Last weekend my husband and I spent two wine-soaked (and partially rain-soaked) days in Prince Edward County thanks to Wine Country Ontario’s yearly #GotTheGuide contest. I can’t take credit for winning the contest (which included a night away in an Ontario wine region of our choice), that was all Scott — my husband — but it’s pretty serendipitous don’t you think? We chose Prince Edward County, because we don’t get out there as much as we do to the Beamsville and Niagara wine regions, and we love exploring the County — especially in the summer. Below is a list of the wineries we visited; some were old favourites, and some became new favourites.
The Grange of Prince Edward:
Our first stop was at The Grange on Saturday. We wanted to make it in time for their tour, which takes place at 11:30am on Saturdays. Despite visiting many a winery, I haven’t done a lot of tours and I was excited to raise a glass in the beautiful Grange vineyards. Mother Nature, however, had other plans: Saturday morning was a dreary, wet summer’s day. Luckily for us, the Grange had a rain plan; the tour was moved inside, and we were able to look around the facilities and learn more about their wine-making process. Included in the tour are samples of some of their outstanding wines. We tried: 2013 County Crémant ‘Amber’, 2014 Unoaked Chardonnay and the 2016 Pinot Noir.
The tour was great; our guide was knowledgeable, and the wine was delicious! We were also graced by Kitkat the cat and Paxton the Corgi.
Unfortunately, it was too wet to wander the property outside, but the Grange is one of the most beautiful spots in PEC, if not all of Ontario. Bonus: their indoor tasting room is perfect for colder, rainier days. A barn-like haven with a fire place, it makes you want to curl up with a good book and a scrumptious glass of Pinot Noir — one of my favourites that the County has to offer.
We ended up coming home with a bottle of the 2013 County Crémant ‘Amber’ — a sparkling wine made in the Traditional method that has a depth and subtlety. It’s nuanced, packed with flavour and I can’t wait for the right occasion to pop it open.
Next on our list was Karlo Estates, a winery neither of us had been to before, but one that’s been very highly recommended to us. Upon meeting Sherry Karlo, the owner, we were pulled into an informative and fun tasting experience in their loft, above the main tasting area. Sherry and her partner, Saxe, walked us through the wines and Karlo’s methodology and practices during the course of the tasting. We also got to taste some great wines. Pinot Noir is my favourite red, and Karlo makes exemplary Pinots. It was their Estate Chardonnay, which I tried in their Wine Lounge, that really blew me away though. I love a Chardonnay — and you probably would too if you gave it a chance. The Estate Chard (which recently won a gold medal at the National Wine Awards of Canada) is complex, rich, not too oaky. Flavours of pear dominate, with notes of hazelnuts; imagine a peach crumble with vanilla ice cream, topped with a caramel glaze. County Chardonnay is a highly regarded gem in my books. There’s something about the land, the earth, and the terroir in Prince Edward County that creates mind-blowingly good Chards, and Karlo’s Estate Chard is no exception.
After a tasting in the lounge, we ended up exploring the property with Saxe. We got to see the facilities, the vineyards, a spot perfect for picnics (Karlo encourages you to bring a picnic blanket, so you can picnic near their bridge).
All that walking made us hungry, so we grabbed a bite to eat in their main tasting area. Karlo is the first certified vegan winery in the world; all their food is veg/vegetarian friendly. They also have a ton of gluten free options as well.
We grabbed two bottles of wine from Karlo, the Estate Chardonnay (surprise, surpise!) and the Petit Pearl, which is a new-world varietal that is made to withstand temperatures of minus -40C, so, it’s perfect for growing in the county — those cold Canadian winters have nothing on this grape.
I was delighted that Karlo Estates lives up to the hype; the hospitality is second to none and their sprawling property makes it a great place to visit any time of the year. It’s refreshing to be able to talk to the owner of a winery, to be able to hear first-hand why they do what they do. Bonus: Karlo is open through the winter months, only closing for a few days over Christmas and on New Year’s Day.
I recently reviewed Rosehall’s Pixie — the effervescent pink sparkling, but that’s only the beginning of what Rosehall Run does. One of the County’s oldest wineries, they have many older vintages as well as newer vintages. This time we grabbed a couple of bottles of their Indigo (another sparkling made in the Charmat method, like Pixie), a bottle of the Acid Head Riesling, which I have been wanting to get my hands on for a while now, and…. another bottle of Pixie; we couldn’t resist! After buying our bottles we sat outside and took in the view.
I love this spot. It was one of the first wineries Scott and I went to when we visited the County for the first time together five years —when we started dating. We both fell in love with the wine, the views, and each other.
I love Lighthall. Not only do they make excellent wine, but they also make cheese. It’s a match made in heaven! This is yet another year where we’ve missed out on their sparkling Pinot Noir — The Fence — as it’s sold out, but alas, there’s still plenty to choose from. Their Progression Sparkling, made from Vidal grapes, is one of my County favourites, but it was their Chardonnay that really blew me away. Both the 2016 and 2017 vintage are outstanding, with the 2016 being a little softer and the 2017 being a little more robust. The 2016 was paired with a gouda cheese that they make themselves; it was an outstanding combo. But we ended up going home with a bottle of the Progression and the 2017 Chardonnay…. I smell a (Chardonnay) pattern brewing.
It’s official: I have a thing for 2017 County Chardonnay. This was confirmed by our visit to The Old Third, one of the most picturesque wineries in the County. The tasting room is in an old barn and they encourage you to take your wine, explore the property and the barn itself. There are long rectangular cut-outs on the first and second floors, with sprawling views of the vineyards. This is a peaceful place, the kind of place where you could see yourself spending hours and hours, getting lost in the tranquility of the land and the wine.
Though The Old Third is known for their Pinot Noir, it’s their — you guessed it — 2017 Chardonnay I fell in love with. Gentle and nuanced, packed with flavour, this is now one of my favourite County Chardonnays. It looked like butter in the glass, tasted like a subtle yet crisp apple. In other words, perfection.
Morandin is one of the newest Prince Edward County wineries on the scene. I’ve been hearing great things about them, and I was really excited to check them out. With a healthy variety of wines and varietals, it’s safe to say that there’s something for everyone here. We tried their entire line-up and I was impressed. I can’t wait to see how Morandin grows and develops over the years. Once again, I gravitated towards their Chardonnay (they have a 2016 and a 2017 vintage) and their Syrah was excellent, but I fell in love with their Pinot Gris. County Pinot Gris is another one of my true loves, and their 2017 vintage really drives that forward. I’m excited to dig into the wine and visit again in the near future!
Other wineries we love that we didn’t visit this time:
Closson Chase — One of the most gorgeous places to sit outside with a glass of wine, Closson Chase excels at everything they do. I love their Pinot Gris, their Pinot Noir, their Chardonnay, and their Sparkling Wine. My husband is a huge fan of the Pinot Noir, calling it the best in County, which is high, high praise. Closson Chase also has one of the prettiest barns in the County: bright purple, bursting with character, just like their wines.
Trail Estates — Another beautiful spot, tucked in on a side road, Trail makes really, really great wine. Funky, weird and wonderful are words that come to mind. This is the good shit right here. I love all their skin-contact whites. I currently have a bottle of their Pet Nat and skin-contact Gewürztraminer in my fridge and can’t wait to go back and explore more of their reds, once it gets a little cooler out. If you’re in the Toronto area, Trail can often be found at the Trinity Bellwoods Farmer’s Market every fourth Tuesday, and I highly recommend stopping by and scooping up some vino.
Stanners — Though we’ve never visited the winery (next time, I promise), Stanners is a small family run winery that makes excellent Chardonnays and Pinot Noir’s, but it’s their 2017 Pinot Gris cuivré I fell in love with. Zesty and smooth, with hints of apricot, I dream about this wine. Sadly, it’s sold out, but it solidified Stanners as a winery that’s willing to take risks, which is exciting for someone like me: I’m always looking to expand my palette and try new things. If you have a friend who has a bottle of the 2017 Pinot Gris cuivré, I recommend distracting them with something shiny and then stealing the bottle. Wait, don’t do that, bring over a nice charcuterie board and convince them to open it instead. You won’t regret it. Trust me.
Traynor Family Vineyards — We haven’t been to Traynor in a couple of years, but I’m always keeping my eyes peeled for what Mike Traynor (owner and winemaker) will do next. When we visited the first time, I was impressed by the variety that Traynor has to offer. With an emphasis on low intervention wines, Traynor specializes in Pet-Nats and skin-contact varietals; you won’t find your grandmother’s Pinot Grigio here and that’s a good thing.
We had an excellent time in the County, fuelled by great wine, good food and wonderful company (hi, Scott!). We also got to stay at the outstanding Merrill House, in Picton. Thanks to Wine Country Ontario for making our summer PEC dreams come true!
All photos by Scott Poborsa unless otherwise specified.