Posts Tagged ‘Ontario sparkling wine’

Is your Ontario bubbly on ice?

Posted by Amanda

Saturday, February 13th, 2016

Love is in the air as we inch closer and closer to the day that embodies all that is romance. Valentine’s Day is when we share our passion with the one(s) we love with just a little more fervour and fanfare than the rest of the year.

Glass and bubblyI can’t think of anything more romantic to sip on Feb. 14 than a fine sparkling wine, those tiny and elegant bubbles that shout love with every pop and crackle as they tickle our tongue. If ever there was a time for Champagne, or as it is called anywhere but in Champagne, sparkling wine or simply bubbly, it is on Valentine’s Day with the one you love over a romantic dinner.

Sparkling wine has always been the poster girl for sexy, romantic, dreamy, love, emotion, celebration and excitement.

Who can forget Champagne house Moët & Chandon’s 2011 international advertising campaign featuring actress Scarlett Johansson? Developed by Paris-based Works Advertisement Agency and shot by renowned British photographer Tim Walker, the photo (below) and video show Scarlett Johansen Moet Chandonthe glamour and sexiness of Johansson enjoying Moet seductively at Trianon, an impressive residence built by Jean-Rémy’s Moët between 1805-1817 on the Moët & Chandon Estate in Epernay, France. (Photo credit: Tim Walker)

Champagne has always aligned itself with beauty, love, celebration and moments that capture our hearts. Johannson was the perfect choice for the campaign.

Here in Canada (and elsewhere in the world), Champagne is not a word that can used to describe domestic sparkling wines, but winemakers still employ the very same techniques as those in Champagne to make those magical bubbles come to life in a glass.

No matter what it’s called, no matter where you are, a nice, chilled bottle of bubbly can put the romance into whatever occasion you are celebrating.

For Valentine’s Day, why not try any one of these Ontario sparkling wines that can be found either at Vintages stores or directly from the winery? It is one of the styles Ontario is very good at.

Here’s our list (in alphabetical order):

chateau de charmes rose sparklingChateau des Charmes Rose Sparkling 2012 ($29, 91 points) — This is a 50-50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir with a Pinot Noir dosage that was recently disgorged after 18 months on the lees and is made in the traditional method. It has a pretty nose of soft red fruits of raspberry, cranberry and cherry with subtle herbs. A gentle mousse leads to rich, ripe cherry and cranberry fruits that are elegant and lush on the palate. This is a nicely mature and poised rose with a touch of sweetness on the finish.

Chateau des Charmes Brut Sparkling NV ($23, 88 points) — The 50-50 blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir was recently disgorged after three years on the lees. It is made the traditional method. The nose shows lemon, toast and citrus that’s bright yet elegant. The tiny bubbles pop on the palate with creamy but fresh lemon, lime, pear, apple fruits all lifted by bright acidity. Great value sparkler.

Featherstone Cuvée Joy 2011 ($35, 92 points) — A traditionally-made sparkler made from 100% estate-grown Chardonnay. This is a delightful, yes, joyful, wine with a nose of brisk lemon, baked apple, toast, citrus and interesting yeasty-bready notes. Perfect tiny bubbles tickle the palate with a lovely melange of citrus, toast and creamy notes all lifted by wonderful, refreshing acidity.

Fielding sparkling roseFielding Estate Sparkling Rose ($30, 90 points) — The is a non-vintage Rose traditionally made from 84% Pinot Noir and the rest Chardonnay with the bulk of the fruit from the 2013 vintage. It’s quite toasty on the nose with fragrant red fruits, herbs, raspberry and leesy/floral notes. It has good acid lift on the palate with tart red fruits, lovely finesse, a lively mousse and a toasty note through the finish.

Flat Rock Cellars Riddled Sparkling 2009 ($30, 91 points) — The base wine is 92% Chardonnay with a touch of Pinot Noir and spends four years on the lees before disgorging. The nose shows lovely and inviting brioche, toast, lemon-lime, grapefruit and apple notes. A soft but persistent mousse delivers an array of bright lime, green apple and creamy pear notes in this nicely aged and mature sparkling wine.

Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Carte Blanche Estate Blanc de Blanc 2010 ($45, 92 points) — This top sparkling wine from HoP is made from 100% estate Chardonnay grown on the Short Hills Bench. About 20% of the fruit is barrel fermented and secondary fermentation in the bottle is followed by 54 months of aging on the lees. The nose is lemony with notes of biscuit, toasted vanilla, saline minerality and brioche. The palate reveals a lively bubble with lemon-citrus, toasty-yeasty notes, orange peel, and subtle earthiness on a luxurious, silky and vibrant finish. Such a beautiful and thought-provoking sparkling wine that can age gracefully in the cellar.

Henry of Pelham Cuvee Catharine Rose Brut ($30, 91 points) — A blend of about 75% Pinot Noir and 25% Chardonnay made in the traditional bubbly method. The nose is lovely with biscuit, cherry, raspberry and subtle herb and rhubarb notes. On the palate it’s quite dry and refreshing with crisp red fruits, pomegranate, apple, citrus, bramble and toasty vanilla notes through a lively, bright finish.

Inniskillin Sparkling Vidal Icewine 2014 ($80 for 375 mL, 94 points) — What a sensational treat from winemaker Bruce Nicholson. Sparkling icewine is extremely difficult to make with few wineries attempting the style, but Nicholson has perfected it. The nose is a gorgeous mélange of orange marmalade, honeycomb, peach and mango. It has a rousing mousse on the palate to go with sweet, compoted fruits, fresh and delicate notes of pineapple, tangerine and peach and a luxurious texture that’s accentuated by the tiny bubbles that tickle the palate through the finish. A rich, exotic treat that is well worth the high price.

Tawse sparkTawse Limestone Ridge Vineyard Spark Riesling 2014 ($20, 88 points) — Organic and biodynamic farming, traditional method and aged 12 months on the lees, the nose shows creamy/toasty notes of citrus and lemon, ripe apple and some swirling mineral notes. It’s bright and juicy on the palate with a lively mousse and leans toward citrus fruit and minerals through a fresh finish.

13th Street Grand Cuvée Blanc de Noir Brut 0 2007 ($70,  94 points) — As mentioned, seven full years on the lees, zero dosage, disgorged in Oct., this adds complexity and freshness to the low-dosage Grand Cuvée regular bottling. The nose shows fresh baked bread, brioche, toast, lemon curd, wet stone, green apple and vanilla cream. There is a fine and dainty mousse to go with biting acidity that props up the wonderful smoky citrus, toast, vanilla, butter and mature apples on the palate with gorgeous complexity and mouthfeel through the finish. It’s highly recommended you grab a bottle or two of this fine sparkling wine.

13th Street Grand Cuvée Blanc de Noir 2007 ($59, 93 points) — A gorgeous and generous nose of lemon and brioche, green apple and fresh baked bread with creamy vanilla and toast accents. It’s built in an austere style, with very low dosage, chiselled acidity and a fine mousse that tickles the palate and gives way to fresh apple and lemon flavours that are just beginning to soften. Tertiary notes of warm toast, custard and tangy minerality add to the complexity of this well-built sparkler. Drinking rather well right now but can still cellar a wee bit longer to draw out further nuances.

13th Street Cuvée Rose NV ($25, 90 points) — This reasonably-priced staple from 13th Street is a Pinot Noir-driven blend with Chardonnay and a touch of Gamay added. It spends two years on the lees. The newest release is primarily from the 2012 vintage. The nose shows fresh red berries, lovely yeasty-toasty notes and a subtle anise accent. The colour is a rich pink hue that is luminous in the glass with an energetic mousse. The flavours range from rich cherries and raspberries to bolder cranberry and toasted vanilla. Showing more elegance than the previous version with a clean and fresh finish.

Redstone Sparkling 2013 ($26, 88 points) — Made in the traditional Champagne method with an untraditional blend of Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Pinot Gris, this sparkler spends up to 18 months on the lees. It’s a lively and spunky bubbly with a nose of fresh citrus, apple and creamy/toasty notes. It’s driven by racy acidity on the palate and combines lemon, lime and green apple flavours.

and from Prince Edward County…

Hinterland Les Etoiles 2012, Prince Edward County ($39, 92 points) —The 2012 version of Les Etoiles, made in the traditional method, is a blend of 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir with a modest 6 g/l dosage. The nose shows grapefruit, pear, brioche, toast and smoky-flinty notes. It’s racy on the palate with a healthy, persistent stream of bubbles that accent flavours of fresh grapefruit, pear, citrus and that vein of flinty minerality. Beautiful bubbly here and worth laying down for a few years.

Hinterland les trois etoiles 2009Hinterland Les Etoiles 2009, Prince Edward County ($49, 93 points) — Only 80 cases of this aged Les Etoiles (on the lees for five years, disgorged in July) are available. It has a beautiful, engaging nose of brioche, yeast, baked bread, bright citrus, pear and apple. The soft, elegant mousse carries toasty, mature citrus notes with subtle green apple flavours and minerals with a creamy texture through the long, luxurious finish.

Hinterland Blanc de Blanc 2011 ($39, 92 points) — This is made from 100% Chardonnay aged in five-year-old oak barrels with zero dosage. The 2011 growing season was a little cooler and wetter than 2009 but it turned out to be a great vintage nonetheless, according to winemaker Jonas Newman. “The Chardonnay, which was destined for 2011 Les Etoiles, was so special that we diverted 3000L for our first Blanc de Blanc. It was bottle aged (sur lattes) for 40 months with only 80 cases produced.” It’s so fresh and perky on the nose with lemon, biscuit, apricot, lime, grapefruit and creamy pear with leesy-vanilla-mineral accents. It’s nicely aged but still bright and cheerful on the palate with citrus, brioche and pear flavours to go with a creamy, textured mouth feel.


This has been a special guest blog post by Rick Vansickle, Wines in Niagara

Rick is renowned wine critic & industry writer. In this blog he offers his ratings for recently reviewed sparkling wines using a 100 point system.





Savour, Relax & Explore at Huff Estates

Posted by Patti

Tuesday, January 13th, 2015

Savvy Selections - Ontario wine of the month club

Savvy Selections wine of the month club 
Featuring Huff Estates Winery

– January 2015 –


Prince Edward County – known by many as ‘The County’ – is a quick & easy getaway – for a day or two, even a weekend.  Have you been?  About 2.5 hours from either Ottawa or Toronto, there are 30 plus wineries awaiting your visit.  A must stop is at the junction of Highway 62 & County Rd. 1.  This crossroads is known by the locals as Huff’s Corner.  Wine tourists know this location on their GPS as Huff Estates Winery.

logoHands down, Huff is a destination to SAVOUR fantastic wines, RELAX in the comfort of the boutique inn surrounded by vineyards & to EXPLORE the Oeno Gallery exhibiting contemporary art & a unique sculpture garden on the fringe of the vineyard. And this is just one of The County’s wineries. It is no wonder that MacLean’s Magazine has named this wine region as “One of Canada’s Great Escapes”.

Lanny & Catherine Huff have deep roots in The County as they were both born and raised here.  They also share a passion for fine wines. When apple orchards were being transformed into vineyards at the turn of the century (aka in year 2000), a special opportunity existed for them to return to The County & harmonize their two passions.  Lanny will tell you that, “once you have Prince Edward County in your blood, you are bound to return. It is a very special place with a long tradition of growing & an exciting new future in fine wine production.  When my passion for wine could no longer be put aside, I decided to return to The County.”

Huff BottlesHuff Estates will continue to share its family’s history of the land by producing exceptional wines source from its well-maintained vines & complemented with the wine making expertise of Frederic Picard who was lured to The County from Burgundy France. ”We aim to create a unique destination & provide not only fantastic wine, but also accompany great food, fine art, luxurious accommodations offering a memorable experience”, Lanny explains.

Ready for a roadtrip?

After you enjoy the following bottles in your Savvy Selections, we are certain that you will want to visit Huff:

2012 Cuvée Janine – a rosé sparkling crafted in the traditional French Champagne method

2012 South Bay Chardonnay – a new style for Huff: an unoaked Chardonnay that “dances on your palate”

2012 Gamay  –  a full bodied wine that surprised us with big flavours!

2013 First FrostThe latest release of Huff’s signature “sweet & playful” wine that has become a favorite with the Savvy Team.  If you would like some of this wine, just let us know.

You won’t find these Huff Estates wines at the LCBO

Huff makes such a small amount of these wines that none of them are at the LCBO. If you would like additional bottles of your new favourite Huff wine, call me on 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or send an email to to arrange an additional delivery. Savvy Selections is all about introducing you to wonderful Ontario wines!

Debbie & Savvy Team



Huff Estates Winery

Presented by Sommelier Patricia Petty


This past October, I spent two wonderful weekends exploring the back roads of The County & tasting some incredible wines. There was definitely a buzz in the air wineries were in the midst of harvest. 2014 was an exceptional year for growing grapes & there is expectation that the wines will be fantastic too – stay tuned!

There is a saying amongst wine growers that, “September makes the vintage”.  A burst of sunny, dry weather is what the winemakers hope for…and this year, that is exactly what Mother Nature delivered. An abundance of clean fruit bursting with flavor was picked, and while fermentation continues in the cellars, vineyard crews have hilled up (winespeak: put the vines to bed under a protective layer of soil – only done in PEC) for another winter. Added to that, this week’s snow squall have insulated the vines even more.

Oak trees protect the vineyards

Prince Edward County is a wine region that is less than 10 years old.  Many were skeptical at first, yet the soils & growing conditions of The County lend themselves to crafting great wines. Lanny Huff believed in the region’s potential & wanted to be part of the growing industry.

In addition to the estate on Huff’s Corner, he has 150 acres of land on the quiet South Bay shore guarded by ancient oak trees towering over the vineyard.  Lanny explains that, “Oak & wine are linked together from earliest wine making traditions. We are dedicated to the production of only the finest wines that this age old relationship of oak & grape can create”.

Add experienced people to craft the wines

Success at a winery is created with the vines as well as the individuals who have both the skill & the passion to transform those grapes into great wines. The team at Huff comes to The County with a wealth of worldly experience.

Lanny’s first business is in the plastics industry.  When wineries were breaking ground in The County, Lanny ceased the opportunity to combine his passion for travel & wine along with his desire to return to his roots.

Frederic PicaHuff frederic picardrd (left), Huff’s winemaker has helped put The County on the world wine maps. He studied in Beaune, France & crafted wines in many wine regions around the world before joining Lanny in 2001 to open the doors at Huff. Jason, the General Manager returned to Huff after studying wine in Australia. Alex is the vineyard manager and when not in the fields, he can be found in the cellars assisting Frederic. During my visit, he was feverishly cleaning the tanks in preparation for the harvest.

Brian Hanna, the winery’s Sommelier & Angela Braun, the Retail Manager, will make you feel right at home when stop by. Be sure to ask for a winery tour with Brian – he is passionate about wine, food & most importantly how the marriage of these two can create a unique experience – he certainly “WOWed” me!

Connected to the family

Jason HuffAfter a lovely stay at Huff Estate’s Inn, I spent a good part of the day with Jason (right) & Brian. Jason confessed, ”while he is my uncle, I am proud to call Lanny my mentor”. The property where the winery sits was originally owned by the Huff family. It changed hands many times over the years & reverted back to the family when Lanny purchased it. Jason proudly told me, “Growing up, Lanny introduced me to this industry. He taught me the important lesson of constantly driving the business from the ground up – from farming, through manufacturing to sales.”

Years ago while in the Barolo region of Italy, I remember a young winemaker named Aldo, who told me that in the wine industry, you “learn by the seat of your pants”. Coincidentally, Jason said the same thing, “there is an element of calculated risk yet, you learn best simply by doing.” Going into its 13th year of business, Jason feels the winery is at a sustainable point in its growth & sees the production of new products & innovation as the path to growth on a moderate scale. Jason explained that Frederic is intentionally moving his winemaking style to use less oak for some of their wines. An example would be the unoaked Chardonnay that you have received in your Savvy Selections. 25% of the wine was aged in oak barrels & this is notably significantly less than what has been used in previous vintages. Brian, explains that Frederic wants to showcase the natural characteristics of The County grapes “unencumbered by the straight-jacket of lumber”.

Grab your corkscrew & get ready for a delicious experience. Here’s to you discovering your own perfect pairings with Huff wines.




It is clear that Brian loves what he does in his ‘retirement’. If you enjoy the game of pairing wine with food as much as we do, get ready for a delicious time with Brian when you visit the winery. He often says that the wine would be best paired with “whatever comes out of the kitchen”, meaning no special occasion, fancy meal or complex recipes are needed to enjoy Huff’s wine.  We have featured some of Brian’s wine & food pairings, while others were ‘a-ha!’ moments from the Savvy Sommeliers.

Cuvée Janine, VQA 2012 $29.95

Frivoulous Fizz” is how Huff describes this wine. A sparkling Rosé created with 100% Pinot Noir grapes from nearby Hillier vineyards. Kick up your heels with as glass or two of this beautiful red crabapple hued sparkling wine created in the traditional method and allowed to sit on the lees  (winespeak for the process of leaving the yeast used for fermenting with the wine as it ages to impart more flavours) for 12 months to further develop its flavors.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This crab apple coloured bubbly on the nose shows a subtle smoky, sweetness accompanied with slightly salty notes on the palate. In addition, there is a subtle tartness and hints of white pepper on the palate as well as refreshing cranberry/apple, watermelon, strawberry, pomegranate and raspberry notes.

Suggested Food Pairings: This is a refreshing sparkling wine with a perfect affinity for a wide variety of foods. Brian commented that this wine would be fantastic with “whatever comes out of the kitchen.”

Our Savvy Sommeliers agreed with its versatility. We saw this bubbly being served with everything from salmon or crab cakes, smoked trout or Peking Duck or even BBQ spareribs would be a fantastic pairing.  Surprise your dinner guests & serve this rosé bubbly at the end of a meal with a Pavlova dessert with ripe strawberries, raspberries and blackberries or a bowl of beautiful ripe cherries. YUM!


South Bay Unoaked Chardonnay, VQA 2012 $21.95

“Vintage after vintage, the quality of the wines have improved remarkably and despite the cold climate and the challenges that growers have to face, the terroir in The County is unique. Elegant, mineral, floral, fresh and linger are the words that now define the wines I make at Huff and these descriptions are fitting for The County wine region too.” Frederic Picard, Huff winemaker. 

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Bright yellow color and on the nose we find refreshingly ripe fruit with both lemon and tropical notes. There are floral accents, orchard fruit (think apples or pear), fresh baked brioche and roasted almonds. The subtle notes of oak showed through with butterscotch and a distinct creaminess from the lees. Savvy Sommelier Debbie Trenholm commented that the slight oak “gently dances on your palate”. This is an elegant, full, clean, round and smooth wine which truly showcases the winemakers expertise.

Suggested Food Pairings: If you are a lover of seafood, look no further than linguine with lemon garlic shrimp or fettuccine with baby clams in a white wine sauce. Roast chicken with garlic and fresh herbs and a touch of lemon in the accompanying gravy would be delicious as would pork scaloppini with a lemon and caper sauce. Or, once again surprise your guests and serve with desert – a classic French Apple Tarte Tatin.


Gamay, VQA 2012 Ontario, $24.95

My New Year’s Resolution: drink more Gamay! This one is a beautiful expression of this varietal that hails from a dry, sunny vintage of 2012.  The grapes were grown in Niagara and shipped to Frederic to work his magic. (note –  Gamay grapes are hard to grow in The County as they are not a hardy grape variety.)  Jason describes this wine as a “Bistro Beauty” and we couldn’t agree more. Certainly a food friendly wine.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Cherry-plum in color and with notes of black berry, dark plum, oak, spice, leather and dark chocolate infused with cherry. Gamay wines tend to be light bodied – this one surprised us.  Full flavours & soft tannins provide both structure and roundness to a fresh acidity present that makes it a beautifully food friendly wine. In France, Gamays are typically served slightly chilled, so shock your guests and throw it in an ice bucket for 10 minutes or pop in the fridge to chill slightly (15 mins should do the trick). Have fun with this wine – as the wine warms up to room temperature notice how the tastes & flavours change.

Suggested Food pairings: This Gamay would pair beautifully with a cheese and charcuterie board – include pate, terrines, cold cuts; tomato based pasta dishes; rustic and simple dishes – a simple Shepard’s Pie, Moussaka, your favorite meat loaf or chili, cabbage rolls (my favorite); Spanish-style chicken or sausage dishes; grilled pork in the summer; roast chicken in the winter. I think it is evident that this wine will go with so many of your favorites. 

Cellaring: Drinking well know, can cellar for up to 5 years or more.



First Frost, VQA Prince Edward County, 2013 $24.95

winter harvestNew Release and a fan favorite at Huff Estates! “This wine teases the palate with white peach and aromas of beeswax, honey and floral notes. A delicate balance of sweetness and acidity, it delivers a thirst quenching finish. Made with Vidal grapes and hand harvested from our estate vineyard…our fruit”

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This unique wine is created with 2/3 normal dry Vidal wine and 1/3 wine created from grapes harvested after the “first frost” and between 7 – 8 degrees Celsius. The result is a hint of natural sweetness in the wine. Described as “sweet and playful”, lemon in color with a golden hue. It is a light dessert wine that features whit floral notes and honeyed aromas. Baked apple, apricot and stewed stone fruit will fill your glass. There is a perfect acidity that follows through.

Suggested Food Pairings: Easily served with a pan-seared Foie Gras accompanied by poached pears and a simple reduction of the wine accented by fresh thyme. Hungry yet? But, if you want to stick to a dessert theme, how about a simple Vanilla panacotta; a lemon tart; a poached pear with a hazelnut mouse or a nectarine crostata…all desserts which would enhance the flavors found in this very special dessert wine. Or after dinner it would pair well with a light blue cheese!




With Huff Estates Cuvée Janine…

Mixed Berry Pavlova

From Ina Garten – The Barefoot Contessa
Serves 6
The components for this dessert can all be prepared ahead of time and assembled just prior to serving. You are going to WOW your guests!

IngredientsHuff icebucket


4 extra large egg whites, room temperature
Pinch salt
1 cup sugar
2 tsp corn starch
1 tsp white wine vinegar
½ tsp vanilla extract
Sweetened whip cream
Fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced
Fresh blueberriesFresh raspberries

Triple Raspberry Sauce

½ pint fresh raspberries
½ cup sugar
1 cup seedless raspberry jam
1 Tbsp raspberry framboise liqueur




Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Place a sheet of parchment paper on a sheet pan and draw a 9” circle on the paper using a plate as a guide. Turn the paper over so the circle is on the reverse side.

Place egg whites and salt in a bowl and beat on high speed until firm, about 1 minutes. With mixer on high, slowly add the sugar and beat until it makes fir, shiny peaks, about 2 minutes. Sift the cornstarch onto the beaten egg whites, add the vinegar and vanilla and fold in lightly with a spatula. Pile the meringue into the middle of the circle on the parchment paper and smooth it within the circle, making a rough disk. Bake for 1 ½ hours. Turn off the oven, keep the door closed and allow the meringue to cool completely for about an hour. . It will be crisp on the outside and keep soft on the inside.

Invert the disk onto a plate and spread the top completely with the sweetened whipped cream. Combine the berries and toss with about ½ cup of the raspberry sauce or enough to coat all the berries completely. Spoon berries carefully into the middle of the Pavlova, leaving a border of cream and meringue. Serve immediately in large scoops with extra raspberry sauce.

Triple Raspberry Sauce

Place the raspberries, sugar and ¼ cup water in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 4 minutes. Pour the cooked raspberries, the jam and framboise in the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Chill.


With Huff Estates South Bay Unoaked Chardonnay…

Creamy Parsnip, Celery & Apple Soup

From Canadian Living Magazine 40th Anniversary Edition
Serves 6 to 8


2 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 leek (white & light green parts) sliced
¼ tsp ground ginger
1 pinch salt
1 lb parsnips, peeled and sliced
3 ribs celery, sliced
1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, seeded and chopped
3 cups chicken broth (use low-sodium if desired)
3 cups water
¼ cup whipping cream
2 tsp Dijon mustard
2 tsp cider vinegar 


In Dutch oven melt butter over medium heat; cook leek, ginger and salt, stirring occasionally until softened, about 8 minutes .

Stir in parsnips, celery and apple; cook stirring occasionally for 3 minutes. Add broth and water; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until parsnips are tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes.

In batches in blender, puree soup until smooth; return to pot. Stir in cream, mustard & vinegar. Reheat to serve.

For a definite “Bistro” take on this recipe serve in shallow bowls with Crispy Sage and Proscuitto on top.

To create crispy sage simple heat olive oil in a sauté pan. Add fresh sage leaves and lightly sauté until leaves are crisp; drain on paper towels and reserve.

For the prosciutto, simply slice into thin strips and then sauté in the same pan. Drain and reserve.

To garnish the soup, drizzle a small amount of olive oil on top of the soup, place proscuitto and sage on top of the soup and you have a restaurant-worthy version of this soup!


With Huff Estates Gamay…

Pan Seared Duck Breast with Dried Cherry Jus

From Patti Petty’s kitchen
Note from Patti:
Don’t be intimidated by using duck breast. It is an easy preparation with results that will WOW your guests. 


1 Mallard or Muscovy Duck Breast, 450g
4 oz. Roasted Chicken Demi-glaze Jus
1 bottle of medium bodied red wine (Huff Estates Gamay will be perfect!) – go ahead & drink while cooking what you don’t use in the recipe!
3 tablespoons dried cherries


Preheat oven to 425 degrees

Trim some of the fat from the duck breast, leaving about ¼” on. Trim any sinew or silver skin from the meat. Season with salt and pepper.

Using a small frying pan, turn heat to medium high. Place breast in pan, skin side down. Fry for several minutes, until fat is slightly rendered and browning.

Place pan with breast in the oven, still skin side down and roast for 7 minutes.

While the duck is in the oven, macerate the dried cherries in the red wine to allow them to plump slightly and take on the flavours of the wine.

Remove duck from oven, cast off rendered fat. Turn the breast over in the hot pan and let rest for 1 minute (skin side up). After a minute, remove the breast from the pan and let rest.

While the duck rests add cherries with some of the wine and the chicken Demi-glaze to the pan. Over high heat reduce to a sauce like consistency (about ½). Not too runny or too thick.

Before serving, warm duck breast in the oven. Slice thinly against the grain, which runs length-wise down the breast. Fan out on plate, pour sauce over and serve.

This method is per duck breast so multiple by the number of guests you are serving.

Serve with local in-season vegetables for this very simple yet memorable dish.


With Huff Estates 2013 First Frost…

Rustic Nectarine and Blackberry Crostata with Cornmeal Crust

From Epicurious
Serves 8

A crostata is simply an Italian free form tart or a type of pie. This recipe can be made with any type of stone fruit in season or what you can find in your favourite store.



2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup polenta (coarse cornmeal)*
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon (packed) grated orange peel
3/4 teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons (1 3/4 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1/3 cup (or more) ice water

Filling and baking

1/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons corn starch
4 medium nectarines, each pitted and cut into 16 slices
1 1/2-pint basket of fresh blackberries
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten to blend (for glaze)
Raw sugar crystals
Peach preserves, heated
Vanilla ice cream


For the Crust

Combine first 5 ingredients in processor and blend 5 seconds. Add butter; using on/off turns, blend just until butter is reduced to pea-size pieces. (To ensure a flaky crust, be careful not to overwork the butter.) Add 1/3 cup ice water. Using on/off turns, blend until dough comes together in moist clumps, adding more water by teaspoonfuls if dough is dry. Gather dough into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap; chill at least 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Chill. Let soften slightly at room temperature before rolling out.)

Roll out dough on lightly floured sheet of parchment paper to 14-inch round, turning dough occasionally to prevent sticking. Slide rimless baking sheet under parchment. Transfer dough on parchment to refrigerator. Chill until dough firms slightly, about 30 minutes. 

For Filling and Baking

Stir sugar and cornstarch in medium bowl to blend. Mix in fruit and vanilla. Let stand until juices are released, stirring fruit occasionally, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Transfer baking sheet with dough to work surface. Let stand 8 minutes to allow dough to soften slightly if too firm to fold. Spoon fruit and juices into center of dough. Arrange fruit in even 10-inch-diameter layer in center. Brush 2-inch border of dough with egg glaze. Lift about 2 inches of dough border and pinch to form vertical seam. Continue around tart, pinching seam every 2 inches to form standing border. Fold border down over fruit (center 6 inches of fruit remain uncovered). Brush folded border with egg glaze; sprinkle with raw sugar.

Place baking sheet with tart in oven. Bake until crust is golden brown and fruit filling is bubbling at edges, about 55 minutes. Remove from oven; slide large metal spatula under tart to loosen from parchment. Brush fruit with preserves. Slide tart onto rack. Cool 45 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature with ice cream.

* Available at Italian markets, natural foods stores, and some supermarkets.


Bon Appetite & Enjoy your Savvy Selections!


Raise a glass to celebrate Vineland’s 30 years

Posted by Shawn

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

SS stamp lowest res


Savvy Selections wine of the month club 
Featuring Vineland Estates Winery

– December 2014 –


Many of Ontario’s wine regions have had the first snowstorm or two, and strangely some of us are experiencing an early thaw.   It is chilly enough to say that Old Man winter is here & it won’t be long until the freezing nights have the picking teams out collecting the raisened grapes that will be used in ice wine. This is a busy time for most, so while we all enjoy the great times with food and families over the holidays, the hustle and bustle can sometimes be overwhelming. Whether you need a simple entertaining idea, or want to kick back with your feet up in front of a roaring fire, we’ve selected three wines from Vineland Estates Winery to make things a little more relaxing. We hope you enjoy and have a wonderful holiday season!

Ready to uncork & enjoy your Savvy Selections? 

In your Savvy Selections you will find 3 VERY DIFFERENT wines. Each one has been specially selected for its unique ability to pair with food and toast the wintery holiday season. With an exquisite sparkling wine to kick off a party or ring in the New Year, an ‘oh-so-food-friendly’ white wine that you can pair with so many dishes, and finally, a bold red that will warm away the chills in front of a roaring fire, there really is something for every occasion in this shipment!

2013 Brut Reserve (Charmat Method) – A sparkling wine that fooled many on the Savvy team, who all believed it was a traditional method sparkling wine. Fresh, crisp, and fruit-forward in style, this perfect entertaining wine will have folks asking for more! 

2013 Pinot Blanc – A light white wine with intriguing aromas & tastes of lemon and grapefruit, and a really interesting beeswax note. The Savvy Team keep thinking of more and more recipes to create the perfect match with this wine.

2012 Elevation Cabernet – California meets Bordeaux! Big, bold, and delicious fruit meets earthy and slightly restrained palate, with solid structure to hold for several years.

OPTIONAL WINE: 2012 Reserve Chardonnay.  This wine is a delicious, fruit forward Chardonnay that reminds me of a green apple clafoutis – rich and creamy, but balanced by the crisp fruit. The balance of sweet fruit and crisp acidity demonstrate exceptional restraint given the hot vintage.  Want some of this incredible Chard?  Just call us!

You won’t find these Vineland wines at the LCBO

We have done it again!  Our Savvy Sommeliers have found wines (and great prices) that we are confident you will enjoy…every sip!  Vineland has several wines available at the LCBO, but many more that do not make it onto your local LCBO store shelves. Call on us at anytime you would like additional bottles of your favourite Vineland wines – or other wineries we have featured in Savvy Selections.  Your Canadian Wine Hotline is 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or send me an email to

Debbie & Savvy Team


Vineland Estates Winery

Presented by Savvy Sommelier Shawn McCormick

“Unbridled, child-like passion” is how winemaker Brian Schmidt describes his winemaking style. His reply may seem strange for someone who has been making wine at the same winery for almost 24 years, but it fits Brian to a tee. Minimalist by nature, he likes to let the grapes speak for themselves. Highly regarded by his peers, his talent for making the best out of what Mother Nature throws at them, year after year, resulted in Brian receiving ‘2014 Winemaker of the Year’ from the Ontario Wine Awards. Born into the family’s winery life at Sumac Ridge in British Columbia, Brian recalls making his first Okanagan Riesling at age 13. Following his older brother Allan (now President of Vineland Estates) to Ontario proved to be a good idea, and something the entire region has benefitted from.

A Sense of Place

BVinelandrian and I talk about a recent article by a New York state winemaker that alluded to the learning that comes with staying in one place. With his roots firmly planted at Vineland, Brian resonates with the article for its honesty. “Many have romantic notions of creating the perfect elixir” that involve experiences and skills learned from working at locations around the world. Brian sees value in understanding the different and emerging techniques that are having success globally, but explains the reality is a “long arduous season, working in imperfect conditions”.

Make the most of what you are given requires innate knowledge of what is going on in the vineyards. As Brian explains this is the real reason that you will so often see him in the vineyard (he is famous on Twitter for his ‘Twactor Tweets’ .  Follow him @benchwineguy), whether he is weeding, mowing, or trimming. His purpose is to be there and observe, day after day – “its not the same walking up and down a few rows once a week” he explains. He notes that although some of the vines have been in the ground for 35 years, you need to be nimble to catch the little clues each year. “If I haven’t made a compromise by 10 am, I’m not paying attention. Things change that fast!” he explains.

He pulls out an old quote that someone once told him to wrap up the discussion “Although vines love the rays of the sun, they love more the shadow of their master.”

Riesling, Cabernet Franc, and so much more

Brian is well-known for his passion for two grapes: Riesling and Cabernet Franc. He has travelled other cool climate regions in Europe extensively to understand what practices and knowledge can be applied to Vineland Estates. These new ideas, bundled with the deep knowledge from continually observing his vines allows Brian to figure out which improvements have a chance of working here. Vineland grows about 12 varieties themselves, and work with other growers for the other grapes they need. Of all of these, Brian has a special fondness for the Pinot Meunier (blended with Chardonnay in the sparkling in your Savvy Selections). As this varietal has not really caught on with others, it allows him to play with it more. There’s no consumers saying “Well, it doesn’t taste like so and so’s Pinot Meunier” says Brian, obviously enjoying the freedom to experiment.

“A Rising Tide Floats All Boats”

Brian SchmidtThis phase is one that Brian uses regularly, and breathes day to day. Passionate about increasing the overall quality of wines coming out of the region, Brian is quick to promote wines from his peers and believes that continually improving the quality of Ontario wine serves all of the wineries well.  He also serves as President and Chair of VQA Ontario.

But the real proof is seen in the day-to-day behaviours. Case in point, the latest piece of technology that Vineland has invested in is what Brian calls a “game changer” for the local industry. This automated optical sorter can inspect and reject bad berries and other foreign matter at lightening speed, improving the quality of the fruit going into the wines. Obviously small wineries cannot afford this type of investment, yet Brian notes that they sorted over 200 tons of wine for neighbouring wineries this year.

What’s in the future for Vineland Estates?

Brian wraps our whole discussion together when I ask about the future. Noting that some of his most enjoyable projects have involved highlighting the minute differences in the vineyard by producing wines from smaller vineyard blocks, Brian sees more of this in the future.Creating these wines of singular terroir expression with distinct singular personalities means a lot more work in the vineyard and offers the example of their Bo-Teek vineyard – that 60 acre block is now 15 different blocks, each imparting slightly different nuances into the vines. And that means more wines for you to try in the future!



With a host of wines to choose from, the team had a hard time selecting which wines to pick for this months selections. We decided on one for celebrating (the Reserve Brut), and a food friendly white and red that we could pair with hearty winter dishes.

With Ontario’s cooler climate, the wines tend towards lower alcohol levels and great acidity, making for great food pairing. Yet several recent vintages, notably 2012, saw greater heat units and more fruit ripeness earlier in the season. The red wines from these warm and dry vintages may exhibit more plush fruit flavours that can stand to be sipped alone as well as paired with big dishes. The continual variance in weather that makes wine-making so challenging also makes discovering Ontario wines so interesting!

Reserve Brut VQA 2013, $24.95

Comprised of 49% Pinot Meunier, 42% Chardonnay, and 9% Riesling, you’ll find this the perfect complement for oysters.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Fine, elegant bubbles in this almost clear sparkler invigorate and refresh your palate. There’s a light sweetness of white flower honey, green apple and light stone fruit notes at first, and then the citrus kicks in and cleanses the palate with a lemon peel finish. There’s also a hint of spice on the finish that reminded us of fresh ginger.

Suggested Food Pairings: While immediately think of sparkling wine with oysters or other shellfish, this is a very versatile wine that works with many different dishes. Open it with canapés toasting in New Year’s Eve, with simple fare such as our fish taco recipe, or even simple snacks like potato chips in front of a movie – life is good! 

Cellaring:  Drink lightly chilled around 7 to 10ºC.


Pinot Blanc VQA 2013, $16.95

As Brian himself describes it “…takes me back to a childhood memory of sitting on a sunny hill, chewing on the white stalk of a new blade of grass”.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This is a really intriguing wine that changes while in your glass. At first, the nose is dominated with beeswax and honey notes, and the fruit takes a backseat. As the temperature comes up, the fruit explodes out of the glass with lemon-lime, peach, and hints of nuttiness and under-ripe pineapple.  Dry grapefruit finish begs for another sip!

Suggested Food Pairings: Another versatile wine that will work with many dishes. The Savvy Team immediately thought of roast turkey or chicken, cream soups, or fish and chips. See our recipe for bacon, corn & potato chowder on the following pages.

Cellaring: Drink now. Can serve between 5ºC to 10ºC with more opulent fruit notes emerging at the warmer end of the spectrum.

Elevation Cabernet VQA 2012, $25.00

Vineland Barrel CellarWith winemaker Brian Schmidt being well known for his Cabernet Franc, we had to give you a glimpse of the stellar red wines that Vineland also produces. This blend of 80% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon from a stellar growing year exemplify that Ontario can make great red wine as well as whites. 

Check out Vineland’s barrel cellar (photo at right, courtesy of Paul Bagley)

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Fantastic growing conditions in 2012 give us a big, rich red wine that some say are like “Napa Valley meets Bordeaux”. Rich, dark brooding fruit greet the nose, with some earthy and leathery notes following. With a plush, full mouthfeel, the black cherry, cassis, and ripe plum flavours are balanced with moderate acidity and fine tannic structure.  Over time, some lifted menthol and sweet spice notes emerge, and the palate adds light mocha notes. This is a wine that evolves over the evening, and we encourage you to do that if you can!

Suggested Food Pairings: Calls for beef bourguignon, beef stroganoff, or venison stew. 

Cellaring: Drinking well know, can cellar for up to 5 years or more.



With Vineland’s Reserve Brut 2013…

Fish Tacos

From Shawn McCormick’s family kitchen
Serves 4

Served with a tartly dressed green salad, this soup is hearty and filling enough for a light supper. I like the convenience of using chicken broth, but if you have a good beef broth on hand, feel free to use it for even deeper flavor.


1 lb white fish (cod or halibut)
1 package of small tortilla (soft taco) shells
3 cups finely shaved Savoy cabbage
1 cup mayonnaise
1 TBSP lime zestJuice of 1 lime
A second lime, cut into wedges
8-12 Coriander sprigs
Slice green onions
Salt & pepper to taste


Cook the fish as you like – fried in butter, or poach it in lightly salted water. Fry for 3-4 minutes per side if frying, or simmer for about 10 minutes until the flesh is flaky if poaching. Once done, remove and beak into smaller pieces to fit in the tortilla shells. Keep warm.

Cut the Savoy cabbage across the grain so you have long thin strands of cabbage.

Mix the mayonnaise & lime zest together. Whisk in the lime juice a bit at a time. You want a thin sauce but not too watery. Add some salt and pepper to taste.

Place fish in tortilla shell (I like to lightly warm mine over a gas burner on low). Top generously with cabbage, green onion, and a few sprigs of Coriander. Drizzle generously with lime-mayonnaise sauce and a spritz of fresh lime juice from the wedge.


With Vineland’s Pinot Blanc …

Bacon, Corn & Potato chowder

From The Food Network
Serves 4 to 6


1 Tbsp butter
¼ lb of bacon, diced
1 cup chopped onion
¾ cup chopped green pepper
salt & pepper
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp flour
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups peeled, finely diced potato
1 ½ cups shredded carrot
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup half-and-half cream
½ tsp dried thyme
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian Parsley


Sling the butter into a soup kettle and melt over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook till crisp. Scoop out the bacon and drain on paper towels. Save for later–don’t nibble too much.

Pour off all but 1/4 cup of fat from the pot. Toss in the onions and peppers, seasoning them with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook till soft and then throw in the garlic, cooking it all for 1 minute more. Sprinkle on the flour and mix into the veggies. Dump in the broth and potatoes.

Cover the pot and bring to a boil; then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or till the potatoes are tender. Add the shredded carrots and corn. Cover and simmer everything 5 to 6 minutes longer to blend the flavors.

Stir in the half-and-half. Season with the thyme, cayenne, some more salt, and lots of freshly ground black pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and the bacon bits you’ve been saving. Give it one last stir, and ladle it up piping hot.


With Elevation Cabernet …

Hungarian Paprika Beef (Goulash)

From Shawn McCormick’s family kitchen
Serves 4-6


1 kg lean stewing beef or sirloin tips, cubed
2-3 glugs of cooking oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1” chunks
2 TBSP paprika
2 TBSP hot smoked paprika
2-3 cups of beef stock
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large frying pan, brown all sides of meat in oil in small batches. You don’t want it cooked through – just browned on the outside. Remove meat from pan and place in slow cooker. Repeat until all the meat has been browned.

Add and brown the onions & garlic in the drippings, adding more oil if required. Once browned, add the onions & garlic to the slow cooker as well. Deglaze the pan with a cup of beef stock and add it to the slow cooker.

Sprinkle the beef and onion mixture with the paprika and stir in the can of tomatoes. Add more beef stock as required to cover the meat.

Cook in the slow cooker on high for an hour, then drop the temperature to low and cook for another 2 hours.

Add the chopped red bell peppers and cook for another hour on low. Taste, and add salt and pepper as required. You may also want to add more paprika if you like it spicy.

Serve over mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles, paired with Elevation Cabernet! 


Happy Holidays
& Enjoy your Savvy Selections!


It’s a boy! Time to pop open the bubbly

Posted by Debbie

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

The news about the arrival of Kate & William’s baby boy is spreading like wild fire.  There are bottles of bubbly being popped all around the world – especially in London!

A royal occasion such as this deserves the finest Champagne, yet all of us in the Savvy Team love to showcase Canadian wines….so to celebrate the baby’s arrival, we are uncorking the most popular sparkling wine that we have featured in Savvy Bin Ends: Romeo Blanc de Noir made by Palatine Hills of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

The good news is that this sparkling wine is as good as Champagne at half the price.  The bad news though is that it is almost gone!  We have heard from the winemaker that there are only 15 cases left at the winery…and it’s a steal at $22.95 (that is $7 off each bottle.)

Stock up to have this bubbly in the fridge for whenever the moment strikes – like the Royal’s news today – or for any occasion to pop the cork!

To order this fantastic bubbly click here >>

Hurry as this bubbly will sell out quickly…and when it is gone, it is gone for good!