Posts Tagged ‘VQA Ontario wine’

Closing off the year with award winning wines from Sandbanks

Posted by Erin

Friday, December 27th, 2013

Savvy Selections - Ontario wine of the month club

Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Sandbanks Estate Winery

–  December 2013 –

When you hear the word ‘Sandbanks’, you may immediately think of the Provincial Park with fine sand beaches.  But many others associate this name to excellent wine, an iconic Prince Edward County winery & brightly coloured Muskoka chairs that grace the property. Catherine Langlois the owner and winemaker says the chairs match her approach to her winery; which is to make it feel like a holiday when you visit. Wine tours often end up making this winery the last stop (intentionally or not) to enjoy sipping Sandbank’s award winning while kicking back the signature chairs overlooking the vineyard. 

Our Savvy Sommelier Erin Bolling chatted with Sandbanks Estates Winery owner & winemaker, Catherine Langlois initially at the Ottawa Wine & Food Show where Catherine was beaming from ear to ear because her Shiraz was named Best in Show Red Wine. Very impressive!  Then Erin caught up with Catherine a second time at the winery.  Read below in this Savvy eZine to learn more about Catherine’s approach to wine and some of the exciting plans she has for the future at Sandbanks Estates Winery.

In your Savvy Selections, you will find:

Sandbanks Pinot Grigio VQA 2012 $16.95 A lovely and full Pinot Grigio that will be a crowd pleaser with its notes of pear and tropical overtures. One panel member who is not a Pinot Grigio drinker in general said she could sip this all day long! Perfect to bring to a party…if you want to part with it!  

Sandbanks French Kiss VQA 2011 – $19.95  A French style Bordeaux blend that keeps you coming back for more. Erin recounted that this wine reminded her of the wines she drank while visiting France last May.  

Cabernet Franc Reserve VQA 2012 – $29.95 A BIG red for the holidays and chilly nights is perfect this time and year and this wine will not disappoint. Catherine said it is one of the wines she is most proud of. This cherry chocolate wine evolves nicely in the glass and lasts long on the palate.


Sandbanks Shiraz VQA 2011 $19.95 –  A recent winner of Best In Show Red at the Ottawa Food and Wine Show held in early November. This pleasing and peppery wine beat out many other international wines for this honour.

Sandbanks Love $14.95 –  A delightful blend of white wine and organic cassis! Perfect on its own or as part of a cocktail….read on for more details.  

You may find some Sandbanks Estate Winery wines at the LCBO …

Similar to other wineries we have featured in Savvy Selections, some Sandbanks wines are on the LCBO shelves. Yet, there are many of their wines that are not.  If you would like additional bottles of your favourite Sandbanks 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!

Cheers & have a fantastic holiday season!

Debbie & the Savvy Team


Sandbanks Estates Winery

Presented by Savvy Sommelier Erin Bolling

As a new year approaches, I am already filling up my 2014 calendar with plans. One definite trip will be taking my family to our local wine region of Prince Edward County (PEC) or what we call ‘The County” in particular to visit Sandbanks Estates Winery. Our plan will be bicycle through the area and end up at the winery to enjoy the wines, the live entertainment (being planned now) and of course relax in those iconic Muskoka chairs.   

Best In Show

Cathering Langlois (left) is a person who made her dreams happen. She parlayed her love of the farming life and wine in to a career as a successful winemaker and owner. From a student in Burgundy France to a wine sales rep and sommelier, she has had a hand in all aspects of the business. Recently, she won an award that shows how far her talent and experience have taken her. The day I caught up with this busy lady (and mother of two) at the Ottawa Wine and Food Show her booth had a lineup of wine lovers wanting a taste of Sandbanks Shiraz (an optional wine this month) that won Best In Show Red against numerous other international wines. Catherine is certainly doing her part to help put PEC & Canadian wines on the world wine map! 

When congratulated on the award she told me how much it means to her. She began her career as a winery sales rep in the Ottawa area, living in Westboro. She would often encounter Peter Ward who was the Ottawa Citizen wine columnist at the time.  Peter was somebody Catherine looks up to – still to this day even though he is retired. The award the Shiraz won is also known as the ‘Peter Ward Award’. She felt it was as though he was giving her a little wink when her winery achieved this status.  

In addition to winning awards, Catherine said that the best compliments in regards to her wines are when she hears, “Where is this wine from?” in happy disbelief. She was enthused to connect with colleagues in her field at the show and to see how far the winemaking in ‘The County’ and Ontario has come. When asked what her favourite non-Sandbanks wine was she responded “There are just too many good wines to choose from”.   

Catherine is an Ontario transplant from L’Isle D’Orleans in Quebec. She grew up in a family of artists in a farming community and has always felt that her favourite part of the business is being in the fields. She hires local people as part of her team and appreciates their background in farming since PEC (Prince Edward County) has long been a farming region of Ontario.  Did you know Sandbanks uses biodynamic practices? At certain times of the year an average day is 18 hours.  

So what happens after harvest? Since PEC is at least a zone colder than Niagara the vines have to be hilled up (this is a vineyard management practice of burying the vines in extra soil for the winter to preserve buds). Her wines are being taken care of by cold stabilizing the whites and putting the reds through the process of malolactic fermentation. It all requires great attention to detail but she can relax and enjoy winter.  

From a Pile of Rocks

The six acres that make up Sandbanks started out as a pile of rocks. Catherine used her know how and spirit to transform that into the thriving vineyard it is today. She always knew she wanted to make big approachable wines that can be enjoyed with family on a Tuesday or a special occasion. She does produce quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay like many of the other County wineries but her passion is for hybrids. New to the lineup this year is a Dunes Red – an interesting blend of Marechal Foch with its intense flavor and a bit of Gamay for ripe fruit aromas & tastes.  

The winery has always been a family run affair. When Catherine and her husband first started the winery in 2000, they lived in a house on the property that included the winery and tasting room on the main floor. In 2010, they opened a new tasting room and The Gallery which displays her mother’s art that also adds flair to the colourful and easily recognizable Sandbanks labels. When asked what is next she shared that they are in the process of building a new winemaking and storage facility right now. Some of the 2013 wine will be bottled in that building if all goes according to plan.   

Day Camp for Adults

Catherine’s approach wine is to make it “festive not exclusive” and maintain a family atmosphere. An example of that approach is the annual Harvest Party.  It started out as a family and friends activity. Chantal – the winery’s Office Manager offered to come in from Montreal to help and cook lunch. The experience was so enjoyable it was repeated and expanded on – big time! Now the event sees upwards of 450 people come over 2 weekends to help. A wide range of people from 8 – 88 years old came this year. Catherine feels this helps her customers connect with the wine they drink and make the industry as a whole more approachable. She described it as the following “It’s like a giant day camp for adults and by the end of the day you’ve had fun with the whole group”. It was a recipe for success.  

Cheers & enjoy your Savvy Selections!



Pinot Grigio VQA 2012, $16.95

This full bodied white wine is sure to be a crowd pleaser.  The colour is clear pale straw with a slight tint of pink. The aromas & flavours may remind you of summer but they as you are about to see they are enjoyable any time of year.   

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  On the nose as well as in the taste, this is a luscious and aromatic wine. There are notes of pear, sweet white flowers and toast. When you take a quaff there is zippy lime and papaya at play that last for a long finish.   

Suggested Food Pairing:  An excellent wine on its own when chilled, but an easy food match as well. The panel agreed on sushi and Thai curry as pairings. Since this is the entertaining season we have a recipe for Vegetable Rice Paper Rolls with Thai Dipping Sauce to try your hand at & pair with this wine. – see a bit further below in this blog.  

Sandbanks French Kiss VQA 2011 $19.95

The brainchild of Catherine’s husband this Cabernet/Merlot blend is a classic French style wine and well worth putting on your holiday wish list. 

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A beautiful plum coloured wine that opens up in the glass to reveal aromas of red berries, roses and Christmas spices (cloves perhaps?) The palate follows through with a pleasant jamminess and fig with a long peppery finish. Our Sommelier tasting panel noticed that aromas changed as the wine breathed in the glass but still remained strong when tasted again the next day

Suggested Food Pairing:  The Savvy Selections tasting panel thought this would be a lovely wine for the traditional Canadian holiday favourite of Tourtière. We’ve found great example with lamb for you to enjoy based on Carlo Rota’s Blog ‘More Than Burnt Toast’.

Cabernet Franc Reserve VQA  2012  $29.95

‘This is the best wine that I have ever made’, states Catherine. From the start, she has wanted to produce full bodied wines at an affordable price and this is one that delivers on both counts.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A deep garnet coloured wine chock full of flavor that develops in the glass. Focused  aromas &juicy flavours of raspberries, plum and chocolate. There is a hint of red licorice or cherry pie filling which is a pleasant alternative to some of the green pepper present in some Cabernet Francs. The smooth plush tannins allow this medium full bodied wine to linger for a juicy finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Giving a nod to the Jewish holiday of Chanukah, we thought this wine would pair well with a beef brisket. Erin shares her Brisket in Cola – a recipe that Erin’s family loves at Chanukah or Christmas. 

Cellaring: This wine is ready now, or can be cellared for 2-4 years


 With Sandbanks Pinot Grigio VQA 2012…

Vegetable Summer Rolls

Serves 8

For peanut sauce

3 tablespoons finely chopped onion
1 small garlic clove, minced
3/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon hoisin sauce
1 teaspoon tomato paste
3/4 teaspoon sugar

For summer rolls

1 ounce bean thread noodles (cellophane noodles)
1 tablespoon seasoned rice vinegar
4 (8-inch) rice-paper rounds, plus additional in case some tear
2 red-leaf lettuce leaves, ribs cut out and discarded and leaves halved
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves (preferably Thai)
1/2 cup thinly sliced Napa cabbage
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/3 cup coarsely shredded carrot (1 medium)


Cook onion, garlic, and red pepper flakes in oil in a small heavy saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until pale golden, about 4 minutes. Whisk in remaining sauce ingredients. Simmer, whisking, 1 minute, then cool.

Make summer rolls:

Cover noodles with boiling-hot water and soak 15 minutes, then drain well in a sieve. Pat dry between paper towels and toss with vinegar and salt to taste.

Put a double thickness of paper towel on a work surface and fill a shallow baking pan with warm water. Soak 1 rice-paper round (make sure there are no holes) in warm water until pliable, 30 seconds to 1 minute, then transfer to paper towels.

Arrange 1 piece of lettuce on bottom half of soaked rice paper, folding or tearing to fit and leaving a 1-inch border along edge. Spread one fourth of peanut sauce over lettuce and top with one fourth each of mint, basil, cabbage, and noodles. Roll up rice paper tightly around filling and, after rolling halfway, arrange one fourth of cilantro and carrot along crease. Then fold in sides and continue rolling. Transfer summer roll to a plate and cover with dampened paper towels. Serve rolls halved on the diagonal.



With Sandbanks French Kiss VQA 2011 …

Lamb Tourtiere

Based on the recipe from Carlo Rota’s More Than Burnt Toast

Serves 4



2 cups flour
1 cup cold butter
pinch of salt
14 tablespoons iced water


4 onions, finely chopped
2 large baking potatoes, grated
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 pound lean ground beef
2 pounds ground shoulder lamb
½ bottle red wine
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 – 1 teaspoon grated orange zest
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1/4 pound fresh goat’s cheese
1 egg, beaten



Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

To prepare pastry: In food processor pulse flour, butter and salt together. Add iced water and pulse together. Chill.

To Make Filling: In large oven-proof casserole bowl add all ingredients (except goats cheese and egg) and simmer in oven for an hour. Stir mixture well and return to cook for an extra half hour. Let Cool.

To assemble: In 9 inch pie plate, roll out pastry. Spoon cool meat mixture into pie. Crumble goat’s cheese all over the surface. Cover with top layer of pastry and seal edges with fork. Prick pie with fork. Brush with egg and return to 350 degree oven for 25 minutes.


With Sandbanks Cabernet Franc Reserve VQA 2012 …

‘Couldn’t Be ANY Easier Brisket with Coke’

Serves 6


3-4 lbs. boneless beef brisket
1 bottle chili sauce
1 can Coke
1 packet dry onion soup mix



Preheat oven to 300°F.

Combine chili sauce, Coke and soup mix.

Place brisket in a foil-lined baking pan. Pour sauce mixture over brisket and cover with another sheet of foil sealing edges.

Bake at 300°F for 3 to 3-1/2 hours until tender. Carve brisket against the grain and serve the pan juices as a sauce.

Note from Erin: I cook this over thinly sliced onions that carmelize that can then be served on top of the brisket.


Enjoy your Savvy Selections over the holidays!



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

Posted by Debbie

Monday, July 22nd, 2013

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

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

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

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

To order this fantastic bubbly click here >>

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


One of Ontario’s Virtual Wineries – 2027 Cellars

Posted by Susan

Wednesday, March 13th, 2013


Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring 2027 Cellars
–  March 2013 –


Kevin Panagapka – the man behind 2027 Cellars has been a viticulturalist and winemaker ‘in the making’ for most of his life. His father, Don, has been making wines, winning wine competitions, and judging wines for decades.  Surrounded by wine during his childhood, it was only natural for Kevin to be at his Dad’s side helping out

Then came time for his formal training.  Kevin completed the Viticulture and Oenology program at Niagara College in 2002, then jumpstarted his winemaking career at Niagara’s Creekside Estate Winery and Flat Rock Cellars. In 2006, already dreaming of creating his own wines, Kevin travelled to New Zealand to participate in a harvest and helping out at Esk Valley Winery in Hawkes Bay, New Zealand.

You won’t find 2027 Cellars on a wine route map

Research and his international experience led Kevin to establish 2027 Cellars – a virtual winery. What is a virtual winery you ask?  Essentially, it is a winery within a winery.  By sharing space & equipment at Featherstone Estate Winery where he is the assistant winemaker, Kevin has made a business arrangement with Featherstone’s owners – David Johnson & Louise Engel – to make wines at their facility under a different brand and name.  This enables Kevin to realize his dream of his own winery with low capital costs and also allows for Kevin to cultivate and harvest grapes from select mature vineyards owned by other wineries or grape growers in distinct Niagara sub-appellations. This approach underlies Kevin’s philosophy of winemaking – to meticulously manage the vineyards so that his small batch of handcrafted wines express the unique varietal character and distinct terroir of each vineyard. You will see what we mean when you have a sip of the outstanding wines in this month’s Savvy Selections. For starters, you will notice that the labels identify the vineyard name where Kevin sourced the grapes for the specific wine.

What does 2027 mean?

Kevin intentionally focuses on the three renowned international grape varieties that he feels are ideally suited to the Niagara climate – Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.  Together with his wife, Jodie, they purchased a small property on the Beamsville Bench, where they grow Pinot Noir.  The winery name? The answer lies with the purchase of the land. When the vineyard was registered with the Grape Growers of Ontario, it was assigned number 2027!

In your Savvy Selections, you will find:

We’re on the cusp of spring with this March Savvy Selection, and Kevin’s focused portfolio gives us the opportunity to present some clean, fresh wines that will brighten your palate and lift your spirits. Our tasting has assured that you have the opportunity to taste one of each of the grape varieties he cultivates, including:

Foxcroft Vineyard Riesling VQA 2011 – a fragrant, fruity, well-balanced white wine

Foxcroft Vineyard Chardonnay VQA 2011 – just bottled in time for the March Savvy Selections, this wine is complex, creamy & lush – simply elegant!

Queenston Road Vineyard Pinot Noir VQA 2010 – dry, silky classic Burgundian-style red wine

You won’t find these wines at the LCBO

We have noticed that 2027 Cellars has a ‘cult following’. The wines are hard to come by, primarily because Kevin makes small batch wines (winespeak: low inventory of wine).  This also results in his wines quickly selling out! After you enjoy these wines & would like additional bottles of your favorite, just give me a call on 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or send me an email to  As always, it would be my pleasure to arrange a delivery for you.

Cheers & Enjoy!

Debbie & Savvy Team


2027 Cellars

Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins 

As mentioned earlier, Kevin’s father – Don – is a well known amateur winemaker. Don is a member of the Kitchener Waterloo Winemakers Guild and was recognized with a lifetime achievement award from the Amateur Winemakers of Ontario. Kevin (in photo left) has great memories of working with his dad in the basement, or should I say ‘cellar’, in the family home. “My Dad never had enough hands when it came to bottling. It seems I’ve been around wine for most of my life!”, recalls Kevin. Early on in life, Kevin developed an interest in Burgundy, France and the wines from this famous region. “As winemakers, we tend to fall into one category – blends or not. Personally, I prefer to focus on single variety wines (winespeak: wines made with only one grape variety), explains Kevin.”

Wine that speaks from its roots

Kevin has a clear passion for wine that speaks to its roots.” I have always believed that great wines are grown, not made and that quality fruit produces quality wines. My interest is in varieties that showcase terroir and I enjoy investigating the differences between the various vineyards from which I source my fruit.” he comments. “It also ties into the ‘wild fermentation’ and ‘unfiltered’ wine style of the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It’s what makes winemaking and viticulture interesting for me, keeps me engaged in the process from start to finish.”

Precise & specific

Kevin is very precise in the criteria he looks for in the vineyards and vines he sources. “I look for quality vineyards that are at least 10 years old. I buy specific rows and manage the cropping levels, leaf removal and general care of all the vineyard blocks. This allows me to control the quality of the wines from the beginning of the season in the vineyard, through harvest and the winemaking process.” Kevin sources only Weiss 21-B clone Riesling from the Niagara Escarpment Bench sites, which produces a lovely aromatic quality in the wine. His Chardonnay is sourced from Lincoln Lakeshore and Twenty Mile Bench sub appellations, while the Pinot Noir comes from the Twenty Mile Bench and St. David’s Bench. Why does Kevin focus on these three varieties? “They seem best suited to our climate, as these are the varieties that can be counted on to ripen fully every year in Niagara.”

Both the Riesling and the Chardonnay are from the Foxcroft Vineyard, which is located on the lower portion of the Twenty Mile Bench sub appellation, offering slightly warmer summer temperatures. As Kevin indicated, “the fruit from this site tends to ripen earlier than the higher elevation sites, producing a perfect balance between ripe fruit and vibrant acidity.” The soils in this area include deep clay and till and display quite a variation in texture. Although they are well drained, their water-holding capacity is especially valuable in the warmer periods of the growing season when rainfall is limited. The Queenston Road vineyard is located in the sub appellation of St. David’s Bench in the Niagara-on-the-Lake region and is where the 9-year-old vineyard of Kevin’s Pinot Noir grows. This parcel of land benefits from gentle north-facing slopes, sheltered by the Escarpment. Good airflow ensures the vines benefit from the early onset of spring, while the deep, rich clay soils ensure the vines are well-anchored in the ground.

As a virtual winery, 2027 Cellars does not have its own winery or wine shop. Kevin recalls, “In 2007, I proposed the idea to Featherstone Estate Winery husband and wife owners, David Johnson and Louise Engle. Luckily, they were receptive to the idea, and they have been supportive ever since! I am very fortunate to have the opportunity to make wine at their facility.”

Kevin appreciates David & Louise’s commitment to sustainable agriculture, yet is also realistic about the challenges of growing quality fruit in Niagara. “There is alot of disease pressure here due to the humidity, so it’s very tough for wineries to establish viable organic or biodynamic grape-growing and winemaking processes. My focus is on quality fruit from producers who have the same high standards as I do.”

While naturally passionate about what he does, Kevin is modest about the success of his wines. His 2009 Foxcroft Vineyard Riesling took top honours at Ontario’s Cuvée Awards. When asked about this success, what does he say? “The awards have been good recognition for the brand. But I would really like people to judge the wines for themselves. If they enjoy the wine, I’ve done my job!”

So, while you have the opportunity to do just that through these Savvy Selections, if you find yourself in Niagara, you can stop in at Featherstone Estate Winery to taste 2027 wines, and if you’d like a tour contact Kevin directly

Cheers & Enjoy your Savvy Selections!




2027 Foxcroft Vineyard Riesling 2011 VQA, $25.00

Produced from the fruit of 15-year-old vines, this Riesling was fermented in stainless steel and bottled early to preserve its aromatic intensity & crispness.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Brilliant straw/green in colour, this fragrant wine offers complex aromas—jasmine, orchard & stone fruit, citrus, mineral and a touch of mango. Dry, silky, flavours of key lime and orchard fruit marry with a kick of lively acidity, creating a clean, tangy finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: A versatile wine, sip it or pair with seafood or simply prepared chicken or pork.

Cellaring:  Enjoy it now or cellar 3-5 years!


2027 Foxcroft Vineyard Chardonnay VQA 2011 $30.00

Produced from hand-harvested grapes, this Chardonnay was barrel fermented with wild yeast strains. As only 78 cases of the wine were produced, we’re fortunate to include this newly released wine for you & all of our Savvy Selections subscribers!

TIP: If you like this wine & want to order more, be sure to contact me pronto….this wine has limited inventory & will sell out fast!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: We were the first to sample this wine! It was bottled only a few days prior to the Savvy Selections panel tasting.  Nevertheless, this wine showed its full potential.

Subtle aromas of toasted nut, butter and pear mingled with tropical notes suggesting pineapple and banana flambée. Elegant, mid-full weight, it’s creamy on the palate offering flavours of caramel apple, pear crisp, and toasted nut. Well balanced and lush, it gently warms the palate with delicate notes of white pepper that linger through the finish.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Enjoy with creamy pasta dishes, baked ham or roast chicken.

Cellaring:  The wine will have experienced bottle shock, so we advise to let the wine rest for a month or so before serving or cellar 3-5 years.


2027 Queenston Road Vineyard Pinot Noir 2010 VQA $35.00

 Fermented using only naturally occurring wild yeasts, this alluring Burgundian-style wine was aged in seasoned French oak for 14 months, and is neither fined nor filtered.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Garnet hued, dry and silky, the wine has a plethora of aromas—cherry/berry, earth, vanilla, a touch of red licorice and notes of toasted marshmallow. Medium bodied, the bright red berry flavours wrap around a backbone of fine acidity and fine-grained tannins, overtones of pepper and spice flowing through the long dry finish.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Serve with roasted duck, planked salmon or braised chicken.

Cellaring:  Drinks well now, it will also cellar 5-7 years.


~ Recipes to Enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

With 2027 Foxcroft Vineyard Riesling VQA 2011…

Shrimp Bisque

From Cooking with BC Wine, Townsin, T & C.
Serves 4


¾ white wine
2 Tbsp butter
1 small carrot, chopped
½ onion, chopped
1 bay leaf
½ tsp dried thyme
15 large raw shrimp, unpeeled
½ C flour
4 C chicken or fish stock
2 Tbsp cream



Melt butter in a heavy pan over medium heat. Sauté carrot & onion with bay leaf & thyme until vegetables are soft. Add white wine and shrimp & poach for 8-10 minutes. Remove shrimp from pan & set aside.

Peel 8 shrimp, reserving shells. Dice the meat & set aside for garnish. Put the shells & the remaining unshelled shrimp in a food processor & blend into paste.

Slowly stir the shrimp paste into the poaching liquid then add the flour & mix well. Add the stock & return to boil, then simmer for 15 minutes. Strain soup through a sieve & then cheesecloth before adding cream & reheating.

Serve into individual bowls & then add diced shrimp meat to garnish.

With 2027 Foxcroft Vineyard Chardonnay VQA 2011…

Linguine with Pears & Gorgonzola

From (from Bon Apetit Magazine)
Serves 4


¼ cup butter
4 firm pears (about 2 lbs.), peeled, cored, sliced into 1/3 inch-thick strips
1 scant Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 cup canned low-salt chicken broth
4 oz. Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (or to taste)
¾ cup grated Parmesan cheese
½ cup whipping cream
¾ lb. linguine, freshly cooked
1/3 cup chopped pecans, toasted


Melt butter in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add pears & sauté until tender & beginning to brown but not soft, about 8 minutes. Using slotted spoon, carefully transfer pears to bowl.

Add rosemary to same skillet & stir until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add broth, Gorgonzola cheese, ½ C parmesan cheese & cream. Simmer until sauce thickens enough to coat spoon, whisking occasionally, about 6 minutes. Return pears & any accumulated juices to sauce. (Can be made 2 hrs ahead. Let stand at room temperature. Bring to simmer before continuing.

Add linguine & pecans to sauce. Toss over medium-low heat until sauce coats pasta, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt & pepper. Transfer to large bowl. Sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup grated parmesan cheese.

With 2027 Queenston Road Vineyard Pinot Noir VQA 2010…

Chicken Marbella

From (from The Silver Palate Cookbook)
Serves 10-12


4 chickens, 2 ½ lbs each, quartered (or skinless chicken thighs)
1 head of garlic, peeled & finely pureed
¼ cup dried oregano (or to taste)
Coarsely ground salt & pepper to taste
2 ½ cups red wine vinegar
½ cup olive oil
1 cup pitted prunes
½ cup pitted Spanish green olives
½ cup capers with a bit of juice
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup white wine
¼ cup Italian parsley (or fresh coriander), finely chopped


Preheat oven to 350F.

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

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

Bake for 50-60 minutes, 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 & capers to serving platter. Moisten with a few spoonfuls of pan juices & sprinkle generously with parsley or cilantro. Pass remaining pan juices in a sauceboat.

Enjoy your Savvy Selections!


Lighthall Vineyard’s One Man Show

Posted by Erin

Saturday, October 20th, 2012


Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Lighthall Vineyards
–  October 2012 –


We are heading to Prince Edward County this month to discover a boutique winery that typifies what is meant by a one man show. Lighthall Vineyards is owned by Glenn Symonns who is the winemaker, vineyard manager, Sommelier, chief marketer, distributor, tractor driver, creator and sometimes the delivery guy. It is a stark contrast to his previous career as a pharmacist. While both winemaker and pharmacist are connected through chemistry, it is the ability to create that Glenn enjoys the most. ‘I truly think that I have a great job. I get to play in the cellar and make interesting wines.’ And in this month’s Savvy Selections you will certainly taste exactly what Glenn means.

I first met Glenn not at his winery, but rather when he was serving me wine during his final exam for his Sommelier Accreditation. These role playing practical exams can be un-nerving for the Sommelier ‘students’, yet I succinctly recall that Glenn handled the mock situation with panache. When he began demonstrating the 23 step process and etiquette (or is it a ritual?) of opening a bottle of wine, I could not believe my eyes that in his hands was a bottle of Huff Estates Lighthall Chardonnay VQA 2007 from Prince Edward County. Glenn did not know that I was a huge fan of this wine. I was equally amazed the he was serving a $30 bottle of wine while other Sommelier hopefuls where uncorking sub $10 wines as the judges weren`t going to sip and savour the wine – afterall the exams took place at 10am!

Curious and impressed, I commented about his wine choice and Glenn smiled back and proudly announced, ‘I just bought Lighthall Vineyards and I will be building a winery.’ That is not something you hear every day! Intrigued, I kept a lookout for Glenn on my visits to Prince Edward County. This spring, I visited his winery for the first time and have been enjoying his wines ever since.

In your Savvy Selections, you will find:

Lighthall Progression Sparkling VQA 2011 – an easy drinking Spanish cava style sparkling wine made with Vidal grapes

Lighthall Gewurztraminer VQA 2011 – an absolutely remarkable aromatic white wine – get ready to be impressed

Lighthall Pinot Noir 2010 VQA – one word : Stunning!

OPTIONAL WINE : Lighthall Pinot Noir Reserve Particuliere – Les Grands VQA 2009 – Pinot lovers beware – you will fall in love again with every sip

Stock up on these wines!

Like the sparkling? Stock up because it is almost gone…
Lighthall produces an incredibly small amount of wine. You won’t find them in the LCBO. If you would like more, simply drop me an e-mail at or give me a call at 613-SAVVYCO (613-728-8926). Heads up – the sparkling is almost gone!

Cheers & enjoy your Savvy Selections!

Debbie & Savvy Team


Patrick after the crush

Lighthall Vineyards

Presented by Savvy Sommelier Erin Bolling


As a lover and student of wine I am excited to have an opportunity to be your Savvy Sommelier and introduce you to Lighthall Vineyards. I think conducting the Savvy Selections tasting panel is a pleasure of the taste buds as well as the mind while we put our heads together to determine recipes to pair with the feature wines. Each time the Savvy Team ‘has to’ work its way through many candidates for the Savvy Selections in order to chose the final selection. Once the wines are chosen, I have the honour to interview the owners and winemakers. This conversation allows me to learn first hand about the wines and am charged with a renewed appreciation for the people behind each bottle of wine.

This month I had the pleasure of meeting Glenn Symons of Lighthall Vineyards. Since 2008, Lighthall has been a one man show. Glenn is the owner, winemaker, field manager and marketing ‘department’. You name he does it! Hearing his story made me exhausted. I can only imagine how he feels each day! In all honesty though, Glenn is overflowing with passion and enthusiasm to be a winemaker.
Pharmacist to winemaker…

Glenn bought Lighthall in 2008 after he sold his Pharmacy – yes you read that right. As a graduate of the Sommelier program at Algonquin College and an amateur winemaker (in his own home), he learned more and more about the wines in Prince Edward County (PEC). Glenn’s temptation to buy a vineyard property in PEC became reality, he dramatically change careers.

Since 2008, Glenn has doubled the size of Lighthall’s property. In addition, he changed the business from a grape growing operation where he grows grapes for other wineries, to a winery in its own right. Since then, Glenn claims that there has been no time to look back!
Being September & October, it took Glenn and I a while to connect since it was in the height of harvest. And this year, harvest was 3 to 5 weeks early. When I did finally reach him, he explained that harvest is his favourite time of year. The last of his Vidal grapes were being picked ‘as we speak’ (these grapes are not for late harvest wines). The Chardonnay and Pinot Noir came in to the crush pad the week before.
There was no doubt in our interview that Glenn was enthused about this past growing season since it was the warmest since 1968. Glenn predicts that 2012 will be an exceptional year for PEC wines and for that matter Ontario too and even broader Canadian wines too.
Overflowing with passion!

As stated earlier Lighthall is a one man show. Other than some seasonal workers, for whom Glenn built a house, Glenn does all the work of vineyard management and winemaking by himself. For the past three seasons he has put in 12 to 18 hour days. In the winter, he can be found tending the 25 acre woodlot which he uses to heat the buildings on the premises. And what comes next? Glenn has plans to try his hand at planting vines. He has his eye on a vineyard of 1 acre of just Gruner Veltliner. This varietal is an Austrian staple and is one of Glenn’s favourite types of wine. While Gruner is not planted in PEC, Glenn explains that it would be well suited to The County’s clay soil and environment. We look forward to his results. Cross your fingers!

Lighthall tasting bar

His passion for his winery is obvious in its design. His tasting bar is located in the middle of his production area. This gives Glenn the ability to share and give his visitors the opportunity to ‘see’ all aspects of the winemaking process. What a terrific experience!
Glenn makes harvest a family affair by involving his children in the crush.
The wine Glenn is most proud of (to date!) is Lighthall Pinot Noir Reserve Particuliere VQA 2009 – Les Grands. Our Savvy Team was impressed too & we offered it as an optional wine. It is hard to believe that this wine was the first red wine that Glenn ever produced…and his two eldest sons helped too!
There is no doubt that Lighthall Vineyards is a small operation with big dreams. The purchase occurred in 2008, the winery was built in 2009, the first Lighthall Vineyard wine was produced in 2009 and last year it opened to the public. When you are next in The County, be sure make a visit.



Lighthall Progression Sparkling 2011 VQA, $20.00

Vidal is a hybrid grape of Ugni Blanc and Rayon d’Or. It’s thick skin and hardiness in cold climates make it an ideal grape to grow in Prince Edward County and Niagara. This particular sparkling wine was made with 100% Lighthall grapes using Charmat method (winespeak: uses a tank second fermentation to create the bubbles).

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Very pale with aromas of white grapefruit and lime with an undertone of minerality. This dry, light sparkler has persistent light bubbles and flavours that mimic the nose with a bit of white peach and apricot thrown in. It is a refreshing wine with a pleasant mouth coating feeling and persistent zesty finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: This sparkling wine is a great starter wine on its own, or could be paired with seafood such as oysters. The tasting panel recommends it with a prosciutto and arugula pizza.

Cellaring: An excellent sipping wine that could be enjoyed now or it could be cellared for a year or two for a special occasion.

Lighthall Gewurztraminer 2011 VQA, $25.00

A classic Gewurztraminer made with high quality grapes sourced from Vineland. This is one of Glenn’s favourite grape variety.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This wine has hallmark Gewurz pale yellow with a hint of pinkish colouring. Its floral and exotic fruit aromas of lychee, rose petals, pineapple and hard candy. “I just want to keep my nose in the glass” stated one of the Savvy Sommeliers during the tasting panel. “I can’t help myself from swirling and sniffing again and again because it smells so good!”

Slightly effervescent, medium to full wine with a complex palate. You may detect lychee, honey and Turkish Delights taste as the finish lingers.

Suggested Food Pairing: This Gewurztraminer would be perfect with spicy foods such as Indian curry or Asian dishes. ‘Or even with smoked salmon’ commented one of the Savvy Sommeliers. It would also make a tremendous accompaniment to dessert. Enjoy with a pear & cream cheese tart – the recipe follows on the next pages.

Cellaring: This well structured wine is enjoyable now. You can cellar it, however the noteable vibrant aromas and tastes will tone down dramatically.

Lighthall Pinot Noir 2010 VQA, $25.00

Although Pinot Noir is known as the heartbreak grape, this red wine will only bring you joy, proudly stated Glenn.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A clear pale cherry-red colour with a typical Pinot bouquet of tar, earthiness ripe berries and warm spices. This medium-bodied, dry wine delivers sweet flavours of cherry, blackberries, white pepper and a hint a vanilla with a medium finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: This is a perfect fall food wine and would pair well with classic stuffed turkey, pork tenderloin or a selection of hearty cheeses. Savvy Sommelier Debbie discovered a new recipe of Roasted Califlower and Swiss Chard that she experimented with for her Thanksgiving feast. The recipe is on the following pages.

Cellaring: With 14.5% alcohol this wine is capable of aging another 3-5 years but drinks very well now.

OPTIONAL WINE: Lighthall Pinot Noir Reserve Particulière – Les Grands, 2009 VQA, $50.00

Glenn’s pride and joy. This rich Pinot Noir was part of an extremely low yield and as you can imagine the wine is in VERY short supply. Members of our tasting panel emailed me the following day after our Savvy Selections tasting telling me they were still dreaming about this wine so we had to offer it as an optional wine!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A bright ruby colour with a pleasing earthy, smokey, cherry and mushrooms on the nose. The deep flavours give you tart yet ripe cherries, smoke and earthy mushrooms fill your mouth and leaves you with a pleasant woodsy, vanilla finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Everyone agreed that this wine was a must include for October. It is versatile and would make a lovely ‘meditation’ wine on its own or a great food wine with brisket or game meat. Then when the mushroom risotto was suggested, there were many oohs and aaaahs of delight with this pairing.

Cellaring: This medium bodied wine still has time to develop so feel free to lay it down if you like.



With Lighthall Progression Sparkling VQA 2011…

Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza

Serves 4

1/2 cup small to medium arugula leaves
3 very thin slices prosciutto
2 ounces mozzarella (preferably fresh)
All purpose flour for dusting
Pizza Dough for one 9-inch pizza (click here for a good recipe)
1/2 cup Pizza Sauce – recipe below

Method for pizza sauce

Take a 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes in puree (about 3 1/2 cups) and mix with 3 Tablespoons of olive oilIn a large non-reactive saucepan bring tomatoes and oil to a simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, simmer for 20 minutes, or until sauce is reduces to about 2 1/2 cup

Season sauce with salt and cool to room temperature. This sauce keeps, covered and chilled in the fridge for 5 days and freezes well

Assemble the pizza

At least 45 minutes before baking pizza, put a pizza stone or 4 to 6 unglazed “quarry” tiles arranged close together on oven rack in lowest position in oven and preheat oven to highest setting (500°-550°F)

Trim any tough stems from arugula and thinly slice cheese.

On a lightly floured surface pat out dough evenly with your fingers, keeping hands flat and lifting and turning dough over several times, into a 9-inch round. Do not handle dough more than necessary and if dough is sticky, dust it lightly with flour.

Dust a baker’s peel or rimless baking sheet with flour and carefully transfer dough to it. Jerk peel or baking sheet once or twice and, if dough is sticking, lift dough and sprinkle flour underneath it, reshaping dough if necessary. Working quickly, top dough with sauce, spreading with back of a spoon to within 1/2 inch of edge. Arrange mozzarella slices evenly over sauce. Line up far edge of peel or baking sheet with far edge of stone or tiles and tilt peel or baking sheet, jerking it gently to start pizza moving.

Once edge of pizza touches stone or tiles, carefully pull back peel or baking sheet, completely transferring pizza to stone or tiles (do not move pizza).

Bake pizza 6 to 7 minutes, or until dough is crisp and browned, and transfer with a metal spatula to a cutting board. Scatter arugula over pizza and arrange prosciutto slices on top. 

With Lighthall Gewurztraminer VQA 2011…

Pear & Cream Cheese Tart

From: Desserts by Bonnie Stern
Serves 6 to 8

½ cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 cup all purpose flour

2 ripe pears (preferably Bartlett)
4 oz cream cheese
½ cup granulated sugar
2 eggs
¾ cup cream
½ tsp vanilla
¼ cup sliced almonds


Preheat oven to 425. Butter a 9 or 10” pie plate with removable sides.

For the shortbread base, cream butter and sugar together until light. Beat in flour and pat into pie plate – no need to roll it out.

Peel, halve and core pears and slice and arrange in circular rows on top of base. Stir cream cheese until smooth then beat in sugar, add eggs one at a time, beating mixture smooth after each addition then add cream and vanilla. Pour over pears & Sprinkle with almonds.

If there is any leftover custard, bake separately with any leftover pears or other fruit for a little treat for the chef.Bake for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 and bake for 25 to 30 minutes longer, or until fruit is tender and custard is set.Serve warm or cold.

With Lighthall Pinot Noir VQA 2010 …

Roasted Cauliflower and Swiss Chard Salad

From: Long Nights and Log Fires Cookbook
Serves 4

1/4 cup olive oil
1 small head of cauliflower, separated into large florets
1 tsp ground cumin
6 large Swiss chard leaves, roughly chopped into 1 inch wide strips
1 red onion, cut into wedges
2 garlic cloves chopped
14 oz can chickpeas, rinses and drained
1/4 cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
2 Tbsps freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper
sea salt


Over high heat in a cast iron pan or large skillet, put in the oil. Add the cauliflower florets and cook for 8 to 10 minutes turning often (you will want some brown or burnt looking marks – this is a good sign!). Then add the cumin and cook stirring for 1 minute, add the Swiss Chard, onion and garlic to the pan and cook for a further 2 to 3 minutes. Add chickpeas and stir. Season to taste with salt.

In a separate bowl, combine the tahini, lemon juice and pepper. Add a little salt to taste. Whisk to combine. Transfer the vegetables into a bowl and drizzle the dressing over the top to serve.

Enjoy as a rustic vegetarian dish or a side accompanying pork cutlets, baked ham or turkey.

With Lighthall Pinot Noir Reserve Particulière – Les Grands VQA 2009 …

Mushroom Risotto

From: The Essential Rice Cookbook
Serves 4

2 Tablespoons dried porcini mushrooms
1 litre (32 fl oz) vegetable or chicken stock
2 Tablespoons butter
1 small onion
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 ¾ cups risotto rice
Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg
1 cup mushrooms, sliced (a variety of mushrooms would be good)
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
3 Tablespoons finely chopped parsley


Soak the porcini mushrooms in 2 cups (500 ml/ 16 fl oz) boiling water for 30 minutes. Drain, reserving the liquid then chop the porcini and pass the liquid through a sieve. Pour the stock into a saucepan, bring to the boil and reduce keeping it at a low simmer.

Heat the oil and butter in a wide heavy saucepan to cook the onion and garlic until soft but not brown. Stir in the rice until it is well coated.

Add the fresh mushrooms and nutmeg; season and cook, stirring for 1-2 minutes. Then add the porcini and their liquid, increase the heat and cook until the liquid has been absorbed. Add ½ cup (125 ml/4fl oz) of the stock and stir constantly over medium heat until all the liquid has been absorbed. Continue adding stock a bit at a time until all the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender and creamy – which should take about 25-30 minutes.

Remove from the heat and stir in the Parmesan and parsley and serve

Enjoy your Savvy Selections!



Theatre in the Vineyards!

Posted by Susan

Saturday, August 4th, 2012

Rosehall Run Vineyards continues to support theatre in Prince Edward County, hosting the production of ‘Harvest’ set amongst their estate vineyards. Festival Players is the County’s professional theatre company, and ‘Harvest’ is a funny, fast-paced story of an older farm couple who retire, move to town and rent out their old farmhouse to what seems to be a ‘nice young man’—can you guess that all is not what it seems!

Performances run from Wedensday, August 9 through Saturday, August 25. Plan to include this unique production in your late-summer trip to Prince Edward County. Rosehall Run’s award-winning wine, examples of which are highlighted below, will be available during the performance. For more information, contact Lynn Sullivan at Rosehall Run Vineyards (1-888-399-1183) or visit

While you watch this fun performance, have a sip of one of these newly released wines from Rosehall Run Vineyards.


– Susan

Rosehall Run Pinot Gris 2011

VQA Prince Edward County $21.95
12.5% alcohol
Floral notes, ripe orchard fruit and a hint of tangerine drift from the glass. Dry, light-mid weight and lively, this is a vibrantly textured fresh wine with a fine backbone of acidity, tangy citrus and green apple flavours, and a nice mineral note. Balanced, refreshing, it hits just the right note for the dog days of summer.

Rosehall Run ‘Liberated’ Chardonnay 2011

VQA Ontario $15.95
12.7% alcohol
Pale yellow green, offering fresh notes of green apple, pear and yellow plum, this wine is free of any oak influence, clean and lively on the palate. Tangy apple and slightly pithy citrus notes ride the wave of fresh acidity through a fresh juicy lip-smacking finish. A great example of Ontario’s cool-climate Chardonnay!

Rosehall Run ‘Cuvée County’ Chardonnay 2010

VQA Prince Edward County
13.5% alcohol
Apple, toasted hazelnut and candied lemon tantalize, the apple and nutty notes coming through on the palate. The lovely creamy texture delights, lively citrusy acidity balancing well-integrated oak and ripe orchard fruit flavours. It finishes fresh and flavourful.

Rosehall Run ‘Cuvée County’ Pinot Noir 2010

VQA Prince Edward County $24.95
13.2% alcohol
Semi-transparent, garnet hued, there’s earth, dried herbs, spice and red cherry/berry  notes on the nose. Dry, mid-weight and silky in texture, the palate is awash with red fruits—currant jam, cranberry, cherry and raspberry. Lively acidity underpins the fruit, subtle tannins provide a fine frame, and the finish is juicy and fruity, while maintaining that underlying earthiness. Serve slightly chilled with grilled salmon.

Rosehall Run ‘Defiant’ 2011

VQA Ontario $18.95
12.5% alcohol
Semi-transparent and rose toned, the wine proffers aromas of sweet cherry/berry fruit, subtle spice and a whiff of vanilla and cedar from aging in French oak. Dry, on the light side of medium bodied, the texture is satin-like, the flavours of cherry and raspberry bountiful. The fruit rides a lovely backbone of crisp acidity, the wine finishing fruity and fresh with a touch of warmth.



Prince Edward County is coming to Ottawa

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, May 2nd, 2012

Prince Edward County is Canada’s fastest growing wine region. Not to be mistaken with Prince Edward Island, ‘The County’ as it is commonly referred to, is only a three hour drive from downtown Ottawa.  In the heart of The County, the quaint Loyalist town of Picton boasts restaurants, inns, shops, Sandbanks Provincial Park and most importantly 25+ wineries await your visit. It is no wonder that, ‘The County’ is a perfect day trip or weekend getaway.

The County is coming to the City!

No need to wait for the summer to discover The County since over 15 wineries (both large operations & small family run wineries) are coming to Ottawa on May 9thto give you a ‘taste’ of what is in store when you visit their property. This is the first time that the wineries have come together to host a wine tasting event of this magnitude in Ottawa.  Rest assured that anyone (wine enthusiasts and novices alike) can attend to meet the winery owners & winemakers to learn more about their winery, their vineyards … and, of course, sample their best wines. More info about this special wine tasting event on


Take note that the wines from Prince Edward County have been quickly making an impression.  Internationally renown wine writer, Matt Kramer of Wine Spectator Magazine, named Norman Hardie’s Prince Edward County Chardonnay VQA 2008 as one of his top wines of 2011: “This is a truly great Chardonnay of compelling character.”  And Kramer has MANY wines from around the world to choose from to make his annual top wine list. While this Chardonnay was singled out, there are several other Whites, Reds and even Roses that are turning heads.

At this event, it is your turn to be impressed. 

And you can buy your favourite wine too. Most of The County wineries have small inventory, so their wines are not stocked on the LCBO shelves.  When The County comes to the City, you can order any combination of your favourite wines directly from the winemakers to be delivered straight to your home or office.

The #1 reason to go to The County… Terroir Wine Festival

Hop in the car & join Savvy Company & many other wine enthusiasts on Saturday May 26th to celebrate the wines of Prince Edward County at Terroir – A County Wine Celebration. Sip, savour & graze around the historic Crystal Palace from 12pm – 8pm meeting winemakers & taking in seminars hosted by Savvy Company, winemakers & other wine personalities showcasing wines, cheeses & food in The County. Tickets $35 in advance ($40 at the door). We look forward to seeing you there!

 Hop on our bus! We are working on a roundtrip bus package from Ottawa. Interested? Email us to receive info as soon as it is ready.





It is all good from Good Earth Food & Wine Co.

Posted by Susan

Sunday, February 26th, 2012


Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Good Earth Food & Wine Co.

– February 2012 –

Drive down the gravel laneway, past the baskets of fruit set out for sale (on the honor system) & the pastoral campus of Good Earth Cooking School and Winery comes into view. The outdoor BBQ pit & herb garden, where classes are held in fine summer weather, sits beside the small rustic barn housing the indoor cooking school. To the left is a more recent structure, consistent still with the relaxed farmhouse style, housing the tasting room & shop, the indoor dining room & the fabulous outdoor patio with its lofty beam ceiling. From there, you look out over gardens & vineyards as you enjoy the decidedly delicious local lunch menu with a glass (or two) of The Good Wine.

This place is deeply rooted in history. Nicolette Novak, owner & entrepreneur extraordinaire, has lived on this farm most of her life. Her father emigrated from Czechoslovakia, her mother from Ireland. They started with five acres of stone fruit, then over the next two decades, their property grew to 220 acres. Growing up, Nicolette worked closely with her dad on the farm, yet was determined to create her own life, pursuing a degree in International Relations at University of Toronto with a plan to enter the foreign service. At age 28, she was working in Toronto when everything changed. Her father died in a tragic car accident. Nicolette returned to the farm & in her inimitable & yes, determined way, took over, starting with the peach harvest on a farm that, at that time, produced 2 million pounds of fruit!

One year ran into another & Nicolette realized she really enjoyed what she was doing. But the economics weren’t working, so she sold half of the land & moved back to Toronto. But the farm beckoned. A few years later, she moved back to Niagara with the idea of transforming the property into a small cooking school. Renown teacher & chef Michael Olsen helped her define the concept & in 1998, The Good Earth Cooking School opened. Nicolette’s friendliness & candor, the quality of the experience & the food, the relaxed environment all worked their magic & created an entrepreneurial success.

With winemaking at the back of her mind, Nicolette planted vines on 8 acres of the 55-acre property & released her first wine in 2008. “The wine is a great complement to the food, and was a natural way to extend the business,” she explains. Taking a deep breath, in 2010, she took the plunge to establish a bistro, dining room & tasting room. And there’s no looking back! The quality of the wine, the food & the total experience will entice you to this quaint property again & again.

 We’re delighted to showcase in February’s Savvy Selections wine of the month club:

  • The Good Wine Chardonnay VQA 2009 – an elegant well-balanced white wine
  • The Good Wine Rosé VQA 2010 – Drink rose wines in February? Especially this one as it is Good Earth’s signature & a hands down favorite of our Sommeliers
  • The Good Pinot Noir VQA 2009 – a classic Pinot Noir with an earthy complex

You won’t find these wines at the LCBO

If you would like more of these premium wines from Good Earth, simply call on us to arrange an order for you.

Cheers & Enjoy!

Debbie & Savvy Team



The Good Earth Food & Wine Co.

Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins

There’s a theme running through everything that Nicolette Novak turns her hand to & that is ‘local’. As she puts it, the cooking school, the bistro & the winery all provide the opportunity to utilize & showcase fresh local produce & outstanding local talent. The menu at the bistro reflects the seasons, the bite-size sip/savour menu offering a fabulous opportunity to enjoy the food presentation, the tantalizing mingling aromas of food & wine. As one of the local entrepreneurs on the forefront of the farm-to-table movement, Nicolette has also created a ‘slow food’ context for those of us who simply love the experience of eating tasty fresh food in a relaxing, appealing ambience. What delights her about the expanded operation? “I get huge satisfaction knowing I can offer something special to the people who come through my world. It’s fun, meeting wonderful people all the time. It’s a really happy place!”

And this entire experience is created by local people, hand-picked, like her fruit, by Nicolette. Flat Rock Cellars winery owner Ed Madronich encouraged her venture, offering as consultant winemaker Ross Wise, a ‘Kiwi’ whose passion for great wine is matched by his passion for food & good times. “As the winery developed,” says Nicolette, “I felt it was important to have a winemaker as part of the family. I heard about Dré [Andrea Glass] & was highly recommended by Ann Sperling (winemaker at Malivoire Wine & Southbrook Vineyards).”

A 2006 graduate of the Niagara College Winery and Viticulture Technology program, Dré is a native of Niagara & a member of a longstanding local farm family. Dré brings extensive wine-related experience to the table (pardon the pun!) as an assistant winemaker in Argentina & as a cellar hand in California as well having a hand at Niagara wineries, including Flat Rock, Southbrook and Reif (March Savvy Selection feature winery). She also brings focus & intensity to the role of winemaker, as evidenced when she joined us for the tasting at the bistro, water glass in hand. “Oh, I’m just bottling this wine and I thought you might like to taste the barrel sample. I think it has great potential . . .” And so did we! Dré exudes confidence and commitment to her craft and is, says Nicolette, quite fearless and multi-talented.

In the vineyard, Nicolette partners with Chris Andrewes, a lifetime friend of Nicolette’s whose own farm is adjacent to The Good Earth. Chris & his family have worked with Nicolette over many years to ensure the beauty & productivity of The Good Earth orchards. He now leases some of her land & has planted Chardonnay & Pinot Noir. “We work very closely together on decisions & Chris’s expertise in tending the vineyards has been recognized by others in the industry. Cave Spring has recently called on him to manage their vineyards.”

The great service & food in the bistro is only enhanced by the tasting & browsing experience in the bright & tastefully appointed retail shop. It is here where you meet Amanda McSpadden. After graduating as a Baker’s apprentice from the Niagara College Culinary Management program, she worked at a number of local enterprises before finding her way to The Good Earth as a Resident Chef. Wanting to complete her apprenticeship, she left for a stint with celebrity chefs Michael & Anna Olsen, returning to The Good Earth as a certified Pastry Chef. You will find Amanda’s cheerful reception when you visit the winery retail shop.

Then, there’s Michael Pasto, Nicolette’s highly experienced, skilled head chef & Mike McColl, who you’ll find manning the BBQ during the outdoor grilling season. But really, we need to focus on the wine . . .

Getting started, Nicolette bought in grapes from trusted suppliers, but with the 2010 vintage, she has reached her goal of producing wine from sustainably managed estate-grown fruit. The focus is on varietals that thrive in the Niagara Peninsula & on her property—Chardonnay, Riesling, Pinot Noir & Cabernet Franc. As a craft winery, Nicolette expects to produce in the order of 2300 cases at full production.

Enjoy the wines featured in this mid-winter selection, try The Good Wine with some of the delicious menu items at ZenKitchen or Domus Cafe if you’re in Ottawa, or plan a visit to Niagara and savour the entire experience by the fireplace in the cosy dining room this winter, or alfresco at the bistro later in the year.  You are always invited!

 Cheers & Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections wines


Our wine of the month club discovers the talent of Sue-Ann Staff

Posted by Susan

Tuesday, January 24th, 2012


Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery
Presented by Sommelier Susan Desjardins

Sue-Ann Staff ‘s name precedes her reputation in the Canadian wine industry. Growing up on the family farm, it was natural to pursue a degree in horticulture and biotechnology from the University of Guelph. Shortly after graduating, she headed to Australia to complete a graduate degree in oenology at the University of Adelaide.

With her graduate studies as the launching pad for her winemaking career, she worked the harvest at a winery in Australia’s Hunter Valley, then returned home to Niagara, beginning her career as assistant winemaker at Pillitteri Estates under the guidance of Joe Will. Within 6 months, she was named winemaker, spending 10 years crafting internationally recognized award-winning wines. When the newly founded Twenty Bees Winery came calling with an ambitious icewine program for Sue-Ann & she accepted. “I learned a huge amount about operations, planning and governance, and got great experience that led me later to decide to establish my own winery”. Through the years, she’s also visited and worked in France, Germany, Andorra & South Africa.

Following what seemed an inescapable destiny, she founded Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery, and took on the role of Winemaster for the John Howard Cellars of Distinction, producing wines for the Megalomaniac brand. Already marked in her winemaking career, she has been acclaimed Winemaker of the Year (2002) by the Ontario Wine Society and has twice been recognized as one of the top four ‘Women in Wine’ by the International Wine and Spirits society in the U.K.

Rooted in her land, makes quality wines

Growing up on the farm, Sue-Ann developed an intimate understanding of the interplay between the land and the wine. “It seems like a cliché, but I’m a farmer’s daughter.” She has lived the evolution of her family’s property: the growth of juice and table grapes, the impact of Canadian-US Free Trade agreement, the vine pull-out program & the disappearance of local processing plants. Stubbornly, the family has continued to plant vinifera grapes.

Of the 140 acres on the home farm, 35 are under vine. Taking a conservative approach, the reliable Riesling and Baco Noir grapes were planted 15 years ago, followed by Pinot Gris 6 years later. Cabernet Franc, Vidal and Viognier followed 5 years ago, although, says Sue-Ann “Viognier is a stretch up here on the Beamsville escarpment”. Recognizing Niagara’s cool-climate terroir, Sue-Ann identified and planted those varietals most suitable to the region and the property, the parcels specifically selected to optimize the chosen varietal. The property sits astride two Niagara sub-appellations, 20-Mile Bench and Vinemount Ridge. The Ridge lies just above and south of the brow of the Niagara Escarpment, a long narrow moraine whose subtly undulating landscape creates many shallow, east- and south-facing slopes that provide ideal sun exposure and early spring warming to the deep clay soils. The Bench exhibits a recognizable double bench formation and short varied slopes that roll to the brow of the escarpment. Sheltered north-facing slopes & moderated temperatures due to the lake effect create ideal growing conditions.

A winery with a conscience

Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery is a designated sustainable winery, where low water use & conscientious efficient use of resources and materials ensure a minimal impact of grape growing and winemaking on the estate environment. In this commitment, she follows in the footsteps of her ancestors, who have been stewards of the land for two centuries.

Estate Winery Home at Sue-Ann Staff Winery in Niagara

 Sue-Ann produces VQA wines from estate-grown grapes, her goal to create enticing, vibrant whites, intriguing reds and luscious icewines. Coming back to the land, she reminisces, “after 10 years at Pillitteri, I had forgotten how rewarding it is to cultivate a vineyard, to nurture my own vines, to watch the entire grape maturation process—this is one of the great satisfactions in my life.”

With her first crush in 2008, she produced 2000 cases (approx. 24,000 bottles). She anticipates that 2011 will yield an increase to 3000 cases, with a goal of 6000 cases by 2013. After that, it’s a matter of scale, and Sue-Ann will have to decide where she wants to take her estate winery.

“It’s the first time I’ve been responsible for the entire process. It’s a satisfying day when the harvest comes in, & the sense of personal satisfaction continues when the wine is bottled. It’s a bit like your children graduating from university.” We’d say these graduates are magna cum laude!

Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections!



Our Sommeliers recommend – outstanding red wines…with recipes!

Posted by Susan

Sunday, January 22nd, 2012


In Savvy Selections this month our wine of the month club subscribers were treated to 3 big red wines made by renown winemaker Sue-Ann Staff  – a Cabernet-Merlot that she made at her own winery – Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery that bears her own label & the other 2 red wines showcases her talent while working as a consulting winemaker at John Howard’s Cellars of DistinctionMegalomaniac Cabernet Frank & Megalomaniac Cabernet Sauvignon.

Here are the Savvy Sommelier’s tasting notes for each of these spectaclar red wines.  Enjoy!

Sue-Ann Staff Cabernet/Merlot VQA 2009, $24.00

An assemblage of estate fruit—the Cabernet Franc—and Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon from a nearby vineyard whose character is consistent with the Staff terroir, this wine was aged one year in French and American oak barrels.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This blend offers depth and complexity—vanilla, toast, plum, blackberry, roasted red pepper and a notion of licorice mingle to create a taste extravaganza. Substantial, subtly structured and well-composed, the wine offers a toasty warming finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Match this wine to robust grilled meats (such as the beef tenderloin recipe we offer), or grilled vegetables drizzled with olive oil & aged balsamic served with a platter of firm cheeses.

Cellaring: Drinking well now, or cellar 2-3 years.


Megalomaniac Cabernet Frank VQA 2010, $24.95

Winemaker’s notes: Made with 100% estate grown grapes, this wine was aged for 22 months primarily in new French oak barrels (14 of the 17 barrels were new).  Sue-Ann explained that 2008 was a cool year.  She harvested the grapes late in the season – early November – to ensure that the grapes got as much ripening as possible.  She was amazed at how this wine evolved and was surprised how it became an outstanding full bodied red wine with cedar & cassis aromas that carries through in the taste with warm spices (cardamom perhaps?) in the background.

Sue-Ann’s food pairing recommendations: As she said …”oooohhhh, lamb would be fantastic, or maybe gnocchi with a rich tomato sauce.  Even Osso Bucco.  Yikes, I’m getting hungry!”

Cellaring: This wine was recently released & she thinks it is ready to be enjoyed now or could be cellared for 3-4 more years.


Megalomaniac Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 by Sue-Anne Staff, VQA $24.95

From a challenging vintage, the intensive vineyard management, including substantial leaf removal and yields in the range of 1-1.5 tonnes, has ensured a fine wine. Aged 22 months in French oak, 60% new, the wine went through malolactic fermentation in barrel as well as tank.

Suggested Food Pairing: Match this wine to prime rib, bison bourguignon or a hearty stew such as the smoky beef, potato & mushroom stew.

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


~ Recipes to enjoy with the Savvy Selections wines ~

 With Sue-Ann Cabernet/Merlot…

Sundried Tomato & Pinenut Stuffed Beef Tenderloin


Serves 6-8

6 Tbsp olive oil, divided
½ C pine nuts
½ C chopped shallots
2 cloves garlic, minced
2/3 C chopped oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes
1 1/3- 1 1/2 C bread crumbs
½ C chopped fresh parsley
Salt & pepper to taste
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Beef tenderloin (one loin approx. 3lbs)


  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Heat 3 Tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium heat. Stir in pine nuts and cook until golden brown. Remove with a slotted spoon & drain on paper towels. Place shallots in the skillet. Cook & stir until tender, about 5 minutes. Mix in garlic & sun-dried tomatoes and cook 2 minutes. Remove skillet from heat, mix in pine nuts, bread crumbs & parsley. Season with salt & pepper & set aside to cool. 
  3. Slice the tenderloin lengthwise across the top about 2/3 of the way through the meat to create a pocket. Spread stuffing into the pocket. Wrap the tenderloin with kitchen twine to secure the stuffing & transfer to roasting pan. Combine remaining olive oil and Dijon, and rub over the surface of the meat. Season with salt & pepper & sprinkle with breadcrumbs.
  4. Roast in the preheated oven for 15 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350F & continue cooking tenderloin 20-30 minutes, or to minimum internal temperature of 140F. Remove from oven & let meat rest 5-10 minutes before serving with roasted root vegetable ragout. Savour & sip!


With Megalomaniac Cabernet Frank

Medallions of Venison Tenderloin with Peppercorn & Wild Mushroom Sauce

From Ottawa Citizen
Serves 6

6 6-oz venison tenderloins
1 C olive oil
1/3 C balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced
fresh ground pepper
1 ½ C red wine
1 C chicken broth
1 clove garlic, crushed
10 multi-colored peppercorns, crushed
1 ½ C milk
½ tsp Dijon mustard
Salt & pepper to taste
2 Tbsp butter
2 large shallots
2 cloves garlic, chopped
Fresh shitake & Portobello mushrooms, washed, stems removed & sliced


1.     Marinate venison in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic & pepper 4 hours.

2.     Combine wine, broth, peppercorns & garlic in saucepan & cook for 20 minutes or until the liquids are reduced to half. Add milk & mustard &, stirring frequently, cook for 20 minutes or until liquid is again reduced by half. Season to taste & allow to cook 1 more minute.

3.     Melt butter in a large skillet on high. Add the shallots & garlic & toss for 2 minutes until soft. Add the mushrooms & cook on high heat 5 minutes or until soft. Add to peppercorn sauce.

4.     Grill venison tenderloins on BBQ over medium-high heat for 7 minutes (turning once halfway through. Cut into medallions & serve with sauce, fresh peas & pearl onions, and roasted potatoes


With Megalomaniac Cabernet Sauvignon…

Smoky Beef, Potato & Mushroom Stew

From LCBO’s Food & Drink Magazine, Holiday 2011
Serves 6-8

3 Tbsp vegetable oil
3 lbs. stewing beef
½ C all-purpose flour
2 ½ C stout or porter
3 C onions, coarsely chopped
4 C mushrooms, quartered
3 Tbsp garlic, finely chopped
2 Tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
¾ C smoky-style BBQ sauce
4 C yellow-fleshed potatoes, peeled & cut into 1” cubes
2 C celery, finely chopped
Salt & pepper to taste
½ C fresh flat leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
½ C green onions, finely sliced


1.      In a large sauté pan, heat oil over medium-high heat & brown the beef in 2 batches until browned on all sides, about 10 minutes per batch. Remove beef from pan & place in slow cooker. Add flour to pan & stir together with remaining fat, add 1 C of the beer to the pan & scrape up browned bits. Increase heat until mixture thickens, about 2 minutes, then add all of this mixture to the slow cooker.

2.      To the slow cooker also add the remaining beer, onions, mushrooms, garlic, sage, BBQ sauce, potatoes, celery & salt.  

3.      Cook on low for 9 hours. Once the stew is ready, season to taste with salt & pepper, stir in the parsley & green onions. Serve & let your ego soar, with Megalomaniac Cabernet Sauvignon!


 Cheers & Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections!


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