over the top vacation.









Dashing through the LCBO….

Posted by Julie

Monday, December 11th, 2017

It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Champagne, stunning gift boxes, ice wine, suggestions for “Holiday Gatherings” is what the final Vintages release of the year is all about.

There are so many awesome products in this release that I have to remind myself of my meager budget of $100 for this blog. Here is my shopping list – including some bottles to splurge on too.

And if you were able to get your hands on the LCBO’s latest Food and Drink Magazine, talk about eye candy – glossy photos with lots of great recipes for appetizers, cocktail parties and novel recipes for main courses too. Where do they get this new twists on the traditional?

For those of you who have a more robust budget than my$100 for wine shopping, I have several recommendations. There’s a new Sandeman 20-year old Tawny Port (Vintages #116178) $64.95 which was absolutely delicious.  Burrowing Owl Meritage (Vintages #343038) $58.95 is a red wine from British Columbia that will knock your expensive socks off.  The LCBO’s Wine of the Month – Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon (Vintages #189795) $119.95 is extra special and Sortilege Prestige, a 7 year old Canadian Whiskey with pure maple syrup (Vintages #317206) $49.95 is another treat.

So until next year, wishing you a wonderful holiday season full of great sips!



If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday December 9, 2017

Veuve Ambal Grande Cuvée Brut Rosé Crémant de Bourgogne

Traditional Method, AC Burgundy, France
$19.95 (Vintages #439257) 12% alcohol

An enticing pale pink that shimmers like a Christmas decoration in the glass, bubbles (fine mousse) galore dance on the palate while croissants, raspberries and little ripe strawberries arrive seductively to the taste buds. Clean and fresh, it’s a classic Crémant that returns yearly with quality and taste.

A perfect aperitif, wonderful as a party accompaniment. It’s also festive, pretty and everyone loves it.


Sunnybrook Signature Series Cranberry 2015

$23.95 (Vintages #539049) 11% alcohol

Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery is proud to use 100% locally grown fruits for their wines and this stunning nectar won double gold at the Canadian Wine Awards 2017. I was surprised to see this featured under dessert wines since I did not find it overly sweet.

Awesome cranberry colour loaded with soft cranberry fruit and on first sip I thought it would be absolutely perfect with turkey or pork as a dinner wine. A lengthy seam of acidity on the delicious finish and dare I say, I almost got some green apple. Wine Gods forgive me, but we all taste something different.

I’ll just sum it up by saying this would go through dinner to dessert (would be heaven with some blue cheese). How different is a fruit wine? and this would also make a lovely gift.



The Tragically Hip Fully Completely Grand Reserve Red 2015

VQA Niagara Peninsula, Stoney Ridge
$24.95 (Vintages #411595) 13.5% alcohol

This red wine was a creation by band members Gord Downie, Paul Langlois, Rob Baker, Gord Sinclair, and Johnny Fay in conjunction with Stoney Ridge Estate Winery’s Head Winemaker Jeff Hundertmark. It is a class act wine.

Wonderful rich blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. On the label is an exact replication of the original artwork that appeared on the “Fully Completely” album cover that all Hip fans know so well.

Inside the bottle, deep dark delicious aromas awaits with tastes of ripe berries, some sweet spicy notes and tannin. It’s balanced and lengthy, an elegant addition for ta prime rib or steak not to mention pretty nice table bling.

Hands  down, this will make a great gift for those Gord Downie fans.


Aneto Red 2011

DOC Douro, Portugal
$16.95 (Vintages #314930) 14% alcohol

I learned on my trip to Portugal this year that there are more than 100 indigenous grape varietals approved for wine production in the Douro region of Portugal but five primary grapes make up most Port and table wines.

Touriga Nacional is the most prominent known for its floral aromatics, deep color, and tannin. Along with Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo) help to provide backbone to the wine and adds bright acidity and red fruit flavors.

Aneto, (which by the way is the name of a plant) is power-packed with ripe red and dark berries on the palate, full-bodied with lovely soft tannin and a little leather on the finish. It’s a fairly big wine with lots of punch and I plan to serve this with with ribs and Caesar salad.


Casteno Solanera Vinas Viejas 2015

DO Yecia, Spain
$18.95 (Vintages #276162) 14.5% alcohol

A blend of Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, aged in French and American oak. This red wine is a big, ripe, round and juicy for those of us that like a heavy duty wine. Flavours of ripe blueberries and black plums are the core backbone with a gentle seam of acidity and soft tannin. There’s a little spice alongside a subtle pinch of pepper on the finish.

This wine is not for the faint of heart so I’m suggesting to pour alongside garlic mash and grilled beef ribs – we are talking five star good.


Grand Total = $104.75

(So…in my last blog, I saved you $6, so splurge a little this time….besides it’s Christmas!)


If I only had $100, I would buy….

Posted by Julie

Friday, November 24th, 2017

With the devastating news about the forest fires in Napa & surrounding area, there has been alot of focus on California wines.  Coincidentally, premium California wines are the main feature in this release at LCBO Vintages this weekend. While most bottles were too rich for my $100 budget for this blog, I was so pleased to sample & create this shopping list with an interesting assortment of fine wines that are easy on the credit card statement. Remember that I am working on a $100 budget, yet I highly recommend that you do splurge by adding a California wine into your shopping cart.

I also found several sparkling wines and beautiful icewines, that you can pick up to stash away for the gifting season.

As always, my shopping basket for this blog is always on the look out for bottles of wine that are priced lower than they actually taste.

I hope you like my picks!



If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday November 25, 2017


Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Sparkling Riesling 2015

Traditional method, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontari
$20.95 (Vintages #370361) 12% alcohol

Green apples, lemon zest, crispy brioche all meld into a delicate creamy mousse that is crisp and clean on the palate and swirls on the tongue.

Lots going on in this sparkling Riesling with a hit of flint that seems only to come from Niagara Escarpment Rieslings.  Talk about a gift from Mother Earth and speaking of gifts – this one I highly recommend.

A great match for seafood or pick up a chilled bottle and some sushi one night for supper – now that would be a treat!



Robert Oatley Signature Series Chardonnay 2016

Margaret River, Western Australia
$18.95 (Vintages #350900) 12.5% alcohol

While certainly not a new wine in LCBO Vintages, this is always an easy Chardonnay to add to my shopping list. It’s a no-brainer for those Chardonnay lovers and those firmly in the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) crowd could easily be persuaded.

Full-boded yet crisp and refreshing for a Chardonnay with a multitude of tropical white stone fruit flavours (think white peach) on the palate and loads of tangerine citrus on the finish. Talk about a beautifully balanced white wine with just enough acidity to send you back for another sip.  And another.  And another.

A perfect wine to have with lunch for crab or lobster bisque with a puff pastry topping or chicken pot pie (for the less daring to cook).


Zuccardi Q Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Mendoza, Argentina
$19.95 (Vintages #140855) 13.9% alcohol

In such warm climate, grapes can ripen to their fullest so it is not a bit of wonder the product ends up being full-bodied and rich.

Big black fruit, ripe blueberries, blackberries mingle smoothly with silky lush tannin. The mouthfeel is plush and loaded with dark berry flavours.

A lovely lengthy aftertaste sprinkled with pepper. One great Cabernet Sauvignon to serve alongside ribs or a Sunday roast.



San Felice Chianti Classico 2015

DOCG, Italy
$19.95 (Vintages #282996) 13% alcohol

Predominantly Sangiovese with personality of ripe cherries and raspberries, a pinch of violet that also profiles this delicate Chianti. Medium-bodied and fruity it is a classic Chianti.

There’s some dustiness and leather whiffs on the finish, typical of wine aged in Slovonian oak casks for 10-12 months. Tannins are delicate and fresh, a wonderful wine to serve with your favourite pasta dish or a spicy lasagna.



Honoro Vera Monastrell 2015

DOP, Jumilla, Spain
$13.95 (Vintages #167684) 14.5% alcohol

DOP certification ensures that the grapes are locally grown and bottled. Dark and inky, some sweet spice aromas, bursts of ripe plums on the palate mixing cherry and mocha flavours on the lengthy finish.

Medium to full-bodied, fairly assertive tannins with a pinch of leather on the aftertaste.

You get a lot of pow for your dollar here and cannot beat the price point. This would be wonderful with a hearty stew and crusty bread.

This wine certainly grabs your attention with the cool label!


Grand Total = $93.75


Time for Ports & Sherry!

Posted by Julie

Sunday, November 12th, 2017

Now that the temperature continuously dips below zero degrees, it’s time to start thinking about stocking up for the winter months and of course the upcoming holiday entertaining season. I don’t recall Vintages ever focusing on “After Dinner Drinks”, but I found some in this release worth tipping you off.

Although the ice wines are too pricey for my $100 budget, there are some beauties to pick up or gift as fine gifts.

In this release, there is also a huge selection of sparkling wines including Champagne, always a great start to any get together with friends.

The advantage of stocking up on after dinner drinks is that they are bound to last longer than other bottles of wine and have a much longer shelf life.

Here’s to the “finishing” drinks,



If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday November 11, 2017

Burmester 10-Year Old Tawny Port

DOP, Portugal
$28.95 (Vintages #223958) 19.5% alcohol

DOP is short for (Denominação de Origem Protegida) meaning Protected Designation of Origin. This certification only found in Portugal ensures that products are locally grown and packaged.

This past fall, my husband and I visited the Burmester Port house in Oporto, Portugal on the side of the Douro river in an area called “Gaia”.  While it is not as large as Taylors Fladgate or Grahams, the ports made a Burmester are of premium quality.

This Tawny Port has a deep copper in colour with flavours that remind me of fruit cake, sweet spice with a caramel finish. Light-bodied and goes down smooth, capital S. Positively delicious and a perfect after dinner drink.

City of Oporto. The Burmester Caves where this port was made is on the left of the photo. Credit: Julie Stock

Hildalgo Faraon Oloros Sherry

DO, Spain
$21.95 (Vintages # 471078) 18% alcohol

I don’t often think of sherry as an after dinner drink but his one is an exception. Similar to port it is a fortified wine, yet made only in Spain.

This deep golden nectar is like sipping a bowl of roasted nuts with a great savoury finish. Bone dry with a little orange pith on the palate.

It would be absolutely divine with some assorted cheeses, dried fruit and of course, warm toasted nuts at the end of a meal. It’s a special kind of sherry.


Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling

VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario$24.95 (Vintages #578625) 11% alcohol

I’m not often wowed by off-dry Riesling but this is one is an elegant beauty. Apparently I’m not the only one that was lured to this wine since it won Platinum at the Wine Align Intervin awards this year.

Fresh and clean, flinty with soft lemon custard flavours on the palate and a round citrusy finish.

This white wine is positively delicious and would make a decadent afternoon sipper or pair with some spicy shrimps.



Reif Estate Reserve Gewurztraminer 2015

VQA Niagara River, Ontario
$18.95 (Vintages #360255) 13% alcohol

In my view, Reif Estates always offers good price points for the quality of their wine. It’s always a good thing to have a Gewurztraminer in the fridge for those chilly nights where a hot Indian curry like Chicken Vindaloo or take-out Thai meal would warm you up – all perfect pairings for Gewurztraminer.

Fresh floral aromas, some lychee but loads of tropical fruits on the palate show in this white wine. Look for ripe apricots and peach nectar with some toasty hazelnuts on the finish.

It’s a dy-na-mite!


For 2 white wines & 2 after dinner drinks, my Grand Total = $94.80



Wines from around the world for Thanksgiving

Posted by Julie

Friday, September 29th, 2017

With Thanksgiving right around the corner, what better time for LCBO’s Vintages to focus on drinks to serve with the family gathering with a headline of ‘Family Matters”.

With the family theme in this release, the LCBO is featuring family run vineyards & estates that have been handed down through the generations.  There are some great wine finds to accompany whatever dishes you are putting on your Thanksgiving table but I’m not taking any chances, I’m picking up one of each. to have on hand in case anyone drops in over the long weekend.

And there are some of the LCBO’s In Store Discoveries too that are worth putting in your shopping cart. Hope my tried & tested shopping list helps make your long weekend a breeze.

Happy Thanksgiving to you & your family!

– Julie


If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday September 30, 2017


Vinum Africa Chenin Blanc 2016

WO Stellenbosch, The Winery of Good Hope, South Africa
$14.95 (Vintages #739995) 12.5% alcohol

Chenin Blanc goes by different names;  in France this white wine it is known as Pineau de la Loire, and in South Africa it goes by the name of Steen. Either way the grape varietal displays succulent flavours of tropical fruit with every sip.

On the palate is a melange of ripe pears and apricots, pineapple and hazelnuts. Full bodied and rich, smooth as silk with a crisp refreshing finish. It’s a beauty and the price point is unbelievable. It’s bound to be a partner to serve with a feast of turkey or roasted ham for sure.




Famille Perrin Reserve Cotes Du Rhone Blanc 2015

AC, France
$14.95 (Vintages  #499509) 13% alcohol

Your first introduction is a delicate floral nose with great aromatic freshness.

This svelte white wine offers light, crisp apple and peach flavours bound by slight mineral notes on the finish.  Lots of finesse and depth for this price point and a perfect marriage with seafood or Mediterranean fare, bruschetta prepared with with heirloom tomatoes would be remarkable.





Tessellae Rosé 2016

IGP Côtes Catalanes, France
$15.95 (Vintages # 450817)  13.5% alcohol

This is an all year round Rosé wine. Pale salmon in colour, fresh, crisp and delicate. Ripe strawberries, tangerines and apricot flavours mingle with zesty lemon-lime notes on the finish. Talk about a fruit bowl!

It is a perfect afternoon sipper or to serve as an aperitif with some mild cheese or grilled shrimps, or with a ham for Thanksgiving, one lovely beverage.  Enjoy!





Kaiken Las Rocas Ultra Malbec 2015

Mendoza, Argentina
$24.95 (Vintages #50849) 14.5% alcohol

Lavender and blueberry aromas, full bodied and firm, it’s an outstanding Malbec. On the palate of this red wine, there are layers of ripe plums and dark berries, the tannins are ripe and refined. It’s smooth, rich and focussed with excellent length, a Malbec at its finest.

I’d pair this with braised short ribs and a mushroom risotto.





Tarima Monastrell 2015

DO Alicante, Spain
$14.95 (Vintages #310151) 14.5% alcohol

The heady nose on this red wine is almost electric with savoury and dark fruit.  Blackberries and blueberry flavours dance on the palate just bursting with flavour.

Look for dark, slightly spicy berries with a pinch of licorice on the finish. Great smooth aftertaste that integrates soft tannins, and juicy fruitiness.

It is absolutely delicious. Begs for something from the grill!




MAN Family Skaapveld Shiraz 2015

WO Coastal Region, South Africa
$13.95 (Vintages #71332)

I did not have the opportunity to taste this particular Shiraz, but I wanted to offer another bottle in my price point since the above was such incredible value. I mean…a Shiraz from South Africa at $13.95?

The Man Family website states that “Skaapbeld” refers to the grazing land for sheep that adjoins their Shiraz vineyards. And it has won more than one award, so I will be popping a bottle of this into my shopping cart and giving it a try.



Grand Total = $99.70


6 wines for under $100!

Posted by Julie

Friday, September 15th, 2017

In Niagara Falls, every August, the judging for the Intervin Wine Competition takes place. These wine awards are designed to recognize the very best of international wines available to Canadian consumers.

Although the 2017 results will not be released until November it is fitting that LCBO Vintages is showcasing Ontario wines and Flagship In-Store-Discoveries (FISD) in this release.  Most of these “Flagships” are too pricey for my budget, but I had no difficulty finding some other gems at incredible price points.

My go to wine is always Ontario. This province has the VERY best of everything: from farm to table food, to sports and entertainment; our wine selection is unbeatable and incomparable. Harvest time will soon be here and I hope you’ll be inspired to pick up a few bottles you’ve not tried before. I can almost guarantee you may find a new favourite.

Here’s to Ontario wine shopping, a place to stand, a place to grow, Ontario-ario- ario !

That jingle never grows old!
– Julie


If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday September 16, 2017


Creekside Marianne Hill Riesling 2015

VQA Beamsville Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$20.95 (Vintages #443572) 10.5% alcohol

Stunning and expressive, well deserved for the Gold Medal winner at the 2017 National Wine Awards of Canada.

I can’t wait to see what other accolades may be in store for Creekside and this gem. Beautifully balanced with flavours of green and yellow apples, peaches and flinty wet stone which shows in many Niagara escarpment Rieslings.

Light-weight with gentle fruit flavours, a perfect afternoon wine to sip or to try with crab cakes, sushi or lighter lunch fare. Mellow and delicious.


Featherstone Four Feathers 2016

VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$14.95 (Vintages #341586) 12.5% alcohol

I have written previously on different Featherstone Estate Winery wines and this one is so lovely I could not neglect it in this release.

The blend of  Riesling, Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Blanc brings out the very best in each of these varietals. Slightly off-dry, delicate and aromatic, well structured and layered with flavours of apples and stone tree fruits that decorate the palate in one lovely wash. It has a lingering fruity finish.

Perfect for salads, grilled shrimp or fish tacos; an easy sipper and a wine that has something for everyone.

I cannot imagine anyone who could not like this wine.



Firebird Legend Pinot Grigio 2016

PGI Vulcansti, Moldova
$12.95 (Vintages #74351) 12% alcohol

The very odd time I feature a wine that I was not able to taste and this is one of those. Moldova is a country sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania in the Black Sea basin where the vines grow.

Historically, there are over 112 thousand hectres of vineyards and over 30 types of varietals so I assume these folks must have achieved some finesse somewhere along the lineage.  One website boasted tropical fruit flavours with zippy acidity, so for that price point, for me, it is worth a try.


Tawse Sketches of Niagara Rosé 2016

VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$17.35 (Vintages #172643) 12%  alcohol

Not just any Rosé, this blend of Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir and Gamay makes a lively entry with it’s handsome cranberry colour and aromas of ripe cherries and a pinch of white pepper. On the palate are impressive strawberry and watermelon flavours.  It’s driven by lively acidity and some rhubarb on the elegant finish.

Bone dry which makes it a perfect accompaniment to grilled chicken, salmon or just on its own with some soft cheeses.

Always a class act.


13th Street Red Palette 2016

VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$15.95 (Vintages #244558) 13 % alcohol

13th Street Winery has to one of the prettiest wineries along the Niagara Escarpment I think. Not only is there a spacious tasting room with floor to ceilings windows, but upon entry, the long spectacular table gives it an art gallery feel. The bakery farmhouse next door also makes it a worthwhile stop for lunch or to grab an outstanding butter-tart.

This Red Palette blend is so juicy; bursting with red cherry and ripe raspberry flavours with just a hint of green savoury spice on the finish. Medium bodied, the varietals of 62% Merlot and 38% Cabernet Franc make it a perfect accompaniment to turkey, ham or salmon (I am already thinking about Thanksgiving!). Well rounded and perfectly balanced with soft tannins and a hint of smokey acidity on a decent cherry finish. You could partner this alongside just about anything from fish to pork/veggie kebabos or mild Thai take-out. Simply delicious.


Traipiche Fina Las Palmas Gran Reeserva Malbec 2014

Uco Valley, Mendoza, Argentina
$16.95 (Vintages # 186668) 14.5 % alcohol

Malbec is Argentina’s signature grape and no one grows it better than Traipiche. At altitudes higher than the CN tower, Trapiche was one of the first Argentinian wineries to enter the international scene. In 1889, the winery received its first international award in Paris.

Dark and inky in colour, rich and expansive on the nose your senses are fillled with luscious black and ripe red fruits that flow through on the palate. Everything Traipiche produces is worth picking up and their wines are a great price point. This Malbec is full-bodied and not for the faint-hearted, structured with layers of blueberry and ripe plum favours, some spice and tobacco on the finish. It’ll be forever in memory with braised short ribs and spicey sausages.

I can’t wait to pick this up and head to the butcher.


Grand Total = $ 99.10 
6 wines – now that is VALUE !!


Rosé Report: Good Earth Rosé VQA 2016

Posted by Debbie

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

You’ll know you’ve found the right place when you see the giant fork standing among the vines at Good Earth Food & Wine Company. And it may not even be big enough, if you want to try everything here….enjoy a meal at the bistro set amongst the vineyard or take part in a hands on cooking class – life is good!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  An interesting petal-soft texture of this wine makes summer sipping even more enjoyable.  The medium to full bodied flavours of fresh sweet red berries, watermelon with a dash of floral and crisp acidity that balances out every sip.

Complete Wine Deets:
Good Earth Food & Wine Company – The Good Wine Rosé VQA 2016

Ontario Wine Region: Twenty Valley (Niagara)


Suggested Food Pairing:  We’d recommend to serve it with a delicious Asian Chicken Salad with Ginger Sesame Dressing. (recipe follows)


Asian Chicken Salad with Ginger Sesame Dressing

From: Yummly
Serves 4



Salad dressing

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon powder ginger
1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted


6 cups baby spinach leaves, washed, and dried
1 large carrot, shredded
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 of a whole red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds toasted
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken or grilled chicken, sliced



Combine all salad dressing ingredients, except for sesame seeds, and using only 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Whisk until emulsified. Taste your dressing and add another 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, if desired, to make it saltier. Add 2 tablespoons sesame seeds to the dressing and mix them in.

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl, except for 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and chicken. Add the salad dressing to the salad and toss – do not add all salad dressing at once: you might not need all of it. Add just enough salad dressing to coat the salad ingredients.

Serve the salad in the individual serving bowls and top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and sliced chicken.




Yeah! Make it a Chardonnay!

Posted by Julie

Monday, July 10th, 2017

It’s that time of year again when the annual International Cool Climate Chardonnay Celebration (also known by those in the wine biz as ‘i4C’ or #i4C17) descends upon the Niagara region. Everyone gathers for this special i4C weekend to celebrate the most popular grape varietal in the world.

It is an incredible weekend – July 21 to 23 – where 30+ wineries from around the world PLUS 30 Ontario wineries gather to showcase their finest wines made with Chardonnay grapes – everything from sparkling, fresh Chardonnay, aged ones, Chablis style, fermented with wild yeast and those aged in barrels from around the world.  You get to sample everything. Even fine sweet wines made from Chardonnay grapes.  It is a heavenly weekend event!

At i4C, winemakers attend along with wine enthusiasts, Sommeliers, wine writers, restaurant owners and those who are simply visiting Niagara wanting to take in a top-notch event.  A number of us from the Savvy Team have attended and it is hands down an incredible learning and entertaining experience not to mention absolutely delicious & tasty. I highly recommend making i4C the reason for a weekend getaway to Niagara (if you need a reason!).

And for those of you who are ABCers (aka like Anything But Chardonnay), there is an incredible white wine from Spain that I discovered in the recent LCBO Vintages release from the feature or Spanish wines.  Spain often offers great value wines that taste like they should cost more, but my recommendations on those will have to wait for another time as I am filling my basket with 100% Chardonnay for this blog…and can’t wait to get sipping.

Long live i4C!

i4C Social Media Information: Website  *   Twitter   *  Instagram 



If I only had $100, I would buy…
LBCO Vintages Release for Saturday July 8, 2017


Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2015 

VQA Niagara-on-the Lake
$24.95 (Vintages #172338) 12.5 % alcohol

In 2008, Southbrook was the first wine estate in Canada to earn both organic and biodynamic certification for its vineyard and winery. This is one smooth Chardonnay from start to finish. There is some minerality in this white wine which is unusual for a Chardonnay, but this only enhances the soft tropical fruits.

Mid-weight and beautifully balanced with some baked pear on the finish, it’s one lovely drink. Would partner nicely with BBQed chicken or salmon.



Emiliana Natura Unoaked Chardonnay 2016

Casablanca Valley, Chile
$15.95 (Vintages #439398) 14 % alcohol

In the last release I featured Emiliana Winery for their sparkling wine. And here they are again on my top picks list!

This unoaked Chardonnay wine is anything but “typicity”.  In winespeak, this is the degree in which the grape varietal reflects or demonstrates its characteristics from the origin or region. I found just a hint of effervescence, light-bodied with lime tanginess which is unusual for a Chardonnay.  It’s fresh and clean with a green apple finish. I really liked it and this white wine is definitely going into my shopping basket & right into my fridge for a hot summer afternoon where I will uncork it for lunch or a light dinner with something like a Watermelon, Feta Cheese & Black Olive Salad.



Buena Vista Chardonnay 2015

Sonoma County, U.S.A.
$24.95 (Vintages #396440) 13 % alcohol

In a little corner bordering Sonoma and Napa’s southern boundaries is the celebrated vinicultural area called Carneros. While only about 90 square miles, the region is recognized for producing world class Chardonnays.

This white wine is a style that is heavier and creamier than what comes from other Chardonnay growing regions but for those who love a ‘Big Bold Chard’, this wine is for you!  I put extra stars beside my tasting notes, indicating that I love this wine. Aromas of buttered popcorn, rich and smooth on the palate as the tropical fruit simply takes over the senses and abounds.  It’s dry, crisp with a lingering finish. Elegant and refined, a class-act Chardonnay. Would easily stand up to a dinner of Steak & frites…yes white wine with steak!



Invivo Gisborne Chardonnay 2016

Gisborne, North Island, New Zealand
$15.95 (Vintages #499855) 13 % alcohol

Although this was not available at my tasting, Invivo Wines is going to be present at i4C represented by Winemaker and Co-founder, Rob Cameron. I never have any difficulty recommending a wine from New Zealand, especially the Gisborne region, since wines that are produced are always top notch. Tasting notes indicate an easy drinking style with citrus and ripe stone fruit on the palate.

At this incredible price point, (remember it travelled half way around the world to get onto the LCBO shelves), this white wine is definitely going in my basket. It is worth a try!


A dynamite wine from Spain you have to try …

Barón De ley Blanco 2016

DOCa Rioja
$13.95 (Vintages #145995) 12 % alcohol

A blend of Viura (90%) and Malvasia (10%) grapes, this fresh aromatic white wine is easy to drink. While not common grape varietals, these are quite at home in Navarra in the DOC Rioja region.

The winemaking process is carried out in stainless steel tanks which lends to its super fresh lemon lime flavours with a citrusy finish. Fresh and a light-bodied whine, makes for a terrific wine on a hot summer’s day.



Grand Total = $95.75


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!





They’re bee-zy at Rosewood Estates Winery & Meadery

Posted by Debbie

Monday, February 9th, 2015

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Savvy Selections wine of the month club 
Featuring Rosewood Estates Winery & Meadery

– February 2015 –


One of the best parts of my job is watching wine, craft beer & cheese companies grow.  Since starting Savvy Company 13 years ago, (we were known as The Savvy Grapes back then) I have met many interesting people in ‘the biz’.  Mark my words, that there is no one who can talk as fast as Krystina Roman of Rosewood Estates Winery & Meadery!  I can tell you that openly because another ‘best parts of my job’ is that many of the amazing people I meet often become friends.  Krystina is definitely one of them.

Rosewood has been a winery ‘to watch’ ever since I discovered them.  This marks our third Savvy Selections feature of this family business located along the Beamsville Bench (aka Niagara Escarpment).   With each feature, the quality of their wines evolved, while their portfolio expanded, won impressive awards…and this holds true with their mead wines (made with honey) too.

In your Savvy Selections, you will find:

rew_logoSelect Sémillon VQA 2013A dry white wine. Refreshing & crisp, it reminds you that summer will soon be back!

Origin Cabernet Franc VQA 2012 From their premium wine series, this shows that Ontario can make big red wines.

Lock, Stock & Barrel VQA 2012Man, we are good! When the winery team ‘happened’ to find a bunch of cases of this top selling wine, without hesitation, I allocated them to us! We can’t wait for you to try this red blend of 5 different grape varieties – Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Petit Verdot & Malbec.

Intrigued about Mead?

rosewood honey jarKrystina’s grandfather was a beekeeper and her father followed in his footsteps.  “It was a natural fit to extend our experience of winemaking into mead”, explains Krystina.  And is has proven to be a success, “Though, I wish that I had more bees!”

Flip through these pages to learn more about Rosewood wines, how meads is made, our Savvy Sommelier tasting notes & recipes we have paired for each wine.  Also you will find my interview with Krystina about her family business…ok, it was less formal than an interview and more like friends chatting while running a business/ driving to a wine tasting/ proofing labels….I was in the office and Krystina was on the go! That is how she rolls – you’ll see what I mean when you meet her at the winery or the next Savvy Event.

You won’t find these Rosewood wines & meads at the LCBO

Rosewood is a boutique winery & makes small lots (winespeak: limited inventory) of these particular wines.  None of them are at the LCBO. If you would like additional bottles of your new favourite Rosewood wine, call me on 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or send an email to to arrange an additional delivery. Savvy Selections is all about introducing you to wonderful Ontario wines!


-Debbie & Savvy Team


Rosewood Estates Winery & Meadery

Presented by Sommelier Debbie Trenholm


“My parents were workaholics & when they took a break for a quick getaway, they’d go to Niagara.  And in the summer, we’d head on a 2 week family vacation to wine regions in France,” shared Krystina. “It was on these trips that all of us caught the wine bug!”

Rosewood familyWhile Krystina (left in photo), her brother William (right) and parents – Renata & Eugene Roman (centre) still travel together to wine regions, the family put the idea into motion by buying 40 acres along the Beamsville Bench (aka Niagara Escarpment) in 2000 and opened Rosewood Estates in 2008. Mark my word, in seven short years, this winery has grown immensely!

We’ve featured Rosewood in Savvy Selections in 2010 & 2013. Over this time their wines have gone from great to incredible.  “Our family is non-stop about wine!” exclaims Krystina.  Now seriously…is that bad thing?

A perfect food & wine match

rosewood ross wise winemakerIn the past 2 years, Ross Wise has been part of that growth as consulting winemaker.  Now he won’t leave!  Hailed from New Zealand where he was studying to become a chef at the time, Ross was intrigued with the rapidly growing wine industry around him in New Zealand.  He took a left hand turn from his culinary studies to enrol in Winemaking & Viticulture in Hawkes Bay. After extensive work in local vineyards & cellars, he took the opportunity to come north to Niagara where he worked in the vineyards at Flat Rock Cellars (about 15 minutes away from Rosewood).  A three month job soon became 6 years including winemaking at Good Earth Wine & Food (in Niagara), Keint-He Winery (in Prince Edward County) and Rosewood.  “He is quite the kiwi…and he won’t leave!” remarked Krystina in a friendly notion.

At Rosewood, Ross & William are always experimenting in the vineyard & in the cellar.  The Lock, Stock & Barrel wine that is in your Savvy Selections is one of their creations.   “We’ll only make it once and when it’s gone, those who have a bottle in their cellar will be very happy”, explains Krystina.

Cheese & Wine – naturally at Rosewood

“I have never met anyone crazier about cheese than Ross”, stated Krystina.  Well, we know one that could rival that statement…our Savvy Cheese Sommelier Vanessa Simmons!  Ross is often searching to make wines that would enhance cheese – either made locally or that he has whipped up in his kitchen.  And mead is a natural complement to cheese too – it’s any wonder that being the winemaker at Rosewood is a perfect match for Ross!

Everyone is family

You will see familiar faces when you visit the winery as “Everyone in our crew is family.  We treat them like family & they don’t leave!”, says Krystina with her signature laugh.  They are a crew of 8 people (4 of them are the Roman family), Ross from New Zealand & Sonia from Italy (who I met when I worked at her husband’s winery in Tuscany – another story!) along with Gabi and Adam who are from nearby.

A very bee-zy place

Rosewood is always a ‘must visit’ when I head to Niagara.  In fact, a whole day can be spent on Mountainview Road with 8 wineries spotted on both sides of the street as you drive up to the top of the bench.

Visit Rosewood during the summer & as you may expect, there are roses everywhere. The estate has a peaceful vista of vines hugging the gentle slopes with Lake Ontario on the horizon.  When you open the grand doors of the tasting room, it is always a beehive of activity!  There are wine lovers at the tasting bar discovering mead for the first time, regulars dropping in to stock up on their favorite honey & wines.  French, German, Italian along with English being spoken to make everyone feel like family.  If you haven’t been yet, make it a stop on your next trip to see what I mean!

This sums it up…

Rosewood's Krystina's wineWhen you live & breathe wine & you’re in business with your family, you may think you know everything that is going on.

Case in point…Krystina was stumped when William gave her this bottle a few days ago.  Thrilled & eager to share, she posted this gift on Facebook.  I think it sums the energy & people at Rosewood.  “This is what a family business is all about…My brother made a wine for me from vines planted in 1986. Crazy special. He got the entire team to hide it from me for 1.5 years. What a guy. What a crew. #BestTeamEver!”


Mead Fact Sheet

Courtesy of Rosewood Estates website

What Is Mead?  

rew_honeybee(1)Made from the fermentation of honey and water, mead (or honey wine) is the earliest known form of consumable alcohol. Its first appearance as a beverage was approximately 10,000 years ago. Mead has deep historical roots, and it was the drink of choice for many ancient civilizations.

In ancient Greece, Hippocrates used mead as a tonic, while the Vikings believed that honey and mead were a gift from the heavens (Valhalla) and possessed magical properties. In Celtic traditions, a wedding wasn’t complete without a mead toast to the young couple, wishing them a sweet marriage. It has even been said that the term honeymoon comes from a tradition where-in the newly married couple would drink mead for a full lunar (moon) cycle, to ensure a long marriage with fertility, health, and success.

Rosewood meads are hand-created from all natural ingredients, showcasing the lush bounty of Ontario. We incorporate our own Niagara Bench honey, Ontario grapes and other local flavours. Honey is a remarkable product which contains a complex mixture of sugars, enzymes, proteins, organic compounds and trace minerals. These compounds give honey its distinctive flavour and aromas, which, when fermented, creates sensational wines with incredible character. Meads are produced in several different styles including some traditional Celtic meads, sweeter ones, and a few which we age for 24-36 months in French Oak barrels.

Innovation is at the heart of our mead making process, and we strive to produce inspired meads with a twist. Our mead’s are inspired by both classic and modern interpretations of this once popular, but almost forgotten drink of the past.

Quick facts & tips about Rosewood Meads:

Rosewood bee hiveMeads vary from dry to sweet.

We produce a wide range of meads including pyments, melomels and barrel aged meads.

Alcohol ranges between 12% to 16.5%.

Some meads are aged in seasoned premium French Oak barrels.

Meads are best served chilled.

Meads are versatile and pair easily with cheeses, desserts, savoury and spicy cuisine. They can also be powerful and interesting mixers in cocktails.

With great aging potential, many of the meads can be enjoyed now or cellared for years.




Rosewood Select Sémillon VQA 2013, $18.00

A grape rarely grown in Ontario, the family discovered this variety during a family vacation in Bordeaux, France…and they fell in love & wanted to make Sémillon at their winery!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: One sip & you’ll be reminded of hot summer days.  Refreshing, crisp, zippy & dry, this white wine has a great balance of acidity & flavours.  Aromas & tastes of crunchy green apple, just ripe pear or white peach, along with an appealing floral notes (daisy perhaps…it’s been a few months since I have smelled them!)

Suggested Food Pairings: “This says seafood all over it”, explains Kyrstina.  “I’d make ceviche.”   On the following pages, we offer an easy ceviche recipe. If fish does not suit your fancy, a simple vegetable dish like pasta primavera would be great.

Cellaring: Why wait?  Chill & serve now.  Aged Sémillon wines are growing in popularity in France.  The crispness of the acidity will mellow to more toasty characteristics over several (8-10) years.  The colour will change too into a golden colour perhaps with an orange hue.


Origins Cabernet Franc VQA 2012, $26.00

What is the origin of Rosewood’s Origins you ask?  It is the reserve series of wines that are unique to Rosewood.  “We make the wines as natural as possible,” explains Krystina. “We take every effort to respect the grapes & let the variety show through.”

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: We are certain that you will be impressed with the depth & concentration of the dark colour of this wine.  It shows that Ontario continues to be an ideal location to grow Cabernet Franc grapes that will make big bold wines.  With each sip you’ll find red fruits (think raspberry & cherry) along with dried black fruit (figs & dates).  In the finish, there’s a pleasant fireside smokiness that makes this wine super rich.

Suggested Food Pairings: This is a well-balanced wine with tannins that become less prominent as you enjoy with grilled meat.  Krystina’s pick – Meatballs, Osso Bucco or Lamb Shanks “I’m the Queen of Lamb Shanks!”  Her recipe was so rudimentary (a bottle of wine, lamb, onions, tomato paste & root vegetables all into a crock pot for hours ), that I found detailed one for you to try below.

Cellaring: This wine was made to cellar.  You will note that the back label has all of the technical details about the wine that you possibly need & learn from!

Lock, Stock & Barrel VQA 2012, $34.00

Membership has its benefits!  This wine is sold out, however magically, you have a bottle in your hands…make that THE last bottle!  This experimental blend of 32% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Cabernet Franc, 11% Petit Verdot & a splash of Malbec (about 9%) is a unique wine for Rosewood.  Never been made before & never will be the same again!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Krystina explains, “separately, the grapes don’t do much on their own, but when blended together, the wine is incredible.” BIG BIG BIG red wine loaded with layers of everything black – black fruit (black berries, black cherries, black figs & dates), dark chocolate, even espresso.  With grape varieties like these, there are tannins, but as you will find, they are delicious, luscious & silky.  Can’t you tell that our Savvy Sommeliers love this wine?!?!

Suggested Food pairings: Fire up the BBQ – enough said! 

Cellaring: Believe it or not, this wine is delicious now.  It will continue to get even better if you have the will power to wait.  Has the cellaring power of 5-15 years.  You read that right!




With Rosewood Select Sémillon…

Cartagena Ceviche

Taste & Travel Magazine – January 2015 issue
Since this dish does not involve any cooking, use the freshest seafood you can find at your local fish monger.


½ lb shrimp, shelled & deveined
½ lb calamari, cleaned & cut into bit size pieces
1 lb white fish, cut into bite-sized chunks
2 cups freshly squeezed lime juice
½ cup freshly squeezed orange juice small red onion, thinly sliced
1 hot green chile pepper, chopped (optional)
½ cup red bell pepper, diced
1 tsp salt (or amount to taste)
½ cup freshly chopped cilantro
saltine crackers


Wash the seafood in cold water, drain and place in bowl. Add the salt and 1 cup of the lime juice.  Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Drain the fish, discarding the lime juice. Add the onion, chile, red pepper, cilantro, orange juice and remaining lime juice. Season with more salt if needed

Serve in small bowls or martini glasses with saltine crackers.



With Origins Cabernet Franc…

Braised Lamb Shanks

from Chef Michael Smith’s Cookbook – 100 of my Favorite Easy Recipes 


2 or 3 Tbsp olive oil
4 large lamb shanks
2 onions, diced
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced bay leaves
2 large sprigs of fresh rosemary
1 can (5.5 oz) tomato paste
1 bottle of Amarone (seriously though… drink the Amarone & cook with a big flavourful red wine – Zinfandel, Shiraz or Merlot)
salt and pepper to taste
½ cup chopped fresh parsley


Preheat the oven to 300F

Splash the olive oil into a Dutch oven & heat over medium-high heat. Add the shanks in the pan and brown thoroughly – turning once or twice until all of the sides are golden brown & caramelized.   Transfer to a plate.

Into the large pot used for the Dutch oven, add onions, carrots and garlic. Sauté until soften and lightly browned (about 10 minutes).  Toss in the bay leaves & rosemary.  Spoon in the tomato paste and pour in the wine. Stir everything together, nestle the lamb shanks into the rich sauce.  Bring liquid to a boil, then cover tightly and transfer into your oven.  Braise until the meat is tender (about 90 mins)

Carefully transfer the shanks to a platter. Cover them with foil and keep warm them warm in the oven while you finish the sauce.

Place the pot over medium-high heat and boil until the braising broth reduces to a sauce-like consistency (about 5 minutes). Stir the parsley. Pour over the sauce over the lamb shanks.

rosewood in winter

With Lock, Stock & Barrel…

Hanger Steaks with Worcestershire Marinade

from Friday Night Dinner Cookbook, by Bonnie Stern

Excerpt from cookbook:

I discovered hanger steak when I went to Las Vegas to speak at a conference. I didn’t like Las Vegas that much, but I loved the hanger steak at L’Atelier, Joel Robuchon’s “downscale” restaurant. (When I was there, there were two Joel Robuchon restaurants in Las Vegas. One was expensive – the one I went to – and the other was really expensive.)

Hanger steak is a favorite of butchers. Traditionally it’s the cut they got to take home because it was considered too ordinary for customers. But like flank steak, flat-iron steak, skirt steak and tri-tip, it is really tender and delicious if cooked rare and thinly sliced, and it is becoming very popular.

This marinade is my version of one from Cumbrae Butchers in Toronto. Be sure to ask your butcher to split the steak and remove the “seam.” (You will have two pieces from hanger steak – one larger and one smaller.) If you can’t find hanger steak, use flank steak, or even a sirloin will work brilliantly


1 Tbsp paprika
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp pepper
3 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 lb. hanger steak


In a small bowl, combine paprika, salt, pepper, garlic, Worcestershire and oil. Rub into steak. Marinate in refrigerator until ready to cook.

Grill thicker part of steak for about 5 minutes per side and thinner part for 3 minutes per side, or until a meat thermometer registers 125 to 130°F (52 to 54°C) for medium-rare. You can also sear the steak in a lightly oiled hot, heavy pan for 1 to 2 minutes per side. Finish cooking in a 425°F (220°C) oven for 7 to 10 minutes, or until medium-rare.

Let steak rest for a few minutes before carving thinly on the diagonal.


Bon Appetite & Enjoy your Savvy Selections!