Posts Tagged ‘Niagara winery’

Tawse is named Winery AND Winemaker of the Year

Posted by Susan

Friday, June 10th, 2011

Savvy Selections wine of the month club
features Tawse Winery
Canada’s wineries delivered to your doorstep

Venturing to Alberta as a young man, Moray Tawse worked at a resort where he ‘fell’ into the role of wine steward, further developing his interest in wine, in particular Burgundian-style wines. In 1988, he co-founded and continues to lead a financial services firm while combining his dream of owning a vineyard in Burgundy, France. Luckily for the Canadian wine industry, fate wanted to keep this dream at home. Moray was enamored with an outstanding Chardonnay from Niagara and saw the potential for his beloved Burgundian wines in Ontario. After researching the Niagara wine scene, he purchased property in 2001 and his winery dream began to take shape.

The uncompromising attention to quality, environmental stewardship and landscape is evident as you approach the Tawse Winery. Opened in 2005, the state-of-the-art building nestles into the Beamsville Bench (aka Niagara Escarpment), boasting a six-level gravity flow vinification system that uses the naturally sloping terrain for gentle handling, assuring the exquisite bouquet and flavours of the finished product. Underground cellars maintain the ideal temperature and humidity for barrel aging, while minimizing environmental impact. The geo-thermal energy system has reduced consumption of traditional energy by 80%, and the wetland bio-filter system ensures that all sanitary and winery waste water is recycled. Biodynamic farming, sometimes referred to as “extreme organic”, is the practice of ever increasing ecological self-sufficiency on the property. The estate is farmed organically with everything done by hand. Biodynamic farming and winemaking techniques have been implemented—Ecocert and Demeter seals appear on all Tawse wines made from biodynamically cultivated fruit.

Frequently receiving accolades, the piece de resistance is undoubtedly the prestigious Canada’s Winery of the Year from Wine Access Magazine presented at the 2010 Canadian Wine Awards. Interestingly, Tawse was the first Ontario winery to receive this honor and also won an unprecedented 5 gold, 3 silver and 10 bronze medals for their wines. In addition, they won the White Wine of the Year award for its 2008 Robyn’s Block Chardonnay. And to top it all off, Tawse winemaker Paul Pender was named Ontario’s Winemaker of the Year 2011 at the Ontario Wine Awards.  Congrats to the Tawse team!

We are delighted to introduce you this month’s Savvy Selections:
Sketches of Niagara Rosé VQA 2010 – a crisp, dry & delicious Rosé perfect for sipping on your patio
Riesling VQA 2010 – just released in time to be included in Savvy Selections
Laundry Vineyards Cabernet Franc VQA 2009 – you are the very first to get your hands on this wine. It is not yet released at the winery.
Optional wine: Riesling Ice Wine VQA 2009 – subtle, elegant, and beautifully balanced

As always in the Savvy eZine, we have included the tasting notes from our Savvy Sommeliers along with recipes that Susan specifically chose to pair with each of these wines ideal for summertime entertaining.

If there is a particular wine from Tawse 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. And if you would like to stock up on your favorite Savvy Selections wines, just give me a call to arrange a special delivery.

Cheers & Enjoy!
Debbie & Savvy Team

Tawse Winery
Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins

To visit Tawse is to be inspired. Here is uncompromising commitment to the vines, the grapes and the soil, respect for the environment and trust that stewardship will be rewarded with the excellence of outstanding wines.

When Moray Tawse purchased this estate in 2001, he purchased existing vineyards, some of them with vines planted in the 1970s and 1980s. He selected sites that offer unique terroir, for instance the Quarry Road site which is at the top of the Niagara escarpment, where the limestone in very accessible and minerality shines through. He called on renowned winemaker Deborah Paskus, whose Chardonnay had changed his mind about establishing a winery in France and establish roots in Niagara instead. Paul Pender (appears in photo below), fresh from Niagara College’s Winery & Viticulture program, joined as assistant winemaker. When Deborah decided to move to Closson Chase Winery in Prince Edward County, Moray called on his long-time friend, internationally renowned consulting winemaker Pascal Marchand to assist with the 2005 vintage. Paul soon took the helm and acquired his own assistant; Australian Rene van Ede who is a lab expert and has an extraordinary palate.

Known for his ‘non-interventionist as far as possible’ approach to winemaking, Paul has overseen both Tawse’s organic and biodynamic certification processes. His approach to winemaking is that of a steward (or a guardian angel), watching over the vines and grapes, ‘keeping them safe’, and then letting the wine express its sense of place. Moray Tawse has repeatedly explained in various publications the importance of the vineyard location. he is proud that the terroir at his winery is much like the region of Burgundy, France & being one of the reasons to invest in Niagara.

Growing a Biodynamic Business
The biodynamic approach used by Tawse is natural and holistic with the principal focus on treating the vineyard as an ecosystem where all the components are a self-contained integrated whole, dependent upon each other for long-term health and vitality. Those components include biodiversity, soil fertility, crop nutrition and disease/pest control – as an example, hedgerows are planted to attract beneficial insects, while cover crops are planted in the vineyard to prevent erosion and compete with the vines for nutrients, driving the roots down into the mineral layers of the soil. Various farm animals roam through the vineyards to eat weeds or excess vine foliage, their manure providing natural enrichment for the soil. And horses may be used for harvest to minimize soil compaction.

In the winemaking process, the guiding principal is to celebrate the terroir. With the changing weather of each vintage, Paul spends much of his time in the vineyard monitoring the health and quality of the fruit, sugar and acidity levels. Flexibility and quick reaction time is required, given the unpredictability of the climate – but this is what makes each vintage unique. In addition to the gentle process ensured by the gravity-flow system, wild yeasts are used wherever possible, and the same type of oak is applied in aging wines so that the unique qualities of the vineyard come through. And Tawse winemaking staff rejoices in the nature of cool-climate wines: ‘We’re an acidity-friendly winery,” states Rene, the assistant winemaker. Their goal: to create elegant, bright, pure ‘old world’ style wines.

In a interview by wine blogger Michael di Caro,  Paul was asked what he would plant were he given a few acres. Ever the pragmatist, his choices were Riesling and Chardonnay, since he feels that he could reliably produce outstanding wines from these varietals every vintage; but he’s still irresistibly drawn to Pinot Noir, because in a great Ontario vintage, it’s fantastic!

And Moray’s life long dream of making wine in Burgundy is now coming to fruition as he partners with friend and business associate Pascal Marchand to operate a cuverie (winespeak: vat room) and cellars in Nuits-St-Georges France. We look forward to featuring Marchand & Tawse labeled wine in Savvy Selections.

Cheers & Enjoy!


Tawse Riesling VQA 2010, $19.95
Representing what’s considered a great vintage in Niagara, the fruit for this Riesling is from a single vineyard in the Vinemount Ridge appellation, known for delivering grapes with an outstanding combination of sweetness and acidity.
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Almost transparent, this is a clean zesty wine. Lovely floral, sweet citrus, stone fruit and mineral aromas beckon. Vibrant acidity and mineral notes complement the bright long lasting flavours of kiwi, lime, mandarin and white peach.
Suggested Food Pairing: To quote one of our tasters “This pairs nicely with not much to do!” But we’ve included a salmon recipe to help finish the bottle!
Cellaring: Refined and flavourful, enjoy it now and cellar a few bottles to savour over the next few years.

Tawse ‘Sketches of Niagara’ Rosé VQA 2010, $14.95
This outstanding rosé was featured a few weeks ago in Vintages, yet it’s almost gone. Being a great way to kick off summer with its juicy aromas and tastes, we made sure that the winery had enough of this Rosé to include it in this months’ Savvy Selections. Enjoy!
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Watermelon pink, this blend of Gamay, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot and a selection of white grape varietals, this wine is appealing from the fresh fruity nose, straight through to the flavourful palate of red berry and pink grapefruit, with a lasting fruity finish that hits you with a dash of white pepper. Plain and simple – it’s delicious!
Suggested Food Pairing: Rosé is incredibly versatile – enjoy chilled as you chill out on the patio, match to light meat dishes, serve with appetizers and grilled fish.
Cellaring: Enjoy now and stock up on several bottles . . .

Tawse Laundry Vineyards Cabernet Franc VQA 2009 $31.95
Aged 16 months in French oak barrels, this not-yet-released Cabernet Franc is produced from fruit grown in an organically farmed vineyard located in the Lincoln Lakeshore appellation. You can tell from the texture and flavours that the fruit hung to optimal ripeness.
Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Offering depth and complexity, this is a dry, firmly structured, medium-full bodied wine with a wonderful velvety texture and enticing aromas of dried herbs, blackberry and raspberry, tobacco leaf and a hint of fresh mint. The rich fruit flavours flow across the palate and through the lengthy finish, notes of roasted peppers, espresso and a dash of pepper adding allure. Irresistible!
Suggested Food Pairing: Fire up the BBQ. This is a wine to be enjoyed with simply prepared bison, beef or lamb.
Cellaring: Drinking well now, this wine will cellar for 3-5 years.


With Tawse Riesling…

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 Tawse Sketches of Niagara Rosé

Marinated Pork Tenderloin with Maple Rhubarb Coulis
Adapted from Gay Cook
Serves 4

1 ½ lb pork tenderloin
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
Zest of 1 lemon
1 Tbsp canola oil
1 Tbsp wine or cider vinegar
2 tsp maple syrup
A dash or two of Tabasco or 1 tsp chopped canned jalapeno
½ tsp each salt & freshly ground pepper
1 Tbsp light soy sauce
2 C sliced rhubarb
1 small onion, chopped
¼ C water
1 Tbsp fresh grated ginger
3 Tbsp maple syrup or to taste

1. Trim any fat or membrane off pork tenderloin.

2. To make marinade, whisk together garlic, zest, oil, vinegar, maple syrup, Tabasco, soy, salt & pepper. Thoroughly turn meat in marinade & refrigerate for 1 hour. Slice tenderloin into ¾” medallions.

3. Place rhubarb in saucepan with water, onion, ginger, and maple syrup. Bring to a boil & cook gently for 8-10 minutes. Purée if necessary.

4. Grill or pan sautée the pork on medium-high heat until done, about 3 minutes each side.

5. To serve, place the rhubarb coulis on a platter or plate and place the medallions slightly overlapping down the centre.

With Tawse Laundry Vineyard Cabernet Franc…

Steaks Balsamico
From Susan’s own kitchen
Serves 4

¼ C oil
¼ C balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp Dijon mustard
½ tsp basil, crumbled
¼ tsp each salt & freshly ground pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
4 strip loin steaks, 1” thick (or filet mignon)

1. Combine all marinade ingredients in a heavy zip-lock bag. Add meat and squeeze bag to coat steaks with marinade. Seal bag. Let stand for 30 minutes.

2. Remove steaks from marinade; discard marinade.

3. Grill steaks over medium heat on gas BBQ to desired doneness.

4. Let the wine shine through with this simple preparation.

Cheers & Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections!


A Vino-Education: The Story of Strewn Winery

Posted by Derek

Monday, May 16th, 2011


Savvy Selections wine of the month club
features Strewn Winery
Canada’s wineries delivered to your doorstep


This time last year, Ontario’s winemakers were absolutely elated because the grape growing season began with ideal weather conditions. The days were warm, the nights were cool and there was just the right amount of rain. What a difference a year makes! This year, our spring has been marked with unseasonably cold temperatures and record breaking rainfall.


When it comes to weather, winemakers and grape growers in California, Australia or Chile have it much easier because the growing conditions are consistent year over year. These consistent growing conditions lead to consistently crafted wines. In Canada, the year-over-year variation in the weather associated with our growing season makes grape growing and winemaking more of a challenge.


However, having said all of this, it is Ontario’s growing conditions that inspire people like Joe Will. Joe is one of the owners and winemaker at Strewn Winery.


For the month of May, we are delighted to feature in the Savvy Selections wines from Strewn Winery – an Ontario wine industry pioneer. Our Savvy Sommelier Derek Vollrath, chatted with Joe for hours one Sunday afternoon, in order to understand his philosophy on wine and winemaking. On the following pages, read Derek’s interview and learn about the diverse path of Joe’s life that lead to the creation of Strewn.



For May the Savvy Selections Tasting Panel chose to feature the following wines from Strewn’s high end collection called ‘ Terroir’:


·Pinot Blanc VQA 2009 Terroir

·Meritage VQA 2008 Terroir

·Merlot VQA 2007 Terroir – a special Savvy price!


As always in the Savvy eZine, we have included the tasting notes from our Savvy Sommeliers along with recipes that Derek specifically chose to pair with the selected wine.

If there is a particular wine from Strewn that you enjoyed (Derek is betting that you will particularly like the Pinot Blanc!) feel free to contact me and I would be more than happy to arrange a delivery of additional bottles to be sent to you. Same holds for previously featured wines, just give me a call to arrange a special shipment of your favorite wines.


Cheers & Enjoy!

Debbie & Savvy Team
Savvy Company



Presented by Sommelier Derek Vollrath

One of the amazing benefits of being part of the Savvy Team is the opportunity each month to take part in sampling wonderful Ontario wines for the Savvy Selections wine of the month club. In addition, I have the chance to talk with some of this province’s top-notch winemakers. It’s discussions with the winemakers that give wine geeks like me (!) insight into what went on behind the wine that is being delivered to your door.


For this month’s Savvy Selection, I spent a few hours one Sunday morning talking with Joe Will, Strewn’s long standing winemaker. Like most winemakers, making the “gift of the Gods” has always been one of Joe’s interests. He didn’t start out as a “professional” winemaker per se, rather he has been making wine since high school!



Joe grew up on the Canadian prairies, so he began making wine using choke cherries or crab apples since they were plentiful. It’s a pretty safe bet that the Savvy Selections subscribers will not receive a choke cherry or crab apple wine in their monthly delivery, however, the technique used in making an alcoholic beverage from fermented fruits is quite similar to making grape wine.


Before turning that experimental interest into a day job, Joe started a journalism career with the Canadian Press, then was lured to British Columbia’s Okanagan. In 1989 Joe moved from Alberta to the Okanagan where he worked as a “cellar rat” in a small winery.


A leap of faith later landed him in Australia, enrolled in a one year graduate degree program in winemaking. Being a student a second time around helped immensely because Joe wanted to be there: Joe’s studies were interesting and he was very keen and eager to learn all aspects of the winemaking process.


One of the up-shots of being a foreign student in Australia was the opportunity to audit any course offered. Being the keen student he was, Joe took advantage of this opportunity and sat-in on a number of viticulture courses (winespeak: grape growing courses).


After graduation, Joe stayed a year and worked at the internationally known Australian winery of Yalumba. To put things into perspective as to the size of Yalumba, the year that Joe spent working in Australia they crushed as many grapes as all of the wineries in Ontario combined. The Ontario industry continues to grow, yet it is still small when compared to other wine regions – even in those considered “New World” like Australia.


In 1992, when he returned to Canada, Joe landed the job as the winemaker at Pillitteri Estates where he spent five years before breaking out on his own and opening Strewn.



Joe explained to me that makes Strewn wines that are Old World in style so that the terroir of the Niagara region is richly expressed in each wine.



Old World Style vs. New World Style

Wines made in the Old World Style have a tendency to rely on traditional production methods with the final product gaining its flavours from the surrounding terroir and the affect of the climate, soil and winemaker’s decisions on harvesting on the grapes. Old World Style wines develop great complexity over time making them perfect for cellaring – especially the reds that we have chosen for your Savvy Selections. Strewn wines also wines made with the understanding that great wine is even better with good food, and come ‘alive’ in your mouth when paired properly.


Conversely, wines made in a New World Styles tend to be immediately appealing as they are more fruit forward, both on the nose as well as the palate.



Terroir – What is that you say?

Terroir is a French term that includes the soil, topography and microclimate of a grape growing area. All these elements integrate themselves into the grapes that then create the distinctive character of each wine. The French wine region of Burgundy is famous for what the ‘terroir’ imparts to the grape and to the wine.


In addition to crafting wines that are expressive of the terroir of the Niagara Region, Strewn has some other interesting things going on in the winery. One of these unique features is that there is a cooking school attached to the winery for as Joe told me, “it is so that our visitors can fully experience food and wine matching”.


If you are planning on heading to Niagara this summer Strewn Winery should definitely be on the list of wineries to visit. Cheers!






Pinot Blanc VQA 2009, $15.95

Pinot Blanc is a French white wine variety and, as the name suggests, is part of the Pinot family alongside with Pinot Noir – noted as the most popular family member. According to Jim there is not a “tremendous” amount of Pinot Blanc grown in the Niagara region, so it is a treat to be offered as part of this month’s Savvy Selection. Enjoy!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A bright pale-lemon colour with a hint of green on the rim. The nose is exceptionally expressive and complex displaying aromas of cool-climate fruit such as pear and green apple with undertones of cut grass. The wine is dry, light to medium bodied with refreshing acidity that helps maintain a long citrus finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: This is definitely a food wine and would match well with grapefruit salad or grilled scallops with a herbed lemon sauce. The Savvy Selections tasting panel recommends mussels Provençale – recipe is on the following pages.

Cellaring: This wine is drinking really well now so stock up for the summer months. It could also keep in your cellar for 6 to 12 months.



Merlot VQA 2007 $26.95 (reduced from $32.00)

From a winemaking perspective, 2007 was one of the three best years of the decade; and for the curious to know, 2001 and 2005 were the other two notable years according to Joe. Joe made this Merlot in a New World style (i.e. fruit forward), which is difficult to achieve in Niagara because of the inconsistency of our summer weather. To fully enjoy this Merlot we recommend decanting it 30 minutes to an hour before serving

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: The wine has a wonderful ruby red core that fades ever so slightly to a garnet-coloured rim. This colouring is an indication that the wine is beginning to show its age. Initially the nose was muted (winespeak: faint aromas) but after about 15 minutes the wine opened up with aromas of dark fruits, cherry, red currant along with some earthy notes such as leather and pencil shavings. This medium-bodied dry wine has well-integrated tannins and a noticeably long complex peppery finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: A charcuterie platter of flavourful meats along with artisan cheeses is definitely an excellent pairing suggestion. Derek offers the recipe for striploin roast with wild mushrooms on the following pages.

Cellaring: This wine can be opened and enjoyed now or if you wish it could cellar for another 2 years.



Meritage VQA 2008, $18.00

The 2008 Meritage was the first of its kind produced by Strewn. In keeping with other Meritage wines this is a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Medium ruby red in colour, the wine displayed aromas of green pepper, pencil shavings and dark fruit (black berries to be exact). On the palate the wine was dry, but the presence of ripe red fruit and vanilla made it appear slightly-off dry. The wine had a silky mouth feel with integrated tannins and medium length vanilla (i.e. oak) finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: This Meritage is definitely a “red meat” wine and the Savvy Selections Tasting Panel suggests that you pair this wine with a flat-iron steak accented with herbed butter. It is an easy meal to prepare and is a great excuse to use the barbeque. The recipe for this dish is on the following pages.

Cellaring: This Meritage is drinking now or could cellar it for 2 or 3 years.






With Strewn Winery Pinot Blanc…

Mussels Provençale
FromHeart Smart, the Best of HeartSmart Cooking, Bonnie Stern

Makes 8 servings as an appetizer; 4 as a main course

4 lbs (2 kg) mussels

1 tbsp (15 mL) olive oil

1 shallot, chopped

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 can (28 oz / 796 mL) plum tomatoes, drained and chopped

1 cup (250 mL) dry white wine, stock or water

1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh tarragon, or 1 tsp (5 mL) dried

1 tsp (5 mL) cracked black peppercorns

¼ tsp (1 mL) salt

Pinch of pepper

3 tbsp (45 mL) chopped fresh parsley

2 whole wheat or regular baguette, sliced




1.Clean mussels and discard any that have broken shells or do not close when lightly tapped

2.Heat oil in a large Dutch oven on medium-high heat. Add shallot and garlic. Cook for a few minutes until fragrant and tender, but do not brown. Add tomatoes and bring to a boil.

3.Add mussels and turn to coat well. Add wine and bring to a boil. Sprinkle with tarragon, salt and pepper.

4.Cover and cook mussels for 5 minutes, or until mussels open. Discard any that do not open after another minute of cooking.

5.Transfer mussels to large bowls. Sprinkle with parsley and serve with lots of bread to soak up juices.



With Strewn Winery Meritage…



Flat Iron Steak with Herb Butter
From Foodies: Simple, Fresh & Inspired

Serves 4

Herbed Butter Ingredients

½ lb. Butter, Softened

½ bunch Parsley, Chopped

½ bunch Tarragon, Chopped

½ bunch Chives, Chopped

Steak Ingredients

4 – 7 oz. Flat Iron Steaks

Vegetable Oil

Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper, To Taste



Method – Butter

1.Place the herbs in a food processor with 1 pound of softened butter and a pinch of salt. Mix until well incorporated and light green in colour.

2.Remove from mixer and form into a log using plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm



Method – Flat Iron Steak

1.Oil and season the steaks. On an indoor grill, cook to medium rare and rest.

2.Slice the steaks across the grain and top with a couple of slices of herb butter. Reheat quickly and plate. Serving suggestion: Plate with steamed seasonal vegetables.



With Strewn Winery Merlot…



Striploin Roast with Wild Mushrooms

From Heart Smart: The Best of Heart Smart Cooking
Serves 4

1 tbsp (15 mL) Dijon mustard

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp (15 mL) pepper

1 tbsp (15 mL) Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp (15 mL) chopped fresh rosemary or ½ tsp (2 mL) dried

4-lb (2 kg) striploin roast, well trimmed and tied

1 tsp (5 mL) salt

1 tsp (5 mL) olive oil

12 shallots peeled and quartered

2 tbsp (30 mL) balsamic vinegar

2 cup (500 mL) dry red wine

1 lb (500 g) wild mushrooms (we recommend a combination of Portobello,shiitake or oyster), chopped

⅓ cup (75 mL) oyster sauce

2 tbsp (30 mL) coarsely chopped fresh parsley




1.In a small bowl, combine mustard, garlic, pepper, Worcestershire and rosemary. Pat roast dry and rub mustard mixture into roast. Marinate for 30 minutes at room temperature or longer in refrigerator. Just before cooking sprinkle roast with salt.

2.Heat oil in a large, deep non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. Brown roast well on all sides; this should take about 10 minutes. Transfer roast to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Discard all but 1 tbsp (15 mL) fat from skillet.

3.Roast meat in a preheated 375° F (190°C) oven for 45 to 60 minutes, or until meat thermometer inserted in thickest part of meat registers about 135° F (57°C) for medium-rare. Allow roast to rest for 10 to 20 minutes before carving. Remove fat from surface of pan juices.

4.Meanwhile, return skillet to heat. Add shallots, vinegar and any defatted pan juices. Cook, stirring, until vinegar evaporates and shallots begin to brown. Add wine. Cook on medium-high heat, scraping pan until wine reduces to about ½ cup (125 mL) and shallots are tender.

5.Add mushrooms to skillet and cook for about 10 minutes, or until wilted and browned. Add oyster sauce and cook for 5 minutes. Add parsley and taste and adjust seasonings if necessary.

6.Remove string from roast and carve into slices. Top with mushrooms, shallots and juices.



Cheers & Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections!


Tasting Tawse wines: a mid-winter delight

Posted by Susan

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

Established in 2001, with the state-of-the-art winery opening in 2005, Tawse Winery is family-owned, and has placed a strong emphasis on organic and biodynamic production of premium, quality wines. While the winery has its own vineyards—Cherry Avenue, Quarry Road, Hillside, Tintern and T&V—located in the sub-appellations of Twenty Mile Bench, Vinemount Ridge and Lincoln Lakeshore, it also sources grapes under long-term agreements from quality growers in the Niagara area.

The grapes are hand harvested and hand sorted, with the wine crafted using a gravity flow system. Under the direction of winemaker Paul Pender, the winery focuses on creating extraordinary wines of depth and richness that express the terroir and character of the vineyard and the varietal. A winery owner of uncompromising standards, Moray Tawse is also a wine aficionado. Through his association with consulting winemaker, Pascal Marchand, Mr. Tawse has now ventured into winemaking in Burgundy. Pascal Marchand is a Montréal native and internationally acclaimed winemaker who has lived in France for over twenty years.

Operating from their cuverie and cellars in Nuits-Saint-Georges, the two long-time friends and business associates will distribute the existing Pascal Marchand line of wines under the Marchand & Tawse label, and are committed to expanding their range of Côtes de Nuits and Côtes de Beaune wines. Wines by Pascal Marchand have been released through Vintages, and I’m sure we can now expect to see more Marchand & Tawse wines in the LCBO.

Tawse winery representative, Daniel Lafleur, recently met with me for a tasting of several Tawse wines, including some new releases. The reputation of this winery is well established—it was recognized as Winery of the Year at the 2010 Canadian Wine Awards—and these wines did not disappoint.

The Savvy team of Sommeliers look forward to featuring Tawse wines in Savvy Selections wine of the month club this year.  All the more reason to subscribe to this wine delivery service – premium wines handpicked by Savvy Sommeliers & delivered to you at home or at the office. 

Cheers & enjoy my tasting notes!

Tawse ‘Misek Vineyard’ Riesling 2009
VQA Twenty Mile Bench $21.95 10.5% alcohol
Pale straw, this beguiling off-dry offering from Tawse was a gold medal winner at Intervin. Supple and round, it offers fragrant aromas of apricot, citrus and mineral that develop in the glass. Sweet stone fruit captivates on entry, while a lively lemon-lime acidity refreshes the palate. The finish is clean, bright and mouthwateringly good. A treat for the senses, it will certainly evolve over the next 3-5 years. Available only from Tawse.

Tawse Riesling 2009
VQA Niagara Peninsula $19.95 10.0% alcohol
Drawing on fruit from four Niagara Escarpment vineyards, this is another award-winning wine. Expect lovely floral, tree fruit and citrus aromas which lead into a basket of citrus at first sip—grapefruit, lemon and lime—racing across the palate on a spine of vibrant acidity. There’s great intensity here, and a lasting finish with lingering mineral notes. A fine match for pan-fried cod with a squeeze of lemon and a candidate for medium-term cellaring. Available only from Tawse.

Tawse ‘Quarry Road’ Chardonnay 2008
VQA Vinemount Ridge $34.95 (111989) 13.0% alcohol
From a certified organic and biodynamic vineyard at the top of the escarpment where the limestone is very accessible, this dry medium-bodied Chardonnay is a true creature of its terroir, graced with minerality from the first whiff through the lengthy finish. Add to the minerality, complex aromas and flavours of tree fruit, vanilla and light toast. The finish re-emphasizes the creamy texture and the wonderful balance of well-integrated oak, lively acidity, clean ripe fruit, and that underlying zesty minerality. Enjoy now or cellar medium term.

Tawse ‘Quarry Road’ Gewurztraminer 2009
VQA Vinemount Ridge $24.95 13.0% alcohol
Fragrant with aromas of rose water, lychee and tropical fruits, this classic exemplar of the varietal is in fine balance.  The texture is subtly oily, the acidity is fresh, minerality tantalizes the palate and the flavours appeal—imagine a bowl of tropical fruits and cake spice drizzled with a dash of lime.  All is in harmony through the finish, where an appealing slightly bitter note of citrus rind lingers. Available only from Tawse.

Tawse ‘Laidlaw’ Pinot Noir 2008
VQA Vinemount Ridge $44.95 13.0% alcohol
Subtle aromas of berry fruit, earth and spice waft from the glass of this ruby-hued new offering. Dry, medium bodied, structured and lively, the wine displays perceptible tannins and a backbone of vibrant acidity. Enjoy layers of flavours—red cherry, berry, earthy beetroot and underbrush with some hints of toast—and a persistent fresh finish. A match for chicken and sausage with olive or cellar mid-term. Available only from Tawse.

Tawse ‘Cherry Avenue’ Pinot Noir 2008
VQA Twenty Mile Bench $57.95 13.0% alcohol
Another gold-medal winner, this wine is the product of estate-grown fruit, 40% of which was whole cluster pressed. Deep ruby, the aromas are enticing—floral, black cherry and nuances of spice and earth. Medium bodied, dry, it’s beautifully balanced—a wonderful spine of clean acidity, well-integrated ripe tannins and nuanced flavours of red fruit, earth, white pepper and spice. On the palate, intense and impactful through the lasting fresh dry finish. It will cellar medium-term, but you’ll want to drink it now! Available only from Tawse.

Tawse ‘Van Bers’ Cabernet Franc 2008
VQA Creek Shores $47.95 13.5% alcohol
Elegant and complex, this deep red wine has an enticing array of aromas—vegetal, forest floor, black berries, toast and hints of chocolate. Dry, structured, medium-full bodied, the tannins are firm, the acidity fresh and the flavours layered. Field berries, herbal and earthy notes, along with hints of black pepper and toast carry through on the lengthy finish. For this robust wine, prime rib would be in order, or cellar 5-7 years. Available only from Tawse.

Tawse Riesling Ice Wine 2009
VQA Twenty Mile Bench $34.95 (200 ml) 10.0% alcohol
Golden, this intense wine has luscious aromas of honeyed stone fruit, tropical fruits such as pineapple and guava, and ripe citrus. The tasting experience is like a soft wave pouring across the palate, from silky sweet stone fruit on entry through fresh lemon-lime on the mid-palate, and the harmony of both riding the spine of fresh acidity through the intense, refreshing, longlasting finish. A lovely match for Ontario artisanal cheese or with apple/pear flan. Available only from Tawse.


First a winery in Tuscany… now a winery in Niagara

Posted by Susan

Friday, June 18th, 2010


Savvy Selections wine of the month club
features Alvento Winery
Canada’s wineries delivered to your doorstep

On a warm day in March this year, a team of Savvy Sommeliers – Susan, Wayne, Julie & Doug – met up with Bruno Moos & Elyane Grenier, the friendly couple who are co-owners of Alvento Winery. While the foursome wandered through the vineyards on this spring-like day with Bruno, he expressed his concern about the vines due to the mild winter & early warm weather. Like all grape growers, he is constantly watching Mother Nature’s effect in his vineyard & experimenting at every stage of the growing season. When we visit wineries, we often hear winemakers say, “wine is made in the vineyard” – what happens in the vineyard is just as (or more important) than what happens during harvest & in the cellar.


This deeply rooted couple has a rich history that helps explain how their approach to viticulture & winemaking at Alvento. Elyane & Bruno met in Montreal in 1975. Bruno was trained as an architect, yet his wine connection is with his Swiss grandparents who were winemakers & his father was a wine connoisseur. When the couple tired of city living & the long Canadian winters, their thoughts turned to living a more rural lifestyle & to living ‘from the land’. In 1983, they moved to Europe, traveling through the wine regions of Spain & Italy looking for just the right location for a winery of their own. They found it in the hills of Tuscany, near Pisa, where Soiana Winery was born – on the site of an ancient fortress that had been destroyed during the war of 1498 between Florence & Pisa. Their 100-metre cellar was beneath the castle ruins, part of the original fortification.


The 1980s was a time of crisis in the Italian wine industry – vineyards were readily available, winemakers were challenged to find buyers for their product in a marketplace inundated with inexpensive & low-quality wine. Elyane & Bruno reminisce about the great fortune they had when they met the experienced & knowledgeable local viticulturalists & winemakers, who helped them establish their Soiana. “We learned the hard way, yet were also very lucky. We met Piero Salvadori, a retired winery owner & oenologist with generations of knowledge of viticulture & wine making. He agreed to share his knowledge with one condition: that we commit to work hard & make the best wine in Italy. In addition to this wealth of information, we were fortunate to live next door to Renzo Belcari, whose family had their own winery for generations & gained his skills from notable Professor Racca – a teacher at Pisa University who had developed specialized pruning methods & other very meticulous viticulture practices after the phyloxera crisis”, recalls Bruno.


Soiana wines first become known in Northern Europe, while Tuscan wines became an alternative to French wines. With the advent of Super Tuscans, which Soiana was producing using rigorously selected grapes & low yields, the winery gained international profile & a reputation for high quality wine. Their commitment to hard work was rewarded; soon their wines had a cult following & were sold out before they were released. Soiana is the pedigree of Alvento – read on to learn about Bruno & Elyane’s move back to Canada & the creation of Alvento.


We’re pleased to featured three unique Alvento wines (from different vintages):

§   Alvento Vio VQA 2007

§   Alvento Emilie VQA 2006

§   Alvento Elige VQA 2005


Enjoy these fine wines & matching recipes – one was provided by Elyane. We’re just a click away should you wish to order more Alvento wines or others featured in the Savvy Selections. If your travels take you to Niagara, Bruno & Elyane would be delighted to welcome you to Alvento.


Cheers & Enjoy!

Debbie & Savvy Team



Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins


After much consideration, Bruno & his wife Elyane decided to move back to Canada, after selling Soiana in 1999. About 10 years earlier, they had met Morrie Neiss, a Montreal businessman, philanthropist & wine collector. Over a number of years, Morrie & his wife visited the couple & participated in the harvest at Soiana. When Bruno & Elyane decided to establish a winery in Niagara, he partnered with them.

They searched for a property where they could implement some of the techniques they had learned through their years in Tuscany. In 2001, they found a 5-acre fruit orchard on the current site in Vineland. Says Elyane, “The land was planted as an orchard with cherries, peaches, pears, apples and plums. Cherry & peach trees are an indicator of good land for vines, according to Tuscan wisdom. And the property is near Lake Ontario and takes advantage of the cool breeze in the summer, facilitating photosynthesis even on very hot days.”

Most of the vines were planted in 2001: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot & Vigonier – using tightly spaced planting techniques to reduce yields but increase the concentration of the fruit. In 2002, Bruno decided to plant Nebbiolo, as he felt this grape could do well in Niagara given that it grows at quite high altitudes in Piemonte, Italy. The winery was named Alvento (translation: facing the wind) since the wind is omnipresent in the vineyard.

The wind did seem to be blowing against them for a few years! Although the vines grew quickly, the cold winter of 2003 destroyed the buds on the vines. While the roots survived, the new growth demanded substantial pruning to control the vigorous growth and to shape the vines for future production. Hard to believe, but this happened again in 2004 & 2005. Despite these setbacks, they were more determined than ever to create the wines they dreamed of at Alvento. Like their neighbours, they invested in a wind machine to protect the vines from the cold.

Finally, in 2006, the weather co-operated & they were able to harvest their first grapes & produce their first commercial vintage.

Their focus is on three different styles of Bordeaux-type blends:

          Elige is in the style of Medoc (a wine region in France)

          Sondra in the style of Pomerol

          Emilie in the style of St-Emilion.

These three blends were aged 18 months in Burgundian-style oak barrels.

In terms of white wines, only Viognier is crafted. Viognier is a popular grape variety stemming from France that is now starting to grow in other countries. The 2007 Viognier included in your Savvy Selections is unoaked unlike the previous vintage (it was interesting to try the 2 vintages side by side to taste the difference). They expect to release the 2007 reds later this year or early next. As our subscribers know from other Savvy eZine reports, 2007 was an outstanding vintage in Ontario – we look forward to tasting Bruno’s reds!

Bruno explains, “We spend many, many hours in the vineyard taking care of the vines. What we learned in Italy is that you cannot make a great wine without excellent grapes. Many of the practices of oenology consist of adding substances to the wine that in reality imitate the qualities of grapes that are fully mature. To obtain that level and character, grapes have to be continuously attended to by hand to make sure that there is no rot or that there is no over production. It takes many hours of vineyard work and it can not be done by machine. While you cannot cut corners in the cellar, or use inadequate equipment, the most sophisticated apparatus & the use of the most recent oenological innovations cannot replace good mature grapes.”

While these wines come to you, the Alvento team – Bruno, Elyane & Greg, their assistant – continue to monitor the vines. Spring warmth was followed by a cold snap, but with the help of their wind machine, the vines were saved. Greg, who completes his diploma in Oenology & Viticulture this year & who will become a father in September, is convinced this will be a good vintage – he’ll be putting aside a few bottles to open on his child’s eighteenth birthday!

Cheers & Enjoy!



~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~

Alvento Vio 2007 VQA, $25.95

Produced from hand-harvested grapes, this Viognier was fermented sur lie (winespeak: with the yeast) in stainless steel to retain the lively fruit aromas and flavours.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Pale gold & clear, the wine has a subtle & appealing nose of sweet stone fruit & light notes of white flowers & pineapple. It’s a dry mid-weight wine, with fresh vibrant flavours of ripe apricots, juicy nectarines & a hint of exotic tropical fruits with a splash of citrus. Lively acidity & fresh fruits linger on the finish.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Slightly chilled, this wine will pair well with fresh summer salads, grilled fish, or light appetizers.

Cellaring:  Drinking well now, this wine may be cellared for up to 2 more years.



Alvento Elige 2005 VQA, $24.95

A blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Cabernet Franc and 20% Merlot, this blend went through malolactic fermentation in stainless, followed by aging for 18 months in part new, part seasoned Burgundian barrels.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  A regal, semi-opaque ruby, this elegant wine offers rich & complex aromas of berries, vanilla, sweet spice and some underlying notes of cedar and exotic dried fruits. It’s dry, with ripe well-integrated tannins, fresh cherry and red berry fruit—raspberry and field strawberries—and underlying notes of toast and cocoa. Medium bodied, it has lovely balance and a lengthy finish.  . 

Suggested Food Pairing: Bring on the beef!  Elyane has shared one of her special recipes for this wine on the following pages.

Cellaring:  Designed to be aged, the wine would benefit from decanting for about an hour if you plan to enjoy it now.



Alvento Emilie 2006 VQA $23.95

Grown on the sandy loam of Alvento’s waterfront property, the grapes for this unique blend were tended by hand on the vine & hand harvested – as with all Alvento grapes. The blend includes 70% Cabernet Franc & 30% Merlot, fermented in similar fashion to the Elige, & aged 18 months in French barrels, a slightly higher proportion of them being new.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Displaying a well-defined garnet hue, this wine displays alluring aromas of chocolate, exotic spice, sweet kitchen herbs (bay and sage), black fruits, vanilla & toast. It’s dry, medium-full bodied, with silky round tannins, pleasant crispness & ripe fruity flavours of field berries underlaid with tangy hints of pepper. Well balanced, with well-integrated toasty oak notes, it delivers a full-flavoured and lingering finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: A classic match for this food-friendly wine would be grilled lamb or beef, or later in the year, a hearty vegetable and beef ragout .

Cellaring:  This wine will also age well and benefits from decanting. Our tasting panel noted that the wine changed dramatically in the glass!


~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

With Alvento Vio VQA…

Grilled Chicken & Mushroom Salad

From LCBO Food & Drink Magazine

Serves 4-6

1/3 C extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, minced
2-3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
6 oz. oyster mushrooms, trimmed

4 0z. shitake mushrooms, stemmed
8 C mixed greens

1 Tbsp lemon juice

2 tsp Dijon or grainy mustard

Freshly ground pepper



1.      In a large bowl, combine 2 Tbsp of the oil, mustard, rosemary & garlic. Add chicken and turn to coat. Place on greased grill over medium-high heat & grill chicken, turning once, for about 12 minutes or until no longer pink inside. Remove to cutting board & slice thinly.


2.      Toss mushrooms with 1-2 Tbsp oil & place on greased grill over medium-high heat. Grill, turning once, for about 5 minutes or until tender and golden. Remove to plate.   


3.      Place greens on large platter and top with sliced grilled chicken and mushrooms.


4.      Whisk together remaining oil, lemon juice, mustard and pepper to taste and drizzle over salad. Enjoy!



With Alvento Elige VQA …

Tagliata with Arugula

From the kitchen of Elyane Grenier, Alvento Winery

Serves 4

¼ C balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 ½ lb. beef tenderloin
2 Tbsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 Tbsp coarse salt
2 C sliced arugula
1 lemon, halved

High quality extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling

Parmigiano Reggiano cheese shavings



1.   Preheat oven to 350F. Whisk first 3 ingredients in a small bowl. 


2.   Place beef on platter, spoon marinade over and turn to coat completely. Let stand 1 hour. Sprinkle meat all over with salt & pepper. Heat olive oil in heavy large ovenproof skillet over high heat. Add beef and brown on all sides, about 5 minutes (the meat may be grilled on the BBQ) 


3.   Transfer beef to platter and let rest 10 minutes.


4.   Slice beef thinly and divide among 4 plates. Drizzle any juices from platter over beef. Sprinkle with salt & top with arugula. Squeeze lemon over, then drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


5.   Enjoy with Alvento Elige!



With Alvento Emilie VQA…

Peppered Beef with Balsamic Strawberry Relish

Serves 4

1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp whole peppercorns, cracked
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ lb. grilling steak (~ 1” thick)

Strawberry Relish
1 ½ C chopped strawberries
3 Tbsp chopped red onion
2 Tbsp chopped sweet yellow pepper (optional)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp granulated sugar
Salt & pepper to taste


1.  In a small bowl, combine mustard, cracked peppercorns, garlic; rub an even coating on both sides of meat. Grill steak over high heat or broil for about 4 minutes each side for medium-rare, or until desired degree of doneness.

2.  For the relish: In a bowl, combine strawberries, onion, yellow pepper, parsley, vinegar, oil, sugar and salt and pepper to taste. Slice steak thinly across the grain and serve with a dollop of the strawberry relish.  


Cheers & Enjoy!



Reif Estates Winery: 25 years & still growing…

Posted by Susan

Monday, January 4th, 2010


Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Reif Estates Winery

Canada’s wineries delivered to your doorstep

Who could imagine that a wine tradition that began in Germany’s Rhine Valley half a millennium ago would cross the Atlantic to Niagara-on-the-Lake?  Such is the depth of tradition and expertise which characterizes our featured winery this month, Reif Estate Winery.


As a young agriculture student in Germany, Ewald Reif listened with great interest as one of his instructors spoke of his travels to Canada and to the vine-growing area of Niagara.  Years later, in the 1960s, he followed in his teacher’s footsteps and visited the Niagara area, talking with local fruit and grape growers.  In 1977, after a call from Karl Kaiser, he flew to Canada and purchased a former fruit orchard on the fertile banks of the Niagara River  He planted select vitis vinifera vines, as well as some French hybrids, and developed that plot of land so that 6 years later, in 1983, Reif Estate Winery offered its first commercial vintage. In fact, Klaus Reif, the current owner and President of the winery, spent the summer of 1978 planting some of those first vines with his uncle – more about Klaus & his pioneering grapegrowing in the following pages. 


Reif’s (pronounced ry-fe) vineyard is located in the Niagara River sub-appellation of the larger Niagara VQA appellation.  The soil is sandy, encouraging the roots of the vines to deeply penetrate the soil in search of reliable moisture.  And the influence of the nearby Niagara River moderates vineyard temperatures and extends the growing season.  Vineyards are planted on east-facing slopes, which contributes to the ability of Reif Estates to grow tender red varietals and produce some of the more full-bodied and intense red wines of the region.  In fact, at a Wine Council of Ontario event in February of this year, I had the opportunity to taste Klaus’ 2002 First Growth Pinot Noir which was a blockbuster, dark, muscular and intense, produced from vines planted in 1988 and aged 3 years in French and American oak.  When would he produce another wine like this his peers asked?  “2007 provided ideal conditions for the creation of another outstanding First Growth Pinot Noir”, replied Klaus.  Be on watch for this wine!


As Reif Estate Winery has grown, so has the range of varietals grown and the wine produced.  To the original varieties Pinot Noir and Merlot, as well as Pinot Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon have been added to their repertoire. 


In this month’s Savvy Selections, we are delighted to feature:

·         2008 Chenin Blanc VQA

·         2006 Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve VQA

·         2007 Meritage VQA

·         2007 Silver Meritage VQA – on special request


We’re always pleased to hear from our Savvy Selections subscribers.  Let us know how you enjoyed these specially selected wines, as well as the matching recipes.  If you would like to order more of these wines, simply contact us.  For a great tasting experience, don’t forget to visit Reif Estate Winery on your next trip to Niagara.


Cheers & Enjoy!

Debbie & Savvy Team

Introducing Reif Estate Winery
Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins

The passionate commitment of Klaus Reif (left) to his vision and philosophy – purity, integrity, tradition – is clear in every word as we discuss how he and his team envision the future for Reif Estate Winery.

But first, how it all started for him….

As a young teenager, Klaus accompanied his father to Niagara in 1978 to visit his uncle Ewald’s new vineyard and winery. “I liked Canada”, said Klaus, “so I returned again in 1979 and 1980.” As he worked side by side with Ewald that first summer, he also had the opportunity to visit family friends working in some of the small number of local Niagara wineries.  These were the early days for the resurgent wine industry, and Klaus recognized tremendous opportunity to produce quality wines.  On his return home, he set a personal commitment to join his uncle in Niagara.  In 1982, the year the winery was licensed, he completed his emigration to Canada. He returned to Germany to complete his degree in Oenology and Viticulture at the famed Geisenheim Institute.  Then in 1987, he moved permanently to Niagara and purchased Reif Estate Winery from Ewald to become its President and Oenologist – and it’s driving force.

There’s an undenial energy and excitement in the air as Klaus Reif and Andrea Kaiser, Director of Marketing, talk about the Reif terroir and their wines.  With 127 acres, this winery is truly able to control the quality of their wines from vine to bottle.  The Reif crest on the bottle recognizes the 13th generation of winemaking in this family, while a focus on core varietals that benefit from the Niagara River sub-appellation speaks to the terroir.  While Klaus is actively involved in all aspects of viticulture and viniculture, he partners with Roberto diDomenico in winemaking.  Roberto came to Reif as a summer student from the University of Guelph, then in 1988 he joined the winemaking team.  Says Klaus with obvious pride, “There’s a saying in the local wine industry, that it’s ‘Reif for Life’ when you become a member of our team.”

With the strong belief that great wines start in the vineyard, over time Klaus and Roberto have focused on improving the quality of grapes in the vineyard, using such techniques as thinning and pruning of the vines.  This has led to a natural improvement of the quality of the fruit.  At the same time, Klaus has focused on select varietals which best express the Niagara River terroir.  The 1st growth wines, such as the Pinot Noir mentioned earlier, are the ultimate expression of Reif’s terroir. While maintaining traditional methods and winemaking techniques, Klaus has added new technology. He has gradually developed the estate and the winery over the last 25 years to include a refined tasting room and retail area surrounded by attractive flower and herb gardens.

Reif has a long history of innovation that continues to this day.  For instance, they produced the first Late Harvest wine in 1987. Late Harvest has now become wine style category in the Canadian wine industry.  “We are always on the edge of technology.” At present, in collaboration with the NRC, Klaus is experimenting with the use of tobacco drying kilns for 2 different processes.  In one kiln, grapes will be dried as they are for the passito-style wines of Italy.  In another, grapes will be introduced to conditions which should produce botrytis-affected fruit – such as that used to create Sauternes.  You can sense his excitement as he talks about these new projects!

So what’s next for a man who has taken a business from inception to its resounding success?   His eyes light up as he says, “I’m ready for a new challenge!”  He remembers the fun of the early days of the winery, when he was directly involved in everything from viticulture to harvest to winemaking, from bookkeeping to marketing. With the strong team he now has in place, Klaus has the energy and opportunity to focus on his passion – excellence in winemaking.  “As a mid-sized winery, we can be driven by the vineyards and the winemaking process – I might even experiment with some batches of my own!”  So be Savvy, stay tuned for more outstanding wines from Klaus and his team!



 ~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~

Reif Estate Chenin Blanc VQA 2008, $18.95

Chenin Blanc is a little-known and often underappreciated grape variety – best known as the great white grape of France’s Loire Valley. At Reif, the grapes underwent cold-controlled fermentation, then aged in stainless steel tanks to maintain its fruity character and excellent acidity.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Intense aromatics waft from the glass – hints of melon, pink grapefruit and white flowers. Enjoy the layers of fruit flavors on the palate.  Crisp on the attack, yet silky smooth, this well-balanced wine has a lingering pithy finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Serve chilled, with poached or grilled scallops. White fish, or with the lemon risotto recipe that follows.

Cellaring:  No need to wait…this wine is ready to drink now. It can cellar for up to 2 years.



Reif Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve VQA 2006, $24.95

A well-made wine, this Cabernet Sauvignon was selected by Ontario’s MPPs as the VQA wine to be served at official functions. The grapes benefited from warm temperatures into mid-November, when it was harvested.  The added complexity comes from oak barrel fermentation as well as aging in French and Hungarian oak.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Linger over the aromas of sweet black currants and spices, along with hints of vanilla and coca.  A complex well-integrated wine, enjoy the sweet berry flavors complemented by refreshing acidity and ripe tannins.  Balanced and smooth, the wine has a spicy lingering finish.  

Suggested Food Pairing:  A versatile wine, serve with aged gouda, roasted meats or a Moroccan tagine loaded with dried fruit and sweet spices.

Cellaring: Drinking well now, the wine will could cellar for another 5 years.


Reif Estate Meritage VQA 2007 $26.95
From the outstanding 2007 vintage, this wine has just been released in time to be included in your Savvy Selections!  This blend is primarily Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with a measure of Cabernet Franc.  The fruit was picked at optimum ripeness, fermented for 18 days in stainless steel tanks, then aged in French oak.     

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Our Savvy Selections tasting panel hands down agreed with the winemaker – this is a superior wine.  The aromas of ripe fruit, vanilla and cedar evolve and amplify as the wine relaxes in the glass.  Well structured and balanced, the wine displays layers of flavors – cassis, plums, dark berries, vanilla and dark chocolate.  The rich fruit is well supported by a seam of acidity and integrated tannins that linger on the finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: We have paired this wonderful wine with a simple roast beef tenderloin.  Other options – consider lamb tenderloin or a medley of grilled autumn vegetables.  Or, as the Savvy Selections tasting panel did, simply savour this wine with chunks of hard cheese.

Cellaring: This wine is designed for aging, and could certainly cellar for 7 or more years.  But if you can’t resist tasting it now, we know you’ll want to order a case to share with your friends!


~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

With Reif Estate Chenin Blanc…

Lemon Risotto

Adapted from Cook at Home Cookbook by Anna Olson

Serves 2

1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp minced shallot
¼ C Arborio rice
2 Tbsp white wine
1 ½ tsp finely grated lemon zest
pinch Spanish saffron
1 ½ C water or dilute chicken stock
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 tsp honey

Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat and add onion, stirring until translucent. 
Add rice and stir for 3 minutes to coat rice with oil.  Add white wine all at once and stir until absorbed.  Stir in lemon zest and saffron.   

Add water (or stock), about ½ cup at a time, stirring aftere each addition and then stirring frequently, adding next addition of liquid only after the previous one has been fully absorbed.  Check doneness of rice by tasting.


Serve with pan fired scallops or filet of halibut.   



With Reif Estate Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve….

Roasted Beef Tenderloin with Caramelized Shallots & Red Wine Sauce

Recipe from Susan’s friend Jennifer McLagan

Serves 6

2 ½-3 lb. piece centre-cut beef tenderloin
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
salt & freshly ground pepper
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
4 shallots, peeled & thinly sliced
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 C dry red wine
1 C beef stock


Preheat oven to 450 F.

Brush tenderloin with oil and place in a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil.  Season beef with salt & pepper to taste.   


Over medium heat, melt butter in a frying pan.  When hot, add shallots, thyme sprig & pinch of salt. 
Cook, stirring over medium heat until the shallots soften & begin to caramelize, ~10-15 minutes.


While the shallots are cooking, place beef in the oven & roast for 25 minutes for rare, 30 minutes for medium, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 120F for rare, 125F for medium.  When beef is cooked, remove it from oven, wrap it in aluminum foil & let rest for 10-15 minutes.


Pour the red wine into the frying pan with the caramelized shallots & bring to a boil to deglaze pan by scraping bottom.  Add stock & boil gently ~5-7 minutes or until you have about 1 of sauce.  Remove the thyme & season with salt or pepper as required. 


Unwrap tenderloin & place on carving board.  Add any juices from the meat to the sauce.  Slice the meat & spoon sauce over.


With Reif Estate Meritage…

Beef Filet Roasted with Mustard Peppercorn Crust

Recipe from Anne Lindsay’s Light Kitchen Cookbook

Serves 6-8

2 ½ lb.  beef tenderloin
¼ C Dijon mustard
2 tsp minced fresh garlic
2 Tbsp black peppercorns (or to taste)

Trim any fat or muscle covering from meat; place in roasting pan. (Or grill on the BBQ)

Combine mustard & garlic; spread over beef.

In food processor or with mallet, crush peppercorns; pat onto mustard coating.  Let stand for 1 hour.


Roast in 425F oven for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350F; roast for 25 minutes or until medium-rare. 


Remove & let stand for 8-10 minutes before carving.  Serve with new potatoes and sautéed mushrooms.




Cheers & enjoy this months Savvy Selections!


An eye popping wine discovery…

Posted by Wayne

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

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

Savvy Selections is all about discovering premium wines made by winemakers across Canada.  This month we have made an incredible – not to mention delicious – discovery when we opened top-of-the-line wines from Vineland Estates Winery of Niagara.


Seriously, our eyes popped out in amazement when we sampled these elegant, well balanced and well crafted wines. We wish that we could see your reaction of discovery when you take your first sip of the Elevation Series wines in this month’s Savvy Selections:

Elevation Series Riesling VQA 2007– a signature grape variety of Vineland Estates. This is the best of the best!

Elevation Series Chardonnay VQA 2007 – a white wine that any red wine lover will enjoy

Elevation Series Cabernet VQA 2007 – a blend that has won numerous awards recently that the winery has just relabled the bottle to accommodate all of the accolades!


Vineland Estates and its owners – the Schmidt family – are familiar to many Canadian households for quality wines. More importantly, they have leant a hand and their knowledge to grape growers, restaurants and start up wineries all in effort to help build a vibrant wine industry in Ontario and across the country.  Even Brian Schmidt, Vineland’s esteemed winemaker, helped by supporting an event that The Savvy Grapes was involved in during our early days of being business…and look at us now…showcasing his premium wines to our Savvy Selections subscribers.  Thank you Brian!


In this Savvy e-Zine, read more about Brian’s down to earth winemaking style that fascinated 0ur Savvy Sommelier Wayne Walker during his interview. As always, you will find our Savvy Sommelier tasting notes and summer recipes chosen to pair with the selected wines.


Visit the winery & stay for a meal…

When your travel plans take you to Niagara, be sure to include a visit Vineland.  Not only is it a stunning historic property, be sure to make time for a gourmet meal at the restaurant located in the 1845 circa farmhouse.  Pick a table outside under the shade of the large tree and be mesmerized by the view of the rolling vineyards while Executive Chef Jan Willem-Stulp and his team create an outstanding wine and food experience for you.  More at      


Stock up for the summer…

The Elevation Series wines will take your taste buds to new heights.  When you would like more of these wines or other wines from Vineland Estates, simply call me at any time to make the arrangements for a delivery. The wine can be sent to any Ontario address: to your home, office or even cottage.  Put us on speed dial! Savvy Company 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926).


Cheers, enjoy and most of all enjoy your summer!

Debbie & the Savvy Team


Vineland Estates Winery

Presented by Sommelier Wayne Walker

Off the beaten track, yet on a well traveled route, turn off the Q.E.W. at exit 57, head south on Victoria Avenue into the area known as Vineland. A quick right turn on Moyer Road will bring you to a remarkable landmark: a stone tower that marks the site of an 1860’s Mennonite homestead and now the home of Vineland Estates Winery. 


According to winemaker, Brian Schmidt, this is the site of the “fortunate happenstance” by Hermann Weis of Mosel, Germany in 1979. Weis attested that vinifera (winespeak: pure grape varieties – example Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, etc.) could not only survive, but flourish in the clay and limestone soils of Niagara. This brought about a “natural evolution” that Allan Schmidt (Vineland’s General Manager) and his brother Brian Schmidt have vigorously cultivated since assuming the direction and development of the winery in 1988.


Vineland Estates produces not just great wine, but a great wine experience. Its highly recommended restaurant, wonderful wine boutique, carriage-house facility for picturesque private events, phenomenal vineyards and unique wine cellar (a living record each of the 25 year history of the winery in bottle format) have all evolved from a natural sense of “working with all that we have,” as Brian explains


“Minimalist by nature” is how Brian expresses his approach to winemaking.But minimal doesn’t mean reducing to the bare bones. It means getting down to simple quality and enhancing the natural essence of the grapes.”


Brian’s insights into how he makes Riesling wine is almost a mantra for the character of the winery: “Our style is crafted from what we have been given from the vineyard. Acidity is the most consistent characteristic of grapes we can grow in Niagara. We don’t always have the conditions for high sugar and alcohol content in our crops. If we relied on those qualities for the basis of our Riesling wines we might only be successful 3 out of 10 years.” 


Brian goes on to explain, “For Riesling, we can typically get 18 to 18½ Brix (winemaker’s term for measurement of natural sugar content in grapes) consistently at each harvest. I stylize the winemaking so the acidity is adequate, yet not overpowering. It is this balanced approach that makes a great tasting wine like Elevation Riesling with only 8% alcohol and 20 grams of residual sugar.” With this explanation, our Savvy Selections tasting panel knew that it was a natural fit to include Vineland’s top end Riesling in this month’s selection.


Balance extends itself from winemaking into the vineyard. “To realize consistency of quality in the vineyard, our primary focus is to grow a healthy and balanced vine – one that is growing well considering the conditions of soil and the weather,” explains Brian in his down to earth manner. “Some wineries measure the number of tons per acre. To me, this is not as important as the sustainability of the vine and the methods we use to grow great grapes (viticulture). It’s a creative balancing act and I don’t want to handcuff our winery with expectations or quotas.”


For this reason, in some years, Brian does not craft particular wines in his portfolio. Simply put, due to rain or lack of sun hours or other natural affectations, he will not comprise quality or Vineland’s esteemed reputation with a sub-par wine. Vineland loyal customers and restaurants have expectations when they uncork a bottle of Vineland wines. Our Savvy Selections tasting panel were impressed with each of the four wines in Vineland’s Elevation Series, making it difficult for us to only pick three to showcase this month.


In addition to Riesling, Brian is inspired when he talks about Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc vineyards and the wines. In his opinion, both are very well suited to Niagara terroir resulting in complex wines.


“It is all about finding a balance. Like all pleasures, wine should not be complicated…simply enjoyed,” mentions Brian.  “Vineland Estates Winery is where great wine, fabulous food and beautiful surroundings embrace simple pleasures.”


Vineland Estates is very proud of the success of its Elevation wines in the marketplace and at wine competitions.


As a sommelier, I think that with every sip of Vineland’s wine you can taste the evolution of a winery that aims to create not only great wine, yet wine with unique character – its food friendliness, its winemaking philosophy and its sustainability. Cheers & Enjoy!




~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~

Elevation Riesling VQA 2007, $25

The fruit for these wines is harvested from the highest elevations on the property allowing them to take full advantage of temperature fluctuations (difference between day and night temperatures) that are generated by the Beamsville Bench – part of the Niagara Escarpment – along with the gentle breezes of nearby Lake Ontario. Combined, these help generate fresh acidity, ripe flavours and silky textured wines.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Pale yellow, clear and reflective, tickles your nose with aromas of clover honey, ripe apple and apricot. A soft steely texture with apple and apricot integrated with pink grapefruit. The intensity of sweetness and acidity makes for a distinct crisp taste experience – perfect for summer sipping.


Suggested Food Pairing: Serve chilled (at about 11C) on its own or with food. Quiche, ceviche, curry dishes and ginger infused desserts.  With its intensity and natural sweetness of this wine, Japanese dishes like Sushi, Shabu-shabu, Tempura or Ootoro are especially tasty – try your hand at our rolled sushi recipe below.


Cellaring: No need to wait – this wine is ready to drink this summer.



Elevation Chardonnay VQA 2007, $25

Also produced with grapes grown on the Beamsville Bench, subtle barrel aging adds to the complexity of its ripeness and silky texture. This is a white wine that any red wine drinker will enjoy.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A reflective pure straw colour, this medium-bodied wine presents good fruit aromas of crunch apple (spy apples in particular?), fresh nectarines, tangerine with a hint of pencil shavings (do you smell this?). Apple. herbs and lemon follow through on the palate and offer a balanced experience held together with good acidity and soft tannins. A medium aftertaste of apple and lemon-pepper leave a reflective impression. Delicious!


Suggested Food Pairing: This wine is like a cross-over vehicle when it comes to food pairings. It can match well with the lighter sides like fruit salads, Caesar salad, shellfish (raw and steamed). While it can also carry larger foods like honey-barbeque chicken wings, fish chowder and soft cheeses. In the meat category. oven-roasted pork, grilled chicken or white fish with garlic or citrus marinade.  Believe it or not a perfect complement with this wine is POPCORN – especially caramel corn!


Cellaring: Drinks like a dream right now. Cellaring shouldn’t exceed 2 years if you want to maintain present levels of fruit flavour. Serve at 12C to 14C.


Elevation Cabernet VQA 2007, $25
Another ‘Elevated’ experience, that takes advantage the micro-climate, it benefits from the experience and expertise of Vineland’s esteemed winemaker and friend of Savvy Company – Brian Schmidt. A blend of 70% Cabernet Franc (a very successfully nurtured grape in Niagara) and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, the sweet red bell pepper flavours of Cabernet Franc have been supported by the dark-fruit sweetness of Cabernet Sauvignon in an extremely well crafted and well-balanced wine. You are the first to receive this bottle sporting the new label that celebrates its string of recent awards – Savvy Selections membership has privileges!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A rich, transparent medium-bodied wine with aromas of ripe red berries and cinnamon then after the wine breathes a bit, the aromas extend into sweet bell red pepper, dark fruit (do you find figs and plums) and dark chocolate. The flavours evolve too! Dark juicy black cherry, mulberry, warm spice, toffee and even lemon pepper, finish off with subtle dry tannins, good acidity and warmth. A balanced experience whose medium finish leaves reflections of spicy, dark fruit.   

Suggested Food Pairing: Certainly this wine qualifies for the BBQ season! Pork chops and ribs would match best, especially when dry rubbed with herbs and spices. Tomato-based pastas, lasagna and even smoked ham would be delicious. A meal of middle-eastern or Greek cuisine lend themselves to a great match too. BBQ foods aside, probably one of the best selections would be thin crust gourmet pizza – a favorite recipe is below.

Cellaring: This wine is great for drinking right now. It could cellar quite comfortably for 5 to 7 years which would bring out its structure even more. Serve at 16C to 18C


~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

With Elevation Riesling…

Maki-zushi (Rolled Sushi)

Serves 6 or more


2 ½ cups Japanese short-grain rice (like Koshihikari)

2 ½ cups cold water

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons superfine sugar

2 teaspoons salt

Your choice of cooked or raw seafood, chopped or minced

6 sheets of nori (edible seaweed)

Soy sauce

Gari (pickled ginger)

Wasabi paste




1.      Place rice in a colander. Rinse thoroughly. Drain. Put in cold water in saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover pan and turn heat to very low and cook for 15 minutes without lifting the lid. Turn off heat and allow to stand for 10 minutes more still covered, then spoon rice into large bowl.


2.      Mix together the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl until sugar dissolves then drizzle mixture over the rice. Mix together gently to completely coat rice. Set aside to cool to room temperature.


3.      Toast each nori sheet very lightly by passing back and forth over hot stove burner. Don’t get it too close to the heat or it will quickly burn.


4.      Spread rice evenly on nori sheet on bamboo roller. Put seafood filling across centre of nori on top of rice. Roll up bamboo mat pressing forward to shape the roll. Press bamboo mat gently to shape and firm up sushi roll. Remove roll from bamboo and with a sharp knife that you wet with water, cut roll into 2 inch slices.



With Elevation Chardonnay…

Best ‘Barbie’ Chicken

Serves 6


6 chicken breast halves (preferably boneless, skinless)

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups lemon-lime flavoured carbonated beverage

1 cup soy sauce

1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder



1.   In a medium bowl combine oil, lemon-lime beverage, soy sauce and garlic powder. Stir thoroughly.


2.   Put chicken and mixture together in sealed Ziploc bags or plastic container and marinate in refrigerator for 12 to 18 hours (6 to 9 hours if using boneless, skinless breasts). 


3.   Barbeque slowly — don’t overcook. Turn often and baste with mixture on each turn. Cook until meat is no longer pink in the center and juices run clear. Discard remaining marinade.


4.   Depending on marinating time and cooking method the amount of marinade consumed will vary.


With Elevation Cabernet…

Easy to Make Thin-Crust Gourmet Pizza
Serves 1 or 2 per pizza


Olive oil

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

Pinch of sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 large flour tortillas (sandwich wraps)

1 cup shredded Asiago cheese

2/3 cup Ricotta cheese

6 to 10 Cremini (aka Button) mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced

3 Portobello mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced

½ cup spinach

½ thinly sliced red pepper



1.   Preheat oven to 450F. If using a stone for baking, allow oven and stone to heat for 15 minutes before cooking. Otherwise, use rimmed baking sheets and parchment paper and place racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven to preheat and cook.


2.   Heat one teaspoon of Olive oil in a sauté pan on medium heat. Add onions and stir until they soften. Add pinch of sugar and the Balsamic vinegar. Stir in mushrooms, spinach and red pepper slowly. Add more Olive oil if required. Cook until onions have softened and spinach is beginning to shrivel.


3.   Sprinkle some corn meal on your pizza wheel (or rimless cooking sheet) and place tortilla on top and brush with Olive oil. If you are using rimmed cookie sheets, put parchment paper on sheets, brush with Olive oil and put tortilla on top then brush tortilla with oil.


4.   Sprinkle each tortilla with ½ cup shredded Asiago cheese. Sprinkle with cooked onions, mushrooms, spinach and peppers then add bits of Ricotta cheese. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Brush lightly with Olive oil if you wish.


5.   Bake until crust is crisp and very brown (5-7 minutes if using a stone. Start with 10 minutes if using cookie sheet and check it for crisp brown texture from there.) Cut with a pizza cutter and serve.  



Cheers to “Elevating” your summer!