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Niagara Vintage Wine Review THE WINE SMART MAGAZINE


Spotlight on Founder Chris Fuccillo • Q&A with Charlie Pillitteri Wines for the Season Review • NVWT Gift Guide • Holiday Pairings

notes from the founder

Wow! 10 years! It is our mission to be ambassadors to the Niagara region while offering first class wine country experiences to guests from all over the world. We want you to love what the industry is doing here. This is our newest way to bring a bit of Niagara Wine Country into your lives. We thank all our guests who have supported us and we hope to keep providing an essential look into the make-up of our wine region and the people who work and play here, while offering the best food and wine the region has to offer.

Sincerely, Chris Fuccillo, Founder: Niagara Vintage Wine Tours


FOUNDER, NIAGARA VINTAGE WINE TOURS With more than 25 years of food & wine industry experience, Chris has been able to engage with clients across the globe. His interactions have helped him appreciate different cultures and their love of food and wine. Chris’ career had a humble beginning. He landed his first job as a bus boy at the Sheraton on the Falls Rainbow Room. After a few years of hard work, he became a junior server at the Pinnacle Room at the top of the Minolta Tower. After graduating from Mohawk College with a degree in Business Management, Chris left Niagara Falls for the more vibrant city of Toronto. There, he took a position at the world famous Kit Kat Club. The Kit Kat’s owners, John and Al Carbone, would soon become his mentors. The Kit Kat was the “place to be” in downtown Toronto. Its celebrity status gave Chris the opportunity to learn the very best customer service practices in the industry. Growing tired of the big city, Chris then spent 7 years studying his Sommeliers certification in British Columbia. Studying with famed Sommelier Jay Whitely and Master Sommelier Fergus O’Hallaran, Chris spent his time at both Umberto Menghis famous Trattoria and at Fairmont Chateau Whistler’s Wildflower restaurants. Here, Chris learned that the word “no” is not a valid response in the customer service vocabulary. The real answer is “how can we make this happen for our guests”? Chris was then transferred to the Southampton Fairmont on the pink shores of Bermuda. Here he was to learn an older style of French service in the Newport Room, the Island’s only 5-star dining room. Unfortunately, his time in Bermuda was short-lived. In August, a hurricane destroyed the hotel, forcing him to move home to Niagara after 14 years away.

Back home, Chris settled into the Assistant Manager position at Chateau des Charmes. After two years there, he became the Wine Experience Manager at Pilliteri Winery. With all of this knowledge and a love for wine, Chris and his wife Gabriela created Niagara Vintage Wine Tours; the first, real, high end professional wine experience company in the Niagara Region. Now celebrating its 10th year in business, Chris has taken all of his past experiences and set the service standard for this industry. Currently recognized as the leading professional wine tour company in Canada on Trip Advisor, Niagara Vintage Wine Tours continues to grow and create world class food and wine programs.

Niagara Vintage Wine Review The Niagara Vintage Wine Review rates wines using a Diamond Standard of Excellence. This is partially in tribute to our logo design. All wine reviews are done by Chris Fuccillo, founder and president of Niagara Vintage Wine Tours. With over 25 years of experience in the food & wine industry, he is constantly exploring the Niagara Wine Region evaluating wines to better serve you.

88 Pts KACABA SPARKLING WHITE WINE This is our Sparkling Wine pick of the year to celebrate the Holiday season and the turn of the New Year. Greet your friends at the door with glasses of this effervescent wine while you make the rounds handing out those awesome hors d'oeuvres. An off-dry sparkling wine made in a fruit-forward style. Experience a long, lingering cascade of pin-point bubbles that create a rich, lively mousse. This beautifully balanced wine with a rich bouquet of white flowers, lemon, and fresh melon opens to a palate of fresh pear, apple, and limestone, finishing with smooth and velvety toffee.

89 Pts PELLER ESTATES MUSCAT This is a must have wine if you are entertaining or just a wine lover. The Peller Muscat is a very rare wine in the Niagara region and is super palate friendly. It can be served to guests upon arrival on its own or served with a first course or appetizer to start off a fabulous meal. Fruit-forward and light-bodied, the fleshy fruit flavours of pear, peach and melon burst on the palate, followed by refreshing notes of juicy tangerine and pink grapefruit on the finish.


99 Pts PILLITTERI ESTATES 2010 APPASSIMENTO CABERNET FRANC This wine is quite possibly one of the best wines that Canada has ever produced.....period! Pillitteri Estates Winery’s 2010 Appassimento Cabernet Franc has won ‘Red Wine of the Year’ and the Appassimento Red Award. This is the second time in three years that Pillitteri has won ‘Red Wine of the Year’. Pillitteri also won in 2013 for the 2010 Exclamation Cabernet Franc. Varietals: Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara. Appassimento Philosophy: • Vine dried for 3-4 additional weeks past regular harvest • Rack dried in a single layer for 30 days in an ambient environment with forced air circulation Shows complex notes of ripe sweet fig and smooth coffee, chocolate overtones with that old world new buck leather smell on the nose, accompanied by plum, black raspberry and herbaceous with a gracious minerality. The finish is outstandingly smooth and rich.

88 Pts PONDVIEW 2015 CABERNET FRANC ICEWINE This Cab Franc Icewine boasts a fresher fruit flavour than your typical Icewine. Ripe strawberry and raspberry jam notes on the nose, which carry through to the palate. Maraschino cherries and a touch of vanilla give way to a long lasting and decadent finish. Great way to finish off that Holiday dinner or look to surprise your guests with something truly special and unique to talk the night away after dinner!



First Course: Home-Made Blinis with Caviar and Creme Fraiche Suggested Wine Pairing: Kacaba Sparkling wine

Makes 36 hors d'oeuvres Active Time: 30 min Total Time: 2 1/2 hr

1/4 cup warm water (105–115°F) 1 (1/4-oz) package active dry yeast (1 1/4 teaspoons) 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar 1/2 cup sifted all-purpose flour (sift before measuring) 1/2 cup sifted buckwheat flour (sift before measuring) 1/4 teaspoon salt 1 cup whole milk, heated to warm (105–115°F) 1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter, melted and cooled 2 large eggs, lightly beaten Accompaniments: creme fraiche and caviar

Preheat oven to 250°F. Stir together warm water, yeast, and sugar in a bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If mixture doesn't foam, discard and start over with new yeast.) Add all-purpose flour, buckwheat flour, and salt, then stir in milk, 3 tablespoons butter, and eggs. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set in a roasting pan filled with 1 inch of warm water. Let rise in a warm place until dough is increased in volume, has bubbles breaking the surface, and is stringy when scooped, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Stir batter before using. Heat a 12-inch nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot a and brush with some of remaining melted butter (if butter browns immediately, lower heat). Working in batches of 4, spoon 1 tablespoon batter into skillet for each blin, then cook, turning over once, until golden on both sides, about 2 minutes. Transfer to an ovenproof platter and keep blini warm in oven. Serve blini topped with creme fraiche and caviar.

Second Course: Baked Clams Casino

Suggested Wine Pairing: Peller Estates Muscat

24 large clams 2 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon butter 1/2 cup minced onion 1/4 cup chopped green bell pepper 2 cloves garlic, minced 1 cup dried bread crumbs 4 slices bacon 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese 2 teaspoons dried parsley 1/4 teaspoon paprika 2 tablespoons olive oil

In a small skillet, cook bacon until crisp over medium heat. Crumble, and set aside. Wash clams. Place on a baking sheet. Heat in a preheated 350 degree F (175 degree C) oven for 1 to 2 minutes, or until clams open. Discard any that do not open. Remove meat from shells. Chop, and set aside. Add 2 tablespoons oil and butter to a small skillet, and place pan over medium heat. Add onion, pepper, and garlic; saute until tender. Remove from heat, and cool. In a medium bowl, combine bread crumbs, bacon, oregano, cheese, sauteed vegetables, and chopped clams. Mix well. Fill clam shells with mixture, and place on baking sheet. Sprinkle with parsley and paprika. Drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 450 degrees F (230 degrees C) for 7 minutes. Serve.


Third Course: Stuffed Cornish Hen with Pancetta, Figs, and Pine Nuts Suggested Wine Pairing: Pillitteri Estates Winery’s 2010 Appassimento Cabernet Franc

1/2 pound bacon slices OR Pancetta chunks, halved 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced lengthwise 4 Cornish hens (about 1 1/4 pound each), halved lengthwise 12 thyme sprigs 12 fresh black and/or green figs, halved or quartered if large 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 500°F with rack in upper third. Cook bacon in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat until crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Add garlic to skillet and cook, stirring, until golden, about 1 minute. Transfer to paper towels with bacon. Pat hens dry and season with 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and 3/4 teaspoon pepper. Heat fat in skillet over medium-high heat until it begins to smoke. Brown 4 hen halves, skin side down, about 6 minutes. Transfer, skin side up, to a large 4-sided sheet pan. Brown remaining hens, transferring to sheet pan. Reserve skillet. Scatter thyme and figs over hens, then roast until hens are cooked through, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, deglaze skillet with lemon juice by simmering, stirring and scraping up brown bits, 30 seconds. Pour over roast hens. Scatter bacon and garlic over hens.

Recipes selected from: and


What do you feel was a great teaching point for you along the way in the industry? Was there someone or something responsible for your change of view or A HA moment?

Q&A with Charlie Pillitteri

CEO/ Owner, Pillitteri Estates Winery How and why did your family get started in the wine industry? My family has been in the grape growing and farming business for over 5 generations, including our ancestors back in Italy. My father has been a lifelong farmer and an amateur winemaker and I inherited my interest in wine and grapes from him. He decided in 1993 to open the winery and start making wines from our family’s grapes as the generations of Pillitteri’s had done back in Italy.

What was your first job in the family business? Selling Cherries at the front of the road at 5 years old. As soon as I could talk I was helping on the family farm and in our farmers market.

What is the most significant change you have seen in the Niagara Wine scene since you started over 20 years ago? A lot of new entrants in to the business. In Ontario there has been a lot of interest in Ontario wines and the demand has been growing each year for the past 20 years.

What is the one mandatory aspect of running the business that you feel you have carried into what you do today from the early days?

When I entered my dad’s first Icewine into a local competition it won best Icewine. This was my AHA moment, I realized that Icewine can be an industry leader, it is the wine style that we can do better than anyone else in the world and it is the wine we can promote that pairs well with the global Canadian brand. It was also the moment that inspired our family to commit to full time winemaking and to open the winery.

What do you see as challenges for the Niagara wine tourism industry and how can the industry better serve the public? Companies like Niagara Vintage Wine Tours give light to the needs of Niagara Wine Tourism. More companies need to learn how to run hospitality tourism like this. There are so many different tourists visiting wine country and they need to be properly educated about what our industry offers in the way of wine. We have a challenge addressing all of our tourists in this same fashion, with high level experiences dedicated to each tourists specific needs. "I realized that Icewine can be an industry leader, it is the wine style that we can do better than anyone else in the world..."

What wine is in the cellar you are most excited for future wine lovers to try? The Corvina, Rondinella and Molinara Appassimento wines. We are the only winery in Canada with these native Italian varietals planted and we will be launching the first commercial wines soon.

Where do you see the Niagara Wine Industry going?

Promoting Ontario Wines, particularly Icewine to the rest of the world

Continuing to grow and expand with quality wines and competitive prices

What do you see as the most promising style/varietal of wine moving forward in Niagara?

What do you hope that everyone takes away from enjoying Pillitteri wines.

Cabernet Franc is the single most important varietal of grape in Ontario. It can be made in to full bodied ageable table wine and into crisp aromatic Icewine, and ripens fully in most years here in Niagara.

A great family experience and a bottle of wine they really enjoyed.






Digital Wine Thermometer Always have perfect temperature wine with this simple and attractive stainless steel wine thermometer, which can be casually slung around the neck of the bottle and gives readings in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. (, $14.95)

Wine Barrel Head Platter Crafted from authentic beautiful reclaimed wine barrel heads with original cooperage mark or with deep red stained side up from years of aging wine. Makes the Perfect cheese tray, or simply a table center-piece! (MacLean's Outdoor Living, $110.00)

Crystal Decanter The generous surface area of the decanter means that the wine has plenty of space to breathe. Thanks to these two components – aeration and breathing surface – the wine's full taste is able to unfold. (The Bay, $102.90)

NVWT Gift Certificates Gift Certificates make the perfect gift for the wine or beer lover in your life. They are available for any tour and never expire! Call today to purchase yours 1-866-628-5428 and have it delivered within 24 hours via email For every Niagara Vintage Wine Tour gift certificate bought you will be entered in our draw to WIN a bountiful Holiday Themed food & wine basket delivered straight to your door! (Prize valued at $200) Tune into our LIVE Facebook Feed, Thursday December 15th at 2pm to see us draw the winner, LIVE!

Wine Feature: The Pondview team has selected four wines that are the perfect accompaniment for the holiday season. Complete with a customized holiday greeting card and wine pairing suggestions, here is what is included: 1 Bottle “GR” Gewürztraminer Riesling 1 Bottle “Lot 74” White 1 Bottle “ Lot 74” Red 1 Bottle Vidal Select Late Harvest 1 Customized greeting card 1 food & wine paring guide for this wine selection FREE SHIPPING IN ONTARIO* Only $69.95 Take $5 Off Pondview's Holiday wine 4-pack with PromoCode: NVWT2016

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CHRIS AND GABRIELA FUCCILLO EDITOR (Creative & Design) — Natalie Worden CONTRIBUTORS: Chris Fuccillo, President & Founder of Niagara Vintage Wine Tours INC Charlie Pillitteri - CEO and Owner of Pillitteri Estates Winery.

ENTER OUR SNAPSHOT OF THE MONTH CONTEST: The winner of each month's snapshot contest will have their image featured on the back cover of the Niagara Vintage Wine Review. Send your entry to Niagara Vintage Wine Review is a publication under Niagara Vintage Wine Tours, Inc. No part of this publication may be distributed, reproduced or republished in any way without the sole permission of the publishers. For more information and exclusive content, visit For inquiries, contact Niagara Vintage Wine Tours at: 1 866 628 5428

Niagara Vintage Wine Review - December 2016  

Highlights Include: - Spotlight on Owner Chris Fuccillo - Q&A with Charlie Pillitteri - Wines for the Season Review - NVWT Gift Guide - Holi...

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