Raise a glass to celebrate Vineland’s 30 years

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Savvy Selections wine of the month club 
Featuring Vineland Estates Winery

– December 2014 –


Many of Ontario’s wine regions have had the first snowstorm or two, and strangely some of us are experiencing an early thaw.   It is chilly enough to say that Old Man winter is here & it won’t be long until the freezing nights have the picking teams out collecting the raisened grapes that will be used in ice wine. This is a busy time for most, so while we all enjoy the great times with food and families over the holidays, the hustle and bustle can sometimes be overwhelming. Whether you need a simple entertaining idea, or want to kick back with your feet up in front of a roaring fire, we’ve selected three wines from Vineland Estates Winery to make things a little more relaxing. We hope you enjoy and have a wonderful holiday season!

Ready to uncork & enjoy your Savvy Selections? 

In your Savvy Selections you will find 3 VERY DIFFERENT wines. Each one has been specially selected for its unique ability to pair with food and toast the wintery holiday season. With an exquisite sparkling wine to kick off a party or ring in the New Year, an ‘oh-so-food-friendly’ white wine that you can pair with so many dishes, and finally, a bold red that will warm away the chills in front of a roaring fire, there really is something for every occasion in this shipment!

2013 Brut Reserve (Charmat Method) – A sparkling wine that fooled many on the Savvy team, who all believed it was a traditional method sparkling wine. Fresh, crisp, and fruit-forward in style, this perfect entertaining wine will have folks asking for more! 

2013 Pinot Blanc – A light white wine with intriguing aromas & tastes of lemon and grapefruit, and a really interesting beeswax note. The Savvy Team keep thinking of more and more recipes to create the perfect match with this wine.

2012 Elevation Cabernet – California meets Bordeaux! Big, bold, and delicious fruit meets earthy and slightly restrained palate, with solid structure to hold for several years.

OPTIONAL WINE: 2012 Reserve Chardonnay.  This wine is a delicious, fruit forward Chardonnay that reminds me of a green apple clafoutis – rich and creamy, but balanced by the crisp fruit. The balance of sweet fruit and crisp acidity demonstrate exceptional restraint given the hot vintage.  Want some of this incredible Chard?  Just call us!

You won’t find these Vineland wines at the LCBO

We have done it again!  Our Savvy Sommeliers have found wines (and great prices) that we are confident you will enjoy…every sip!  Vineland has several wines available at the LCBO, but many more that do not make it onto your local LCBO store shelves. Call on us at anytime you would like additional bottles of your favourite Vineland wines – or other wineries we have featured in Savvy Selections.  Your Canadian Wine Hotline is 613-SAVVYCO (728-8926) or send me an email to debbie@savvycompany.ca.

Debbie & Savvy Team


Vineland Estates Winery

Presented by Savvy Sommelier Shawn McCormick

“Unbridled, child-like passion” is how winemaker Brian Schmidt describes his winemaking style. His reply may seem strange for someone who has been making wine at the same winery for almost 24 years, but it fits Brian to a tee. Minimalist by nature, he likes to let the grapes speak for themselves. Highly regarded by his peers, his talent for making the best out of what Mother Nature throws at them, year after year, resulted in Brian receiving ‘2014 Winemaker of the Year’ from the Ontario Wine Awards. Born into the family’s winery life at Sumac Ridge in British Columbia, Brian recalls making his first Okanagan Riesling at age 13. Following his older brother Allan (now President of Vineland Estates) to Ontario proved to be a good idea, and something the entire region has benefitted from.

A Sense of Place

BVinelandrian and I talk about a recent article by a New York state winemaker that alluded to the learning that comes with staying in one place. With his roots firmly planted at Vineland, Brian resonates with the article for its honesty. “Many have romantic notions of creating the perfect elixir” that involve experiences and skills learned from working at locations around the world. Brian sees value in understanding the different and emerging techniques that are having success globally, but explains the reality is a “long arduous season, working in imperfect conditions”.

Make the most of what you are given requires innate knowledge of what is going on in the vineyards. As Brian explains this is the real reason that you will so often see him in the vineyard (he is famous on Twitter for his ‘Twactor Tweets’ .  Follow him @benchwineguy), whether he is weeding, mowing, or trimming. His purpose is to be there and observe, day after day – “its not the same walking up and down a few rows once a week” he explains. He notes that although some of the vines have been in the ground for 35 years, you need to be nimble to catch the little clues each year. “If I haven’t made a compromise by 10 am, I’m not paying attention. Things change that fast!” he explains.

He pulls out an old quote that someone once told him to wrap up the discussion “Although vines love the rays of the sun, they love more the shadow of their master.”

Riesling, Cabernet Franc, and so much more

Brian is well-known for his passion for two grapes: Riesling and Cabernet Franc. He has travelled other cool climate regions in Europe extensively to understand what practices and knowledge can be applied to Vineland Estates. These new ideas, bundled with the deep knowledge from continually observing his vines allows Brian to figure out which improvements have a chance of working here. Vineland grows about 12 varieties themselves, and work with other growers for the other grapes they need. Of all of these, Brian has a special fondness for the Pinot Meunier (blended with Chardonnay in the sparkling in your Savvy Selections). As this varietal has not really caught on with others, it allows him to play with it more. There’s no consumers saying “Well, it doesn’t taste like so and so’s Pinot Meunier” says Brian, obviously enjoying the freedom to experiment.

“A Rising Tide Floats All Boats”

Brian SchmidtThis phase is one that Brian uses regularly, and breathes day to day. Passionate about increasing the overall quality of wines coming out of the region, Brian is quick to promote wines from his peers and believes that continually improving the quality of Ontario wine serves all of the wineries well.  He also serves as President and Chair of VQA Ontario.

But the real proof is seen in the day-to-day behaviours. Case in point, the latest piece of technology that Vineland has invested in is what Brian calls a “game changer” for the local industry. This automated optical sorter can inspect and reject bad berries and other foreign matter at lightening speed, improving the quality of the fruit going into the wines. Obviously small wineries cannot afford this type of investment, yet Brian notes that they sorted over 200 tons of wine for neighbouring wineries this year.

What’s in the future for Vineland Estates?

Brian wraps our whole discussion together when I ask about the future. Noting that some of his most enjoyable projects have involved highlighting the minute differences in the vineyard by producing wines from smaller vineyard blocks, Brian sees more of this in the future.Creating these wines of singular terroir expression with distinct singular personalities means a lot more work in the vineyard and offers the example of their Bo-Teek vineyard – that 60 acre block is now 15 different blocks, each imparting slightly different nuances into the vines. And that means more wines for you to try in the future!



With a host of wines to choose from, the team had a hard time selecting which wines to pick for this months selections. We decided on one for celebrating (the Reserve Brut), and a food friendly white and red that we could pair with hearty winter dishes.

With Ontario’s cooler climate, the wines tend towards lower alcohol levels and great acidity, making for great food pairing. Yet several recent vintages, notably 2012, saw greater heat units and more fruit ripeness earlier in the season. The red wines from these warm and dry vintages may exhibit more plush fruit flavours that can stand to be sipped alone as well as paired with big dishes. The continual variance in weather that makes wine-making so challenging also makes discovering Ontario wines so interesting!

Reserve Brut VQA 2013, $24.95

Comprised of 49% Pinot Meunier, 42% Chardonnay, and 9% Riesling, you’ll find this the perfect complement for oysters.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: Fine, elegant bubbles in this almost clear sparkler invigorate and refresh your palate. There’s a light sweetness of white flower honey, green apple and light stone fruit notes at first, and then the citrus kicks in and cleanses the palate with a lemon peel finish. There’s also a hint of spice on the finish that reminded us of fresh ginger.

Suggested Food Pairings: While immediately think of sparkling wine with oysters or other shellfish, this is a very versatile wine that works with many different dishes. Open it with canapés toasting in New Year’s Eve, with simple fare such as our fish taco recipe, or even simple snacks like potato chips in front of a movie – life is good! 

Cellaring:  Drink lightly chilled around 7 to 10ºC.


Pinot Blanc VQA 2013, $16.95

As Brian himself describes it “…takes me back to a childhood memory of sitting on a sunny hill, chewing on the white stalk of a new blade of grass”.

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes: This is a really intriguing wine that changes while in your glass. At first, the nose is dominated with beeswax and honey notes, and the fruit takes a backseat. As the temperature comes up, the fruit explodes out of the glass with lemon-lime, peach, and hints of nuttiness and under-ripe pineapple.  Dry grapefruit finish begs for another sip!

Suggested Food Pairings: Another versatile wine that will work with many dishes. The Savvy Team immediately thought of roast turkey or chicken, cream soups, or fish and chips. See our recipe for bacon, corn & potato chowder on the following pages.

Cellaring: Drink now. Can serve between 5ºC to 10ºC with more opulent fruit notes emerging at the warmer end of the spectrum.

Elevation Cabernet VQA 2012, $25.00

Vineland Barrel CellarWith winemaker Brian Schmidt being well known for his Cabernet Franc, we had to give you a glimpse of the stellar red wines that Vineland also produces. This blend of 80% Cabernet Franc and 20% Cabernet Sauvignon from a stellar growing year exemplify that Ontario can make great red wine as well as whites. 

Check out Vineland’s barrel cellar (photo at right, courtesy of Paul Bagley)

Savvy Sommelier Tasting Notes:  Fantastic growing conditions in 2012 give us a big, rich red wine that some say are like “Napa Valley meets Bordeaux”. Rich, dark brooding fruit greet the nose, with some earthy and leathery notes following. With a plush, full mouthfeel, the black cherry, cassis, and ripe plum flavours are balanced with moderate acidity and fine tannic structure.  Over time, some lifted menthol and sweet spice notes emerge, and the palate adds light mocha notes. This is a wine that evolves over the evening, and we encourage you to do that if you can!

Suggested Food Pairings: Calls for beef bourguignon, beef stroganoff, or venison stew. 

Cellaring: Drinking well know, can cellar for up to 5 years or more.



With Vineland’s Reserve Brut 2013…

Fish Tacos

From Shawn McCormick’s family kitchen
Serves 4

Served with a tartly dressed green salad, this soup is hearty and filling enough for a light supper. I like the convenience of using chicken broth, but if you have a good beef broth on hand, feel free to use it for even deeper flavor.


1 lb white fish (cod or halibut)
1 package of small tortilla (soft taco) shells
3 cups finely shaved Savoy cabbage
1 cup mayonnaise
1 TBSP lime zestJuice of 1 lime
A second lime, cut into wedges
8-12 Coriander sprigs
Slice green onions
Salt & pepper to taste


Cook the fish as you like – fried in butter, or poach it in lightly salted water. Fry for 3-4 minutes per side if frying, or simmer for about 10 minutes until the flesh is flaky if poaching. Once done, remove and beak into smaller pieces to fit in the tortilla shells. Keep warm.

Cut the Savoy cabbage across the grain so you have long thin strands of cabbage.

Mix the mayonnaise & lime zest together. Whisk in the lime juice a bit at a time. You want a thin sauce but not too watery. Add some salt and pepper to taste.

Place fish in tortilla shell (I like to lightly warm mine over a gas burner on low). Top generously with cabbage, green onion, and a few sprigs of Coriander. Drizzle generously with lime-mayonnaise sauce and a spritz of fresh lime juice from the wedge.


With Vineland’s Pinot Blanc …

Bacon, Corn & Potato chowder

From The Food Network
Serves 4 to 6


1 Tbsp butter
¼ lb of bacon, diced
1 cup chopped onion
¾ cup chopped green pepper
salt & pepper
1 Tbsp minced garlic
2 Tbsp flour
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups peeled, finely diced potato
1 ½ cups shredded carrot
2 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup half-and-half cream
½ tsp dried thyme
Pinch cayenne pepper
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian Parsley


Sling the butter into a soup kettle and melt over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and cook till crisp. Scoop out the bacon and drain on paper towels. Save for later–don’t nibble too much.

Pour off all but 1/4 cup of fat from the pot. Toss in the onions and peppers, seasoning them with a pinch of salt and pepper. Cook till soft and then throw in the garlic, cooking it all for 1 minute more. Sprinkle on the flour and mix into the veggies. Dump in the broth and potatoes.

Cover the pot and bring to a boil; then lower the heat and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes, or till the potatoes are tender. Add the shredded carrots and corn. Cover and simmer everything 5 to 6 minutes longer to blend the flavors.

Stir in the half-and-half. Season with the thyme, cayenne, some more salt, and lots of freshly ground black pepper to taste. Sprinkle with parsley and the bacon bits you’ve been saving. Give it one last stir, and ladle it up piping hot.


With Elevation Cabernet …

Hungarian Paprika Beef (Goulash)

From Shawn McCormick’s family kitchen
Serves 4-6


1 kg lean stewing beef or sirloin tips, cubed
2-3 glugs of cooking oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 28oz can diced tomatoes
2 red bell peppers, cut into 1” chunks
2 TBSP paprika
2 TBSP hot smoked paprika
2-3 cups of beef stock
Salt and pepper to taste


In a large frying pan, brown all sides of meat in oil in small batches. You don’t want it cooked through – just browned on the outside. Remove meat from pan and place in slow cooker. Repeat until all the meat has been browned.

Add and brown the onions & garlic in the drippings, adding more oil if required. Once browned, add the onions & garlic to the slow cooker as well. Deglaze the pan with a cup of beef stock and add it to the slow cooker.

Sprinkle the beef and onion mixture with the paprika and stir in the can of tomatoes. Add more beef stock as required to cover the meat.

Cook in the slow cooker on high for an hour, then drop the temperature to low and cook for another 2 hours.

Add the chopped red bell peppers and cook for another hour on low. Taste, and add salt and pepper as required. You may also want to add more paprika if you like it spicy.

Serve over mashed potatoes or buttered egg noodles, paired with Elevation Cabernet! 


Happy Holidays
& Enjoy your Savvy Selections!

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