On the first anniversary of my hemorrhagic stroke I wanted to get away from the ‘scene of the crime’ so my wife suggested taking a day excursion to Prince Edward County. The County is often compared to France’s Burgundy region in both climate and the grape varietals grown.
The County was officially designated as a VQA appellation in 2007. It is separated from the mainland by the Bay of Quinte at Belleville and is completely surrounded by Lake Ontario. The soils and microclimates of the County, coupled with a limestone base, provide an ideal growing environment for cool-climate grapes such as Pinot Noir and Chardonnay. This island setting is now home to over 40 wineries, a dozen craft breweries, fine restaurants, cheese producers, farmers’ markets and other local food purveyors.
I hadn’t visited the county for a few years and had lost touch with what is going on there. So to prepare for our journey I checked out the latest reviews of the County wineries, which I combined with some curiosities of my own and developed a list of destinations. My list consisted of 7 wineries, 6 of which were considered as the County’s movers and shakers of 2020 and the 7th was one that I had an interest in. The wineries included Closson Chase, Devil’s Wishbone, The Grange, Hinterland, The Old Third, Rosehall Run and Waupoos.
The day didn’t exactly play out as I had planned, at least partially due to COVID-19. Both Devil’s Wishbone and the Old Third were closed and a number of the others had a very limited wine supply. For example, at the Grange, in order to purchase the only red they had in stock, I had to buy two 375 ml bottles of their Merrill House 2016 Pinot Noir as they had no 750 ml bottles left. However, having now drank one of the bottles, my wife and I agree it was a good purchase at the equivalent price of $37 for a 750 ml. bottle.
However, as it happened, our last stop made the day worthwhile. At the very end of Greer Rd. lies Rosehall Run, one of the original wineries established in the County. Among our finds there was their 2018 JCR Pinot Noir, which in August was awarded the ‘Red Wine of the Year’ at the Ontario Wine Awards. This wine has the potential of being one of the greatest and longest-lived Pinot Noir they have produced. Even though the wine may be enjoyed now it can be laid down for the next 5 to 7 years to reveal the purity that will evolve with time. With a price point of $42, it is good value.
Our second find was a 2016 Merlot which was the result of them being able to secure a couple of tonnes of Merlot planted at Prince Edward County’s Huff Estates which resulted in Rosehall Run creating their first and only County Merlot. The wine was barreled down in their underground cellar for 18 months. New French oak was utilized in preparing this small lot. There is only a small quantity left and with its price of $35 a bottle, it will be gone soon.
Overall I have always found the offerings of Prince Edward County to be on the expensive side compared to similar offerings in Niagara and especially at the LCBO. For a big part it is a factor of demand and supply. The County VQA region is much smaller than Niagara and thus the quantity of grapes available is less and this is reflected in the prices. There are some good value wines to be found for sure but you just need to be prepared to make the effort to search them out. There are a couple of wineries, such as Sandbanks, where you can always count on finding a good selection and good value.
Given the climate of the region it is important to keep in mind that the mainstay varietals are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Baco Noir. To expect to find a lot of other locally grown varietals, such as Cabernet, is not realistic.
Given that the County has so much more to offer besides wine, a trip there is well worth the time.