Posts Tagged ‘Wine Country Ontario’

What do Organic Wine Labels mean?

Posted by Debbie

Thursday, August 9th, 2018
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These days, products labelled as “organic, green, gluten free or vegan” are often confusing and have different meanings depending on whether the item is eggs, apples or grapes. Personally, in general terms, I tend to think organic wine is one that has not had pesticides or other chemicals used in its vineyard or winemaking process. If that is indeed the case, I can’t help but wonder if this extra attention results in a difference in taste too.

My curiosity gets the better of me and nose dive into some ‘research’.

The David Suzuki Foundation offers some great explanations of terms that I have interchanged. For example, when the wine label states “made with organically grown grapes”, this means that the wine is made with a minimum of 70% organic grapes.  Turns out this is not the same as certified organic grapes.  The term Certified Organic means that the producers use 100% organic grapes and cannot use toxic pesticides, herbicides or synthetic fertilizers that would infiltrate both the soil and the grapes.

Biodynamic wine is defined by renowned winemaker Ann Sperling (of Sperling Vineyards, Southbrook Vineyards and Versado) as, “Uber organic”.  Biodynamic is organic but natural resources are used to cultivate grapes and must meet the standards imposed for organic-certified farming. This kind of wine production also takes into consideration the lunar calendar, astrology, plants, animals, insects;  it’s not just about the grapes.

I admit that I find the idea of the slant of the moon’s light on a vineyard making a difference in grape-growing a little mind-boggling. In order for a winery to declare itself as biodynamic, it must have achieved the highest level of certification through Demeter Canada and maintained it for a minimum of three years. It’s no wonder that there are only a handful of biodynamic wineries across the country.

Wine Country Ontario lists wineries in Ontario that sell organic, vegan, gluten-free, vegetarian and biodynamic wines. All these labels embrace sustainable winemaking or economical farming practices. Whether the wine tastes any different with these labels depends on your opinion.

The recent release at LCBO’s Vintages is promoting several organic wines. I have a couple of recommendations from this release and also suggestions in the general list of organic wines. Many LCBO stores have an organic wine section, so have a look the next time you are in one. You might find something new from this issue to impress your vegan friends!

From the August 4 release. 

 

Murviedro Luna Organic Brut Cava

Spain
$17.95 (Vintages #547224) 11.6% alcohol

Cava in Spain is akin to Prosecco in Italy and it never hurts to have one of these chilling in the fridge. This happens to be a Gold Medal winner at the 2017 Concours Mondial de Bruxelles. Whenever I see those gold labels, it’s never a risk to buy the bottle.

Cava is known for its light sparkling citrusy moussey bubbles, made from the Macabeo grapes and is always a delight for brunch, Happy Hour or to kick off a party.

 

 

Southbrook Triomphe Chardonnay 2016

Niagara-on-the-Lake, Canada
$24.95 (Vintages #172338) 12% alcohol

Southbrook Vineyards is known as the first winery in Canada to earn both organic and biodynamic certification in the vineyard. It is also one impressive winery to visit in Niagara. The architecture of this biodynamic winery is different from its neighbors and their elegant wines are always memorable.

During the release tasting, I did not get to sample this 2016, but previous Chardonnays made by Ann Sperling have been knock out delicious.

Enjoy a glass in the sunshine, unwinding while the sun goes down, with fish or chicken off the BBQ or a summertime salad.

 

Montes Alpha Syrah 2015

Colchagua Valley, Chile
$19.95 (Vintages #612) 14.5% alcohol

The label on the bottle of this dark blackberry nectar states “dry farmed”.  What does this mean? Basically the grapes are cultivated without any irrigation in regions where there is little rain. The grapes feed off any residual moisture in the soil which deeply extends their vine roots and consequently their flavour.

I really liked the leathery finish on this wine.  It would be great with any grilled chops.

 

Organic Wines available all year round at the LCBO

 

Lurton Piedra Negra Pinot Grigio Organic

Argentina
$13.80 (Vintages #55674) 12.5% alcohol

This is a “pretty” soft white, dry, medium-bodied white wine. Luscious tropical and citrus flavours present loads of fresh fruit on the palate.

I picked this up on my lookout for general list organic wines at the LCBO (regularly available on the main store shelves) and it has easily become a favourite in my house.

It’s refreshing and delicious on its own or served with fish tacos, sushi, cold pasta salad.

 

 

El Abuelo Organic Tempranillo Monastrell

Almanzo D.O., Spain
$9.95 (Vintages #524520)  14% alcohol

Don’t let the price fool you. This great organic wine from Spain is full-bodied with loads of black fruit flavours.

Bone dry and smooth, it packs lots of punch at 14% alcohol but does not taste hot on the palate.

It goes well with burgers or spaghetti or just to sip in a glass.

 

Travel tip and wine stop in Hockley Valley, Mono, Ontario 

 

My husband and I recently returned from a trip to the Hockley Valley Resort (North of Toronto near Orangeville) and discovered the Adamo Winery Estate. The resort offers a shuttle to the winery, but if you prefer to walk, it’s a short distance but all uphill.

The resort and winery are family owned and operated, clearly taking great pride in both their wines and the upscale resort. Have a look at the pictures online, it is indeed as lovely as it looks.

The farming practices in the 25 acre winery are both organic and biodynamic. Shauna White, Vineyard and Winery Manager, uses thermal blankets in the winter to cover the vines so that they are insulated and protected from ice and snow. This method is done instead of hilling up vines (burying them in the earth), like they do in Prince Edward County.

At the winery, the Paddock Café offers small plates of local cheeses, olives and charcuteries overlooking the 23,000 vines. It is also a wonderful photo-op beside an amazing golf course. We visited the winery 3 times in 3 days to take in the ambience and sample more wines. The Rieslings and Viognier wines were favourites with many grapes being sourced from the Niagara region.

Coincidentally, 6 years ago, I had met Shauna when I interviewed her for our Savvy Selections wine-o-month club featuring Ravine Estate Winery.  Shauna was the winemaker. Needless to say, the surprise to see her again at Adamo was a delight and made for an over the top vacation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Top notch day in Prince Edward County

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, February 5th, 2014
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We are often called on to create & host a Sommelier led wine tasting in someone’s home where friends & neighbours gather to celebrate a special occasion or just get together.  I love doing these in-home events as they give you an opportunity to meet fantastic people who are eager to discover new wines.  Often the host will go all out & hire a chef to create appetizers or a meal to make the wine tasting extraordinary.

I recently met Chef Dean Otto & his ‘sous chef’ (aka wife) Jeanine at one of these events.  They took over the kitchen & created gourmet wonders all night long.  While the guests noshed & sampled the wines I introduced them to, I had a moment to chat Dean & Jeanine.  During the course of the evening, I learned that they are the driving force behind a special fundraiser for Roger’s House that they host every year – Maddy’s Gala. This event celebrates the short life of their daughter Madison ’Maddy” Otto who died very suddenly at the age of 5 in 2007.  The family’s story about Maddy’s time in Roger’s House inspired me to want to donate a special item for the gala auction.

Maddy'sGala Live Auction Item Top Drawer Wine Tour 2013At our office, Amanda got on the phone to call out to Sherry Martin of Karlo Estates to see if we could use the “Top Drawer Wine Tour” of Prince Edward County reserved by these County partners for special fundraising events like Maddy’s Gala – all the more reason to go on Saturday (February 8) so that you can bid on this one-of-a-kind Sommelier led wine tour.

This all-inclusive tour along ‘The County’s’ back roads will be in a private vehicle with a tour guide kindly provided by Sandbanks Vacations

We’ll be visiting three wineries, all that have won international acclaim as well as the breathtaking Lavender Farm in bloom. Corks will fly at our first stop to visit Hinterland Wine Company where partners Jonas Newman and Vicki Samaras specialize in crafting fine sparkling wines.  We will taste and tour through the sparkling wine process and enjoy their warm hospitality.   Onto Norman Hardie Winery & Vineyard where we will sample his wines while enjoying a lunch of gourmet pizza done Norm’s way in his outdoor wood fired oven.

Then the group will take a moment to breathe deeply as we wander through the Prince Edward County Lavender Farm in full bloom.

Our final stop is to Karlo Estates set in a Loyalist barn converted into a stunning winery.  Winery owners Richard Karlo & Sherry Martin will take you through their entire portfolio of 11 wines as they pair small bite nibbles. We’ll walk it all off through their vineyard to the famous dry stone bridge to enjoy some Port and a group photo.  What a perfect day it will be.

Roger's House

The 7th Annual Maddy’s Gala is not just a good cause – it’s an amazing cause.  This year’s goal is to raise $75,000 in support of The Ottawa Senators Foundation & their charity of choice, Roger’s House. This will bring their 7 year contribution to $325,000.

Learn more about this special event by watching the CTV Ottawa Morning Live interview.

 

More details about the Top Drawer Winery Tour for 8 people:

Hinterland Wine Company  Tasting at the County’s Sparkling House
Norman Hardie Winery & Vineyard – Gourmet lunch in the vineyard & tasting
Prince Edward County Lavender Farm – Tour of the farm & the fields in bloom
Karlo Estates – Full portfolio tasting with food pairings
Savvy Sommelier as your ‘tour guide’ for the day
Sandbanks Vacations private chauffeur & vehicle around Prince Edward County

Tour value: $2400
Tour dates: Sunday through Friday between June 17th  to July 17th 2014 – so that you can enjoy the lavender fields at their finest.

Details about Maddy’s Gala

Where: Delta City Centre Hotel – 101 Lyon St., Ottawa
When: Saturday February 8th, 2014
Cocktail Hour: 6pm to 7:30pm
Dinner: 7:30pm
Live Auction: 9:00pm
To purchase tickets click here >>

A HUGE thanks to our friends & partners in Prince Edward County who eagerly supported Maddy’s Gala with this wonderful Live Auction item.  We look forward to being the Sommelier for this special day trip to ‘The County’.

See you then!
Debbie

Youville Live Auction Item Top Drawer Wine Tour 2013

 

 

 

 

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Warm up your winter with this shopping list of wine from the LCBO

Posted by Julie

Friday, January 17th, 2014
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The LCBO Vintages release for this weekend offers a fabulous assortment of reasonably priced wine to ward off winter chills. If you want some HOT new wines – go to Spain, or easier still, taste some of these trendy Spanish releases from Ribero del Duero, Catalonia & Rioja.  And we are treated with some British Columbia wines too.

VintagesI can hardly believe (is it almost the end of January already?) that this release is offering celebratory single malts for Scottish poet, Robbie Burns (born January 25, 1759) whose contribution to Scottish culture is best known for his work of “Auld Lang Syne”. Many pubs celebrate Burn’s night by offering traditional hagis. This release offers Bunnahabhain 18 Year old Islay Single Malt (Vintages $247049 at $149.95) or Edradour The Distillery Edition 10 years old Highland Single Malt (Vintages# 904995 at $83.95). I have not ventured into the world of scotch yet, so these fine whiskies will not be in my basket but if you like your wee drams – enjoy!

Now, if I was tempted to really splurge, I would pick up “The King’s Ginger Liqueur” (Vintages #269407 $44.95). For anyone who loves candied ginger and vibrant lemon flavours, you will be over the moon with a glass of this decadent treat. Besides if you happen to catch a cold, it’s always good to have something remedial on hand – I am certain that this would do the trick!

Wishing you delicious tastings in 2014,

Julie

If I only had $100 I would buy at LCBO Vintages…


 

Dirty Laundry Not So Knotty white wine ChardonnayDirty Laundry Not So Knotty Chardonnay 2012

VQA Okanagan Valley, British Columbia, Canada
$26.95 (Vintages #353144) 13.9% alcohol

You have to love the play on words “not so knotty” which means while fermenting, the grapes did not soak in oak barrels for months or taste of trees. That said, there was some partial barrel fermentation but its final destination was in stainless steel. It’s a beauty Chard, with all kinds of apple and stone aromas and flavours, a little spice and a fresh lengthy smooth finish in this white wine. While I don’t usually spend this much on Chardonnay this one really caught my attention; it’s so silky ! This gem would be perfect with a crown roast of pork.

Beronia Viura white wine from SpainBeronia Viura 2012

DOC Rioja, Spain
$14.95 (Vintages#190801) 12% alcohol

This is so different. For many of us, Rioja (located in northeastern Spain) means red wine, so it was a surprise to also discover this white wine from Rioja. Made from the Macabeo grape also known as the Viura grape, it is often blended with other grapes perhaps because it has characteristically mild fruit flavours. This wine is bone dry and crisp with subtle lemon lime aromas and seam of acidity. It has a little wet stone but with such a clean taste and oh so fresh. I would normally associate this as a hot summertime wine, but since it’s been brought to Vintages for January, I could not pass it by.  It would be delicious with a meal of fish – we still eat fish in the wintertime, right?

Sister's Run Cabernet Sauvignon red wineSister’s Run Bethlehem Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2011

Barossa Valley, South Australia
$16.95 (Vintages #360636) 14.5% alcohol

This hearty red wine just calls out for a fireplace, some artisan bread and hearty stew. Having said that it’s medium to full bodied, beautifully coloured dark crimson, with some spicy, woodsy aromas and an abundance of dark fruit flavours. The tannins are soft but expressive and the raspberry and smoke flavours offer huge sips of satisfying richness.

Chateau de Nages vieilles vignes red wineChateau De Nages Vieilles Vignes

AC Costieres de Nimes, France
$17.95 (Vintages #040964 14% alcohol

This is not just another pretty label! You can’t go wrong with a blend of 60% Grenache, 30% Syrah, and 10% Mourvedre? A beautiful dark rich purple colour with flavours and aromas of cassis, blackberries and currants, some forest floor that just made me heady after one sip. This red wine shows complexity and strength, it’s beautifully balanced, full-bodied and at that price point, I thought at first I must be mistaken. I’ve put 2 bottles down on my shopping list to have on hand for those wintery nights that call for a prime rib.

J. Lohr South Ridge Syrah red wineJ. Lohr South Ridge Syrah 2011

Paso Robles, California, U.S.A.
$19.95 (Vintages #948240) 13.5% alcohol

For those of you who read my blogs, you know I always try to seek out new and unusual wines to write about. When I tasted this, it just reminded me how well made and delicious a Syrah can taste. J. Lohr wines never disappoint and we always have a bottle of their regular list Cabernet Sauvignon red wine in our cupboard. It also makes a nice hostess gift for an unexpected invite. This dark cherry Syrah is elegant and delicious, lots of ripe fruit forward berries, wrapped in a little spice and pencil box,with a long velvety finish. Soft tannins prevail and with some slow braised lamb shanks it would make a fabulous, casual but classy dinner.

Grand Total: $ 96.75

 

 

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Shine the spotlight on Ontario wines

Posted by Susan

Friday, September 13th, 2013
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This weekend’s LCBO Vintages release celebrates Ontario wines, from the vineyards of Prince Edward County in the east, Niagara in south-central Ontario, and the north shore of Lake Erie in the west. Click to see a map. With so many great wines to choose from, our Savvy Sommelier Susan – who has visited all of these wine regions several times – gives you a brief history of the Ontario wine biz, so that you have a taste of how far we have come!

Early days for Ontario grapes

Not many realize there was a thriving wine industry in Ontario in the late 1800s & early 1900s, primarily in Pelee Island area. Settlers from the United States began growing grapes on the island in the mid-1860s. By the end of the 19th century, with the help of an enterprising gentleman, W.J. Hamilton, wines from Vin Villa Winery were being sampled across eastern Canada and the northeastern United States. The winery garnered widespread fame when one of its wines won a bronze medal at a competition in Paris. Changes in agriculture caused the industry to disappear from the area for many decades. 

Pioneers then move to Niagara…

As the prohibition era ended, a new wine business T.J. Brights was founded in 1874 with a substantial investment to improve the quality of Ontario wine, including the hiring of French-born winemaker and chemist, Adhemar de Chaunac, who imported a number of French hybrid grape varieties. Fast forward 100 years, by the 1970s, hybrids grapes were becoming more common in Ontario vineyards, yet consumer tastebuds were shifting to dry, low-alcohol tables wines rather than the slightly sweeter wines made with the hardy hybrid grapes. To go with the flow of this change, Ontario grape growers had already begun planting vitis vinifera vines (winespeak: the vine species that produces 99% of the grape varieties used in winemaking today – example: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot etc) and began to see a vibrant future for these classic varieties in Ontario vineyards.

At the same time, a number of the recognized pioneers of Ontario’s modern wine industry were moving to the Niagara area from Europe: Paul Bosc Sr., Karl Kaiser, Ewald Reif, Herbert Konzelmann, and others.  Still to this day, these gentleman are praised by the Canadian wine industry as the founding fathers of the Ontario wine industry.

First new winery since 1929

In 1975, Inniskillin, pioneered by the dynamic duo – Don Ziraldo and Karl Kaiser – was granted the first new winery license in the province since 1929.  Don harvested his first Riesling, Chardonnay and Gamay grapes in the fall of 1977.  In 1984, Karl Kaiser produced the first icewine from Vidal grapes grown in the Inniskillin vineyards.

The beginning of VQA

In 1988, Don Ziraldo was instrumental in establishing a team of grape growers and winemakers to develop VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) as an appellation of origin system and a method of setting standards for wines in Ontario. More recently, sub-appellations have been established in Niagara to recognize the unique terroirs across the region. Interesting to note that VQA is not a national standard, rather established for Ontario and recently adopted by British Columbia.  Nova Scotia currently has a different system in place.

Ontario wines win awards around the world

Ian d’Agata, a world renowned correspondent for International Wine Cellar stated in the September 14, 2013 Vintages magazine, ‘Ontario is one of the premier cool-climate viticulture areas of the world . . .’.  Pretty impressive don’t you think?

And the world has been watching the Canadian wine industry grow and recognizing that we are producing fine wines. In 1990, Ontario wines leaped onto the world stage, when Karl Kaiser’s 1989 Vidal Icewine won the Grand Prix d’Honneur at the prestigious Vin Expo – France.

Open your door to the discovery of spectacular Ontario wines

Today’s Ontario wine industry has rapidly grown and the quality has increased exponentially as winery owners, winemakers and growers focus on terroir, viticultural practices and excellence in winemaking. With just over 100 wineries in Ontario now, not all of their wines are on the LCBO store shelves.  Enjoy the ones in this Shine ON feature and continue your discovery by subscribing to Savvy Selections, which features all those wines not available at the LCBO or Vintages.

Wineries we recently featured included Lailey Vineyard, Daniel Lenko Estate Winery & Pondview Winery.  Next month we will showcase wines from Casa Dea  Estates of Prince Edward County.  A subscription to Savvy Selections is like having a personal Sommelier!

For this “If I had $100, I would buy at Vintages”, I have selected a variety of Ontario wines along with some from Chile & Italy too. And for the first time in a long time, my shopping list was not even close to $100. I’ve $12.25 spare.  With this extra, take advantage of your savings & Go Local to sample a few more Ontario wines! Let me know which ones you put in your shopping cart!

Are you on Twitter? Share your Ontario wine discoveries with others using #ShineON. 

Cheers and Enjoy!

Susan

 

Fielding Pinot Gris 2012

Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$21.95 (Vintages #251108) 12.0% alcohol
There’s a lovely hint of pink to the pale gold hue of this fragrant white wine. Aromas of ripe stone and orchard fruit mingle with melon and spiced floral notes. Dry, medium bodied and smooth, the clean fresh fruit and lively acidity build harmony, while hints of spice and a pithy note linger through the tasty, fruity finish. Enjoy it with roasted white meats or grilled sausages.

Miguel Torres ‘Santa Digna Reserva’ Sauvignon Blanc 2012

Curicó Valley, Chile
$13.95 (Vintages #342857) 13.5% alcohol
Brilliant yellow-green, there are pungent grassy and gooseberry notes mingling with tropical fruits, hints of lemon balm and other herbs. Dry, medium-bodied, the white wine replays focused flavours of gooseberry and herbs, underscored by vivid tangy acidity. Finishing long, clean and mouth-watering, this wine will work very well with pan-fried fish or a salad garnished with goat cheese and grilled peaches.

Tawse ‘Sketches’ Cabernet-Merlot VQA 2011

Niagara Peninsula, Ontario
$20.95 (Vintages #130252) 13.0% alcohol
This well-crafted blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot results in a red wine to enjoy with late fall barbeques. A beautiful ruby tone, the wine marries ripe black cherries, berries, cassis, sweet spice and a whiff of milk chocolate with fine-grained tannins and lively acidity. It’s dry yet approachable, mid-weight and skillfully balanced, leaving a hint of well-integrated oak on the persistent, fruit-filled finish.

Zuccardi ‘Santa Julia’ Magna 2011

Mendoza, Argentina
$14.95 (Vintages #93799) 14.0% alcohol
Scoop up a few bottles of this outstanding red wine blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and Syrah. Inky purple and alluringly rich in aromas of ripe dark fruit, mint, spice and vanilla, this is a subtly well-balanced wine. Supple tannins and fresh acidity underpin the full-flavoured, luscious fruit—cassis, blueberry and raspberry—while the well-integrated oak offers a long-lasting spicy, peppery finish. Serve it with grilled or roasted red meats.  

Emiliana ‘Novas Gran Reserva’ Petit Verdot 2011

Colchagua Valley, Chile
$15.95 (Vintages #325662) 14.5% alcohol
For well-made organic wines offering great value, it’s hard to beat this producer. Rich dark fruit melds with exotic spice and smoke on the intense nose. Dry and full bodied, this red wine showcases firm tannins and clean acidity, yet in harmony with the concentrated spicy dark fruit—blueberries and blackberries come to mind. Robust and flavourful, dry and persistent on the finish, it’s a great choice for lamb.

Grand Total: $87.75

 

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You’re invited to a Wine & Cheese with a TWIST

Posted by Debbie

Thursday, January 10th, 2013
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Shake off the winter blues & join our team of Savvy Sommeliers for a fun wine tasting the “coolest” wines from Niagara & Prince Edward County boutique wineries.

These back to back events will take place in small & intimate venues so that you can spend the evening chatting with the winemakers & winery owners about their vineyard, winemaking styles & all the goings on at the winery during the winter months….and stock up on your favorite wines too!

 

ROCKCLIFFE PARK

Tuesday January 29 @ 7pm
Rockcliffe Community Hall – 380 Springfield Rd

BUY TICKETS > >

~ OR~

WESTBORO

Wednesday January 30 @ 7pm 
Exposure Gallery
– 1255 Wellington St West (2nd floor of Thyme & Again)

BUY TICKETS > >

 

What is the TWIST?  

At these Taste & Buy events, there will be a wide selection of hard-to-find wines that are not available at the LCBO.  This gives you the unique opportunity to a taste a variety of sparkling, white, red & dessert wines that you can order your new favorite wines that will be delivered directly to your home or office – within a week!


Feature wineries include:

Casa Dea Estates Winery (Prince Edward County) – one of the first wineries in The County will showcase their new range of wines.

Fielding Estates Winery (Beamsville Bench – aka Niagara Escarpment)  – from sparkling to reds, their wines are fantastic!

Lighthall Vineyards (Prince Edward County) – one of the newest boutique wineries in The County…and their wines are turning heads!

Palatine Hills Estates Winery (Niagara-on-the-Lake) – one of the oldest vineyards in the region makes spectacular reds, whites & bubblies

Pondview Estates Winery (Niagara-on-the-Lake) – they’ll be serving their Bella Terra Reserve wines

Rosewood Estate Winery & Meadery (Beamsville Bench) – outstanding white wines & a lovely Pinot Noir awaits…and meads too (winespeak for wine made with honey)

Sue-Ann Staff Winery (Beamsville Bench) – international winemaking star will charm you with her vivacious personality & her impressive wines.

 

You can purchase your favorite artisan cheese too!

And as wine & cheese is a classic pairing, Vanessa – our Cheese Sommelier – will be on hand at the Artisan Cheese Bar serving handcrafted cheeses from Ontario & Québec that may be purchased to take home with you that night.

ADVANCE TICKETS ONLY

HELD OVER! $55 per person before January 25 (regular $65)

$200 for a group of 4 people (save $15 per person)

Only 50 tickets available per event.  Click to buy yours …

ROCKCLIFFE PARK event on January 29 >>

WESTBORO event on January 30 >>

Price includes wine tasting, cheeses, HST & a special Savvy wine tasting glass

Share this invitation with your friends – everyone is welcome.

 

These events are hosted in partnership with:

 

 

 

 

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Lighthall Vineyard’s One Man Show

Posted by Erin

Saturday, October 20th, 2012
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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 debbie@savvycompany.ca 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

Introducing…
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.

~ SAVVY SOMMELIER TASTING NOTES ~

 

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.

~RECIPES TO ENJOY WITH YOUR SAVVY SELECTIONS~

 

With Lighthall Progression Sparkling VQA 2011…

Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza

From: Epicurious.com
Serves 4

Ingredients
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

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

Filling
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

Method

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

Ingredients
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

Method

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

Ingredients
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

Method

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!

 

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