A New Twist on Wine & Cheese

Things had been kind of insane in my day job and it seemed I barely had time to do anything wine-related, even consume wine. So when Debbie Trenholm from Savvy Company asked me if I’d like to attend one of her “Wine & Cheese with a Twist!” events, I decided I needed a break and accepted the offer.

In my elevated state of confusion I agreed to the event in the east end, in the Rockcliffe Community Centre. While adding a bit to the planning and driving for the night, I’m actually glad we attended this event where we did. The Rockcliffe Community Centre has an event room filled with floor-ceiling windows, and is perfectly-sized for the type of event Debbie held (7-8 “exhibitors” and about 50 people attending). The event was perfect for getting to spend some quality time with the winemaker’s and/or winery staff in attendance. There was never a line up of more than a couple of people, and oftentimes we could walk right up to the table. We didn’t try all the wines that night but did manage to sample the majority of them.


Tracy from Jacobsons Gourmet Food

Tracy from Jacobsons Gourmet Food

Jacobsons from Beechwood Avenue was in attendance, and Tracy had a magnificent display of cheeses on offer to pair with the different wines. Being able to try this blue cheese (below) with the Rosewood Mead (or the Pondview Late Harvest) gives one a new appreciation for wine and cheese pairing. We’re definitely going to make a trip out to their shop on Beechwood Avenue in the near future to check out the food and kitchenware!

Great cheese from Jacobson's!

Great cheese from Jacobson’s!


Beautiful displays!

Beautiful displays!

Lighthall Vineyards

Glenn discussing his wines with Debbie

Glenn discussing his wines with Debbie

Glenn Symons, owner and winemaker at Lighthall Vineyards was the first stop after the cheese. We’re big fans of Glenn’s sparkling Vidal (named Progression), so we were happy to hear that the 2012 was just about ready for release. Here’s what I tasted:

Lighthall Vineyards Wines

Lighthall Vineyards Wines

2010 Lighthall Chardonnay: I fairly big, full-bodied wine from the County. On the nose, ripe apples, lemon, and some smoky-toasty notes. I detected some light caramel notes as well. On the palate, the wine is smooth but some decent minerality keeps the fruit in check. As Debbie is on a big Chardonnay kick (and Glenn has already sold most of this), we decide we need to order some of this beauty from PEC. $25

2011 Lighthall Gewurztraminer: With a sweet nose of lychee, kiwi fruit, and white flowers, Glenn explained that the wine has 10g/L of residual sugar but comes across as drier on the finish, which exhibits crisp acidity. $25

Fielding Estate Winery

Curtis Fielding, aka the Grape King 2012

Curtis Fielding, aka the Grape King 2012

Curtis and Heidi Fielding who are regulars in Ottawa, couldn’t make this event and their table was well represented by one of the Savvy sommeliers. As we are members of the Fielding Wine Club, we’re pretty familiar with most of their wines but did want to try the 2011 Viognier to see how it compared to the 2010.

2011 Viognier: Very floral with white flowers and fresh fruit on the nose. Probably a more typical Viognier, the fruit is lighter than I recall the 2010, which was a bigger, more viscuous wine. There’s definitely more acidity and the crisp finish reminds you that this wine is a match for many foods. $25.95 (on offer for $19.95 at this event)

Fielding Wines

2007 Cabernet Sauvignon: I’ve got a few bottles of this one in my cellar, so I was keen to see how it is coming along (without having to open one of mine to find out). It is definitely drinking very well now. The wine is currently exhibiting some old world notes of earthiness and leather amid the cassis and black cherry fruit. There’s still ample fruit and tannins to hold for another 3-5 years, but if you have more than one, treat yourself to a bottle soon. $44.95 (was on offer for $34.95 at this event!)

2010 Syrah: Those expecting Syrah like Shiraz in Australia would find this quite different as it is much more the Rhone style of Syrah. With a bright cherry fruit and black pepper nose, the wine has bright acidity, balanced tannins, and a slightly sharp cherry lip-smacking finish. $34.95

Pondview Estate Winery

Owner Luciano (Lou) Puglisi had many wines out this night, including three from his “Bella” line which is the winery’s top tier. This included a beautiful, lightly oaked Pinot Gris and a couple of others I was happy to taste again.

Pondview 2011 Pinot Gris: This beauty spent 9 months in neutral oak. There’s very light smoke on the nose with fresh apples and lemons. The time in barrel smooths out the acidity, leaving a fresh but smooth wine. Finishes with lemon zest and just a hint of smoke and toast again. $29.95

2010 Pondview Cabernet-Merlot: A lovely, well-integrated wine, the nose exhibits typical notes of cassis (from the Cab) and plums (from the Merlot) amid sweet spice and vanilla notes from the oak. On the palate, there’s similar dark fruit dominance and a surprisingly bright acidity that reminds you why Ontario reds pair so well with food. This was one of the rare wines at these events that was in a Vintages release, so you may still find some in the LCBO store near you. $18.95

2010 Cab Franc Reserve: Top-end Cabernet Francs are one of my favourites, and top-end reds from 2010 in Ontario are even better. This wine is dominated by dark cherry and cassis on the nose and palate, with no indication of the green pepper that can be found in cooler years. There’s some light spice and vanilla from the oak treatment and the wine finishes with a slight tannic cherry finish. $29.95

2010 Pondview Meritage: The most expensive wine at this tasting event, this was indeed a premium offer. Equal parts Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, and 16 months in French oak has resulted in well-structured, age-able beauty. Blueberries, cassis, and black cherry, there are different nuances with every sip. This is a wine to discover over the course of an evening, and it will keep surprising you. $39.95

Sue-Ann at 3 O'Clock, Lou at 2 O'Clock

Sue-Ann at 3 O’Clock, Lou at 2 O’Clock

Sue-Ann Staff Estate Winery

Sue-Ann is one of the most engaging winemakers in Ontario and it is hard to believe she has time to attend a show in Ottawa, yet she is usually her. Not only does she have her own winery at the family farm, she also does double-duty the winemaker and Megalomaniac Wines (John Howard Cellars).

Staff 2011 Sparkling “Sassy” Riesling: Now here’s a wine that is just a little bit different.The nose is very fresh with lemon zest and lime notes, and the mousse (the bubbles) is light and tiny. Done in the “Methode Champenois” style (the traditional means of making sparkling wine in Champagne) and only 4 months on lees, the wine hasn’t picked up too much of the yeasty notes one associates with Champagne but has stayed more fruit forward and fresh, with hints of biscuits. $27.95

Staff 2011 Grace’s Dry Riesling: Bright lemon minerality on the nose, the palate is all lemon zest and lime zest – very zippy, palate-cleansing acidity. At only 4g/L residual sugar, this wine is quite dry, but it seems sweeter – there is a great balance of acidity & sweetness in this one. $21

Staff 2011 Pinot Grigio: Fresh fruit on the nose – almost seems a little sharp and acidic at first but gives way to more tropical notes of bananas and mangoes. Supple in the mouth, the wine finishes dry with a bit of an acidic “bite”. Very fresh! $21

Rosewood Estates Winery

Rosewood Estates

Rosewood Estates

Krystina Roman is another familiar face in Ottawa and seems so omnipresent at wine events across the province that I’m starting to think she lives in her car! If Rosewood is at an event in Ottawa, you’ll see Krystina’s huge smile behind the table.

2011 Mima’s Block Riesling: I love Riesling from the Bench area and this wine did not disappoint. Lovely notes of fresh, sweet stone fruit and lemon-lime. On the palate, juicy sweet & sour notes combine with a strong mineral core. Despite the 14g/L reisdual sugar, the wine finishes fresh in the mouth. $20

Mead Royale

Mead Royale

2008 Mead Royale: I’m quite a bit of a newbie when it comes to mead, and this may well have been the first that I have ever tried. With a super sweet and floral nose, this is unlike anything I have tried before. The palate exhibits sweet citrus notes and sweet spices and finishes smooth. I decide I need to study mead a little more and add this to my list. $15

2009 Merlot Reserve: A beautiful example of Ontario Merlot, this one exhibits dark plums and red cherries amid the sweet spice notes of oak on the nose. The tannic structure is there to hold this wine for a while – they are still a bit grippy at this point but there’s enough fruit to lay this for several years. Slight caramel and toast notes amid the plummy finish. One for the cellar. $36 (Was on offer at $32)

Casa Dea Estates

Surprise of the Night!

Surprise of the Night!

The surprise of the night for me was re-discovering winemaker Paul Paul Battilana and the wines of Casa Dea Estates. I had visited this Prince Edward County winery in early 2010 and had sampled the whites from 2009 and the reds from 2008. At that time, I had found the wines were quite light and honestly, I was not impressed. I’m glad I took the time to re-taste – with some time under his belt, the wines Paul is producing have really come into their own.

2011 Dea’s Cuvee: Comprised of 55% Pinot Noir (yes, red grapes are used to make white sparkling wine) and 45% Chardonnay. The wine is done in the Charmat method, and is reminiscent of an Italian Prosecco. It is off-dry, and exhibits lemon drop candies mid-palate and finishes with a crisp mouth of minerality and citrus. A very fun wine. So much fun that it gets added to our short list (after all, we just finished paying for Christmas!). $18.95

2010 Unoaked Chardonnay: With a nose of green apples and lemons, the nose is all fresh fruit. Paul explained that the wine underwent full malolactic fermentation yet it only had hints of this process that showed as a roundness or smoothness to the wine. On the mouth, the wine displayed County minerality, pineapple, tropical fruit and lemon. As it warmed I noticed some very faint herbal notes that reminded me of canned beans. A great patio sipper. $15.95

2010 Pinot Noir: Although 2010 was a hot year in Ontario and a lot of Pinot Noirs came across as fuller-bodied as usual. Paul managed to keep this wine extremely feminine – exhibiting graceful cherry and cranberry notes from the mineral-driven terroir. Judicious use of oak has kept the wine fresh and light and it quietly displays it’s finesse. $19.95

2008 Cabernet Franc Reserve: With 20 months in barrels (20% new), this reserve wine is likely one of the nicest I have had from PEC from the 2008 vintage (a cool, wet year that was difficult on later ripening fruit). The wine is bone dry and has some of the common herbal notes that disappear with some time opening up in the glass. The oak provides good structure and some light toasty notes that smooth out the finish. $24.95

Palatine Hills Estate Winery

We’re big fans of Palatine and visit most times we are in Niagara. Palatine had all of their top-tier wines out (“Neufeld Vineyard” labels), and I’ve covered all of them at different points on this blog (and I always have several bottles in my cellar).  In summary – “great wines at great value”. If you see these wines anywhere, pick them up!

The Twist!

So what was the TWIST of the night? Simple. Most of these wines never make it to the LCBO, and being able to purchase them and have them shipped to your door (usually within a couple days) makes these Savvy events unique. I’m not going to slam our big retail outlet other than to say that the last time I ordered wine at one of their events, some of it took 6 months to arrive. And then I still had to go pick it up at the store.


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