End-of-vacation w(h)ining


Let us take a moment of silence to mark the end of a glorious two weeks of vacation. It was a brief staycation, cut short by my employer’s requirement that I actually return to work. Total buzzkill. This time off will be sorely missed. But it’s time to get back to saving the world, one translation at a time [translator’s note: this may be a gross exaggeration]. 

Besides being a request for your positive thoughts as I prepare to head back to work, this post seems like an opportune moment to share a few great wines that I’ve had the pleasure of drinking over the past little while.  

Sue-Ann Staff Fancy Farm Girl

Foxy Pink 2014 ($14.95)

Just to balance things out after a red, a white and a beer, obviously a rosé is next!

2013 Fancy Farm Girl       Foxy Pink    GOLD Medal - 2015 Ontario Wine Awards

This is not the type of rosé I usually go for. Unlike my favoured dry rosés, this one is classified as medium on the LCBO sweetness scale, but I didn’t find it cloying at all due to the equally high acidity, making for a well-balanced wine. The riesling is apparent on the nose (90% riesling and 10% cab franc) and it tastes of red delicious apple, pear, lemon, peach, raspberry, cherry, roses and hibiscus. This wine is fun and delectable, and at $14.95, it’s a great way to start an evening with the girls. Also, it pairs really nicely with pan-fried tilapia!


Get Fresh In The Valley 2016

Now's the time to stock up for summer with Sue Ann Staff Estate Winery 2014 Fancy Farm Girl Flamboyant Red freshly paired with Cheese & Mushroom stuffed Ravioli with Creamy Rose Sauce. This weekend starts....Get Fresh in the Valley 2016!


Get Fresh in the Valley April 9, 10, 16, 17, 23 & 24,  2016!! 

Click here to purchase your tickets.

For Food and Wine Pairings click here.

For Accommodations please click here.

NEW Freshalicious Menu - click here.



The LCBO catches up with @SueAnnStaff to learn about her passion for winemaking. 

Boutique Wineries in Niagara That are Worth the Drive


Small-batch wineries are just that: they produce limited quantities of their wines since they have smaller vineyards, lower grape yields and more compact production facilities. Niagara’s larger operations can send out 50,000 cases or more each year; boutique wineries, like the ones described below, may produce fewer than 10,000 cases—which means that if you taste a vintage you like, you’d better pick up a bottle (or several) before they run out!


1 Rancourt Winery is a Niagara gem. The 25-acre cottage winery prides itself on growing all of the grapes for its VQA Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Chardonnay and Riesling under the expert guidance of winemaker Eric Pearson. 1829 Concession 4, Niagara-on-the-Lake, 1-905-468-2882;

Wineries in Niagara Sue-Anne Staff

Winemaker Sue-Anne Staff’s eponymous operation is among the top small-batch wineries in Niagara

2 Viticulture is in Sue-Anne Staff’s blood: she comes from five generations of grape growers but is the first winemaker in her family, and since 2009 has helmed her own Sue-Anne Staff Estate Winery. Seventy per cent of the vines on Staff’s property are dedicated to Riesling; her offerings include interesting Viognier-Riesling and Riesling-Cabernet Franc blends. A second label, Fancy Farm Girl, debuted earlier this year as an affordable, approachable and fun alternative to Staff’s more premium offerings. 3210 Staff Ave., Jordan, 1-905-562-1719;

3 For the last four decades, the Neufeld family has been cultivating grapes on the land that is now Palantine Hills Estate Winery. It’s actually historic soil: battles were fought here during the War of 1812, and unearthed militia artifacts have been preserved for visitors to see. 911 Lakeshore Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake, 1-905-646-9617;

4 Two brothers, Greg and Yannick Wertsch, are the brains behind Between the Lines Family Estate Winery, so named because it’s located between Lines 5 and 6 on Four Mile Creek Road. Try their signature Lemberger—made from a lesser-known Austrian grape—or their bestselling Vidal. 991 Four Mile Creek Rd., Niagara on-the-Lake, 1-905-262-0289;

Wineries in Niagara Back 10 Cellars

The stylish tasting room at Back 10 Cellars

5 For Andrew and Christina Brooks, Back 10 Cellars has been a true labour of love. The couple’s journey towards owning their own winery began in 2002 when they bought their 10-acre farm and began growing grapes for Featherstone Estate Winery. Their very first production under their own label was their 2012 Big Reach Riesling, which won gold at the 2013 All Canadian Wine Championships, alongside limited vintages of Start from Scratch Chardonnay and Blood Sweat & Years Pinot Noir. 4101 King St., Beamsville, 1-905-562-3365;

6 Although terroir is an oft-discussed topic among vintners and oenophiles, it’s particularly notable at Coyote’s Run. Two different types of clay soil result in distinctly different wines: the Red Paw Vineyard’s red Trafalgar clay loam helps to produce fruity and aromatic wines, while the Black Paw Vineyard, with its more common dark Toledo clay loam, generates earthy and structured blends. 485 Concession 5 Rd., Niagara-on-the-Lake, 1-905-682-8310;

7 Ravine Vineyard Estate Winery is not only a vineyard, it’s also a restaurant and a specialty grocery store. The farm here has been part of Norma Jean Harber’s family since 1867. Now she and her husband Blair, alongside winemaker Martin Werner, produce premium small-batch organic Chardonnays, Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots. At the restaurant, the farm-to-table ethos is quite literal: pigs are raised in a nearby pen while fresh vegetables are brought in from the grounds’ garden. And at the Canning House, visitors can pick up preserves, jams, pickles, sauces and freshly baked artisan breads. 1366 York Rd., St. Davids, 1-905-262-8463;

—Linda Luong

LCBO Wines to Watch: Fancy Farm Girl


Wines to Watch: Fancy Farm Girl...

Snap up these Fancy Farm Girl wines while you can — they're available in limited supply — and savour the craftsmanship of Sue-Ann Staff, one of Ontario's most successful winemakers.

This month, our featured Wines to Watch come from fifth-generation grape grower and talented winemaker Sue-Ann Staff, who combines her love of the simple life and finer things in Fancy Farm Girl wines. Pair Flamboyant Red, an elegant and approachable Cabernet Franc-Merlot blend, with appetizers, red meats, rosé sauce or milk chocolate. Refreshing and citrusy, Frivolous White is great with chicken, seafood or mild cheese.



Meet Sue-Ann Staff, the record-breaking, medal-winning Niagara winemaker at Sue-Ann Staff Estate Wines and Megalomaniac, and creator of Fancy Farm Girl wines. Here, Staff talks about getting dirty, cleaning up and the secret to fabulous wine.

Q. Your family owned the largest private vineyard in Niagara. What did you learn from that? 

I learned not to be afraid of hard work. I used to drop my school bag and run outside to watch trucks loading up or help my grandma plant vines — there was always something happening. Life on a farm doesn’t stop at 5 or on weekends, but the work is wholesome and honest and I get so much satisfaction from it. 

Q. What made you become the first winemaker in your family? 

You can make a really great wine that tastes fantastic but if the pH is too high, for example, it will be a lovely wine for two months instead of two years. If the pH is too low, it might have an amazing shelf life but be unpalatable. The artistry of making a fabulous wine and the science of lining up the technical details is what appeals to me. 

Q. Your wines have already won 500+ awards — more than most winemakers collect in a lifetime. C’mon, what’s your secret?

I got a degree in horticulture from the University of Guelph, then I studied winemaking in Australia. The University of Adelaide trained us for every imaginable condition, so that helps me deal with difficult vintages. I also like to drink really great wine. If I want to drink it, I’d better make it!

Q. Many wineries and farms have a dog around to help. What kind of dog does a fancy farm girl have?

That’s Brix, my five-year-old Burnese Mountain Dog. He’s my greeter: he’s with me wherever I go. Most farm dogs are shorthaired. I’ve got a purebred that has to go to the groomer every month to smell good!

Q. Your new wine labels feature the drawings of Francesca Waddell, a fashion illustrator whose work has appeared in Vogue. What inspired your Fancy Farm Girl wines: Frivolous Red and Frivolous White?

I’m not a typical farm girl. I renovated my family’s 120-year-old farmhouse to make it more glamorous. One minute I’m in the fields with steel-toed boots, and the next I’m at a gala wearing stilettoes. A fancy farm girl is authentically who I am, and I think there’s a little bit of that in all of us. 

Watch this video to find out how Sue-Ann Staff mixes New World and Old World in her wines for Megalomanic. Or, check out this video to discover her favourite grape and her digital trick for making better wine.



2012 Flamboyant Red - $14.95  Loaded with bright red fruit and tannin on the finish that isn’t overbearing.  This bottle isn’t just a flashy label… but let’s face it the artwork on both the White and the Red are fantastic.  This Red blend is well worth the price of admission from the great 2012 vintage.  This is drinking great right now with no need to cellar until a later date.  The thing that’s great about this wine is that at the price point you can dress it up by pairing it with an expensive steak or fine roasted lamb or dress it down by matching it with pizza.  

2012 Frivolous White - $14.95  This is a good easy drinking, well balanced Riesling that offers up a nice mineral note on the finish.  There is some sweetness that rolls off the back of your tongue before it’s greeted by the crisp acidity.  Flavours of apple and citrus are also what you will find in the glass.  Pair with Roast Chicken, or lighter pasta dishes.