Posts Tagged ‘terroir’

Top tips for your next visit to The County

Posted by Debbie

Monday, March 21st, 2016

Prince Edward County…if you haven’t been…Start the car! Make a point to book a family vacation, play hooky and spend a long weekend or make a day of it. The County awaits!  To compile the 100+ things to do, I asked the locals and tourist for their tips. I was overwhelmed by the response….and as I write this article, more recommendations are flooding my inbox…and I will add updates to keep this list up to date.

101 Things (or more) to do in Prince Edward County

pec map for FBI have to admit that I haven’t done ALL the things on this list, but certainly plan to jump in my car soon! For starters… I always recommend getting off Highway 401 and taking the Glenora Ferry. This free ferry ride is less than 10 minutes (check the departure schedule). Mark my words, this ride will reset your pace to ‘County time’. Breathe in the fresh air, enjoy being surrounded by water and get the welcoming 2 fingered wave from the ferry driver as you arrive.

Water all around

Be baffled by the geography of Lake on the Mountain. This unique body of water is one of Ontario’s natural wonders defying geographical and geological theories. Ponder its mystery over a drink at the Miller House Café and Brasserie…you can stay overnight here too!

Parks & beaches too

water-sandbanks-FOSPrince Edward County is synonymous for Sandbanks Provincial Park (photo at right), yet, there are many more beaches to discover: Wellington Beach and Park, North Beach Provincial Park, Westlake Beach. Switch from white sand to smooth pebbles and wander along Little Bluff Beach.


Old barns

Check out some great old barns at The Old ThirdClosson ChaseKarlo EstatesThe Grange of Prince Edward County and Hinterland Winery.

Traveling with Savvy Company

Places to stay – oh so many!

Clarmont Inn & Spa, Merrill Inn, The Drake Devonshire, Waring House, Angeline’s Inn, The Manse Boutique Inn. All of these places have gourmet restaurants too – book a reservation to make sure you get a spot!

Where to dine

Sample County wines at many of the restos including East & MainBlumen Garden & The Agarian

Visit Angeline’s Inn in Bloomfield & pick up some of their neat postcards with historical photos of The County in years gone by. While you are there, book your reservation for lunch or dinner at The Hubb Eatery & Lounge. You will definitely make delicious memories here!

Craving a pizza? There are several wineries that have a wood oven pizza place including Norman Hardie Winery – the perfect place for pizza and a Pinot Noir (try saying that fast!)

Spend Sunday morning at the Sunday Market at 106 Bridge or brunch made by Chef Michael Hoy. And in the afternoon, enjoy live jazz & al fresco dining on the patio at Huff Estates Winery.

Cuddle baby lambs & explore forest trails to walk off the amazing meal of farm to table cuisine enjoyed at Windhover County – a 140 year old Victorian Farm that has been transformed into a boutique inn.

Take a break from gourmet meals and make your way to the Lighthouse Restaurant at the Picton Harbour Inn – a popular local hot spot for breakfast – best sausages ‘n eggs, mile high pancakes &french toast in town.

…or nibble

Top places for treats & tea: The Vic Café, The Pink Lunch Pail Bakery, Tall Poppy Café, Miss Lily’s

Hands down the best old fashioned doughnuts are at Schroedter’s Farm Market Bakery & Cafe. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, a bowl of homemade soup&sandwiches will hit the spot. There are great gluten free goodies too.

Take a break from visiting wineries and stop in to visit the Pyramid Ferments Gut Hut. A wide variety of artisan made Sauerkrauts, Kimchis and Kombuchas – all using seasonal ingredients – are made in small batches.

Have you tried Maple Cheddar from Black River Cheese Factory?


Think there’s no nightlife in The County? Ha! You haven’t been to the movies at Mustang Drive-In on County Road 1.

Picton’s Main street has got it all. At The Regent Theatre, check out the list of movies, live musical performances & special talks as well as the Prince Edward County Jazz Festival. While you are there, snap a selfie with Sir John A Macdonald. His statue is located in front of the Armory.

Best view in town

The locals share this secret: enjoy the view of Picton from the Millenium Lookout – access it from County Road 22

Ice cream’s finest

Cave in…have ice cream at Slickers County Ice Cream in Bloomfield, stop in at Black River Cheese Factory or the locals hot spot is Cones & Shakes in Picton

Love museums?

Here is a ‘hit list’- Mariner’s Park Museum in South Bay, Rose House Museum in Waupoos, Wellington Historical Museum, Macauly Heritage Park and Ameliasburgh Pioneer Village

Wines, beers, ciders…and more

Pop into The County Canteen– Picton’s first brew pub – stop in for a flight of craft beers. The Acoustic Grill is a great place to see local bands.

Meet the dogs & owners at Three Dog Winery. In the summer they do yoga in the vineyard (the owners that is!) and XC ski parties too.

Ever been to a speakeasy? Click here to find where X marks the spot.

Pop the cork & taste some of the best Canadian-made sparkling wines at HinterlandHuff Estates, The GrangeBy Chadsey’s Cairns Lighthall Vineyards.

County Cider tasting June 2015Calling all cider lovers! You’ll want to hit these places for hard ciders made with County grown apples: The County Cider Co. (in photo at left), Bergeron Estate Winery & Cider House, and Clafeld Fruit

Head down at harvest and join in picking grapes at Sandbanks WineryHalf Moon Bay Winery Broken Stone – something that the entire family can do.

Chat with Bryan at Keint-He Winery.  He’ll help you pronounce that!

An open invitation to everyone! Brett French – the brewer at Barley Days Brewery – gives anyone reading this an invitation to drop by to sample his beers…ask for him and he will give you the skinny on how he makes each. And County Road Beer Co. just opened, so be sure to stop in here too!

Prince Edward County is known as a wine region, yet there is a distillery – 66 Gilead – that is neat place to visit & try their Canadian Pine Vodka, Loyalist Gin, rums & whiskies too.

Want some exercise? 

A local favorite bike ride is along Big Island Road following the beach on the northeast shore of Prince Edward County as well as along the Loyalist Parkway (Highway 33).

Drive or bike along the Barn Quilt Trail. There are over 100 barnswith painted quilts – neat!

Get running! The day after the annual Terroir Wine & Farmers Market Festival, get your shoes on to do the 10 km Terroir Run that winds through wineries along the way. The Wellington Women’s Half Marathon in June (complete with firemen handing out water along the route!) In October, The County Marathon is a great way to explore the backroads.

…and there is still more!

Lavender Farm by DT June 7 2015See a sea of purple at the Prince Edward County Lavender Farm. Tip: plan to visit the Lavender Festival or stop in when the plants are in bloom in mid to late June. Take photos in the gardens, learn how lavender is harvested & the oil is made. If you are lucky – stay at the B&B there too.

Play life size chess in the vineyard at Casa Dea Estates Winery.

The locals raved about –Birdhouse City with over 100 birdhouses of reproductions of historic buildings, whimsical designs & other recognizable structures.

A sign that will make you laugh as you drive by:Dead People’s Stuff Antiques.

Lose yourself flipping through neat books at Books & Company or the cool consignment shop – City Revival – on Main Street in Picton.


OenoGalleryToo many galleries to visit in one weekend! Some to make sure to visit: Oeno Gallery (photo at right courtesy of Oeno Gallery) Huff Estates Winery, Love Nest Studios. Follow the Arts Trail to discover incredible local artists along the way.

Crazy about airplanes? Lock-Sloy (aka Camp Picton) is one of Canada’s last intact 1940 British Commonwealth Air Training sites. Driving through here, it is easy to imagine what this place was like in the hay day.

If lighthouses are your ‘thing’, then make sure to visit Point Petre and South Bay Lighthouse – bring some local wine & cheese to have a picnic.

If vintage cars are your ‘thing’, then plan your trip to Prince Edward County to take in the Street Meet in early August. It is a blast reliving the past at this annual car show with over 200 classic cars come from all corners of Ontario and Quebec.

Karlo bridgeVisit North America’s largest dry stone bridge (in photo at right) at Karlo Estates – made by the winery owner & friends. A great place for a family photo or a picnic.

Sit on the porch at a B&B or your weekend cottage and read Geoff Heinrick’s book A Fool & Forty Acres all about the hard work of getting a vineyard planted in The County.

Take a cooking class at From the Farm. Tell Cynthia that we say hi!

Festivals galore

wine festivalFestivals that will give you a taste of The County: Maple in the County in March, then in May – Terroir where winemakers and artisan food producers are all under one roof. The Great Canadian Cheese Festival in June is a weekend of 100% Canadian artisan cheese (and wine and beer too).

TASTE – Community Grown in September (in photo at left) celebrates the harvest with local wines, ciders and farm fresh goodies. Join the fun at Wassail – a pre-Christmas festival where you sing for your drink. Check for a comprehensive calendar.

Dining delight – Countylicious – twice a year, 8 restos offer a prix fixe culinary celebration for $30 or $35 plus grats & tax.

Red White & Blues festival at Rosehall Run features music in the vineyard.

PosterCool Collectibles

Collect a couple or all 8 of the cool County Posters with neat illustrations of all corners of Prince Edward County to remind you of the fun discoveries you had on your County getaway (photo attached –credit illustration by Marc Keelan-Bishop).

Sisters Jane Rutter & Susan Felton have brought pieces of history & heritage memorabilia back to life at the cool shop called Cannery Row.

Local produce abounds

In the summer, stop by one of many veggie stands – Laundry FarmsHagerman FarmsCherryvale Organic Farm & Vicki’s Veggies.

Stop in at Highline to grab a box of their gourmet mushrooms.

Only have time for a quick visit?

Go to the brand new The Local Store where all kinds of County treasures, artists & food stuffs are under one roof…in a heritage Loyalist barn.

Send us your tips on PEC!

As you can see, there are oodles of things to do in The County. While only 2 hours from Toronto or 3 hours from Ottawa, it is a place where you can really switch off! In fact, there are over 1000 places where you will probably lose cell phone reception.

Have fun as you discover Prince Edward County & email us with your favorite spots!


Can’t get away?  Don’t worry….The County is coming to Ottawa!

Prep for your road trip by attending County in the Capital. Meet the makers from 20+ wineries, cideries, breweries &artisan food producers – all from The County. This is a unique opportunity to Taste & Buy your new favorites

County in the Capital picEvent Details:

Date: Wednesday April 20th
Time: 7 to 9pm
Place: Ottawa City Hall
Entry: Advance Tickets only: $55 (bring a friend for $5)

This article was written by Savvy Sommelier Debbie Trenholm & will be featured in Ottawa Life Magazine on May 22.




Taste the different terroir makes

Posted by Velma

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Coyote’s Run Estate Winery

–  November 2013 –

Coyote’s Run is a small, family-owned vineyard, situated in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region, which has been blessed with two very distinct and geographically separated types of soil – a heavy black clay loam and a rich red one.  When you’re talking about wine with other wine enthusiasts, a topic that ultimately comes up at some point is that of “terroir” – wine speak for the influence that the environment can have on grapes and, ultimately, the wine created from them.

What is Terroir?

It’s all about the environment & the grapes and how they work together, particularly as it relates to the soil in which the grapes are grown. This is of great interest to Jeff Aubry, the president and founding partner of Coyote’s Run Estate Winery, this month’s featured winery. Having two different soils on the same property (where other environmental factors such as sun and temperature remain the same) has made it possible for the winery to experiment with terroir. 

Jeff, who has planted the same grape varietals on both the “Red Paw” Vineyard and the “Black Paw” Vineyard, knows from first-hand experience that terroir certainly can make a difference.  During our Savvy Tasting Panel of Coyote’s Run wines last month, we had the opportunity to taste two 2011 Cabernet Sauvignons – one from the Red Paw Vineyard and one from the Black Paw Vineyard. Needless to say we had a lot of fun with the ‘dirty’ experiment. After a lot of discussion about terroir, our Sommeliers were able to make their short list for you.

In your your November Savvy Selections you will find:

2012 Dave Sheppard Vintage 30 Gewurztraminer – This premium wine celebrates winemaker Dave Sheppard’s 30th vintage & is now sold out!

2011 Red Paw Vineyard Chardonnay – A class act.

2011 Black Paw Cabernet Sauvignon  – This is the first Cabernet Sauvignon from the Black Paw Vineyard. Hearty stews or Sunday roasts – here we come!

OPTIONAL WINES: Have your own mini-wine tasting!

Coyote’s Run of NOTL has a unique property. Half of their vineyard is grown in red soil & the other half in black soil.   Taste the difference the soil makes by trying these 2 wines (Black Paw Cabernet Sauvignon & Red Paw Cabernet Sauvignon)  side by side. They are similar in weight & texture, yet noticeably different.  Warning: it will spark great dinner party conversations!

2011 Red Paw Cabernet Sauvignon  – Similar to Black Paw Cab Sauv in weight & texture, yet noticeably different. 

Similar to other wineries we have featured in Savvy Selections, some Coyote’s Run wines are at the LCBO, yet many are not.  If you would like additional bottles of your favourite Coyote’s Run wine – or other featured Ontario wineries – just give me a call on 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or send me an email to to arrange an additional delivery for you. It is always my pleasure to introduce you to wonderful new Ontario wines! 


Debbie & the Savvy Team 


Coyote’s Run Estate Winery

Presented by Savvy Sommelier Velma LeBlanc 


I remember the first time I came across Coyote’s Run Estate Winery. It was at a Taste and Buy event that Savvy Company was hosting at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa several years ago. At the time, I was new to the Savvy Team and Debbie encouraged me to take a ‘tour’ around the event & talk to the winemakers – Coyote’s Run stood out for me. 

In front of the wine bottles on the table were two handfuls of dirt from its vineyards – one red and one black – and I thought to myself “what a great way to engage people in conversation about the influence that soil and other elements in nature have on wine production”. 

I had the opportunity to catch up with Jeff Aubry, the co-founder, while he was in Ottawa. Here’s what I learned about Jeff and his family-owned winery that prides itself on producing wines that reflect its unique terroir and microclimate. 

The wine business is so unique

When Jeff was laid off from a high-tech company for the second time in three years, he decided it was time to change careers. 

“I had had my fill of working for other people and big companies and not being able to do what I wanted to express my excitement and energy. My father and I were talking one day and I said ‘You know, I really dig the wine business. I think it would be fun.’ My father said, ‘Let’s do it’.” 

And do it, they did. In April 2003, after a six-month search, they purchased an existing vineyard in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region, about 20 minutes from St. Catherine’s – where Jeff now lives. By September, less than six months later, Coyote’s Run Winery was up and running, and Jeff hasn’t looked back. 

“What intrigued me most about the wine business was the uniqueness of the product. In the high-tech business, you are selling minutes or packets on a network and those minutes and packets are undifferentiable. A Cisco packet is the same as a Nortel packet which is the same as a Juniper packet. At the end of the day, they are all the same. 

“The wine business is the complete opposite. We create and sell a product that is entirely unique. No one else can reproduce the wines we make from our property. Ours are unique to what we do in the vineyard, to the ground we have, to what we do in the cellar, to the winemaker we have. And, for me, that’s attractive.” Savvy Sommelier & founder Debbie Trenholm visited Coyote’s Run Winery just before harvest this year, in the photo at left they are inspecting the grapes at Coyote’s Run.

‘Red Paw’ vs ‘Black Paw’ soil…can you taste the difference?

The uniqueness of the soil that’s found in the vineyards also attracted Jeff. The property boasts two very different kinds of soil that are geographically separated from each other. The red Trafalgar clay loam, which is quite scarce in the region, is stony, iron-rich, and rather infertile, creating ideal conditions for premium grapes. The heavier black Toledo clay loam contains more organic matter than the red soil, which means it holds more water and heat. That combination makes it more challenging to grow grapes (which thrive more in austere conditions) but that also produce rich, robust wines. Wines produced from grapes grown in the red soil are marketed as “Red Paw” and those grown in the black soil as “Black Paw”. 

“I knew going in that the soils would be really interesting and would add some complexity to the grapes, but I didn’t really understand at the time just how profound that difference would be. Wine derives a lot of its flavour and structure from the soil, so when the soil changes, you get a different wine.” 

Over the years, the winery has experimented with the impact of soil on the grapes by planting the same grape varietals in both types of soil and then comparing the results. To date, they’ve done comparisons with Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Gris, and Chardonnay. 

“We see the terroir effect shining through each and every time. For us, that’s exciting.” 

Naming the winery

In addition to the different soil types at the vineyard, another key point of interest that people want to know about is the name of the winery. 

Jeff says he had no interest in naming the winery after himself and didn’t feel the property featured anything geographically or historically significant that would lend itself obviously to a name. “We don’t have any rivers or lakes or streams or hills or mountains. What we do have, though, are coyotes – and lots of them – running from one side of the property to the other. So, naturally, we called it Coyote’s Run”. 

Although the coyotes are primarily out in the evening or early morning, Jeff has occasionally come in close contact with them while out in the vineyards walking his dog.

Flying the flag for Ontario wineries

Jeff’s days are busy and varied, ranging from meetings, to managing up to 15 employees at one time, to dumping boxes of grapes into bins. He also engages in many promotional efforts. Jeff explains, “You have to fly the flag. There are thousands of wineries trying to sell wine in Ontario. We are up against a tsunami of subsidized wines from other countries. The wines we make here are as good as, if not better than, other regions of the world.  So, you have to be out there, pouring your wine, and telling your story.” 

Which is something that Jeff loves to do.  “The wine business is unbeatable. I love it. To make this unique product and sell it is good, good fun. I would never go back to anything else.”

In the photo at left, Debbie strolls through the vineyards with Coyote’s Run owner, Jeff Aubry.


Cheers & enjoy your Savvy Selections!  




2012 Vintage 30 Gewurztraminer $24.95

As soon as the grapes arrived on the crush pad at Coyote’s Run, the winery team knew they would be producing their white wine of the year. Through the skill of winemaker Dave Shepperd and his ability to give full expression to the fruit, that belief became reality, creating a wine that has sold faster than any other of their wines to date. Savvy Selections subscribers, in fact, are getting the very last of this premium wine, – it has all sold out! 

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This slightly off-dry Gewürztraminer is extremely aromatic and well-balanced with floral and fruit notes and a long peppery finish. 

Suggested Food Pairing:  This premium wine can be sipped on its own or enjoyed with Asian and/or other spicy food such as the stir-fried shrimp with pepper sauce recipe below.


2011 Red Paw Vineyard Chardonnay $19.95

This full-bodied Chardonnay – the first from the Red Paw Vineyard – gets its subtle oak flavour from Hungarian oak. 

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Aromas of tropical fruit and butterscotch come through on both the nose and palette, as do hints of vanilla and pear. This subtly oaked Chardonnay also boats a nice buttery finish. 

Suggested Food Pairing: This wine can be enjoyed on its own or with a rich meat or poultry dish that includes butter, oil or cream. Try it with the Chicken Marbella recipe below for lunch or supper on a cold winter day, along with some garlic bread. 


2011 Black Paw Cabernet Sauvignon  $21.95

This is the first Cabernet Sauvignon from the Black Paw Vineyard, and is extremely food friendly. 

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: More full-bodied than a typical cold-climate Cab, this is a well-balanced wine that features aromas and tastes of pepper, cloves, cherry, raspberry and mint. 

Suggested Food Pairing: Would pair well with any pork or red meat dish, including a roast or stew. Try it with the meat loaf below and mashed potatoes for a casual Friday night dinner with friends. 


With Coyote’s Run Gewürztraminer…

Stir-Fried Shrimp with Pepper Sauce

From Foods of the World, TimeLife Books and


1 pound fresh shrimp in their shells (about 26 to 30 to the pound)
1 Tablespoon finely chopped, peeled fresh ginger root
1 teaspoon coarsely chopped garlic
4 scallions, including the green tops, cut into ¼-inch pieces
1 tablespoon Chinese rice wine or pale dry sherry
2 tablespoons soy sauce1 teaspoon sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato catsup
 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in2 tablespoons cold chicken stock, fresh or canned, or cold water
2 tablespoons peanut oil, or flavorless vegetable oil 


Shell and devein the shrimp. Then wash them under cold running water, drain and pat them dry with paper towels. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Have the shrimp, and the oil, ginger, garlic, scallions, red-pepper flakes, wine, soy sauce, tomato catsup, sugar, salt and cornstarch mixture within easy reach.

Set a 12-inch work or skillet over high heat for about 30 seconds. Pour in 2 tablespoons of oil, swirl it about in the pan and heat for another 30 seconds, reducing the heat to moderate if the oil begins to smoke.

Immediately add the chopped ginger, garlic, scallions and red-pepper flakes, stir-fry for about 20 seconds, and drop in the shrimp.

Cook, stirring constantly, for 1 or 2 minutes, or until the shrimp turn pink and firm. Add the wine, soy sauce and tomato catsup, sugar and salt; stir once or twice.

Give the cornstarch mixture a quick stir to recombine it and add it to the pan, stirring continuously, until the mixture thickens and coats the shrimp with a translucent glaze. Transfer to a heated platter and serve at once.


With Coyote’s Run Chardonnay…

Chicken Marbella

From Silver Palate Cookbook
Servings 10-12 servings


4 chickens  approx. 2 ½ pounds each, quartered
1 head of garlic, peeled and finely pureed
1/4 cup dried oregano
coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/2 cup capers with a bit of juice
6 bay leaves
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine
1/4 cup Italian parsley or fresh coriander (cilantro), finely chopped


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large bowl combine chicken quarters, garlic, oregano, pepper and coarse salt to taste, vinegar, olive oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice, and bay leaves. Cover and let marinate, refrigerated, overnight.

Arrange chicken in a single layer in one or two large, shallow baking pans and spoon marinade over it evenly. Sprinkle chicken pieces with brown sugar and pour white wine around them.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, basting frequently with pan juices. Chicken is done when thigh pieces, pricked with a fork at their thickest, yield clear yellow (rather than pink) juice.

With a slotted spoon transfer chicken, prunes, olives and capers to a serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices and sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.

To serve Chicken Marbella cold, cool to room temperature in cooking juices before transferring to a serving platter. If chicken has been covered and refrigerated, allow it to return to room temperature before serving. Spoon some of the reserved juices over chicken.


With Coyote’s Run 2011 Black Paw Cabernet Sauvignon…

Best Ever Meat Loaf

From Canadian Living Magazine
serves 8

Tips from the kitchen: This loaf maybe frozen baked or unbaked if using fresh grd. beef. So it can be made ahead. This is definitely one meat loaf you can serve to company. Serve with creamy mashed potatoes and a green vegetable.


2 eggs, beaten lightly with a fork
2/3 cup milk
1/4 tsp pepper
2 tsp salt
3 slices fresh bread, crumbled
1 chopped onion
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1-1/2 lbs lean ground beef
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup ketchup or chili sauce, or both
1 tbsp prepared mustard


Beat eggs in large bowl. Add milk, salt, pepper and crumbled bread; beat until bread disintegrated.  Add onion, carrot, cheese & beef mixing well. Then pack into 9×5″ loaf pan.

Combine brown sugar, ketchup, chili sauce & mustard and spread the mixture over loaf.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 1 hr. Let stand 10 mins., remove from pan. Serve hot or cold. Make 8 hot slices or 12 cold slices.

TIP: A food processor comes in handy as everything can be chopped in it. 


Enjoy your Savvy Selections!


Earth to earth: Ontario soil’s effects on winemaking

Posted by Julie

Monday, October 24th, 2011

My interest in soil has come from writing about the Savvy wineries for the by-the-month delivery and visiting wineries such as Coyote’s Run located in St. David’s Bench in the Niagara Escarpment, Ravine’s Vineyard (for Savvy subscribers, December’s wine delivery) and frequently visiting Prince Edward County, also known as “the County” 3 hours west of Ottawa.

First, let me start by saying I am not a soil specialist or geologist or agronomist. I remember just scrapping through Grade 10 chemistry, which is why I find it amusing that I am now writing a blog on soil.

We all know that great wine starts in the vineyard, but the more I study wine, the more I realize that it is in mother earth where it really begins and who often points to which grape to plant where, for optimum results.

The soils that engulf the Niagara Escarpment, have been compared to those in Burgundy, France, where we also share a similar latitude at approximately 44 degrees. Thousands of years ago, huge glaciers carved out the Twenty Mile Bench leaving a literal bench for growing grapes. This bench protects the soil from harsh winds yet helps the warm breezes from Lake Ontario to circulate. It is the balance of heat and coolness combined with the minerality in the soil that lends acidity to the Niagara wines. This is the same micro-climate found in the County, where the breezes from Lake Ontario temper the climate and the soil.

Most winemakers that I have interviewed, have had their soil analyzed at universities such as Brock or Guelph where there are soil experts on site. In the case of Coyote’s Run, when the owners sent their samples to Brock, the results showed that the toledo clay loam soil in one vineyard is estimated at 15,000 years old and in another vineyard the Trafalgar clay loam soil is estimated at 450 millions years old. At Ravine vineyards, the soil samples were sent back twice because there was such complexity and diverseness of soil contained in such a small acreage. Gosh, for a winemaker, where would you start?

I think that’s one reason that would make growing grapes so much fun, the “wait and see” what they will do in different types of soil. I remember one winemaker saying that, “we threw some Riesling down there to see what would happen” and another winemaker planting a variety of grapes in a small plot of gravelly limestone to see how they grow. Another winemaker said to me that “Chardonnay will go to bed anywhere”, which amused me to no end.

Both the Twenty Mile Bench and the County are blessed with a bounty of limestone, shale and clay which allows for good drainage for the grapevines.

I recently did two seminars at the TASTE festival in Picton, Prince Edward County, on “Wines to Serve with Thanksgiving dinner” and in my preparation for this, I discovered there were over 10 different kinds of soil in the County ranging from various colours of clay loam that overlay limestone bedrock and shale fragments to various specimens of gravelly and fine sand. I also learned that grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay thrive in this soil, although having tasted many other County wines, they clearly have a repertoire of success with other grapes.

The stony soils allow for good drainage and force the vines to grow deeper to look for moisture during the warm summer months. Believe it or not, the limestone also acts like a sponge and retains moisture that is in part why the grapevines are so successful growing in limestone fissures. On Doug’s (my husband and also a Savvy Sommelier) and my last trip to the County we visited several vineyards and could not believe when we looked at the earth that anything grows in this rocky looking clay.

Soil science is about classification and chemical properties. I also learned that one of the most important scientific discoveries was how soil forms spontaneously from rock. Under the influence of physical factors like deformation by heat and cold, assault by wind, rain, hail and ice, and the enormous levering forces of water expanding into ice, solid rock is shattered into smaller pieces and hence over time, becomes soil.

I’ve come to have a definite appreciation for what lies beneath and like faith, what is unforeseen in our eyes. Watching grapes through veraison (winespeak: grapes’ change in colour) is exciting. Perhaps being raised on a farm left me with images of my grandfather at harvest. To say I have a great respect for grape growers and winemakers is an understatement. Winemaking sounds sexy and fun but for the grape farmers, always anxious about what mothernature is going to deliver, it is very hard work.

Thanks to the earth that connects us. Every fall we celebrate harvest and the grapes that have come to fruition.

Earth to earth, from my glass to yours.



Beets, Wines & Terroir?!?

Posted by Debbie

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009


Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery
Canada’s wineries delivered to your doorstep


Autumn is one of my most favourite times of the year – bright coloured leaves, crisp air, country fairs and harvesting my vegetable garden in preparation for a Thanksgiving feast with family and friends.  In the days leading up to the long weekend, like most of you, I play around with the menu to include many family favorites. New at my table this year will be a dish of colourful beets that I grew as part of an experiment to illustrate the wine term – terroir.


What do beets have to do with wine you ask? Well…when I lead wine tastings, I am often asked about the word terroir. Explaining the significance of the soil, climate, growing, pruning, weather – all of the components that go into grape growing – often is met with glazed over eyes.  Frankly, few of us grow grapes, so terroir is something that has to be imagined.  Enter in the beets (and I did the same thing with tomatoes last year). Figuring that I could illustrate terroir with a vegetable that people are familiar with growing, there would be a direct association and greater learning experience. To get the ball rolling, I invited three other wine and food loving friends to take part in this project – all living in different areas of Ottawa.  The beet growers were Ron Eade, Food Editor of the Ottawa Citizen, Chef André Sanché from Epicuria Fine Foods & Catering, Caroline Ives, Producer of News at Noon for CTV Ottawa and me.


After periodically checking in with each other throughout the summer, we dug up our beets, steamed them and got together to compare.  We were instantly amazed at the difference in size, texture, taste and colour of our beets. This was particularly remarkable since all of the beet seeds came from packets supplied to us by Stuart of Bryson Farms!  We grew three varieties: White Mangel, Yellow Mangel and Red Chioggia (candy cane striped). In addition to the beets, we brought a handful of the soil that the beets were grown in. This too was interesting to see the variance of the composition of the soil. Ron grew his in MiracleGrow, while André’s garden was 100% nature compost.  Caroline and I had noticeable amounts of sand in our soil. All of this illustrates the significance of the wine term terroir. Read Ron’s blog (with great photos).


If you would like to join us next year in my terroir experiment, let me know.  We are thinking about growing cucumbers.


A winery who highlights the importance of terroir is Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery located on the Beamsville Bench in Niagara. Increasingly, they are crafting wines using the grapes from a single vineyard.  For example, Peninsula Ridge has three Sauvignon Blanc wines – each using grapes exclusively from the designated vineyard. With each sip of the different wines, you can taste the differences in soil, climate, etc…When this distinction is not made, then the grapes are sourced from a number of vineyard properties.


For October’s Savvy Selections, we offer you these wines to serve at your Thanksgiving dinner:

2007 Viognier VQA

2005 Beal Vineyards Reserve Merlot VQA

2007 Meritage VQA 

2005 Ratafia – on special request


Read on to discover the recent developments at Peninsula Ridge as well as our Savvy Sommelier tasting notes and favourite recipes, specifically chosen to pair with the selected Peninsula Ridge Estates wines.  As always, when you would like more Peninsula Ridge wines or bottles from other previously featured Savvy Selections, contact me directly to make the arrangements for you.


Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family!   

Debbie & the Savvy Team


Introducing Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery

Presented by Sommelier Gina Wohlgemuth


October has arrived.  For the past month, many of us have been busy getting back into our routines – kids are back in school, evenings are filled with meetings and committees and most of us (sadly) have finished our vacations.  At the wineries across Ontario, they too are getting into their own routine around harvest – preparing everyone for the busiest time of the year.


In last month’s Savvy e-Zine Debbie touched on some of the many tasks required in the vineyard in preparation for harvest.  Right now, at Peninsula Ridge Estates Winery, they are in the middle of a “bottling blitz” as reported by Sales Director Jonathan Kuhling (some of our Savvy Subscribers met Jonathan at our Savvy Supper event this past June).  The winery staff are transferring the finished wine from the large stainless steel tanks to the bottles, making room in the tanks to receive this year’s harvest.   By the time you read this e-Zine, Jonathan anticipates that the Sauvignon Blanc and possibly the Chardonnay grapes will be ready for picking, if not already harvested off the vines. 


Sauvignon Blanc has become Peninsula Ridge’s “signature grape” and they have it growing in three different vineyards, producing three separate wines from the fruit of each distinct site.  The grape grows well for the winery and with it they’ve produced award winning wines such as the 2007 Sauvignon Blanc Wismer Vineyards and the 2006 Fumé Blanc which tied for 1st place at this year’s Cuvée – the “Oscars” of the Ontario wine industry.


Looking Back and Moving Forward


Peninsula Ridge Estate Winery opened in August 2000 and for the first seven to eight years, the focus was on growing fewer different grape varietals.  In the past few years they have “branched out”, by planting some Pinot Noir vines and adding to their portfolio is a small amount of Dry Riesling and Gewürztraminer wines (the highly anticipated Gewürztraminer was not considered ‘Ready’ by the winemaker to be included in this month’s Savvy Selections.  Instead, it will be released later in October. If you would like some, let us know and we will make the arrangements to ship bottles to you). 


Other news at the winery is the arrival of winemaker Jamie Evans.  He has been involved in the wine industry since 1997, working as Cellar Master then Assistant Winemaker at Strewn Winery and then moved to Stonechurch Estate Winery in 2007 to be Head Winemaker.  He is a graduate of the Cool Climate Oenology and Viticulture Institute at Brock University, with a reputation in the Ontario wine industry for making excellent red wines – noted by numerous awards.  


Norm Beal, the winery owner and president explains, “Like our wines, Jamie is a product of Ontario.  He was raised in Ontario and his education in the wine program at Brock combined with over 13 years of home grown experience means that he has an intimate understanding of our unique Niagara terroir and winemaking.  He has an excellent reputation as one of the province’s best winemaking talents.” 


Given that Jamie only just recently started with Peninsula Ridge and that it is harvest time – he has hit the ground running. With several harvest experiences, it will be interesting to taste his 2009 wine creations.


Pinning down any winery staff for a chat at this time of year is simply put – a miracle.  There is a long TO DO list in preparation for harvest time.  I am very grateful to Jonathan for taking the time for an interview. 


Jonathan has been with Peninsula Ridge for eight years and during this time has witnessed first hand the positive changes in Ontario winemaking.  “The quality of Ontario wines is ever improving, which I think is directly related to the incredible influx of winemaking talent grown here in Canada and with winemakers coming to us with international experience. Combined with maturing vineyards and increasing investment in the wine industry, Ontario and Canada for that matter is growing rapidly.” 


In addition to leading the sales section of the winery, Jonathan is frequently found in one of Peninsula Ridge’s vineyards, in the cellar or barrel room, following the progression of the wines.  Like so many in the wine industry that I have interviewed in the past, Jonathan affirms that, “it’s fun to have a hand in the making of our wine – overall just be a part of it”.


Food & wine – need more reasons to visit?


For those who have yet to visit Peninsula Ridge, the winery is located near the town of Beamsville and sits on 80 acres on the Niagara Escarpment’s Beamsville Bench.  Peninsula Ridge offers gourmet food and wine experiences in their recently re-opened restaurant, The Kitchen House. Chef Ross and his wife Wendy look forward to your visit.  One look at their menu and you’ll be sure to include a stop on your wine trip.


Here’s to what is in store for the harvest of 2009 – good luck Jamie and the Peninsula Ridge team! 

Cheers & Enjoy!




~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~

Viognier VQA 2007 $14.75

Pronounced vee-on-yeah, very few wineries in Ontario produce wine with this grape variety that I consider is a ‘hidden gem’.  All of us at Savvy Company enjoy Viogniers from around the world.  We take every chance to showcase this unique grape variety. The perfect weather in 2007 with its abundant sunshine helped Viognier grapes ripen to its fullest – and this sunshine shows through each glass of the wine.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This aromatic wine will fill your nose with sweet scents of floral, apricot, honey and a touch of spice (nutmeg or pepper perhaps?).  There is a silky feel in the mouth with the flavours of apricots and honey coming through in a pleasantly dry style. Yummy!


Suggested Food Pairing: We selected this wine as it would be perfect to serve with your turkey because it will equally complement the white and dark meat as well as the sweetness of the fresh vegetables.  Additionally, this Viognier would go very well with mildly to moderately spicy Indian or Thai curry dishes – one of my easy chicken curry recipes is below. 

Hint from Gina: Be weary not to over-chill the wine or you will miss out on some of its aroma characters and flavours.


Cellaring: This wine is ready to drink now.



Beal Vineyards Reserve Merlot VQA 2005 $15.75

Jonathan explained that the harsh winter of 2004-2005 was cruel to Ontario vineyards, creating a severe grape crop shortage.  Picked from the vineyard directly behind the winery sloping upwards to the top of the Niagara Escarpment (aka Beamsville Bench), Peninsula Ridge only had enough grapes to produce two hundred cases of this Merlot.  We are lucky to be able to have access to this delicious wine.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  The inviting aromas of black cherry, raspberry, vanilla and sweet smoke replay themselves beautifully into on the palate (winespeak: in the taste).  This medium bodied wine shows light tannins and with a long, slightly sweet finish.


Suggested Food Pairing: Look no further for a red wine to serve this Thanksgiving weekend.  In addition to turkey, this well aged Merlot would pair nicely with roasted poultry, duck or goose or leg of lamb – either  roasted or grilled.  If you have a favorite recipe for a braised beef dish – this wine would be a perfect match. Below is a recipe that I use all the time.


Cellaring: The winery has aged this wine for you already.  We think that it is at its prime.  Enjoy now!


A remarkable price! This could easily become your house wine. Call on us to arrange more for you – remember it is in limited supply. 


Meritage VQA 2007, $22.95

Meritage (pronounced to rhyme with heritage) is a term that the North American wine industry created to call a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot.  These same grapes are the ‘ingredients’ of a Bordeaux blend, however winemakers outside of France were looking for their ‘own’ term…hence the name Meritage.  The percentages of each grape will vary (sometimes quite dramatically) as the winemaker works to showcase the most desirable characteristics of each grape in that specific vintage.  In this case, however, the proportions are identical.  Perhaps it is a reflection of 2007 – the best year to date in Ontario winemaking history.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: The wine’s dark cherry colour promises of good things to come – rich aromas and flavours of dark cherry, black currant, stewed plum, vanilla and a touch of cigar box.  Its tannins are soft and its finish is long and delicious.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Where to start?!  Hearty, full flavoured beef dishes like casseroles and stews, roast beef with a rich wine-reduction gravy, grilled steak.  Lamb ragout and more leg of lamb.  Game such as wild boar and venison stew.  Cheesy lasagna and osso buco would also be delicious with this wine. 

Cellaring:  Drink now or cellar for 3-5 years

2005 Ratafia VQA (optional addition to Savvy Selections wines) $30.80

Popular in Burgundy, this wine is made from 100% chardonnay grapes whose fermentation is stopped halfway through by the addition of plum brandy.  With fermentation arrested, much of the sweetness of the grape remains.  It is then aged in French oak to create a rich and flavourful treat.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  This wine offers sherry-like aromas of caramel, citrus peel (marmalade perhaps?) and ripe yellow plums.  It is full bodied and luscious in the mouth with flavours of sweet fruit, caramel and a light almond touch.  The finish is warm and sweet.


Suggested Food Pairing: Serve very cold as an aperitif or digestive, with blue cheese, fresh apple or pumpkin pie or drizzle over a bowl of vanilla ice cream.


Cellaring: No need to wait – ready to enjoy now. It can be kept for a few more years.


~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

With Peninsula Ridge Viognier…

Quick and Easy Chicken Curry

Serves 4

Adapted from Bon Appetit Magazine.  This is amazingly easy!  Put on a pot of rice on and by the time it is done, this chicken dish is ready.  I like to include a side of steamed green beans.



3 tablespoons butter

4 boneless chicken breasts cut into one inch chunks

4 teaspoons curry powder

3 tablespoons brandy

2 teaspoons flour

½ cup chicken broth

½ cup sour cream

3 tablespoons mango chutney




Melt butter in a heavy medium skillet over medium-high heat.  Season chicken with salt and pepper and sauté until just cooked through.  Transfer chicken to plate.


Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet.  Add curry powder and stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds.


Add brandy and cook until almost evaporated, standing back in case brandy ignites. 


Mix in flour.  Add broth, sour cream and chutney and stir until smooth.


Increase heat and boil 2 minute, stirring constantly until sauce coats spoon lightly.


Return chicken and any collected juices to skillet.  Cook just until chicken is heated through, about 2 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.


With Peninsula Ridge Merlot…

Braised Lamb Shanks

Serves 6
From The Girls Who Dish! Cookbook.  Okay – this recipe is not as quick as the above chicken curry but it is very rewarding and can be prepared ahead.  Simply reheat and serve with freshly mashed potatoes.


¼ cup vegetable oil

6 lamb shanks, about 1 pound (454 grams) each

salt and pepper to taste

2 medium white onions, cut into ¼ inch dice

2 stalks celery, cut into ¼ inch dice

1 large carrot, peeled and cut into ¼ inch dice

4 ounces (113 grams) pancetta or bacon cut into ¼ dice

6 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise, seeds removed and cut into ¼ inch dice

¼ cup olive oil

3 cloves garlic, chopped

3 anchovies, chopped

2 cups dry sherry

6 cups unsalted chicken broth

1 bay leaf

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme

1 cinnamon stick, about 4 inches (10 cm) long

3 whole cloves

1 orange, cut into quarters



Preheat oven to 350F.


Heat vegetable oil to smoking hot in large pan.  Season lamb with salt and pepper and brown on all sides.  Do a couple at a time to make sure all sides are brown.  Place shanks in an ovenproof dish or roasting pan large enough to hold them in one layer.


Heat olive oil in large pot.  Add the chopped onions, celery, carrots, pancetta and garlic.  Cook over medium heat, stirring until the vegetables begin to turn brown.  Add the chopped anchovies and tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes longer.


Stir in the sherry and cook for about 5 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, bay leaf, thyme, cinnamon stick and cloves.  Squeeze the juice from the orange quarters into the sauce and then add the pieces.  Bring to a boil and pour over the lamb shanks. 


Cover with foil and place in oven for about 2 hours or until the meat falls off the bone.  Turn the shanks after 1 hour so they cook evenly.


 Remove the shanks from the sauce and keep warm.  Strain the sauce and keep the vegetables but discard the orange pieces, cinnamon stick and cloves (if you can find them).  Bring the sauce back to a boil and reduce until it thickens slightly.  Pour the vegetables and sauce over the meat.





With Peninsula Ridge Meritage…

Beef Tenderloin with Double-Smoked Bacon and Porcini Mushrooms

Serves 6 to 8
From The Lesley Stowe Fine Foods Cookbook.  This recipe will impress any beef-loving dinner party guest!



1 cup (250ml) dried porcini mushrooms

1 beef tenderloin, 3 to 4 pounds (1.5 to 2 kg)

sea salt and freshly ground pepper

6 tablespoons olive oil

5 strips double-smoked bacon, cut into ¼ inch pieces

1 cup shallots, sliced

4 cloves garlic, sliced

½ sprig fresh rosemary

4 cups dark veal stock

1 cup port

2 tablespoons cold butter



Preheat oven to 375F.


In a bowl, pour 1 cup boiling water over the porcini mushrooms and let stand until softened, about 20 minutes.


Remove the thin membrane and any fat on the outside of the tenderloin.  Season the meat with salt and pepper.  In a heavy skillet, heat 3 tablespoons of the oil over medium-high heat and brown the tenderloin on all sides for about 1 minute per side.  Transfer to a roasting pan.  Pour off all the fat from the skillet. 


In the same skillet, cook the bacon until almost crisp.  Remove from pan and set aside.  Drain off the bacon fat and discard.


Drain the mushrooms, reserving the soaking liquid.  In the same skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the remaining oil over medium heat.  Sauté the mushrooms until soft and golden.  Remove from the pan, season with salt and pepper and set aside.


Add the remaining oil to the pan and sauté the shallots, garlic and rosemary until shallots are soft, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Add the bacon, veal stock, port and reserved soaking liquid from the mushrooms.  Simmer over medium heat until liquid is reduced by half.  Set aside.


Roast the tenderloin in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes.  Transfer the meat to a cutting board and any juices in the roasting pan to the reduced liquid from step 6.  Heat this liquid over medium-high heat and simmer until reduced by one third.  Whisk in the cold butter, a bit at a time until smooth.  Add the mushrooms and stir gently.


Slice the tenderloin and arrange on warm plates.  Spoon the mushroom sauce over top and serve immediately.




Cheers & Enjoy your October Savvy Selections