For those of us living somewhat east of Toronto, Prince Edward County, Ontario is quickly becoming a desired locale for oenophiles and wine newbies alike. This past weekend was my third trip to the region and I have to say, April is a great time to visit. Many of the wineries have just opened for the season, and as such, are able to give you more time for a chat about their wines and methods. I also had the opportunity to visit several wineries that had just opened the previous spring. There are now some 30+ wineries in The County with an average of three to five new ones opening their doors for sales to the public, each year.
It’s a long process, a big investment and a leap of faith these winemakers take, in my opinion. Most start planting vines without selling any wines for sometimes five years as their vines mature enough to start yielding wine-worthy grapes. Some of the wineries we visited grow vinifera vines (vines common to Old World wine makers), some grow hybrid vines (vines that have been adapted to better survive colder winters, when the vines are most vulnerable) and some grow a mixture of the two. There are many variables – is the soil in their particular corner of The County going to support the type of grapes they want to grow? Will the weather be conducive to a good yield for that particular season? Will it be a brutal winter? These are only a few of the things that I’m sure could keep a person up at night. One has to wonder why any sane person would endeavour to eke out a living this way. I think I know why. The look of pride in their eyes as they introduce you to their ‘babies’ each spring says it all. The sheer determination to live out their dreams on their terms is inspiring. I for one am happy to share in the fruits of their labour.
Not only are there many excellent wineries to try, there are also some great restaurants and inns. You can also find some fine cheese makers here as well. With many activities planned for the upcoming season, I think another visit is in order for the fall.
One new place that opened last spring is the Hinterland Winery. Jonas Newman and his wife Vicki Samaras are starting to create something pretty special here. One of the best new wines I tasted was one I had never heard of. A wine made in the methode ancestrale called ‘Ancestral’. A light, bubbly wine, a delectable shade of rosé, that was an absolute pleasure to drink. It was reminiscent of a ruby in a glass. So glad we decided to stop, even though it didn’t look like it was open. They were the perfect hosts – Vicki was as effervescent as the wine she was pouring.
Our last stop on the way out of The County was Karlo Winery. From the front, a dark, large barn, we entered into the space and were greeted by Richard Karlo, the winemaker and his partner, portrait painter, Sherry Martin. We were lead through the barn to a large sun room at the back. What a beautiful space, which will no doubt host some spectacular tastings. At this point on the trip, I had already filled two cases with purchased wine and really hadn’t planned on purchasing any more. After the first taste of Richard’s Pinot Gris, I realized – I had to start another box. Sipping our way through the flight of wines was one great discovery after another. Like many of the other winemakers we met, this was a second career for Richard, and the same level of pride and gratification was evident in each glass he poured. I can’t wait until our next visit!
Visit my blog at http://asenseoftaste.blogspot.com over the coming weeks for more photos and reviews of the wineries I visited.