Posts Tagged ‘icewine’

If I only had $100…I would buy at LCBO Vintages

Posted by Julie

Friday, November 11th, 2016

About this time every year LCBO Vintages showcases ‘Star Quality’ as a feature of the release. We all know what this also means…’star prices’.   Icewine, French Champagne and sparkling wines flow prominently on the pages. I wish I could buy one of each however with my blog budget of $100, I’ll have to leave the Champagne for another time.

vintages-nov-12However, there are some star quality wines that I’d recommend to stock up on.

Also, there are several great wines coming out in large sized 1500 mL bottles. It sounds like a lot of wine, but if you are having a dinner party or a holiday feast, they are super easy to decant at the table and good value too. In particular, I’m thinking of the J. Lohr Seven Oaks Cabernet Sauvignon 2011 at $44.95 or Catena Malbec 2014 at $39.95.  Both red wines are heavy duty crowd pleasers and great accompaniments to lasagna, roasts or ribs.

No shortage of star quality in this release.




If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday November 12, 2016


dog-point-sauvignon-blanc-2015Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Marlborough, South Island, New Zealand
$24.95 (Vintages #677450)  13.5% alcohol

I wouldn’t recommend wines with animals in the name unless it was star quality and this white wine is definitely one that gets top marks. Any easy sipping white wine that is pale in colour but packs a punch in taste and texture.  Aromatic white flowers start the senses with peachy apricots, tree fruit on the palate and a crisp lemon lime finish. It is a light-bodied Sauvignon Blanc with gentle finesse and one mouthwatering taste. Enjoy it on its own, with appetizers or light meals.



clayhouse-cabernet-sauvignon-2015Clayhouse Cabernet Sauvignon 2015

Paso Robles, California
$17.00  (Vintages #057869) 13.5% alcohol

Paso Robles is known for its abundance of olive oil, hot springs, almond orchards and wineries.  Mid-way between Los Angeles and San Francisco the landscape is mainly dry grassland. Roughly 24 miles from the Pacific Ocean, the climate is almost Mediterranean with long hot summers and brief cool winters. This landscapes allows the grapes to reach their absolute maximum potential which we then can enjoy in such vintages as the above. It tastes much richer than its’ terrific price point. Dark and opaque, black currant and plum flavours, smooth as silk with a some pencil shaving oak on the finish. Fruity but structured makes for easy drinking red wine. I’d pair it with any grilled meat or a prime rib roast. Delicious.



Clos de los Siete

Mendoza, Argentina
$23.95 (Vintages #622571) 14.5%

Since returning from a trip to Argentina this past February, a wine from Mendoza always makes its way to my shopping basket. This red wine blend nearly reaches nirvana for me. Predominantly Malbec (57%) with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah in the follow up. Dark ruby with aromas and flavours of ripe blueberries, black cherries, currants with some mocha on the finish. This nectar  integrates soft tannins with fabulously smooth intensity and depth. Pair with the usual red meat suspects but worthy of a veal chop splurge.



Reif Vidal Icewine 2014

VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake
$24.95  (Vintages #544791) 10% alcohol

Reif Estate Winery has been a long time producer of fine Canadian icewine. This one is harvested from a 12 acre block planted in 1981. Those grapes have had lots of time to think about their future! The average picking temperatures range from -10 to -12 C and this vintage was harvested in January 2014.  Lusciously sweet with honey, toffee, apricots and peaches fill the senses with a memorable creamy mouthfeel. There is a little marmalade on the finish and it is a divine expression of icewine.  With some soft blue cheese it would be over the top.


Grand Total = $90.85



If I only had $100…I would buy at LCBO Vintages

Posted by Julie

Friday, September 16th, 2016

I was pretty excited to see the feature at the LCBO Vintages be shining the spotlight on Ontario wines. I am a firm believer that we never have to look further than our own backyard for great vintages.

sept-17-vintages-catalogueWe have wineries in the Niagara Escarpment, Prince Edward County, Lake Huron, Pelee Island and Georgian Bay, just to name a few.  This past summer, my husband I toured around the Twenty Valley and Niagara-on-the-Lake regions visiting several wineries and the enticement of uncorking new wines that we could not purchase locally just overcame us. We stocked up!  If you have not had a trip to wine country this summer, here is the opportunity to go wild at Vintages and pick up some gems.

The 2016 grape harvest is underway! Ontario winemakers have finished picking grapes for sparkling wine and are now busily harvesting white wine grapes.  By all reports from wineries, the crops are looking good!  Pick up some Ontario wines to celebrate our beautiful province and let’s toast the winemakers that make it all happen.



If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday September 17, 2016


13th Street White Palette 2015

VQA Niagara Peninsula
$15.95 (Vintages #207340) 12.5% alcohol 

A fabulous & unique blend of 53% Riesling, 18% Chardonnay, 17% Gewurztraminer, 9% Sauvignon Blanc with a dash of 3% Pinot Gris. The grapes were hand harvested from a variety of vineyards throughout the Niagara Peninsula, with the vast majority from the 13th  Street Estate vineyards. All varieties were fermented separately in stainless steel then blended in the final stage.

Aromas of orchard wildflowers at their peak housed in a soft golden colour. There’s gentle honeysuckle and lemon aromas on the palate with tree fruit; apricots and yellow apples mixed with some buttery almonds on the finish. Delicious and flavourful. My husband and I enjoyed this white wine with some grilled chicken and Caesar salad and it was over the top perfect!


Flat Rock Riesling 2014flat-rock-riesling

VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Peninsula
$16.95 (Vintages # 43281)  11%  alcohol

White blossoms and ripe tree fruit capture the senses.  Slightly off-dry with lots of fruity flavours, ripe peaches and apples. This medium-bodied white wine has a delectable seam of acidity that sends you back for another sip. It’s smooth and elegant.

Lovely on it’s own or with lighter fare of fish tacos, salads or a bowl of steamed mussels.



rapscallion-wine-companySmoke & Gamble Cabernet/Merlot 2012

VQA Ontario  (Rapscallion Wine Company)
$19.95 (Vintages #332825) 13% alcohol 

Located in Port Dover in the county of Norfolk, this winery is new for me and does not disappoint. On the bottle label it states 44% barrel aged and 56% stainless – meaning that this is a blend of wine that was both aged in barrels and tank resulting in a medium bodied red wine.

There is a subtle whiff of dusty aromas (that is a good thing for a wine that is 4 years old already!) with suggestions of roses and violets coupled with red and blackberries on the palate. There is a subtle sweetness of black plums with freshly ground green and black pepper on the long finish. It is slightly tart with firm tannins but then moved into a fabulously smooth and tantalizing red wine blend.  Would definitely marry a hearty autumn stew or thick-with-meat chili.


westcott-temperance-redWestcott Vineyards Temperance Red 2014

VQA Vinemount Ridge Niagara Peninsula
$19.95 (Vintages # 469189) 13.4% alcohol

Bravo to these young retired folks, who bought a 200 year-old timber frame barn, restored it to build a winery around the original structure.  And on top of all that, they planted 26 acres of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. Talk about a leap of faith. This relatively new winery located in Jordan, Ontario, is right in the heart of the Twenty Valley region, where the soil is the creme de la creme for growing grapes.

This interesting Cabernet Franc & Pinot Noir red wine blend is loaded with red berries – cherry and raspberry flavours jump from this light bodied pale red nectar. It shows more like a light bodied Pinot Noir with layers of personality. Pair it with pork or roast poultry encrusted with lots of herbs.


pondview-icewinePondview Vidal Icewine 2014

VQA Niagara Peninsula
$19.95 (Vintages #390351) 11% alcohol

It has been a while since I included an icewine in my list.  This one is a great price!

By definition, icewines can only be made from grapes that have naturally frozen on the vine and picked when the thermometer dips to -8°C or lower. While the grape harvest yield is particularly low, (hence the high expense), icewine offers a mouthfeel and sweet deliciousness that is worth every penny. With a under $20 price tag on this icewine, our friends at Pondview are giving it away.

This dessert wine has aromas and flavours of sweet baked yellow apple, pear and marmalade, citrus notes at the end of this long divine finish. Dinner becomes memorable when you end with such panache.


Grand Total – $92.75



A spring time wines shopping list…

Posted by Julie

Saturday, April 12th, 2014

The LCBO Vintages is sure pulling out all the bells and whistles for it this weekend’s (April 12) release to coincide with Easter celebrations. Regardless of religious beliefs, countries all over the world seem to celebrate Easter in various ways. Some people deliver chocolate or real eggs & live bunnies, throw pots of water out of windows, fly homemade kites or ski. Regardless the tradition, Easter is a symbol of spring and fertility. Albeit, as I write this I have not seen many sprouting daffodils but regardless of country, most cultures bring out wine, spirits and their best ethnic food for the occasion.

LCBO Vintages magazine April 12Whether you having a traditional Easter feast of turkey, ham, fish, lamb, all or any of the above (invite me please!) you certainly need some wine to help wash it down. To help decide which ones, I have made this weekend’s shopping list for a spring time feast that would be great to serve with any of the above dishes.  And a splash of little icewine is always a nice finale to any meal – I recommend Reif Vidal Icewine 2012 (Vintages #3544791) as it would not break the bank at $24.95.

Spring always cheers us on and with these releases we’re well on our way to bunny hopping.

Happy Easter!


If I only had $100, I would buy at LCBO Vintages
April 12th, 2014


Cathedral Cellar Brut SparklingCathedral Cellar Brut Sparkling 2010

Méthode Cap Classique, WO Western Cape, South Africa
$16.95 (Vintages #296426) 12% alcohol

Sparkling wine is an elegant start to any event and impossible to go wrong with this Chardonnay and Pinot Noir blend. Light, moussey bubbles abound, fine texture with a chalky base, slightly toasty with lemon, pear flavours and a touch minerality. A fabulous price point for this bone dry beautiful bubbly.


Lailey Chardonnay 2012Lailey Chardonnay 2012

VQA Niagara Peninsula
$19.95  (Vintages #193482)  13.5% alcohol

Winemaker, Derek Barnett must sleep well at night. On 20 acres of premium Niagara land, and from 100% Ontario grown grapes the end result is an absolutely magnificent white wine. I am a huge Lailey fan and this is a beautiful Chardonnay. Smooth as silk on the palate with ripe yellow apple and honeydew melon flavours, a pinch citrus and a clean refreshing finish. It is a tantalizing white wine, sending you back for more. It would food pair with all the usual Chardonnay partners but it is so delicious, I recommend it on its own. 


Newton Johnson Pinot NoirNewton Johnson Pinot Noir 2012

WO Upper Hemel en aarde Valley, Walker Bay
South Africa
$26.95 (Vintages # 660878)  13.5% alcohol

This new Pinot on the block does not disappoint. Lovely smooth red cherry flavour with soft herbs and tannins. This red wine has quite a respectable length and is a wine with finesse. A perfect accompaniment to turkey or ham.


SkuttlebuttStella Bella Skuttlebutt Shiraz/Cabernet 2009

Margaret River, Western Australia
$19.95 (Vintages # 58131) 14% alcohol

After I taste 30-40 bottles of wine, my handwriting becomes skewed and I shorten words that I can only guess later, however my notes on this were clear and when I place mega stars, that’s a definite that I must pick up a couple of bottles. Rich berry flavours deep garnet purple a little woodsy with loads of flavour and texture. Medium bodied red wine with soft tannins; a great drinking wine and as for food – lamb stew to anything grilled would more than work and be enjoyed.


Featherstone RoseFeatherstone Rosé 2013

VQA Niagara Peninsula
$14.95 (Vintages # 117861) 13% alcohol

Years ago I took pictures of the Featherstone winery with sheep nibbling at the grape leaves to help ripen the grapes.  Fond memories. Nothing says spring like a beautiful glass of salmon coloured rosé. In my opinion, most rosés have flavours of strawberries, and often rhubarb, which is true for this rosé however I also found some savoury, vegetal elements with juicy acidity, This rosé wine is medium bodied with a longer finish than many others. Makes for a great appertif and has enough structure to match any lighter fare dishes.


 I’m ready for Easter – Grand Total: $ 98.75


Easy as Pie!

Posted by Patti

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

One of our Savvy Selections wine of the month subscribers invited me to dinner & served this dessert.  It is OMG delicious!  And while he fessed up that he doesn’t usually make desserts, this recipe is no sweat at all. His tip – be watchful that the pie pastry doesn’t brown too quickly.

Quick Apple Tart


1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-ounce package), thawed
3 medium Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, very thinly sliced
2 Tbsp (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted
3 Tbsp white sugar mixed with 1/2 teaspoon (or so) of ground cinnamon
1/4 cup apricot jam, melted



  1. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  2. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. Unfold pastry on parchment paper (do not skip this step!)
  3. Using the tines of fork, pierce 1/2-inch border around edge of pastry, then pierce center all over
  4. Arrange apples atop pastry in 4 rows, overlapping apple slices and leaving border clear.
  5. Brush apples with melted butter; sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake 30 minutes.
  6. Brush melted jam over apples. Put the tart back into the oven until golden, about 8 minutes longer. Serve warm or at room temperature.

What bottle of wine to uncork?

When you pair a dessert with a wine, the rule of thumb is to select a wine that is sweeter than the dessert. Nothing goes better with an apple dessert than Ontario ice wine. Chill a glass of icewine made with Vidal or Riesling or even Gewürztraminer and you have a heavenly match. See our list of suggested Ice wines


It’s delicious when it’s 13 degrees below zero

Posted by Eva

Friday, July 20th, 2012

13th Street Winery has been crafting outstanding wines in their own way for a number of years.  Located in Twenty Valley wine region in Niagara Peninsula, their beginnings was simple: 4 amateaur winemakers pooling their equipment & land to try their hand at making wines in an industrial-looking garage.  Their customers were family, friends and neighbours…but then the word started to spread and total strangers arrived wanting to pay for their experimental wines!  Now expanded & with new owners and housed in a converted farm house, they are no longer located on 13th Street, yet around the corner.  Their reputation continues to grow, most notably for their array of sparkling wines, dry Riesling white wine and Gamay medium bodied red wines.

At 13th Street, riesling grapes are used to make sparkling wine, table wine and this unique off-dry (winespeak: lightly sweet) wine.

13 Degreets Below Zero 2010

$19.95 (375 mL bottle)

Your sweet tooth will be raging with a sip of this unique dessert wine from 13th Street Winery.  It’s not late harvest wine, nor is it icewine, rather a special creation that only the team at 13th Street Winery can mark as their own.  Made with Riesling grapes that have been lightly touched by frost creating a naturally sweet wine that is far from the typical cloying texture of icewine or late harvest dessert wines.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: With each sip, you will notice the layers of acidity, yellow apple & minerals aromas & tastes that make this a refreshing wine with its acidity.

Food Pairing Suggestion:  Serve chilled as an apperitif, with a meal of lobster, chicken with a tarragon & cream sauce or enjoy a small glass after meal with artisan cheeses, roasted nuts, fresh fruit salad, butter tarts or apple pie.


Want to buy this wine?  We can arrange for it to be delivered!

13th Street Winery will be a feature winery in our Savvy Selections wine of the month club. Like this wine? Subscribe & it’ll be delivered to your home or office!


On the road again…to Niagara!

Posted by Susan

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

A recent week-long trip to the Niagara area offered not only great golfing weather, but an opportunity to take in Wainfleet’s Marshville Heritage Festival before visiting a few of my favorite wineries,  all of which will be featured in our Savvy Selections wine of the month club over the next few months.

The Marshville Heritage Festival celebrated its 20th anniversary this year.  Organized entirely by volunteers, the Festival celebrates the 1829 founding of a small Ontario village associated with the construction of the first Welland Canal.  The volunteer society has restored 17 buildings, including a one and one-half story limestone house built in 1790, a sawmill built in 1891 (at the Festival, it was being run by the 70-year-old grandsons of the founder – how neat is that!?), an outdoor oven (where women in period dress were baking fabulous cornbread), and a cabinet-maker’s shop which once belonged to J.W. Overholt, a prominent abolitionist who sheltered escaped slaves.  A wide range of artisans and food vendors vied for space with the historical buildings.  The Festival is the Society’s primary fundraiser and is a great educational and entertainment event for all ages.  If you’re in the Niagara area in early September next year, don’t miss it this festival.

After an enjoyable couple of days at the Festival and on the golf links, I got down to the serious business of wine tasting!  My first stop was Reif Estate Winery, where I met with Klaus Reif, President and Oenologist, and Andrea Kaiser, who is responsible for the winery’s retail operations and promotion.  We had a great chat about Klaus’ early years, the evolution of the winery, as well as some the new challenges he has set himself.  This includes the innovative use of tobacco kilns for creating temperature-controlled environments to dry grapes for passito-style wines and to produce botrytis-affected grapes for Sauternes-style wines.  Reif Estate has some great wines, including some outstanding Bordeaux-style blends.  More to follow in the Savvy Selections  this November.  Consider subscribing for an opportunity to try some of the hard to find Reif wines along with the recipes we recommend! 

For those of you who know me, I am a strong proponent of organic wines, so my trip included a visit at Frogpond Farm  and Southbrook Vineyards, both of which will be featured in spring issues of the Savvy Selections. 

Frogpond Farm is the original certified organic winery in Niagara.  Jens and Heike are excited about their expansion onto a new certified organic acreage in the peninsula, and are now producing wines in 750 ml bottles as well as their traditional 500 ml format.  We tasted a range of wines, including the 2006 Cabernet Franc from their original property and the 2007 Cabernet Franc from the new property.  This side-by-side tasting was a great opportunity to compare the significant differences terroir and vintage can make to a wine.  While the 2006 is brawny and robust, the 2007 is more fruity and delicate.  We laughingly decided that the former was more ‘masculine’, while the latter, more ‘feminine’!

I spent time with Elena Galey-Pride, Director of Customer Experience at Southbrook Vineyards, learning about their transition to biodynamic and organic viticulture and viniculture.  To quote their winemaker, Anne Sperling, “Biodynamics is like extreme organics!”  In effect, biodynamic producers have a profound respect for the influence of nature on their crops and products, and work to optimize, preserve and recycle the resources of their farmed land.  The biodynamic processes on site continue to evolve, with a decision made to establish their own herd of sheep next year, and the use of natural fermentation in winemaking.  Southbrook’s first biodynamic release was their Cabernet Franc Rose this summer – we sipped from one of the few remaining bottles.  In October, the winery will release their second biodynamic wine, the 2008 Triomphe Merlot, which offers strong fruity flavors with a great balance of acidity and tannins. 

Pillitteri Estates Winery was our last stop of the day, where we participated in a wonderfully informative tour of the winery, then tasted a wide range of their still and sweet wines.  The Pillitteri family story seems like a Canadian fairy tale.  Gary Pillitteri came to Canada in 1948, when his grandfather purchased their original 56-acre fruit farm off Niagara Stone Road.  A series of photos show the evolution of the farm from orchard to vineyard, and of the retail building from fruit stand to combined tasting room, retail shop and fruit stand.  When Gary won his first award as an amateur winemaker for his Vidal ice wine, a family decision was made to move beyond grape growing into winemaking.  Pillitteri Estates Winery has expanded to 100 acres and is a family affair involving Gary, his wife, their three children and the five grandchildren.  Fifty-five or more percent of their production is sweet wines, for which they have won numerous prestigious awards, including a recent gold for their Shiraz Ice Wine at the Syrah du Monde competition.  Yet, with all this success, staff at the winery speak with great affection about the work environment the family has created.  Said one individual, “Mrs. P (Pillitteri) often comes in and makes pizza for everyone on the weekend.  And the family usually gathers in the winery at the end of the day to share dinner.”  Not only does Mrs. P make pizza, as I noticed when we were in the tasting room, she also comes by and helps the staff wash tasting glasses! 

We toured Pillitteri’s barrel cellar, which is one of the largest in the Niagara at 6000 square feet.  In the barrel cellar, Gary Pillitteri has created a fascinating homage to his success in Canada.  He firmly believes that 23 is his lucky number.  He arrived in Canada on that date, and his wife and two of his children were born on that date.  The 42-foot-long single-pour concrete table in the cellar is surrounded by 23 chairs made from a single steel fermentation tank.  The table has 5 supporting legs (2+3) and 23 lights hand above it.  23 steps lead from the barrel cellar to the tasting room. 

After the extensive tour, we were thirsty, so up those stairs we went!!  We sampled the toasty 2007 Sur Lie Chardonnay, the aromatic 2008 Gewurztraminer/Riesling blend, and the Bottled Blond Bradshaw Reserve – Dr. Marc  Bradshaw, Pillitteri’s young winemaker from SouthAfrica, dyes his hair, hence the name!  Among the reds, we sampled both the 2007 Merlot and the 2002 Merlot, each reflecting its unique vintage and winemaker.  And the 2007 Cabernet Franc was a great hit, full-bodied and well balanced with a lingering finish.  One of my favorite sweet wines is Pillitteri’s Select Late Harvest Chambourcin, produced from a hybrid varietal – it has a beautiful balance of tart red fruit, rhubarb and honey.  The grand finale was a taste of the 2007 Sticky Beak Ice Wine, which includes a blend of the Cabernets, Sangiovese and Shiraz – the perfect ending to a beautiful experience.  Pillitteri Estates Wines has been a Savvy Selections feature in past years, and we look forward to showcasing their wines again soon. 

Our thirst sated, we were hungry!  On a recommendation, we headed to Olson Foods at Ravine.  This is the new home of Anna and Michael Olson’s gourmet bakery and deli, located in St. David’s adjacent to Ravine Vineyards.  Opened in the summer of 2008, the single-story rustic building looks like an old farmhouse with an inviting veranda surrounding it. The scarred wooden tables and mismatched chairs make the interior feel like you’re stepping into your grandmother’s kitchen.  Anna was welcoming guests and helping out at the cash, where she willingly signed copies of her recipe books.  The food was great  – sharing plates or modest main plates were freshly made with local ingredients, and very reasonably priced.  A wide range of fresh breads and pastries tempted us to stay for a lingering cup of tea.  And the wide range of condiments, oils, vinegars and kitchen necessities beckoned from the well-planned displays.  This is a must-visit spot whether or not you are visiting wineries!  

If you can’t make it to Niagara but are tempted by some of the great wines I’ve mentioned, contact me to order a selection of wines from Reif Estate Winery,  Frogpond Farm, Southbrook Vineyards or Pillitteri Estates – or any other winery featured in our Savvy Selections .   



PS – when you are heading to Niagara, contact me for the Savvy ‘must visit’ list of wineries and restaurants.  With over 90 wineries in the area, it can be difficult to figure out where to visit.  The Savvy team of Sommeliers have visited them all and offer you our insight to make your Niagara wine adventure memorable.


Icewines…well thawed out

Posted by Debbie

Friday, April 24th, 2009


One way to cool down on a warm day is to treat yourself to a delicious sip of icewine.  In fact…I was treated to a sampling of 15 different icewines at this year’s Vancouver Playhouse International Wine Festival offered for those of us who have a sweet tooth.  Rows and rows of glasses were readied as winemakers from Ontario, British Columbia, Washington and Germany shared with us stories about each sweet creation, their experiments, and tales of harvest in frigid temperatures (grapes need to be picked when -8C or colder to be labeled as icewine and command the high price point).  This seminar made my teeth sing as I sipped the sweet nectar. 


Celebrated wine author, John Schreiner explained that while researching his book, Icewine: The Wine of Winter, the Germans laid claim to making the first wine with naturally frozen grapes.  The Austrians perfected this art.  The idea grew to make icewine in Ontario in the early 1980’s when a group of Austrians grape growers and winemakers were involved in pioneering the Ontario wine industry. 


“After a number of years of experimenting, Ontario icewine was put on the map when Don Ziraldo, founder of Inniskillin took a bottle of icewine (made by winemaker Karl Kaiser) to a wine competition in Bordeaux, France in 1990.  Don casually served this novel wine to his peers to get their impression”, tells John Schreiner.  Encouraged by the impressive feedback, Ziraldo entered a bottle into the competition the following year and won top award in the sweet wine category. 


That was the legendary beginning spotlighting Canada on the world wine stage.


In 2008, Vintners Quality Alliance (VQA) reports that 130 plus icewines were produced in Canada – mainly using Vidal grapes.  Paul Bosc, owner of Chateau des Charmes Winery explained, “Vidal has thick skins and strong stems that withstand the harsh weather while waiting for the magic temperature of -8 degrees to be harvested“.  Other grape varieties successfully used for icewine include Riesling and Cabernet Franc.  Recent experiments include icewine made with Viognier, Tempranillo, Shiraz and Pinot Noir grapes.



Savvy Sommelier tasting notes on icewines featured in this seminar:

Jackson Triggs Okanagan Grand Reserve Riesling Sparkling Icewine 2007 VQA, Okanagan, British Columbia

Sitting at my table on my immediate left was Derek Kontkanen, Jackson Trigg’s newest winemaker.  This wine is one of three sparkling icewines made in the world. Double fermented to create the elegant bubbles that seem to lighten the typical cloying texture of icewine.  Honey, mango & pineapple with a refreshing acidity – this wine is simply heaven in my glass!


Chateau des Charmes Vidal Icewine 2006 VQA, Niagara, Ontario

A classic – golden nectar that oozes aromas and tastes of a freshly cut sweet pineapple with flavours of dried apricots intermingled.  Smooth texture allows the wine to glide over your tongue with a finish that lingers long after your first sip.


Peninsula Ridge Riesling Icewine VQA 2006, Niagara, Ontario

Founder Norman Beal told the story how over the years, his winemaker originally from Chablis, France, Jean-Pierre Colas, had never made icewine. “After I enticed him to move his family to Niagara and all of the contracts were signed, I slipped the comment ‘…and you will have to make icewine… Jean Pierre, just looked at me true to his French character, he shook his head at the ludicrous idea.  After several attempts, he has now warmed up to the idea and is making impressive icewines.”  This Riesling is butterscotch in colour with pear and marmalade aromas and tastes, this wine is refreshing with a long finish.  Perfect with blue veined cheeses or a slice of rustic tarte aux pommes.


Mission Hill Riesling Icewine VQA 2006, Okanagan, British Columbia

“Icewine harvest came unusually early in 2006”, recalled winemaker John Simes.  Picked on Nov 28 & 29th (a month early than previous years), the wine was all about caramel, butterscotch and toffee. Delicious!


Then the Germans showed their talent…

Erbacher Michelmark Riesling Eiswein 2001, Germany

Hard to believe that this is 8 years old, this elegant, light wine impressed us all.  “Smells and tastes like lemon drop candies – you know the hard ones dusted with icing sugar’, commented one of the participants. Refreshing with notes of lemongrass, chamomile flowers this wine showcased that there are many styles of icewines.


St Urbans-Hof Ockfener Bockstein 1998, Germany

Vintner Nik Weis, explained that the biggest challenge of making this wine is keeping the deer from eating the frozen grapes before they are picked.  Very different from the other icewines, this one had delicate floral aromas reminding me of elderflower, lilac and rose with a mineral undertone.


We were then treated to an icewine made 25 years ago…

Hainle 1984 Riesling Icewine, British Columbia

Jaws dropped as we savoured the toffee coloured icewine that was pulled out of the winery’s library.  I have never had anything like this.  Reminiscent of Cognac aromas and taste, this wine was made with Canada’s first certified organic grapes.  “This was a classic case of roaming through the vineyards one wintery day only to discover – Oh my god, we forgot to pick this row of grapes,” recounted Tilman Hainle whose father was the original owner of the winery at the time (the current owners are the Huber family)


For something different…

Working Horse Pinot Noir 2007 Okanagan, British Columbia

 Tilman Hainle continued his presentation as he poured this interesting icewine made with Pinot Noir grapes.  Canada’s first organic winemaker and well known in Okanagan, was establishing his second winery – Working Horse Winery.  “A grape grower called me late one evening saying that he had organic icewine grapes available….what he meant was that they were available right there and then! This opportunity does not happen often. My winery was not built yet nor did I have any equipment.  After phoning around and calling in favours, I was thrilled to be able to make this icewine.” 


Summerhill Pyramid Winery Organic Pinot Noir Icewine 2003 VQA, Okanagan, British Columbia

I carefully sipped on this icewine appreciating that the grapes were grown only a few kilometers away from the devastating forest fires of 2003.  Looking like wild strawberry jam in my glass, there were delicate aromas of roasted coffee mixed with tastes of homemade strawberry jam.  A beautiful wine, “…one that I enjoy dunking a biscotti into my glass”, suggested winemaker Eric vonKrosigk


Inniskillin Tempranillo Icewine 2007 VQA, Okanagan, British Columbia

Sitting on my right was winemaker Sandor Mayer who immigrated from Hungary for the opportunity to work at Inniskillin in the Okanagan.  Sandor has been experimenting with small plantings of different grape varieties to see what will grow in Okanagan. His small section of Tempranillo grapes were left on the vine until frozen (on January 1st!) then crushed to make this novel icewine.  Garnet colour with cherry aromas with tastes of raspberries and red candied apples that you find in a country fair, every sip was both sweet and refreshing with lively acidity.  A neat treat.


The finish line…

Pillitteri Estates Shiraz Icewine 2006 VQA, Niagara, Ontario

 “A real prize”, states winery president, Charlie Pillitteri, whose winery claims that they are the world’s largest producer of estate icewine. Not only is Charlie proud of this unique wine, this delicious wine was ranked the 2nd top Syrah in the world at the Syrah du Mondes competition in France last year.  It had an interesting aroma and taste that I could not identify until Charlie suggested ‘a good German made black forest cake’.  Exactly – both the dry dark chocolate cake and the sweet red cherries were captured in my glass.  Outstanding.


My sweet tooth was royally treated in this tasting.  It was an impressive experience to hear from each of the winemakers and winery owners whose devotion to craft icewine despite the challenges of cold temperatures.  Their passion encouraged us all to showcase icewine to more wine lovers.  “We should not wait until after dinner to serve it,” remarked Charlie Pillitteri, “at this point we are often too full.  Why not open a bottle of icewine before a meal?”


I will certainly try this at my next dinner party with friends.




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Savvy Selections e-Zine featuring Pillitteri Estates Winery

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009


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

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


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


Your February Savvy Selections includes:

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

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

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

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


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


What do you think?

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


Cheers and keep warm!

Debbie & the Savvy Team



Pillitteri Estates Winery
presented by Sommelier Gina Wohlgemuth  

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers & Enjoy!


~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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


~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

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

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

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


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

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

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

4.      Serve with your favourite salsa.


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

Serves 4

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

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

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

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

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


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


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