Posts Tagged ‘Ontario Wine Awards’

Wines from the Bosc family to you

Posted by Bethany

Wednesday, February 17th, 2016

Savvy Selections Ontario wine of the month club

Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Château des Charmes Winery
–  February 2016 –


Type ‘Château des Charmes’ into a Google search and you’ll find yourself being redirected to That’s because everything about this celebrated Niagara winery—from designing labels to trimming the vines—is a labour of love on the part of the entire Bosc family.

paul stPaul Bosc Sr. started out in the 1970s with a vision to craft top-shelf, European-style wines from vitisvinifera grown right here in Ontario. He was undeterred by naysayers and equally deaf to any words of caution about what he should & shouldn’t plant in the hard, stony soil, in a country known for its bitterly cold winters & short growing season. He toyed with different varietals, re-imagined vineyard structure and rolled the dice on how consumers would receive his wines.

A pioneer of the Canadian wine industry

To say he succeeded would be an understatement. Over the course of two decades, his wines have garnered widespread acclaim (and hardware) at the national &international levels, including the Ontario Wine Awards, the National Wine Awards of Canada and the internationally renowned Vinexpo.

That doesn’t mean the Bosc family is resting on their laurels. Far from it: read more about what they’re up to at the winery, including details about the largest renovation in its history.

paul jr and micheleWe are confident that this month’s Savvy Selections from Château des Charmes will surprise and delight you. We even went so far as to ask Michele (in photo at left with her husband Paul Bosc Jr) which wine she thought was the best.“It’s like asking someone with two kids to choose a favourite – it’s not fair!” she laughs. “That’s the thing about our wines that I love. No matter what mood I’m in, or what I’m feeling, or eating or not eating, there’s a wine for that. Sorry for stealing the Jackson-Triggs line, but it really is true.”

Our Savvy Sommeliers have shared their tasting notes with you, along with some pairing tips and recipes to help you enjoy each wine to its fullest.


In your Savvy Selections you will find…

Gewürztraminer VQA 2013 St. David’s Bench Vineyard – A fragrant & succulent sipper that will have you dreaming of spring.

Chardonnay VQA 2012 Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard– A hands down classic.

Cabernet Franc VQA 2012 St. David’s Bench Vineyard – Full, ripe red fruit explodes out of the glass.

Most not at the LCBO

Your Savvy Selections, along with many other gems from Château des Charmes, are not stocked at the LCBO. If you would like to order additional bottles or other Ontario wines, call me at 613-SAVVYCO (613-728-8926)or drop me a line at We’ll be happy to arrange a special delivery for you!

Enjoy this great selection of wines from Château des Charmes.

Debbie & Savvy Team


Château des Charmes Estate Winery

Presented by Sommelier Bethany Harpur


weddingIt was late in the day when my husband and I stopped at Château des Charmes in Niagara-on-the-Lake. Ten minutes before the tasting room was due to close. The harried server at the bar gave us a look; we flashed a few guilty smiles as we quickly sniffed and swirled.

Then the door opened, and a silver-haired gentleman walked in, wearily removing dusty work gloves. He pulled a bottle out from under the counter and poured some of its deep purple contents into a glass. Just before it touched his lips, he saw us. “Would you like to try some of this, while you’re here?”

A captivating man

That “quick stop” turned into a long, leisurely hour of sampling off-the-menu wines and engaging in deep discussion with none other than Paul Bosc Sr. himself (left in photo below), the patriarch of the Bosc family and the pioneering winemaker of Château des Charmes.

bosc familyIt’s no surprise to find the elder Bosc chatting up visitors at the impressive building on York Road. Hospitality and approachability are key in this thriving family business, where job titles tend to be malleable, depending on the season, event schedule or guest experience.

Bosc’s daughter-in-law, Michele (in black blouse in photo), wears several hats at the winery: marketing director, social media guru, welcoming committee, wedding planner. “I get to do a lot of different, fun things,” she says. “I think it’s great to interact with customers, to hear what they have to say, whether it’s on social media or live and in-person. That interaction, it’s about bringing our family story to the consumer.”

Renovations underway

Right now the family is adding a new chapter to the narrative as they expand the Château’s massive cellar. The renovation marks the first major capital investment since the winery opened. It will double the available space for barrels and create more “breathing room” for workers. “We want to be sure we have all the tools we need to make the best possible wine that we can,” says Michele.

reno spaceExpanding the cellar meant digging up the Château’s popular vineyard courtyard, where countless weddings, parties and concerts have been held over the years. “Now’s the opportunity to re-imagine it,” Michele says. “When we first built it and when we first opened, there was no concept of hosting 35 weddings a year, or welcoming 100,000 visitors a year—it just didn’t exist. Now we get to build it the way the business wants it. I can’t wait to see it done.”

A late start to winter and mild temperatures in the Niagara region have kept the renovation running on schedule, with the revamped space scheduled to open in May of this year.

Even better than before

After two decades, the Bosc family is eager to get people excited about their brand again—and get new Château des Charmes fans on board. “Our wines have never been better,” Michele proclaims. “We’ve been around a long time, we know what we’re doing. If you haven’t tasted our wines in a while, try us again. I think you might be surprised.”


Here’s to Château des Charmes team!



St David’s Bench Gewürztraminer VQA 2013 $19.95

“We planted these vines in 1996 &we feel they are just now hitting their peak, flourishing, producing fantastic, hand-harvested grapes that are making very interesting wine”, Vineyard manager Miguel Fontalvo.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A brilliant, clear pale-gold shines in the glass. Wave after wave aromas of clover honey, nectarines, grapefruit and honeysuckle inundate the senses. A bit of sweetness carries evenly with lingering acidity on the palate, to balance out the creamy mouthfeel. That same acidity lingers a bit on the finish, where subtle hints of woody smoke come through.

Suggested Food Pairing: Gewurztraminer is always a classic match for spicy dishes. Pair this with Mexican, Thai or Indian food, like the Quick Chicken Korma recipe included below.A perfect meal for a wintery day.

Cellaring: This beautiful wine has gorgeous aromas & flavours that are ready to enjoy right now!


Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard Chardonnay VQA 2012, $21.95

A classic Chardonnay for even the pickiest ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) enthusiast. It’s the very definition of balance: all the aromas, flavours and textures carry through on an even keel from start to finish, without any sudden spikes or dips in the quality, making for an all-around elegant wine.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Up front, creamy butterscotch and exotic coconut, followed by butter and brioche on the palate. Finishes with subtle almost restrained oak and a muted essence of dried herbs.

Suggested Food Pairing: The smooth texture of oaked Chardonnay lends itself well to dishes dripping with butter, cream and cheese.A delicious wine to enamour your sweetheart over a Valentine’s Day meal with seafood, Pasta Alfredo, cheese fondue or cuddled by the fireplace enjoying a cheese platter and roasted nuts. For something completely different, try Roasted Chickenpeas recipe that we offer.

Cellaring: Ready to drink, but has the staying power to evolve further in the bottle over the next 2-3 years.


St. David’s Bench Vineyard Cabernet Franc VQA 2012 $25.95

This special parcel of land – St David’s Vineyard – is located high up against the Niagara Escarpment, the fruit has more time to mature and ripen in the summer sun. 2012 was spectacular vintage in Niagara, so with these 2 elements – the location of the land plus the ideal grape growing season – this red wine is outstanding.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Complex nose of blackberry, dark chocolate and dried cherries with a lifted note of violets and rosewater. The powerful fruit carries right through the finish, buoyed by velvety tannins and a soft texture.

Suggested Food Pairing: Cabernet Franc is a winner with all kinds of red meats – beef, lamb, game. Try it out with this Venison Ragout recipe from Bearbrook Farms.

Cellaring: Can be opened now, but if you have will power & patience, this red wine will age nicely over the next 5-10 years.




With St David’s Bench Vineyard Gewürztraminer …

Quick Chicken Korma

Recipe & photo credits: Canadian Living Magazine


Quick-Chicken-Korma13811536451/3 cup unsalted raw cashews
4 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 onions, sliced
2 green hot OR jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 ½teaspoons each ground coriander and garam masala
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Pinch each ground nutmeg, salt and saffron (optional)
450 grams boneless skinless chicken thighs, quartered
1 ½ cups no-salt-added chicken broth
3 tablespoons fat-free plain Greek yogurt
1 ½ teaspoons lime juice


In large skillet, toast cashews over medium heat, stirring often, until golden, 3 to 5 minutes.

Transfer to food processor. In same skillet, heat half of the oil over medium heat; cook onions, stirring occasionally, until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Add to food processor; puree until smooth.

Combine hot peppers, garlic, ginger, coriander, garam masala, cayenne pepper, nutmeg and salt. Add chicken; toss to coat.

Heat remaining oil in same skillet over medium-high heat; brown chicken, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Stir in 2 Tbsp water, scraping up browned bits. Stir in broth, saffron (if using) and cashew puree; simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened and juices run clear when chicken is pierced, about 5 minutes.

Stir in yogurt and lime juice; heat until warmed through but not boiling.


With Paul Bosc Vineyard Chardonnay…

Crispy Cider Vineyard & Sea Salt Roasted Chickpeas

Recipe & photo credits:Constantly Cooking

Light, crispy and full of flavour, these protein packed snacks are great on their own or as a garnish for soups or salads. Play around with other spices if you like – a few shakes of chili powder or smoked paprika, for example. You can use dried chickpeas, which you’ll need to soak and cook, but for this recipe, the canned ones are just as good plus a whole lot faster and easier.

Ingredientsroasted chickpeas

1 can (19 oz / 540 mL) chickpeas, rinsed well
1 ½ cups (375 mL) cider vinegar
1 ½ Tablespoons (22 mL) olive oil
1 ½ teaspoons (7.5 mL) coarse sea salt
½ teaspoon (2.5 mL) freshly ground pepper


Pour the vinegar into a medium-sized saucepan. Cover pot with a lid and place on high heat. As soon as the vinegar is boiling, add the rinsed chickpeas to the pot and remove from heat. Let stand 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Drain chickpeas, discarding vinegar. Pour chickpeas out onto a clean dish towel and roll them around gently to dry thoroughly.

Put chickpeas in a clean bowl and drizzle with olive oil. Toss gently to coat evenly.

Spread chickpeas out onto a baking sheet. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Roast in oven for 40 to 45 minutes, jiggling the baking sheet occasionally.

The chickpeas will turn a dark golden brown and get crunchy. If you take them out of the oven too soon, you can always put them back in the oven for a few more minutes later.

Serve warm or at room temperature. These will keep for 2 weeks in a Ziploc bag stored in the fridge.

With St David’s Bench Vineyard Cabernet Franc

Venison Ragout in Red Wine

Recipe Source: Bearbrook Farms
Photo Credit: Chart Farm


venison1 shoulder/leg (2-3 lbs) venison
5 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon thyme
4 slices bacon, cut into strips
10 juniper berries
1 tablespoon tomato paste
4 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar cup dry red wine
1 cup game or beef stock
3 tablespoons cranberry or red currant jelly


Cut meat into bite-sized pieces.

Heat oil in heavy saucepan over medium-high heat.Brown meat on all sides. Do 1/3 at a time and remove from pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Fry bacon a few minutes and add thyme, juniper berries, tomato paste and flour. Fry for 2 minutes longer.

Pour in vinegar and red wine. Bring to boil, scraping solids from bottom. Add stock and cook until sauce is thickened.

Add meat with juices, cover and simmer for 2 hours.

Add jelly and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper & serve over mashed potatoes or with wild rice.


Enjoy your Savvy Selections!


GreenLane Estate Winery

Posted by Susan

Tuesday, October 13th, 2015

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Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring GreeenLane Estate Winery
–  October 2015 –


The inviting entrance and patio at GreenLane Estate Winery became even more so when I noticed a large water dish for dogs at the access to the fenced patio. They think of everything here to make their guests – of all kinds – feel welcome. It was a warm, quiet day at the winery, so Dianne Smith, General Manager and Winemaker, insisted that our Brittany Spaniel be taken out of the car and provided a shady spot near that never-ending water dish. Once settled, she shared her dog stories about her rescued red Doberman, who has patrolled the vineyards these last 4 years scaring off the birds. Unfortunately, Oskar (named for Oscar Schindler of the famous Schindler’s list) is recovering from a hind leg injury at the moment, but assistant winemaker, Gavin Paton’s Labradoodle named Barley was in the vineyard ensuring that no small mammals became grape tasters. Having exchanged credentials as dog lovers, we then moved on to sample the full range of GreenLane’s wines in the spacious and beautifully renovated tasting room.

Dianne SmithIndependently owned, GreenLane is a boutique winery that was inspired by a passion for fine wines and a conversation with a childhood friend over a glass of such wine. The vision for creating a local winery producing high quality small-batch fine wines was realized in 2009 with the purchase of the Beamsville property at the intersection of GreenLane and Cherry Avenue in Vineland. Named after the bordering Green Lane, the winery embodies the essence and country charm of the area and the ideals of the vision. Although the site included established vineyards, the early days of winemaking began in a small clapboard farmhouse with newly arrived winemaker Dianne Smith focused on producing outstanding wines.

I visited the winery in its first year of operation, and so impressed with the quality and finesse of the wines that I have spent the last 5 years convincing Dianne Smith to let us introduce her wines to our Savvy Selections subscribers. As a boutique winery, production levels were also so small that the large size of our subscriber base was a challenge. Now however, we are delighted to have the opportunity to introduce you not only to Dianne’s fabulous white wines, but also to her plush reds from the warm 2012 vintage.

In your Savvy Selections you will find…

GreenLane Chardonnay sur Lie VQA 2010 – a creamy full bodied elegant wine

GreenLane Cabernet Franc VQA 2012 – the opulent, fruit-forward red wine

GreenLane Cabernet Sauvignon VQA 2012 – a bold, powerful wine that is definitely ‘cellar worthy’.

Pop in with your pooch…

The team at GreenLane are always at the winery to welcome to you – and your well-behaved pooch – to their small winery. When your travels take you to Niagara, be sure to pop in for a visit to try many of the other wines produced from the fruit of both the original and the new estate, including Pinot ‘Grieving’ from Dianne’s newly introduced band, Betrayed. Due to their size and growing popularity of their wines, you rarely find GreenLane’s wines at the LCBO.

Looking for more wine trip tips?

Our friendly Savvy Team (minus an office dog) is ready to help you with travel ideas and wine tips too. Give us a call anytime on 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926)

Cheers & Enjoy!

Debbie & Savvy Team



GreenLane Estate Winery

Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins


Originally from a small seaside village in North Wales, Dianne Smith travelled the world with her family as her father’s job brought many transfers. “The wine bug hit me while I was studying Geology in Florida…and waiting on tables at a wine bar”, Diane recalls. “I finished up my degree, then looked for a post grad opportunity. The Brock University and Niagara College in their Oenology & Viticulture programs hit the mark. Once graduated, attempted to learn as much about the wine industry as I could, working for the LCBO and wine bars, in marketing and production at other local wineries such as Tawse, Hillebrand and Southbrook Vineyards too.

Saw an ad in the paper…

In March 2010, while working for Southbrook, I answered an ad for winery staff for a new, start up winery in Niagara. Five years later, I run GreenLane, juggling winemaking duties with my amazing assistant winemaker, Gavin Paton, and developing the GreenLane brand into one known for beauty and quality. In such a small, tight-knit team, we all wear quite a few hats!” Spoken like an entrepreneur!

Dianne Smith - in the vineyardGreenLane’s first vineyard location was chosen for its proximity to Lake Ontario, which offers a long growing season with cool evenings that effectively maintains the acidity in the Riesling and Pinot Gris and the quality of its very rocky clay loam soils, benefits the established plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, as well as the Riesling and Pinot Gris vines.

The new winery location offers accessibility to visitors meandering through Beamsville and a space five times that of the original old farmhouse.  In addition to a beautiful retail area and extensive production space, the site offers a lovely enclosed patio. The building has been extensively renovated to provide the perfect space for a boutique winery such as GreenLane. The new site is more sheltered, offering temperatures as much as 5F warmer than the original, as well as somewhat rocky clay loam with high iron content. Dianne has planted Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Chardonnay, following the advice of trusted wine industry friends, who indicated the site had an ideal terroir for Bordeaux varieties.

Moving = Surprises

Moving to the new winery has brought many benefits, but also some challenges for the team. Dianne tells an entertaining story of her first vintage at the new site. Hot weather meant that the Pinot Gris had to be harvested. Renovations were barely completed and the newly poured crush pad barely dried. An electrician from Toronto had installed the new press. As the Pinot Gris arrived – picked by a willing crew borrowed from another winery – the grapes sat on the skins as Dianne tried to start the press. Yikes, it wouldn’t work! Frantic calls to winemaker friends and neighbors brought a local electrician who declared, as he brought the press on line, that ‘those Toronto electricians really don’t know anything about winemaking equipment’.

greenlane estate wineryBy this time, the juice was a lovely deep pink colour. Into the fermentation tanks it went, as Dianne brought all her skills as a winemaker to bear to – as naturally as possible – filter the wine to a delicate peach hue. The 2013 Pinot Gris is her most popular wine and, if you’ve seen and tasted it, you’ll agree that she was very successful in her ‘rescue’ of the wine!

Dianne’s prior experience has led her to eschew conventional farming. Organic and biodynamic practices are followed in the vineyards and cellar, while a sustainable/herbicide-free approach is used in the vineyard. Says Dianne, ‘We are proud to farm sustainably and try to loosely follow the biodynamic calendar. We hope to farm the new site organically and to obtain certification in due course.’

Dianne is an enthusiastic host in the tasting room; her commitment to GreenLane and to her craft is almost tangible. Asked to describe her philosophy of winemaking, she says, “‘We pursue a vineyard first philosophy, embracing vintage variations in both aromatic and flavour profiles in our resulting wines. Winemaking is a labour of love. We strive to craft wines that speak truthfully of their vineyard origins by paying close attention to the terroir and allowing the fruit and the vintage to determine how the wines evolve. During harvest, the fruit is our dictator of style and our process allows the true flavours of grapes to shine.”

Love for Mother Nature & Old Man WinterGreenlane estate

Dianne is also true to her philosophy in the new brand she has created, Betrayed. Two brutal winters destroyed portions of both the delicate Pinot Gris and GreenLane’s 25-year-old Cabernet Sauvignon vines. In response, Dianne, “Betrayed by Mother Nature and Old Man Winter, we launched a sassy new line and named it Betrayed. Our first wine, Pinot Grieving, tells this story with the front label denoting Old Man Winter as a shadowy man, lurking in the background, wreaking havoc while the grapes (shown as a woman) weep. The 1950’s Pop Art styled label was designed by Niagara College students.”

Enjoy your Savvy Selections!



GreenLane Chardonnay sur Lie 2010 VQA, $35.002010 Chardonnay Sur Lie FRONT

Handpicked and sorted, this small-batch wine from the hot 2010 vintage is produced from the fruit of just 3-year-old vines – hard to believe given the depth and intensity of the flavour. This wine spent 22 months in a nearly new barrel and 3 neutral oak barrels, stirred twice weekly to integrate the flavours of the lies.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Brilliant gold, the complex aromas include toasted nut, butter pastry, pineapple, spiced vanilla, pear and apple tart. Dry, medium-full bodied, the power and intensity of the fruit is balanced by a creamy yet fresh texture, the flavours of caramel apple, pineapple and subtle nutty notes caressing the palate through a long, spiced finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Rich and flavourful, it’s a match for Thanksgiving turkey or ham, pasta with a creamy seafood sauce or roast pork.

Cellaring: Drinking well now or cellar 2-3 years


GreenLane Cabernet Franc 2012 VQA, $23.95

From the wonderfully warm 2012 vintage, this Cabernet Franc was handpicked from 8-year-old vines in the Antonio ds Silva-Ribeiro vineyard. It was then aged 9 months in French oak, 20% of which was ne2012 Cabernet Franc FRONTw.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This opulent Cabernet Franc tantalizes with a whiff of pencil shavings mingling with lifted aromas of roses, dark ripe berries and black cherry, cloves and chocolate. Showcasing ripe fruit on the palate, the wine is harmonious and well integrated, the tannins velvety, the balancing acidity subtle. The chocolate and spice notes join a chorus of lush fruit on the finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Serve with roast lamb, pork or rare breast of duck.

Cellaring: This wine will cellar a further 2-3 years.


GreenLane Cabernet Sauvignon 2012 VQA $32.952012 Cabernet Sauvignon FRONT

Produced from the fruit of 22-year-old vines that was hand harvested and sorted in different stages – some as late as the first week of November during this warm vintage. The wine was then aged 19 months in French oak barrels, gently punched down 4 times per day to increase extraction and intensity.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This inky, powerful wine offers great intensity and extraction. On the nose, the aromas of cassis and berry are rich and ripe, traces of vanilla, dark chocolate and spice merging and mingling with the fruit. Ripe yet firm tannins and refined acidity frame the concentrated dark fruit, hints of smoke, dried herbs, spice and pepper adding depth and complexity. Long and intense on the finish, the wine will cellar well.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Serve with rack of lamb or rare prime rib.

Cellaring: Ready now or it will cellar nicely for another 4 to 5 years



With GreenLane Chardonnay sur Lie…

Sausage & Exotic Mushroom Turkey Stuffing
By Emily Richards, LCBO Food & Drink Magazine
Serves 8-10


1 lb. fresh pork sausage (consider using 1 chorizo for a smoky flavour)
4 shallots, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
2 small carrots, finely chopped
3 Tbsp chopped fresh sage or 1 Tbsp dried sage
¼ C butter
2 cups sliced oyster mushrooms
2 cups small chanterelle mushrooms or sliced shitake mushroom caps
½ cup dry white wine
Salt & freshly ground pepper
8 cups cubed rustic bread (French or Italian)
¼ cup chopped Italian parsley
¾ cup chicken stock


Preheat oven to 325F.

Remove casings from sausages. Cook sausage meat in large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking up into small pieces with wooden spatula, for 8 minutes or until cooked through. Drain all but 1 Tbsp of fat from the skillet.

Add shallots, garlic, celery, carrots and sage. Sautée for 8 minutes or until golden. Add butter and stir until melted.

Add oyster and chanterelle mushrooms and sauté until mushrooms are softened. Add white wine and boil until wine evaporates. Season with salt & pepper. Scrape into a large bowl. Add bread and parsley. Toss to combine.

Drizzle chicken stock over stuffing mixture to moisten. Pour into greased 10 cup casserole dish. Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes or until crisp and golden.


With GreenLane Cabernet Franc

Duck Breasts with Blood Orange Salsa
By Lucy Waverman, The Flavour Principle
Serves 4
photo credit:

Ingredientsblood oranges

3 duck breasts (about 12 oz. each)
1 tsp cracked fennel seeds
1 tsp cracked coriander seeds
Salt & freshly ground pepper


½ cup chopped fennel
½ cup chopped blood orange flesh (or use Cara Cara oranges)
2 Tbsp chopped red onion
2 tsp chopped, seeded jalapeño pepper, or to taste
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp blood orange juice
2 Tbsp lemon juice
2 Tbsp chopped chives
2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
¼ tsp granulates sugar


Combine fennel, blood orange flesh, red onion, jalapeño, olive oil, blood orange juice, lemon juice, chives, cilantro, sugar and salt to taste. Reserve

Preheat oven to 450F.

Score skin of duck breasts at 1” intervals (do not cut into meat). Rub with fennel and coriander seeds. Season with salt & pepper.

Place skin side down in a cold ovenproof skillet & place over medium heat. Cook for 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low and cook for 15 minutes or until fat is rendered & skin is beginning to crisp.

Pour off fat & place skillet in oven. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until duck is medium-rare. Remove from skillet & let rest 5 minutes.

Slice breasts into ½ “ slices. Serve topped with salsa.


With GreenLane Cabernet Sauvignon…

Herbalicious Rack of Lamb
By Lucy Waverman, The Flavour Principle
Serves 4
photo credit:  

 Ingredientsrack of lamb

1 ½ cups fresh bread crumbs
¼ cup finely diced seeded tomato
½ cup chopped fresh thyme
¼ cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 tsp finely chopped garlic
Salt & freshly ground pepper
¼ cup butter, melted
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 lamb racks (8 chops each), frenched
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard


Combine bread crumbs, tomato, herbs, garlic, salt, pepper and melted butter. Mix well & transfer to a shallow dish. Reserve.

Preheat the oven to 400 F.

Heat a large ovenproof skillet over high heat & add oil. Season lamb with salt & pepper. Sear lamb, fat side down, for 2 minutes. Turn over & sear for 2 more minutes. Upend racks & sear meaty ends. Turn racks bone side down & place skillet in oven. Roast racks for 7 minutes.

Remove from oven & brush mustard over meat. Roll racks in break crumb mixture & return to pan, bone side down. Roast for another 10-15minutes or until just pink. Let lamb rest for 5 minutes before carving. 

Bonus Recipes…

GreenLane’s red wine & Chocolate Brownies!

GreenLane’s big bold red wines would be delicious with dark chocolate.  The winery team think that they have died and gone to heaven when Dianne makes these brownies to enjoy with GreenLane’s big red wines.

Old Fashioned Cocoa Brownies
From Dianne’s kitchen to yours
photo credit:


1 cup unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
¾ tsp baking soda
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
½ cup double-strength hot brewed coffee
¼ cup light corn syrup
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup natural unsweetened applesauce
½ tsp salt
2 cup sugar
½ cup plain nonfat yogurt


Preheat oven to 350F.

Sift the cocoa powder, baking soda and salt together into a large bowl. Add the coffee and corn syrup – whisk until mixture is smooth and glossy. Add applesauce, sugar and vanilla extract. Whisk until completely blended.

Add flour and fold in yogurt with wooden spoon just until it is incorporated.

Fold batter into an 8×8” nonstick baking pan. Bake for 30 minutes or until mixture begins to separate from the edges of the pan and centre is firm to touch.

Remove from oven, place on rack, leave in pan to cool completely. 

Spicy Chocolate-Cayenne Truffle Brownies


8 oz. bittersweet chocolate, broken into pieces
1 stick unsalted butter, cut into pieces (+ more for greasing pan)
4 large eggs at room temperature
¾ cup dark brown sugar
1 cup white sugar
1 ¼ cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (+ more for dusting)
¾ – 1 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp kosher salt


Preheat oven to 350F.

Prepare pan with butter and line with parchment.

In sauce pan, melt broken chocolate and butter over low heat, stirring often. Once melted, remove from heat and add both sugars, stir and set aside.

Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, salt and cayenne into large bowl and set aside.

Add eggs one at a time to the slightly warm chocolate, whisk after each.

Add spoonfuls of the flour/cocoa mixture and stir with a spatula until smooth.

Pour batter into 8×8” pan (bake for 35-40 minutes) or 9×13” pan (bake for 20-25 minutes).

Let cool and remove from pan. Sprinkle with cocoa powder and cut as desired. Note: For more fudgy brownies, tester should come out slightly coated.


Enjoy your Savvy Selections!


Stratus Vineyards – Toasting 10 Years

Posted by Monique

Monday, September 14th, 2015

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Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Stratus Vineyards Winery

–  September 2015 –


The kids are back in school, so folks we must accept it…our summer holiday has come to an end, yet the summer sun is still shining! The leaves have already begun changing colour and grape harvest has started in various regions, so there is no point in denying it…autumn is here. I promise not to mutter the W-word yet!

Stratus WineryThis month we are thrilled to introduce to you, Stratus Vineyards! It is a big year for Stratus as they are celebrating their ten year anniversary throughout 2015. Two key attributes that have stood out for Stratus throughout the past ten years are: being renowned as the world’s first fully LEED-certified (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) winery and for having the bold vision and track record of producing outstanding and age-worthy assemblage wines.

Suzanne Janke, Director of Hospitality & Retail, Stratus Vineyards explains assemblage:

“Assemblage is a centuries-old tradition in the a rt of combining several grape varieties to make a single wine. Not according to any preset formula, but through carefully selecting and balancing the best the vineyard has to offer each season – using taste, judgment and feel – to craft a wine that uniquely captures the essence of vintage and vineyard.”

Your Trio of Stratus wines…

Truth be told, it was not an easy job that our Savvy Team had when they sampled the wines. All of the choices impressed our Sommeliers. We took into account the change of seasons to determine this delectable trio crafted by Stratus’ gifted French-trained winemaker J-L (Jean-Laurent) Groux.

2011 Stratus Sémillon – A unique dry white wine that will prolong the days of patio season! This is a classic white grape variety from the Bordeaux region with loads character and is highly complementary to a world of dishes.

2012 Stratus Gewürztraminer – Luscious, floral and fun! With layers upon layers of character & flavours, wait until you try this wine with your fall food favorites.

2012 Stratus Merlot – A bold and robust red wine from one of the most sought after Niagara vintages and vineyards!

OPTIONAL WINE: 2013 Stratus Mosaic – this distinctive blend of Viognier and Gewurztraminer is neither icewine nor late harvest. Being somewhat sweet, but perfectly balanced, this will be a crowd pleaser.

You won’t find these Stratus wines at the LCBO

Our Savvy Sommeliers are always on the lookout for wines that you will enjoy absolutely every sip! AsStratus is a small-lot producer, they are rarely available outside of the winery. If you come across a favourite wine from Stratus, either in this month’s selection or in passing, call on us at any time at 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) for additional bottles. Also call us even if you have a yearning for wines from other wineries we have featured in Savvy Selections.

Raise a glass of Stratus to celebrate their 10th anniversary!

Debbie & Savvy Team


Stratus Vineyards

Presented by Sommelier Monique Ippolito


Ten years ago, Stratus Vineyards established themselves as a winery that respected time-honoured traditions while still managing a balance of ‘new traditions.’ This ideology was, and still is, present throughout every aspect their establishment.   From the vineyard management, to the innovative winemaking facility, to the chic resplendent tasting bar, Stratus Vineyards has done a remarkable job of mixing old with new…warm with cold… black with white…all to “make the best possible wine with the smallest possible footprint.”

The virtuoso himself… Stratus winemaker JL

J-L Groux (right) was recruited as chief winemaker for Stratus right from the get go. Originally from the Loire Valley, France, he practically grew up with wine in his veins. He studied oenology in Burgundy, meandered the globe, and then finally found himself captivated by the Niagara region by the late 1980s.

He had previously worked as a winemaker at Hillebrand, crafting Trius’ bold Cabernet blends. J-L’s artisanship for assemblage had transpired. The rest, as they say, is history.

Where does the magic start?

“In many ways, outstanding wines are grown, not made” explained J-L as we walked through the vineyard, “Currently we harvest 11 red grape varietals and seven white varietals. They were each planted in strategic blocs throughout the vineyard.” J-L is a hands on winemaker. He oversees everything – the planting, harvesting and sorting of all of the estates grapes.

Stratus handsortinTo contribute to the quality of their wines, Stratus employs techniques to provide their vines with the best possible mix of sunlight and earthly nutrients by training their vines vertical shoot positioning (winespeak: train the vines to grow upwards while the clusters of grapes hang below). Stratus also practices ‘low yield’ farming, limiting the number of fruit the vines produce to ensure higher quality grapes. All of the vineyards’ grapes are still tended, harvested and sorted entirely by hand.

What happens next…

After the wines are vinified and aged accordingly, the art of assemblage comes to play. When I asked how he prepares for such an arduous task, J-L reveals that he blind tastes twenty to thirty assemblage wines for two to three months almost daily trying to find the best characteristics for the flagship Stratus Red and Stratus White wines.

It is also quite interesting to see how this ancestral art of assemblage ties into the juxtaposed contemporary innovation theme of Stratus’ ideology. J-L explains that assemblage actually helps to overcome nature’s ups and downs by using the best varieties of each vintage. In turn, this actually helps in “keeping consistency in quality year to year even if the wine composition is not always the same.”

Once that task of assemblage is completed, J-L moves on to working on the single varietal wines – like the ones in your Savvy Selections trio – and other labels that Stratus offers: Wildass, Tollgate and Kabang. J-L affirms that while creativity, experience and attention to detail are all key traits of a great winemaker; “the vineyard actually makes the wine,” revealing a great respect for terroir (where the vines grow, breathe and live).

Where it all happens…

It is evident that Stratus exemplifies their commitment to sustainability from their blueprints. Their facility was Stratus barrelsconstructed with reclaimed materials boasting features such as a super-insulated roof and geothermal heating and cooling. They created a winery with a virtual hillside that allows the wine to move solely by gravity flow. Nothing is ever pumped and their only standby pump, which was never used, was sold soon after they opened in 2005.

Commitment to sustainability also extends beyond the winery itself. In the vineyards, Stratus employs innovative practices such as powering their tractors with recycled diesel fuel and using herbal tea blends instead of harmful pesticides to keep insects away from the grapes.

J-L himself was involved in the conception and consulted on construction of the winery, working daily with the engineer and consultant, Peter Gamble. He jokingly claims that, “if something quits working, I am on the hook!” Fortunately, the facility has been functioning excessively well and no major changes to the initial design have to come to pass.

Best part of it all….

J-L and the Stratus family all agree that the most rewarding part of the job is “establishing long lasting trust with their consumers.” After a decade of releases, customers know that they can count on Stratus wines to be consistently well crafted, with an innate respect for the land that is expressed in every glass.

Here’s to Stratus, J-L & the next 10 years!




2011 Stratus Semillon $32.00

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This wine screams ripe orchard fruit (peaches, nectarine and yellow delicious apple). Lovely notes of baking spice (nutmeg), citrus blossom and touch of pine mingle very well with the fresh fruit also. On the palate, citrus, nectarine, nutmeg and white pepper stands out the most. Hold a sip of this Semillon on the tongue and you will feel a flush of luscious acidity along with a slightly oily mouthfeel and a medium long citrus-white-pepper finish.

This is a medium to full bodied dry white can absolutely stand up to a substantial meal. It pours with an attractive golden yellow hue and is pleasing to the palate when served at a slightly warmer temperature than most other whites.

Suggested Food Pairings: Roasted lemon herbed Cornish hens or even Thanksgiving turkey is one route if you plan to save this wine for your fall harvest table. Pan seared halibut, pickerel or mahi mahi with grilled vegetables in another route for enjoying now through your last days of summer.

Cellaring: Drinking well now. Can cellar for 1-2 years. Serve between 10⁰-12⁰C.


2012 Stratus Gewürztraminer $32.00

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:   At first glance, notice a lovely bouquet of fresh flowers, bees wax and honey gust Gwertz_post sign (2)from your glass. Soon after, tropical fruit aromas start to come through: honey dew melon, Asian pear, mango and lychee. These aromas – tropical fruit, honey and beeswax – copy directly onto the palate along finishing layers of baking spice and white pepper.

If you are familiar with old world versions of Gewürztraminers (German or French Styles), you will pin this wine as noticeably ‘Alsatian’ (French wine region) in character. This wine has rich yet luscious mouthfeel. It has ripe tropical fruit characters with noticeable (but balanced) acidity. It is medium to full bodied and it has a medium to long finish.

Suggested Food Pairings: This wine is quite substantial and would pair well with dishes that have a lot of flavours and textures. Moroccan chick pea salad or curried lentil (vegan) chili would make excellent vegetarian dish pairing with this wine. However, if protein is what you desire, try pairing it with a heart (and spicy) beef chili. If you do not wish to disturb the layer upon layers of flavours of this wine, pair with a simple dukkah spice mix (an Egyptian blend of toasted nuts, seeds and spices).

Cellaring: Drinking well now or can cellar for 1-2 years. Serve between 10⁰-12⁰C.

2012 Stratus Merlot $32.00

Stratus GrapesSavvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Rustic came to mind when my senses were first introduced to this Merlot. Lovely red berry fruit, cassis, ripe red plums, red roses and baking spice (cinnamon, clove and anise) notes billow from the glass. Tannins are smooth and acidity is well balanced. Notice a luscious mouthfeel as you take a sip. The red fruit and baking spice stands out the most on the palate with a little bit of sweet smoke presence veering towards a the long warm cinnamon clove finish.

This wine speaks volumes of the level of quality coming out of the Niagara Peninsula. It is sure to be a sure-fire crowd pleaser amongst red wine drinkers. Seeing that the temperatures are still in the double digits, pair with red meats coming off your barbeque!

Suggested Food Pairings: Bison burgers or steak skewers. Perhaps you fancy saving it for some fall comfort food dining, the try it with Beef Wellington.

Cellaring: Drinking well know or has the cellaring potential for up to 5-7 years. Serve between 16⁰-18⁰C. 

OPTIONAL WINE: 2013 Stratus Mosaic
$25.00 (375 mL bottle)

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A remarkably refreshing dessert wine! To be honest, there is no need to wait for dessert, serve as an aperitif or I would not even wait for dessert to be honest! There are loads of ripe tropical fruit notes in this wine. From guava, lychee and pineapple, to even passion fruit; this wine quite remarkable!

It is a late harvest wine from premium Riesling and Gewürztraminer varietals. It is more on the semi-sweet side, so not as cloying or syrupy as Icewine could be. Acidity is present and contributes to a luscious mouthfeel right through to a long semi-sweet citrus marmalade finish.

Suggested Food Pairings: Passionfruit crème brûlée, Mexican Flan or Pavlova

Cellaring: Drinking well know, can cellar for up to 3-5 years. Serve between 8⁰-10⁰C.




With Stratus Semillon…

Fish Tacos topped with Mango Pico de Gallo and Salsa Verde

From Monique’s Kitchen
Serves 3-4


For the fish

1 large pickerel fillet (about 500g)
1 tablespoon olive oil
juice from half a lemon
pinch of smoked paprika
pinch of ground cumin
salt and pepper to taste
8 soft corn tortillas

For Mango Pico de Gallo

1 large Roma tomato
1 small-medium onion
1 green bell pepper (optional)
1 semi-ripe mango
2-3 limes, juiced
½ cup fresh chopped cilantro
¼ teaspoon of honey
salt and pepper to taste

For the Salsa Verde

6 tomatillos (green tomatoes)
1 medium onion
1 head of garlic
2 fresh jalapeños
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons red pepper jelly
½ cup fresh cilantro
1 lemon, juiced
1 lime, juiced


Chop tomato, onion, bell pepper and mango into cubes for the Pico de Gallo. Finely chop the cilantro and marinade all the ingredients in juice from limes.

Mix tomatillos, onion, garlic, jalapeños and cilantro in a food processor for salsa verde. After ingredients are coarsely blended, pour into a bowl and stir in honey, red pepper jelly and juice from lime and lemon.

Pat pickerel with a damp paper towel and brush with olive oil. Then season with salt, pepper, smoked paprika and cumin.

Heat your skillet with olive oil on medium-high heat for a couple minutes, then sear fish in the pan. Let it cook on medium low heat from 3-4 minutes per side or until cooked through. After 8-10 minutes, remove fish and let it crumble.

Take your warmed corn tortilla and add cooked fish, Mango Pico de Gallo, and Salsa Verde and enjoy your taco!

With Stratus Gewürztraminer…

Pan Seared Trout with Orange Butter Pecan Sauce

From (recipe and photo credit)
Serves 2trout


1 large trout fillet (about 8-10 ounces)
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter (or ghee)
1 orange, zested and juiced
½ cup chopped pecans
Parsley, for garnish


Heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium high heat.

Season the fillet with salt and pepper and place skin side up in the skillet. Sear for 3-4 minutes until the fish easily flips. Sear another 3-4 minutes until the skin is crispy and the fish flakes easily. Remove and keep warm.

In the same skillet melt one tablespoon of butter. Stir in the pecans scrapping any brown bits up from the bottom of the pan. Allow pecans to toast for about one minute. Stir in the orange juice and allow to reduce just a bit.

Season sauce with a bit of salt to taste and pour over the trout. Garnish with orange zest and parsley.

Stratus Merlot…

Steak Skewers with Chimichurri Sauce

From (recipe and photo credit)
Serves 4

Ingredientssteak skewers

For Chimichurri Sauce

½ cup finely chopped parsley
½ cup finely chopped cilantro
3 teaspoons finely chopped oregano
1 teaspoon finely chopped thyme
1 small shallot, minced
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
¼ teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

For Steak

1 pound skirt steak, trimmed
2 teaspoons cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt (or to taste)
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
8-10 soaked wooden skewers (soaked for at least 30 minutes)
nonstick cooking spray for grilling


Combine all ingredients for chimichurri sauce in a bowl and set aside.

Cut steak crosswise into two equal pieces, then cut each piece lengthwise into one-inch-wide strips (making 8 to 10 pieces).

Season steak pieces in a large bowl with cumin, cayenne pepper, chili powder, and salt and pepper, Then thread season steaks onto skewers.

Lightly coat your grill with cooking spray or line grill with foil. Light grill to high heat.

Place skewers on grill and cook for two to three minutes per side for medium rare or to your desired degree of doneness, depending on thickness. Transfer skewers to a plate and let it sit for five minutes, then serve with chimichurri sauce. 

*Chimichurri sauce can be refrigerated for 2-3 days or stored in freezer for up to 4-5 weeks.


Enjoy your Savvy Selections!


Aure Wines – A Treasure Find

Posted by Monique

Monday, August 17th, 2015

Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Aure Estate Winery
–  August 2015 –


The heat is on in Ontario folks!  While we cool ourselves off sipping on some crisp cool wines, Ontario’s vineyards are eagerly watching clusters of their little green grapes grow and ripen. (did you know all grapes start as green?).  August is also one of the busiest times of the year for wineries, as tasting rooms are bustling with crowds of visitors anxious to taste and discover the delightful wines they have to offer while in the cellar, they are finishing bottling the wines and making room for the chaotic activities that comes with harvest.

We are thrilled to introduce to you Aure Wines (pronounced oh-rah), a family run winery situated in the VinemountAureWines_color Ridge sub-appellation of the Niagara Escarpment.  Aure Wines is run, hands on, by the Hoare family, originally from London, England; with Dave and Annette at the helm.  This husband and wife team has devotedly enthralled themselves in the splendor of wine and food for countless decades.  They also raised a lovely family with that same unimaginable level of passion.  Together with their sons William, the winemaker; and James, the vineyard manager; and daughter Sarah, they aim to share their passion through handcrafting quality wines.

Ready to uncork & enjoy your Savvy Selections?

In this month’s Savvy Selections you will find 3 remarkable wines, each of which were made from estate grown grapes.  Consider these wines to be a definitive expression of what Aure Wines has to offer!

2014 White Gamay – An irresistible blush pink wine with enticingly fresh strawberry aromas.  This refreshing wine pairs well with…your patio! You will no doubt want to enjoy with a charcuterie platter and cheese.

2011 ‘Old Vines’ Marechal Foch – A customer favourite! This wine comes from a hybrid grape vine (winespeak: cross between a European vinifera grape varietal and a North American grape varietal) that was once very widely planted all over Ontario due to its early ripening and cold hardy nature.  Today, most Marechal Foch vines have been uprooted but the ones that do remain at Aure are over 50 years old!  By the same token, winemaking has certainly improved over the past five decades, allowing these grapes to produce an incredible expression of this wine.

2010 Reserve Cabernet Franc – A silver medal winner at the 2014 Concours International Des Vine in France and the first vintage Cabernet Franc. The layers upon layers of flavours will surely impress.

You won’t find these Aure 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!  Aure Wines produces such small amounts that you won’t find them on the shelves in your LCBO.  Call on us at any time at 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) for additional bottles of your favourite Aure wines – or other wineries we have featured in Savvy Selections.

Cheers & enjoy your summer!

Debbie & Savvy Team


Aure Wines

Presented by Sommelier Monique Ippolito


The Hoare family has always had a strong affinity for wine.  They originally moved to Canada’s east coast for business purposes; later bringing them to Toronto.  That second leap, sending them closer to Ontario’s grape regions, no doubt triggered something in their senses.  After countless visits through Niagara’s wine country, they took the plunge and sought to establish a winery of their own.  Aure was establish in 2007 and officially opened in 2011 with the first vintage coming from 2010 grapes. 2010 was a stellar year…so not a bad way to start!

A winery with an English cottage charm…

The property they finally settled on turned out to be a huge “fixer upper”.  The project involved salvaging as much as they could from an old barn to create what is now a charming Edwardian English _DSC0550Country Estate, adorned with various artifacts, photos and furniture from that era.  What is even more fascinating about this winery is their commitment to sustainability and the environmentally conscious initiatives they applied during the construction of the winery.

The Hoare family reused, recycled and re-purposed as much as they possibly could from the old barn that was on site.  If some of the salvageable items were not useful in the construction of their winery, they were donated to causes that would sure to benefit from it.  Today, a few of the key features of the winery include: a living ‘green’ roof, passive solar heating mechanisms and various methods of water conservation and the re-purposing of rain water.

The name is blowing in the wind

The Hoare family looked into their lineage for the inspiration to pretty much everything about the winery.  The name was no different.  Once they started tracing the name back a few centuries, the surname Hoare was discovered to be somewhat of a derivative of the ancient Greek name Aure, which translates to “a breath of air.”  Since the discovery, the Hoare’s could not resist how fitting the name was considering the location of the winery in addition to having a connection to their lineage.

Meet the winemaker…

William Hoare (photo at right) practically grew up in the hospitality industry and devewilliam_0loped quite an adventurous palate at a very young age.  As a teenager, he was actually thrilled to be washing dishes and bussing tables in a restaurant.  His work experience and penchant for exotic food motivated travels steered him towards studying Hospitality at Niagara College and obtaining a Diploma in Hotel and Restaurant Management.

Soon after, his love and appreciation for wine began to skyrocket. William then sought to educate himself as much as he could on the subject of wine.  He is a quick learner, not to mention a good student, although he feels that he never learnt enough about wine. “there is always more to learn.”

As with any job however there still seem to be little headaches here and there.  For instance William jokingly admits that his least favourite parts of the job are cleaning tanks and, of course, government audits.  However, his proudest moment so far has been winning a silver medal for the 2010 Cabernet Franc at the 2014 Cancours International Des Vine in France.  Luckily, there was enough of this award winning wine to include in your Savvy Selections shipment.  Plus, another fulfilling part of his job is being able to experiment with new/different techniques in wine making; like the impressive wild ferment Pinot Noir and Chardonnays that are available when you visit the winery.

What’s next?

In a span of four short years, Aure has built an incredible portfolio of wines and built several reasons to mark a visit to the winery when you are next in the area.  Be sure to stop in to Silo Bistro for lunch or English high tea.

In the vineyard, David is excited to be the first in the area to grow a new and somvineyard croppedewhat obscure grape called Siegerrebe.  It is an aromatic white grape variety originally from Germany with similar aromas to Gewürztraminer.  “We chose it because of its cold hardy characteristics and it should perform very well in the cool climate that we have in our vineyards”, explains David.

In the wine cellar, William shares the secret that they are planning to make a sparkling Gamay.

Altogether, this winery’s warmth, passion, commitment to environmental sustainability, and strong connection to heritage will no doubt keep producing exciting wines in the future!




Being on top of the Beamsville Bench in the Vinemount Ridge, Aure has focused on varietals that perform consistently well in the cool winds that run along the top of the escarpment.  The grapes here generally bud and ripen two weeks later than vineyards located lower on the bench.  Aure’s Gamay Noir, Cabernet Franc, Riesling and over 50 year old vines of Marechal Foch are the varietals the winery began with.  Sadly, this year, the Riesling vines originally planted were uprooted due to the back-to-back harsh winters that damaged the vineyard.  On the flip side, the hardy surviving vines are thriving and producing very well report David and William.

2014 White Gamay, $14.95

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Mark our words, you will not be able to resist this elegant blush pink wine!  Alluring aromas of ripe wild strawberries, cherry and a touch of lemon grass loom from the glass.  Expressions of strawberry, pink grapefruit and lemon zest come through more on the palate, ending with a crisp refreshing finish.  This wine is light bodied with a well-balanced acidity and a mouthwatering finish.

While called White Gamay, it is strictly speaking, a white wine made from a red grapes.  The Gamay Noir grapes are the signature varietal originating from the Beaujolais appellation in France.  It is traditionally a deep ruby-red hued wine so, naturally, when vinifying this wine with very limited skin contact, some of that pink hue comes through into the juice during the winemaking process.  Take a sip and you’ll find all the qualities of a ripe Gamay grape without the tannins.  Dry and crisp, it is a delicious summer sipping wine.

Suggested   Food   Pairings: Quite versatile!  This wine makes for a terrific pairing with a summer salad.  Try it with strawberry topped Greek salads, or simply enjoy as a plain ol’ 2 o’clock patio wine. 

Cellaring: Drink now.  Serve between 7⁰-10⁰C.

2011 Old Vines Marechal Foch, $19.95

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  A robust red wine!  Lovely layered notes of ripe blackberries, black currants, Foch_2011black plums, dark chocolate, leather and anise come through as you nose this wine.  Key flavours of  ripe berries, baking spices and a touch of earthy minerality sustain itself on the palate right through to a long finish.  This wine carries a silky smooth mouthfeel with luscious acidity and a medium-plus body.

The Old Vines Foch, being one of the original varietals frown on the property, is harvested from mature vines.  It has so far become the best seller of Aure Winery.  Its rich and bold characteristics make it a versatile comfort food pairing wine.  You do not necessarily have to wait until fall to crack into this bottle though.  I imagine it will pair quite well with Smokey BBQ ribs.

Suggested Food Pairings:  Osso Buco, hearty stews or anything off the BBQ. 

Cellaring: Drinking well now.  Can cellar for another 3 to 5 years.  Serve between 16⁰-18⁰C.

2010 Reserve Cabernet Franc, $35.00

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:   This wine is one of Aure’s inaugural wines and an international prize winner at that!  The 2010 vintage in the Niagara’s wine country was quite phenomenal, so the wine has lovely notes of dates, ripe Reserve_2010_Cabblack plums, some graphite (minerality) and eucalyptus that lingers with each sip.  These aromas directly repeat on the palate with a luscious and satiny mouthfeel.  Tannins are still present but not overpowering.  Other characteristics of dark chocolate and dried cranberries come through more on the finish.

This full bodied wine is quite a proud bottle for Aura Wines.  It is well rounded and packed with complexity.  It is drinking quite nicely right now, but if you have extra bottles cellar them for another couple years.

Suggested  Food  Pairings:  Beef, bison, lamb or venison roasts.

Cellaring: Drinking well now or can cellar for up to 3-5 years.  Serve between 16⁰-18⁰C.




With The White Gamay…

Blackened Chicken Salad

From Monique’s Kitchen (modified from Whole Foods Market recipe)
Blackening Seasoning Mix from
Serves 4 side salads or 2-3 large dinner salads

 This dish is fantastic in a sandwich, a wrap or in a pasta salad as well.  Be as creative as you like!


3 chicken breasts
¾ cup mayonnaise (substitute with Just Mayo for egg free mayonnaise)
¼ cup dijon mustard
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
1 large carrot (grated or julienne)
½ of a red onion (sliced)
4-5 scallions (chopped)
1/3 cup blackening seasoning
1-2 tablespoons olive oil (substitute with avocado oil or coconut oil)

Blackening Seasoning Mix

1½ tablespoons of paprika
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon ground dried thyme
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Combine all ingredients in a bowl until evenly mixed.  Store in an airtight container in a cool dry place.


Coat chicken thoroughly with blackening seasoning mix and let it sit for about 15 minutes.  Then, heat olive oil in skillet and stir fry chicken breasts over medium heat for approximately 10-12minutes or until fully cooked and set aside to cool.  Once cooled, slice into ¼ inch thick strips. *Option: Grill chicken breasts on the BBQ. 

Mix together mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar and Dijon mustard; then set aside. Combine chicken strips, carrot, red onion and scallions together in a large bowl. Pour dressing over the chicken mixture and combine thoroughly. Garnish with some extra chopped scallions and enjoy with your White Gamay.


With Marechal Foch…

Osso Buco (Braised Veal Shanks)

From (recipe & photo credit)
Serves 4-8


8 – 10 large 2 ½ inch thick veal shanks (patted dry & tied securely with string to keep the meat attached to the bone)
All purpose flour for dredging the veal shanks
7 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus additional if necessary
3 Tbsp olive oil, plus additional is necessary
1½ cups white wine (I tend to use Fumé Blanc or unoaked Chardonnay)osso bucco
1½ cups finely chopped onion
¾ cup finely chopped carrots
¾ cups finely chopped celery
4 cloves minced garlic
3-4 cups chicken or beef broth
1½ cups drained canned plum tomatoes (chopped)
1 cheesecloth bag containing 6 sprigs of fresh parsley, 4 sprigs of fresh thyme and 1 bay leaf
½ teaspoon salt & pepper (or to your taste)


Season veal shanks with salt and pepper and dredge them in the flour, shaking off the excess. 

In a heavy skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the butter and 3 tablespoons of the oil over moderately high heat until the foam subsides.  Then brown the veal shanks in batches, adding some of the additional butter and oil as necessary and, once browned, transfer unto a platter. 

Add the wine to skillet and stir, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom and sides of the skillet.  Boil the mixture until the liquid is reduced to about ½ cup, and set aside in a small bowl.

In a flame proof casserole dish – large enough to hold all the veal shanks in one layer – combine onions, carrots, celery, garlic and remaining tablespoons of butter over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened; then add shanks with any juices that have accumulated on the platter, the reserve mixture and enough broth to almost cover the shanks.  Spread the tomatoes over the shanks, add the cheesecloth bag and salt and pepper to taste; and bring the liquid to a simmer over moderately high heat.

Braise the mixture, covered, on the middle rack of a preheated 325⁰F oven for two hours, or until veal is tender.

Transfer the shanks with a slotted spoon to an ovenproof serving dish, discard the strings, and keep the shanks warm.  Skim the fat and strain the pan juices into a saucepan, pressing hard on the solids.  Boil the juices for 15 minutes, or until liquid is reduced to about 3 cups.  Baste the shanks with some of the reduced juices and bake (basting 3-4 times) for another 10 minutes, or until they are glazed.


With Reserve Cabernet Franc…

Beef Brisket Pot Roast

From (recipe & photo credit )
Serves 8-12


4-5lbs beef brisket
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
3 large onions
5-6 cloves of garlic (minced)
2-3 large carrots
1 sprig of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
3-4 bay leaves
2 cups beef sock
1Tbsp mustard (optional)


On one side of the brisket there should be a layer of fat, which you want to keep.  If there are any large chunks of fat, cut them off and discard them.  Large pieces of fat will not be able to render out completely.  Using a sharp knife, score the fat in parallel lines – about ¾ inch apart.  Slice through the fat, not the beef.  Repeat in the opposite direction to make a cross-hatch pattern.  Salt the brisket well and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes.

You’ll need an oven-proof, thick-bottomed pot with a cover (Dutch oven or casserole dish) that is just wide enough to hold the brisket roast with a little room for the onions.  Pat the brisket dry and place it, fatty side down, into the pot and place it on medium high heat.  Cook for 5-8 minutes, lightly sizzling, until the fat side is nicely browned.  (If the roast seems to be cooking too fast, turn the heat down to medium.  You want a steady sizzle, not a raging sear.)  Turn the brisket over and cook for a few minutes more to brown the other side.

When the brisket has browned, remove it from the pot and set aside.  There should be a couple tablespoons of fat rendered in the pot, if not, add some olive oil.  Add the chopped onions and increase the heat to high.  Sprinkle a little salt on the onions.  Sauté, stirring often, until the onions are lightly browned (5-8 minutes).  Stir in the garlic and cook 1-2 more minutes.

Preheat the oven to 300°F.  Use kitchen twine to tie together the bay leaves, rosemary and thyme.  Move the onions and garlic to the sides of the pot and nestle the brisket inside.  Add the beef stock and the tied-up herbs.  Bring the stock to a boil.  Cover the pot, place the pot in the 300°F oven and cook for 3 hours.  Carefully flip the brisket every hour so it cooks evenly.

After 3 hours, add the carrots.  Cover the pot and cook for 1 hour more, or until the carrots are cooked through and the brisket is falling-apart tender. At this point, take the pot out of the oven and remove the brisket to a cutting board.  Cover it with foil.  Pull out and discard the herbs.

You can serve as is, or you can make a sauce with the drippings and some of the onions.  To make a sauce, remove the carrots and half of the onions, set aside and cover them with foil.  Pour the ingredients that are remaining into the pot into a blender, and purée until smooth.  If you wish, add 1 tablespoon of mustard to the mix. Put into a small pot and keep warm. Serve with the onions, carrots and gravy. Serve with mashed, roasted or boiled potatoes.

TIP: Notice the lines of the muscle fibers of the roast.  This is the “grain” of the meat.  Slice the meat perpendicular to these lines, or across the grain (cutting this way further tenderizes the meat), in 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch slices.

Enjoy your Savvy Selections!


Di Profio Wines..a perfect summer package!

Posted by Shawn

Monday, July 13th, 2015

Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Di Profio Wines
–  July 2015 –

It seems like summer is flying by. In some parts of our province, we are just starting to feel the heat we’ve waited for since the dreary dead of winter. For Ontario’s wineries, this is the quiet time between the bustle of tying or unearthing canes in the spring and the panic of harvest in the faJoseph DiProfioll. Not that there isn’t work to do – the vines need to be trimmed and there’s always something to look after as the grapes turn from flowers into delicious fruit.

This month features wines from a small, family-run winery located seconds from the idyllic village of Jordan Station. Di Profio Wines has one of the most interesting tales and some great summer wines for you to enjoy!

Ready to uncork & enjoy your Savvy Selections? 

In your Savvy Selections you will find 3 DELICIOUS wines. Each one has been specially selected for its unique ability to pair with summer food and enjoy with friends. Don’t let the “Zinc” theme fool you – these wines are all about balanced fruit and freshness, and you’ll find that there are so many foods that work with each of them!

2013 “The Kitchen Zinc” – Fresh, crisp, and fruit-forward in style, this perfect entertaining white wine will have folks asking for more! A lovely blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal, Viognier, Muscat, and Gewurztraminer, it reminds you most of Sauv Blanc but then adds some great tropical fruit and floral hints from the additional components.

2013 Gamay Rosé – A refreshing fruit driven Rosé based on 100% Gamay that not only pairs well with many foods, but is a fine drink on its own, enjoyed cold on a sunny deck or patio.

2012 “Zinc-Tastic – This fruit dominated Cabernet-Merlot blend with mellow tannins and great acidity is the perfect companion to this summer’s BBQ dishes!

One of the hazards of our job…

One of the several bonuses of my work is that you meet fascinating people involved in the wine industry.  Often is the case that they become friends.  This is certainly the case with Carollynn & Joseph Di Profio (in photo).  Savvy Sommelier Shawn McCormick first introduced me to them and now…I stay at their B&B whenever travels take me to Niagara.  In this eZine Shawn (and I) look forward to introducing you to the winery, their wines & the cool people who pour their heart & soul into everything that they do…and they are retired!

You won’t find these Di Profio wines at the LCBO

We have done it again!  Our Savvy Sommeliers have found great wines (at great prices) that we are confident you will enjoy…every sip!  Di Profio Wines produces such small amounts that you won’t find them on the shelves in your LCBO. Call on us at anytime at 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) for additional bottles of your favourite Di Profio wines – or other wineries we have featured in Savvy Selections.

Cheers & enjoy your summer!
Debbie & Savvy Team


Di Profio Wines

Presented by Sommelier Shawn McCormick

I literally jumped at the chance to write about Di Profio wines when asked, as I have known proprietors Joe Di Profio and Carollynn Desjardins for almost four years now. My wife and I first stayed at their lovely B&B when the winery was just a set of plans, and they were temporarily making wine in a converted barn. Through the years, I have learned a lot about their incredible journey from retired school officials to farmers and winery owners.

You’re Never Too Old

Joe and Carollynn met when they both worked with school board in North Bay. They retired years ago to winters in Mexico and were loving their life of warm weather and time on their boat, the “Mia Cara”.

Di Profio WineryFate brought them back to Ontario and due to a health issue they ended up in the Niagara region. Once recovered, they decided that they wanted to stay in the area to be close to their son Fred.

They weren’t really looking to start a winery, but they had been thinking about a legacy they could leave for their children. They liked the idea of building something they could pass down to the generations.

When they saw and bought the 12 acre property that is now Di Profio Wines, the vineyard was in horrible shape, having been neglected for years. Consultants they hired at the time recommended that they just rip everything out and start over, but Joe thought that there was a lot of the vineyard worth saving. He was right.

Over the last 5 or so years they have built a new winery building, and added deck and porch areas, as well as a food service trailer. They’ve recovered what they could of the vineyard, and replanted what they couldn’t. They are now fully under vine and producing about 1500 cases of wine annually.

A B&B And a Winery?

The property (now renamed after their boat – the “Mia Cara” vineyards), included a large, fully finished house. While the vineyards had been neglected for years, the house was in great shape, if large for their needs. “What are we going to do with all this space?” asked Carollynn. She soon decided that they would open a Bed & Breakfast, despite never even having stayed in a B&B herself! Together they have created a unique guest experience where you literally are “Among the Vines”. In addition to working in the vineyards and the tasting room, Carollynn does double duty as B&B host!

A Family Affair

You may say that the Di Profio family, originally from Italy, has winemaking in their blood. Joe’s father Guiseppe Di Profio was the first Di Profio in Canada to make wine, back 60-70 years ago. Today, Di Profio uses his name on their very special appassimento style wine “Peppe’s Pride” which is only made in specific years.

The wine-making bug skipped a generation, but when Joe’s son Fred trained as a winemaker, it piqued Fred DiProfioJoe’s own interests in wine. Fred has his own winemaking company looking after a couple of different wineries, yet still finds time to tend to the winemaking duties at Di Profio. With Joe in the fields, Carollynn at the tasting bar, and Joe’s grandson Jack staying with them this summer, you’re sure to find one of the family members working in the winery or the fields if you stop in to visit.

What is it about Zinc?

Joe had visited wineries in Italy and noticed they all had zinc topped bars. In much the same way that they used to put zinc on barn roofs to stop moss or algae from growing, zinc provides an anti-microbial surface which makes for a great bar top! They sourced rolled zinc and found a local copper roofer who would work the material. Di Profio’s zinc-topped bar is now affectionately known as “The Zinc”.

What’s Next?

With capacity for about 3000 cases, they see organic growth of the winery from the current 1500 cases through repeat customers (currently around 80%). With two harsh winters under their belt, they have a few planting changes to make to ensure longevity of the vineyard, and to provide the right varieties for the wines that sell the best. As an example, some areas where Merlot and Sauvignon Blanc don’t do as well will be replaced with Vidal (used in their “Teacher’s Pet” Special Select Late Harvest wine). Joe mentions that there are some abutting vineyards that might feed future grape needs. So much for retirement!




Even with several wines to choose from, it wasn’t too hard to pick the wines for this month’s selections – after all, a white, a red, and a rosé make for the perfect package in the summer! All of the wines chosen are fantastic food pairing options and you’ll find them easy to pair. They all exhibit great fruit and acidity – two qualities that will enhance your dishes.  The best part is, they are all balanced and can be sipped on their own, making them extremely versatile.

“The Kitchen Zinc” 2013, $16.50

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This wine has quickly become Di Profio’s most popular wine, andDi Profio Wines Kitchen Zinc 2013 continues to sell more every year even with increasing production! This summer sipper is light and fresh on the palate. It offers a delicious nose of tropical fruit – namely gooseberry, passion fruit, kiwi, and sweet, ripe melon. Behind the tropical fruit are lighter citrus, fresh cut grass, and wet river stone notes. There is an initial hit of the sweet tropical fruit, and then a cleansing, tart lemon refreshes before the long grapefruit pith finish.

Suggested Food Pairings: Enjoy with grilled swordfish, an asparagus quiche made with fresh Ontario asparagus, or a tropical salad!  See the grilled pineapple salad recipe in the following pages.

Cellaring:  Drink soon at 7-10ºC.

Gamay Rosé 2013, $15.70

Di Profio Gamay RoseSavvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Beautiful bright pink colour. Strawberry and ripe raspberry notes on the nose reminiscent of Swedish berry candies. There is the slightest hint of herbaceousness akin to fresh-cut rhubarb and notes of sweet Honeydew melon as it warmed. The palate is slightly sweet strawberry  fruit at first ,showing good weight without being sticky. This is followed with strawberry-rhubarb and red currant. There is a refreshing acidity which cleanses your palate but leaves a nice lingering finish. It is a wine that is both sweet and dry at the same time!

Suggested Food Pairings: Another versatile wine that will work with many dishes including grilled shrimp, summer salad, or most BBQ fare. Try it with our veggie pizza recipe further in!

Cellaring: Drink now. Serve between 7ºC-10ºC.

“Zinc-tastic” Cabernet Merlot 2012, $23.00

This blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 50% Merlot from a great growing year exemplify that Ontario can make delicious, full-bodied red wine as well as whites.2012-zinc-tastic1

 Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  A deep rich ruby colour and a purple hue give hints as to the makeup of this wine. The aromas of dark and red fruit – plums, cassis, black cherry, red cherry come with light spice and mocha notes. There is the slightest smoky herbaceousness reminiscent of a tamed jalapeño pepper.  Red cherry and red currant dominate the subdued leather and earthy components on the palate. There is decent acidity and slightly grippy tannins that indicate you could hold this for a few years, or pair with some juicy protein.

Suggested Food Pairings: Pair with bison burgers, venison sausage, mushroom lasagna or rare steak. See the recipe in the following pages for Smoky Cheddar Paprika Burgers.

 Cellaring: Drinking well know, can cellar for up to 5 years. Serve at 16-18ºC.



With The Kitchen Zinc…

Grilled Pineapple & Jalapeños w Fresh Mango & Avocado salad

From Ripe Life (recipe & photo credit)
Serves 2-4
Makes 4 side salads or 2-3 large dinner salads


¼ cup fresh lime juiceRipe Life grilledpineappleandjalapeños
1 teaspoon agave syrup

½ teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon cilantro chopped
I pineapple cored and peeled sliced into 1 inch rounds
4 jalapeños sliced in half length ways seeded
2 mangoes peeled pitted diced
2 avocados peeled pitted sliced
¼ cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)


Make vinaigrette by whisking lime juice, agave, salt and olive oil.

Stir in cilantro.

Heat BBQ to medium high.

Lay pineapple in hot grill for several minutes to caramelize and flip over. At the same time grill jalapeños. When peppers and pineapple are slightly softened and grill marks appear remove from grill. Chop into chunks and gently toss with mango and avocado.

Dress with vinaigrette. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and serve.

With Gamay Rosé …

Green Onion, Arugula, & Goat Cheese Pizza

From Shawn McCormick’s family kitchen
Serves 2-3
Also good with Wild Leeks (Ramps) or Garlic Scapes instead of Green Onion!


2 Pizza shells or flatbreads
6-8 Green onions, chopped
Handful of arugula per pizza
8 oz goat cheese, crumbled
8 oz mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup finely diced red pepper
Olive oil


Brush the shell or pre-cooked crust liberally with your favourite olive oil.

Wash, dry, and chop the arugula into bit sized pieces. Distribute it and the chopped green onions and red pepper across both shells.

Scatter the crumbled goat cheese and then coat with a thin layer of mozzarella (to hold it all together).

Grind some fresh black pepper over it and heat in 350ºF oven or BBQ for about 10 minutes.

Allow to rest for 2-3 minutes. Drizzle with a little more olive oil if you like, and serve with Gamay Rosé.


With Zinc-tastic …

Smoky Cheddar Paprika Burgers

From Shawn McCormick’s family kitchen
Serves 4-6


1 kg lean ground beef
6-8 oz smoked cheddar
1/2 medium onion, diced finely
1 tsp hot, smoked paprika (more if you like it spicy)
1 tsp chipotle spice (optional)
1 egg
½ cup dried bread crumbs
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste


Dice the cheese into small cubes, about ½ cm

(Optional) Sauté the onions in olive oil until clear and soft

Beat the egg and then mix all ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Form into patties – should make 6 large patties or 8 smaller ones.

Cook as you normally would on BBQ or frying pan. Serve on your favourite bun with toppings of your choice!


Drop by & say hello to Carollynn at the Zinc Bar the next time you’re in Niagara.

Enjoy your Savvy Selections!


If I had $100…I would buy these wines at LCBO Vintages

Posted by Julie

Friday, February 20th, 2015

The LCBO release on February 21 focuses on Red Carpet Winners from Ontario.  I would sure love to attend one of those competitions if only to see the judges taste everything from Riesling to blockbuster reds and ice wine. If it happens to be too cold for you outside, the Twentieth anniversary for 2014 Ontario Wine Awards makes for interesting reading at

LCBO Vintages Magazine February 21In judging the wines each wine entry is assessed blind by panels of accredited wine judges from the wine writing and teaching community. Not only do they have to have an appreciation for wine but also a knowledge and expertise of the Ontario region. The awards enhance the profile of Ontario wines in the world market and offers a special appreciation to Ontario wineries and the winemakers.

There is also a huge selection of Australian Shiraz’s in this release so don’t forget to pick up a few and be ready for when we can finally pull the cover off the BBQ.



If I had $100, I would buy these wines at LCBO Vintages…

February 21, 2015


Chateau des Charmes Old Vines RieslingChateau Des Charmes Old Vines Riesling 2012

VQA Niagara on the Lake
$16.95 (Vintages # 277228) 12% alcohol

The grapes that grow in the limestone-rich St. David’s Bench sub-appellation really do produce the loveliest of Rieslings and this is no exception. It’s an exciting Riesling with a nose of Asian pear, white flowers and the smoothness on the palate just sends you back for another sip of white wine. Some citrus and peaches, precise wet stone, the winemaker from the Bosc family sure got this right. A delicious Riesling on its own or would partner beautifully with poached white sole topped with toasted almonds.


Ad Lib Hen & Chicken ChardonnayAb Lib Hen & Chicken Oaked Chardonnay 2012

Pemberton, Australia
$19.95 (Vintages #297697) 13.5% alcohol

I thought I’d placed my nose in a bowl of ripe peaches followed closely with aromas of buttered toast, almonds and apricots. It’s a clean tasting and fresh white wine, nothing cloying about this Chardonnay, medium bodied with after tastes of lemon-lime. A little pith that makes it interesting and complex. For Chardonnay lovers, don’t miss it.


Lawsons Dry Hills Sauvignon BlancLawson’s Dry Hills Sauvignon Blanc 2014

Marlborough,  New Zealand
$18.95 (Vintages #214460) 13.5% alcohol

Vibrant gooseberry and grassy aromas. Light on its feet but clean, almost shimmers in the glass, with fresh tastes of lemon lime and some tropical fruit on the palate. There’s a little green apple creating great acidity and something vegetal on the finish of this white wine that reminded me of green peppers. Made me think that it would be a nice white wine with a salad nicoise or sushi, a great lunch wine or a refreshing glass of wine on its own.


Schild Estate Grenache Mourvedre SyrahSchild Estate GMS Grenache/Mourvèdre/Shiraz 2012

Barossa Valley, Australia
$19.95 (Vintages #108183) 14.3%alcohol

Anyone who follows my wine writings know I love the GSM blend and any combination of the trinity. Dark ruby red with some raspberry floral scents on the nose. Ripe black blueberries and currants meld together creating a rich full bodied mouthfeel with just the perfect balance of acidity and soft tannins. There’s some peppery minerality on the impressive fruity finish of this red wine and its got lots of guts, so give it a food partner that will stand proud. I’m thinking a crown roast of pork or prime rib. Guess who’s coming to dinner?


Bricklayer’s Reward ‘Block 7’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

VQA Lake Erie North Shore, Colio Estate Winery
$19.95 (Vintages # 406124)

This wine was NOT available for tasting but since I want to promote the Ontario Red Carpet award winners, I decided to recommend this red wine and make this part of my $100. basket. This took the Double Gold Medal winner at the 2014 All Canadian Wine Championships so I think I’m on “safe footing”.

The Vintages tasting catalogue describes the wine as follows: “ The hot 2012 vintage has delivered a full bodied cabernet though there is still the red grapefruit note to the nose which indicates to me the essentially cool climates nature of its origin. Expect aromas of red grapefruit, black cherry with some generous but well integrated oak spice. The palate shows some firm cabernet tannins which make the finish a little dry. Best 2015 to 2020. Very good length.”

I will be picking up a bottle or two for sure; we have reason to be proud.


Grand Total: $ 95.75





Raise a glass to celebrate Vineland’s 30 years

Posted by Shawn

Tuesday, December 30th, 2014

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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!


Riverview Cellars – a little winery making BIG wines

Posted by Erin

Monday, June 16th, 2014

Savvy Selections Ontario wine of the month club

Savvy Selections wine of the month club 
Featuring Riverview Cellars

– June 2014 –


Riverview Cellars is boutique winery that is a true family affair. There are 2 generations working together in harmony with a shared vision and passion to create beautiful, approachable wines produced in small batches. The family has been on the land since 1975 starting out with fruit farm. In 1992, the transition began with the first rows of vineyards took shape with Gewürztraminer vines that are now producing award winning vintages – more on that later!

What you need to know now is that the Pillitteri family comprises of Salvatore (Sam) & his wife Angelia (Lina) as well as their 4 children Angela, Maria, Connie & Michael (Mike).  Together this tight knit family fulfilled a dream of opening the winery in 2000 and it has been going gang-busters ever since.

Our Savvy Sommelier Erin Bolling chatted with prodigal son Mike Pillitteri who is the General Manager to catch up with what has been happening at the winery since we last featured them in Savvy Selections (in 2011 – during their 10th anniversary) and to see what he thinks will make his winery THE place to see on your summer wine tour of Niagara.

In your Savvy Selections, you will find:

Angelina’s Reserve Gewürztraminer VQA 2012– $19.95 This wine is so consistent, it wins medals year after year.

Salvatore’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon VQA 2011– $24.95 A signature wine & a personal favourite of Mike’s. He is very proud that we selected this wine as it just won a silver medal at the Ontario Wine Awards held in April.

Salvatore’s Reserve Syrah VQA 2012 $29.95 An incredible red wine from Niagara-on-the-Lake that is hard to come by as only 207 cases in produced. These vines did not fare well during the past harsh winter, so Mike is doubtful that there will be any 2014 Syrah wine made.

Where to find those hard-to-find wines…

Due to the small batch nature of wine produced at Riverview, it is rare to find a wide selection of their wines at the LCBO.  If you would like additional bottles of your Riverview favourites – or other featured Ontario wineries – just give me a call on 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or send me an email to debbie@savvycompany.cato arrange an additional delivery for you. It is always my pleasure to introduce you to wonderful new Ontario wines!

Do you like Rosés?

Our Savvy Sommeliers have been hard at it, tasting 30+ recently released Rosés from across Ontario to pick out the best of the best for you to enjoy over the summer.  In the upcoming few weeks, we will be launching a new case of wine offering – that will make you think pink all summer long.  Stay tuned…

Cheers & enjoy your Riverview wines!

Debbie & the Savvy Team



Riverview Cellars Estate Winery

Presented by Erin Bolling

Now that summer has arrived (fingers crossed) my thoughts are turning to vacation time, patio entertaining and BBQ – right?  The wines from Riverview Cellars suit all palates and foods year round with their style that will impress a connoisseur and make a novice feel comfortable with each bottle they open.  From the winery tasting room, to the glass, Riverview creates wine enjoyment. The following quote on Trip Advisor seems to sum up the experience: “We are tourists, not wine connoisseurs. They made us feel welcome and very comfortable.” Meanwhile, our panel of Savvy Sommeliers was impressed to the point there was debate about which wines to offer this month. Read on to see why Riverview is a must-visit when you plan your next trip to the Niagara wine region.

A family Affair

Mike and familyFirstly allow me to take a line to congratulate Mike and his wife Sarah (in photo on left) on the birth of their second son Leo a few weeks ago. I was amazed and pleased he had so much time for me with all the winery work while juggling fatherhood. The fact that we spoke by phone did not dampen his ability to portray his true passion for what he does and how grateful he is to be part of this family run winery.

His father Sam is his mentor and colleague. Sam focuses on the vineyard while Mike is the General Manager. Mike’s three sisters helped to launch the winery and contributed their artistic talents to developing the Riverview brand. You can still find the family matriarch (and mother) Lina working occasionally in the gift shop. While Mike’s sons are only 3 yearsold and 7 weeks – who knows – perhaps his boys will continue the next generation of the family business.

The Little Winery that Could

Riverview is a ‘boutique’ winery. This may be a buzz word these days, yet Riverview lives up to the image that a boutique winery evokes. The wines are made in small batches and carefully hand crafted by the winemaker. These wines are difficult to find at the LCBO because their production quotas are often not enough; what a loss for those who do not subscribe to Savvy Selections (shameless plug but I can’t help it)!

Mike stressed the personal relationship he & his team strive to establish with each and every customer. Even as a GM, can find Mike in the tasting ready to welcome visitors. For Savvy Selections subscribers, Mike asked me to mention that if you call in advance he’ll be happy to conduct a winery tour himself with you!  Equally, we look forward to introducing you to the Pillitteri family when they participate in an upcoming Savvy Event.

Boutique wineries are often thought to produce better wines, and this is definitely in the case of Riverview. In fact the Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon and the Gewurztraminer reigned over the big wineries with recently having won silver medals at the Ontario Wine Awards. This is certainly impressive – Congrats Mike!

The Elephant in the Room…..

The trees may be in full leaf right now but I’m sure we all remember the harsh winter that just passed. Again, Mike’s candidness with me was a pleasure because of course I’m curious about what we can expect from the 2014 season (as far as he can tell at this point).

Old man winter did not treat all vines equally.  Mike reports that the Syrah vines in Niagara were decimated. Cool climate Syrah is gaining in popularity with its fresh, peppery qualities. When you open this bottle make sure to savour it….this wine is sourced from a trusted farmer in NOTL who was not able to save any of the Syrah after this past winter. The Syrah in your Savvy Selections is a hot commodity (and not even listed on Riverview’s web site).

Overall at Riverview, the vineyards seem to have fared approximately at a 60%-70% survival rate – and this is good news. The Niagara River sub-appellation has an extra pocket of protection and benefits from the lake effect as well as close proximity to the Niagara River. This results in earlier spring warming and moderate temperatures that shelter the vines from frost that result in an overall longer growing season.

Planning a Vacation?

Riverview Cellars barn - low resWith a young family it can be hard to get away. Mike feels Riverview has something to offer the whole family. They grow their own peaches, nectarines, cherries & apples that are often available to enjoy with their special cheese plates to enjoy on the winery patio. In addition to wine, there is grape juice for the kids.

This summer Riverview will be hosting local food trucks and hosting the annual ‘Fontana Party’ in August. Mike told me that since they’re part of the cyclist network he keeps a set of Allen wrenches nearby in case a bicycle breaks down he can help!

The cycling path follows along the river and is across from the winery so plan to bring or rent a bike and enjoy the scenery and great wines. Now that is a great way to explore Niagara-on-the-Lake.

Cheers & enjoy your Savvy Selections!




Reserve Gewürztraminer VQA 2012 $19.95

When asked what wine he most often drinks Mike didn’t hesitate in stating this Gewürztraminer is the one! He enjoys the complexity of this wine and its ability to match with Asian and Indian cooking. The Savvy Selections tasting panel has to agree. In fact, Mike shared with us his personal recipe for Pad Thai that he regularly serves for his friends & cooking group ‘Dudes with Food’.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  A classic example of Gewürztraminer. The first thing we noticed was the aromatic nose – teasing us with floral roses and ginger spice. The taste follows through with lychee, mango and apricot. The viscous mouth feel is like honey and the finish is satisfying and long, slightly sweet and spicy. Yum!

Suggested Food Pairing: Hands down, Gewürztraminer is one of the best food wines to serve with exotic foods. Whether you’re in the mood for Asian, Indian or Middle Eastern cuisine, you’ll find a happy match with anything spicy.


Salvatore’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon VQA 2011$24.95

A silver medal winner of 2014 Ontario Wine Awards, Mike is especially proud of this since 2011 vintage was not one of the best years for this grape in Niagara. He felt the upgraded drainage of the vineyard done 5 years ago helped hold in the nutrients that translated to this winning wine.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:This Cabernet Sauvignon has aromas of strawberry, rhubarb, cranberry and allspice with hints of dark chocolate that follow through on the finish. It is a well integrated wine with a smooth, juicy finish that lasts just long enough.

Suggested Food Pairing:  The Savvy Sommeliers agreed that this would be another great BBQ wine or take a pause to enjoy it with mushroom risotto, a Sunday roast or event pasta with meat sauce. With such a versatile wine, let’s try something completely different and pour a glass to unwind with an artisan cheese plate loaded with Canadian cheeses – just like they serve at the winery.


Salvatore’s Reserve Syrah VQA 2012 $29.95

According to the newly released Maclean’s Magazine special edition ‘Wine in Canada’, Syrah may be the new hot grape grown in Canada’s cool climate. Our Savvy Selections tasting panel certainly attests that Riverview may be one of the trail blazers in popularizing this grape in Ontario with this outstanding wine.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:   “Pow!”,  “Hmm”, and “Aaahh” were heard simultaneously around the table when this wine was poured into the tasting glass. It is a deep red wine with earth, warm spice, fresh pepper, loads of fruit such as pomegranate, raspberry, blackberry and chocolate notes. At 13.1% it is not an overly alcoholic Syrah but it still packs a warm spicy punch and finish to match.

Suggested Food Pairing: There was no question that this is a wine that begs for the BBQ. We bantered back and forth between ideas of grilled duck, ribs or steak…but in the end have settled on steak with a mushroom sauce. No matter what you drink this with the peppery freshness of the Syrah will be a winning combination with anything from your grill.



With Angelina’s Reserve Gewurztraminer VQA 2012…

Pad Thai
From Mike’s Kitchen


1 package of pad thai noodles (approx. 400g)
½ white onion (sliced julienne)
1 clove garlic
1 tea spoon of shredded ginger
2 table spoons coconut oil
2 table spoons peanut butter
2 large carrots (sliced julienne)
1 large red pepper (sliced julienne)
12-15 large shrimp uncooked
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon of toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons of sweet chili sauce
2-6 drops of sirachi sauce (depends on desired heat)
1 green onion1 handful of cilantroSalt & pepper


Get large wok ready to a medium heat.

Put vegetable oil and toasted sesame oil in pan while adding onions, garlic, ginger. Sautee until translucent, then add sliced carrots and peppers along with peanut butter, coconut oil, sweet chili sauce, and srirachi .

Boil noodles until soft and add to wok when ready.

Add shrimp into wok and cook with mixture until the shrimp turns pink.  Add salt, pepper and herbs to taste.

Toss frequently and serve, enjoy!


With Salvatore’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon VQA 2011…

Artisan Cheese Plate

Holiday-Cheese-BoardWhen it comes to pairing wine with cheese there are no hard and fast rules.  It is a world of ‘drink what you like and eat what you like’. As a rule of thumb, Cabernet Sauvignon pairs well with hard cheeses such as Old Cheddar and Parmesan. Additionally, soft Blue Cheese, Gorgonzola or semi-soft Gouda would do the trick.

We turned to our Savvy Cheese Sommelier Vanessa Simmons for specific recommendations of cheeses to match this Cabernet Sauvignon.   For more cheese ideas, read Vanessa’s blog: The Curd on the Street


Lankaaster Aged Glengarry Fine Cheese, Alexandria Ontario

Lankaaster from Glengarry Fine Cheese


2013 Global Cheese Awards – Supreme Global Champion 

Named for its local region (“kaas” the Dutch word for cheese), aged for 14 to 24 months, this extra old batch of Lancaster is from gourmet artisan cheese maker pioneer Margaret Morris. 

Vanessa’s Notes: Firm to hard cow’s milk cheeses comes shaped in a loaf or wheel, covered in a waxy rind is a Gouda-style after Dutch farmstead cheese. It’s rich, dense & chewy with intense buttery, fruity, caramelized nutty flavors that linger forever.

Bonnechère Back Forty Artisan Cheese, Lanark, Ontario

Bonnechere from Back Forty ArtisanRecently changed ownership, with new & very young cheesemakers at the helm who have in the cheese biz for just over a year, this striking cheese has not changed. If you see this cheese, don’t blink, don’t hesitate, snap it up immediately.  (it is great with craft beer too!)

Vanessa’s Notes: Bonnechère is one-of- a-kind artisan cheese.  It’s a semi-firm, double pressed and unique both inside and out.  A beautiful, chestnut patterned toasted rind covers the interior smooth ivory paste.  Hand torching gives Bonnechère smoky aromas and a very distinct caramel flavor.  As it ages, these characteristics amplify the tangy, sweet, and fruity body of the cheese.  Sour milk lingers with a slight amount of acidity. Produced in very small quantities with seasonal milk, it’s a hot commodity.

Dragon’s Breath Blue Cheese That Dutchman’s Cheese Farm, Nova Scotia

2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix finalist

A rare find! Take Note the recipe for this cheese is a closely guarded family secret.

Vanessa’s Notes: Unique in shape and size, these small cylinders are aged only a few weeks then coated with wax for ripening another 2-6 months. The flavor and texture varies by season, more buttery/creamy in the summer months with higher fat content in the milk. Note sharp blue flavor, moist texture with fruity notes, and little blue veining depending on exposure to air. More than worth the shipping charges!

Bleu D’Élizabeth Fromagerie de la Presbytere, Warwick Quebec

Bleu D'Elizabeth, Fromagerie de la Presbytere by Vanessa Simmons2013 Canadian Cheese Grand Prix Category Winner: Blue Cheese& Organic Cheese

2013 Sélection Caseus, Quebec Fine Cheese Awards Best of Show Winner: Gold, Emeritus & Blue-Veined Cheese Category 

Vanessa’s Notes:A beautiful, semi-soft, raw organic cow’s milk blue cheese, it has a natural rind with spots of dark clay.  The creamy, silky, straw-colored paste is speckled with slate & blue-green veins throughout. Rich in flavor, with a hint of sweetness, spice, & salt, it pairs beautifully with iced wine, cider or port.


Building a Cheese Board with Pizazz

To create a cheese plate that will undoubtedly create ooohs and aaahs, Vanessa offers these tips in a recent blog: How to create a festive cheese board

Mix it up

Consider taste, style and texture. Choose a theme — region, milk type (cow, sheep, goat, buffalo) or category (fresh, soft, semi-soft, washed, firm, hard, blue). 3-5 cheeses display well on a board or serve one stellar cheese as an appetizer, or dessert. Buying cheeses that look different will offer visual appeal to your table. 5-10gms/cheese/person is a good rule of thumb.

Holiday-Cheese-BoardServe cheese with star treatment

Serve at room temperature. Offer one knife per cheese. Don’t cut up small pieces in advance. Allow breathing room between cheeses so aromas don’t mix. Use an interesting wooden board, cross cut log, plate, slate or marble tiles or tiered trays for visual appeal. Keep it simple and your cheese will shine.

Compliment your cheese

Serve specialty breads, gourmet crackers, fresh seasonal or dried fruits, figs, dates, raw or toasted nuts, olives, caramelized or pickled onions or milder charcuterie items as accompaniments

Store cheese properly

Wrap leftovers of soft, semi-soft and washed rind cheeses in parchment or cheese paper, and pop into a small Tupperware or Ziplock bag. Refrigerate in a container in the vegetable drawer (for high humidity).

Have a cheese tip for us?

If you find a particular good match with the Riverview Cabernet Sauvignon, let us know!  Send us your tip to or Tweet us at @SavvyCompany or directly with Vanessa @SavvyVanessa


With Riverview Salvatore’s Reserve Syrah VQA 2012…

Grilled Peppercorn Steak

Serves 6


(10 -12 ounce) New York Strip Steaks
1 garlic clove, bruised, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil (or as needed)
1 cup cracked peppercorns, preferably a blend of black and white (approximate amount) or 1 cup fresh coarse ground black pepper (approximate amount)
salt, to taste


Pat steaks dry with paper towels & rub both sides of each steak with garlic, then brush lightly with olive oil.

Line large baking sheet or tray with waxed paper.

Spread thin layer of pepper on plate, lightly coat both sides of steak with pepper, and place on waxed paper. Repeat with remaining steaks and additional pepper.

Meanwhile, prepare charcoal for grilling (or heat broiler); just before grilling, lightly salt both sides of steaks. Grill steaks over hot fire or broil 4 inches from heat until browned and crusty on outside but still pink at center, about 5 minutes each side for medium-rare.

Transfer steaks to serving plates and serve at once.


Enjoy your Savvy Selections!




On our podium – ‘Must buy’ wines for Olympic moments

Posted by Susan

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Did you know. . . The LCBO is one of the largest purchasers of wine & spirits in the world! This latest release at the LCBO Vintages we benefit from an outstanding selection of ‘Buyer’s Picks’ from some of France’s best-known wine regions.  

LCBO Vintages Sat Feb 15There’s something for everyone. A selection of two Champagnes and numerous award-winning red wines representing such prestigious ‘appellation d’origine contrôlée’ or AOC (France’s designation of origin granted to specific geographical areas for wine, cheese and other products) from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, Côtes du Rhône-Villages, Cahors, Beaune and Bordeaux, to name a few. Among these, I found that there are some good values to be had, including Paul Zinck ‘Portrait’ Gewürztraminer, Domaine Gautheron Chablis and Domaine Gerard Charvet ‘La Réserve d’Amélie’ Moulin-a-Vent.

Also on the Podium: Award-Winning Ontario Wines 

The spotlight shines on several stars from Ontario:

Konzelmann Vidal Icewine 2010 – recognized with a 2013 Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wine

Huff Estates ‘Cuvée Peter F. Huff’ 2007 named in honour for the late son of the winery owners.  This sparkling wine has won two of the coveted Lieutenant-Governor’s Award for Excellence in Ontario Wine

Pillitteri ‘Exclamation Reserve’ Cabernet Franc 2010 – a gold-medal winner at the 2013 Ontario Wine Awards, and recipient of the award for Best Red Wine of the Year

Malivoire Gamay 2012 and Malivoire Chardonnay 2011 – won Gold and Silver respectively at the 2013 Ontario Wine Awards.

And there are more winners!

The general release (winespeak: the wines always available at the LCBO 24/7) offers a great selection of wines from around the world that are ‘must buys on my wine shopping list’.

Top of the list is my favorite Crémant de Bourgogne – Louis Bouillot Perle d’Aurore

The very tasty and well-structured Benzinger Cabernet Sauvignon

The full-flavoured Zuccardi ‘Q’ Malbec (my tasting notes below)

Tuscany’s tasty Bibbiano Chianti Classico

The value-laden Monasterio de las Vinas ‘Gran Reserva’ from the Carinena region of Spain.

And if you’re a Riesling lover, I’d recommend these two: Tawse ‘Sketches of Niagara’ Riesling 2012 (of course!), Kilkanoon ‘Killerman’s Run’ Riesling 2012.

Among the Ontario wines in the general release, I’ve already mentioned the Tawse Riesling. If you are looking for an organic or biodynamic wine, try the very fine Southbrook ‘Triomphe’ Chardonnay (my tasting notes below). Among the red wines, I would add to my shopping cart the very intense, robust Château des Charmes ‘Paul Bosc Estate Vineyard’ Pinot Noir 2010.  If you’re craving something sweet, you can’t go wrong with the Konzelmann Vidal Icewine.

Cheers and happy sipping with your Valentine,


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


Southbrook Triomph Chardonnay 2012Southbrook Vineyards ‘Triomphe’ Chardonnay 2012

VQA Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario
$22.95 (Vintages #172338) 12.5% alcohol

Enjoy the aromas of cinnamon toast, vanilla, tropical fruit, ripe pear and apple of this finely crafted dry, medium-bodied organic and biodynamic white wine. It’s wine is delightfully round and creamy, yet fresh, the pear and tropical fruit replaying on the palate, mingling with vanilla and toasted nut. The fresh yet subtle acidity brings balance and refinement to a rich fruity finish. Enjoy with a lemony roast chicken.

Zuccardi Q Malbec 2011Zuccardi ‘Q’ Malbec 2011

Mendoza, Argentina
$19.95 (Vintages #723478) 14.5% alcohol

Inky and opaque, this award winner delivers attractive complexity in aromas and flavours, balance of richness and structure. On the nose, lifted aromas of ripe black fruit, exotic spice, campfire smoke, licorice and vanilla dance. This red wine is dry, full bodied, the subtle underlying structure frames black berry and cherry fruit, toasty oak, sweet spice and hints of dark chocolate. Quite lush, it’s warm and deliciously fruity through the lasting, flavourful finish. A great choice on a cold winter’s night to pair with stew or meatballs in a mushroom sauce.

Domaine Gerard Charvet la Reserve d'Amelie Moulin a ventDomaine Gérard Charvet ‘La Réserve d’Amélie’ Moulin-à-Vent 2012

AP Moulin-à-Vent, France
$20.90 (Vintages #356741) 13.0% alcohol

An award-winner, this is really an outstanding example of a Cru Beaujolais Gamay. The nose entices with wonderful aromas of freshly-picked strawberry, red plum, sweet spice and a wisp of vanilla. Dry, medium bodied, the red fruit flavours are focused, the notes of spice and vanilla replaying. The defined yet refined structure of this red wine provides lovely balance, the texture is fresh and the finish is dry and flavourful. Enjoy this versatile red wine with duck confit, charcuterie, ham or beef bourgignon.

Tenuta Sant'Antonio Monti GarbiTenuta Sant’Antonio ‘Monti Garbi’ Ripasso Valpolicella Superiore 2010

Valpolicella Superiore, Italy
$17.95 (Vintages #29850) 14.0% alcohol

This ruby gem of a red wine has great depth of flavour, balance and refinement. Aromas and flavours of cherries and berries and dominate, mingling with spice and an earthy quality. Dry, medium-full bodied, the texture is clean and lively, a balance to the ripe red fruit, a touch of spice and the warmth of white pepper persisting on the long-lasting finish. Enjoy this with braised herbed chicken. 

Monasterio de las Vinas Gran REserva 2005Monasterio de las Viñas Gran Reserva 2005

Cariñena, Spain
$16.95 (Vintages #82024) 13.0% alcohol

Principally Garnacha, blended with Tempranillo and Cariñena, this evolved, balanced red wine was aged 2 years in oak and held 3 years in bottle prior to release. It’s opaque, with spicy fruit aromas, notes of vanilla and a whiff of leather. Dry, full bodied, there’s great depth of ripe fruit flavour, notions of sweet baking spice and a remarkably fresh texture to the wine. It retains good structure, flavour and depth of fruit flavour through the long dry finish. Enjoy with paella.


Grand Total: $98.70






Star quality wines have landed at Vintages

Posted by Julie

Thursday, November 7th, 2013

Looking to economize while drinking great wines? Entertaining season is just around the corner so I am game for the challenge to see how far we can stretch my $100 budget that I have been ‘given’ to do this blog. This weekend’s LCBO Vintages release features wines of “Premium Star Quality” along with an assortment of dessert wines. While we all tend to know what premium star quality means, I am on the mission to find wines of star quality that won’t break my budget with their price tag.

So what did I pick?

With the exception of two wines, I have chosen wines under $15 a bottle. I have also put together a selection that can easily take you through many dinner parties from appetizers through to dessert, without breaking the bank. 

I did not have the opportunity to taste two wines I am recommending – sound strange?  Don’t worry I taste wines for a living!  I am confident that knowing the wineries that they produce only quality wine.  And from previous wines that I have reviewed from these wineries, they have never disappointed. There are also a couple of wines from Italy that never fail to inspire and match any number of food dishes. 

I also wanted to tip you off a couple of the wines found in the LCBO’s general list area of the store that are under $15 & somehow always find their way into my shopping basket:

Cave Springs Riesling VQA at $14.95
Creekside Sauvignon Blanc VQA $13.95
and  L.A.Cetto Petite Sirah 2011 at $11.95

All that to say, you can have lots of star quality with $100 to spend.



 Abbazia Moscato D’Asti 2012

DOCG, Italy
$14.95 (Vintages #265397)  13% alcohol 

With a slight touch of sweetness, this off dry white wine is always festive, pretty and a lovely start to any party. It is nice to start with something spritzy especially if the rest of your dinner wines are packed with punch and/or you are serving wines with different courses. It has aromas and tastes of stone fruits: peaches, apricots, pears with delicate moussey bubbles that could accompany shrimp canapes or parmesan crisps. 


Rockway Small Lot Reserve White Assemblage 2012

VQA Niagara Peninsula
$16.95 (Vintages #359315) 11.5% alcohol 

Golden straw in colour, this delightful white wine blend of Chardonnay, Riesling and Gewurtztraminer is aromatic and tastes of all these grapes. The Chardonnay has some creaminess being aged in oak but there’s lots of stone fruit and apples from the other grape varietals. Great acidity and is beautifully balanced; just another example that we never have to look further than our own backyard. It would be perfect to sip with an uncomplicated boston lettuce salad with a soft olive oil, a little artisan bread or a spicey soup to start your evening. 


Cavit Alta Luna Phases 2010

IGT Vigneti della Dolomiti, Italy
$14.95  (Vintages #354340)  12.5% alcohol 

A fabulous red wine blend made with the Teroldego, Lagrein and Merlot grapes from the foothills of Italy’s Dolomite Alps.  Dark plums and cherries fill the palate and being aged in oak, the wine has a richness to the taste with great tannins and a spicey finish. A great pizza or pasta wine or with some cheese.


Zuccardi Organica Cabernet Sauvignon 2012

Mendoza, Argentina
$13.95 (Vintages #68452) 14% alcohol 

The Mendoza province is by far the largest wine region in western Argentina located on a high-altitude plateau at the edge of the Andes Mountains. The altitude is an important terroir characteristic since it means long sunny warm days that extend the growing season and contribute to ripe, rich grapes that do not sacrifice the acidity.  This dark cherry coloured baby is one red wine packed with punch. This red wine would make a fabulous partner with roast pork or a spicy sausage and eggplant pasta dish.


Natura Carmenere 2012

Colchagua Valley, Banfi, Chile
$14.95 (Vintages #56887)   14.1% alcohol 

For us red wine lovers, you can’t go far wrong with a blend of Carmenere, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Merlot. Juicy and full, dark fruits, some spice, smokey and peppery all conjure up pictures of the beautiful Colchagua Valley (on my travel list !). I’m thinking ribs or beef stew.


Konzelmann Special Select Late Harvest Vidal 2011

VQA Ontario
$19.95 9Vintages #359216) 13.5% alcohol 

When presenting this finale to your dinner party you might want to mention that this late harvest wine was awarded a Gold Medal at the 2013 Ontario Wine Awards. There is citrus and apricot flavours with a creamy sweetness; you just want to roll it around your tongue to make it last. Serve with cheese, chocolates & fresh fruit for a beautiful ending of a feast. 


Grand Total: $95.70