Posts Tagged ‘wayne walker’

If I died & went to Napa…

Posted by Wayne

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

I think the more you learn about wine & the more you swim in the overwhelming waters of today’s wine culture, the more you search for the beacons of “best choice”, the wine areas & vintages that take the trepidation & guilt out of the simple act of choosing a bottle of great “vino”.
Many of the realities of choosing wine, like quality, price, style, integrity…get down to the game of “Who do you trust?”. Personally, I get tired of this game. That’s when I start dreaming of wines I’d like to experience…the “killer” wines that my palette knows are out there, but that I’ve never had, don’t know about, or can’t afford.
Fortunately for me, I am in a position to experience some of these wines that come from California and Oregon & this is the purpose of my If I died & went to Napa blog – to share these experiences with you.
Twice a month, I will share one “dream” wine by featuring a Napa winery, their wines & winemaker. Along the journey, we will uncover some of the pleasures and mysteries of Napa and its neighbours. 


Introducing my first “To Die For” wine…

CADE Estate Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2008, Napa 

 At an elevation of 1700 feet, CADE Winery, located on the East side of the elusive Howell Mountain in Napa, produces 4 wines under the direction of Winemaker, Anthony Biagi,  in its state of the art Organic facility: 3 Cabernet Sauvignons and 1 Sauvignon Blanc. Howell Mountain is one of, if not THE, altar for pilgrims in search of the Colossus of ‘Cabs’ to be found in Napa.

Cade was established in 2005 after its older sibling, Plumpjack Winery was born in 1992. The principals were three entrepreneurs:

  1. Gavin Newsom – former Mayor of San Francisco
  2. Philanthropist Gordon Getty
  3. and its present General Manager – John Conover


CADE Estate Winery - winemaker Anthony Biagi

Anthony Biagi (in photo), the Lead Winemaker, arrived on the scene making wines on Howell Mountain in 1995 as a Graduate of University of California (UC) Davis. Anthony’s philosophy of creating “… artisanal, dimensional wines … tasting like they could come from nowhere else”, combined with Cade’s mantra of creating wines that are “…dense, rich and ageworthy, but not rustic or tannic” spawned the pleasures of wines like Howell Mountain Estate 2008.
Napa’s terroir has become legendary since Stag’s Leap’s 1973 Cabernet won the Judgement of Paris in 1976 . Weather conditions notwithstanding, Napa has been blessed with three geological conditions that contribute to the rich conditions of its soils: it has been on the floor of the ocean, the mouth of a river and the base of a volcanic mountain. What this means is that the soils are capable of providing good drainage and soil oxygen, an appropriate range of acidity to facilitate the availability of nutrients like P, K, Mg and Ca. As well, moderate to good water retention, moderate fertility and a reasonable rooting depth complete its almost perfect profile. Elevate this 1700 feet skywards toward the Sun Gods and you have an excellent foundation for creating  World Class Wine.

What are these conditions capable of? 

“A brilliant texture, stunning purity and great length (that) make for a fabulous wine to drink over the next 20 to 25+ years.” Robert Parker on Cade Estate Howell Mountain  (Dec. 2010)
Dark, creamy, layered, intense and long are the essentials of Cade Howell Mountain Estate. Opaque dark purple, it exhibits a nose of blueberries, black raspberries, ripe plums, graphite and crushed rocks. These flavours are warmed and carried over to the palette, embellished by dark chocolate, vanilla and sweet smoke.

Restaurant Menu Matches for CADE Howell Mountain Cabernet Sauvignon 2008 :

(Pairings courtesy of Ridgway Bar and GrillNaples Florida)

Crisply Seared Pork Belly (with Cider Reduction, Apple and Fennel Slaw)

– Mains-
Coq Au Vin (Baby Root Vegetables, Rich Red Wine and Demi-Glace Sauce)
Braised Short Ribs (Pureed Celery Root, Cranberry Demi-Glace)
-Cheese Course-
Rogue River Blue Cheese and Greens (Julienne Apple Salad, Olive Oil and Fig Jam, Focaccio Crostini)
-Dessert Course-
Chocolate Opera Cake
The complexity, finesse and diversity of Cade HM Cabernet 2008 makes wine choice simple as it will transport you through all Course choices with elegance and satisfaction, each pairing delivering a different experience.

Rackability (aka cellaring notes) 

This wine is drinkable on purchase. Its intensity and balance are in no way affected by its youth.
As Robert Parker has indicated, aging is not a problem so to consider it part of a collector’s portfolio for future use is an easy decision to make, especially considering its desirabilty and limited production. The 2006 vintage which had a 98+ ranking like its heir the 2008, sold out quickly. 

Investment potential?

This all depends on Cade Winery’s ability to move into the integrity level of Harlon or Chateau Montelena in the next 5 to 10 years. It presently retails for about $150 US/bottle. Certainly, the wine will accrue in value, but how much depends on continued levels of production, excellence and recognition.
Cade’s website  is worth a look. Here you will find how it is linked to its sibling Plumpjack and how both wineries are linked to Shakespeare. More on Plumpjack later!

Cheers… and follow your dream wines!
-Wayne Walker


Have a look at their new look!

Posted by Wayne

Monday, January 4th, 2010

Savvy Selections wine of the month club
Featuring Chateau des Charmes Estate Winery

Canada’s wineries delivered to your doorstep

December is now in full festive season. Our team of Sommeliers certainly know that December is here, our calendars are chock-o-block with private and corporate event bookings of Sommelier led wine tastings, lunches and dinners.  And the phone is ringing off the hook with people arranging subscriptions to Savvy Selections as gifts.

Call on us anytime for a special wine event or gift of wine. Wine Gift Hotline: 613.SAVVYCO (613.728.8926)

This month’s Savvy Selections wines were selected in a different fashion. For the first time in 4 years (not sure why it took us this long!), we invited to all of our subscribers to participate in the Savvy Selections tasting panel.  Many thanks to Julie, Denise, Ward and Doug who were up for the challenge of the hard work! One November evening this ‘Fab Four’ together with Savvy Sommelier Wayne Walker, sipped, swirled & spitted (did they really?) an assortment of wines this month’s featured winery – Château des Charmes. Reportedly, everyone had fun, yet they took their jobs seriously as they assessed all of the wines, discussed their attributes then selected the wines that were delivered to you. This time, starting with eight wines and deducting to only three – it was a tough job, but they were game to do it.

Watch for an email invitation to participate in the Savvy Selections tasting panel in mid-January.

In this month’s Savvy Selections, we are delighted to feature the new brand recently launched by Château des Charmes.  They are a household name for many and we are showcasing some very special wines this month:
Sauvignon Gris VQA 2008
– Viognier VQA 2007
– Cabernet Franc VQA 2005
– Equuleus VQA 2007 – optional wine on request
– Savagnin Icewine VQA 2006 – optional wine on request

We love to hear from you about this month’s selection.  Let us know how you enjoyed the wines, as well as the matching recipes.  If you would like to order more of these wines or others from previous Savvy Selections, simply contact us. 

Looking for a special occasion to visit Niagara this winter?
Icewine Festival is just around the corner. During the weekends of January 15 to 17 and 22 to 24, Vintage Hotels and Château des Charmes have partnered to put together a fantastic line up of events and packages celebrating Icewine. More information at

Cheers & Enjoy the holidays!
Debbie & Savvy Team

Château Des Charmes Winery
by Savvy Sommelier Wayne Walker

New world excellence. Old world tradition.”

Directed and rewarded by this mantra since 1978, the Bosc family (Paul Sr and his wife Andrèe – on right, along with Paul Jr and his wife Michèle – on left) represents a winemaking tradition comprised of six generations. Started in the 1840’s in French Algeria, the Old World tradition migrated to ‘New World’ in the 1950’s when Paul Bosc Sr made Ontario his new home.

A graduate of winemaking school at the University of Burgundy – Dijon and an experienced Alsatian winemaker, Paul Sr began his quest in the New World working for a large winery in Niagara. In 1978, he began his own venture by growing grapes on 50 acres of the St. David’s Bench (located along the base of the Niagara Escarpment). The faith Paul Sr. had in Niagara’s climate became a significant turning point in the evolution of Niagara as a wine region. His expertise and influence on the growth of the area is remains highly regarded by new winery owners.

Château des Charmes carries on a vine breeding program focused on growing and selecting Noble grape vines from the winery’s designated nursery plots in their vineyards, constantly experimenting with Niagara growing conditions. Over the years. Paul Sr has developed fuller and hardier vines to assist in the production of fine Niagara wines. Gamay ‘Droit’, is a grape variety that discovered in his nursery.  He noticed the rootshoots of one Gamay vine growing straight up (rather than branching out).  Intrigued, he propagated the vines and ended up nurturing them for 20 years only to discover that he had ‘grown’ a new form of Gamay vine – one that the Château now has exclusive international plant breeder rights.  This is heralded as Canada’s first vinifera (winespeak: native grape variety)

Château des Charmes has a large presence and a grounded history in Niagara, but according to Paul Jr. the winery “… is not just brick and mortar, it’s another member of the family. A lot of blood, sweat and tears created this impressive volume and space and this helps us to never lose sight of its human quality. My father and I make decisions for our immediate and extended families every day (120+ staff during the peak season). We never lose sight of our responsibility to consider Château des Charmes as a way of life for all of us. It has a central sparkle that we get up every morning to polish – like a diamond.

Like father like son, Paul Jr continues, “My father gave us a great advantage as a pioneer and a seminal figure in the development of the Niagara wine industry, yet I am weary that we have been in the New World (of Niagara) for more than four decades. We don’t rest on our laurels. We must be open to change and innovation.”

This side-by-side evolution of the ‘Old’ and the ‘New’ changed and shaped the new winery’s branding and labeling. The iconic architecture of the Château, Paul Jr explains, “now shares a regional terroir concept on the winery’s logo. It pays homage to Niagara by giving a better sense of place by using outlining the hillscape of St. David’s Bench in the background.”

And as for new innovations? You will see that on the back label, sports a square QR Code (Quick Response Code) near the barcode. This is leading edge technology.  By using the decoding software on a new cell phone, the code will convert and reveal a website on your cell phone providing more information about the wine including winemaking processes, growing conditions, recipes, critiques, recent awards won and cellaring notes. If you want to try it, download the free software download for QR Codes on  Château des Charmes is the first winery in North America adopting QR Codes technology. “But,” Paul Jr. humbly notes, “we won’t be the last.”

Innovation? Indeed.
Pioneering? Absolutely.

“New world excellence. Old world tradition.” A great mantra for a well rooted winery.


~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~

Château des Charmes Sauvignon Gris VQA 2008 $19.95

This unusual blend wine benefits from the citrus and mineral experience of Sauvignon Blanc grapes combined with the smooth texture and tropical flavours of Pinot Gris.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Straw to pale yellow in colour, the tasting panel enjoyed the pear, melon, citrus and sweet honeyed flavours of this medium bodied wine. As Ward put it, “this wine offered a comfortably sweet experience.”

Suggested Food Pairing: Serve this wine chilled at about 8 to 11C. It’s a wonderful sipper or can be paired with a variety of white meats – chicken or turkey. Shellfish, fish or soft cheeses will offer a delicious pairing.

Cellaring:  No need to wait…this wine is ready to drink now. It can cellar for up to 2 years at 10C but be careful not leave it too long as it will lose its characteristically fruity flavour.

Château des Charmes Viognier VQA 2007, $25.95

Viognier is one of the noble grapes of the Rhône region renowned for its intense aromatics and flavours of stone fruit. Unlike in Europe where it is primarily seen as a blending grape, in North America it has become a favourite in its own right. Think you have seen this grape variety before? In October’s Savvy Selections featuring Peninsula Ridge we included their Viognier.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A hands down favorite of the Savvy Selections tasting panel, the peach, almond, floral and melon aromas of the nose are carried on a creamy texture of apricot, citrus and almond on the tongue. Viognier is one of Doug’s favourite wines and this one in particular impressed him with the added dimensions of warmth and complexity. What do you think?

Suggested Food Pairing: Ideally paired with lighter fare, it shows very well seafood pasta, sushi, grilled white meats (try the Porkchop, Apple & Butternut Squash recipe below), salmon in a cream sauce or a simple plate of Brie and crackers.

Cellaring: This should be enjoyed now. Like all Viogniers, aromatics and finish dissipate with time. Chill this white a little more than usual to 7C for serving and storage. This will help the flavours and aromas endure.


Château des Charmes Cabernet Franc VQA 2005, $25.95

The Old World Bordeaux style of this wine was immediately evident to the tasting panel. Denise, Ward and Julie noticed its pleasures were not lead by its fruit profile, but were more balanced by the texture and barrel flavours evident in the wine. Like Viognier, Cabernet Franc is typically a blending grape in Bordeaux-styled wines, yet in cooler climates, such as in North America, it flourishes and has become one of Ontario’s more prolific and desired wines. If you have a sweet tooth, Cabernet Franc crafts as a very tasty red icewine. Outside of Ontario, this grape variety can be discovered as a blending grape in Cabernets, Bordeaux, Meritage or Super Tuscans.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Ruby garnet in colour, Denise was impressed with its silky texture that brought with it not only the typical raspberry and spice, but licorice flavour as well. Ward noted how its barrel flavours were rounded into sweet smoke and vanilla. Doug commented on its subtle minerality and long finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: The Fab Four tasting panel all agreed that older cheeses, grilled, red meat and game would be great matches for this wine. Let’s not forget tomato based pasta dishes! Have fun with our festive Christmas Turkey Pasta recipe below – it’s another way to enjoy turkey over the holidays.

Cellaring: This wine is drinking well now, yet it will continue to develop in the bottle for 5 to 10 years. The panel tasted the 2007 Cabernet Franc too and realized the softening effect of the extra 2 years of aging in the 2005 vintage.


Optional additions to your Savvy Selections

Two remarkable wine discoveries



During our tasting panel, we discovered two of Château des Charmes signature wines that we just HAVE to bring to your attention to consider adding to your Savvy Selection wines. Simply put, these wines were breathtaking.




If after reading these tasting notes you would like to order these special wines, simply contact Debbie on 613.728.8926 or and she will make the delivery arrangements for you. We would not want you to miss out!


Château des Charmes Equuleus VQA 2007 $40.00
Just released last week (Debbie got the first bottle!) this is the Château’s signature red wine.  Only crafted in spectacular years – 2007 certainly fit that bill – this wine honours Paul Sr’s passion for winemaking and Arabian horses.  Named after the Little Horse star constellation that is visible in the night sky during harvest time, this blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Cabernet Franc & 25% Merlot, simply an outstanding red wine.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This wine shows that Ontario can definitely make BIG red wines. Concentrated aromas and tastes of black plum, figs & black liquorice with notes of smoke and a long finish.

Suggested Food Pairing:  Simply put, this wine is begging to be enjoyed with the finest cut of beef – whether you roast, BBQ or sear it, keep this wine for that special dinner with all of the trimmings….including candles!

Cellaring: This wine has just been bottled and may still be experiencing bottle shock. It is recommended to hold until mid December or cellar as it has robust aging potential and will evolve over the next 5 to 15 years.  

Château des Charmes Savagnin Icewine VQA 2006

What is Savagnin? It is a rare grape, grown in the Jura region of France, where they make dry wines. The local specialty is Vin Jaune, a Sherry-style oxidized wine that can last upwards of 50 years. Back to Savvy Selections: the Bosc family originally made dry wines from this grape variety, but has now decided to produce the first ever Icewine.

The result? Medium to full body; it offers good amounts of fruit and acid, more along the lines of a refined Riesling Icewine rather than the typical Vidal Icewine.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Sumptuous and exotic! An incredible, complex marmalade, Mandarin orange, lemon and toffee experience that lasts forever. Evenly proportioned, intense, thick, sweet and opulent are the only superlatives the panel could generate. The fruit flavours, sweetness and acidity are well balanced on the palate. If you buy and try this wine, we’d like to receive your tasting notes! Drop us an e-mail so we have something to say besides Mmmm…

Suggested Food Pairing: ABSOLUTELY GREAT on its own. It has the capacity to stand up to and enhance sweet, full-textured desserts. Citrus desserts can render a rare bittersweet experience. Bring on the chocolate the tasting panel demanded!

Cellaring: This wine can be cellared, but Santa would be very disappointed if this gift weren’t very served soon!



As has become a tradition for the last couple of years, we offer you the option of including a dessert wine with your Savvy Selection in December. This signature wine is not only unique to Canada, but to the World. It left the tasting panel speechless!  Ahhh…, ohhh… and Mmmm… were the only responses that could be heard. We soon learned why it has a 90+ rating by professional wine critics.

~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

With Château des Charmes Sauvignon Gris…

Almond-Crusted Stuffed Chicken
Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 oz. brie cheese, sliced
4 dried apricots (finely chopped)
½ c. sliced almonds
1 tsp minced fresh rosemary
1 tsp coarse salt
1 tsp freshly cracked pepper
½ c. fresh bread crumbs
1 egg lightly beaten
1 tsp butter
1 tsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 375F.

Cut each breast in half like an open book.Arrange brie slices over chicken, sprinkle with apricots, ½ of the almonds, rosemary, salt and pepper. Close each breast and press around the edges to seal.


In a shallow dish, combine bread crumbs and remaining almonds, dip chicken breasts in egg then dredge them in crumb mixture, pressing to coat completely.


In large oven-proof skillet, melt butter and oil over medium-high heat. Cook chicken about 3 minutes until golden brown, then bake in oven about 15 to 20 minutes to cook through.


Serve with seasonal vegetables



With Château des Charmes Viognier…

Porkchops with Apples & Butternut Squash
From Bravo! The Best of Bridge Cookbook
Serves 4

1 ½ cup of unsweetened apple juice or cider
1 Tbsp honey mustard
1 Tbsp maple syrup or liquid honey
1 Tbsp cider vinegar
Salt & pepper to taste
1 Tbsp vegetable oil
4 pork chops 
1 Tbsp butter
1 large leek (or onion) sliced thinly
½ small butternut squash, peeled & grated (or cut into match sticks) – about 2 cups
2 red apples (unpeeled), thinly sliced
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish


In a medium bowl, whisk together apple juice, mustard, maple syrup, cider vinegar, salt and pepper.  Sprinkle pork on both sides with salt and pepper.

In a large skillet, heat oil over medium heat.  Cook pork for 4 to 5 minutes per side until browned and just a hint of pink remains inside, while juices run clear when pork is pierced.  Transfer to a plate and keep warm.


In the same skillet, melt butter over medium heat.  Sautée leek and squash for 2 minutes or untilsoftened.  Add apples and juice mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 5 minutes or until apples are softened not mushy.


Return pork to pan and bring sauce back to a boil.  Remove from heat immediately and sprinkle with parsley


Serve over wild rice with generous spoonfuls of sauce.



With Château des Charmes Cabernet Franc…

Christmas Turkey Pasta
Serves 8

1 pound of turkey, ground or diced (pre-cooked or fresh)
½ cup chopped green onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp olive oil
2 14 ½ oz cans of tomatoes, undrained
½ cup red wine or chicken broth

1 cup loosely packed fresh basil, minced

1 tsp dried oregano

Hot cooked spaghetti

½ cup freshly shredded Parmesan cheese


In a large nonstick skillet, cook the turkey, onions and garlic in oil over medium heat until meat is no longer pink. If using precooked meat, brown it, then drain.

Add the tomatoes, wine, basil and oregano. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer uncovered for 10 minutes or until heated through.


Serve over spaghetti; sprinkle with cheese and enjoy with a glass of Cabernet Franc.



Cheers & the best of the Season from all of us at Savvy Company!




Drumroll please! The winners are….

Posted by Debbie

Monday, November 2nd, 2009

When you walk into a wine store, there are rows of wines awaiting your discovery.  But how do you to select the right one?  There are many factors to consider, and often the mention of winning a medal at a wine competition can influence your choice and your wallet.  For this reason, wineries compete in wine competitions hoping to win a medal that they can promote in order to influence your purchase.

At this year’s Ottawa Wine & Food Show (dates Nov 6 to 8, 2009 at Lansdowne Park, Ottawa) 100+ medals will be given to shine the spotlight on the winners of the Cellars of the World Wine Competition.  This prestigious wine competition that attracts wineries from all corners of the world, was managed by the Savvy Team including Debbie, Wayne, Erin & Vanessa along with a great group of volunteers.

The weeks leading up to the competition day, required hours of receiving, categorizing and logging 360+ bottles of wines.

On the day of the competition, swirling and sipping took place behind closed doors. This year, a panel of 24 judges, consisting of wine writers, professional wine judges, LCBO and SAQ product consultants and accredited Sommeliers from Ottawa’s acclaimed restaurants, were teamed based on their wine styles preferences.  Each group judged 60 plus wines ‘blind’ without knowledge of the winery, country or vintage year.  The categories for this competition are based on style and grape variety then further broken down into three price points; $0-14.99, $15-19.99 and over $20.  All exhibitors at the Ottawa Wine and Food Show were invited to participate in the competition entering wines that they intend to serve at the show.

And the drumroll please….this year’s winners are….

Download Cellars of the World Wine Competition 2009 – Medal Standings or view the wine competition results online

Interested about wine competitions?  Read Debbie’s article that appeared in the Ottawa Business Journal

Cheers & see you at the Wine & Food Show this weekend.



An eye popping wine discovery…

Posted by Wayne

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

Featuring Vineland Estates Winery
Canada’s wineries delivered to your doorstep

Savvy Selections is all about discovering premium wines made by winemakers across Canada.  This month we have made an incredible – not to mention delicious – discovery when we opened top-of-the-line wines from Vineland Estates Winery of Niagara.


Seriously, our eyes popped out in amazement when we sampled these elegant, well balanced and well crafted wines. We wish that we could see your reaction of discovery when you take your first sip of the Elevation Series wines in this month’s Savvy Selections:

Elevation Series Riesling VQA 2007– a signature grape variety of Vineland Estates. This is the best of the best!

Elevation Series Chardonnay VQA 2007 – a white wine that any red wine lover will enjoy

Elevation Series Cabernet VQA 2007 – a blend that has won numerous awards recently that the winery has just relabled the bottle to accommodate all of the accolades!


Vineland Estates and its owners – the Schmidt family – are familiar to many Canadian households for quality wines. More importantly, they have leant a hand and their knowledge to grape growers, restaurants and start up wineries all in effort to help build a vibrant wine industry in Ontario and across the country.  Even Brian Schmidt, Vineland’s esteemed winemaker, helped by supporting an event that The Savvy Grapes was involved in during our early days of being business…and look at us now…showcasing his premium wines to our Savvy Selections subscribers.  Thank you Brian!


In this Savvy e-Zine, read more about Brian’s down to earth winemaking style that fascinated 0ur Savvy Sommelier Wayne Walker during his interview. As always, you will find our Savvy Sommelier tasting notes and summer recipes chosen to pair with the selected wines.


Visit the winery & stay for a meal…

When your travel plans take you to Niagara, be sure to include a visit Vineland.  Not only is it a stunning historic property, be sure to make time for a gourmet meal at the restaurant located in the 1845 circa farmhouse.  Pick a table outside under the shade of the large tree and be mesmerized by the view of the rolling vineyards while Executive Chef Jan Willem-Stulp and his team create an outstanding wine and food experience for you.  More at      


Stock up for the summer…

The Elevation Series wines will take your taste buds to new heights.  When you would like more of these wines or other wines from Vineland Estates, simply call me at any time to make the arrangements for a delivery. The wine can be sent to any Ontario address: to your home, office or even cottage.  Put us on speed dial! Savvy Company 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926).


Cheers, enjoy and most of all enjoy your summer!

Debbie & the Savvy Team


Vineland Estates Winery

Presented by Sommelier Wayne Walker

Off the beaten track, yet on a well traveled route, turn off the Q.E.W. at exit 57, head south on Victoria Avenue into the area known as Vineland. A quick right turn on Moyer Road will bring you to a remarkable landmark: a stone tower that marks the site of an 1860’s Mennonite homestead and now the home of Vineland Estates Winery. 


According to winemaker, Brian Schmidt, this is the site of the “fortunate happenstance” by Hermann Weis of Mosel, Germany in 1979. Weis attested that vinifera (winespeak: pure grape varieties – example Cabernet Sauvignon, Riesling, etc.) could not only survive, but flourish in the clay and limestone soils of Niagara. This brought about a “natural evolution” that Allan Schmidt (Vineland’s General Manager) and his brother Brian Schmidt have vigorously cultivated since assuming the direction and development of the winery in 1988.


Vineland Estates produces not just great wine, but a great wine experience. Its highly recommended restaurant, wonderful wine boutique, carriage-house facility for picturesque private events, phenomenal vineyards and unique wine cellar (a living record each of the 25 year history of the winery in bottle format) have all evolved from a natural sense of “working with all that we have,” as Brian explains


“Minimalist by nature” is how Brian expresses his approach to winemaking.But minimal doesn’t mean reducing to the bare bones. It means getting down to simple quality and enhancing the natural essence of the grapes.”


Brian’s insights into how he makes Riesling wine is almost a mantra for the character of the winery: “Our style is crafted from what we have been given from the vineyard. Acidity is the most consistent characteristic of grapes we can grow in Niagara. We don’t always have the conditions for high sugar and alcohol content in our crops. If we relied on those qualities for the basis of our Riesling wines we might only be successful 3 out of 10 years.” 


Brian goes on to explain, “For Riesling, we can typically get 18 to 18½ Brix (winemaker’s term for measurement of natural sugar content in grapes) consistently at each harvest. I stylize the winemaking so the acidity is adequate, yet not overpowering. It is this balanced approach that makes a great tasting wine like Elevation Riesling with only 8% alcohol and 20 grams of residual sugar.” With this explanation, our Savvy Selections tasting panel knew that it was a natural fit to include Vineland’s top end Riesling in this month’s selection.


Balance extends itself from winemaking into the vineyard. “To realize consistency of quality in the vineyard, our primary focus is to grow a healthy and balanced vine – one that is growing well considering the conditions of soil and the weather,” explains Brian in his down to earth manner. “Some wineries measure the number of tons per acre. To me, this is not as important as the sustainability of the vine and the methods we use to grow great grapes (viticulture). It’s a creative balancing act and I don’t want to handcuff our winery with expectations or quotas.”


For this reason, in some years, Brian does not craft particular wines in his portfolio. Simply put, due to rain or lack of sun hours or other natural affectations, he will not comprise quality or Vineland’s esteemed reputation with a sub-par wine. Vineland loyal customers and restaurants have expectations when they uncork a bottle of Vineland wines. Our Savvy Selections tasting panel were impressed with each of the four wines in Vineland’s Elevation Series, making it difficult for us to only pick three to showcase this month.


In addition to Riesling, Brian is inspired when he talks about Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc vineyards and the wines. In his opinion, both are very well suited to Niagara terroir resulting in complex wines.


“It is all about finding a balance. Like all pleasures, wine should not be complicated…simply enjoyed,” mentions Brian.  “Vineland Estates Winery is where great wine, fabulous food and beautiful surroundings embrace simple pleasures.”


Vineland Estates is very proud of the success of its Elevation wines in the marketplace and at wine competitions.


As a sommelier, I think that with every sip of Vineland’s wine you can taste the evolution of a winery that aims to create not only great wine, yet wine with unique character – its food friendliness, its winemaking philosophy and its sustainability. Cheers & Enjoy!




~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~

Elevation Riesling VQA 2007, $25

The fruit for these wines is harvested from the highest elevations on the property allowing them to take full advantage of temperature fluctuations (difference between day and night temperatures) that are generated by the Beamsville Bench – part of the Niagara Escarpment – along with the gentle breezes of nearby Lake Ontario. Combined, these help generate fresh acidity, ripe flavours and silky textured wines.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Pale yellow, clear and reflective, tickles your nose with aromas of clover honey, ripe apple and apricot. A soft steely texture with apple and apricot integrated with pink grapefruit. The intensity of sweetness and acidity makes for a distinct crisp taste experience – perfect for summer sipping.


Suggested Food Pairing: Serve chilled (at about 11C) on its own or with food. Quiche, ceviche, curry dishes and ginger infused desserts.  With its intensity and natural sweetness of this wine, Japanese dishes like Sushi, Shabu-shabu, Tempura or Ootoro are especially tasty – try your hand at our rolled sushi recipe below.


Cellaring: No need to wait – this wine is ready to drink this summer.



Elevation Chardonnay VQA 2007, $25

Also produced with grapes grown on the Beamsville Bench, subtle barrel aging adds to the complexity of its ripeness and silky texture. This is a white wine that any red wine drinker will enjoy.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A reflective pure straw colour, this medium-bodied wine presents good fruit aromas of crunch apple (spy apples in particular?), fresh nectarines, tangerine with a hint of pencil shavings (do you smell this?). Apple. herbs and lemon follow through on the palate and offer a balanced experience held together with good acidity and soft tannins. A medium aftertaste of apple and lemon-pepper leave a reflective impression. Delicious!


Suggested Food Pairing: This wine is like a cross-over vehicle when it comes to food pairings. It can match well with the lighter sides like fruit salads, Caesar salad, shellfish (raw and steamed). While it can also carry larger foods like honey-barbeque chicken wings, fish chowder and soft cheeses. In the meat category. oven-roasted pork, grilled chicken or white fish with garlic or citrus marinade.  Believe it or not a perfect complement with this wine is POPCORN – especially caramel corn!


Cellaring: Drinks like a dream right now. Cellaring shouldn’t exceed 2 years if you want to maintain present levels of fruit flavour. Serve at 12C to 14C.


Elevation Cabernet VQA 2007, $25
Another ‘Elevated’ experience, that takes advantage the micro-climate, it benefits from the experience and expertise of Vineland’s esteemed winemaker and friend of Savvy Company – Brian Schmidt. A blend of 70% Cabernet Franc (a very successfully nurtured grape in Niagara) and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, the sweet red bell pepper flavours of Cabernet Franc have been supported by the dark-fruit sweetness of Cabernet Sauvignon in an extremely well crafted and well-balanced wine. You are the first to receive this bottle sporting the new label that celebrates its string of recent awards – Savvy Selections membership has privileges!

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A rich, transparent medium-bodied wine with aromas of ripe red berries and cinnamon then after the wine breathes a bit, the aromas extend into sweet bell red pepper, dark fruit (do you find figs and plums) and dark chocolate. The flavours evolve too! Dark juicy black cherry, mulberry, warm spice, toffee and even lemon pepper, finish off with subtle dry tannins, good acidity and warmth. A balanced experience whose medium finish leaves reflections of spicy, dark fruit.   

Suggested Food Pairing: Certainly this wine qualifies for the BBQ season! Pork chops and ribs would match best, especially when dry rubbed with herbs and spices. Tomato-based pastas, lasagna and even smoked ham would be delicious. A meal of middle-eastern or Greek cuisine lend themselves to a great match too. BBQ foods aside, probably one of the best selections would be thin crust gourmet pizza – a favorite recipe is below.

Cellaring: This wine is great for drinking right now. It could cellar quite comfortably for 5 to 7 years which would bring out its structure even more. Serve at 16C to 18C


~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

With Elevation Riesling…

Maki-zushi (Rolled Sushi)

Serves 6 or more


2 ½ cups Japanese short-grain rice (like Koshihikari)

2 ½ cups cold water

4 tablespoons rice vinegar

3 tablespoons superfine sugar

2 teaspoons salt

Your choice of cooked or raw seafood, chopped or minced

6 sheets of nori (edible seaweed)

Soy sauce

Gari (pickled ginger)

Wasabi paste




1.      Place rice in a colander. Rinse thoroughly. Drain. Put in cold water in saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover pan and turn heat to very low and cook for 15 minutes without lifting the lid. Turn off heat and allow to stand for 10 minutes more still covered, then spoon rice into large bowl.


2.      Mix together the vinegar, sugar and salt in a small bowl until sugar dissolves then drizzle mixture over the rice. Mix together gently to completely coat rice. Set aside to cool to room temperature.


3.      Toast each nori sheet very lightly by passing back and forth over hot stove burner. Don’t get it too close to the heat or it will quickly burn.


4.      Spread rice evenly on nori sheet on bamboo roller. Put seafood filling across centre of nori on top of rice. Roll up bamboo mat pressing forward to shape the roll. Press bamboo mat gently to shape and firm up sushi roll. Remove roll from bamboo and with a sharp knife that you wet with water, cut roll into 2 inch slices.



With Elevation Chardonnay…

Best ‘Barbie’ Chicken

Serves 6


6 chicken breast halves (preferably boneless, skinless)

1 cup vegetable oil

2 cups lemon-lime flavoured carbonated beverage

1 cup soy sauce

1 ½ teaspoons garlic powder



1.   In a medium bowl combine oil, lemon-lime beverage, soy sauce and garlic powder. Stir thoroughly.


2.   Put chicken and mixture together in sealed Ziploc bags or plastic container and marinate in refrigerator for 12 to 18 hours (6 to 9 hours if using boneless, skinless breasts). 


3.   Barbeque slowly — don’t overcook. Turn often and baste with mixture on each turn. Cook until meat is no longer pink in the center and juices run clear. Discard remaining marinade.


4.   Depending on marinating time and cooking method the amount of marinade consumed will vary.


With Elevation Cabernet…

Easy to Make Thin-Crust Gourmet Pizza
Serves 1 or 2 per pizza


Olive oil

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

Pinch of sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

2 large flour tortillas (sandwich wraps)

1 cup shredded Asiago cheese

2/3 cup Ricotta cheese

6 to 10 Cremini (aka Button) mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced

3 Portobello mushrooms, trimmed and thinly sliced

½ cup spinach

½ thinly sliced red pepper



1.   Preheat oven to 450F. If using a stone for baking, allow oven and stone to heat for 15 minutes before cooking. Otherwise, use rimmed baking sheets and parchment paper and place racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven to preheat and cook.


2.   Heat one teaspoon of Olive oil in a sauté pan on medium heat. Add onions and stir until they soften. Add pinch of sugar and the Balsamic vinegar. Stir in mushrooms, spinach and red pepper slowly. Add more Olive oil if required. Cook until onions have softened and spinach is beginning to shrivel.


3.   Sprinkle some corn meal on your pizza wheel (or rimless cooking sheet) and place tortilla on top and brush with Olive oil. If you are using rimmed cookie sheets, put parchment paper on sheets, brush with Olive oil and put tortilla on top then brush tortilla with oil.


4.   Sprinkle each tortilla with ½ cup shredded Asiago cheese. Sprinkle with cooked onions, mushrooms, spinach and peppers then add bits of Ricotta cheese. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Brush lightly with Olive oil if you wish.


5.   Bake until crust is crisp and very brown (5-7 minutes if using a stone. Start with 10 minutes if using cookie sheet and check it for crisp brown texture from there.) Cut with a pizza cutter and serve.  



Cheers to “Elevating” your summer!


Savvy Selections e-Zine featuring Konzelmann Winery

Posted by Wayne

Monday, February 2nd, 2009



December 2008
Savvy Selections – featuring Konzelmann Winery
Canada’s Wineries delivered to your doorstep

As December is a month filled with family traditions we thought that it would be fitting to showcase Konzelmann Estate Winery. In this Savvy e-Zine, you will read how the winery in Niagara continues the family tradition of winemaking stemming back to Germany for four generations. The tradition is deeply rooted in heritage and respects the quality and winemaking styles of the Old World that shows through in the three bottles we selected for this month’s Savvy Selections:

Gewurztraminer Reserve VQA 2006 
Riesling Grand Reserve Classic VQA 2007 
  Barrel Aged Merlot VQA 2006 
Special Select Late Harvest Vidal VQA 2006 – optional item added on request

Our tasting panel of Sommeliers selected these particular wines as they are ready now and would be easy drinking wines to uncork during the holiday season. Keep them handy and ready to serve with hors d’oeuvres, to unwind after a full day of shopping or to simply sip on as you relax by the tree.

If you would like to order additional wines from Konzelmann or wines from other featured wineries in the Savvy Selections, simply contact us to organize a shipment for you.

Here’s to another great year together discovering Canadian wines with the Savvy Selections!  We look forward to continuing to share wines with you in 2009!

Happy holidays,
-Debbie and the Savvy Team


Konzelmann Estates Winery
presented by Savvy Sommelier Wayne Walker

In 1893, Friederich Konzelmann, restaurateur and winemaker, founded an Estate Winery near Stuttgart, Germany. Herbert, his great grandson, continued this tradition in Germany until the early 1980’s when he moved to Niagara, Ontario. In his travels, Herbert recognized that Niagara had an Alsatian-like micro-climate in the Lake Ontario area and saw the opportunity to continue the Konzelmann in the growing Niagara wine region.

The new Konzelmann property in Niagara was originally an orchid of 2500 plus peach trees.  Herbert recognized that there was potential in the soil to offer soft minerality and warm tropical flavour to wine grapes. Today, the 83 acres has been transformed into vineyards that boasts 17 different grape varieties producing upwards of 40,000 cases of award winning wines each year.

Herbert and his winemaking assistant, Eric Pearson, are focused on producing low yielding grapes (winespeak: low yields means that the grapes have concentrated flavours) and high quality premium wines. Old vines, thinned out three times a season, contribute towards achieving this goal. Vertical vine training (a method of trimming and growing vines in a more vertical linear fashion than in a bush-like design) helps to enhance sun exposure, ripening conditions and sugar and flavour intensities. These wines are proudly named “The Winemaster’s Collection”.

Riesling, Gewurztraminer, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Vidal are some of the varietals that thrive at Konzelmann. As Bruno Reis, Director of Operations explains, “This is where our penchant for Alsatian and Burgundian styles of wines comes from. The natural growing conditions and grape varietals have a direct impact on our winemaking methods.”

Certainly Eric’s knowledge of Italian winemaking coupled with Herbert’s German background (including his expertise with Icewines) are a winning combination that is enjoyed in all Konzelmann wines.

This international expertise can be contributed to why Konzelmann wines have an international market, being sold not only in Ontario but extensively in California, Texas, New York, Japan and Korea.

Konzelmann’s signature wines are white. The Reserve Gewurztraminer and Grand Reserve Riesling – both are included in your Savvy Selections this month. As for red, Pinot Noir and Merlot lead the pack while Vidal Icewine is the coup d’etat in the dessert category.

Konzelmann wines can be placed in existing styles of winemaking, but the fact remains that wine from this Niagara estate on Lake Ontario struts character profiles of its own. Konzelmann whites show a fine acid balance while maintaining an unique, delicate, soft mineral and fruit flavour. Konzelmann reds show the effort that is spent enhancing textures and tannic structure on an existing fresh, elegant, fruity canvas. The result? – favour, flavour and balance. Extended fermentation time on the grape skins and in wood barrels assists in developing these signatures.

Bruno feels that if someone were to drink every wine in the Konzelmann portfolio, the Gewurztraminer would be the most memorable because “It tastes good, feels good and with its acidity, it matches well with food while showing no negative side effects. It is the role model of all the Estate wines. It’s a drink of integrity and character. Drink Konzelmann wine and everything is fine.”  

Now that is a great way to toast the holidays!


~ Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes ~

Konzelmann Gewurztraminer Reserve VQA, 2006  $17.00
Low yield and long ripening are evident with this wine. Considered as Konzelmann’s signature wine, it shows good weight and texture and solid aromatics. This wine is medium to full body and capable of carrying solid alcohol and good residual sugars, as evident in its delicious fruit flavours.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This straw gold, brilliant wine is very aromatic with stone fruits (can you find peaches, nectarines, apricots?), flower blossoms, lychee and other tropical fruit. Good acidity and fruit structure give balance to its elegant, long, stone fruit and tropical finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: Serve this wine chilled (about 8C) as a wonderful sipper or paired with a variety of white meats roasted or grilled, fish, soft cheeses or salty snacks. Try the Spiced Chicken Breasts with Pineapple and Grapefruit below to taste this wine come alive!

Cellaring:  No need to wait…this wine is ready to drink now. It can cellar for up to 2 years at 12C.

Konzelmann Riesling Grand Reserve Classic VQA, 2007 $22.00
Another great food wine with its thirst quenching acidity, its complex fruit profile and its delicate balance is enjoyed into the well-ripened creamy and elegant texture.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A favorite of the Savvy Selections tasting panel, this straw (with a greenish tinge – do you see this?) is a reflective wine with aromas of ripe pears, peaches and apricots on a canvas of ripe apple and lemon-lime. Full-bodied, the fruity flavors continue through onto the palate with tropical fruit, stone fruits and honey. A silky leather and green pear, apple aftertaste are connected by a subtle minerality on the finish.

Suggested Food Pairing: This wine is versatile and can be paired with many food styles. It shows very well with spicy Thai and Mexican cuisine because of its thirst quenching qualities. Even serve this wine with a fruit dessert, particularly a dessert featuring fruits found in the aroma and flavours of the wine. I offer (below) a luscious Roasted Pear recipe that would be perfect for holiday festivities. Enjoy!

Cellaring: Ready to be enjoyed now, yet will retain its intensity for up to 2 years if stored on its side in a cool location (12C-14C).

Konzelmann Merlot Barrel-aged VQA, 2006 $20.00
The dry summer and cool fall of 2006 resulted in excellent ripening conditions rendering this Merlot ideal fruit concentrations and colours. This wine was not only aged (for 18 months) in French Oak (in case you are interested: from coopers in the Allier and Nevers regions of France), but some fermentation took place in barrels as well.  This allowed the winemaker to enhance the tannic structure and the darker, riper fruit flavours of the wine during the active process of fermentation and the longer aging time. This contributes to its Bordeaux-style profile.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Dark ruby-red in colour, sporting the richness of blackberry jam, earth and oak, with a subtle bit of pepper, this wine is very soft and round with ripe berry fruit and spicy vanilla flavours on both the tongue and the medium finish. Good acidity gives it a surprising quality of thirst quench.

Suggested Food Pairing: Pasta, pasta and more pasta is what this wine screams out for! Make sure that the sauce is not overly creamy. Oven cooked beef (like roast beef, Beef Bourguignon) and chicken (Coq au Vin) would work well.  A feast of chili and crusty bread or homemade pizza are perfect to enjoy this easy drinking wine.

Cellaring: This wine is drinking well now, yet, could certainly be cellared for 3 years or so (18C). As it ages, the fruit character will diminish. You may think that this is an issue as it is such a large part of its profile. Watch for any significant lightening of colour in storage as this will indicate waning of fruit profile.


A Special Addition by Request of our Savvy Selections subscribers
Konzelmann Special Select Late Harvest VQA, 2006 $19.95

Late Harvest wines usually identify a grape that has been harvested around the first frost of the year in late October or early November. The Vidal grape (interesting to note it is a hybrid grape variety), is typically left on the vine to be naturally frozen, then harvested for Icewine.  Vidal is also a great grape for Late Harvest because of its thick skin and its ability to retain sugar and acidity against exposure to the harsh early winter elements.

The panel of Savvy Sommeliers was particularly impressed with this Special Select because its weight and texture gives you the impression of Icewine with its full bodied richness and long creamy finish.  We hope you like it as much as we did. 

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: The honey texture and colour of this luscious libation almost gives it an Ice Wine profile. Stone fruits and apple on the nose are consummated on the tongue with more honey, lychee, candied citrus and warm, ripe tropical fruit, leaving a ripe, fleshy peach, apricot and honey finish balanced by sweet lemon zest. 

Suggested Food Pairing: GREAT on its own. Sip by the fireplace munching on your favourite roasted nuts, cheese, chocolate or holiday treat. Also consider serving to complement and enhance sweet, full-textured desserts as well. 

Cellaring: With its great acidity this wine will store and please for quite a while, but Santa would be very disappointed if this gift lasted past January 1, 2009 – wink wink!


~ Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections ~

With Konzelmann Gewurztramniner Reserve…
Spiced Chicken Breasts with Pineapple & Grapefruit
Serves 2

2 chicken breasts
mixed spice (no anise)
ground cinnamon
cayenne pepper
clear strained chicken stock
fresh grapefruit juice
fresh pineapple juice
butter or olive oil

In a saucepan, combine two fruit juices, stock, and spices and boil to a thick sauce.
Add a pad of butter to the sauce to give it a shine.

Pan fry the chicken breasts in butter or olive oil until firm. Cover as required.

Test periodically they are cooked throughout by testing that juices run clear when cut.
Serve the chicken breasts with the fruity sauce smothered over them. Perfect on a bed of steamed rice.


With Konzelmann Riesling Grand Reserve Classic…
Festive Pear Pairs
Serves 4-6

4 firm ripe pears – pealed, sliced in half & cored
¼ c. brown sugar, packed
¼ tsp. ground ginger or ground cinnamon
1 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup coarsely crumbled ginger snaps
1 cup havarti or old cheddar cheese, shredded
Vanilla ice cream or whipped cream

Preheat oven to 400F. Butter a shallow 8 cup square or oval baking dish.

Place pears cut side up in baking dish, sprinkle with sugar, ginger, lemon juice and toss to combine. Spread evenly. Roast for about 25 minutes or until pears are almost tender and starting to brown.

In a bowl, combine cookie crumbs and cheese. Sprinkle evenly over pears.

Roast for 10 minutes longer or until cheese is melted or pears are tender.
Serve warm topped with whipping cream or ice cream.  Serve yourself a glass of chilled Classic Riesling.

With Konzelmann Barrel-Aged Merlot…
Sweet Beef Curry
Serves 4

1 onion, sliced
curry powder
1 apple, peeled and sliced
1 banana, sliced
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp fig jam or orange marmalade
3 to 4 cups of lean roast beef cut into bite sized pieces
½ c. of water
1 beef stock cube

Fry onion in butter until softened.

Add curry powder and cook for 5 minutes stirring occasionally. Add apple, cook for 2 minutes. Add banana, cook for 1 or 2 minutes.

Add sugar and jam and cook for 5 minutes. Add meat, water and crumbled stock cube and simmer, stirring until thick. May be served alone or on rice.

With Konzelmann Special Select Late Harvest…
Sweet Heat
Serves 4  

2 peaches, ripe, but not soft
2-3 Tsbp Butter
3 Tsbp brown sugar
dark rum
vanilla ice cream

Cut peaches in half. Melt butter over medium heat. Add brown sugar and stir.

Add peaches. Cook until fairly warm and starting to soften, about 1 minute. Flip and cook an additional 30 seconds.

Add rum to taste and swirl in pan.

Use a long lighting instrument, pass over the pan as alcohol evaporates and light contents of pan. Allow flame to die down and sauce to thicken, slightly.

Remove and serve over ice cream. Yum!


If you would like to order additional wines from Konzelmann or wines from other featured wineries in the Savvy Selections, simply contact us to organize a shipment for you.









Savvy Selections e-Zine featuring East Dell Estates Winery

Posted by Wayne

Monday, December 29th, 2008

November 2008
Savvy Selections – featuring East Dell Estates Winery
Canada’s wineries delivered to your doorstep

There is a sigh of relief in the wine regions at this time of the year when all of the grapes have finally been harvested.  This year with the wet summer weather and the warm autumn days, Ontario winemakers report that they have left the grapes on the vines longer than normal to maximize the ripening.  Now that the vineyards are bare, the fun starts in the cellar!


One place that is be particularly busy with harvest is East Dell and its sister wineries – Birchwood Estates, Thomas and Vaughan and Lakeview Cellars.  Operated under one company, Niagara Cellars Inc, these four wineries share many things including equipment and winemakers!  We are delighted to feature East Dell wines this month.  The Savvy Sommelier Wayne Walker and his tasting panel sampled all of the wines in the East Dell portfolio and selected this trio: 

– East Dell Riesling VQA 2007
– East Dell Barrel Fermented Chardonnay VQA 2006
– East Dell Merlot Reserve VQA 2005 – this one is a keeper – for the cellar that is!


Below you can read about how East Dell’s Winemaker Scott McGregor ‘balances’ his work at East Dell and the sister wineries.


Travel tip – stay at East Dell to experience life at a winery
East Dell has a cabin that can be rented featuring a loft and a Jacuzzi where you can actually become a part of the ‘nature’ of the winery. Now that will be an experience!


What do you think?
Your feedback is always welcome, so please let us know how you enjoyed the Savvy Selections. We look forward to your comments on the wine/food matches and to hearing what other recipes you may have tried with these wines.  If you would like to order additional East Dell wines or wines from other featured wineries in the Savvy Selections, it would be our pleasure to organize a shipment for you.


Cheers & Enjoy this month’s Savvy Selections!

– Debbie & the Savvy Team


Debbie Trenholm

President & Accredited Sommelier



East Dell Estates

Presented by Savvy Sommelier Wayne Walker

In 1999, partners Susan O’Dell and Michael East purchased what was previously known as Walters Estate Winery on the Upper Bench near Beamsville. Susan and Michael were committed to making East Dell a unique property by enhancing and developing not only its grape growing and winemaking potentials, but by developing the beauty of its rolling hills and trails (part of The Bruce Trail meanders through the 50 acre site). Maintaining a connection with nature is important at East Dell Estates. This philosophy is evident across all aspects of the winery from its down to earth approach to managing the vineyards to the blue heron on its wine labels. As East Dell’s winemaker Scott McGregor, states “We are vine country casual.”


East Dell is part of a family of wineries known as Niagara Cellars. In 2005, East Dell and its sister winery in Niagara, Thomas and Vaughan, merged with Diamond Estates (a sales and marketing agency that owns Lakeview Cellars and Birchwood Estates, both also located in Niagara). At this time, the business – Niagara Cellars Inc. – was formed. Scott feels this gives East Dell a big advantage over other wineries. The winery has opportunities to share winemaking techniques with other partnering companies as well as share and exchange crop production. “When you can share crops, you have a great advantage blending wines because you have access to grapes grown in other terroirs (growing conditions) in Niagara as well as the expertise of the people who grow and process those grapes. You have more options when you go to blend the wines. You can produce some wines you couldn’t produce otherwise,” explains Scott. He also feels that with East Dell’s ‘Natural Philosophy’, the style of winemaking can be geared towards the specific grape variety in an open forum with three other winemakers, rather than be limited to one particular winemaking approach.


The 13 acres of vineyards on the 50 acre site boast Riesling, Chardonnay, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Vidal amongst its plantings. And for Scott, its sloped, calcerous topography is one of its unique characteristics in the area that allows perfect drainage and great Summer sun exposure, even though it faces the Toronto skyline to the North. As well, it offers no real low spots for cold air pockets to form early in the spring or late in the fall. This results in uniform ripening conditions.


A rustic looking, renovated building that was part of Walters Estates houses the winery with a capacity to produce about 20,000 cases of wines. This, along with a popular retail restaurant appropriately called ‘The View’, are the center of East Dell.


The East Dell portfolio carries some very reasonably priced and quality wines. Award winning Riesling and Chardonnay lead the chapters of Whites. Of note there is ‘Summer Rose’, a light, fresh wine with notes of strawberry and citrus. Some interesting 375 mL dessert wines include award winning Vidal Icewine and Cabernet Franc Icewine. Pinot Noir and Merlot round out the Reds where one can find The Red and Black Cab wines. The Black Cab Scott considers to be East Dell’s signature wine because of its unique ‘Canadian Bordeaux Blend’ of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Baco Noir. Not only is it a unique blend, but it has the longest history with the winery which has allowed just the right tweaking for perfection.


 East Dell – a uniquely natural property, ‘down home’ accessibility, an unpretentious style, a secure sense of future – “vine country casual”.


Enjoy your East Dell wine experience in this month’s Savvy Selections!



Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes


East Dell Riesling VQA 2007, $14.95

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Transparent, reflective, brilliant and straw in colour, this Riesling offers fragrant orange blossoms and rose petal aromas on a canvas of ripe apple, peaches and pineapple. Off-dry flavours of apricot, peach, crisp green apple and soft lemon are delivered to the tongue and lead to a very pleasant medium finish of ripe fruit and citrus.


Suggested food pairing: White fish like halibut, haddock, tilapia or cod and smoked fish are good choices for this wine. vegetarian pasta, grilled veggies, sweet peppers, soft cheeses, fresh salads with vinaigrette, cold cuts, pates and surprisingly – sauerkraut. Spicy Thai and Mexican dishes can be quenched by this wine as well.


Cellaring and Service: Serve at about 10C to 12C. This wine is perfect for drinking now and shouldn’t be cellared for more than a year or so.



East Dell Barrel Fermented Chardonnay VQA 2006, $18.95

Sommelier’s Speak:  Malolactic Fermentation

This is a process the winemaker puts the wine through after the fermentation process using yeast. That is why it is called ‘Secondary Fermentation’. It is not really fermentation because it is achieved by introducing lactic acid bacteria (not yeast) into the process and changing some of the malic acids in the wine into lactic acids. The effect on taste and flavour is that the biting acidity of malic acid is softened into the smoother acidity of lactic acid and results in a creamier, more full-bodied wine that will exhibit flavours like butter, honey, vanilla, butterscotch, toffee and ripe fruit. This East Dell Chardonnay has gone through extensive Malolactic Fermentation in oak barrels much to its benefit…  and your pleasure.


Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: A transparent, straw gold colour, bordered by a medium silver rim is supported by medium legs. Butter, toffee, vanilla, butterscotch and warm toasty aromas are blended with a hint of nectarine and tropical fruit. The palette experience is medium to full-bodied and elegantly balanced amid the warmth and toastiness of butterscotch and nectarine. A medium to long lingering finish of butterscotch, toast, vanilla and tropical fruit reflect the fullness of this wine.


Suggested food pairing: The flavour balance and texture of this wine make it a great canvas for certain foods. Certainly chicken in cream sauces should come to mind. Grilled vegetables, seafood with butter sauce, roast chicken, pasta with cream sauce, veal, turkey, ham and Gruyere cheese. Because of its creamy texture and buttery flavour, this wine matches best with dishes of similar texture and flavour.


Cellaring and Service: Store at 16C. Serve at 15C to 18C and allow it to warm up to show off its barrel complexity and full body. Drink right away to experience the buttery textures or age 2 to 3 years. Keep in mind the subtlety of the fruit will diminish with storage.




2005 Merlot Reserve VQA, $22.95

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This translucent deep, rich ruby red wine sports a narrow, silver rim and slow, serendipitous legs. Aromas of sweet spices and blossoms, raspberries, green pepper, leather and blueberries give this wine its initial profile. Red cherry, green plums, cranberries, tart fruit and tobacco accompany a good acidic structure; however, most noticeable are the young, grippy tannins which predominate the taste experience. Red fruit and tobacco characterize a medium finish dominated by a powerful tannic structure.


Suggested food pairing: This wine is definitely potable now, but one must accommodate its full tannic structure when pairing it with food. If drinking now, it is strongly recommended that this wine should accompany heavier meats and gravies, charred fish, ribs and chicken, full bodied stews, wild red meat game, mutton, dishes with butter and thick cream sauces and hard, older cheeses.


Cellaring and Service:

NOTE FROM WAYNE: The tannic structure of this wine begs to be cellared for up to 8 or 9 years to round out the tannins and allow the textures weights and barrel flavours to be appreciated. It doesn’t exhibit balance at present, but with the right food match it could be very pleasant. Cellar at 18C and serve at the same temperature. Four years will make this wine a very good drinking wine on its own….and in four years, you will wish that you had more!



Recipes to enjoy with your Savvy Selections


With East Dell Estates Riesling…

Sweetly Stuffed in Peppers

Serves 4 


4 medium bell peppers (green, red, yellow, orange)

2 Tbsp. olive oil

2 medium green apples

¼ c. raisins

1 medium zucchini, diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1/3 c. mixed bell peppers, diced

1 medium carrot, peeled and diced

1 tbs. curry powder

2 cups cooked white rice

3 green onions, diced

Salt, pepper to taste

½ c. mayonnaise



Cut tops of bell peppers off. Remove seeds and ribs. Set aside.


Heat large sauté pan with Olive Oil until hot. Add apples, raisins, zucchini, celery, peppers (diced), carrots. Add curry powder. Cook until tender (Wayne’s tip – don’t overcook). Remove from heat.


Add cooked rice and green onions, season to taste and allow to cool. Add mayonnaise to mixture and stuff whole peppers.


Can be served cold or topped with favourite cheese and baked at 350F for 30 minutes until cheese is melted and rice is hot.




With East Dell Estates Chardonnay…

Paprika Roast Chicken with Mushroom Sauce

Serves 2


2 chicken breasts

1 tsp. olive oil

1 medium chopped onion

2 cloves garlic

4 sprigs fresh thyme

1-2 tbs. paprika

salt, pepper


Sauce Ingredients:

½ lb. mushrooms

¾ c. cream

1tsp. soy sauce

1 tsp. corn starch

1tbs. butter

1 tbs. olive oil

Salt, pepper




Preheat oven to 450F

Cut each breast into 2 slices of equal portion. Season with salt and pepper and cover with paprika

Sauteé onion in pan with 1tsp. olive oil. Add chicken breasts to pan and fry each side 1 to 2 minutes.


Put chicken into an aluminum foil lined pan and sprinkle over sage leaves, thyme leaves and garlic. Cover with aluminum foil and cook in oven for 10 minutes.


Sauteé mushrooms in 1tsp. olive oil and salt and pepper until golden.


Add cream and soy sauce and continue cooking on medium-low. Cream butter and corn starch together and slowly blend in. Continue cooking the sauce for 5 minutes or until thick. Place breasts on serving plate and pour over sauce.




With East Dell Estates Merlot Reserve…

Irish Casserole

serves 4


500 gms. round steak, cubed

2 gms. onions, chopped

6 gms. black peppercorns

1 tbl. red wine vinegar

1 tbl. East Dell Estates Merlot Reserve

3-4 tbl. Olive oil

3 tbl. celery sticks

½ c. plain flour

300 ml. beef stock

2 tbl tomato puree

2 tbl garlic cloves, crushed

175 gm. button mushrooms cut in half

400 gm. artichoke hearts, drained and halved

chopped fresh parsley and thyme to garnish



Place meat, onions, garnish bouquet, peppercorns, vinegar and wine in a bowl and marinate overnight. 


Preheat oven to 320F.

Strain the meat, keeping the marinade, and pat dry. Heat oil in a heavy casserole dish and fry meat and onions in batches. Remove and set aside.


Add celery and fry until browned, then remove this and set aside with meat.


Sprinkle flour into the casserole and cook for one minute. Gradually add the reserved marinade and the stock, and bring to a boil, stirring as you go. Return meat, onions and celery to casserole, then stir in the tomato puree and crushed garlic.


Cover the casserole with a tight-fitting lid and cook in the oven for about 2 ¼ hours. Stir in mushrooms and artichokes and cover again and simmer until meat is tender (about 15 minutes)


Garnish with parsley and thyme and serve steaming, hot with creamy, butter-laden, mashed potatoes and fresh ground pepper. (This is after all an Irish dish!)







When you would like to order additional East Dell wines or wines from other featured wineries in the Savvy Selections, simply contact the Savvy Team and we will organize a shipment for you.


Cheers & Enjoy!













Old and New Tastes

Posted by Wayne

Friday, December 19th, 2008


When people select, drink and enjoy wines these days, the concept of ‘style’ plays a big role in the character, profile and experience of wine. It is a way of familiarizing the unknown. There are many ways of referencing style with wine as there is referencing style with people. One can talk about style with winemaking or growing or marketing or bottling or flavour…  just like you can with art or clothing or behaviour. Often, the concept of ‘New’ and ‘Old’ World styles run through discussions and pleasures that are a part of the wine experience too. There is no well-defined identity for one or the other, particularly now that vines and winemakers and techniques move from traditional Old World regions to New World regions and back again.

There is still value in referencing these styles because it helps to uncover the identities and assets of wines we might not be familiar with. In a way it is like discovering a tasting profile for wines. Here are some ideas that might clarify ‘Old’ from ‘New’ and “open up” some wines for you.

Old World:  These wines are usually wines that have a long, documented history and are primarily found in Europe and around the Mediterranean. Here the traditions of winemaking are very important to the production of wine. “Terroir” (the impact of soil, weather, nutrients, sunlight, agricultural method, etc.) also plays a large role in the way wine is made.

Austria, Bulgaria, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Switzerland are wine regions with a long history of growing grapes for wine that would qualify as “Old World”.

New World: These wines are grown outside of the traditional wine regions of Europe. Each of these countries has its own history with wine that often is about the importation of vines in many cases ( often by the Church for various rituals). The growers brought their grape growing and winemaking traditions with them, but had to modify some of their procedures (like irrigation) to accommodate the conditions and resources of their new sites.

Argentina, Australia, Canada, Chile, New Zealand, South Africa, Mexico and the United States are the more notale examples.

Style: Knowing this information is helpful.

Old World wines because of their reliance on tradition and terroir will display more of the characteristics of the soils and climates they are in like the foods grown right along side them. Much Old World wine, to oversimplify, is intended as a food partner, a wine whose crop yields, alcohol levels, acid levels, aging processes and geographical boundaries are highly regulated. Filtering of many of these wines is done with natural products like clay or egg whites so sediment levels tend to be higher and the wines tend to absorb rather than reflect light. These wines often show a minerality, an earthiness and a flavour profile that leans towards barrel flavours like vanilla and smoke or wood and they show tannic characteristics more readily. Intended to be food partners, Old World often improves its impact with local fare as an accompaniment.

New World, on the other hand, is more winemaker driven. It is intended to be more a “cocktail” experience. It is designed for the consumer with its fruit forward, high sugar and alcohol profile. These wines are grown to be drunk now. Longer growing seasons, less regulations, controlled irrigation and fertilization render bountiful crops and copious supplies of wine that is brilliantly reflective because of the .005 gauge screening it goes through when it is filtered. Drinking wine on its own suits the New World very well.

That is not to say that these are hard and fast rules for “Old” and “New”. Many is the Old World vintage that is tasty and sweet all by itself. Many is the New World vintage that marries very well with food. A lot of Old World wineries have New World winemakers and vice versa, but these characteristics are helpful in recognizing New and Old World ‘Styles’ of wine which may help you share your wine experiences with someone else or choose the right wine for someone you know. 

Cheers and Salute!

Do you have more ideas about styles of wine, New or Old World? Email me as I would like to hear from you.


Buying The Right Wine: 5 Easy Steps

Posted by Wayne

Tuesday, December 9th, 2008

Some questions I think you should answer BEFORE you walk into the store (in this order of importance):

1. WHO is the wine for and what is their flavour and texture preference?
The character of the person you are buying the wine for is very important. Not everyone is impressed by high end expensive vintages that might have a complex flavour/texture profile that intimidates them because they can’t relax with the wine and just enjoy whatever it has to offer. Often, simplicity, purity and elegance prevail. Ask yourself if the recipient likes sweetness (fruit) flavours. Do they enjoy liquor over beer as an alternative drink? Do they smoke? Do they like light or heavy textured foods? Are they a person who likes to savour their food and their drink after they have eaten or drunk them?

By answering these and other questions about what they like to drink and eat, you can discover if you should be looking for light, sweet white wine with high thirst quenching acidity or a fuller-bodied red wine with a balance of fruit, acid, tannins and good alcohol that requires reflection and a strong finish. Or perhaps, a heavy, white Chardonnay or lighter, red Pinot Noir to have a combination of all these characteristics. They will appreciate your choice without knowing it was their choice.

2. WHAT event are you shopping for?
The central consideration here is: How private or public is the event and will it include food? If you are choosing wine with the intent of consuming it cocktail-style, then  I recommend that you choose a New World wine. That is what Australian Shiraz, California Zinfandel, Argentinian Malbec, South African Meritage, New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc… are very good at being wines that are meant to be enjoyed as wine drinks, like a cocktail. That does not mean they do not match with food well, it just means that New World wines tend to favour drinking rather than food matching and show best when they are part of ‘Happy Hour’.

If food is intended to be an integral part of the event, then I suggest to choose an Old World Wine. This is not to say that Old World wines do not drink well alone, but Old World Winemaking has a penchant for the concept of ‘terroir’ which brings with it all the regional richness of soil, weather, harvesting and winemaking that express the culture of not only local wine, but local food as well. Most Old World wines were meant at some point to be married with food, both by nature and by the people who make and consume them. Not often do you drink wine in Europe without some sort of food accompaniment. The amount and variety and intensity of the wine you choose should take into consideration the ambience it will be served in, with or without food as a partner.

3. WHERE will we be enjoying this wine?
When you have answered this question you will have accommodated the ideas of: the temperature of the wine, how it will be opened, displayed and stored, its portability, how it will be served and by whom, what quantity will show a discretionary purchase (a wine gift of a case of wine that can never be drunk as opposed to a one bottle purchase of quality wine suggests something about expectation and the anxiety to ‘cover all the bases’), how it will be opened (cork, screw cap…) as this might contribute to tradition or ambience, how long the event will transpire… and what may follow?

You might even want to think how you might want to personalize the wine beyond matching it with the event, like ribbons, wrapping, sticker messages, personalized gifts… jewelry wrapped around the bottleneck.


4. What SENSE can I make of the LAYOUT and RESOURCES of the store where I am going to buy the wine to help me find the right wine? I am looking for a CHARACTER here so what STYLE will have this character?

Get familiar with how the store displays its wines. Is it by country? Price? Wine region? Varietal? Are there sale bins? Is there a Staff picks section? A Vintage section? Reds here? Whites over there? Dessert wines? Is there anyone to assist me in finding the character profile of the wine I am looking for that I have firmly entrenched in my mind by having confident answers to questions 1,2,3 above. I know what I need because I am buying wine for a person who has a particular taste preference and it is going to be served at this event. I AM DOING THE MATCHING OF CHARACTERS AND THE SELECTION OF WINE!

It isn’t necessary to find the perfect wine because there is more than one “perfect” wine so a “perfect” choice is a given.  My approach is to:
#1-Navigate the landscape of the store.
#2-Narrow the choices.
#3-Select a manageable number of finalists (I recommend tops 3 wines).
#4- READ the front and back labels of the bottles even if it is in another language and you need to ask a store clerk what it means (because even if you don’t know what it means this time, you will next time after you have tasted the wine!).
#5- Fit the drinking preferences of the person this wine is for with the style of wine described on each of the labels of your finalists off the shelf.
#6- Buy the one you think they will like. You’ll probably like it too! Especially when they do.



5.What is MY price point?
Make this your last, not your first consideration. And keep it flexible in a range you are willing to pay. NOT ALL GOOD WINE COSTS A LOT OF MONEY! Nor is all sale wine good! These are two very good reasons to give price a lesser priority than numbers 1 through 4 above. That is not to say price should not be a consideration at all. Just remember this:

 “A wine of character will help you find a good price, but a good price won’t help you find a wine with character.”

December 9, 2008


How do you choose wine? Write me. Share your methods. I love to discover new ways to find good wine!

Wayne Walker