Posts Tagged ‘Sommelier tasting notes’

Drink Rose ALL Day!

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Our team of Savvy Sommeliers have done the ‘tough work’.  We’ve been sipping & sampling the latest Rosé wines made across Ontario & each month during the summer, we will put together an assortment of the most refreshing wines for you to enjoy.

All you need to do is order before the deadline…or simply subscribe for the summer to get a different combo of refreshing Rosés delivered to your dock, deck or desk. Order here>>


Time to get your corkscrew ready to Clink & Drink Pink!

We kicked off the summer with a Bouquet of Rosés in May (perfect for Mother’s Day gifts) then we call it Deck Party Packs as all summer long.

To help you enjoy the Rosé wines to the fullest, our Savvy Sommeliers compiled the Rosé Report – below – with tasting notes, food pairing tips & recipes to serve with the wines we picked for the May parcel.  There will be a completely different assortment of wines this month…and next month too!

13th Street Burger Blend Rosé VQA 2017 – from Twenty Valley (Niagara)

Casa-Dea Estates Cabernet Franc Rosé VQA 2016 – from Prince Edward County

Casa-Dea Estates Dea’s  Rosé Sparkling VQA 2015 – from Prince Edward County

Keint-He Vineyards Portage Rosé VQA 2017 – from Prince Edward County

Pondview Cabernet Franc Rosé VQA 2016 – from Niagara-on-the-Lake

Westcott Vineyards Delphine Rosé VQA 2017 – from Twenty Valley

Several of these Rosés have just been released. And if you the coolest part…these wines are not available at the LCBO, rather they came straight from the winemaker to you.

At any time during the summer, you would like to order additional bottles of your favorite Rosés or other hard-to-find Ontario wines (you know we do craft beers & ciders too!), call us on the Rosé Hotline: 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926)



~ The Rosé Report ~

Our Savvy Sommeliers  – Debbie & David – share their tasting notes for the featured wines.


13th Street Winery Burger Blend Rosé VQA 2017

$14.95, Twenty Valley (Niagara Escarpment)

Part of 13th Street’s “Burger Blend” series, these fun and affordable blends are perfect for summer! This barely off-dry rosé combines Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot & Pinot Noir.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Beautiful, summery notes of strawberries and orange with a hint of red cherry. While there’s a bit of sweetness, there’s also bracing acidity – and it’s that sweet and sour affect that real makes this wine a pleaser. It’s crisp and citrusy.

Suggested Food Pairing: Try this with a chilled cucumber soup on a warm day or enjoy it all by itself!



Casa-Dea Estates Winery Dea Cuvée VQA 2015

$21.95, Prince Edward County

One of the first wineries in Prince Edward County, Casa-Dea Estates Winery is making a big impression with this sparkling rosé wine.  Just released, this bubbly can be enjoyed on any occasion – picnic, Happy Hour, or stash away for Thanksgiving (if you have to!).

Here is a neat golden nugget to drop into conversation: Winemaker Paul Battilana was originally trained as a butcher, before he made the leap to winemaking after his curiosity transformed his career. And the wine industry is taking note as he was named by MacLean’s Magazine last year ‘as one of the Canadian winemakers to watch’.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Pretty in the glass, this sparkling wine is refreshing, bright, and reminds us of summer…all throughout the year. Light aromas of strawberry and juicy peaches, the acidity of this wine makes is perfect to start any occasion.

Suggested Food Pairings: Chips.  The salt plays with the bubbles of the wine and fireworks start off in your mouth.  Try it!


Casa-Dea Estates Winery Cabernet Franc Rosé VQA 2016

$17.95, Prince Edward County

Care for a round of bocce? If you’re travelling to The County this spring, stop by Casa-Dea and try out this Italian version of lawn bowling on a hand-crafted pitch right beside the vineyards. Made even better with a cool glass of winemaker Paul Battilana’s Rosé.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Brilliant clarity in this pinky-peach concoction. Abundant aromas of wildflowers and strawberries, juicy peaches, even a floral whiff that might remind you of the delicate flower of Lily of the Valley.  Top it all off with subtle hints of fresh herbs with a silky texture balanced out with measured acidity and a lengthy finish. Mama Mia – it is good!


Keint-He Vineyards Portage Rosé VQA 2017

$22, Prince Edward County

Made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes grown on their estate. Keint-He is a family run winery (Bryan Rogers in photo) focusing on making fine County wines using Pinot Noir & Chardonnay grapes.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: The colour of candy floss, this is a beautiful, Provençal-style Rosé. Big flavours of strawberry and tobacco with a hint of jam, it’s dry and tart and big. This is a Rosé to serve to any friends who think all pinks are light and sweet.

Suggested Food Pairing: Easily able to stand up to BBQ, try this with your favourite burger.


Pondview Estate Winery Cabernet Franc Rosé VQA 2016

$16.95, Four Mile Creek (Niagara-on-the-Lake)

The Pugli family emigrated from Italy bound for Niagara with plans to grow peaches on their large scale farm.  Now 2 generations later, they have transformed the fruit growing business into a winery that it internationally renowned for quality wines.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Old World-style in pale peach flecked with bright orange. A nostalgic bouquet brings midway cotton candy and candied apples to mind. The wine’s high acid produces a lively ‘spritz’ effect on the palate, with flavours of mango, passionfruit and white pepper, and lingering herbs on the finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Crisp summer salads or grilled sausages would make a great match, or try your hand at making Fish Tacos.


Westcott Vineyards Delphine Rosé VQA 2017

$16.95, Twenty Valley (Niagara)

And another family run winery! Like Keint-He, the Westcott family are making a range of wines focused on Chardonnay & Pinot Noir grapes.  Last year, they made the Delphine Rosé and it sold out in a matter of weeks.  We are delighted to be the first to feature this ever popular wine.   This year, the wine is made using a blend of Cabernet Franc and “just a little” Pinot Noir.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Aromatic, dry, and supple, there are notes of strawberries and orange, along with some bracing lemony acidity. The bright pink of the wine is a visual treat, and it looks every bit as mouth watering as it tastes!

Suggested Food Pairing: Serve this with semi-soft cheeses like Gruyère and Havarti.

~ The Rosé Recipe Box ~

A few of our Spring & Summer favorite dishes to enjoy with Rosé wines


Fresh Asparagus Tart
From Canadian Living Magazine

Serves 8 (or more)

This is simple to make and stunning to look at.  This spring tart offers a vegetarian option for a picnic, appetizer or even brunch!



2 bunches (1 lb each) thin asparagus, trimmed
1 pkg all-butter puff pastry, thawed (usually package includes 2 sheets of pastry)
2 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1½ cups shredded Gruyère cheese
½ tsp coarsely cracked pepper
1 egg
1 Tbsp milk



Line 2 rimless baking sheets with parchment paper or grease. Set aside.

In steamer or rack in saucepan, cover and steam asparagus until tender-crisp, 3 minutes. Chill in cold water; pat dry.

Unroll each pastry sheet onto prepared pan. Spread evenly with mustard, leaving 1-inch (2.5 cm) border. Arrange asparagus, side by side and alternating ends, on mustard; top with cheese and pepper.

In small bowl, beat egg with milk; lightly brush over pastry border. Bake in top and bottom thirds of 450°F (230°C) oven, rotating and switching pans halfway through, until puffed and golden and cheese is bubbly, 18 minutes. (Make-ahead: Set aside for up to 6 hours.)

Cut each into 6 to 8 pieces; serve warm or cool.


Beet Risotto
Recipe & Photo credits: Food & Wine

Serves 8


7 cups chicken stock
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, finely chopped
2 large beets (12 ounces each), peeled and coarsely shredded, plus thinly sliced beets for garnish
3 cups arborio rice
1 ½  cups young pecorino cheese, freshly grated
2 teaspoons poppy seeds, plus more for garnish

Note: “Beets give this creamy risotto stunning colour & delicate sweetness. Grace Parisi suggests wearing rubber gloves and shredding the beets directly into a stainless steel bowl to avoid staining hands and countertops.”



In a saucepan, bring the stock to a simmer; cover and keep warm. In a medium enameled cast-iron casserole, melt the butter in the oil.

Add the onion and cook over moderately high heat, stirring, until softened, 5 minutes.

Add the shredded beets and cook, stirring, until the pan is dry, 12 minutes. Spoon half of the beets into a small bowl.

Add the rice to the casserole and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of the warm stock to the rice and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until the stock is nearly absorbed. Continue adding the stock 1 cup at a time, stirring constantly, until the rice is al dente and a thick sauce forms, about 22 minutes.

Stir in the cooked beets, cheese and the 2 teaspoons of poppy seeds. Cook, stirring, until heated through; add a few tablespoons of water if the risotto is too thick.

Spoon the risotto into bowls. Garnish with sliced beets and poppy seeds and serve.



Turkey Meatballs with Creamy Lemon Pasta
Original recipe & photo credits: Jessica Alba on Martha Stewart’s



2 lbs ground turkey
1 cup bread crumbs (Panko crumbs are ideal)
1/4 cup carrots, shredded
1/4 cup onion, shredded
1/4 cup zucchini, shredded
2 large eggs
2 Tbsp Italian seasoning
1 Tbsp sea salt
2 Tbsp olive oil
¾ cup low sodium chicken stock

Your favorite pasta
1/3 to ½ cup goat cheese
¼ to ½ of white or rosé wine
Zest & Juice of 1 lemon 



In a large bowl, mix turkey, panko, carrots, zucchini, onion, eggs, Italian seasoning, and salt until well combined; form into 1-inch balls. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add meatballs and cook, turning, until browned, about 7 minutes.

Add ½ cup chicken broth, cover and reduce heat to low. Cook until liquid is almost completely absorbed, about 7 minutes. Add remaining ¼ cup broth and increase heat to medium; cook, uncovered, until liquid is absorbed.

In a separate pot, cook your favorite pasta. Once al dante, drain the water & place pasta back into the pot on low heat.  Crumble in goat cheese & stir until melted.  To help the melting, add white wine periodically until a creamy consistency similar to cream sauce that coats the pasta.

To finish the sauce, squeeze the juice of one lemon into the sauce, toss in zest & gently stir.  Plate with a mound of pasta topped with turkey meatballs.



Have your fridge full of Rosé wines all summer long…

Always have refreshing Rosé wines on hand this summer.  To order additional bottles of your new found favorite Rosés from this assortment OR to receive next month’s assortment (for the rest of the summer we’re calling them Deck Party Packs, call the Savvy Team on 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or order online at

The June assortment of wines will have a completely different selection of hard-to-find Rosé wines including:

Colchester Ridge Estate Winery ‘Red Sky at Night’ Rosé VQA 2017 – from Lake Erie North Shore

Creekside Estate Rosé VQA 2017 – from Niagara-on-the-Lake

Karlo Estates Patio Reserve Rosé VQA 2017 – from Prince Edward County

Redstone Rosé VQA 2016 – from Twenty Valley (a wine only available for restaurants)

Redstone Rosé Sparkling VQA 2015 – from Twenty Valley

Tawse Quarry Road Pinot Noir Rosé VQA 2017 – from Twenty Valley

What is the price for June’s assortment?

$126 for 6 bottles
~ OR ~
$252 for 12 bottles (2 of each of the featured wines)


Deadline to order June’s parcel is Saturday June 9th



Ahhh…life is good!






Rosé Report: Good Earth Rosé VQA 2016

Posted by Debbie

Thursday, July 13th, 2017

You’ll know you’ve found the right place when you see the giant fork standing among the vines at Good Earth Food & Wine Company. And it may not even be big enough, if you want to try everything here….enjoy a meal at the bistro set amongst the vineyard or take part in a hands on cooking class – life is good!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  An interesting petal-soft texture of this wine makes summer sipping even more enjoyable.  The medium to full bodied flavours of fresh sweet red berries, watermelon with a dash of floral and crisp acidity that balances out every sip.

Complete Wine Deets:
Good Earth Food & Wine Company – The Good Wine Rosé VQA 2016

Ontario Wine Region: Twenty Valley (Niagara)


Suggested Food Pairing:  We’d recommend to serve it with a delicious Asian Chicken Salad with Ginger Sesame Dressing. (recipe follows)


Asian Chicken Salad with Ginger Sesame Dressing

From: Yummly
Serves 4



Salad dressing

1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 teaspoon chopped fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon powder ginger
1 to 2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon honey
3 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted


6 cups baby spinach leaves, washed, and dried
1 large carrot, shredded
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
1/4 of a whole red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sesame seeds toasted
2 cups shredded rotisserie chicken or grilled chicken, sliced



Combine all salad dressing ingredients, except for sesame seeds, and using only 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Whisk until emulsified. Taste your dressing and add another 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, if desired, to make it saltier. Add 2 tablespoons sesame seeds to the dressing and mix them in.

Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl, except for 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and chicken. Add the salad dressing to the salad and toss – do not add all salad dressing at once: you might not need all of it. Add just enough salad dressing to coat the salad ingredients.

Serve the salad in the individual serving bowls and top with the remaining 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and sliced chicken.




Two outstanding Chilean red wines

Posted by Susan

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

At a recent wine tasting featuring Chilean wines, Savvy Sommelier Susan Dejardins learned that the modern wine industry began in Chile during the 1980’s with the arrival of Miguel Torres from Spain. He introduced state of the art technology, including stainless steel fermentation tanks and French oak barrels, and began transforming the vinification process. Chilean winemakers soon followed suit and the wine export industry began to flourish.

Today, winemakers and viticulturalists are searching for new ways to create wines with a unique sense of place, matching vines to soils, introducing new techniques, and planting vines in more challenging areas such as the higher slopes of the Andes.


Cono Sur ‘Reserva’ Syrah 2011

Colchagua Valley
14.0% alcohol

Blended into this deep purple Syrah are small amounts of Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenère. Aged 12 months in French oak, the rich ripe aromas of berries and black cherries, sweet spice, vanilla and pepper lift from the glass. Dry, mid-full weight, the wine is loaded with ripe dark fruit and the tang of black pepper. Subtly structured and nicely balanced, this is a tasty, approachable, easy-drinking wine.

Arboleda Cabernet Sauvignon 2009

Aconcagua Valley
14.0% alcohol

Blended with small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Syrah, this delicious wine spent 12 months in a combination of French and American oak. Alluring aromas of rich ripe spice-infused fruit, dried herbs and floral notes, cedar and vanilla tantalize the nose. Dry, medium-full bodied, it’s satin smooth and mouthfilling. There’s good complexity to the flavours—raspberry and blackcurrant, toasty oak, herbs and spice and a hint of pepper—and a fine balance of round tannins and fresh acidity. On the finish, it’s dry with lingering flavours of spiced fruit. Savour now or cellar short term. This wine was a hit at the wine and food pairing created by Sidedoor’s chef Korecki’s Dry aged striploin with raspberry pepper.




The fun story of Riverview Cellars Syrah

Posted by Eva

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2012

Many winemakers will tell you that ‘wine is made in the vineyard’. This is very true at Riverview Cellars located in the heart of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.  Similar to neighbouring Colaneri Estates , Cattail Creek & Pondview wineries, at Riverview, the Pillitteri family are grape growers first & they recently opened a winery.  Since older vines, produce better fruit to make better wine, get ready to taste the age of Riverview’s vineyard with each sip of this Syrah! Our Sommeliers rave about this wine.

Riverview Cellars ‘Red Truck’ Syrah VQA 2010

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Whether you call it Syrah or Shiraz, the wine is made with the same grape variety.  This bold wine overflows the glass with BIG aromas of red & black plums, berries with warm spices that carries into the taste…then lingers forever.

Suggested food pairings: Fire up the BBQ! Serve with steak with blue cheese, beef tenderloin with all the trimmings, even hamburgers would be delicious.  And it would be delicious with a piece of dark chocolate cake too!


Want to buy this wine?  Subscribe & it will be delivered!

 Riverview has been a feature winery in our Savvy Selections wine of the month club. You won’t find this outstanding wine on the shelves at the LCBO.  Would you like this wine? Subscribe to our wine of the month club or call on us to make the arrangements for a special delivery to your home or office!


You’ll taste the terroir in this Chardonnay

Posted by Eva

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Pondview Estates Winery is a family affair. The Puglisi family have been grape growers for over 3 decades. In 2008, Lou was crowned the distinguished title “Grape King’ & toured the Okanagan Valley in British Columbia where he met other small family owned wineries.

Returned inspired, Lou & his extended family decided to establish Pondview to craft their own wines made with grapes from their well established vineyard.  More & more grape growers in Niagara are transforming their grape farming business to incorporate a winery as well. With a commitment to viticultural & winemaking excellence along with a welcoming tasting room offering traditional Italian cheese & antipasto, Pondview has become an overnight success.

Cheers & Enjoy!

Pondview Estates ‘Bella Terra’ Chardonnay VQA 2010

Savvy Sommelier
Tasting Notes: Made with grapes from the outstanding 2010 vintage, the perfectly ripe grapes were barrel fermented & aged 9 months in both French & American oak. The result is a full-bodied wine with rich aromas of vanilla, toffee & orchard fruit (think pear, peach, apple) with smooth, creamy full flavours & a deliciously long finish.

Suggested Food Pairings: Chilled on its own or with your favorite seafood (can you just imagine this wine with steamed lobster?) or pasta with a rich cheese or cream sauce.

Want to buy this wine?  We can arrange for it to be delivered!

Pondview has been a feature winery in our Savvy Selections wine of the month club. Like this wine? Subscribe & it’ll be delivered to your home or office!



A taste of County Terroir – uncork these wines!

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012


Have you visited Canada’s fastest growing wine region – Prince Edward County? Known as ‘The County’, it is a picturesque 3 hour drive from Ottawa with the quaint village of Picton & over 25 wineries waiting to be discovered.  To give you a taste of wines awaiting to be enjoyed when you visit the upcoming 7th annual County Terroir Wine Fest, our Savvy Sommeliers share with you their tasting notes.  We look forward to seeing you at County Terroir on Saturday May 26.   More details at


Start with a sparkling…

Lighthall Progression Sparkling VQA 2011

Lighthall is a boutique winery in ‘The County’ focusing on growing Chardonnay & Pinot Noir grapes on their estate to make outstanding wines. Just bottled in time for County Terroir celebration, this sparkling wine is made using Vidal grapes – often saved for dessert wines.  This bubbly is far from being sweet!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Hand-crafted using the Charmat Method of sparkling winemaking, this bubbly is has refreshing acidity with aromas of citrus, pear & crunchy apple to create the lively, refreshing finish.

Suggested food pairings: Served well chilled, this wine is lovely on its own, with oysters, or paired with light appetizers.


A taste of white wines awaiting to be discovered…

Huff Estates Pinot Gris VQA 2009

Huff Estates is one of the few who grow Pinot Gris grapes in The County. Never heard of Pinot Gris?  Chances are that you have!  Pinot Gris is the same grape variety as the popular Pinot Grigio from Italy.    

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Crystal clear in colour with aromas of crunchy apple, stone fruit (think peach, nectarine, pear), continues into the taste with a ‘zippy’ lime finish that continues long after your first sip.

Suggested Food Pairing: Serve with dishes that are not too heavy or complex in flavours as the food will overpower the refreshing tastes of this wine. Seafood, roasted chicken & pasta alfredo would be delicious.


Sugarbush Vineyards Chardonnay VQA 2010

Savvy Sommelier Debbie Trenholm’s fingerprints are all over this wine!  She rounded up a group of wine enthusiasts with clippers in hand to help harvest the grapes for this wine at Sugarbush Vineyards. Winery owners Sally & Rob Peck have transformed their home & backyard into a boutique winery that is a going concern.  Definitely a winery to visit next time you are traveling around The County.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Unoaked this Chardonnay has fresh aromas & tastes of citrus (can you find orange or is it mandarin?), vanilla bean that turns into reminders of English toffee (think Macintosh Toffee). It an absolutely pleasant wine to sip & enjoy.

Suggested Food Pairing: This wine would pair nicely with butternut squash soup, cheese-laden pasta, roast turkey or chicken.


Get ready for these reds!

Rosehall Run Pinot Noir County Cuvée VQA 2009

Pinot Noir is known around the world by winemakers as the “heartbreak grape”.  This grape variety needs care & nurturing around the clock. Difficult to grow in the vineyard & always changing in the cellar, crafting a good wine of Pinot Noir is the pinnacle of any winemaker’s personal achievement.  Rosehall has a growing reputation of producing some of the best Pinot Noir wines in ‘The County’. In March, Rosehall won a gold medal in the international Pinot Noir shootout in San Francisco, California – now that is impressive!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This Pinot Noir has delicious aromas & tastes of strawberry, raspberry & red licorice with a dash of vanilla on the long finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Pinot Noir is a versatile wine – it can be served chilled or at room temperature.  As the wine warms up, aromas, tastes & levels of acidity change too. Classic matches with Pinot are roast duck & mushrooms & grilled salmon too.


Grange of Prince Edward Northfield Cabernet Franc VQA 2007

The Grange of Prince Edward is one of the pioneers of the wine industry, located in a historic loyalist barn that was built in 1826. Cabernet Franc is often used in red wine blends (one of the varietals in a Bordeaux blend) yet in Ontario, this grape grows so well that winemakers are now keeping it aside to craft outstanding Cabernet Franc wines. 

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: From the highly acclaimed 2007 vintage – the growing & harvest conditions were outstanding – this elegant & impressive wine has aromas of ripe red & black fruit, leather & cigar box (can you find these in your glass?). Concentrated flavours of cherry, raspberry, red roses & typical County limestone. There’s a punch of dark chocolate that lingers with the soft tannins.

Suggested Food Pairings: Fire up the BBQ!  Sausages, lamb chops, steak, grilled mushrooms or beef tenderloin would be delicious.

Sommelier TIP: Serve this wine with a dense piece of chocolate cake!

The Grange will be featured in our Savvy Selections wine of the month club. 
Like this wine? Subscribe & it’ll be delivered to your door!




Über premium wines WOW our Savvy Selections subscribers

Posted by Derek

Tuesday, April 10th, 2012


Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Reif Estate Winery

– March 2012 –

March definitely came in “like a lion” & I hope that it leaves “like a lamb” because I am looking forward to touring wineries in Niagara and Prince Edward County this spring.

Since their debut in November 2009, we are delighted to feature Reif Estate Winery again in this month’s Savvy Selections.  In this Savvy eZine, our Savvy Sommelier Derek Vollrath interviews Andrea Kaiser, Reif’s Director of Retail Operations and Promotions to learn how this long established winery continues to grow.

While you may be familiar with Reif’s already, we are sure you will be more than please with this month’s choices of wines.  Looking back to 2009 when we previously featured Reif, the winery owner Klaus Reif & winemaker Roberto (aka Rob) DiDomenico were tempting us with rave reviews on the development of their 2007 vintage & in particular their First Growth Pinot Noir. While at the time back in 2009, the Pinot Noir was still in barrel.  Klaus & Rob gave us specific ‘instructions’ (aka wine tip) to be on the lookout when the Pinot Noir is released.  Well, guess what… The 2007 First Growth Pinot Noir is part of this month’s Savvy Selections! And to top it off, our subscribers are given a special Savvy Selection price of $35 (regular $50 per bottle). Derek & I know that you will be “wowed” by this outstanding Pinot Noir – we certainly were!

In your Savvy Selections wine delivery, you will find these premium wines from Reif Estate Winery:

  • Reif Estate Reserve Chardonnay VQA 2009 – a mix of tropical with ripe tree fruit aromas & tastes  
  • Reif Estate Meritage (White) VQA 2009 – food friendly
  • Reif Estate First Growth Pinot Noir VQA 2007 – an outstanding Pinot Noir!
  • OPTIONAL WINE: Reif Estate Vidal Ice Wine VQA 2005

Read on to find our Sommelier’s tasting notes for the selected wines along with Derek’s favorite recipes to try your hand at in the kitchen.

You won’t find these wines at the LCBO
If there is a particular wine from Reif Estates – some from this month’s Savvy Selections or other favorites – that you would like to have additional bottles on hand or for your cellar, simply contact me to arrange a shipment for you. Did I already mention that you might want to consider ordering another bottle or two of the First Growth Pinot Noir?

Cheers & Enjoy!

– Debbie & Savvy Team

Reif Estate Winery

Presented by Sommelier Derek Vollrath


As one of Ontario wine industry pioneers, we are excited to show you how Reif Estate Winery has grown over the years – both by their ever expanding winery & quality of their wines.

Even in March, it is a busy time at the winery.  Icewine is in production & attention is being paid to the most recent vintage of white wines that will be in the final stages of winemaking.  At the time of the interview, Klaus Reif – winery owner (in above photo) & winemaker Roberto (aka Rob) DiDomenico were busy in the cellar. I caught up to Andrea Kaiser – Director of Retail Operations & Promotions – who is at the heart of everything at the winery. I learned that frankly, Andrea runs the place!

An Estately Winery
I started off the interview (which turned into a friendly chat) by asking Andrea what Reif does differently then other wineries. “Our focus is on making estate wines”. In Ontario under the Vintner Quality Alliance (VQA) rules, wines that are labeled as “estate bottled” must come from wineries that have control over everything in the winemaking process – from the vineyard, all throughout production and then with the final bottling.  This is absolutely the case as 98% of the wines produced by Reif are labeled as ‘estate’. This means that Klaus, Rob & their teams control every aspect from growing & managing the fruit on the vine to bottling the wine as well as every step in between.  This approach ensures that Klaus & Rob can “produce a consistently exceptional product”, Andrea explains.  This is evident by the number of awards that Reif’s wines have won, especially the array of Canadian & international medals for their ice wines.

Über Premium
Andrea stressed the importance of Reif’s First Growth collection of wines (enjoy the Pinot Noir in your Savvy Selections).  “These wines are our über premium wines that showcase the terroir of the Niagara River sub-appellation”.  For wines to carry the distinctive First Growth label, Klaus & Rob established early on that the following criteria must be met:

1. The wines must be produced from fruit that comes from Reif’s older vineyards

2. The wines are only produced in exceptional vintages

3. The wines are made under stricter conditions and with greater TLC such as handpicked fruit.

“Reif’s First Growth collection of wines is one of Klaus’ & Rob’s dreams come true & it is something that they are completely proud of”, beams Andrea.

Go Local – Living the Mantra
Everything they do at the winery is based on local relationships with culinary groups within the peninsula.  Andrea explained to me that at Reif they have absolutely embraced the concept of “living local”.  “Our team really works hard to partner with local suppliers in order to showcase the culinary arts that have developed in the Niagara area, our Sensory Wine Bar is an excellent example of our commitment.”

Upcoming Events at Reif
If you are planning a trip to Niagara, Andrea proudly explains why Reif is a ‘must stop’ especially with the unique Sensory Wine Bar. “It is an amazing as our visitors can enjoy a flight of our wines with a selection of artisan cheese, charcuterie plates & even chocolate”.

If you happen to be in Niagara-on-the-Lake on April 21st,  join Rob as he hosts a luncheon where he will be giving visitors a sneak peek of the 2010 First Growth Collection.  This vintage marks the fourth time in which Klaus & Rob deemed the conditions ideal enough to create.

As our interview wraps up, Andrea’s parting words about the winery, “We work in a great place, people love coming to Niagara because it is Ontario’s wine country & what’s not to like about wine and food? When they come to visit they are in a great mood & that rubs off on all of us at the winery”.

Reif Estate Winery will definitely be on my list of wineries to visit this summer.

Cheers & Enjoy your Savvy Selections wines…especially the First Growth Pinot Noir!

~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes~

Chardonnay Reserve VQA 2009

The 2009 Chardonnay Reserve is made from some of Reif’s oldest Chardonnay vines, some dating back to 1982.  This wine has seen only oak – from fermentation all the way to barrel ageing & everything in between.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Bright gold in colour with notable aromas of banana & melon leap from the glass along with hints of vanilla & warm spice, (can you find cinnamon?).  The palate is exceptionally rewarding & complex with flavours of brown sugar, hazelnut, green apple & ripe pear.  This is a dry, full-bodied white wine with an incredibility rich & buttery mouth feel.  It is topped off with a long apple pie finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Our Savvy Sommelier Debbie Trenholm simply stated that “this wine is gorgeous on its own”.  If you decide to serve with a meal, Derek offers a recipe for Roasted Salmon Salad Niçoise.

Cellaring: This wine can definitely be enjoyed tonight or it can be cellared for up to 18 months.

Meritage (White) VQA 2009

The wine term Meritage is usually reserved for red wines made with a Bordeaux blend of grapes outside of Bordeaux. However; in this case it is cleverly used for the white Bordeaux grape varietals of Sauvignon Blanc & Semillon.  For the 2009 vintage Sauvignon Blanc accounts for 56% of the blend, while Semillon makes up 44%.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Pale gold in colour with a brilliant luster & sheen.  On the nose there are definite aromas of cut grass & green apple courtesy of the Sauvignon Blanc while the Semillon provides honey & floral aromas.  Dry on the palate this white wine offers flavours of citrus, green apple & white pepper.  This full-bodied wine is well balanced with a medium length green apple finish.

Suggested Food Pairing:  This Meritage is definitely a food friendly wine as it would go well with spinach & goat’s cheese risotto or gnocchi in a gorgonzola sauce.  The Savvy Selections tasting panel immediately thought this wine would accompany seafood exceptionally well. Derek shares his Seafood Stew recipe is tasty & he says that the best part is that you only need one pot to make it!

Cellaring: Again, the wine is ready to enjoy tonight or you can cellar it for up to 12 months.

First Growth Pinot Noir VQA 2007
$35.00 – a special price for Savvy Selections subscribers. (Regular $50)

As explained earlier, Reif’s First Growth series of wines are ultra premium wines produced only during years of exceptional vintage.  To date only four First Growth wines have been crafted by Reif Estate’s (2001, 2002, 2007 & recently, 2010 has been named exceptional).

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  The core of this wine (winespeak: its centre) is bright ruby red in colour that gradually fades to a thin watery rim.  The nose is thoroughly enjoyable as aromas of cherries, raspberries, leather & pencil shavings waft from the glass.  The palate will totally blow you away with flavors of sour cherries, ripe raspberries & dark chocolate.  With a velvety mouth feel and a long lingering cherry finish, this incredible wine is a sure-fire crowd pleaser.

Suggested Food Pairing: Peking duck or barbequed lamb chops with a rosemary rub would pair very well.  Derek recommends to pair this Pinot Noir with a cherry sauce over pan fried pork tenderloin cutlets – a yummy recipe follows!

Cellaring: You can open it now or if you prefer you can hold onto this wine as it will be drinking well now through to 2015.

Serving Tip: To make this wine that more special, Derek recommends to decant for 45 minutes before serving.

~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~


With Reif Estate Winery Chardonnay Reserve…


Roasted Salmon Salad Niçoise
From Heart Smart – the Best of Heart Smart Cooking, Bonnie Stern
Serves 8

4 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary or ½ tsp dried
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
2 lbs baby potatoes, cleaned and halved
6 plum tomatoes cut in wedges or 2 cups cherry tomatoes
2 head garlic
1 lb asparagus, trimmed
2 lbs salmon fillet in one piece, skin removed
⅓ cup balsamic vinegar
8 cups mixed organic greens
2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon or shredded basil or ½ tsp dried
4 hard-cooked egg whites, coarsely chopped
1 small bunch chives


  1. Combine 2 tbsp oil, rosemary, salt and pepper.  Toss potatoes with half this mixture
  2.  Arrange tomato wedges, skin side down and potatoes in a single layer on a parchment-lined baking sheet.  Cut top quarter off heads of garlic and wrap in foil.  Roast potatoes, tomatoes and garlic in a preheated 400° F oven for 40 minutes.  Remove baking sheet from oven and scatter asparagus over potatoes and tomatoes.  Roast for 10 to 15 minutes longer, or until potatoes and garlic are tender and asparagus is bright green.  Tomatoes should be browed on bottom.
  3.  Meanwhile, coat salmon with remaining oil/rosemary marinade.  Place salmon on another baking sheet lined with parchment.  About 20 minutes before vegetables are ready, place salmon in oven and roast for 15 to 18 minutes or until just cooked through.
  4.  To prepare dressing, squeeze roasted garlic into vinegar and whisk until pureed.  Whisk in remaining 2 tbsp of oil.
  5.  Arrange greens over bottom of a large platter.  Arrange potatoes down center and tomatoes and asparagus along sides.  With a large spatula, place salmon on top of potatoes.  Drizzle dressing over salad.  Sprinkle with tarragon and egg whites.  Cut chives into 2-inch lengths and sprinkle over top.


With Reif Estate Winery Meritage White…

Seafood Stew
From Love
Serves 4-6

Large pinch of saffron threads
4 tbsp almost boiling water
6 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 ½ tbsp chopped fresh thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
2 red bell peppers, seeded and coarsely chopped
1 can (28 oz / 796 mL) canned & chopped tomatoes
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 cup fish stock
1 cup blanched almonds, toasted and finely ground
Salt and pepper
12-16 live mussels
12-16 live clams
1 lb 5 oz / 600 g thick boned hake or cod fillets, skinned and cut into 2-inch chunks
12-16 raw shrimp shelled and deveined
Thick crusty bread, to serve


  1. Place the saffron threads in a heatproof bowl with the water and let stand for at lease 10 minutes to infuse.
  2.  Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottom flameproof casserole over medium-high heat.  Reduce the heat to low and cook the onion, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes, or until golden but not browned.  Stir in the garlic, thyme, bay leave and red bell peppers and cook, stirring frequently for 5 minutes or until the bell peppers are softened and the onions have softened further.  Add the tomatoes and paprika and simmer, stirring frequently for an additional 5 minutes.
  3.  Stir in the stock, the saffron and its soaking liquid, and the almonds and bring to a boil, stirring.  Reduce the heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the sauce reduces and thickens.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Clean the mussels and clams, discard any with broken shells
  5. Gently stir the hake into the stew so that it doesn’t break up, then add the shrimp, mussels and clams.  Reduce the heat to very low, then cover and simmer for 5 minutes or until the hake is opaque the mussels and clams have opened and the shrimp have turned pink.  Discard and mussels or clams that remain closed.  Serve immediately with plenty of thick crusty bread for soaking up the juices


With Reif Estate Winery First Growth Pinot Noir…

Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Sauce
Serves 4

1-2 tablespoon cornstarch, depending on your desired thickness of the sauce
1 1/2 cups cranberry juice
2 teaspoonsDijonmustard
1 (1 1/2 pound) pork tenderloin, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons lemon-pepper seasoning
3 tablespoons butter
1 cup dried cherries
3 tablespoons cherry preserves


  1. In a small bowl, combine the cornstarch, cranberry juice and mustard until smooth; set aside.
  2.  Sprinkle pork with lemon-pepper. In a large skillet, cook pork in butter for 4-5 minutes on each side or until no longer pink. Remove pork and keep warm.
  3.  Stir cornstarch mixture and add to the skillet. Bring to a boil.
  4. Add cherries and preserves; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Return pork to the pan; cook for 2 minutes or until heated through. Serve on a bed of rice with fresh vegetables or assorted grilled mushrooms.

 Cheers & Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections!


Good food deserves good wine from Good Earth

Posted by Susan

Saturday, February 25th, 2012

Featuring Good Earth Food & Wine Co.

 Our Savvy Sommelier tasting notes for the wines in this month’s wine delivery

The Good Wine Chardonnay VQA 2009

Harvested from the Andrewes family vineyard in the Lincoln Lakeshore sub-appellation, known for its fertile sandy loam, this wine was barrel fermented as well as aged 10 months in French oak.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A well-balanced, elegant wine, there’s a notion of toasted hazelnut & spice on the nose, golden apple, melon and pear. Dry, substantial, smooth and fruity, the well-integrated oak offers a note of toast, the fine citrusy acidity adds a freshness to the lovely long finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Pasta with a cream sauce, roast chicken, or try it with The Good Earth’s own recipe for  Chicken Saltimboca.

Cellaring: This wine is delightful now or can be kept for a couple of years!


The Good Wine Rosé VQA 2010

Rose wine in February?  The Savvy Selections tasting panel weighed the answer to this for a mere 5 seconds!  The verdict is that this wine is outstanding any time of the year.  This Rose was a hands down favorite of the tasting panel as well as the most popular wine ordered at our annual Sip, Swirl, Savour, Selebrate wine tasting in November.  All things combined, we know you too will love this refreshing wine whether you enjoy it now or wait until the snow melts. 

Principally Cabernet Franc grapes with a dash of Pinot Noir, this wine is produced from the estate’s own rocky, clay-based vineyards in the Lincoln Lakeshore sub-appellation, where proximity to the escarpment creates a unique microclimate that protects the vines from spring frosts.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Melt away the February blahs with this savoury rosé, the appealing color of a late winter sunset (spring really is just around the corner). Dry, medium bodied, it’s loaded with aromas—bright red fruit, sweet roasted red pepper, a nuance of spice & herbs. And the fresh yet silky texture, flavours of bright red fruit—pomegranate comes to mind & long juicy finish are pure delight.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Enjoy this wine with roast salmon with a raspberry coulis, or with herbed roast pork. Nicolette’s shares a favorite recipe to serve with this wine: Gnocchi with Sage Brown Butter Sauce & Toasted Hazelnuts.

Cellaring:  No need to wait…enjoy now!


The Good Wine Pinot Noir VQA 2009

Hand-harvested from vines planted in 1999 in the Ann Weiss vineyard of the Twenty Mile Bench appellation, this wine also spent 10 months in French oak.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Dry, mid-weight, this earthy wine entices with aromas of red fruit, vanilla, beetroot and campfire smoke. The flavours are complex—a hint of roasted coffee beans, underbrush, raspberry and pie cherry mingle. Framed by refined tannins and fresh acidity, substantial in the mouth, the wine finishes dry, toasty and nicely spiced.

Suggested Food Pairing: This wine cries out for bison bourgignon, slow-roasted pork shoulder or rack of lamb.

Cellaring:  Drinking well now, this wine will cellar for 2-3 years.


 ~ Our Sommeliers suggest these recipes to enjoy with the Savvy Selections ~

With The Good Chardonnay…
Chicken Saltimboca
The Good Earth Cooking School
Serves 3

6 boneless skinless chicken thighs

6 slices prosciutto
2 Tbsp capers
6 cloves garlic, minced (or to taste)
12 fresh sage leaves
12 kalamata olives, pitted
1 pint cherry or grape tomatoes

2 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbsp chopped fresh parsley

2 Tbsp chopped fresh sage
4 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp grapeseed oil
½ C white wine


  1. Preheat oven to 375F.
  2. On a cutting board, place a chicken thigh between 2 sheets of plastic wrap. Using a meat mallet or heavy pan, gently pound chicken until it is an even ½ to ¼ “ thickness. Repeat with remaining thighs.
  3. Lay out all the pounded thighs. Season liberally with salt & pepper. Lay 2 sage leaves, 6 capers, 1 tsp garlic & 4-5 olives in the middle of each chicken thigh. Roll each piece from end to end to form a tight roll. Lay out the prosciutto slices. Place a chicken roll at the edge & roll tightly. Skewer with a toothpick in order to keep rolled.
  4. Heat a large oven proof frying pan over high heat. Add 1 Tbsp butter & the grapeseed oil to the pan. Add the chicken seam side down & sear, turning to brown all sides. Transfer the pan to the oven & bake for 10 minutes.
  5. Remove from the oven & transfer the chicken onto a plate. Drain off any excess oil & fat, making sure not to scrape out the tasty bits   
  6. Return the pan to low heat. Deglaze the pan with the wine, scraping the aforementioned tasty bits with a wooden spoon. Cook the wine for about 1 minute Add the tomatoes, herbs & any extra ingredients left from the chicken stuffing process. Cook for an additional minute. Add the remaining butter & cook for 1 minute. Return the chicken to the pan, turning the heat down to low & cook to reheat the chicken, about 2 minutes. Serve the chicken with wilted spinach. Spoon the sauce onto the chicken upon serving.


With The Good Rosé
Gnocchi Pillow with Sage Brown Butter Sauce
From The Good Earth Cooking School

Serves 6

2 C ricotta
2 eggs
1 egg yolk
½ C grated parmesan cheese
¾ C all-purpose flour
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
Pinch salt & pepper

Brown Butter Sauce
1 C + 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, cubed

1 shallot, diced
1 tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
¼ C thinly sliced fresh sage
¼ C toasted hazelnuts, chopped
¼ C freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano


  1. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, eggs, egg yolk, nutmeg, salt & pepper. Add the remaining ingredients, mixing well with a wooden spoon. The mixture will be slightly sticky.
  2. On a well-floured surface, section the dough into 8 equal parts & roll out into long ‘logs’ of approximately ¾ to 1” diameter. Create the gnocchi by cutting each log into ¾ to 1” pieces Bring a large pot of salted water to a rapid boil. Drop about a quarter of the gnocchi into the water When the gnocchi float, cook for an additional minute.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the gnocchi to a cold water bath. This will stop the cooking and ‘set’ the gnocchi Repeat until all the gnocchi are cooked. Strain, lightly oil, and lay out in a lightly oiled baking sheet.
  4. At this point you can refrigerate or freeze the gnocchi for future use. To reheat, simply bring a pot of salted water to a boil, add the gnocchi, cooking just long enough to heat through. Strain & serve.

 Method – Brown Butter Sauce

  1.  In a large frying pan, melt 2 Tbsp butter & add shallots. You pan needs to be large enough to accommodate all the gnocchi, or as many as you wish to cook. Cook butter for 2 minutes over medium heat. Add the remaining butter. Turn down the heat to a low setting & continue to cook for 8 minutes. The butter will begin to foam & take on a golden colour. Remove from heat.
  2. Carefully add the sage & hazelnuts. Add cooked gnocchi & toss gently. Garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano


With The Good Pinot Noir…
Faux Duck Confit with Fresh Thyme
Laura Calder, Dinner Chez Moi

Serves 4

4 duck legs

2 garlic cloves, halved
salt & pepper
¼ C duck fat, cut into pieces
8 sprigs fresh thyme


  1. Cut around the end of the duck legs (like cutting around the wrapper at the top of a bottle of wine), going through the tendon so that the legs will self-French during cooking. Rub the legs well with garlic & season with salt & pepper.
  2. Heat the oven to 300F. Lay the duck legs fat side down in a large oven-proof frying pan Scatter the duck fat around them and tuck in the thyme sprigs Turn the heat to medium & render the fat on the legs, up to 15 minutes.  
  3. Once the fat is a pool around the duck, turn the legs skin side up. Cover the pan with a lid or foil, sealing tightly, and transfer to the oven. Bake 2 ½ hours, until the meat falls from the bone. Remove the legs from the fat and lay skin side up on a baking sheet.
  4. Turn the oven to broil, but leave the rack in the middle of the oven. Broil the legs until the skin is golden and crisp, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately, with thyme-infused roasted root veggies and wilted spinach. Sip and savour!  




Tasting Tawse wines: a mid-winter delight

Posted by Susan

Wednesday, February 16th, 2011

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

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

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

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

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

Cheers & enjoy my tasting notes!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


2009 harvest report: grapes are looking good!

Posted by Debbie

Friday, September 18th, 2009



Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Lailey Vineyard
Canada’s wineries delivered to your doorstep

Time flies when you are having fun…. It is hard to believe that almost four years has passed since we launched Savvy Selections in December 2004. Coincidentally, our first featured winery was Lailey Vineyard of Niagara-on-the-Lake. Since then, we have explored nearly 50 wineries with our subscribers.  We are excited to showcase again the talented winemaker at Lailey Vineyard – Derek Barnett.





For those subscribers who have been with Savvy Selections since the beginning – there are a number of you – this is an opportunity to see how Lailey’s wines have progressed in the past years.  If you still have a bottle of Lailey wine in your cellar, it is dig it out and have a mini wine tasting using this months Savvy Selections wines:


·         Riesling VQA 2008

·         Cabernet-Merlot VQA 2007

·         Pinot Noir VQA 2007  – Derek’s signature wine

·         Impromptu VQA 2007 – optional addition


In the following pages of this Savvy e-Zine, read about all that is happening at this time of the year as Derek prepares for harvest.  One thing for sure – we should all keep praying for sunshine this month! You will also find our Savvy Sommelier tasting notes and recipes specifically chosen to pair with the selected Lailey wines.


As always, when you would like more Lailey wines or bottles from other previously featured Savvy Selections, contact me directly to make the arrangements for you.


Make it a weekend getaway….

Saturday September 26 – Prince Edward County is celebrating harvest with their 8th annual TASTE! A great reason to getaway to ‘The County’ to enjoy 19 local wineries & breweries, 16 chefs from regional restaurants, cheese makers, chocolatiers, and more culinary talent all under one roof at Picton’s picturesque Crystal Palace. Tickets are $25 and available online at


Special Prize – I have 2 complementary tickets available for TASTE. Be the first to email me on & the tickets are yours!


Enjoy September’s Savvy Selections (try saying that fast!)

Debbie & the Savvy Team




Lailey Vineyard

Presented by Sommelier Debbie Trenholm

When you visit Niagara-on-the-Lake, it is striking that there are more vineyards than orchards. More wineries than roadside fresh fruit stands. In fact on a recent trip to Niagara this summer, I was on the hunt for fresh Niagara cherries and found none…until I returned home, where they were awaiting me at my local grocery store.


The transformation of orchards to vineyards dates back to the 1950’s when fruit farmers started to experiment with French hybrid varieties.  William Lailey was one of these pioneers experimenting with growing vines on parcels of land amongst his pears, sweet cherry and peach orchards.  In a father-like-son fashion, David Lailey purchased the family farm in 1970 and continued transforming the orchard into vineyards.


David and his wife Donna, broke ground in the Ontario wine industry on several facets. Donna was one of the founding members of Vintner’s Quality Alliance (VQA).  She was crowned the first-ever Grape Queen of the Niagara Grape and Wine Festival in 1991. This is a prestigious industry recognition is awarded to the best vineyard of the season. (normally crowned as Grape King, yet exceptions were made to include the first awarded female grape grower). And Lailey Vineyard was one of a handful of wineries across Canada that incubated the idea of crafting Canadian oak barrels to age their wines.  


Today, the vineyard comprises of 20+ acres with grape varieties including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Gewurztraminer, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, Vidal and Zweigelt.


2009 Harvest Report

I spoke with Lailey’s winemaker Derek Barnett last week while he was walking through the vineyards examining his grapes. From the end of August through early September, winemakers are constantly talking about ‘véraison’.  This is the stage when grapes change from hard lime green balls into colourful plump grapes.  Derek explains, “It is exactly the same with tomatoes in your garden. In the few weeks before harvest, tomatoes change from green to red.  In the vineyards, the clusters (winemaker speak: bunches of grapes) take on natural sugar and the acid levels come down while the colour changes.” The red grapes are the most noticeable.  Pinot Noir grapes change first.  Derek was excited to report that 90% of his Pinot Noir clusters are in véraison stage. “Pinot looks fantastic.  The grapes are small, meaning that there is lots of concentrated fruit that will show through in the wine”.  Merlot grapes are at approx 20% and Cabernet Sauvignon is 15% véraison. 


With all of the rain this summer and the slow growing fruit, Derek reports that harvest might begin later this year – Mother Nature only really knows.  In comparison to 2007 – a spectacular vintage – Derek began harvesting Pinot Noir on September 25th.  With the past weeks of solid sunshine and cool nights, Derek is ever optimistic. He predicts that he may be starting to pick his Pinot around Oct 1st.


Harvest is indeed a busy time.  It can be similar to playing chess with Mother Nature as your opponent. All of the equipment is ready, the pickers are on alert and winemakers like Derek are constantly walking the vineyard observing the fruit, tasting them and carefully measuring the Brix levels (amount of natural sugar in the grape). The process may be well defined, yet still “harvest is different every year”, Derek explains with a chuckle.


It’s stressful, but he is happy to do it

Derek has been a winemaker since 1991 where he began his career at Southbrook Farms (the same winery as Steve Byfield of Nyarai Cellars – August’s Savvy Selections featured winery). A prominent fixture at Lailey for the past 8 years, Derek absolutely loves his job. What gets him excited about winemaking? “Working with the fruit”, states Derek without missing a beat. “We grow grapes in the summer and make wine in the fall.”  Certainly there are sleepless nights, stressful moments and incredible pressure when your business is subject to all weather conditions – days of rain and heat just as equally as the extreme cold, yet it is the creativity of growing grapes to make premium wine that fuels Derek’s passion for his job. 


And Derek is not always roaming the vineyards, riding the tractor or amongst the tanks in the cellar, he is also Lailey’s ‘offical tour guide’. When your travels take you to Niagara-on-the-Lake, be sure to contact him to arrange a personal tour “of his workshop” – you will certainly have a fun time exploring Lailey’s cellar. 


Great things grow in Ontario

The team at Lailey Vineyard has been instrumental in putting Ontario and for that matter Canada, on the wine map. In the past 5 years, Derek has noticed that more people are drinking and embracing Ontario wines. “I love when people visit the winery and get excited about the whole wine experience – meeting the Lailey team, trying our wines and walking through the vineyards”, says Derek. 


All of us at Savvy Company too are excited to showcase Canadian wines in our events at the Savvy Selections. 


Here’s to great Ontario wines and their impressive winemakers.  Cheers & Enjoy!


~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~


Lailey Vineyard Riesling VQA 2008, $18

Derek recalls that 2008 was a phenomenal vintage for Riesling.  He harvested the grapes with loads of acidity to ensure that the wine would result in a crisp, dry & refreshing wine.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This wine lives up to Derek’s master plan – the acidity is noticed as soon as you uncork the bottle. Elegant aromas of fresh grated ginger, lemongrass with a hint of white grapefruit.  These aromas continue into the taste leaving you salivating for more with every sip.


Suggested Food Pairing: Serve chilled (at about 11C) on its own or light foods.  Be weary not to overpower the wine with a dish of many flavours as the elegance of the wine will be lost. A favorite of the Lailey family is a classic Alsatian Onion Tart (recipe below).  Alsace, France is renown for their dry, crisp Riesling wines – just like Lailey’s Riesling.


Cellaring: No need to wait…just chill this bottle and serve during this Indian summer weather!



Lailey Vineyard Cabernet-Merlot VQA 2007, $20

Made with Merlot and Cabernet Franc grapes from the Lailey property (Lailey purchases grapes from Niagara grape growers too), Derek reports, “The berries (winemaker speak: grapes) were very small in 2007 due to the lack of rain during the summer.  The result is a concentrated wine with a lot of depth and modest amount of tannins that gives this wine aging potential.”


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Fire engine red in colour, this is a powerful wine.  Aromas reminded our Savvy Selections tasting panel of field berry jam & garden fresh beets.  The blackberry taste continues with chalky tannin texture (can you find that?).  “The wine has delicious chalky tannin in this vintage’, noted Derek.

Suggested Food Pairing: This is a versatile blend that can either be enjoyed now or put away in your cellar. As you age the wine, the blackberry taste and the chalky texture will be less prevalent. If you choose the open now, serve this Cabernet-Merlot with a hearty pasta dish, roast beef with all of the trimmings, BBQed steak or Harvest Ratatouille (recipe below) the chalky tannin texture will lessen with the food.


Cellaring: This wine is impressive as is, or as Derek reports, it has aging potential of 7 to 10 years.



Pinot Noir VQA 2007, $25 (special price to Savvy Selections subscribers – usually $30)

“I still remember the 2004 Pinot Noir.  It was one of the best that I ever made”, proudly recalls Derek.  If you subscribed to Savvy Selections back in December 2005 when we launched – and we have a number of loyal long time subscribers! – you may too remember the Pinot Noir that was one of the Savvy Selections.  Derek is definitely a master of Pinot Noirs.  Considered one of the hardest grapes to grow and temperamental to create a wine, Derek has a special touch that you will enjoy when you open this bottle of wine.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: “The colour reminds me of plush red velvet,” remarked one of our Savvy Selections tasting panelist.  The aromas? “A bouquet of long stem red roses”, commented Savvy Sommelier Debbie Trenholm. There is a stunning elegance in the wine from the colour in the glass to the floral aroma to the warm taste of red fruit. The light tannins and the long finish make this a masterpiece of a wine that it is no wonder it Derek’s signature wine.


Suggested Food Pairing: This Pinot was thoroughly enjoyed by our Savvy Selections tasting panel and Accredited Sommeliers all on its own. Grilled Salmon is a classic match, as is a mushroom ladened dish. From Lailey’s recipe box, Mushroom Bruschetta with Mushroom Syrup will be outstanding with this wine.  


Cellaring: This wine is ready to serve right now or if you choose, it could cellar it for 5 to 7 years.  


Impromptu VQA 2007, $45 (optional addition)

You are the first to receive this wine as it will be released at the winery on September 25.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This full bodied wine is absolutely delicious.  An unusual blend of 68% Syrah, 12% Malbec, 12% Petit Verdot & 8% Cabernet Sauvignon from the infamous 2007 vintage.  This is the 2nd vintage for this wine (winespeak: 2nd year this wine has been made) and won’t last long as it has a ‘cult-like’ following of wine lovers.  Smooth velvety texture, with rich flavours of blackberry, dark plums and blueberry pie with warm finish.  “I could get addicted to this wine’, commented one of the participants in the Savvy Selections tasting panel.


Suggested Food Pairing: If you choose to open the bottle now – make the accompanying meal a special occasion.  Grilled beef tenderloin and blue cheese or a rack of lamb with mint sauce would be a delicious menu for this wine. 


Cellaring: This elegant wine is ready to drink now or will continue to evolve by cellaring it 2-3 years. 




Wine & Food Pairing Tips offered by Lailey

To understand the personality of a wine, the wine needs to be experienced alone and in the company of food. It is interesting to discover how the wine changes with different company and to learn which company highlights the aspects of the wine that you most enjoy. All of the recipes below come with wine recommendations. We encourage you to do more than accept them. We want you to experience the wine alone, then with the food. We also want you to venture from our recommendations and discover food and wine pairing for yourselves. Try orchestrating some un-convential pairings to taste what happens.

A few basic tips…
1. Wine that is high in alcohol will make hot foods taste hotter. If you serve high alcohol wines with foods that carry some sweetness, however, the sweetness will quell the alcoholic heat of the wine and, therefore, soften the experience of the wine. The sweetness may simply be in the form of a sweet sauce in an otherwise savoury dish.

2. Wine that is high in tannin (that astringent feeling you experience on your gums and the insides of your cheeks which you get mainly from red wines) sometimes tastes coarse, especially in its youth. If you taste tannic wine with salty food, the wine will become softer – less coarse.

3. White wines can often be very acidic. This may be an aspect of white wine that you enjoy and find refreshing. If you want to downplay the tartness of a wine, however, it is best to serve such a wine with highly acidic food, like a fresh summer tomato salad or a dish with lots of fresh citrus – especially lemon or lime. The acidity in the food will downplay the acidity in the wine and this will connect the wine to the food quite nicely.





Recipes to Enjoy with your Savvy Selections

With Lailey Vineyard Riesling VQA 2008

Tarte de l’Oignon

From Lailey Vineyard’s recipe box. This onion tart or flan is a French recipe from the region of Alsace, France, also the same region famous for crisp, dry Riesling wines.



7 oz flour
4 oz unsalted butter
4 Tbsps (approx) iced water
pinch of salt
2 egg yolks

2 oz butter
10 fl oz cream
1 egg
1 1/2 lbs onions, thinly sliced
nutmeg, salt, freshly ground pepper to taste




Preheat oven to 375 F


Rub the 4 oz of unsalted butter into the flour and salt, until it looks like breadcrumbs. Add a tablespoon of water at a time until a firm dough may be formed. Wrap in plastic and let rest in the refrigerator for an hour.


Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and line a 9″ flan tin. Prick the bottom with a fork and blind bake with ceramic baking beads ( alternatively, the crust may be lined with tin foil and filled with dried beans or rice). Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from oven and carefully remove baking beads. Allow crust to cool.


Meanwhile, make the filling. Melt the butter in a large frying pan or wok, add sliced onions, cover and cook gently for 30 minutes over low heat, stirring often. Do not allow the onions to brown. Allow onions to cool.


Mix the cream, egg, egg yolks, nutmeg, salt and pepper together. Add the onions and pour into the baked crust.


Bake for approximately 30 minutes, the eggs should be set and the top golden brown.Serve hot or cold  


With Lailey Vineyard Cabernet-Merlot VQA 2007


Harvest Ratatouille

Serves 12
From Lailey Vineyard’s recipe box & Silver Palate Cookbook


2 cups best quality olive oil
4 small eggplants, about 4 pounds in all, cut into 1 and 1/2 inch cubes
2 teaspoons salt
11/2 pounds white onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
7 medium-size zucchini, washed, trimmed, quartered lengthwise and cut into 2-inch strips
2 medium-size sweet red peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch strips

2 medium-size green bell peppers, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch strips
2 tablespoons minced garlic

3 cans Italian plum tomatoes, drained
1 can tomato paste
1/4 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
2 Tbsp dried basil
2 Tbsp dried oregano
freshly ground black pepper to taste




Preheat oven to 400 F


Line a large roasting pan with foil and pour in 1 cup of the olive oil. Add the eggplant, sprinkle it with salt, and toss well. Cover pan tightly with foil and bake for 35 minutes, until eggplant is done but not mushy. Uncover and set aside.


In a large skillet or in 2 small skillets, heat remaining oil. Sauté onions, zucchini, red and green peppers and garlic over medium heat until wilted and lightly coloured, about 20 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, parsley, dill, basil, oregano and black pepper. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.


Add eggplant mixture and simmer for another 10 minutes. Taste and correct seasoning.

Serve hot or at room temperature.
* great to have some feta cheese or sausages to add as you serve
* some freshly grated parmesan sprinkled on top is also very nice
* leftover ratatouille heats up nicely in a pot on the stove over medium heat and may be served over a bed of pasta or rice

With Lailey Vineyard Pinot Noir VQA 2007

Mushroom Bruschetta with Mushroom Syrup

Serves 4
From Lailey Vineyard’s recipe box & Simple to Spectacular Cookbook by Jean Georges Vongerichten &Mark Bittman



2 tablespoons butter
extra-virgin olive oil as needed
8 ounces button mushrooms, washed and chopped
2 shallots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper
4 thick slices sourdough bread or other good white bread

clove garlic, peeled and cut in halves
1 pound mixed mushrooms, trimmed, washed, drained and chopped
2 shallots, peeled and minced
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
1/2 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, dill, chervil, basil, and/or tarragon
minced zest of 1 lemon
lemon wedges for serving



Preheat the broiler or prepare a grill. Put half the butter and 1 tablespoon oil in a skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. When the butter melts, add the button mushrooms, shallots, chopped garlic, and salt and pepper to taste and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms give up their liquid and begin to brown, about 10 minutes. Add 2 cups water, stir, and cook for about 10 minutes, or until slightly reduced. Strain and return the liquid to the skillet; discard the mushrooms. Cook over high heat for 10 to 15 minutes more, or until quite thick and syrupy.


Meanwhile, brush the bread on both sides with oil and grill lightly, turning once. Rub with the cut garlic clove.

Put the remaining butter and another tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet and turn the heat to medium-high. When the butter melts, add the mixed mushrooms, shallots, minced garlic, and salt and pepper to taste and stir. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms have given up their liquid and begun to brown, about 10 minutes. Stir in the chopped herbs and lemon zest.


To serve, spoon the mushrooms onto the grilled bread and drizzle with the mushroom syrup. Serve with lemon wedges.




Cheers & Enjoy your September Savvy Selections