Seeds and Shoots Risotto + New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc

May 3, 2017

A fresh start! 

Spring is a season of inspiration. Those first green shoots popping out of the grey-brown cold ground are a proclamation of the arrival of spring, giving life  and invigorating us out of dormancy. The season of conception, impulse, dreams and new endeavours. After a winter of lean times in the garden, spring’s first seeds and shoots are a harbinger of outdoor markets bursting with young, green crunchy things. An exciting reminder that this is just the beginning and summer’s bounty is just around the corner.



‘the tiny seed knew that in order to grow, it needed to be dropped in dirt, covered in darkness, and struggle to reach the light’ – Sandra King 


In the vineyard, after a harsh cold winter, the first signs of green on the vines is a sign of survival and strength…a promising beginning to a new season and hope for a brilliant harvest. These tiny fuzzy buds hold the future of the vine and the outcome of the vintage. Each spring, vineyard managers rejoice as their grapevines come to life. As the weather warms up, the roots activate and tell the vines to begin the  fruit bearing process. The buds are small but mighty. Little beady structures that contain all the material needed to grow leaves, shoots, tendrils and berries.

On a recent trip to Niagara, we were struck by how fortunate we are to have such a vibrant winemaking region so close by. The fertile Niagara region has a long local agricultural heritage and grows a rich and diverse selection of produce. Row after row of fruit and magnolia trees had dressed themselves with pastel adornment, a tapestry of pink blooms as far as the eye could see. The vines are awakening too. The first tender buds are emerging and will begin to swell and burst into vibrant green leaves. We can’t help but feel inspired.

Seeds and Shoots Risotto

We are energized!  Spring triggers new ideas in the kitchen and it translates to freshness on the plate.  While in Niagara On The Lake, we visited Treadwell, one of Niagara’s most acclaimed restaurants. A ‘farm-to-table philosophy’ is at the very heart of what the restaurant offers and their seasonal menus feature the best artisan producers and an exciting selection of regional wines and craft beer.  A dish we enjoyed there inspired this blog post.  Our starter came with a sunflower seed risotto that we couldn’t get enough of.  Upon returing home, we were looking to recreate those flavours with an added touch of spring.  The pea shoots at the market along with some fresh asparagus easily fit the bill.  And what better to serve with these fresh green flavours: Sauvignon Blanc of course!

The White Savage! 

The Sauvignon Blanc grape is thought to have originated in the Loire Valley region of France. It is the famous grape of Sancerre and Pouilly Fume. The name comes from the French ‘sauvage’, meaning wild and ‘blanc’ meaning white and goes back at least 500 years, the grape baby of a rare French varietal called Savagnin.  A very cool fact is that Sauvignon Blanc is actually one of the baby daddy’s of Cabernet Sauvignon. Yep we know…get out a town! 

This ‘wild white’ has spread it’s seed through France, making a name for itself as white Bordeaux and down south to the Languedoc Roussillon. It’s travelled to northeastern Italy and Spain’s La Mancha region. Jumped continents into the New World with vineyards in  Canada, California, Chile, South Africa, Australia and shone a huge spotlight on the Marlborough region of New Zealand. It’s crisp acidity, elegant aromatics and refreshing quality have made it a wine loved around the world.

Our Sauvignon Blanc is herbaeceous, green, fresh and citrusy.  Lemon, lime, grapefruit, passionfruit, guava, nectarine, white peach, elderflower, green herbs, fresh peas, wet stone minerality, and a bit flinty like a just struck match.  It has a  juicy, fresh palate and the wine is clean and crisp; it is the perfect choice for herbs, goat cheese and all things green.  The vibrant acidity balances the richness of the risotto and cleanses the palate, preparing you for the next bite.

In case you are needing another reason to feel inspired, Friday May 5th is Sauvignon Blanc Day!!  Sauvignon Blanc takes the spotlight, showing the world it’s diverse and expressive charachter.  Celebrations kick off in Marlborough, Zew Zealand, the region responsible for putting Sauvignon Blanc on the map and make their way around the globe, following the sun.  Wow, the white savage gets around!

Seeds & Shoots Risotto – serves 4 to 6

for the risotto (seeds)

  • 2 1/2 cups shelled raw unsalted sunflower seeds
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • salt and pepper to taste

for the toppings (sprouts)

  • 6 tbsp goat cheese
  • 1 bunch asparagus, trimmed and sliced on a bias into 2-inch pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 3 good handfuls of pea sprouts
  • fresh minced chives for garnish


  1.  The night before, soak the sunflower seeds in water with a tablespoon of salt.
  2.  Next day, drain and rinse the seeds.
  3. Remove 1 cup of the seeds and purée in a blender with 1 cup of water until smooth.  Set aside.  Reserve the          remaining 1 1/2 cups of the seeds for the risotto.
  4.  In a medium skillet, sweat the shallots with the olive oil until soft and translucent.
  5.  Add the sunflower seeds to the pan and stir to combine.
  6. Deglaze the skillet with the wine, scraping up any browned bits.
  7.  Add the water, season to taste with salt and pepper.
  8.  Add the sunflower purée and simmer gently until the seeds are al dente, about 10 minutes.
  9.  Add the lemon juice and check again for seasoning.  Adjust as needed.
  10.  While the risotto is simmering, cook the asparagus.  In another skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil and add the asparagus. Cook until the asparagus is just bright green and tender.
  11.  Divde the asparagus among 4 plates. Add a scattering of the pea shoots.
  12. Spoon the risotto onto the shoots and dollop with goat cheese.
  13. Garnish with remaining sprouts, chives and freshly cracked pepper.
  14. Drizzle each plate with a little olive oil.
  15. Serve!



This pairing was both inspired and inspiring.

Sauvignon Blanc is a no-brainer with all things green and spring. It’s clean crisp character kept our palate cleansed and refreshed, making our mouths water in anticipation. A reminder of the struggle of those early seeds and shoots, driving their tender roots deep into the just thawed ground in search of moisture.

Sowing the seeds never tasted so good!



 Now it is spring. 

After a few months the snow has melted. It is really spring!  Birds fly by. The sun shines. The rain falls. The seeds grow so round and full they start to burst open a little. Now they are not seeds anymore they are plants.

The Tiny Seed – Eric Carle 

our wine…

Dog Point Sauvignon Blanc 2015

Marlborough, New Zealand




The team behind Dog Point first met while working at Cloudy Bay Vineyards as their viticulturalist and oenologist.

Dog Point Vineyard takes it’s name from an area of scrubland that became home to wild dogs, previously employed as sheep-herders, that had wandered off or become lost. The area is covered with the native Ti Kouka or ‘cabbage tree’ which Dog Point Vineyards has also adopted on their logo and label.

The winery is both organic and sustainable with 200 acres of vines which a flock of 2,000 sheep roam and graze on during the winter to help keep the grass low and fertilize. 

Like a good friend…we are just trying to push you outside of your comfort zone.

Live a little and expand your palate.

Put a little spring in your step!


Christie Pollard

Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers

After 10 years as a restaurateur, culinary instructor and caterer, a trip to France sparked an untapped enthusiasm for all things wine.  I gave up the restaurant life,  made a huge u-turn and dove head first into the vast world of wine.  I have never looked back and achieved my Sommelier certification with the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers in 2015.  I love sharing my pursuit of the perfect pairing in a fun, unfussy and ultimately delicious way with my friends, family and those I teach.


Josie Pontarelli

Red Seal Chef, Culinary Instructor

I graduated from the Stratford Chefs School in 1999 and achieved Red Seal Certification shortly thereafter. With this strong foundation laid, an opportunity to spend time in California presented itself. While there, I was intoxicated by the seasonality and quality of the ingredients everywhere I looked. This experience proved to be a turning point for me in how I thought about food. It inspired me to have a deep and enduring respect for the people, food and culture that go into the perfect dish.

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