Posts Tagged ‘Megalomaniac Wines’

Deeply rooted Sue-Ann Staff & her wines

Posted by Susan

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012


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

– January 2012 –

Cruise up the vine lined slopes above Jordan village, as I did last summer, and you’ll find Staff Avenue and Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery. My curiosity was piqued – what was the story behind Sue-Ann Staff’s newly opened winery, housed on her family’s historic farm? The dramatic white barn and family home come into view, a large cold-weather bell crafted in mid-1800s England gracing the entrance, ready to ring you onto the property. Exit the car and you will be greeted by a friendly, well-mannered Bernese Mountain dog named BRIX, who will lead you to the side entrance of the house. There you head into the relaxed, welcoming tasting bar that Sue-Ann and her family have set up in their farmhouse kitchen. Sue-Ann offers a warm welcome, sharing her passion for the wine, the vineyards and her family’s history.

Sue-Ann’s family emigrated from England in the late 1700s, her ancestor Robert Staff acquiring the current property over 2 centuries ago. The first vineyard was planted in 1898 by her great-grandfather comprising of 3.3 acres of Concord grapes located at the corner of Staff Avenue and 17th Street. This vineyard may be the oldest productive one in Niagara and continues to be retained by the family as a living legacy. You may in fact taste these grapes in Welch’s grape juice, as the fruit is shipped annually to the company’s processing plant in Pennsylvania. Through the generations, the Staff farming and agricultural operations have evolved. Historically, it was the largest private fruit-growing operation in Canada, with over 800 acres of grapes. And at one time, 5% of the estate was reserved for research by Jordan Wines.

Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery & Winemaker

 The prospect of a family-owned winery was often discussed at family gatherings, yet the idea became fruition one day while Sue-Ann was thinning crop with her father. ‘What are you doing?” her father asked. “I’m thinking,” replied Sue-Ann, “…I’m thinking there’s no reason I couldn’t start my own winery.” Soon after, in 2009, Sue-Ann Staff Winery opened. Sue-Ann describes the excitement as well as the terror of releasing wines under her name, aware of the significant investment she made while wondering how her wines would be received by the public. This was a fleeting moment now a couple of years later, as success has shown with several wines already sold out!

Our feature of Sue-Ann Staff Estate wines ensures Savvy subscribers have the opportunity to sample a unique selection of Sue-Ann’s wines:

      • – Staff Cabernet Franc VQA 2010the velvety, earthy laced with balsamic characteristics
      • – Megalomaniac Cabernet Frank VQA 2009 –  a BIG treat for our subscribers!
      • Megalomaniac Cabernet Sauvignon VQA 2008 – full bodied red that she made as a consulting winemaker for winery owner John Howard


Riesling Icewine VQA 2007a luscious, beautifully balanced honeyed fruit extravaganza,

– Pinot Gris VQA 2010previous vintages quickly sold out.  Given the quality of the 2010 vintage, it is anticipated that this wine will fly off the shelves

We are delighted to introduce you to Sue-Ann & her wines.  Be sure to visit the Staff farm to experience the warm welcome offered by Sue-Ann, her family & BRIX too!

Debbie & Savvy Team


Our wine of the month club discovers the talent of Sue-Ann Staff

Posted by Susan

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012


Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery
Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins

Sue-Ann Staff ‘s name precedes her reputation in the Canadian wine industry. Growing up on the family farm, it was natural to pursue a degree in horticulture and biotechnology from the University of Guelph. Shortly after graduating, she headed to Australia to complete a graduate degree in oenology at the University of Adelaide.

With her graduate studies as the launching pad for her winemaking career, she worked the harvest at a winery in Australia’s Hunter Valley, then returned home to Niagara, beginning her career as assistant winemaker at Pillitteri Estates under the guidance of Joe Will. Within 6 months, she was named winemaker, spending 10 years crafting internationally recognized award-winning wines. When the newly founded Twenty Bees Winery came calling with an ambitious icewine program for Sue-Ann & she accepted. “I learned a huge amount about operations, planning and governance, and got great experience that led me later to decide to establish my own winery”. Through the years, she’s also visited and worked in France, Germany, Andorra & South Africa.

Following what seemed an inescapable destiny, she founded Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, and took on the role of Winemaster for the John Howard Cellars of Distinction, producing wines for the Megalomaniac brand. Already marked in her winemaking career, she has been acclaimed Winemaker of the Year (2002) by the Ontario Wine Society and has twice been recognized as one of the top four ‘Women in Wine’ by the International Wine and Spirits society in the U.K.

Rooted in her land, makes quality wines

Growing up on the farm, Sue-Ann developed an intimate understanding of the interplay between the land and the wine. “It seems like a cliché, but I’m a farmer’s daughter.” She has lived the evolution of her family’s property: the growth of juice and table grapes, the impact of Canadian-US Free Trade agreement, the vine pull-out program & the disappearance of local processing plants. Stubbornly, the family has continued to plant vinifera grapes.

Of the 140 acres on the home farm, 35 are under vine. Taking a conservative approach, the reliable Riesling and Baco Noir grapes were planted 15 years ago, followed by Pinot Gris 6 years later. Cabernet Franc, Vidal and Viognier followed 5 years ago, although, says Sue-Ann “Viognier is a stretch up here on the Beamsville escarpment”. Recognizing Niagara’s cool-climate terroir, Sue-Ann identified and planted those varietals most suitable to the region and the property, the parcels specifically selected to optimize the chosen varietal. The property sits astride two Niagara sub-appellations, 20-Mile Bench and Vinemount Ridge. The Ridge lies just above and south of the brow of the Niagara Escarpment, a long narrow moraine whose subtly undulating landscape creates many shallow, east- and south-facing slopes that provide ideal sun exposure and early spring warming to the deep clay soils. The Bench exhibits a recognizable double bench formation and short varied slopes that roll to the brow of the escarpment. Sheltered north-facing slopes & moderated temperatures due to the lake effect create ideal growing conditions.

A winery with a conscience

Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery is a designated sustainable winery, where low water use & conscientious efficient use of resources and materials ensure a minimal impact of grape growing and winemaking on the estate environment. In this commitment, she follows in the footsteps of her ancestors, who have been stewards of the land for two centuries.

Estate Winery Home at Sue-Ann Staff Winery in Niagara

 Sue-Ann produces VQA wines from estate-grown grapes, her goal to create enticing, vibrant whites, intriguing reds and luscious icewines. Coming back to the land, she reminisces, “after 10 years at Pillitteri, I had forgotten how rewarding it is to cultivate a vineyard, to nurture my own vines, to watch the entire grape maturation process—this is one of the great satisfactions in my life.”

With her first crush in 2008, she produced 2000 cases (approx. 24,000 bottles). She anticipates that 2011 will yield an increase to 3000 cases, with a goal of 6000 cases by 2013. After that, it’s a matter of scale, and Sue-Ann will have to decide where she wants to take her estate winery.

“It’s the first time I’ve been responsible for the entire process. It’s a satisfying day when the harvest comes in, & the sense of personal satisfaction continues when the wine is bottled. It’s a bit like your children graduating from university.” We’d say these graduates are magna cum laude!

Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections!