Posts Tagged ‘www.savvycompany.ca’

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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Chill out with a pink drink!

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, July 3rd, 2018
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While the temperatures continue to rise, I think the best way to cool down is with a glass of Rosé wine.  Crisp, dry & refreshing, with loads of floral aromatics & ripe juicy tastes that makes one glass turn into two…then a few more!

Rosé wines are perfect for this time of the year for many reasons – quenches your thirst, easy to drink, low-ish in alcohol (usually 11-12%) and pairs with many summertime foods – especially picnic fare.   Unlike other styles of wine, Rosés can be made with any grapes – a single variety or a blend of many. Winemakers have the liberty to use anything from the vineyard to craft a Rosé wine like an artist creating a masterpiece.

Before the heat wave hits, I round up our team of Sommeliers to sample just released Rosé wines made throughout Ontario.  Usually there are 50 bottles on the table of varying hues of pink made from Shiraz, Gamay, Pinot Noir and Merlot grapes.  There are blends with a splash of Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Grigio too.  It is really safe to say that EVERY Rosé is an expression of the winemaker’s talent.

 

How is Rosé wine made?

It’s all in the skins!  The majority of grapes used in winemaking have a white flesh, so when crushed, the grape juice is white.  The grape skins of red grape varieties – such as Merlot, Pinot Noir, Gamay, Shiraz, Cabernet Franc etc – contain a red pigment. After the grapes have been crushed and the juice is collected, the winemaker keeps the skins in with the juice for a few hours or couple of days in order to achieve the colour that they want for the wine.

The next step is to separate the skins from the juice and allow it to ferment into alcohol in a stainless steel tank.  I have yet to come across a Rosé wine that has been barrel aged. All total, Rosé wine takes a few months to make from harvest to bottling.  Whereas red wine takes a few years. Aside: red wine goes through the exactly same winemaking process, yet, the skins are left in the juice for several weeks to extract the full amount of red pigment into the wine.

 

Pro Tips:

*Rosé wines will not get better with age. Rule of thumb: drink before Christmas the year that you bought the wine

*Typically Rosé wines come in a clear bottle so you can enjoy the colour before opening the bottle –don’t leave on the counter, rather in a cool dark place…or better yet in your fridge!

*Chill in the fridge for 20-30 mins before serving….as the Rosé wine warms up, notice how the taste changes too.

*Rosés are not all sweet wines – trust us! (pink Zinfandel from California or those called ‘blush’ are often sweeter)

*Price points are usually $15 – 30

*Real men drink Rosé wines!

According to Bloomberg News, Rosé has surpassed red wine in popularity in France (apparently it’s been outselling white wine since 2008). In the US, sales soared 41% in 2015, meanwhile, Rosé is the fastest growing wine style in Australia….and at our Savvy Taste & Buy event this past April, of the top 5 wines ordered – 3 were Rosé!

Explore the world of Rosés

Go into the LCBO and the shelves will be stocked high of Rosé wines from all over the world.  If you are wondering where to start – try one from Tavel region in France.  The wineries in this small wine region near Provence exclusively make Rosé wines.  Considered the benchmark for many winemakers, a Tavel Rosé is bone dry, crisp with zippy acidity.  From there, explore Rosés from every corner of the wine world.  And be sure to sample some from our own backyard too.

Best ones are made in our backyard…

At Savvy Company, we showcase Canadian wines, here are some that you should be on the lookout for this summer:

13th Street Winery Burger Blend Rosé VQA 2017  – $14.95, Twenty Valley (Niagara Escarpment)

Casa-Dea Estates Winery Cabernet Franc Rosé VQA 2017 – $21.95, Prince Edward County 

Colchester Ridge Estate Winery ‘Red Sky at Night’ Rosé VQA 2017  – $16.95, Lake Erie North Shore

Creekside Estate Pinot Noir Rosé VQA 2017 – $23,  Twenty Valley 

Fielding Estates Winery Rosé VQA 2017 – $15.95, Twenty Valley

Kacaba Vineyard Rebecca Rosé VQA 2017 – $17.95, Beamsville Bench (Niagara)

Lighthall ‘Fence’ Sparkling Rosé VQA 2017 $25, Prince Edward County

Pondview Estate Winery Cabernet Franc Rosé VQA 2017 $16.95, Four Mile Creek (Niagara-on-the-Lake)

Sprucewood Shores Rosé VQA 2016 – $16.95,  Lake Erie North Shore

Two Sisters Vineyards Rosé VQA 2017 – from Twenty Valley (a wine only available for restaurants)

Westcott Vineyards Pinot Noir Rosé VQA 2017 – $22.95, Twenty Valley

Westcott Vineyards Delphine Rosé VQA 2017 – $16.95, Twenty Valley

 

Get Rosé wines delivered to your deck, desk or dock!

Again this summer, we will deliver an assortment of Ontario Rosé wines that you can’t get at the LCBO.  That’s right…we’ll pick out the best of the bunch & hand deliver to you.  All you need to do click here to order…then make room in your fridge! Check it out at www.savvycompany.ca/rose

Keep cool & drink pink!

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Ooooooo Canada!

Posted by Julie

Tuesday, June 26th, 2018
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Everyone is gearing up to celebrate Canada Day.  Across the country on July 1 there will be loads of free musical concerts, fireworks, carnivals, on BBQs and outdoor events of all sizes. Those of us spending the long weekend at a cottage, on a sailboat, on a golf course or on the backyard deck, here’s my suggestions on what to drink July 1 – all-Canadian of course!

Did you know…

….that Canada’s first commercial estate winery, Vin Villa, was established on Pelee Island (the southern most wine region in Ontario) in 1866?

….that 6 provinces in Canada have their own wine regions?

…that VQA (Vintners Quality Alliance) on a bottle of Ontario or British Columbia wine means that it is the province’s “appellation of origin” system which define the grape-growing regions and set standards for the wines.

 

Let’s pop open some bottles!

The recent Vintages release at the LCBO has several suggestions for Canada Day. I was lucky to sample some & have also included my top picks of the LCBO’s General List products that you can enjoy on Canada Day…and for that matter all year round. My selection will take you from brunch to dinner with choices in between for a burst of invigoration.  Our Canadian wines and beer make us very proud!

Happy Canada Day,

Julie

 

From Nova Scotia…

Benjamin Bridge Nova 7  Sparkling 2016
(LCBO #256289)  $26.95

Aromatic and fresh with soft orchard fruit flavours, this sparkling wine with golden mousse offers lively acidity. Instead of a traditional champagne cork, the screwcap opens like a regular bottle of wine with a treat of effervescence flows into the glass. It is a perfect wine for brunch or mid-afternoon thirst quencher or to serve as an aperitif.  From quiche to seafood, it goes with everything.

 

From British Columbia….

Quail’s Gate Rose 2017
(LCBO #275842)  $19.95

If you like fresh rhubarb & strawberries, this rose wine tastes just like that!  It reminds me of the aromas & taste of the juicy ripe strawberries that have just been picked.  The problem  with this tangy & delicious wine is that it goes down too smoothly. I could sip this summertime wine all afternoon.

 

From Ontari-ari-ariooo…

These outstanding wines are always available & always reliable.

Kacaba Vineyards Unoaked Chardonnay VQA
(LCBO #326975)  $15.95

Mea culpa, I always encourage people to try something new but I confess…this is my go-to white wine. Pale in colour, loads of tropical fruit flavours, always crisp, always delivers. As I write this I am already thinking how nicely it will taste with my grilled chicken, some crusty bread and my everything salad for dinner tonight – how Canadian is that ?

 

Trius Sauvignon Blanc VQA
(LCBO #221804)  $15.95 (on sale for Canada Day weekend for $1 off)

If you are a fan of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, here is a home-grown Sauvignon Blanc that you definitely should to try. Zingy grapefruit, some lemon-lime flavours, it is crisp and light-bodied, a perfect afternoon sipper.  A great price point for this Canadian gem.

 

Featherstone Cabernet Franc VQA
(LCBO #64618)  $19.95

A few months ago I was looking for something different and an LCBO product consultant introduced this red wine to me. (Don’t ever underestimate the knowledge of LCBO consultants) I admit that I hesitated since Cabernet Franc is not a varietal I would normally seek out, however with every sip of this wine, I was NOT disappointed. Slightly floral on the nose, this is an impressive, smooth red wine with generous lively berry flavours.  Medium-bodied, this wine has enough weight to partner with grilled meat but light enough you could easily place it beside grilled salmon.

I’ve long been a fan of Featherstone wines, ever since I visited the winery along the Beamsville Bench (in Niagara) & saw sheep nibbling at the grape leaves in the vineyard.

 

The Foreign Affair Winery – The Conspiracy VQA
(LCBO #149237)  $19.95

This medium-bodied blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc is berry-rich. Made in the Ripasso style (grapes are air dried) increases volume and depth of flavour. It provides absolutely lip smacking goodness with steak or hamburgers, lamb burgers or a rack of ribs – sheer yum.

 

Heading to The County?

For those of you who are lucky to be visiting Prince Edward County on the Canada Day weekend, here’s my tips on where to go, because there are now over 40 picturesque wineries that it is next to impossible to visit them all – even during a long weekend.

Casa-Dea offers a lovely patio for lunch overlooking the vineyards with many of their wines not readily available at the LCBO.

Neighbouring winery, Rosehall Run Vineyards also has some award winners – especially their Pinot Noirs – there are always a collection of medallions hanging around the bottle’s neck.  And down the road there is the stunning country setting of The Grange Winery. This former cannery is one of the first wineries in The County. The huge barn is now a tasting room with views of a nearby stream and fields, you feel like you’ve have been transported back into pioneer days.

Finally, while idyllically meandering about The County, pop into Lighthall Vineyards in Milford & say “Hi” to a long time Savvy fan & friend – Glenn Symmons. He is the one-man-show running this winery with his top selling Progression sparkling wine made of 100% Vidal grapes.  That wine alone is worth the trip to The County just to pick up a few of those bottles. When you are down that way you, visit County Cider for a splash of something different and fill up at Fifth Town Artisan Cheese. Your taste buds will love you for it and with the wine you pick up while on tour, it will be one delicious Canada Day.

Check out our 101 Things to do in The County tips too!

 

Featured wines available at the LCBO…

 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Imagine 375 Canadian cheeses!

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, February 20th, 2018
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It’s happening right now! Judging of 375 artisan cheeses for Canadian Cheese Awards under way at University of Guelph this week. Somebody’s got to do it–taste 375 cheeses over a day and a half!  Our Cheese Sommelier Vanessa Simmons is returning again to be a judge.  

That’s precisely what 14 experts are doing this week in order to evaluate and score cheese entered in Canadian Cheese Awards/Le Concours des fromages fins canadiens 2018. This independent competition–with Loblaw Companies and Dairy Farmers of Canada as its lead sponsors–is the biggest cheese competition in Canada with 80 producers from Newfoundland to British Columbia submitting 375 cheeses for judging.

This intense judging takes place this week at University of Guelph, Department of Food Science, headed by Dr. Arthur Hill, Chair and Professor in Food Science and an internationally recognized authority in cheese technology, who serves as Chief Judge.  Finalists in 32 categories will be announced March 5. Winners will be revealed during an Awards Ceremony, Reception and Tasting Gala on June 6 in Toronto at historic St. Lawrence Market, Temporary North Hall. The inaugural Canadian Cheese Expo trade show and the first-ever Artisan Cheese Night Market for the public will take place June 7.

This is the only cheese competition in Canada open to all milks used in cheesemaking – cow, goat, sheep and water buffalo-with only pure natural cheese accepted for judging. That means no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives, and no modified milk ingredients. 

“We aim to honour and celebrate 100% pure natural cheese that has achieved technical excellence and exhibits the highest aesthetic qualities,” says Georgs Kolesnikovs, Awards Chairman. 

Canadian Cheese Awards aims to recognize excellence in 18 main categories, nine special awards, five regional awards and the one very best cheese in Canada, the Grand Champion promoted as 2018 Canadian Cheese of the Year.  

They’ll be the judge! 

An extensive knowledge of cheese, on technical basis as well as aesthetic values, was the key factor in selection of the Jury, the judges who will evaluate and score entries following blind tasting of the cheese.

Debra Amrein-Boyes, Founder and co-owner, now retired, The Farm House Natural Cheeses, Agassiz, British Columbia

Janice Beaton, Owner, Janice Beaton Cheese Partners, Calgary

Étienne BiotteauCheese technology advisor, Centre d’expertise fromagère du Québec, Saint-Hyacinthe, Québec

Nathalie FilionManager, Yannick Fromagerie, Québec City, the Laurentians and Montréal

Odysseas Gounalakis, Owner, Scheffler’s Delicatessen & Cheese, St. Lawrence Market, Toronto

Marla Krisko, Formerly co-owner, Cheese Education Guild, Toronto

Ghislain Paquet, Co-owner, Fromagerie De la Gare, Sherbrooke

Gurth Pretty, Senior Category Manager, Special Projects, Deli Cheese (Market Division), Loblaw Companies, and cheese educator and author

Heather Rankin, Co-owner, Obladee Wine Bar, Halifax

Geoff Rempel, Formerly Specialty Team Leader, Whole Foods Market, Square One, Mississauga

Vanessa Simmons, Cheese Sommelier, Savvy Company, Ottawa **Yeah Vanessa!**

Egon Skovmose, Co-founder, Danlac Canada, Calgary, Alberta

Heather Thelwell, Cheese specialist, Guelph, Ontario

Nick Tsioros, Co-owner, Olympic Cheese Mart, Toronto.

Jackie Armet, Cheese Co-ordinator, The Great Canadian Cheese Festival, and formerly cheesemonger at Whole Foods Market in Yorkville, and Jeanne Rodier, Cheesemonger and Administrator, Yannick Fromagerie, serve as Awards Co-ordinators. Awards Registrar is Heather Robertson, retired cheesemaker and Ticketing Co-ordinator at The Great Canadian Cheese Festival. Roxanne Renwick, cheese specialist and Liaison to artisan cheese producers. Nathalie Rollet Schofield, Liaison to artisan cheese producers in Quebec. Mary Ann Ferrer, Department of Food Science, University of Guelph.

Canadian Cheese Awards is produced by Cheese Lover Productions, Georgs Kolesnikovs, President (in photo) with the support of Loblaw Companies as Marquee Sponsor and Dairy Farmers of Canada as Principal Partner, Cow Milk Cheese.

 

Stay tuned! We’ll be posting the winners as soon as the awards are announced. 

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Fondue Frenzie!

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, February 14th, 2018
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Cheese fondue is quick and easy meal to make, especially if you have a bunch of different cheeses in your fridge.  It is truly a melting pot! Fondue is a signature dish from Switzerland, so do as the Swiss do – use firm alpine style cheeses such as Swiss & Gruyere.

Our Cheese Sommelier Vanessa has Canadian-ized this classic fondue recipe with suggestions of Canadian cheeses that will make a great combo.   Remove the rind…and get shredding!

 

Ingredients

1 pound of shredded firm cheeses
Vanessa’s TIP: Use any combo of these stunning firm Canadian cheeses:  La Nouvelle France Zacharie Cloutier, Fromagerie du Presbytere Louis d’Or, Gunn’s Hill Handeck or St Albert’s 1894

2 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 cup dry white wine
1 Tablespoon lemon juice
1 Tablespoon kirsch aka cherry brandy (optional)
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
Pinch nutmeg

Assorted items to dip into the fondue.  Grainy baguette slices, apple & pear slices, grilled sausages, cubes of cooked ham or peameal bacon, blanched pea pods & green beans, chunks of red & green peppers…anything goes!

 

Method

In a small bowl, toss the shredded cheeses with cornstarch and set aside.

With the garlic clove, vigorously rub the inside of the ceramic fondue pot with the garlic.  Throw away the garlic afterwards…and wash your hands – garlicy fingers are not that sexy!

In a medium saucepan add the wine and lemon juice.  Heat on medium & bring to a gentle simmer. Stir the cheese a handful at a time into the simmering hot liquid. This will gradually melt the cheese to create a smooth fondue.

Once the fondue looks ready, stir in kirsch (optional), mustard and nutmeg. Stir again.

Remove from heat and pour cheese into the garlic ladened fondue pot.

Place on fondue apparatus with a votive or fondue burner underneath in order to keep the cheese warm.

Go nuts & enjoy!

 

What wines to serve with this fondue?  

Canadian of course! A fondue full of Canadian cheese would be best with Canadian wines.

Our Sommeliers recommend that the wine should enhance the melted cheese combo rather than overpower it.  If white wine is your preference, look for a lightly oaked Chardonnay, Viognier or Pinot Gris.  For red wines, a light to medium bodied wine would be ideal.

As for red wines, Pinot Noir, Gamay Noir or a blend with Cabernet Franc & Merlot.

Rose wine would work too!

 

 

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Make my Cheese Canadian – please!

Posted by Debbie

Tuesday, January 30th, 2018
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Warning: if you love artisan cheese, you’ll be drooling over this article.

Grocery stores and farmers markets are overflowing with artisan cheese – the good news is that the rise of local cheesemakers is not stopping anytime soon.  There is no need to venture to the European section of the cheese counter to find a wedge that will WOW.  Impressive cheese is made in our backyard.  In fact, being in Ottawa we are treated to cheesemakers on both sides of the border – Quebec and Ontario.

And we are talking about more than just cheddar! Locally made cheeses span the gamut of tastes and styles.  Best of all, Canadian cheeses are rivaling the European equivalent at international competitions.

One of Canada’s renown judges at these competitions is Vanessa Simmons  – Cheese Sommelier and curator of Savvy Cool Curds – the only artisan cheese of the month club that exclusively features Canadian cheeses. Vanessa knows everything there is about cheeses and she travels coast to coast visiting cheesemakers and farmers to learn the ‘whey’ they make Canadian cheeses.  “Often a recipe that has been passed through a family for generations is the starting point,” explains Vanessa.

This is exactly the case with Gunn’s Hill Artisan Cheese located in Woodstock – Canada’s dairy capital.  “We make alpine style cheese like they do in Holland”, explains Shep Ysselstein (in photo) who weaves his family Dutch roots into his rapidly growing cheese business. “All of my cheese is made with the milk of my father’s herd of 120 Holstein cows.  Every two days, fresh milk is delivered from the farm across the street to my cheese production facility.  I use every last drop.”  Gouda, washed rind cheeses and brie are Shep’s signature creations. If you have enjoyed the Beau’s cheese – washed with Lugtread Beer – the cheese is in fact made at Gunn’s Hill.

Sheep, goat and cow milks are the main ingredient that the cheesemaker starts with.  Seasonally, the cheesemakers need to tweak their recipes to reflect the make up of the milk. In the winter, they need to compensate for higher fat content in the milk, in order for the cheese to not be too soft.  During times of the year when the animals are fed a lot of carrots, there are higher levels of beta carotene in the milk, resulting in a cheese with a more golden hue. Whether the recipe is a family secret or not, cheesemaking is part art & part science.

 

So many cheeses, so little time!

In France, they boast that there are over 365 different types of chévre (goat cheese), equating to one to enjoy each day.  While this sounds devine, the idea of constantly trying different cheeses is definitely appealing.  Where to start?

 

Vanessa offers these tips:

Check out the Best Before Date – Pick a cheese that is closest to best before date to enjoy right away.  This might actually mean that the price of the cheese is discounted for quick sale!  “Often cheese is sold into grocery stores young. You want a cheese that has been ripening.”  The exception to this rule: Fresh Cheese or Cheese Curds.

Soft rounds of cheese – Buy small! Give them a squeeze on the sides.  Notice if they are firm or ‘squishy’.  What you want is a round where the edges are soft to indicate that the cheese is ripe n’ ready.

It’s OK to eat the rind – The rind is often washed with wine, beer or a special concoction that is intended to help the aging process while the cheese is in the caves.  The effect is a hardened outside to the cheese that is fine – not to mention delicious – to eat.  The exception to this rule: watch out for rind that is wax.  This is not intended to be eaten!

Like your curds squeaky? – As soon as you put curds in the fresh, the squeak disappears. The cheese is fine on the counter for a few days.

 

Building a Canadian Cheese Board 101

With these tips, Vanessa makes it easy to create a cheese board to serve instead of slaving hours to make hors d’oeuvres or a fancy dessert. Use Vanessa tried & true tips and you’ll be guaranteed to get Oooohs and aaahs reviews for your cheese selection.

Vanessa’s Buying Tips: 

Milk type – cow, sheep, goat, buffalo (when in season).  Buy at least one of each

Style of cheese – Select different styles: fresh, soft, semi-soft, washed, firm, hard…and always make sure there is a blue cheese!

Age of Cheese – have a variety of young & old cheeses

Visual Variety – select cheeses that have visual appeal.  Rounds, wedges, chunks, even in pyramid shape – in combination will create WOW factor.

How much? – 5-10gms of each cheese/person is a good rule of thumb.

Vanessa’s Serving Tips:

Take them out of the fridge – make sure the cheeses are at room temperature – arrange on the cheese board atleast 1 hour beforehand.  This will allow the flavours and texture to shine their finest

One knife please – place one knife per cheese on the board.

To cut or not to cut – Don’t cut up small pieces in advance.

Wood, plate or slate – Use an interesting wooden board, cross cut log, antique plate, slate or marble tiles or tiered trays for visual appeal.

Plain Jane – Serve specialty breads and plain crackers.  Crackers dressed with herbs or spices will conflict with the taste of the cheese.

Add ons – sprinkle onto the board fresh berries, dried fruits, toasted nuts, olives, caramelized or pickled onions or milder charcuterie items as accompaniments.

 

This is part of an article written by Debbie Trenholm that will appear in the January/February 2018 issue of Ottawa Life Magazine

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Dashing through the LCBO….

Posted by Julie

Monday, December 11th, 2017
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It’s beginning to feel a lot like Christmas. Champagne, stunning gift boxes, ice wine, suggestions for “Holiday Gatherings” is what the final Vintages release of the year is all about.

There are so many awesome products in this release that I have to remind myself of my meager budget of $100 for this blog. Here is my shopping list – including some bottles to splurge on too.

And if you were able to get your hands on the LCBO’s latest Food and Drink Magazine, talk about eye candy – glossy photos with lots of great recipes for appetizers, cocktail parties and novel recipes for main courses too. Where do they get this new twists on the traditional?

For those of you who have a more robust budget than my$100 for wine shopping, I have several recommendations. There’s a new Sandeman 20-year old Tawny Port (Vintages #116178) $64.95 which was absolutely delicious.  Burrowing Owl Meritage (Vintages #343038) $58.95 is a red wine from British Columbia that will knock your expensive socks off.  The LCBO’s Wine of the Month – Joseph Phelps Cabernet Sauvignon (Vintages #189795) $119.95 is extra special and Sortilege Prestige, a 7 year old Canadian Whiskey with pure maple syrup (Vintages #317206) $49.95 is another treat.

So until next year, wishing you a wonderful holiday season full of great sips!

-Julie

 

If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday December 9, 2017

Veuve Ambal Grande Cuvée Brut Rosé Crémant de Bourgogne

Traditional Method, AC Burgundy, France
$19.95 (Vintages #439257) 12% alcohol

An enticing pale pink that shimmers like a Christmas decoration in the glass, bubbles (fine mousse) galore dance on the palate while croissants, raspberries and little ripe strawberries arrive seductively to the taste buds. Clean and fresh, it’s a classic Crémant that returns yearly with quality and taste.

A perfect aperitif, wonderful as a party accompaniment. It’s also festive, pretty and everyone loves it.

 

Sunnybrook Signature Series Cranberry 2015

Niagara
$23.95 (Vintages #539049) 11% alcohol

Sunnybrook Farm Estate Winery is proud to use 100% locally grown fruits for their wines and this stunning nectar won double gold at the Canadian Wine Awards 2017. I was surprised to see this featured under dessert wines since I did not find it overly sweet.

Awesome cranberry colour loaded with soft cranberry fruit and on first sip I thought it would be absolutely perfect with turkey or pork as a dinner wine. A lengthy seam of acidity on the delicious finish and dare I say, I almost got some green apple. Wine Gods forgive me, but we all taste something different.

I’ll just sum it up by saying this would go through dinner to dessert (would be heaven with some blue cheese). How different is a fruit wine? and this would also make a lovely gift.

D-e-e-elicious.

 

The Tragically Hip Fully Completely Grand Reserve Red 2015

VQA Niagara Peninsula, Stoney Ridge
$24.95 (Vintages #411595) 13.5% alcohol

This red wine was a creation by band members Gord Downie, Paul Langlois, Rob Baker, Gord Sinclair, and Johnny Fay in conjunction with Stoney Ridge Estate Winery’s Head Winemaker Jeff Hundertmark. It is a class act wine.

Wonderful rich blend of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. On the label is an exact replication of the original artwork that appeared on the “Fully Completely” album cover that all Hip fans know so well.

Inside the bottle, deep dark delicious aromas awaits with tastes of ripe berries, some sweet spicy notes and tannin. It’s balanced and lengthy, an elegant addition for ta prime rib or steak not to mention pretty nice table bling.

Hands  down, this will make a great gift for those Gord Downie fans.

 

Aneto Red 2011

DOC Douro, Portugal
$16.95 (Vintages #314930) 14% alcohol

I learned on my trip to Portugal this year that there are more than 100 indigenous grape varietals approved for wine production in the Douro region of Portugal but five primary grapes make up most Port and table wines.

Touriga Nacional is the most prominent known for its floral aromatics, deep color, and tannin. Along with Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz (Spain’s Tempranillo) help to provide backbone to the wine and adds bright acidity and red fruit flavors.

Aneto, (which by the way is the name of a plant) is power-packed with ripe red and dark berries on the palate, full-bodied with lovely soft tannin and a little leather on the finish. It’s a fairly big wine with lots of punch and I plan to serve this with with ribs and Caesar salad.

 

Casteno Solanera Vinas Viejas 2015

DO Yecia, Spain
$18.95 (Vintages #276162) 14.5% alcohol

A blend of Monastrell, Cabernet Sauvignon and Grenache, aged in French and American oak. This red wine is a big, ripe, round and juicy for those of us that like a heavy duty wine. Flavours of ripe blueberries and black plums are the core backbone with a gentle seam of acidity and soft tannin. There’s a little spice alongside a subtle pinch of pepper on the finish.

This wine is not for the faint of heart so I’m suggesting to pour alongside garlic mash and grilled beef ribs – we are talking five star good.

 

Grand Total = $104.75

(So…in my last blog, I saved you $6, so splurge a little this time….besides it’s Christmas!)

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THE Coolest Canadian Gifts

Posted by Debbie

Wednesday, December 6th, 2017
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With a year of celebrating Canada’s 150th milestone, there are a number of nifty gifts that would make any Canadian beam with pride. Here’s a quick shopping list – and the neat part is that you don’t even have to get out of your comfy couch or battle parking lots to get them.  A few clicks is all that it takes to get your holiday shopping done.

Shake up a good cocktail

Whether vodka, gin, rye, rum or whisky is the potion of choice, there are a handful of artisan distilleries with different small batch creations that will can be easily wrapped up with a bow. Take a drive to get the taste of place or, be on the look out for these rare finds at the LCBO:

 

Add a dash or splash of this neat treat

Move over maple syrup, the grapes are coming! Typically used for icewine, Vidal and Cabernet grapes grown in Niagara are now being crushed to make a unique, one-of-kind Ice Syrup.

Drizzle on pancakes or use as a marinade or add a dash to salad dressings, Ice Syrup has unlimited uses for any cook.  You can even add a splash to a sparkling wine to make a truly Canadian Kir Royale.

$20 each at www.icesyrup.com or fine grocers.

 

Go crazy for Canadian craft beer 

Back by popular demand, the one-of-a-kind Hoppy Holiday Advent Calendar will make any beer fan smile from ear to ear.  This is the grown-up version of an advent calendar when we were kids.

Rather than filled with chocolates or toys, there are 24 hard-to-find craft beers from every corner of Ontario to create a unique assortment spanning the full gamut of styles of beer.

Check out www.savvycompany.ca/advent for price & to order.

 

 

Serve Canadian Cheese – please!

Vanessa Simmons has been called Canada’s famous Cheese Sommelier because she is knows how to put together a cheese board that will WOW.  She has made it super easy for you this holiday season by hand-picking an assortment of artisan cheeses – from across Canada – for you to give as a gift or serve at a holiday party.

Simply order her Savvy Cool Curds Holiday Pack and Vanessa will send you 5 ready-to-eat cheeses in wedges and rounds that are not available at grocery stores.

$55 plus delivery anywhere in Canada www.savvycoolcurds.ca

 

Everyone will love this book!

This coffee table book is 178 pages with the best photos, essays & stories from across Canada during our big birthday year including many memories of the Ottawa 2017 celebrations. Each page defines what it means to be Canadian.

A perfect gift for proud Canadians or to have on hand when visitors come to town.

$50 available online only – click here >> 

 

This article written by Debbie Trenholm appeared in the November-December issue of Ottawa Life Magazine

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If I only had $100, I would buy….

Posted by Julie

Friday, November 24th, 2017
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With the devastating news about the forest fires in Napa & surrounding area, there has been alot of focus on California wines.  Coincidentally, premium California wines are the main feature in this release at LCBO Vintages this weekend. While most bottles were too rich for my $100 budget for this blog, I was so pleased to sample & create this shopping list with an interesting assortment of fine wines that are easy on the credit card statement. Remember that I am working on a $100 budget, yet I highly recommend that you do splurge by adding a California wine into your shopping cart.

I also found several sparkling wines and beautiful icewines, that you can pick up to stash away for the gifting season.

As always, my shopping basket for this blog is always on the look out for bottles of wine that are priced lower than they actually taste.

I hope you like my picks!

Julie

 

If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday November 25, 2017

 

Tawse Spark Limestone Ridge Sparkling Riesling 2015

Traditional method, VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontari
$20.95 (Vintages #370361) 12% alcohol

Green apples, lemon zest, crispy brioche all meld into a delicate creamy mousse that is crisp and clean on the palate and swirls on the tongue.

Lots going on in this sparkling Riesling with a hit of flint that seems only to come from Niagara Escarpment Rieslings.  Talk about a gift from Mother Earth and speaking of gifts – this one I highly recommend.

A great match for seafood or pick up a chilled bottle and some sushi one night for supper – now that would be a treat!

 

 

Robert Oatley Signature Series Chardonnay 2016

Margaret River, Western Australia
$18.95 (Vintages #350900) 12.5% alcohol

While certainly not a new wine in LCBO Vintages, this is always an easy Chardonnay to add to my shopping list. It’s a no-brainer for those Chardonnay lovers and those firmly in the ABC (Anything But Chardonnay) crowd could easily be persuaded.

Full-boded yet crisp and refreshing for a Chardonnay with a multitude of tropical white stone fruit flavours (think white peach) on the palate and loads of tangerine citrus on the finish. Talk about a beautifully balanced white wine with just enough acidity to send you back for another sip.  And another.  And another.

A perfect wine to have with lunch for crab or lobster bisque with a puff pastry topping or chicken pot pie (for the less daring to cook).

 

Zuccardi Q Cabernet Sauvignon 2013

Mendoza, Argentina
$19.95 (Vintages #140855) 13.9% alcohol

In such warm climate, grapes can ripen to their fullest so it is not a bit of wonder the product ends up being full-bodied and rich.

Big black fruit, ripe blueberries, blackberries mingle smoothly with silky lush tannin. The mouthfeel is plush and loaded with dark berry flavours.

A lovely lengthy aftertaste sprinkled with pepper. One great Cabernet Sauvignon to serve alongside ribs or a Sunday roast.

 

 

San Felice Chianti Classico 2015

DOCG, Italy
$19.95 (Vintages #282996) 13% alcohol

Predominantly Sangiovese with personality of ripe cherries and raspberries, a pinch of violet that also profiles this delicate Chianti. Medium-bodied and fruity it is a classic Chianti.

There’s some dustiness and leather whiffs on the finish, typical of wine aged in Slovonian oak casks for 10-12 months. Tannins are delicate and fresh, a wonderful wine to serve with your favourite pasta dish or a spicy lasagna.

 

 

Honoro Vera Monastrell 2015

DOP, Jumilla, Spain
$13.95 (Vintages #167684) 14.5% alcohol

DOP certification ensures that the grapes are locally grown and bottled. Dark and inky, some sweet spice aromas, bursts of ripe plums on the palate mixing cherry and mocha flavours on the lengthy finish.

Medium to full-bodied, fairly assertive tannins with a pinch of leather on the aftertaste.

You get a lot of pow for your dollar here and cannot beat the price point. This would be wonderful with a hearty stew and crusty bread.

This wine certainly grabs your attention with the cool label!

 

Grand Total = $93.75

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Time for Ports & Sherry!

Posted by Julie

Sunday, November 12th, 2017
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Now that the temperature continuously dips below zero degrees, it’s time to start thinking about stocking up for the winter months and of course the upcoming holiday entertaining season. I don’t recall Vintages ever focusing on “After Dinner Drinks”, but I found some in this release worth tipping you off.

Although the ice wines are too pricey for my $100 budget, there are some beauties to pick up or gift as fine gifts.

In this release, there is also a huge selection of sparkling wines including Champagne, always a great start to any get together with friends.

The advantage of stocking up on after dinner drinks is that they are bound to last longer than other bottles of wine and have a much longer shelf life.

Here’s to the “finishing” drinks,

Julie

 

If I only had $100, I would buy…
LCBO Vintages Release for Saturday November 11, 2017

Burmester 10-Year Old Tawny Port

DOP, Portugal
$28.95 (Vintages #223958) 19.5% alcohol

DOP is short for (Denominação de Origem Protegida) meaning Protected Designation of Origin. This certification only found in Portugal ensures that products are locally grown and packaged.

This past fall, my husband and I visited the Burmester Port house in Oporto, Portugal on the side of the Douro river in an area called “Gaia”.  While it is not as large as Taylors Fladgate or Grahams, the ports made a Burmester are of premium quality.

This Tawny Port has a deep copper in colour with flavours that remind me of fruit cake, sweet spice with a caramel finish. Light-bodied and goes down smooth, capital S. Positively delicious and a perfect after dinner drink.

City of Oporto. The Burmester Caves where this port was made is on the left of the photo. Credit: Julie Stock

Hildalgo Faraon Oloros Sherry

DO, Spain
$21.95 (Vintages # 471078) 18% alcohol

I don’t often think of sherry as an after dinner drink but his one is an exception. Similar to port it is a fortified wine, yet made only in Spain.

This deep golden nectar is like sipping a bowl of roasted nuts with a great savoury finish. Bone dry with a little orange pith on the palate.

It would be absolutely divine with some assorted cheeses, dried fruit and of course, warm toasted nuts at the end of a meal. It’s a special kind of sherry.

 

Flat Rock Nadja’s Vineyard Riesling

VQA Twenty Mile Bench, Niagara Escarpment, Ontario$24.95 (Vintages #578625) 11% alcohol

I’m not often wowed by off-dry Riesling but this is one is an elegant beauty. Apparently I’m not the only one that was lured to this wine since it won Platinum at the Wine Align Intervin awards this year.

Fresh and clean, flinty with soft lemon custard flavours on the palate and a round citrusy finish.

This white wine is positively delicious and would make a decadent afternoon sipper or pair with some spicy shrimps.

 

 

Reif Estate Reserve Gewurztraminer 2015

VQA Niagara River, Ontario
$18.95 (Vintages #360255) 13% alcohol

In my view, Reif Estates always offers good price points for the quality of their wine. It’s always a good thing to have a Gewurztraminer in the fridge for those chilly nights where a hot Indian curry like Chicken Vindaloo or take-out Thai meal would warm you up – all perfect pairings for Gewurztraminer.

Fresh floral aromas, some lychee but loads of tropical fruits on the palate show in this white wine. Look for ripe apricots and peach nectar with some toasty hazelnuts on the finish.

It’s a dy-na-mite!

 

For 2 white wines & 2 after dinner drinks, my Grand Total = $94.80

 

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