Posts Tagged ‘Niagara wineries’

Meet the winemakers of Pondview & Sue-Ann Staff wines

Posted by Amanda

Friday, April 17th, 2015

From fruit trees to vineyards  – over generations, their family farms have become wineries. Meet two families who have been fruit farmers in Niagara for many generations &now their land produces internationally award-winning wines. They’ve grown up on the farm & certainly know what it’s like to get their hands dirty. Join us on Wednesday April 22 for the Portfolio Tasting featuring Pondview & Sue-Ann Staff Wineries to sample these outstanding wines.

Introducing…Sue-Ann Staff

Sue Ann at tasting bar-001Mention the family name ‘Staff’ and everyone in the Ontario wine industry knows exactly who you are talking about. Sue-Ann Staff is the first of 6 generations of fruit farmers to become a winemaker…and an international award-winning one too!

Making her mark at Pillitteri Estates and megalomaniac, Sue-Ann has always been one to lend a hand at neighbouring wineries because ‘we are a small community & everyone pitches in’. She recently took the plunge to focus solely on her namesake winery where the tasting bar is in the kitchen of her grandmother’s farmhouse.

Introducing…Lou Puglisi

pondview_family_3jpgThe Puglisi family grew grapes for many generations in Italy. When they immigrated to Niagara-on-the-Lake in 1964, they naturally planted vineyards as pioneers of the Ontario grape growing industry.

By the age of 19, Lou had saved enough money from working on the farm & construction jobs to buy his dream sportscar – a red Camaro. His father wisely convinced him to use his savings to buy the property beside the family farm that has since transformed into Pondview Estates Winery. Now, Lou is continuing the family tradition by raising his 3 boys surrounded by the vineyards. Lou drives a minivan & hasn’t yet bought a Camaro.

Event Details

Date: Wednesday April 22
Talk around the Kitchen Table – 5:30pm
Portfolio Tasting – drop in between 6:30 & 9 pm
Location: Orange Art Gallery, 290 City Centre, Ottawa (free parking available)

Special pre-event talk

In every farmhouse, the kitchen table is the hub of the family. Sue-Ann and Lou invite you to their ‘kitchen table’ to learn first-hand about the synergies of grape growing to winemaking while you taste previous vintages & barrel samples of Sue-Ann’s Riesling (her signature grape variety) and Pondview’s Cabernet Franc. Limited to 40 people.Purchase of a pre-event ticket is required.

Advance Tickets Only

Talk around the Kitchen Table:$25 per person
Portfolio Tasting Only:$25 per person*
*This amount will be deducted from your purchase of a mixed case of wine.

Ordering is EASY & Shipping is FREE!

Only at this portfolio wine tasting, you’ll have the unique opportunity to try wine futures (not-yet-released), recently-released wines & barrel samples. you can order ANY assortment of the featured wines from Pondview Estates and Sue-Ann Estates to be delivered by courier to your home or office. You won’t find these wines at the LCBO.   And…when you order 12+bottles from the wineries, shipping is FREE.

Click to order now any of these Pondview or Sue-Ann Staff wines >>


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Pondview Wines to Taste & Order…

White Wines

2012 Harmony White $12.95 (regular $14.95)
2013 “GR” Gewürztraminer Riesling $13.95
2012 Unoaked Chardonnay $15.00 (regular $17.00 – end of Vintage Sale)
2014 Riesling $15.95
2013 “Dragonfly” Pinot Grigio $16.95
2014 Viognier $16.95

Rosé Wine

2014 Cabernet Franc Rosé $14.95

Red Wines

2013 Harmony Red $14.95
2013 Cabernet Merlot Reserve $18.95

Bella Terra Reserve Wines

2013 Pinot Gris $19.95
2012 Barrel Fermented Chardonnay $25.00
2012 Cabernet Sauvignon $34.95
2012 Cabernet Franc $34.95
2012 Meritage $39.95

Dessert Wine

2012 Vidal Select Late Harvest $18.95

Future Wines

Minimum 6 bottle order – any combination of these wines.
Expected delivery date: end of August 2015
2013 Bella Terra Cabernet Franc $30.00 (regular $34.95)
2013 Bella Terra Cabernet Sauvignon $30.00 (regular $34.95)



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Sue-Ann Staff Wines to Taste & Order…

Sparkling Wine

2011 Sparkling and SASSY $25.95 (regular $27.95)

 White Wines

2012 Riesling Loved By Lu $16.95
2012 Pinot Grigio $18.00
2012 Grace’s Dry Riesling $18.95
2011 Robert’s Block Riesling $26.00
2011 Viognier Riesling $35.00

Red Wines

2014 Baco Noir $14.95
2011 Cabernet Franc $21.95

NEW! Fancy Farm Girl

2012 Frivolous White $14.95
2012 Flamboyant Red $14.95

Dessert Wine

2012 Vidal Icewine 200mL $19.95 (regular $24.95)

Future Releases

2013 Fancy Farm Girl Foxy Pink $17.00
2013 Fancy Farm Girl Flirty Bubbles $27.95
2014 Robert’s Block Riesling $26.00 –A VERY Special wine
Only 7 cases will be released of this ultra-premium Riesling for special orders. Remaining bottles will be released for Sue-Ann’s 10th anniversary.






Savvy Selections for the Holiday Season: Ravine Vineyard

Posted by Julie

Tuesday, December 13th, 2011

You probably hadn’t bargained for a history lesson with this month’s delivery yet Ravine Estates Winery offers an abundance of both wine and history. Julie and her husband, Doug (also on the Savvy Team) visited the winery in July and spent some time with winemaker, Shawna White, walking through the vineyards as little gold finches and swallows flew about making their acquaintance and giving them a warm welcome to the “ravine.”

Are you starting to think about holiday entertaining? We can make it easy for you with this month’s Savvy Selections. Ravine is well known for their premium wines and our Savvy Sommeliers are sharing with you their hands-down favorites:

  • Ravine Vineyard Estate Riesling VQA 2010 – simply outstanding!
  • Ravine Vineyard Estate Gewürztraminer VQA 2010 – the aromas that waft from the glass will melt all holiday stresses away – guaranteed!
  • Ravine Vineyard Estate Meritage VQA 2010 – WOW! A solid red wine

In the following pages of this Savvy eZine, Julie shares history about the winery along with the Savvy Selections tasting panel’s notes and recipes to pair with the featured wines.

Optional Wines: White & Red wines under $20

Perfectly timed for stocking up for holiday entertaining, Ravine just released 2 delicious wines that are under $20. Have a stash on hand as hostess gifts or when friends drop in.  Labeled as Sand & Gravel York Road VQA 2010 (white) and Sand & Gravel Redcoat VQA 2009 (red), the wines are blends of 3 different grape varieties…the results are impressive! Comments that were flying around the table when Savvy Sommeliers & subscribers sampled the wines:

These wines are definitely crowd pleasers.”

“ Easy to drink – on its own or with hors d’oeuvres.”

“ I’ll be getting some of these for hostess gifts!”

If you would like to order some of these wines or any of your favorite Savvy Selections, simply email me to make the arrangements for a special wine delivery.

Here comes January!

We are kicking off the new year with the Savvy Selections delivery date on Friday January 13th.

From all of us at Savvy Company, we thank you for being a subscriber to Savvy Selections this year.

Here’s to a fun filled holiday season & delicious wine discoveries together in 2012!

Debbie & the Savvy TeamSavvy Company

Ravine Estates Winery

Presented by Sommelier Julie Stock

The story of Ravine is deeply rooted in history.  The vineyard and Woodruff House (shown on left), which now houses the winery’s tasting room, have a cornerstone of Canadian history. The land on which the winery sits was originally purchased in 1867 by David Jackson Lowrey, the current owner’s great grandfather.  Norma Jane (Lowrey) Harber can still remember as a child, playing in the cherry, peach and pear orchards where five farming generations later, grapes are now flourishing. She and her husband Blair Harber, decided to plant European grape varietals and wonderful for us they made that decision. I know you’ll agree after tasting this month’s selections.

The house that is now the tasting room was originally built in 1802 by David Secord, a major in the 2nd Lincoln Militia. He later sold it to a William Woodruff who was a Member of Parliament in Upper Canada and the house has kept his name.

The Woodruff House tasting room is like walking through an early 1800’s time capsule. The paint colours have been resurrected all the way down to the original fireplace that was left from the Lowrey farm homestead after it burnt down in the war of 1812. It would not surprise me if next year we see the original Lowrey house in the news as Canada celebrates 200 years since the war that helped define our nation.

During the war of 1812, the buildings in St. David’s – a grist-mill, a blacksmith shop and a general store – were all demolished. The house however was rebuilt and remains an authentic example of Loyalist Georgian architecture. Norma Jane remembers how the people in the village affectionately called it the House of Nations as many families rented and lived here when they first settled in the country. The house was later sold to a Judge on the condition it remains in tact. He eventually sold it to someone who was going to restore and relocate it to the Caledon Hills area. The subsequent owner hired a Norwegian architect who numbered and labelled all the beams and posts as the house was dismantled but unfortunately, he did not see this relocation realized.

It was after Norma Jane and her husband decided to plant a vineyard that she got wondering what happened to the original farmstead. They eventually found the “boxed up” house in Port Hope and decided to bring it home to it’s original and final resting place where we sip wine today. Many descendants still remember the “House of Nations” which is a landmark of not just St. David’s village but of Canadian history.

The Winemaker and the Vineyard

Having a conversation with Shauna White, Ravine’s wine-maker, a master craftswoman in the vineyard, was kind of like talking to your local grocer. She knew everything about the produce and production: the soil, the slopes, the wines, the year’s harvest – as in any year’s harvest and I was soon wishing I had a tape recorder to catch all her dialogue; not to mention her infectious enthusiasm and love of the land. She knew when the vines would be ripe for harvest, spoke of harvesting the grapes to encourage botrytis and noble rot (winespeak: grapes that left on the vine, shrivel and hold the most precious of nectar) as well as Ravine Vineyard’s constant experimentation with brotritis effected grapes. Shauna explained they harvested four batches of Riesling infected with noble rot last year. When grapes get infected with noble rot, the same way a great sauternes does in France, it gives the wine an intense zippy flavour.

This unique, organic 34 acre winery is located in the sub-appellation of Niagara known as St. David’s Bench. It’s position on the Bench is at the highest elevation, making the soils a little lighter, and the airflow and water drainage more consistent than in other locations in the region. Their signature grape tends to be Merlot, confirmed by the wine awards it’s been receiving. If there is a wine-making philosophy or statement behind the Ravine Vineyard Estate winery, Shauna said “wine is made in the vineyard not the winery”.

I suppose that’s easy enough for a winemaker to say, when most of us are only familiar with the basic steps of winemaking, but when Shauna was walking through the vineyard, picking up handfuls of dried caked dirt, I sensed she knew exactly what was coming out of land. She pointed to the exact locations of where the 5 acres of Pinot Noir grew, the 6 acres of Chardonnay, the 5 acres of Merlot, 4 acres of Riesling and 2 rows of Petit Verdot.

There are three main sections to the vineyard – the upper bench (the top), the slope (the hillside) and the bottom, each having different soil compositions. Shauna explained that when she and wine consultant, Peter Gamble, initially sent soil samples to Brock University, they thought the lab had made a mistake since the soil compositions were so different not only in each area of the vineyard, but also different from other soils in the region. But no, the scientists from the university said they ran the tests twice since it even surprised them. Some areas in the vineyard are higher in clay and organic content, other areas are mostly sand and low organic content, all of which result in different grape varietals giving different flavours to the wines.

Shauna is passionate about their organic and biodynamic certifications; the first taking 3 years, and the latter one more year. Ravine Vineyards has been certfied organic by Pro-Cert Organic Systems, Canada’s foremost national certification agency for organic food products with some 1,700 procedures and processors from across Canada and the United States. Similar to VQA standards the agency is compliant and accredited by the Standards Council of Canada.

Shauna also explained that there are hundred of swallows that return every year to the barn to dine on the insects in the fields and vineyard. Their pest control presence is just one reason that they can farm 100 percent organically. Official biodynamic cetification is expected in 2012.

Much has happened since Ravine Vineyard produced it’s first vintage in 2006. At the end of our tour with Shauna, Doug and I stood in the Woodruff house sampling many delicious wines. We have visited many vineyards in our world travels and whether it was the cloudy day, the walk through the sloped ravine or the Woodroffe House itself, Ravine gave us a sense of longing and timelessness that we were someplace special.

Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections now knowing it’s rich history. Cheers!


Ravine Vineyard Riesling
St. David’s Bench, VQA 2010


Grapes typically become infected with noble rot or Botrytis when they are ripe, but when they are exposed to drier conditions the grapes become partially raisined and the form of infection brought about by the partial drying process is known as noble rot. Grapes when picked at a certain point during infestation can produce particularly fine and concentrated sweet wine. Some of the finest Botrytized wines are literally picked berry by berry in successive tries (French for “selections”). In the case of Ravine vineyards, the grapes effected by noble rot give a further dimension and complexity to the wine.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  This polished light straw coloured beauty surprised us with it’s lovely aromas of honey, sweet stone fruit, hint of floral, pinch of minerality and petrol that follow through in taste offering a silky and elegant mouthfeel with just a bit of spritz. The wine is slightly off dry and well-balanced with the right amount of acidity.

Suggested Food Pairing:  The Savvy panel had no difficulty coming up with food to match this gem. A lovely drink on its own, being low in alcohol, which also makes it a perfect match for everything from Mexican burritos and Thai curries, to lemon meringue pie. It was a hands-down winner.

Cellaring: Great for drinking now or lay down for 2-3 years.

Ravine Vineyard Gewürztraminer
Niagara Peninsula, VQA 2010


Gewürztraminer was first grown in Alsace around the 19th century and like many wines, the grape and the wine share the same name as the wine is a “single varietal”.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  This was another show stopper for the Savvy Panel and we had 10 tasters at our table! Fresh aromas of lychee, sweet spice, beeswax and roses. The palate has a mouth coating texture, medium bodied, with hints of honey and peach and a slightly herbal finish, tarragon came to mind as well as a bit of lemon and lime.

Suggested Food Pairing:  While traditional Asian dishes came to mind, we all agreed that with buttered chicken there would be a line up at the door- best to have a couple of bottles for that dinner party.

Cellaring: Drink now to enjoy the freshness or within 12 months.

Ravine Meritage, Niagara Peninsula, VQA 2010

A red Meritage is made from a blend of at least two or more of the following varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petit Verdot or Carmenere, with no varietal comprising more than 90% of the blend. Although many people, including many wine experts, have a tendency to pronounce the word “Meritage” by pronouncing its last syllable with a “zh” sound, as in “garage,” the Meritage Alliance specifically states that the word should be pronounced to rhyme with “heritage.”

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  A stunning, clear, medium ruby just in time for Christmas. Dark red fruits, plum, cranberry, pencil shavings, pinch of pepper and sweet spice; aromas that make this Meritage exquisitely put together. The luscious aromas follow through on the palate with hints of licorice and black cherries. A medium to full bodied wine with a long slightly tannic finish.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Thoughts to pair the Meritage varied from grilled veal chops with herbs and garlic, to any grilled meat, osso bucco and spicy sausages also entered in the discussion.

Cellaring: Great for drinking now or cellar for 3-5 years.

WHITE: Sand & Gravel York Road VQA 2010

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  A dry crisp blend of 46% Chardonnay, 30% Sauvignon Blanc, 24% Gewürztraminer that results in a well-balanced light to medium bodied wine with refreshing aromas of yellow and green apples, almonds and fresh apricots that follow through in the taste. With each sip, there is a salivating citrus rush in your mouth that makes you want to drink more!

Suggested Food Pairing:  Great on its own, with hors d’oeuvres such as chicken satay, phyllo pastry, hard and soft cheeses, hummus or even with turkey and all the trimmings.

RED: Sand & Gravel Redcoat VQA 2009

“Red coat” is a historical term used to refer to soldiers in the British army because of their red uniforms, formerly worn by the majority of regiments during the War of 1812

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  A classic Bordeaux or Meritage blend of 46% Merlot, 39% Cabernet Franc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, this too is an easy drinking medium-bodied wine with concentrated aromas and tastes of raspberry, ripe cherries, cocoa and cranberries.

Suggested Food PairingThe decent tannins make it a great wine to pair with hearty stews, classic holiday tourtieres, comforting shepherds pie, cheese laden pizza or saucy tomato and meatballs on pasta. 


With Ravine Vineyard Riesling…
Tortilla-Crusted Whitefish with Salsa

From Chef Michael Smith’s Kitchen, 100 of my Favourite Recipes Cookbook

Serves 4


1 cup (250 ml) of all-purpose flour

2 eggs lightly beaten

2 cups (500 ml) of hand-crumbled multi-coloured tortilla chips

sprinkle of salt and lots of freshly ground pepper

4 skinned fish fillets or any white fish (about 1-1/2 pounds/750 g in totaly) patted dry

For the Salsa

1/2 cup (125 ml)  of your favourite salsa

1/2 cup (125 ml) of cherry tomatoes halved

1/2 cup (125 ml) of ciltranto leaves and tender stems

1/2 teaspoon (2 ml) of minced halapeno

2 green onions thinly sliced

the zest and juice of 1 lime

1 tablespoon (15 ml) of olive oil


Preheat your oven to 400 (200 C). Lightly oil a baking sheet.

Put the flour, eggs and tortilla chips in 3 separate bowls. Season the flour. Working with one fillet at a time, dredge the fillet in flour, coating it evenly and shaking off the excess. Dip the fillet into the egg, coating it evenly and holding it up to drain for a few moments. Finally, dip the fillet into the tortila chips, turning, pressing and sprinkling as needed so the crust adheres. Place the fish on the baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining fillets. Bake until the fish is cooked through and crusty, 10 to 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, toss together the salsa salad In a small bowl, mix the prepared salsa with the tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeno, green onions, lime zest and juice and olive oil. Arrange the finished fish on serving platter and top with salsa.

With Ravine Vineyard Gewürztraminer…
Easy Butter Chicken

From Dairy Farmers of Canada and Prairies Milk Marketing Partnership

Serves 4-6


2 tbsp (30 mL) butter

2 tbsp (30 mL) tandoori or tikka curry paste

1 tbsp (15 mL) minced fresh ginger root

2 tsp (10 mL) minced fresh hot pepper

1 tsp (5 mL) ground cumin

1 tsp (5 mL) paprika

1 can (28 oz/796 mL) crushed (ground) tomatoes

1 cup (250 mL) 35 % whipping cream

1-1/2 lb (675 g) boneless skinless chicken, cut into chunks

1/2 cup (125 mL) plain yogurt

1/4 cup (60 mL) chopped fresh coriander

2 tbsp (30 mL) freshly squeezed lime or lemon juice


Preheat oven to 375 °F (190 °C). Place half of butter in a 13 x 9-inch (33 x 23 cm) glass baking dish. Place in oven for about 3 min or until melted. Swirl to coat dish; set aside.

In large deep pot, melt remaining butter over medium-high heat. Cook half of tandoori paste, the ginger, hot pepper, cumin and paprika, stirring, for about 2 min or until fragrant . Add tomatoes; bring to boil. Stir in whipping cream; return to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, stirring often, for 10 min or until sauce is thickened.

Meanwhile, in bowl, combine chicken, yogurt and remaining tandoori paste; toss to combine. Spread in single layer in prepared baking dish. Bake in oven for 10 min. Pour tomato sauce over chicken; bake for about 10 min longer or until sauce is bubbling and chicken is no longer pink inside. Sprinkle with fresh coriander and lime juice.

With Ravine Meritage…
Penne with Creamy Sausage Sauce

From The CKFM Bonnie Stern Cookbook

Serves 6



3 tbsp. (50 ml) extra-virgin olive oil

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 tsp hot red chili flakes (optional)

1 lb (500 g) sweet or hot Italian sausages, removed from casings and crumbled

1 cup (250 ml) whipping cream

1 tsp salt

1/4 tsp (1 ml) freshly ground pepper

1/4 tsp (1 ml) nutmeg

1 lb (500 g) penne

3 tbsp (50 ml) unsalted butter

1/2 cup ( 125 ml) grated Parmesan cheese

2 tbsp (25 ml) chopped parsley or basil


Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the garlic, red chili flakes and crumbled sausage meat. Cook until all traces of pink disappear, about 5 minutes

Add the whipping cream, salt, pepper and nutmeg and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 10 minutes or  until the cream reduces and the sauce thickens somewhat.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water. Drain the noodles well but do not rinse.  Toss the noodles with the sauce, butter, cheese and parsley. Taste and adjust seasons if necessary.


Happy Holidays from all of us at Savvy Company!



It runs in the family: Riverview Cellars Estate Winery

Posted by Susan

Tuesday, October 11th, 2011

It’s a familiar story in Niagara, a young immigrant family with roots in the earth, toiling at other jobs until the opportunity arises to purchase a farm property. This is the story of Sam and Lina Pillitteri, the founders of Riverview Cellars Estate Winery. Married in 1965, Sam worked as a draftsman and Lina as a nurse, until the opportunity arose to purchase a fruit farm on the Niagara River in 1975. With their three daughters and young son, Michael, helping out on Riverview Farms, the family maintained the historic storefront on their property, selling their produce to tourists and local alike. From that early beginning, they were known for their warm friendly welcome.

When he first walked the property, Sam knew that he had a very special site. The soil profile varied from the river to the boundary on Concession road 1, from pliable, silty loam to denser clay loam, then to sandy loam, with patches of tough clay that help control vine vigour. As the children grew and Sam assessed the future, he decided to begin planting vitis vinifera, delivering his harvests to his brother’s winery. The first vines, Gewürztraminer, were planted in 1992, followed by Vidal in 1993 and Cabernet Sauvignon in 1998. The family continued to plant other varietals through 2006, including Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Gris, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The focus is on vitis vinifera but Vidal is used for ice wine production and the family maintains several rows of Baco Noir for their popular limited-edition table wine. Twenty-two of the 25 acres are under vine, and 98% of their wines are produced from estate fruit.

Sam had always dreamed of establishing a family run winery. And, like many boutique wineries in the area, the creation of Riverview Cellars was a family affair. The daughters offered their creative talents in design and décor, while son Michael, pursued a degree at McMaster, shuttled back and forth to help out in the development of the winery business. In 2000, Riverview Cellars tasting room was officially opened for visitors. Sam continues as President, Michael is the General Manager, and Angela Kasimos has taken on duties as winemaker. It was great to experience that warm welcome from Michael and Angela on a recent visit. And you can’t help but notice the quiet enthusiasm and pride they both exude.

Riverview celebrated its 10th anniversary last September, so we couldn’t resist including a couple of wines produced in honor of the founding of the winery. Our tasting panel had a difficult time selecting just three wines to showcase in this month Savvy Selections:
Sauvignon Blanc VQA 2010 – we arranged for a special allocation of this wine several months ago so we could offer this impressive wine in Savvy Selections. Enjoy this bottle!
Gewürztraminer VQA 2010
– a not-so-common grape variety grown in Niagara – and this wine is outstanding!
Cabernet Franc VQA 2009
– our tasting panel loved this vibrant red wine – we are certain that you will too

You won’t find these wines at the LCBO
If there is a particular Riverview wine that you enjoyed, feel free to contact me and I would be more than happy to arrange a delivery of additional bottles to be sent to you.

Cheers & Enjoy…and Happy Thanksgiving!

Debbie & Savvy Team

Savvy Company

Riverview Cellars Estate Winery
Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins

As Sam Pillitteri began thinking of producing his own wine in the late 1990s, he naturally looked to his family to join in this new venture. Though willing to offer their talents in the new venture, his three daughters were well established in their own lives and careers. His young son Michael was just about to head off to McMaster to do his undergrad in Business Economics. The big question loomed – was Michael willing to take on a key role in the winery, while juggling between the university in Hamilton and the winery in Niagara-on-the-Lake?

Michael was only in high school when his family first harvested Gewürztraminer grapes in 1995. Over the next three years, Sam and Lina recognized Michael`s interest and commitment to establishing a family run winery business. The winery opened in September 2000 just as Michael headed off to McMaster to do his undergrad! “It was like having a full-time job while I was at school! I did almost all my projects on the wine industry, and I still remember sitting in my dorm room ordering skids of bottles for the winery.”

Riverview has experienced steady growth over the years, as well as early upstart challenges. Recently the focus is on managing expansion and increased volume. “My dad has always taken quite a conservative approach to building the business”, which Michael credits as one of the keys to their successful & manageable growth. In the early days, they produced about 200 cases in 2000, now 11 years on, the winery now produces 5000 cases. Their growing reputation is attracting more notice & visitors.

Looking ahead, Michael is working on their brand recognition in Ontario, while devoted to help build the profile of Niagara wines around the world. He always talks enthusiastically about his neighbouring wineries Niagara-on-the-Lake who have joined together to collectively promote and market their wines on the world stage.

Although already seems that he is a busy man, Michael has a quiet ambition and a great balance in his life. “I thought of continuing my education by pursuing an MBA, but realistically, I’m a husband and now a dad. And for fun, I’m a member of a band. “ To top it all off, he is a great cook too! “Every two weeks I meet with a bunch of guys and we prepare a five-course meal – food for dudes – with matching wine of course!“

Michael credits his success to the great partnership with his dad, whose role is to focus on the vineyard, and his winemaker, Angela Kasimos, whose broad interests and focused attention to quality winemaking make her a great asset to Riverview Cellars.

Angela joined the family business while complementing her chemistry undergrad degree with studies at Brock Unviersity’s Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute. She remembers with a laugh, “I had to race from the vineyard to convocation, because we were harvesting Riesling that day!”, At first, she was hired to work with consulting winemaker Jamie Evans, then soon took on the role of winemaker. ‘I’ve had really good challenges here; the first 2-3 vintages were so different, there was a huge learning curve. And after working with Sam and Mike in the vineyard, I can’t imagine making wine without going into the vineyard every day.” In addition to working in the cellar and vineyard, Angela can also be found in the tasting room. “The clients provide direct feedback and offer preferences. This is really helpful to me and shapes our decisions about wines. We created a Riesling/Gewürztraminer blend due to this feedback – and it’s one of our bestsellers!”

Their clients have had a dramatic influence on wine selection, with an expansion from 7 wines offered in 2005 to now 22 wines in their portfolio. Michael explains, “We’d like to think that there is wine style for almost anyone who comes through our door.”

Cheers and enjoy your Savvy Selections!


Riverview Cellars ‘10th Anniversary Series’ Sauvignon Blanc VQA 2010, $16.95

Sourced from Joseph diProfio’s Mia Cara vineyard in Jordan, the grapes were hand-harvested in September. After primary fermentation, the wine was aged in stainless steel tanks.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Pale straw, this is a bold zesty wine. There’s a medley of tropical fruit, lemon-lime, grapefruit and crisp apple, with a whiff of pungent gooseberry and pine resin on the nose. Light-medium bodied, there’s impact and length on the finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Seafood, for sure, like mussels in a white wine sauce, or the classic salad with goat cheese and strawberries.

Cellaring: Crisp, fresh, and dying to be enjoyed right now!

Riverview Cellars ‘10th Anniversary Series’ Gewürztraminer VQA 2010, $16.95

Cropped to a low output of just over 1 tonne per acre, the grapes underwent an overnight cool maceration (wine term explained by Angela: vin d’une nuit) – the result of this process is an enhanced aromatic wine. Gently pressed, the wine was cool-fermented in stainless steel.
We are excited to showcase this wine in the Savvy Selections as is comes from good stock. The 2009 vintage won the impressive award of Best White Wine at the Ontario wine industry`s Academy Awards competition entitled Cuvée 2011. Congrats to Angela, Sam and Michael!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: If this wine were an actor, it would be right in character! The aromas burst from the glass—floral, spice, tropical notes of lychee, mango and pineapple. A beautiful satiny texture and a lasting finish with that characteristic bite round out the package.

Suggested Food Pairing: Gewürztraminer wine is the perfect match for spicy dishes, like buttermilk curried chicken. Or try it with apricot-glazed pork – Susan’s recipe below.

Cellaring: Enjoy now, or cellar short term.

Riverview Estate Cabernet Franc VQA 2009, $16.95

Sourced from estate fruit grown on sandy loam, the grapes were given extended hang time, harvested in early November. The wine aged in 5 once-used French oak barrels and one American oak barrel.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Dry, medium-bodied and vibrant on the palate, you’ll love the character of this wine. Alluring aromas of raspberry, black cherry, violet, chocolate and herbs replay in the flavours that wash across the palate. Perceptible tannins and fresh acidity offer balance and the promise of age. The finish is dry yet fruity.

Suggested Food Pairing: Match this wine to roast leg of lamb, duck cassoulet or your favorite steak.

Cellaring: Drinking well now, this wine will cellar for 3-5 years.


With Riverview Sauvignon Blanc…

Gingery Grilled Salmon
From Eating Well Magazine
Serves 4


¼ C nonfat plain yogurt
2 Tbsp finely chopped fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp freshly grated lime zest
1 Tbsp honey

1 Tbsp canola oil
½ tsp salt

½ tsp freshly ground pepper

4 4-5 oz. pieces salmon fillet, ~ 1” thick


1. Whisk together marinade ingredients.

2. Place salmon in a shallow glass dish and pour marinade over it, turning to coat all sides. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator fro 20-30 minutes, turning once or twice.

3. Heat grill. Using long-handled BBQ brush, coat grill rack with oil. Place salmon, skin-side up, on grill. Cook for 5 minutes. Using 2 metal spatulas, carefully turn the salmon pieces over and cook just until opaque in the centre, 6-8 minutes longer. With 2 spatulas, remove salmon from grill and slip off skin.

4. Serve over mixed greens with a simple lime, canola oil and honey dressing.

With Riverview Gewürztraminer

Buttermilk Curry Chicken

A favorite (and easy!) recipe from the kitchen of Savvy Selections subscriber – Danielle Strickland
Source: Clean Eating Magazine
Serves 4


4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 C low-fat buttermilk
2 Tbsp curry powder
2 tsp fine sea salt
1 tsp fresh ground pepper


1. Whisk together the marinade ingredients (the marinade may be stored in the refrigerator in an airtight container for several days).

2. Place chicken breasts in a shallow dish and pour over enough marinade to coat all surfaces. Cover and place in refrigerator for at least 2 and up to several hours.

3. Heat BBQ to medium heat, and grill chicken until done. Serve with grilled pineapple and mixed wild and brown rice.

Cabernet Franc…

Grilled Lamb Loin with Sun-dried Tomato Vinaigrette
Anna & Michael Olson, Cook at Home
Serves 6



1/3 C diced sundried tomatoes
1/3 C chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

1 oz. extra virgin olive oil

1 oz. balsamic vinegar
1 oz. water

Salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

For Lamb
6 boneless lamb loins

3 cloves garlic, crushed (or to taste)

1 ½ tsp chopped fresh thyme

1 tsp cracked black pepper

1 oz. extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp coarse salt


1. For vinaigrette, purée all ingredients in a food processor and season to taste. Chill until ready to serve.

2. For lamb, preheat grill to highest setting. Marinate the lamb in the garlic, thyme, pepper and oil at room temperature for 20 minutes. Add salt & place on grill. After 4 minutes, turn lamb over and reduce heat to medium. Cook 5 minutes for medium doneness.

3. To serve, slice lamb loin into 5 pieces diagonally across the grain of the meat. Fan out the meat, overlapping the slices on the plate or platter, and top with vinaigrette. Smashed new potatoes and carrots with green beans and a glass of Riverview Cellars Cab Franc seem in order!

Cheers & Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections!


For Wine Lovers in Ontario, our own backyard is well stocked..

Posted by Julie

Thursday, August 4th, 2011

Cherry and peach trees, grapevines – miles of them, wineries galore dotted with the odd golf course, farmhouses, B and B’s are the memories of the past week in the Niagara Escarpment. When Holly suggested I write a guest blog on Doug’s and my recent travel, I immediately responded positively although it’s hard not to write a journal, so much to see and taste!

For wine lovers, the Niagara Escarpment, Twenty Valley, Niagara-On-the-Lake locales are an oenophile paradise. While the wineries offer the usual vitis vinifera varietals: Riesling, Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc, Pinot Noir etc., many have ice-wine and their own rose.  Between sipping and sampling en route, as dedicated sommeliers and wine nuts, we visited over 20 wineries, as well as attending the Cool Climate Chardonnay event held at the Tawse Winery (July 23) where 56 wineries featured their “Chards.”  For the ABC folks (anything but Chardonnay), Chardonnay still remains the most widely produced VQA in Ontario.

Every winery we visited left something memorable; whether it was the enormous stainless steel tank named Budda, at Creekside Estate Winery, or the labels on the Organized Crime Wines, telling a pictoral story of Mennonites feuding over an organ (catch the play on the word?)  Or the new Colaneri winery, 37,000 square feet, the largest winery in the region still under construction, shaped like a Roman coliseum in a hugely impressive “C” representing the Italian family and their winemaking heritage.

The viticulture was amazing at Featherstone Winery where we witnessed sheep chomping away at the grape leaves so the grapes will be exposed to sunshine which in turn, speeds up their ripening. These little sheep meander up and down the rows of vines, and it was quite humorous watching them chew the leaves. Needless to say I took pictures.

The most valuable members of the team.

Many of the wines at these boutique wineries are unavailable at the LCBO so we brought a few home. One purchase was a Featherstone rose and have since found it to be a great patio to table “spirit”.  An enchanting cranberry colour, all the ripe berry flavours, bone dry with tart acidity that practically jumps out of the glass. We have since enjoyed this with grilled shrimps, zucchini and our always tomato basil salad which makes a divine summer supper.

Sheep: appreciated for their usefulness & whimsy.

We have previously traveled the Twenty Valley and the sense of anticipation with old and new wineries never ceases to amaze and never disappoints. The people are friendly, knowledgeable and their eagerness to share the harvest makes for a magnetic welcome. We’re already talking about the wineries that we plan to visit next year. I’ve always said, you never have to look further than your own backyard in Ontario to find great wine.

Cheers, Julie


Stock up on Ontario wines – FREE Shipping

Posted by Debbie

Monday, December 13th, 2010


Stock up on Ontario wines for the holidays!
Complementary shipping offer


During the month of December, the following wineries are offering FREE SHIPPING when you order a case of 12 bottles directly from Savvy Company.  This way you will to be sure to have wine on hand for holiday entertaining and last minute gift-giving.

To order, simply call 613.SAVVYCO (613.728.8926) or email

These are featured wineries from our Savvy Selections wine of the month club.  To make it easy for you to decide which wines to include in your order, the team of Savvy Sommeliers offers our picks – all have our ‘Savvy Selections’ stamp of approval affixed to each bottle. These hard to find wines are not currently available at the LCBO.

– Orders can only be shipped to a home or office address located in Ontario.
– By Ontario law, the delivery must be signed for by someone over the age of 19. 
– Shipping will take up to 3 business days.  The wines will be delivered by courier or Canada Post  – whichever service is most convenient for you.

Black Prince Winery – Prince Edward County
RED: Black Prince Cabernet Franc Reserve VQA 2007 $15.75/bottle
Case of 12 bottles $189

Cattail Creek Family Estate Winery  – Niagara on the Lake
WHITE: Chardonnay Musque VQA 2009 $17/bottle
RED: Merlot VQA 2008 $18
RED: Cabernet-Merlot VQA 2006 $18
Mixed case (4 bottles of each of these wines): $212

Huff Estates Winery – Prince Edward County
**Complementary shipping on 6 or more bottles
SPARKLING: Vidalescco 2009 (dry sparkling wine) $19.95/bottle
WHITE: South Bay Vineyards Chardonnay VQA $29.95
RED: Stuntman Stu Red Line Merlot VQA 2008 $19.95 ($2 of every bottles is donated to the Sens Foundation supporting children’s programs in Eastern Ontario)
DESSERT: First Frost 2008 (light sweet wine) $19.95
Mixed case (3 bottles of each of these wines): $269.40


Lailey Vineyard – Niagara on the Lake
**Complementary shipping on 6 or more bottles
WHITE: Riesling VQA 2009 $18/bottle
RED: Cabernet-Merlot VQA 2006 $20
RED: Pinot Noir VQA 2007  $25
RED: Impromptu VQA 2007 $45
Mixed case (3 bottles of each of these wines): $324

Niagara Teaching College – Niagara
WHITE: Unoaked Chardonnay VQA 2009, $14.95
RED: Cabernet Sauvignon VQA 2006, $15.95
RED: Cabernet Sauvignon VQA 2007, $18.95
RED: Meritage VQA 2005 $32.95
Mixed case (3 bottles of each of these wines): $248.40

Rosehall Run Vineyards – Prince Edward County
WHITE: Riesling VQA 2008 $17.95/bottle
RED: Pinot Noir Cuvée County VQA 2008 $21.95
RED: Cabernet Franc Cold Creek VQA 2007 $29.95
Mixed case (4 bottles of each of these wines) $279.40

Rosewood Estate Winery & Meadery – Beamsville Bench (Niagara region)
WHITE: Gewurztraminer VQA 2008 $18/bottle
WHITE: Reserve Chardonnay VQA 2008 $25
RED: Pinot Noir VQA 2008 $18
SPECIALTY: Ambrosia Mead 2006 $36 (mead is a lightly sweet wine made with local honey – a specialty at Rosewood)
Mixed case (3 bottles of each of these wines) $291

Tawse Winery – Beamsville Bench (Niagara region)
The following wines are beautifully p
ackaged in a wooden box  – each bottle is 200mL.
Cabernets Ice Wine VQA 2008
Gewurztraminer Ice Wine VQA 2008
Riesling Ice Wine VQA 2009

WHITE: Robyn’s Block Chardonnay VQA 2008
WHITE: Riesling VQA 2009
WHITE: Quarry Road Vineyard Gewurztraminer VQA 2009
ROSE: Sketches of Niagara Rose VQA 2009
RED: Grower’s Blend Pinot Noir VQA 2009
RED: Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc VQA 2008


To order any combination of these wines per winery, call our Savvy Sommeliers on
613.SAVVYCO (613.728.8926) or email us – anytime!








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.