Posts Tagged ‘Susan Desjardins’

We’re expanding! Now featuring BC & NS wines too

Posted by Susan

Sunday, July 30th, 2017

In this month’s Savvy Selections to celebrate Canada’s 150th, we are expanding our scope to include wineries from across the country – from coast to coast.  We are SUPER excited to start this wine soaked trip across Canada with the acclaimed wines of Benjamin Bridge from the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. The closest town is Wolfville – home of Acadia University.

This family-owned winery dedicates itself to the production of world-class ‘méthode classique’ sparkling wines (winespeak: Champagne style) and aromatic whites.

The vision of Gerry McConnell, the heart of his late wife Dara Gordon, and the commitment of his twin daughters Ashley and Devon melded to create an unparalleled success in ‘The Valley’. The McConnell-Gordon family, with their noted international consulting team of Peter Gamble & Ann Sperling (you’ll recognize her name from our features with Southbrook Vineyards & Malivoire Wines in Niagara), selected a well-protected micro-climate at the head of the Gaspereau Valley. They turned their attention to producing sparkling wines from classic Champagne grapes, unlike the pioneers of the early wine industry, who planted hardy hybrid grape varieties that could withstand the cool climate rigors. The result – Benjamin Bridge Brut Reserve 2004 outscored Roederer Cristal 2004 in a blinding tasting of 15 sommeliers and wine writers hosted by Canoe Restaurant in Toronto in August 2013!


World Class Wines

With their partner grape growers, the McConnell-Gordon family has gone on to make wine with other vinifera grapes, including Cabernet Franc and Riesling. They participated in the creation of the Nova Scotia appellation of Tidal Bay, a standard for vibrant aromatic white wines requiring rigorous adherence to quality, blending and taste. The goal of this appellation – to showcase the excellence of Nova Scotia’s best hybrid white blend.  Yes, you get to taste a sampling of all these in this month’s Savvy Selections!


Get ready to pop the cork & enjoy your Savvy Selections…

To get the Canada 150 celebration started, we selected:

Brut NVan elegant bubbly wine, reflecting the particular style of Benjamin Bridge, to sip and savour or pair with appetizers, salads and light summer meals.
Riesling 2015 – the sea breeze in a glass, this is silky yet lively and clean.
Tidal Bay 2016 – a blend unique to Nova Scotia, light, bright and refreshing!


An optional wine many of our subscribers asked us to include in their delivery is the signature Nova 7 – a lightly effervescent, low in alcohol with clean tangy & sweet fruit flavors that makes it an ideal sipping wine or a match for soft cheese or a lemon tart. This is the only NS wine currently available in LCBO Vintages so we did not include it in the Savvy Selections… however it quickly sells out.  If you can’t find it in Vintages (LCBO product #256289) – let us know and we’ll order it for you… it is hands down delicious!


More NS at your table . . . At anytime you would like more Benjamin Bridge wines, call us at 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or send me an email to and we will make the special arrangements for you.


Benjamin Bridge

Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins

Gerry McConnell and Dara Gordon’s move to the Wolfville area in the late 1990s, when their twin daughters Ashley and Devon began high school, meant the commute to their law practices included driving through the Gaspereau Valley. On this daily drive, Gerry noticed Hans Christian Jost – one of the pioneers of the Nova Scotia wine industry – planting his Gaspereau Vineyards estate. Through their work Gerry and Dara, had also been to some of South Africa’s acclaimed wine regions, and had tasted some of the excellent sparkling wines from the Stellenbosch appellation. As he drove, the proud Maritimer mused “What would it take to produce world-class wines in Nova Scotia?” That question was about to be answered when in 1999, they purchased the 60-acre Westcott farm. Located at the head of the Gaspereau Valley, on a south-facing slope beside the river, the family quest began to develop and showcase the best of Nova Scotia wines – with Benjamin Bridge the imprimatur on every bottle.


The Early Years

It’s said that it takes a village to raise a child. In the case of Benjamin Bridge wines, it could be said that it took a family, experienced committed experts and a willing local industry to launch this unique venture. Ashley , now a Vice President with Benjamin Bridge, laughs as she says “I remember spending summers of high school clearing the fields and planting vines.”

Gerry sought out Hans Christian Jost, who willingly shared his experiences with grape varieties, local growers, growing conditions and the many other factors influencing the wine industry in Nova Scotia.  Recognizing he needed help to implement his vision, Gerry approached renowned Canadian wine consultants, Peter Gamble and his partner Ann Sperling, to advise on the shape the winery should take. With Ashley and Devon’s help, the first 5 acres were planted in 2001, with a focus on grapes for sparkling wines and aromatic white wines. At the recommendation of the Gamble/Sperling team, Gerry approached renowned Champagne expert Raphael Brisebois to meet with them, tour Nova Scotia wine estates, and assess the potential for making world-class sparkling wines.

Impressed with the potential, Brisebois agreed to consult and in 2002, the first experimental sparklings were made to assess terroir, varieties, structure and aromatics. More acres were planted, more experiments undertaken. 2004 was the coolest growing season in a couple of decades, yet the quality of the grapes met Brisebois’ exacting standards – and this vintage later became the winery’s inaugural release.  And the risks that the Benjamin Bridge team was willing to take opened the door for other Nova Scotia wineries to pursue a sparkling wine program.


The Unique Terroir

The Benjamin Bridge estate sits at the relatively sheltered, narrow head of the Gaspereau Valley, a mere 4 kilometres from the Minas Basin. At the heart of a cool, maritime climate, the valley benefits further from the massive tidal shifts in the Minas Basin, which bring cool breezes and moisture to the vineyards in the summer, and create an open body of water in the winter that helps protect the more delicate vinifera varieties grown on the estate. The narrowness of the valley and its slight westward tilt mean that ambient temperatures can be up to 2C higher than other sites, providing more degree days for optimal ripening.

While this is a region of high rainfall, the autumn tends to be dry, causing stress in the vines which leads to better development of chemical components that enhance flavours. Fall temperatures extend the growing season, maximizing the aromatic intensity and the bright acidity of the grapes.

The young alluvial soils include deposits of sand, gravel, pebbles and cobbles, unlike the Champagne region, where chalk is dominant. However, at deeper levels, there is a layer of clay veined with sand and gravel that provides a water-holding capacity similar to the chalk found in the Champagne landscape.

This is, however, a cool climate that challenges growers on a regular basis. At times, humidity in the evening can reach 100%, so downy mildew is a key challenge. And the uncontrollable weather is a major factor. For instance, the extreme cold of the winter of 2006 meant a minimal harvest of the vinifera grapes – there was no classic sparkling wine made during that vintage.

The Team

After a long search, Jean-Benoit Deslauriers (in above photo left with Gord McConnell– credit Chronicle Herald)  )was hired in 2008 to join the winemaking team – he is now head winemaker. Jean-Benoit had prior experience with organic and biodynamic viticulture and winemaking in Chile’s maritime-influenced Casablanca Valley, as well as in Monterrey, California, where cold Pacific Ocean currents have a significant influence on growing conditions and create ideal conditions for growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.

During my phone interview, Ashley and viticulturalist Scott Savoy talked about Jean-Benoit’s unique contribution to Benjamin Bridge:

“Jean-Benoit is a genius at what he does. He brought experience with bio-dynamic winemaking, but also a sensitivity to the terroir and a commitment to letting the grapes speak for themselves – a commitment to transparency of the terroir. There’s a sense of craftsmanship to everything he does. He has embraced the brightness, the acidity, and the freshness of the styles of wine produced in Nova Scotia.”

In 2009, Dara had wound down her legal practice and was taking on responsibility for the development and operations of the winery, working closely with Jean-Benoit. But a crushing blow occurred with her terminal diagnosis in that year. Ashley and Devon were just completing university, and rushed back to the estate to be with her. Dara transferred as much knowledge as possible to them prior to her untimely death in the fall of that year. The twins took on the role of partner with Jean-Benoit as the winery prepared for the 2010 release of its inaugural Benjamin Bridge Méthode Classique sparkling wines, the 2004 Brut Reserve and the 2004 Blanc de Noirs.

In 2011, Ontario had its first opportunity to taste a Benjamin Bridge wine – Nova 7 was made available for a private tasting in the spring of that year, and that is when I first learned of this Nova Scotia winery. The room was buzzing as we tasted this unknown wine – winemakers from across Canada couldn’t wait to taste it, amazed at the unique flavours and texture, the quality of the wine. I was delighted to see it released by LCBO Vintages in August, where I reviewed and rated it at 4.5/5. But more accolades were to follow, with an outstanding review of the 2004 Méthod Classique Brut Reserve from Beppi Crosariol of The Globe and Mail, who described the wine as ‘a sparkler that rivals Champagne.’ More accolades followed and, as they say, the rest is history . . .

But not really, because Gerry, Ashley, Devon and the Benjamin Bridge team will never be satisfied with the status quo.

While their sparkling wines often spend 5 or more years on the lees, they continue to experiment with other methods of achieving the distinctive creamy texture and richness of the wines, as an example, testing the use of neutral oak with some small batches to see if aging in this medium will produce comparable texture and richness.

Viticulturalist Scott Savoy, who joined the team in 2015, is working with Chris Westcott (who stayed on as vineyard manager after the McConnell-Gordon family bought his farm in 1999) to push the limits of viticulture in the valley. They have implemented a program of high-density planting that should allow them to crop less, while giving the vines the opportunity to ripen wood and set reserves (making them sturdier and more resistant to climate extremes).

They recently purchased the vineyard of Dr. Al McIntyre, who had been one of their principal growers, providing Chardonnay and Cabernet Franc grapes. While they currently have almost 70 acres planted to vine, their goal is to expand that to 90, with the majority being vinifera plantings.

As Ashley says, “It’s a never-ending process of experimentation, risk-taking and incremental change, with the goal of delivering world-class wines that showcase Nova Scotia’s winemaking potential.”  Enjoy this unique opportunity to sample the clean, fresh taste of Nova Scotia, brought to you by Benjamin Bridge and the McConnell-Gordon family!

In photo: Devon and Ashley walking with Jean-Benoit.
Photo Credit: Wines of Nova Scotia




Savour this unique opportunity to sample 3 classic & unique Benjamin Bridge wines from Nova Scotia – the Méthode Classique Sparkling non-vintage presents a blend of wines from vintages reaching back to 2002, with extended periods of time on the lees; the Tidal Bay appellation wine gives you an opportunity to taste the quality of a blend that includes hybrid grape varieties; the Riesling displays the classic features of a grape variety that thrives in a cool climate.


Méthode Classique Brut Reserve NV, $27.95

This sparkling brut is made from a proprietary blend of wines crafted from l’Acadie Blanc, Vidal, Seyval, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. They were all hand harvested from the Benjamin Bridge estate, while the wine spent extended time on the lees (winespeak: on yeast) to achieve the classic creamy texture and richness that characterizes this ‘house’ style.

Sommelier Tasting Notes:  This harmonious blend of vintages and grapes shows lifted aromas of pear, citrus, biscuit, fine herbs and mineral. Underpinned by an expressive honed acidity, its ebullient, creamy texture is accented by the fine, persistent mousse. Refreshing flavours of lemon cream biscuits, grapefruit and lemon zest mingle with subtle notes of sour cherry and green apple. Dry, mid-weight, with a long-lasting slightly pithy finish, this is an impressive signature wine from Benjamin Bridge.

Suggested Food Pairings: Sparkling wine offers such versatility – serve it chilled to whet your guests’ appetites, pair it with a range of appetizers, especially fresh seafood, or enjoy it with poached salmon, grilled white fish, or a chicken Caesar salad.

Cellaring: Enjoy now and cellar up to 10 years.


Tidal Bay 2016, $21.95

This wine is a blend produced from unique hybrid grapes (l’Acadie Blanc, Seyval and Geisenheim) known for their resistance to the challenging climatic conditions in Nova Scotia. Wineries across the province producing this wine must meet specified blending requirements: l’Acadie Blanc (the signature grape of Nova Scotia) being the majority grape for the blend, and go through a rigorous technical assessment.

What is L’Acadie Blanc?  It is a Canadian hybrid created in Niagara in the early 1950s by crossing Cascade with Seyve-Villard grapes. While the residual sugar in the wine is relatively high, the vibrant acidity assures that the wine tastes dry.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Displaying an exotic, pungent nose of earthy mineral, tangy citrus and ripe stone fruit, the clean flavours of this light-medium bodied wine are framed by vibrant acidity.   The taste of grapefruit, passionfruit and crunchy apple paired with fine mineral and saline qualities really freshen up your palate.

Suggested Food Pairings: You’ll enjoy this bright, lively Nova Scotia classic wine with a goat-cheese and asparagus quiche, fresh oysters or shrimp, or with pan-fried halibut with a lemon-caper reduction.

Cellaring: Ready to drink now and cellarworthy for a further 5 years.


Riesling 2015, $30.95

This is the very first commercial release of a Riesling from Benjamin Bridge. The grapes were sourced from three distinct vineyards on the Bay of Fundy, each lot bringing its unique character from its own microclimate with soils ranging from gravel and clay to deep, sandy loam. The wine is wild fermented, meaning that the indigenous yeasts from the vineyards initiated the fermentation of the wine. Low in alcohol, with a relatively high residual sugar that gives it a nice fruity finish, it nevertheless showcases the cool climate with its clean fresh texture.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: The ocean and the land blend on the nose, notes of mineral, sea breeze, quince and citrus dominating. Dry on the palate, the first impression is of the silky texture, quickly followed by the bright acidity underlining the lively flavours of citrus, green apple and mineral. The finish is long and zesty, crisp and clean like a bite of a ripe green apple.

Suggested Food Pairings: Pair this wine with smoked trout or salmon canapés or salad, with stuffed pork tenderloin, or with chicken in all its manifestation.

Cellaring: Enjoy now or over the next 5-7 years.



Do it the Benjamin Bridge way!  Ashley explains, “We often have a ‘cinq à sept’ with friends (like Happy Hour), where we taste wines & have interesting appetizers.”

Consider preparing these 3 appetizers and inviting a few friends to sample all 3 of these fabulous Benjamin Bridge wines at your own cinq à sept.  If you and friends find some new favorites, call the Savvy Team to order more for you. . . Cheers!


With Benjamin Bridge Brut NV…
Roasted Mushroom and Brie Tart

Recipe & Photo credit:
Serves 4-8


1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 ½ tsp Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
½ tsp dried thyme (or 1 ½ tsp fresh)
½ tsp each salt & freshly ground black pepper
12 oz. mixed fresh Ontario mushrooms
½ C thinly sliced Ontario shallots
Half package (375g) frozen puff pastry, thawed
½ C Ontario Brie cheese
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Ontario parsley or Cilantro


Preheat oven to 400F.

In medium bowl, stir together oil, vinegar, mustard, garlic, thyme, salt & pepper. Add mushrooms & shallots; toss to coat. Place in single layer on parchment paper-lined rimmed baking sheet. Roast in 400F oven for 10-15 minutes or until mushrooms soften. Let cool & slice mushrooms. (You can slice the mushrooms first if you wish & roast for slightly less time).

Meanwhile, on lightly floured surface, roll out pastry into 10X12” rectangle. Place on parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Fold dough edges over ½” and crimp with fork. Prick dough inside border every ½”. Bake for 15 minutes or until lightly browned.

Gently flattening baked pastry if necessary, top with mushroom mixture, leaving any liquid behind. Scatter Brie on top. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden brown & cheese is melted. Let cool for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley. Cut into pieces.

Serve warm or at room temperature with a frothy glass of sparkling!

Watch the recipe being prepared on:



With Benjamin Bridge Tidal Bay…
Goat Cheese 
Marinated with Lemon & Herbs

Recipe & Photo Credit:
Serves 4-6


4 oz. log fresh goat cheese, sliced into 6 equal rounds (or you can keep the log whole)
2 tsp loosely packed, freshly grated lemon zest
2 Tbsp finely chopped, drained, oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
½ tsp minced capers
1 tsp coarsely chopped fresh thyme leaves
Sea salt
3 small rosemary sprigs
½ C extra-virgin olive oil, more if needed
Crostini or good-quality crackers for servings


In a small, shallow dish (about 1 ½ C) capacity, preferably straight sided, arrange the 6 pieces of goat cheese in one layer. Don’t worry if some of the cheese pieces crumble; just tuck them into the dish. Sprinkle the lemon zest, sun-dried tomatoes, capers & thyme over the cheese. Sprinkle a little of the sea salt over the cheese & tuck the rosemary sprigs into the dish.

Pour the olive oil over the cheese so it just covers it (use a little more if necessary). Let the cheese marinate in the refrigerator 2-6 hours (you can serve it sooner if you wish). Bring the dish to room temperature (about 45 minutes) before setting it out with a small hors d’oeuvre knife & a plate of crostini or crackers.

Spread a teaspoon or so of the cheese (with some of the marinade ingredients) over a crostini or cracker to serve.



With Benjamin Bridge Riesling…
The Oceanaire Seafood Room’s Maryland-Style Crab Cakes

Recipe & Photo Credit:
Serves 8


2 eggs
1 C mayonnaise
¾ tsp Dijon mustard
1 ¼ tsp Old Bay Seasoning, divided
¾ tsp chopped fresh tarragon
¼ C finely chopped onion (or shallot)
1 Tbsp finely chopped celery
¼ lb (scant 2 C) crustless cubed white bread, cut into small cubes
1 lb jumbo lump crab meat, drained of any liquid
2 Tbsp butter, a room temperature


Heat oven to 400F.

In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, mayonnaise, mustard, ¾ tsp Old Bay Seasoning, tarragon, onion & celery to make a dressing.

In a large mixing bowl, toss the bread with half of the dressing, mixing until the dressing is absorbed by the bread and the cubes are slightly broken up. Add additional dressing if the cubes are too dry.

Gently mix in the crab, being careful not to break up the lump pieces. The mixture should hold its shape when formed into a ball with your hand. If it is too dry, add additional dressing until the mixture comes together. You might not use all of the dressing.

Divide the mixture & form into 8 crab cakes. Place the cakes on a greased cookie sheet or sheet pan.

In a small bowl, stir the butter together with the remaining ½ tsp Old Bay Seasoning. Top each cake with a small dollop of the seasoned butter.

Bake cakes until golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Serve warm.



Happy Canada 150!


Tawse – Be Inspired!

Posted by Susan

Saturday, June 13th, 2015

Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Tawse Winery

–  June 2015 –

In the 13 years since starting Savvy Company, I’ve met numerous fascinating people in the wine industry. Beyond their love of wine, the common thread is that everyone enters into the wine world from a different route. Each month we share these stories in the Savvy Selections eZine. The following pages hold tidbits that would start an interesting conversation at a cocktail party or around a dinner table.

My introduction to this month’s winery – Tawse Winery – would begin with the exciting news that they have been named ‘Canadian Winery of the Year’ by Canadian Wine Access Magazine in 2010, 2011 and 2012. And they are the only Ontario winery so far to achieve this acclaim.  The people that have built this reputation have interesting routes that make up the story that we are eager to share with you this month.  Naturally, Tawse’s beginning has not changed since we last featured the winery in 2011, yet the story of their growth and constant commitment to put Canada on the world wine map has evolved.

The story of Tawse Winery is all about a young man, Moray Tawse from Alberta, who worked at a resort where he ‘fell’ into the role of wine steward…and his route into the wine world.  Eventually in 1988, he co-founded (and continues today to lead) a financial services firm while dreaming of owning a vineyard in Burgundy, France. Luckily for the Canadian wine industry, fate kept this dream on Canadian soil.

Enamored with Burgundian wines, he was amazed by the outstanding Chardonnays made in Niagara (Sommelier tip: white Burgundy wine is 100% Chardonnay). After researching the Niagara wine scene, he purchased property in 2001 and his winery dream began to take shape.

Our Savvy Sommelier Susan Desjardins has a keen personal interest in organic and biodynamic wineries. She naturally gravitated to the Tawse story.  With all of the intricacies of the subject of organic and biodynamic, we’re sharing with you her interview with the Tawse team from our 2011 issue of the Savvy eZine because no one can eloquently explain organic like Susan can! Pop open the Spark bubbly or crack open the seal on the wines in this month’s Savvy Selections & enjoy the wines while you read more about Tawse.

In your Savvy Selections, you will find:

Limestone Ridge ‘Spark’ Riesling VQA 2013, $19.95 – Tawse’s signature sparkling wines – refreshing, dry bubbly that would is perfect enjoyed as you relax on your deck or your dock.

Quarry Road Vineyard Gewürztraminer VQA 2013, $24.95 – a BIG, beautiful, white wine loaded with concentrated aromas & flavours.  You’ll thank us for including this gem.

Gamay Noir VQA 2013, $18.95 – Medium bodied with warm smoke & red fruit flavours that would be perfect for simple BBQ fare like burgers, sausages & ribs.  At this price, they are giving this wine away!

All of the awards & recognition has drawn the attention of wine lovers like you & me to Tawse wines. At one time the price tags of their wines were untouchable (several wines still are!), yet recently, it appears that more of their wines are at an accessible price point.  We are confident that you’ll be impressed with this month’s selection.  At these prices, if you would like to stock up…simply give us a call on 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) to arrange a special delivery for you.

Cheers & Enjoy!

Debbie & Savvy Team

Tawse Winery

 Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins

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

When Moray TawseMoray Tawse (in photo) purchased the estate in 2001, he obtained existing vineyards – some with vines planted in the 1970s and 1980s. As he built his new winery with the old vines, he selected sites that offered unique terroir, for instance the Quarry Road site which is at the top of the Niagara escarpment, where the limestone in very accessible and minerality shines through. (try the Gewürztraminer we included to find these minerality notes)

As he was building the winery, he called on renowned winemaker Deborah Paskus to lead the winemaking team because her Chardonnay single-handedly changed his mind about establishing a winery in France and lay down his roots in Niagara instead. Paul Pender, fresh from Niagara College’s Winery & Viticulture program, joined as assistant winemaker. When Deborah decided to move to Closson Chase Winery in Prince Edward County, Moray then called on his long-time friend, internationally renowned consulting winemaker Pascal Marchand to assist with the 2005 vintage. With the French influence & more experience under this belt, Paul soon took the helm and brought in Rene van Ede from Australia with a palate extraordinaire. Paul and Rene are still the dynamic winemaking team today and the industry recognized their talent in 2011 when Paul was named Winemaker of the Year at the Ontario Wine Awards.

Known for his ‘non-interventionist as far as possible’ approach to winemaking, Paul has overseen both Tawse’s organic and biodynamic certification processes. His is a steward, watching over the vines and grapes, ‘keeping them safe and then letting the wine express its sense of place’.

Moray repeatedly explains in media interviews that the vineyard location is critically important. He is proud of the terroir that he has as it is similar to the region of Burgundy, France…and is one of the reasons he believes to invest in vineyards in Niagara.

Growing a Biodynamic Business

The state-of-the-art building is nestled into the Beamsville Bench along the Niagara Escarpment, housing an impressive six-level gravity flow winemaking operation. Underground cellars maintain the ideal temperature and humidity for barrel aging, while minimizing its impact on the environment. The geo-thermal energy system has reduced consumption of traditional energy by 80%, and the wetland bio-filter system ensures that all sanitary and winery waste water is recycled.

Biodynamic farming – as we explained in last month’s Savvy eZine featuring Southbrook Vineyards, is referred to as “extreme organics” – is the practice of ever increasing ecological self-sufficiency on the property (similar to last month’s featured winery – Southbrook Vineyards). The Tawse estate is farmed organically with everything done by hand. Biodynamic farming and winemaking techniques have been implemented – Ecocert and Demeter seals appear on all Tawse wines made from biodynamically cultivated fruit (note the Gewürztraminer).

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

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

And Moray’s dream of making wine in Burgundy is now coming to fruition as his friend Pascal Marchand has begun to operate a cuverie (winespeak: vat room) and cellars in Nuits-St-Georges, France.





Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling VQA 2013, $19.9513_Spark_Limestone_Ridge_Riesling

Tawse was one of the first Ontario wineries to make a bubbly using Riesling grapes…and their sparkling wines grace many restaurant wine lists. Respecting the Riesling grape, Paul continues with his non-interventionist approach from hand harvesting the grapes to leaving the wine to create itself.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Zippy with notes & tastes of lime, white grapefruit, crab apple & minerality tied up with a brioche aroma (think raisin Danish pastry) makes this bone dry bubbly refreshing.  The persistent and elegant mousse makes you yearn for another sip…then another bottle!

Suggested Food Pairing: “All you need is a hot day”, remarked one of our Savvy Sommeliers.  Chilled down before popping the cork, this bubbly will be fantastic on its own, with summertime , sushi, oysters, lacey parmesan cheese crisps…or a picnic!

Cellaring: Pop the cork now or cellar for 2-3 years


13_QuarryRoad_Gewurz_LargeTawse Quarry Road Gewürztraminer VQA 2013, $24.95

We are excited to showcase this wine as not many wineries in Ontario grow Gewürz grapes nor make a good wine.  The vines are grown in an area where the soil is uniquely composed of both limestone & clay soils.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Bursting from the glass with absolutely delicious and pretty aromas tropical fruits (think mango, guava, pineapple), white flowers and juicy apricots.  These continue in the taste with loads of pear, honey (or is it marmalade?) and smooth mouthfeel.

Suggested Food Pairing:  A dish with heat will be softened with this wine. Fish tacos, Phad Thai, or Indian red curry.

Cellaring: No need to wait – enjoy now


Tawse Gamay Noir VQA 2013

In its 3rd vintage & only 5000 bottles made, mark my word that this wine could be sold out by the time you want more! Perfect for summertime enjoyment as Gamay grapes produce a light to medium bodied wine ready to pair with anything off the grill or slipped into a picnic basket.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Fire engine red in colour, this warm red wine, ‘reminds me of roasted red peppers’, stated Debbie during the panel tasting. There is a race between the tannins & acidity as you swirl it in your mouth while tastes of cherry, pomegranate & smoke develop. A medium bodied red wine with a long delicious finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Fire up the BBQ! This is perfect with anything off the grill – vegetables, burgers, spicy sausages or saucy ribs. Rather than one BBQ recipe, we are giving you 10 rub recipes to try over the summer.

Cellaring: Enjoy now and stock up on several bottles…



With Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Riesling…

Rosemary & White Bean Dipwhite bean dip - serious eats
From Serious Eats
Serves 4 – 6


1 (15 ½ ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 medium cloves garlic, peeled
2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice and 1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest from 1 lemon
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons finely minced fresh rosemary
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Photo credit: Joshua Bousel, Serious Eats


Place beans, garlic, and lemon juice in the work-bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse until beans are roughly chopped

With motor running, slowly pour 1/4 cup of oil through feed tube. Process until mixture is smooth.

Transfer bean mixture to a small bowl. Stir in rosemary, lemon zest, and remaining 1 tablespoon of oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately or store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Serve with Greek pita wedges or pita crisps.


With Tawse Gewürztraminer

Firecracker Shrimp & Mango Avocado Dip

From the kitchen of Debbie Trenholm

Serves 4 to 6

This was served at a cocktail party and after the first bite, it of those “I got to have this recipe” moments. The exotic ingredients playfully complement each other and Gewürztraminer wine will enhance the flavours this appetizer to rave reviews!

Firecracker Shrimp – Ingredients

Freshly ground black pepper
Sesame oil
Sambal sauce (a Thai/Vietnamese red chili sauce – sold in bottles)


Quickly cook shrimp in boiling water and then cool under running water.  Remove shells.

Toss with sesame oil, pepper, salt, a sprinkle of white sugar and Sambal.

Taste and adjust seasoning. 

Ingredients – Mango & Avocado Dip

1 ripe mango, peeled and roughly chopped
1 ripe avocado, peeled and roughly chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
3 tablespoons of freshly grated ginger
1-2 tablespoons of liquid honey
Juice of 3-4 limes
1 teaspoon salt


 In food processor combine grated ginger (or chop knob of ginger in food processor first), mango, jalapeno, honey, avocado and lime juice.

Add vegetable oil and salt.  Taste and adjust seasonings.

Chef Tip: Try to achieve a balance of ginger, acid (lime) and sweetness.


With Tawse Gamay Noir…

10 Top Rubs for BBQ-ingMemphis_style_Rib_Rub

Everybody has a favorite way to prepare meats for BBQing.  Many of these recipes aren’t written down, rather by feel. To break away from using your ‘tried and tested’ marinade or rub, in true Letterman style, here are the top 10 recipes that are consistently favorited on’s web site:

  1. Kansas City Rub
  2. A Carolina BBQ Rub
  3. A Sparerib Rub
  4. Memphis Rub
  5. Best Odds Brisket Rub
  6. Magic Dust
  7. Memphis Style Rib Rub
  8. Basic Pork Rub
  9. Best Odds Pulled Pork Rub
  10. Brisket Brown Sugar Rub

Photo credit: Regarding BBQ Inc.

Check them out at
There is a recipe there for everyone!

Cheers & Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections!


Southbrook has a ‘Dynamic’ story!

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, May 19th, 2015



Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Southbrook Vineyards

–  May 2015 –

I don’t know where to start… This month we are featuring Southbrook Vineyards of Niagara-on-the-Lake & they have quite a story to tell. I’ll admit that I was first introduced to Southbrook with a sip of their Framboise raspberry wine. Fruit wine you say – yes!  As the expression goes…’you have come a long way baby!’ Southbrook is now less known for their fruit wine and they are more recognized for their commitment to biodynamic practices at every level in their business. They are also the only winery that we have featured in Savvy Selections who has appeared on Dragon’s Den….more about that on the following pages!

What is Biodynamic you ask?
“It’s extreme organics!” explains Southbrook’s winemaker Ann Sperling.  Her vineyard & winemaking Southbrook winery at nightteam creates wines that express the story both of the grapes & the ground that nourishes them.  Mark our words, with each sip of any wine from Southbrook, you’ll taste their commitment to the biodynamic grape growing & winemaking practices. “We want people to taste the purity in the wines we make,” explained owner Bill Redelmeier.

In your Savvy Selections parcel  you will find an amazing assortment from Southbrook:

Triomphe Chardonnay VQA 2013, $22.95 – an absolutely easy drinking Chardonnay with the refreshing fruit showing through interlaced with oak

Triomphe Cabernet Franc VQA 2013, $21.95 – fire up the BBQ!

Whimsy! Married Young VQA 2009 – $34.95 – this 6 year old wine has aged at the winery & is now ready for you to enjoy.

This selection shows that organic does not need to be expensive.  Our Savvy Selections tasting panel were impressed with the quality & readiness of these wines.  No need to cellar or decant, just twist the cap or pull the cork to enjoy fine Ontario wine.  “I simply want people to say – these wines have character,” states Bill. Let us know what you think.

Read all about it in your Savvy eZine!
While you relax on your dock or deck chair waiting for your BBQ to warm up, flip through the following pages to learn more about biodynamic grape growing & winemaking (I promise not to get technical!), the winery’s fascinating architecture, our Savvy Sommeliers’ tasting notes & recipes provided from Southbrook’s kitchen.

Want more Southbrook wines?
You may have noticed a few Southbrook wines in the LCBO, yet there is so much more available through us or when you visit the winery.  To stock up on any of the Savvy Selections wines, simply call the Savvy Team on 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) to make a special delivery for you.

Cheers & Enjoy!

Debbie & Savvy Team



Southbrook Vineyards

Presented by Sommelier Debbie Trenholm

“I thinkBILL AND MARILYN of wine like a talking stick”, shares Bill (right in picture). “You buy the wine because there is a story that you are eager to share with friends.” Bill & I have known each other for many years, yet during our phone conversation we commented that most of the time spent together was seeing each other at wine shows, in meetings at the winery or when Bill flies in to participate in a Savvy Taste & Buy event.  “Let’s make a point to go out for beers next time we see each other”, we said in unison.  It is a well-known fact that the drink of choice by most in the wine industry is beer!

On Dragon’s Den…

After a few beers I will endeavor to real dirt about Bill’s experience on Dragon’s Den in 2012. He explained the audition process and how one hour of filming with 8 cameras was unnerving enough then boiled down into 5 quick minutes we see on TV.  “Over 9,000 people audition and 200 pitches were selected to go before the Dragons,” explains Bill. “I was really hoping that Arlene or Jim would say – I’m in!” While the winery was mentioned several times, Bill’s focus was on pitching Bioflavia –a health bioflaviaproduct used made from the dried and crushed skins of red grapes from their organic vineyards.  This ‘wine waste’ contains high levels of natural and powerful antioxidants.  Bioflavia can be added as an ingredient in smoothies, cooking or baking.  “With the snap of Jim’s fingers, the dough of every Boston Pizza made could be enriched with a teaspoon of our product.” What happened in the Den?  Click to watch the video>>

Biodynamics 101

Bill & Marilyn are the driving force behind the winery’s organic and biodynamic practices. They are the first to tell you that they are fundamentally agriculturalists. Bill explained that his grandfather had a Jersey dairy farm in Richmond Hill.  Growing up, he’d always been surrounded by farmers.  Initially, Bill wanted to start an ice cream company using the rich Jersey milk from his grandfather’s dairy.  grapesThe hurdle came when he discovered that his family’s milk could not be separated out from other Jersey farms – unlike a winery. Long story shortened, Bill shelved the ice cream idea and ventured into the winery business.  “I wanted people to taste the terroir – the exact place where the fruit was grown.”

“We were drawn to biodynamics as it is a way to fully express the vineyard’s character in our wines. I did not want to make low end wines. There is no appeal or talking stick in making 2 buck chuck!”

If biodynamic is a new wine term for you, Southbrook’s winemaker Ann Sperling, puts it simply: ‘extreme organics’.  Biodynamic agricultural promotes the ecological self-sufficiency and internal harmony of the land while taking into account the cycles of nature (ie. various stages of the moon) and there is a philosophical and spiritual aspect woven in too.

Our Sommelier Susan Desjardins (also a trained horticulturalist) explains more.  Growing practices are quite similar to organic agriculture, but a specific calendar is followed to help determine when activities such as pruning and fSouthbrook sorting grapesertilizing should be undertaken in the vineyards. In addition, a variety of treatments are applied to the soil, generally using ingredients that are derived from plants or animals that are integral to the property. Other approaches include planting cover crops between the vines that attract beneficial insects and using lambs to ‘mow’ these areas. Southbrook has 80-90 ewes in their herd.

Ann explained to Susan, “Biodynamics says the farm is an entire ‘living system’. The resulting practices are about quality – quality in the bottle and quality of life.”

Southbrook is the first biodynamic winery in Canada.  They keep company of other well-known wineries including Chapoutier and Domaine Leflaive of France. “Many of the wineries in the great wine regions of France are biodynamic”, Bill explains. “Like Southbrook, their wine labels do not herald their biodynamic certification.  You can tell just by the taste that the wine has soul.”

What is in Bill & Marilyn’s cellar?

There’s about 1800 – 2000 bottles mainly old Bordeaux, ports and Chardonnay. “Nothing fancy to look at but it is well organized with IKEA shelving and like most cellars, there are always cases of wine on the floor.”

 I’ll raise a glass to that! Enjoy your Savvy Selections.



Since 2008, all of the yeast used in the winemaking process is natural yeast.  “We sold all of our commercial yeast and now use what is naturally in the air. Our vineyard is alive!” proudly explains Bill.


Triomphe Chardonnay 2013 VQA, $22.95southbrook chardonnay

Made with Chardonnay grapes picked at various times throughout October from 5 different organic vineyards in Niagara.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Our tasting panel raved about this lively Chardonnay.  Notes of fresh juicy peach, grapefruit & apples follow through into the taste with a hint of nutmeg & vanilla.  A rich wine that is beautifully balanced, laced with subtle oak with a zip of acidity.  The soul of the wine definitely shines through!

Suggested Food Pairing: This wine is simply delicious on its own (I am enjoying as I write this eZine!), with pork tenderloin, sushi, crabcakes or fish. The Savvy Selections tasting panel had so many good recipes to share and so did the winery, that we have not one…but three recipes that hit the mark! Peach Pizza, Sunshine Salmon & a unique recipe for Banana Leaf Tilapia with Lemon Beurre Blanc Egg Noodles.

Cellaring: Drinking well now or cellar 3-5 years.

Triomphe Cabernet Franc VQA 2013, $21.95triomphe cabernet franc

Ontario continues to impress us with Cabernet Franc wines.  And this one is a fine example of how a big red wine can be made in a cold climate wine growing region. This wine contains 95% Cabernet Franc with a splash (5%) of Merlot to give it finesse.

Winemakers Tasting Notes: The wine presents a nose of red currant with notes of raspberry, savoury herbs and cedar wood. The palate echoes the fruit aromas supported by medium toast and firm tannins. The finish is of medium length and is driven by both fruit and savoury notes.

Note: our Savvy Selections panel tasted a different vintage, so the above notes are provided by the winery.

Suggested Food Pairing: Fire up the BBQ!  Ribs, burgers or spring lamb chops would be a perfect pairing.

Cellaring: Ready now or can be cellared a further 3-5 years.


Whimsy! Married Young 2009 VQA $34.95Southbrook married young

As you might imagine, there is no end to experimenting at Southbrook. The Whimsy label is where Ann and the winemaking team stretches their talent and winemaking techniques to play!  Wines are made in small lot batches (so there are no big mistakes).  On the label, each dab of paint represents a different varietal in the Southbrook palette to make an interesting design element that is…simply whimsical.

Winemaker Notes: This blend is 67% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Cabernet Franc.  The juice of the two varieties were fermented separately, then blended prior to barrel aging (in French oak) in order to “marry” and create a wine of more complexity, depth and completeness.  Released in February 2015 after several years aging at the winery. 138 cases were produced….and Savvy Selections subscribers took many of them!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Gorgeous! A smooth, delicious deep red wine that has blackberry, boysenberry, black licorice, leather, cedar and forest floor (think of walking in the woods after a rain). Tannins have mellowed with age, with a zip of acidity that will smooth out with food (we tried it with old cheddar), and long lingering smoky finish.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Beef, beef, and beef! If you are vegetarian, then grilled mushrooms will be delish!

Cellaring: Ready now, no need to wait any longer.




With Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay

Peach Pizza

From Southbrook’s Kitchen
Serves 4


fresh peaches – from Niagara of course!
goat cheese
2 tbsp organic honey
½ tsp balsamic vinegar
olive oil
fresh basil


Combine balsamic vinegar and organic honey with olive oil to taste. Stir until combined.

Half peaches and lightly brush with oil, to prevent sticking on the BBQ.

Place flesh side down on BBQ on medium heat for 5 minutes.

Brush flatbread with olive oil and kosher salt. Put on BBQ on medium heat for a couple minutes.

Remove peaches and flatbread.

Cut peaches onto the flatbread and sprinkle cheese onto pizza. Drizzle balsamic honey dressing on top.

Cook on top rack until cheese is melted. Remove and sprinkle chopped basil on top.

Cut and enjoy!


Another recipe to serve with

Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay

Sunshine Salmon

From Kitchen at Publix
Serves 4

Ingredientssunshine salmon - Publix

2 teaspoons garlic, finely chopped
1 Tbsp fresh dill, finely chopped
2 oranges
½ cup sweet white wine (or chicken broth)
4 (6-oz) salmon fillets, skin removed
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 Tbsp orange marmalade
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp unsalted butter


Cut ½ orange into ¼ inch-thick slices (rounds), then cut slices into quarters. Squeeze remaining 1 ½ oranges for juice (about ½ cup).

Place wine, orange juice, garlic, dill, and orange slices in large sauté pan and cover; bring to a boil on medium-high. Reduce heat to low; simmer uncovered 7 minutes.

Check fish for bones. Season salmon on both sides with garlic seasoning and pepper. Add salmon to wine mixture; simmer 3–4 minutes on each side or until salmon is opaque and separates easily. Transfer salmon to serving dish.

Add marmalade and mustard to wine mixture; cook and stir 1 minute or until marmalade dissolves and sauce thickens. Remove pan from heat; stir in butter (being gentle while stirring, so fruit stays intact). Pour sauce over salmon & serve.


Even more recipes to serve with Triomphe Chardonnay!

Spicy BBQ’d Banana Leaf Tilapia with Lemon Beurre Blanc Egg Noodles

From Southbrook’s Kitchen
Serves 4

 Ingredients for Tilapia

4 pieces of tilapia
4 pieces of banana leaves
¼ Spanish onion
3 cloves garlic
1 red chili
1 tsp tumeric
½ tsp sea salt & cracked pepper
2 stalks of lemon grass
1 Tbsp of vegetable oil
¼ cup butter
8 wood skewers

Ingredients for Lemon Beurre Blanc Egg Noodles

½ cup white wine
1 cup 35% cream
2 lemons – juiced
1 cup butter
4 pieces of baby bok choy
egg noodles
1 cup of sliced cherry tomatoes

Method for Banana Leaf Tilapia

Finely dice Spanish onion, garlic, red chili (seeds removed) and lemon grass. Add salt, pepper, tumeric, vegetable oil and butter. Mix well.

Place tilapia on the banana leaf and spread marinade over fish. Wrap the banana leaf around the tilapia and secure with skewers.

Heat one side of the BBQ to high. Place wrapped fish on direct heat. Sear 2 minutes per side and then move wrapped fish off direct heat and finish cooking for 10 minutes with BBQ closed. Should reach 375°F.

Method for Lemon Beurre Blanc Egg Noodles

In a large sauce pan, combine wine, cream and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat and simmer until ½ of the volume remains.

Add 1 cup of butter. Stir constantly. Sauce will thicken with the addition of butter. Continue stirring until desired consistency is reached.

In a separate pot, steam baby bok choy. At the same time, cook egg noodles. Drain noodles.

Add baby bok choy and uncooked, diced cherry tomatoes. Slowly add Beurre Blanc and stir. Serve with Banana Leaf Tilapia on top of the noodles.

With Southbrook Triomphe Cabernet Franc

BBQ Smoky Pork Ribs with Asian Slaw

From: Regan Kapach – Southbrook’s Assistant Winemaker

Serves several rib lovers!

Ingredients for RibsWINERY

1 side pork ribs
1 onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves garlic, halved
1 to 2 litres beer
1 to 2 litres water
1 bay leaf
1 Tbsp each salt & pepper
1 Tbsp Chinese five spice
1 tsp cloves
2 inches fresh ginger
1 cup homemade BBQ sauce

 Method for Ribs:

Portion ribs into ‘four-rib’ pieces for easier cooking and serving.

Parboil the ribs for 2 hours in mixture of half water/half beer (enough of each to just cover the ribs), plus the onion, garlic, ginger, bay leaf and spices. Remove from pot and refrigerate for half and hour.

Leftover boiling mixture can be strained and reduced to make an amazing beef/pork stew stock!

Fire up the barbie! Cook ribs until done to your liking.

Ingredients for Slaw

½ head of Chinese cabbage, shredded
1 good sized carrot, grated
1 handful of sweet peas, julienned
3 green onions, julienned
1 Tbsp toasted sesame seeds
fresh cilantro to garnish

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl.  Toss with dressing.  Refrigerate until ready to serve.

 Ingredients for Dressing

2 Tbsp mayonnaise
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
Whisk together the dressing ingredients and pour over slaw.


 Enjoy your Savvy Selections!



Sipping a little history of Prince Edward County

Posted by Susan

Tuesday, May 15th, 2012

Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring The Grange of Prince Edward Vineyard & Estate Winery
– May 2012 –

A visit to Prince Edward County wineries, or better yet next weekend’s, Terroir Wine Festival  is both an opportunity to taste wines, explore the vineyards and marvel at the historic restored buildings on site; a visit provides a Canadian history lesson too.

The County is one of the areas settled by United Empire Loyalists after the American Revolution. In 1972, Robert Granger purchased the 150-acre home farm on the original Trumpour family patent, including the mill which produced most of the lumber used in the historic barn (built in 1826) which houses The Grange of Prince Edward winery tasting room and barrel cellar.

History tells us that the Trumpour family arrived in Canada after the Revolution, driven from the Thirteen Colonies by their allegiance to the British Crown. Roughly 50,000 Loyalists emigrated, many from disbanded Loyalist regiments, and settled in the upper St. Lawrence valley. They brought with them their customs, British Law and land tenure, and representative government. After lobbying by the Loyalists, the British Parliament passed the Canada Act in 1791, effectively dividing Québec into Upper (Ontario) and Lower (Québec) Canada.

Building on the deep history of this property and region, Robert and his daughter Caroline Granger partnered in 2002 to establish one of the first wineries in the newly developing wine appellation of Prince Edward County (PEC).

Our Savvy Sommelier Susan Desjardins caught up with Caroline on a recent visit to the winery.  From your fist metting, Caroline exudes energy and enthusiasm as she guides you around the property and through the wine cellar and winemaking facilities. Although her father’s career was focused in Toronto, he purchased the property with the intention of giving his children the experience of growing up on a farm. Caroline spent her youth there, leaving at the age of 16 when she was whisked away to Paris and a modeling career that kept her in Europe for 10 years. This career eventually took her to the United States, where she married and began to raise her family. In 1997, she moved back to the farm, looking for a career that would allow her to spend more time with her three children.

Caroline recalls that one wet spring day, she helping plant grape vines at a nearby vineyard.  This prompted her to suggest to her father that they plant 10 acres to vines. “This place has always been a working farm. I saw the vineyard as a way to re-establish a viable, sustainable role for the property.” As part of a college course she was taking at the time, Caroline developed a business proposal to discuss with her father. With his agreement and support, she took the wine technician program at Loyalist College and, in 2001 the first vines were planted. Her initial harvest in 2003 produced Prince Edward County’s first Ontario award-winning wine, the Trumpour’s Mill 2003 Gamay Noir 2003.

Caroline’s vineyards and range of wines have expanded over the years, with a strong emphasis on Pinot Noir. We are delighted to showcase in this month’s Savvy Selections:
– Chardonnay VQA 2007– a creamy, well-balanced wine
– Diana’s Block Pinot Noir VQA 2007 – The Grange’s elegant premium Pinot Noir
– Northfield Cabernet Franc VQA 2007 – a complex wine that we think is ready to enjoy now or can be put in your cellar.

Stock up for the summer…

You won’t find these wines from The Grange at the LCBO.  So, if you found a new favorite wine and would like additional bottles, give me a call and I will take care of ordering more for you.  Simply, call me at 613-SAVVYCO (613-728-8926) or sending me an e-mail at

Cheers & Enjoy!
– Debbie & Savvy Team


The Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards & Estate Winery
Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins


Not only did Caroline Granger (left) learn about cell biology, fermentation processes and vineyard management at Loyalist College, she learned to drive a tractor and cultivate fields. She has maintained that hands-on approach through her tenure at The Grange. She exudes intensity as we sit in the tasting room on a cool spring day, discussing winemaking at The Grange and the challenges of viticulture in the County. “Did you know that over a 100-year horizon, PEC is only one degree Celsius cooler than Niagara? And in the summer, we’re actually one degree warmer.” She describes the Hillier area (where The Grange is located) as a bit of a “heat sink’; while they don’t benefit from the lake effect, the area has an advantage for ripening in the summer.

What did she learn that has proven true? “The main thing is that Pinot Noir from the County is extra-ordinary”. Other key factors: fans are essential in the vineyard to keep the frost off her vines. And vine spacing has also proven critical to her success. The fairly wide rows and vine spacing ensure a balanced crop load, provide the vines access to the nutrients they need, and permit higher canopies and more leaves to ensure better ripeness. These rows allow high hilling up because, yes, two canes on each vine are buried every fall to guard against freezing – “that’s 170,000 canes we buried in 2011”, remarks Caroline.

Her focus has always been on growing the best possible fruit, and now, with 60 acres under vine, she is able to produce estate-only wines. The vineyard spreads across six blocks, grown on shallow but fertile soils known as Hillier clay gravel. The Northfield block offers the deepest soils, at 36 inches. The underlying bedrock is limestone that fractures naturally, facilitating root growth and bringing a mineral quality to the wines. “When I started planting the vineyard, I focused on the varietals best suited to the alkaline soils we have, and those that would ripen early. So we started with Chardonnay, Gamay and Pinot Noir.” Pinot Noir is her passion, with 17 acres devoted to this varietal, used in sparkling wine, rosé and both The Grange and Trumpour’s Mill varietal wines. She’s added Pinot Gris, Riesling, Cabernet Franc (that you received this month) and an experimental block of Sauvignon Blanc, which is the longest ripening varietal. The first 12 acres were planted in 2001, an additional 32 acres established between 2002 and 2004, with the most recently planted vines dating from 2007.

The Grange’s initial production started small in 2003 at 1600. Now Caroline has her eye on producing 12,500 cases this year – organic growth that has allowed her to maintain a strong focus on style and quality.

Her role at the winery is definitely hands on, “I’m the vineyard manager, the winemaker, the CEO, the CFO . . . !” Asked how she became a winemaker, Caroline’s sense of humour ignites—‘Well, I started growing 150 tonnes of grapes!”. While she trained academically in college, with her first harvests she used consulting winemakers, working closely with them. “Winemaking is part art, part science. You start with the healthiest possible grapes, and then you create the best possible conditions for healthy fermentation, which include clean fruit, quick processing, carefully selected yeast strains, and ongoing monitoring through the vinification process.” Her daughter Maggie has started working with her in winemaking and is showing both talent and enthusiasm. While talking to Maggie as she guides us through a tasting, it’s clear she is actively involved in winery decisions, putting forward the research and rationale behind The Grange’s decision to continue using cork rather than migrating to Stelvin closures (winespeak: screwcaps). It’s definitely a family affair, with son Brandon (currently studying at Trent University) working in the tasting room over the summer, and youngest son Quinton the ‘IT wizard’.

With each visit to the winery, you will always find something new.  This summer, Maggie is leading an organic market garden to supply produce for the restaurant and the vineyard workers. Caroline has hired an all-female crew this year and plans to provide 3 healthy meals each day for her staff. “I want my workplace to be more accessible for women.” It is clear that Caroline never stands still!

Cheers & Enjoy your Savvy Selections!

~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~

Trumpour’s Mill Chardonnay 2007 VQA, $16.00

Chardonnay was among the first varietals planted on the Granger estate. A grape which lends itself to a range of styles, this exemplar is unoaked and displays the texture and complexity of extended lees contact.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Offering tantalizing aromas of jasmine, honeyed stone fruit, pear and mango, this is a balanced creamy yet dry wine, weighty with flavourful fruit and kissed with a touch of toasted nuts. It finishes slightly warm and gently spiced.

Suggested Food Pairing: Enjoy this wine with pasta in a cream-based sauce, with crab cakes or lobster, or with savoury roast chicken.

Cellaring:  Delightful now or over the next couple of years!


Diana’s Block Pinot Noir 2007 VQA, $35.00

Produced from the fruit of a vineyard planted in 2001 and named after Caroline’s mother, the driving force behind the well-kept grounds, this wine is produced only in years of exceptional fruit. Hand tended and pruned, hand sorted, aged in French barriques (winespeak: small oak barrels), only the best barrels are included in this limited production release. This is a very special wine.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: “Oh my, oh my, it’s hard to stop sniffing and savouring the enticing aromas”, remarks Susan during the Savvy Selections tasting panel. Sweet spice, subtle smoke, earthiness and ripe cherry and raspberry! Medium bodied with a fine silky texture, the lively acidity and fine tannins frame tangy red fruit which mingles with white pepper, sweet spice and a hint of capsicum. Great balance and a lively fruity finish! Can you tell that we love this wine?

Suggested Food Pairing:  A match for roast duck, pork with a burgundy sauce, or wild coho salmon.

Cellaring:  Enjoy now or over the next couple of years.

Northfield Cabernet Franc 2007 VQA $35.00

Planted in 2003, this vineyard benefits from the high plateau on which it is located, protected from frost and exposed to maximum seasonal sunshine, assuring full even ripening of the fruit. Once again, only the exceptional barrels were selected for this Grange wine. We are excited that Caroline had ‘just enough’ bottles of this wine to be included in Savvy Selections.  There are only 2 cases left!  If you would like more – contact Debbie sooner than later!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Dry, medium bodied, this wine offers subtle aromas, ranging from floral, vanilla, cigar box and campfire smoke through dried cherries, berries and plum. Subtle notes of roasted red pepper and herbs mingle with vibrant red berry flavours. The well integrated tannins and lively acidity provide the structure for further aging, while appealing notes of sweet spice linger on the finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Simply put – Lamb anyone?

Cellaring: Delicious now, this wine will cellar a further 3-4 years

~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

With Trumpour’s Mill Chardonnay…

Perfect Lemon Roasted Chicken
Adapted from Anna & Michael Olson, Cook at Home
Serves 6

1 4 lb. roasting chicken
1 onion, sliced
2 lemons, sliced
2-4 cloves garlic, peeled, sliced
4 sprigs fresh rosemary
Extra virgin olive oil for basting
Coarsely ground salt & pepper

2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp finely chopped fresh rosemary
2-4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil


  1. For chicken, preheat oven to 350F. Arrange half the onion slices, lemon slices and 1-2 cloves of garlic in a roasting pan just a few inches larger than the chicken. Place the chicken on top of the vegetables and fill its cavity with the remaining onion, lemon and garlic. Insert rosemary sprigs into cavity. Baste chicken with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt & pepper.
  2.  Cover pan and roast for about 1 hour. Remove cover, baste chicken with juices from bottom of pan and continue roasting until an internal temperature of 175 F is reached (about 30-45 minutes more). Remove pan from oven and let chicken rest for 10 minutes before carving.
  3. While chicken is resting, prepare vinaigrette. Strain onion, lemon and garlic from bottom of pan, saving juices to return to pan (discard vegetables). Place pan over medium heat and add lemon juice, stirring to pull up any caramelized bits. Stir in Dijon mustard and rosemary and remove from heat. Whisk in olive oil slowly and season to taste. Carve chicken and spoon vinaigrette over chicken.


With Diana’s Block Pinot Noir

Smoked Grilled Salmon
Lucy Waverman & James Chatto, A Matter of Taste
Serves 4-6

2 lb salmon fillet
1 Tbsp maple syrup
1 Tbsp dry mustard
2 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp cracked peppercorns
Soaked cedar plank


  1. Combine the maple syrup, dry mustard, salt & pepper and spread over salmon fillet. Marinate 30 minutes.
  2. Place a smoker basket with wood chips on BBQ coals. Heat grill over high heat until you see smoke.
  3. Place a soaked cedar plank on grill and leave for 3-4 minutes, or until you smell smoke. Immediately turn plank and place fish on top.
  4. Cover grill and cook salmon for 10-15 minutes, or until fish is just cooked. Cut salmon into serving portions on plank and slide off onto serving plates.


With Northfield Cabernet Franc…

Grilled Lamb Loin with Sundried Tomato Vinaigrette
Anna & Michael Olson, Cook at Home
Serves 12

12 boneless lamb loins, 6-7oz. each
6 garlic cloves, crushed
1 Tbsp chopped fresh thyme
2 tsp cracked black pepper
¼ C extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp coarse salt


2/3 C diced sundried tomatoes
2/3 C chopped Italian flat leaf parsley
¼ C extra virgin olive oil
¼ C balsamic vinegar
¼ C water
Coarse salt & ground black pepper


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

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

3.  To serve, slice the lamb loin into 5 pieces diagonally across the grain of the meat. Fan out them out, overlapping the slices on the plate and top with vinaigrette. Serve with boiled new potatoes and roasted root vegetable medley.

 Cheers & Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections!


Made in France

Posted by Susan

Thursday, March 1st, 2012

French wine fans will enjoy the March 3rd LCBO Vintages segment featuring signature varieties of France, many of which have now proliferated around the globe. Among the whites are classic crisp intensely aromatic varietals from Alsace (Pinot Gris, Riesling and Gewurztraminer), Chardonnay in two unique styles from Burgundy (Chablis and Meursault), and a vibrant penetrating Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire (Sancerre). The selection of French red wines in the feature provides the opportunity to taste well-known single-varietal wines, such as Morgon (Gamay), Volnay (Pinot Noir), Crozes-Hermitage (Syrah) and Cahors (Malbec). For a sampling of the unique blends found in some of France’s best-known appellations, try a Cabernet or Merlot-dominated Bordeaux, a Grenache-based Vacqueyras or Châteauneuf-du-Pape, or a Grenache-Carignan blend from the South. The selection emphasizes the wide range of terroir and wine styles to be found in this long-established Old World region.

There’s also a fabulous selection of Chilean Carmenère red wines in this release with a French connection! Did you know that Carmenère grape was part of the Bordeaux red wine blend prior to the vineyard devastation caused by infamous plant louse phylloxera? The grape was brought to Chile in the mid-1800s and misidentified as the Merlot grape until the mid-1990s. It’s a late-ripening varietal that prefers richer clay soils. When fully ripened, it displays an intense purple-red hue, a full velvety texture, aromas of berry fruit, spice and chocolate. The wines in this selection range from the iconic Montes Purple Angel, to Natura’s organic Carmenère. Enjoy these substantial and flavourful wines.

There are several good values at or under $15, including Cattail Creek ‘Estate’ Sauvignon Blanc, Don Cristobal 1492 Bonarda, Umani Ronchi ‘San Lorenzo’ Rosso Conero, Casa Silva Carmenère, Château de Parenchères and Palacios Remondo La Vendimia.

Among the Canadian wines, I would recommend the robust Jackson-Triggs Gold Series Sunrock Vineyard Shiraz  and the round, fruity Featherstone Red Tail Merlot.

Cheers and Enjoy,

If I only had $100, I would buy . . .
LCBO Vintages Release as of Saturday, March 3, 2012


Marimar Estate ‘La Masía Don Miguel Vineyard’ Chardonnay 2007

Russian River Valley, California
$19.95 (Vintages #270090) 14.2% alcohol
Produced from organic grapes grown in a vineyard named after Miguel Torres, this Chardonnay has loads of personality. Dry, medium-full bodied white wine, it’s fragrant with ripe apple, pear and pineapple mingling with nutty, spicy aromas. Round, silky yet juicy and fresh, it delivers the zing of citrus, hints of caramel apple and roasted pear and a long mouthwatering finish. Enjoy now with chicken casserole or cellar 3-5 years.

Yalumba ‘The Y Series’ Viognier 2011

South Australia
$15.95 (Vintages #624502) 13.5% alcohol
Featuring perfumed floral and fruit aromas, this dry, mid-full bodied white wine is reliably good. It delivers nicely matched acidity and depth of fruit flavours—stone fruit and  sweet citrus to the fore—finishing with an appealing slightly bitter hint of zest adding tang to the fruit.

Perrin & Fils ‘Les Christins’ Vacqueyras 2009

AOC Vacqueyras, France
$23.95 (Vintages #973453) 14.5% alcohol
This appealing red wine blend of Grenache (dominantly) and Syrah displays great integration and balance while delivering a complex array of aromas—sweet fruit, spiced vanilla, floral notes and sweet dried herbs. Dry, medium-full bodied red wine, the sweetness of licorice mingles with the rich fruit flavours across the palate, subtle nuances of spice and toast persisting on the smooth supple finish. Enjoy it now or cellar medium term.

Misiones de Rengo ‘Gran Reserva Cuvée’ Carmenère 2010

Rapel Valley
$19.95 (Vintages #264937) 14.0% alcohol
Intriguing notes of dried herbs, flowers, red berries, cherries and exotic spice drift from the glass of this dry, medium-full bodied red wine. The framing is subtle, the texture fresh, well-integrated oak exists in fine balance with delicious red fruit and attractive notes of spiced dark chocolate. Quite refined, offering persistent fruit and notes of spice and toast on the lasting finish, this is a very good value that will cellar medium term.

Umani Ronchi ‘San Lorenzo’ Rosso Conero 2008
 DOCRosso Conero, Italy

$14.95 (Vintages #981191) 13.5% alcohol
Deep ruby violet, this is a very nice valued red wine produced from the Montepulciano grape, part of the wine aged in barrique and large cask. Aromas of sweet ripe fruit, black licorice, herbs and earth lift from the glass. Dry, medium bodied, the dark berry fruit is framed by sleek tannins and lively acidity, earthy notes and hints of char adding layers of flavour that persist through the mouthwatering dry finish. Enjoy now or cellar short term.

Grand Total: $94.75


Customer favorite wines featured this week in LCBO Vintages

Posted by Susan

Thursday, February 16th, 2012

The February 18th LCBO Vintages release showcases the depth and breadth of the LCBO’s global reach and the wide-ranging tastes of you, its customers. Your favorites are featured (Customer Faves), wines from around the world, of various styles at differing price points. This edition of If I had $100 focuses on customer choices, including a Crèmant de Bourgogne (you’re probably out of bubbly after Valentine’s Day!), a clean dry New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, three great reds from France, Italy and Spain, and a powerful Australian Shiraz as an optional wine if you have extra $$ to splurge. There are, of course, many other wines to choose from in this feature, from great-value wines to tried and true crowd pleasers, through cellarable iconic wines—don’t hesitate to do a little shopping on your own!

This release also offers a unique opportunity to sample three Chardonnays crafted by Thomas Bachelder, former celebrated winemaker at Le Clos Jordanne turned ‘wine gypsy’. His goal is to let the cool-climate terroir of Niagara, Oregon and Burgundy speak through these beautifully balanced wines.

And for those fans of 13th Street Winery Riesling, there is a duo in the Terroir feature that offers a great opportunity to contrast and compare.

In the main release is an excellent Mike Weir Wines Riesling (unbelievably only $14.95) which you may also enjoy. There’s a good selection of Kosher wines in this release, of which I would recommend the Castell d’Olerdola Brut Cava, the Recanati Shiraz, and the Côtes du Rhône blend from Vignobles David.

For good value under $15, try the Perrin & Fils Réserve Côtes du Rhône Blanc and the Hacienda Araucano ‘Reserva’ Syrah. Looking for a fabulous wine from an iconic producer. Choose the customer favorite, Duckhorn Merlot.

Cheers & Enjoy,

If I only had $100, I would buy . . .
LCBO Vintages Release as of Saturday, February 18, 2012

Louis Bouillot ‘Perle d’Ivoire’ Brut Blanc de Blancs n/v

AOC Crémant de Bourgogne, France
$18.95 (Vintages #48801) 12.0% alcohol
Dry, light in body, offering a fine creamy mousse, this lovely Crémant balances refreshing vibrant acidity, clean minerality and subtle notes of citrus, green apple and brioche. Long and bright on the finish, it is an excellent value and can be enjoyed on its own or with light appetizers.

Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc 2011

Marlboroug, New Zealand
$15.95 (Vintages #981670) 13.0% alcohol
Almost transparent, this wine offers a harmonious profile and the attractive pungency of lime, grapefruit, gooseberry and fresh herbs—oregano comes to mind. Dry, medium bodied, it’s juicy and crisp, with a tangy, refreshing slightly pithy finish. Try it with a crustless goat cheese and vegetable quiche.

Château Saint-Roch Chimères 2009

AOC Côtes du Rousillon-Villages
$18.95 (Vintages #119354) 14.5% alcohol
This blend of Grenache and Syrah with a dash of Carignan delivers on all counts. The aromas are enticing and complex—sweet fruit underlies herbal/lavender notes, a mineral character, hints of spiced chocolate. Dry, medium-full bodied, there’s depth and breadth to the fruit—blackberry, plum and tangy raspberry—a refreshing texture, ripe tannins and a nuance of spiced vanilla. The finish is warm, lasting and loaded with ripe fruit. A great value, enjoy it now with herbed lamb chops or cellar medium term.

Masi Brolo di Campofiorin 2007

IGT Rosso del Veronese Appaxximento, Italy
$24.95 (Vintages #976092) 14.0% alcohol
Dense, robust, inky and concentrated, this is another beautifully crafted winner, commanding attention with intense aromas of dark fruit, smoke, earth and dried fruits. Offering great substance, structure and weight, it’s dry, velvety and intensely flavourful, with a punch of spice and pepper lifting the concentrated dark fruit. Enjoy the slightly warm, spicy, well-balanced finish. Serve with a strongly flavoured meat dish, or cellar medium term.

Bodegas Lan Crianza 2007

DOCa Rioja, Spain
$15.95 (Vintages #166538) 13.5% alcohol
This classic ruby-toned Tempranillo entices with layered aromas of red fruit, spice, vanilla and hints of flowers and leather. Dry, medium-full bodied, well-framed red fruit is matched with lively acidity, spicy notes tingling on the palate, a peppery note adding a tang to the full fruity finish. Enjoy with a cheesy tourtière.

Grand Total: $94.75


Worth the splurge  
A big bold Australian Shiraz that’s always a winner!

 Pirramimma Shiraz 2009

McLaren Vale, Australia
$26.95 (987784) 15.5% alcohol
Inky and intense from start to finish, this is a big, robust, flavourful wine with great depth of flavour and well-defined structure. Intense aromas of sweet dark fruit, dried fruit, licorice allsorts, spice and vanilla captivate. The fruit jumps to the fore on the palate and carries right through the extended finish, subtle acidity and ripe tannins bringing balance, spice and pepper tantalizing. This calls for a big juicy steak with a balsamic herb dressing. Cellar medium term.


Wines & Tennis – a perfect match!

Posted by Susan

Thursday, January 19th, 2012

On Saturday LCBO Vintages features ‘Australian got Style’, emphasizing the wide range of varietals and  types of wine from this powerhouse wine producer.

Did you know that the Australian Open Tennis Tournament, running January 16-29, celebrates its 100th anniversary this year? With Austalian Open as the sub-title of this Vintages feature, it gives you a good excuse to choose from among the great selection of wines from South Australia’s Barossa and Clare Valleys, as well as a couple of wines from the Heathcote Hills and Mornington Peninsula, nearer to Melbourne, where the tournament is being hosted. The Barossa Valley offers some of Australia’s best quality wines, especially Shiraz produced from older vines. The Clare Valley is recognized for more structured red wines displaying natural acidity, as well as firm, dry Riesling. Consider a selection of wines from this feature to keep you company during the Open, such as the Jim Berry duo – a lovely dry Riesling and a plush, smooth Shiraz (check out that Clare Valley character), the ripe fruity Hewitson Miss Harry blend, the inky full-bodied Turkey Flat Butchers Block blend, or the concentrated balanced Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon.

Step out of your comfort zone with the second feature, Discovery Grapes, which highlights some of the lesser-known grapes from across the world. There’s some excellent value here – in fact, four wines from this feature are included in our selection below – a creamy Chenin Blanc from South Africa, a smoky structured Monastrell (Mourvèdre) blend from Spain, an intensely aromatic Montepulciano d’Abruzzo—only made in the best vintages—and a powerful Petit Verdot from Chile. The main release also offers some really good wines under $15 – Alamos Malbec and Alfredo Roca Pinot Noir from Argentina, Pierre Sparr Réserve Pinot Blanc and La Chablisienne Saint-Bris Sauvignon Blanc (a unique wine from an appellation known for Chardonnay) from France. Once again, we’ve managed to squeeze 6 tasty value-packed wines into this selection. Buy some, buy them all, at less than $100!

Cheers and Enjoy,

If I only had $100, I would buy . . .
LCBO Vintages Release as of Saturday, January 21, 2012

Spice Route Chenin Blanc 2009
Swartland, South Africa
$17.95 (Vintages #174623) 14.0% alcohol
From low-yielding bush vines, this golden barrel-fermented ‘Steen’ is richly aromatic—orchard fruit, spice, caramel and toasted hazelnut burst from the glass. Dry, creamy and softly textured, well-integrated oak complements a rush of orchard fruit and lemon curd. Lovely balance, weight and texture—what’s not to like!

Castaño ‘Reserva’ Pozuelo 2006
Yecla, Spain
$14.95 (Vintages #35485) 13.5% alcohol
Produced from Monastrell (Mouvèdre) with a dollop each of Cab Sauv, Syrah and Merlot, the old bush vines flourishing on a windy, dry, sunny plateau, this is a wine where balance and structure are the watchwords. Aromas of sweetly spiced fruit, vanilla, licorice and campfire smoke herald concentrated flavours of ripe dark berries, plum, herbs and sweet spice. Dry, medium-full bodied, displaying perceptible tannins and fresh acidity, the long dry finish offers the warmth of sun-kissed fruit. Enjoy it with braised short ribs and roast root veggies.

Talamonti ‘Tre Saggi’ Montepulciano d’Abruzzo 2008
DOC Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, Italy
$15.95 (Vintages #204016) 13.5% alcohol
This award-winning wine, hand harvested and aged 12 months in French oak, offers an attractive value equation. Complexity on the nose recurs on the palate—ripe fruit, autumnal notes, vanilla, coffee bean and toast mingle to create interest and depth. The dark berry and cherry fruit is quite plush, the tannins soft, the acidity fresh, creating a dry, medium-full bodied wine with great balance and a touch of sweet vanilla on the lasting finish. Enjoy it with herbed roast pork au jus.

Santa Carolina ‘Barrica Selection’ Petit Verdot 2009
Rapel Valley, Chile
$14.95 (Vintages #7484) 14.5% alcohol
Inky, with a concentrated weighty texture, this is a drink-me-know example of a varietal more commonly found in Bordeaux blends. There’s alluring complexity, including subtle floral, spice and vanilla notes, a hint of licorice and chocolatey caramel garnishing dark berry fruits. Aged 18 months in oak, dry, full bodied and structured,  rich and velvety, this is a powerful wine with impact from the first whiff to the last spicy chocolate-tinged sip. Partner this Petit Verdot with lamb and root veggie ragout or cellar medium term.
Vineland Sauvignon Blanc 2009
VQA Niagara Escarpment, Ontario
$16.95 (Vintages #551168) 12.0% alcohol
Pale straw, this wine artfully combines intense citrus aromas, alluring tropical fruit notes and a subtle underlying mineral character. Dry, medium bodied, the aromas replay on the palate, braced with vibrant acidity and a clean mineral component. Fresh, fruity, absolutely delightful, enjoy it with sautéed scallops or pan-fried halibut with a lemon-caper sauce.


Wakefield Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Clare Valley, Australia
$17.95 (Vintages #744235) 14.0% alcohol
Inky, concentrated, this award-winning wine is redolent of cassis and toasty oak, a whiff of mint tickling the senses. Dry, medium-full bodied, the bushel of ripe black and red berries is nicely balanced by a wash of fresh acidity and a frame of ripe tannins. That tantalizing hint of mint endures on the long clean finish. Great value, great taste!

Grand Total: $98.70



If I only had $100, I would buy . . . LCBO Vintages Release as of Saturday, December 10, 2011

Posted by Susan

Thursday, December 8th, 2011

On December 10, the grand finale of 2011 LCBO Vintages releases arrives with an extensive lineup of dazzling sparkling wines and fabulous still and dessert wine selections to savour over the holiday season. Consider a lovely salmon pink Champagne, such as Moutard Père & Fils Brut Rosé de Cuvaison, a classic California sparkler, such as the Gloria Ferrer Sonoma Brut, the vibrant, creamy Pierre Sparr Brut Réserve Crémant d’Alsace, or one of my Niagara favorites, 13th Street Cuvée 13 Sparkling Brut Rosé. It was served to the Queen during the grand re-opening of the Museum of Nature!

For sumptuous main courses, there are some outstanding values under $20 among the reds:  consider Viña Cobos Felino Malbec, Montes Alpha Carmenère, Ingoldby Shiraz, Les Hauts de Castellas Vacqueyras and Terre Nere Rosso di Montalcino. Looking for a white with panache, try Malivoire’s Musque Spritz, Gray Monk’s Gewürztraminer, Astrolabe`s Sauvignon Blanc or Anne Boecklin Pinot Gris Réserve.

Then there’s dessert, and what a selection! Poli Amaro, an Italian bitters, is a classic herb-infused digestif, or for a special sweet treat, try Warre`s Colheita Tawny. On the lighter side, both the Quady Essencia Orange Muscat and the Robert Mondavi Moscato d`Oro are delightful. For that special someone, the release features a number of iconic cellarable wines, such as Osoyoos Larose Le Grand Vin 2007 (magnum), Mission Hill Oculus 2007, Beringer Napa Valley Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon, San Guido le Difese 2009 (from the makers of Sassicaia).

The wines in our $100 selection will get you started, but you may want to treat yourself in order to take full advantage of this release. Arrivederci til 2012!

Cheers and Happy Holidays,


Robert Mondavi Moscato d’Oro 2009Napa Valley, California
$20.95 (Vintages #687392) 8.0% alcohol 375 ml

Enjoyable from start to finish, the aromas include floral notes, stone fruit and key lime pie. The wine displays a lovely balance of sweet and tang, the stone fruit and lime replaying. A fine soft fizz in combination with the subtle flavours and texture make this a very appealing and refreshing end to a holiday meal.

13th Street ‘Cuvée 13’ Sparkling Brut Rosé
 VQA Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$24.95 (Vintages #147504) 12.5% alcohol

A brilliant salmon pink, this fine sparkler is a classic blend made in accordance with the méthode traditionelle of Champagne. It spent almost 3 years on the lees and displays this on the nose, which includes subtle toast, floral, and berry notes. Light-medium bodied, it has a fine, creamy mousse and refreshing acidity. Soft hints of toast and nuts carry through on the impressively long finish. A great wine for appetizers or lighter fare.

Viña Cobos ‘Felino’ Malbec 2009 Mendoza, Argentina
$19.95 (Vintages #188067) 15.0% alcohol

Paul Hobbs’ wines consistently offer value, quality and a fine taste experience. This deep violet Malbec is no exception. There’s attractive complexity on the nose and palate—red and black berries, subtle floral notes, spice, herbs and an elusive mineral quality. Dry, medium bodied, fresh in the mouth, it’s well structured, the bright raspberry and blackberry fruit wrapped in fine tannins, the finish offering warm peppery nuances. Don’t hesitate to pick up a few bottles.

Château Rochecolombe Côtes du Rhône 2009 AOC Côtes du Rhone, France
$14.95 (Vintages #255034) 13.5% alcohol

Deep violet, this award-winning blend of Syrah, Grenache and Mourvèdre is laden with ripe berry fruit, dried fruit notes and sweet spice. Dry, medium-full bodied, it bursts on the palate with spiced berries, notes of vanilla and toast. Well-integrated tannins and lively acidity assure an appealing taste experience that finishes with a spicy flourish. Pick up a few bottles to enjoy over the holiday season.

Terre Nere Rosso di Montalcino 2007DOC Montalcino, Italy
$17.95 (Vintages #249524) 13.5% alcohol

Semi-transparent ruby, this versatile Sangiovese delivers value and balance. Enjoy the intricate play of aromas—smoke, red fruit, spice, dried herbs and notes of toast. Dry, medium bodied, the wine’s rich, sweetly spiced fruit is balanced by a dash of white pepper, a fresh texture and ripe tannins. The lively fruit finish freshens the palate and brings you back for the next sip. Choose this wine to match a roasted root vegetable ragout, or a hearty meat stew.

Grand Total: $98.75


Here are a couple of outstanding, eminently cellarable wines at the higher end!

Beringer ‘Napa Valley Vineyards’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2006
 Napa Valley, California
$39.95 (Vintages #91058) 13.9% alcohol

An imposing, powerful wine, this Cab appeals with intense full aromas of dark fruit, sweet spice, toast and subtle autumnal notes. Dry, full bodied, rich ripe dark fruit, sweet spice, vanilla and toast suffuse the palate. Well-integrated tannins and fine fresh acidity frame the concentrated flavours of red and black berry. Subtle toasty notes underlie the lengthy well-balanced finish. Serve with rare prime rib, or cellar long term.

Tenuta Sette Ponti Crognolo 2008 
IGT Toscana, Italy
$33.95 (Vintages #727636) 14.0% alcohol

The intriguing nose seduces—floral notes, mineral, nuances of spice and vanilla intermingle with ripe cherry and berry fruit. On the palate, this dry, mid-weight Sangiovese-dominated wine exhibits lovely balance—fine acidity, well-integrated tannins and fresh cherry/berry fruit—the long finish offering a hint of toast. A fine wine to share with friends over the holiday season, or to cellar medium term.


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

Posted by Susan

Thursday, November 24th, 2011

With the holiday season approaching, you may want to select wines for entertaining at home or for offering a host that you know are consistently available. The Vintages Essentials program is a great choice! A defined group of products, always available at select LCBO retail outlets, Essentials is a collection of hand-selected, finely crafted wines from around the world whose proven popularity makes them a reliable choice for any event.

The  LCBO Vintages releases provide a great opportunity to discover new wines and spirits, but once they’re sold out, the release wine are no longer available. The program was created to satiate the increasing consumer desire for interesting boutique wines, as opposed to the large-scale production wines that could supply every store year round. So when a wine sells out, it’s the end of that vintage – or year of production – and to get more from these small-scale wineries you just have to wait until next year.

The wines in the program are regularly reviewed, and choice wines are added periodically. Recent additions include the south Okanagan’s Osoyoos Larose (626325, $45.00), a Bordeaux-style blend known for its depth and ageability, Frescobaldi CastelGiocondo’s spicy Brunello di Montalcino (650432, $49.95) and Cakebread Cellars’ opulent Cabernet Sauvignon (710426, $99.95).

The collection includes a number of  icewines, iconic Champagnes, and a wide selection of white and red wines for all occasions, including Canadian wines such as Henry of Pelham Sauvignon Blanc (430546, $14.95), Trius Red (303800, $21.95) and Mission Hill ‘Reserve’ Cabernet Sauvignon (553321, $22.95). The medley below is designed to offer a range of wines that will please every palate, readily accessible for hosting or gifting as you attend various events through the holiday season.

Cheers and Enjoy,


Willm ‘Réserve’ Riesling 2009
Alsace, France
$15.95 (Vintages #11452) 12.5% alcohol
Dry, zesty and juicy, this medium-bodied hand-harvested Riesling offers a bouquet of aromas with floral, stone fruit and citrus predominant. On the palate, it’s a pure citrus play—grapefruit and lemon/lime to the fore with flinty notes. They replay on the lingering tangy aftertaste making a great match with light appetizers or creamy seafood linguini.

Anselmi San Vincenzo 2010
Veneto, Italy
$16.95 (Vintages #948158) 12.7% alcohol
Here’s a bright golden blend of Garganega, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc that offers light floral and tree fruit aromas. Medium bodied with a refreshing acidity, it has appealing sweet fruit flavours—pears and peaches come to mind. It’s well integrated and balanced with a crisp and lingering finish. This is a versatile wine that pairs well with a range of light meat or pasta dishes.


Pérez Cruz ‘Réserva’ Cabernet Sauvignon 2009
Maipo Valley, Chile
$14.95 (Vintages #694208) 14.5% alcohol
Offering exceptional value, this dry, medium-full bodied hand-harvested wine features complex aromas—cherry berry fruit, toasty oak, sweet spice and a whiff of herbs. The texture is smooth, the tannins ripe, the taste experience flavourful and well-balanced. Attractive notes of dark chocolate and spice garnish the long polished finish. A great choice for rich meat dishes.


Mitolo ‘Jester’ Shiraz 2009
McLaren Vale, Australia
$21.95 (Vintages #659607) 15.0% alcohol
If you enjoyed the Mitolo ‘Jester’ Cabernet Sauvignon featured in a recent Vintages release, you will also enjoy this vibrant Shiraz. From vineyards that benefit from a maritime climate and long even ripening period, this ample wine is partially barrel fermented, then aged in French oak for nine months. Deep, dark and loaded with blackberry and boysenberry jam flavours, this dry, full-bodied wine offers great depth of fruit, notes of licorice, spice and toast, and a fine supporting frame. Approachable and generous, enjoy it now with grilled meats and roasted veggies, or cellar medium term.


Tommasi Ripasso Valpolicella ‘Classico Superiore’ 2009
Valpolicella, Italy
$19.95 (Vintages #910430) 13.0% alcohol
Expect depth and intensity from this classic wine of the region, which undergoes a second fermentation with the still-warm skins of the partially dried grapes pressed for Amarone. The aromas and flavours display added complexity, the core of black cherry and berry augmented with notes of sweet dried fruit. Spice, pepper and hints of cedar join the chorus. A rich, smooth, dry full-flavoured wine, it will pair well with robust meat dishes, but is very enjoyable with a fine Pecorino, dried fruits and roasted nuts.

Grand Total: $89.75


For an outstanding bubbly, elegantly packaged, try this unique Cava from the November 26 release.

Segura Viudas ‘Brut Réserva Heredad’ Cava
DO Penedès, Spain
$29.95 (Vintages #558825) 12.0% alcohol

Golden, with some green notes, this limited-production Cava, a blend of the first pressing of estate-grown Macabeo and Parellada, displays depth and lovely balance. Intense aromas of pear, citrus and toasted butter pastry entice. Dry, bright and fresh, it has a refined creamy mousse and a lively, crisp texture. Rich flavours of Bosc pear and lemon-lime wash across the palate and linger on the clean, persistent finish. A sparkling wine of presence and weight in an elegant hand-blown bottle with a pewter crest and base, it presents well as a gift or served at any holiday gathering.


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

Posted by Susan

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

If I only had $100, I would buy . . .

LCBO Vintages Release as of Saturday, November 12, 2011

As the holiday season approaches, premium wines and gifts for that special someone are the theme in the upcoming Vintages releases.

The principal feature in the November 12 LCBO Vintages release includes a range of top-of-the –line wines. Among the whites, a Moet & Chandon Vintage Champagne as well as select Chardonnays from California, New Zealand and Burgundy. Unique blends such as the Jonatas Todos Red, signature Malbec from Argentina and Shiraz from Australia, classic Bordeaux and Italy’s grand slam of Barolo, Brunello and Amarone are but a few of note among the reds. In this selection, several Canadian wines beckon including the Closson Chase ‘Beamsville Bench’ Chardonnay, Flat Rock’s ‘Gravity’ Pinot Noir, and Mission Hill’s ‘Quatrain’.

Looking for something sweet to share with your sweetie, or for a special holiday season meal? You’ll appreciate the extensive collection of dessert wines on offer. Consider a 10-year-old Tawny Port, a Trockenberenauslese from Germany, Moniak Mead (honey wine) from the UK, a rich Recioto from Valpolicella, or a luscious and lively Canadian treat such as Henry of Pelham’s Cabernet Franc Ice Wine.

Releases like this can make for a very short list within our target $100, but as always, we’ve found some excellent buys outside the release features as well. Don’t blow the whole holiday shopping budget, as there will be more outstanding fine wines and sparklers in the next November release and the final release of 2011 in early December!

Cheers and Enjoy,


Lenz Moser ‘Prestige’ Trockenbeerenauslese 2008
Burgenland, Austria
$19.95 (Vintages #729657) 10.0% alcohol 375 ml

Golden tending to amber, produced from select botrytis-affected berries, this harmonious well-balanced dessert wine is rich with aromas of preserved peach, apricot jam and fruit marmalade. Full bodied, luscious and satiny in texture, the apricot replays, tangerine joining the chorus, providing a perfect counterpoint of tang and honey. The underlying structure delivers a refreshing lift on the lengthy fruit-filled finish. Enjoy on its own or match it to apple strudel with crème anglaise.

Willamette Valley Vineyards Pinot Gris 2009
Willamette Valley, Oregon
$18.95 (Vintages #940528) 13.0% alcohol
Whole cluster pressed, aged sur lie, blended with a touch of Muscat and Pinot Blanc, this Pinot Gris evokes the sun-ripened fruits of summer. Delicate floral aromas and the scent of ripe orchard fruit drift from the glass. Dry, medium-full bodied, it’s rich, ample yet refreshing, the ripe fruit matched by a seam of fine acidity and a trace of minerality. Smooth yet fresh, delivering a lasting fruity finish, this is a well-crafted wine.

Stalking Horse Shiraz 2008
McLaren Vale, Australia
$17.95 (Vintages #251215) 15.0% alcohol
Aged in new American oak, inky and voluptuous, the aromas of vanilla, sweet spice, rich ripe black fruits, and an elusive smoky note leap from the glass. Fruit forward—think boysenberry jam and blackberries—the wine has a distinctive note of black licorice, a smooth, velvety texture, and a subtle structure. An ample, rich wine offering a sweetly spiced warm finish, enjoy it now and over the next few years.

Delas Frères ‘Saint-Esprit’ Côtes du Rhône 2009
AOC Côtes du Rhone, France
$14.95 (Vintages #729962) 13.5% alcohol
Dominantly Syrah blended with Grenache, Carignan and Mourvèdre, this deep violet Rhône blend is fresh and vibrant on the nose—raspberry and boysenberry to the fore, a hint of vanilla and a whiff of garrigue that transports. Dry, medium-full bodied, beautifully balanced and structured, it delivers a wash of lively fruit across the palate, a lingering peppery note and a fresh dry crisp finish. At this price, a few bottles are in order!

Duque de Medina Gran Reserva 2000
DO Cariñena, Spain
$18.95 (Vintages #148494) 12.5% alcohol
Ruby with a touch of garnet, this mellow, well-aged wine offers evolved aromas and flavours. Floral and autumnal notes, a hint of leather and subtle sweet ripened fruit drift from the glass. Displaying a velvety texture, dry, medium-full bodied, the taste experience is all about restraint and integration—tannins that melt, acidity that freshens the red fruits, hints of sweet spice and cocoa adding complexity, a lasting slightly warm finish. Very appealing and easy to drink, you could enjoy this with bison bourgignon.

Grand Total: $90.75


For a premium wine to gift or cellar, consider Mission Hill’s Quatrain!

Mission Hill Quatrain 2008
VQA Okanagan Valley, B.C.
$41.95 (Vintages #218636) 14.0% alcohol

Following on the heels of the 2006 vintage, featured in the March 15 Vintages release, this blend of Merlot, Syrah and the Cabernets is composed from the estate’s best south Okanagan fruit, separately fermented and aged in French oak. Highly aromatic and intense, the nose offers boysenberry, black cherry, spiced floral notes, and sweet cedar. Dry, full bodied, built on a firm frame, the wine delivers depth and complexity, flavours of cassis, plum, spice and herbs, and notes of toast that carry through on the long dry finish. Serve it with robust meat dishes or age 5-7 years.