Our office will be closed for the Christmas Holidays starting December 21st, 2018 at 12pm and will reopen January 7th, 2019. We hope that you and your family have a safe and happy holiday season!
Our model home at 63 Maplehurst Cres will be closed on weekends starting Sept 29th/30th until the weekend of Oct 27th/28th. During these weekends, we will be located at 39 Downes Ave Unit 10 with the same hours:
Mon – Sat (10am – 5pm)
Sundays (11am – 4pm)
Closed all statutory holidays.
If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to reach out to us.
We have an upcoming Showcase of Homes:
Saturday, September 10th, 10am to 5pm and Sunday September 11th, 11am to 4pm
This open house will showcase our most popular homes including tours of the recreation centre accompanied by light refreshments.
If you have questions about our showcases or upcoming events, feel free to contact us!
We have an upcoming Showcase of Homes:
Saturday, June 11th, 10am to 5pm and Sunday June 12th, 11am to 4pm
This open house will showcase our most popular homes and villas including tours of the recreation centre accompanied by light refreshments.
If you have questions about our showcases or upcoming events, feel free to contact us!
We have an upcoming Showcase of Homes:
Saturday, April 30 from 10am to 5pm and Sunday May 1 from 11am to 4pm.
This showcase will feature our most popular house designs: Bungalow Villas and tours of our Recreation Center.
Our next showcases will be the following dates:
- June 11 and 12.
- Sept. 10 & 11
If you have questions about our showcases or upcoming events, feel free to contact us!
Our office is closed from December 18, 2015 to January 4, 2016. Our management and staff extend holiday greetings and best wishes for the New Year!
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours!
We will be closed Monday October 12, 2015 to celebrate Thanksgiving.
After an exciting September Showcase, our model home is now open 7 days a week for convenient viewing. If you have any questions about touring our model home, please don’t hesitate to contact us.
On September 12th and 13th, we’ll be having another showcase of our homes, featuring our most popular house designs: The Mariner, The Riesling, the Murray. We’ll also be featuring two new designs: the Skyway and the Merlot. You can stop by Saturday, September 12th from 10 am to 5 Pm and/or Sunday, September 13th from 11am to 4pm. We will also feature our Villas and offer tours of the Recreation Center.
For information, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-353-7823.015
From the team at Sandbank Homes, we hope that you have a safe and happy Canada Day! We are closed on July 1 so that staff can celebrate our wonderful country. We will resume regular hours on July 2.
On June 13th and 14th, we’ll be having a showcase of homes, featuring our most popular house designs: The Mariner, The Riesling, the Regent. We’ll also be featuring two new designs: the Skyway and the Merlot. You can stop by Saturday, June 13 from 10 am to 5 Pm and Sunday, June 14 from 11am to 4pm. We will also feature our Villas and offer tours of the Recreation Center.
For information, contact us at email@example.com or call 1-800-353-7823.015
This article was published in The Toronto Star on July 11th, 2007.
Can a hot dog be worth a two-hour drive?
Yes, if the hot dog is an all-beef beauty served at Buddha Dog in Picton, the unofficial capital of this County.
The County – a jagged peninsula jutting into Lake Ontario south of Belleville – has lately come alive as a foodie destination, luring Torontonians hungry for unspoiled ingredients in a casual setting.
Buddha Dog, a hip restaurant with Formica tables and indie music, plays its part. It serves the ne plus ultra of franks. Fiercely local, a large wall map pinpoints area suppliers. The condiments are creative (sizzling crab apple sauce, anyone?) and even the ketchup is made on site, smoky with ancho chilies.
The dense dogs ($1.50 each, plus 25 cents a topping) snap audibly under the teeth. Only four inches long, it’s best to start with two. The sweet-tangy pairing of red pepper jelly and cheddar is a classic, and the chili dog has respectable burn.
(Owners Andrew Hunter and Andrew Mackenzie have just opened Buddha Dog at 163 Roncesvalles Ave. in Toronto. How the local focus will translate remains to be seen.)
If hot dogs don’t appeal, here’s where to buy local and artisanal foods, whether for a picnic lunch at Sandbanks Provincial Park or during a stroll down charming Main St.
Slickers Ice Cream
Of all the ice cream stands and shops in the County, and they are legion, Slickers in Bloomfield delivers the real deal: creamy, homemade and starring local ingredients. Tinier than one of its baby scoops ($2.50), the store uses three homebaked apple pies in each batch of apple pie ice cream. Rhubarb-ginger blushes pink and packs real ginger bite.
The Marshmallow Room Bakery & Tea House
The front room of the Bloomfield Carriage House restaurant, in Bloomfield, stocks exquisite homestyle desserts and picnic fare.
Chef Scott Kapitan makes his own boar sausage. His wife, pastry chef Jacqui Vickers, takes care of the luscious quiches, artisanal breads and preserves. Vickers uses local produce in her old-fashioned cakes and tarts ($2.25 to $3.75) to great effect, such as a buttery rhubarb cake made from stalks from her garden. Anything with sour cherries, like the sour cherry-almond tart, is to die for.
The sign at this Picton bakery may have seen better days but not Peter Grendel’s hearty multigrain breads ($3.75). Butter buns (45 cents) are the love child of a dinner roll and a sexy croissant, pillowy and inordinately buttery. (Telltale stains appear on the paper bag almost instantly.)
Beside it, scone-like oat rolls (45 cents) seem almost prim, their solid respectability undercut by a naughty hint of molasses.
A cross between a country store and a Tuscan hill town, this Picton coffee shop also makes gelato in about 12 flavours. None are newfangled and some – like pistachio and hazelnut – are mislabelled but the texture goes down smoothly.
Around the corner is Picton’s newest food retailer, Pinch Gourmet, opened by Karin and Michael Potters of Harvest.
This highly tempting Picton candy store (is there any other kind?) is the outgrowth of a Kingston confectionery. Owner Stuart Davidson taps into the Loyalist roots of the area with a wall of British candy, including Cadbury Buttons. Nostalgia reigns at the soda fountain and in-store lemonade stand.
Taste Your World
Unlike the larger but snootier Cooke’s across the street in Picton, Gordon Chan stocks a well-edited selection of international fine foods to tempt even the casual browser. I found organic black Kerala peppercorns ($12) from Maldon and a shelf devoted to the handy Lonely Planet series of World Food Guides.
Black River Cheese
This small retail outlet, near Milford, offers a glimpse of the factory beyond through a window framed with prize ribbons. Cheese is the draw, sharing space with local preserves and boxed crackers. Cheddar is aged up to four years ($30.80 a kilo), while mozzarella comes in such flavours as horseradish (effective) and salsa (like dried soup mix). Bargain hunters snatch up blocks of ends ($14 a kilo) or the blended cooking cheese ($11 a kilo).
Around the bend from Black River Cheese is organic poster girl Vicki Emlaw’s roadside stand. She sells eggs from “grass-eating, bug-scrounging” chickens ($5 a dozen) and a half-pound of salad greens for $4.50. The stand is unattended; just leave your money in the old Virginia tobacco tin.
County Cider Co.
Many a Toronto restaurant offers Waupoos Premium Cider on tap. At the source, near Picton, is a historic stone barn with products not for sale at the LCBO, like a sweet cider ($8.95/litre) made from feral (late-season) apples. There’s sparkling cider and even ice cider, the juice squeezed from apples frozen on the branch. The patio restaurant, with its wood-oven pizzas, has the best view of Lake Ontario in the entire County.
Green Egg Squares
Adapted from Vickie’s Veggies. The original called for Black River cheese and local spinach; I used Balderson cheese from Winchester, Ont., and swiss chard from Holland Marsh. The greens should weigh 1-1/2 pounds cooked. Serve with field tomato salad and corn on the cob.
• 3 lb (1-1/2 kg) swiss chard
• 4 large eggs
• 1 cup 2% milk
• 1 cup all-purpose flour
• 1 tsp each: baking powder, salt
• 1 lb (450 g) marble cheese, grated
• 2 tbsp butter, melted
Trim chard from stems, reserving stems for other use. Wash chard in sink full of cold water. Transfer to large pot with water clinging to leaves. Steam, covered, on medium-high heat until crumpled, 5 minutes. Drain in colander. When cool enough to handle, squeeze out excess liquid with hands. Chop finely.
In large bowl, whisk eggs with milk.
In small bowl, combine flour, baking powder and salt. Whisk flour mixure into egg mixture until thick and smooth. Fold in cheese and chard.
Transfer to greased 13- by 9-inch baking dish. Bake in preheated 350F oven 25 minutes. Drizzle with melted butter. Bake 5 minutes.
Makes 8 servings.
This article was published in The Globe and Mail on July 15th, 2006.
As I approached the summit, one final hurdle lay ahead. It wasn’t the steep, crumbling slope under my feet. Nor was it the blazing midday sun. No – as I climbed the dune in Eastern Ontario’s Sandbanks Provincial Park, my greatest challenge was the all-dressed bacon cheeseburger, onion rings and chocolate milkshake I had just devoured outside the snack bar.
Just as mountaineers acclimatize to altitude, I stopped and waited for the grease rush to subside. Then, heartened by what awaited beyond the dune’s 10-metre peak, I scrambled up the sandy mound, paperback in one hand, towel in the other.
I had seen the view from atop the dunes dozens of times before, either on a sand-seeking expedition out of Toronto, or on “Picton Day,” the June exodus of class-cutting teens from my former hometown of Kingston. On this perfect summer Saturday, it encompassed blue skies, calm Lake Ontario waters and white sands framed by stands of eastern cottonwood trees, a picture that solidified Sandbanks as my favourite Canadian beach. The sand and scenery of some East and West Coast beaches may compare – PEI’s Cavendish and Vancouver’s English Bay spring to mind – but Sandbanks’ summer is reliably hot and sunny, and the water is fresh, calm and surprisingly warm. If, like me, you often crave a splashy game of paddle ball – that free-form, co-ed pursuit of the Frisbee-fatigued – you’ll only be up to your waist in water more than 100 metres offshore, owing to the three beaches’ gentle, child-friendly slope out of East Lake (which is actually a bay).
Unlike much of surrounding Prince Edward County, which has seen a spate of development in recent years, little has changed at Sandbanks since I first arrived here in someone else’s parent’s minivan more than 15 years ago. The drive past the main entrance still winds pleasantly through thick maple forest. The aforementioned snack bar still serves up the thickest milkshakes around – thanks to the staff’s perennial lack of blender-awareness. And on a prime summer weekend, the park’s Outlet, Sandbanks and Campers beaches are still busy, but not maddeningly so. After all, there’s plenty of real estate: The 11 kilometres of beaches and dunes form two of the largest freshwater bay-mouth sandbars in the world.
Arriving at noon, it was easy to find a sunny spot devoid of errant Frisbees and sand-encrusted toddlers. Spreading out mats and towels, and unfolding lounge chairs – my wife Angela and I are confessed beach-accoutrement addicts – we settled into an afternoon of doing very, very little.
Once again, I noticed that time and sound perform strange tricks when one is prostrate on the beach. A lively conversation among a group of nearby teenagers – “Dude, man, my wakeboard is sick” – soon became a melodious trickle interspersed with the noise of splashing kids and squawking gulls. This was followed by an irresistible snooze, a groggy awakening and feigned surprise that two hours had passed in what felt like five minutes.
It was time for a swim, at which point our reasons for leaving Toronto became abundantly clear. To be sure, the Big Smoke has sandy beaches, some of which are quite pleasant. Trouble is, you’ll be publicly ostracized for entering the water (and privately concerned should you develop a sudden rash). Indeed, I am always shocked by Torontonians’ lack of Sandbanks savvy. Wasaga and Sauble beaches, both about two hours northeast of the city, seem to get all the attention – mention Prince Edward County and you’ll likely get a blank stare. True, Sandbanks lacks the shopping and nightlife of its busier Lake Huron counterparts. But in my mind, its location within a provincial park – with extensive camping facilities mere steps from the sand – is one of its best features.
The Visitors Centre & Nature Shoppe near the park entrance sells souvenirs and houses exhibits on Sandbanks’ flora and fauna, including such oddly named plants as hoary puccoon and sand spurge, as well as migratory birds like swamp sparrows and pileated woodpeckers. There’s also a wealth of special events for campers, such as slide shows, guided walks and Theatre in the Park, in which interpretive staff gamely don historical costumes to dramatize the century-old history of Sandbanks.
Angela and I were intent on suntans, however, and our afternoon unfolded lazily, as so many have on past visits. But when our thoughts turned to stylish shelter and French-fry-free sustenance, the annual routine was interrupted.
Our home for the weekend – the brand-new Inn at Huff Estates, a 15-minute drive north of the beach – is a prime example of how “the County,” as it’s locally known, is wooing affluent baby boomers and the thirtysomething condo crowd. The inn certainly wooed us: Located on the grounds of a two-year-old winery, the 20-room property is a modern departure from the upscale country inns – such as the Devonshire and Merrill Inn – and often-schmaltzy B & Bs that dominate the local accommodations scene. Decked out in dark wood and natural stone, rooms range from doubles to a 1,100-square-foot Winemakers Suite. All feature fireplaces, flat-screen TVs, high-speed Internet access and other necessities.
Lanny Huff, the winery’s founder, has seen his home county change drastically over the past few years. He should know: His family goes back 10 generations in the area.
“When the wineries started opening up, and great restaurateurs and artists from Toronto started moving here, it really brought Prince Edward County into the new century,” he said. “If you went back five years, you wouldn’t have found a million-dollar house. Now, I know one builder who’s working on five.”
Despite obvious similarities with the tourism boom in the Niagara region – with wine, food and theatre in leading roles – Huff said the county aims to maintain its relaxed rural vibe. “Most of the development is being done very tastefully. You’re not going to see a Burger King on every corner.”
But could there soon be a winery on every county road? Huff Estates, which this year won a gold medal at the All-Canadian Wine Championships and a silver at the Ontario Wine Awards, joined 38 other vintners in this spring’s Prince Edward County Wine Celebration. Six years ago, there was just a single winery in operation.
The county’s culinary endeavours have grown alongside the viticulture, notably with the creation in 2003 of a Taste Trail encompassing two dozen inns, eateries, food shops and wineries. The next addition to the trail could be a venture by Toronto celebrity chef Jamie Kennedy, who is setting up a vineyard and restaurant in the village of Hillier.
After a continental breakfast of fresh pastries and local fruit on the Huff inn’s main patio, we strolled over to the adjacent winery, a single-storey structure tucked into the terroir itself. After a few sips, we were tempted to forgo our Sunday at Sandbanks and embark on a food-and wine-tasting tour.
But the sun was shining and the midday air was heating up. Sometimes, we reasoned, it’s best to stick with what you know: a chocolate milkshake, onion rings, and an all-dressed bacon cheeseburger.
From Highway 401 eastbound, take Exit 522 (Wooler Road, just west of Trenton), which connects to Highway 33 south. Drive through Wellington and into Bloomfield, then take County Road 12 south to Sandbanks. From Highway 401 westbound, take Exit 566 (just west of Deseronto) to Highway 49 south. Drive through Picton and into Bloomfield, then take County Road 12 south to Sandbanks.
WHERE TO STAY
Inn at Huff Estates: 2274 County Rd. 1 (just off Highway 62), Bloomfield, Ont.; 1-866-484-4667; www.huffestates.ca. Located on the grounds of the two-year-old Huff Estates winery, the 20-room property is decked out in dark wood and natural stone. Rooms range from large doubles to a 1,100-square-foot Winemakers Suite. All feature fireplaces, flat-screen TVs, and high-speed Internet access. Rates start at $179 a night, including continental breakfast.
The Devonshire, Inn on the Lake: 24 Wharf St.; Wellington, Ont.; 1-800-544-9937; www.devonshire-inn.com. This upscale inn combines a prime waterfront location with comfortable bedrooms and elegant dining. Rates start at $169 a night, including full breakfast.
Merrill Inn: 343 Main St. E., Picton, Ont.; 1-866-567-5969; www.merrillinn.com. This historic luxury inn located in the County’s “capital” features 13 guest rooms with en-suite bathrooms. Rates start at $155 a night, including continental breakfast.
Sandbanks camping: 613-393-3319; www.ontarioparks.com/english/sand-facilities.html. 549 campsites are scattered over five campgrounds. There are 140 sites with electrical service, and all have a picnic table and fireplace grill. Washrooms with showers are located throughout the campgrounds. Fees vary according to the facilities and services provided, and range from $10 a night in low season (without showers) to $33 a night in summer (with electrical hook-ups and showers). Reservations are recommended.
THINGS TO DO
Regent Theatre: 224 Main St., Picton, Ont.; 1-877-411-4761; www.theregenttheatre.org. Offers live theatre and music, first-run movies and Cinefest, part of the Film Circuit of the Toronto International Film Festival.
Taste Trail: www.tastetrail.ca. Encompasses two dozen inns, restaurants, food shops and wineries. A downloadable guide and clickable map is available on the website.
Sandbanks Provincial Park: www.ontarioparks.com/english/sand.html; 613-393-3319. Day-use vehicle permits range in price from $7 to $15.
Prince Edward County Chamber of Tourism & Commerce: 116 Main St., Picton, Ont.; 1-800-640-4717; www.pec.on.ca.
This article was published in The Globe and Mail on June 21st, 2008.
It was a typical summer day in Toronto. Pavements sizzled and the air was thick with humidity and murmurs of weekend escapes to the cottage. As the city melted, my husband and I were sitting in an air-conditioned Lincoln Town Car with two friends, destined for an outdoor feast in Prince Edward County. Oh, and it was only Wednesday. It was a very grown-up way to play hooky.
We didn’t know much about the event beyond its name: 6 Barrels for 6 Chefs. A sign had been posted a few weeks ago at the Jamie Kennedy Wine Bar announcing the pairing of six wines with six of Ontario’s most creative culinary artists. The location: Huff Estates winery. That’s all the convincing we needed to make the 2½-hour journey east to “the County.”
It turned out that the meal last August was the first of an annual charity event benefiting Camp Trillium, a program of the Trillium Childhood Cancer Support Centre. This year’s event is another midweek affair, scheduled for July 2, with tickets costing $140 a person.
It’s yet another point of pride for Prince Edward County, which has become the gastronomic capital of Ontario – a fertile island bursting with vineyards, organic farms and a community of artists and chefs. Tucked into the “golden triangle” between Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, it is the province’s newest Designated Viticultural Area, which helps identify the origin of a wine and its grapes.
And Huff Estates is a highlight. The property – 60 hectares of limestone-rich land at the corner of Highway 62 and County Road 1 – was settled in the 1820s by the Huff family. Owner Lanny Huff, a chemical engineer by trade who has worked in the plastics industry for 40 years, is now fulfilling a lifelong dream of growing vines on his ancestral soil.
Huff’s cellar, only four years old, is modern and minimalist. The sleek concrete structure houses a high-tech operation of monstrous stainless-steel vats and traditional barrels that together are used to produce classic Bordeaux varieties such as merlot and cabernet franc as well as more traditional white wines such as chardonnay, riesling and pinot gris. The estate has won numerous medals over the years, and its 2004 chardonnay was named the official wine of the Ontario Legislature for 2005-06.
It was the fermenting process that inspired Huff winemaker Frédéric Picard and friend Bryan Steele, the chef at the Old Prune Restaurant in Stratford, Ont., to organize 6 Barrels for 6 Chefs.
“One winter, as Bryan and I were enjoying a barrel tasting together, we came up with the idea,” Picard said. “Our goal was to illustrate the nuances between the same wine aged in different oak barrels and to explore how each one could be elevated when paired with food prepared by a great chef.”
Picard and Steele were there to greet us on our visit. Six small white marquees dotted the expansive vineyard. Under each, a team guided by a master chef toiled over open fires and makeshift workstations to feed about 100 people who would, by the end of the evening, run through the first tasting menu of its kind.
The wine pairings seemed simple enough: three versions of Huff Estates South Bay Chardonnay 2006 and three of Norman Hardie’s Pinot Noir 2006. (Hardie, like Picard, has made a name for himself as one of the County’s most talented winemakers. He studied the craft at the University of Dijon and worked as a sommelier with Four Seasons Hotels.) The difference in taste, however, was remarkable. A little booklet told us about barrel specifications – volume, toast, cooperage. We were left to enjoy each sip and bite, drinking wines that had not yet been bottled for mass consumption and savouring uniquely prepared dishes straight from chef to plate.
Starting with Steele’s ceviche of hamachi with coconut, citrus, Thai basil and mint, we then moved to Kennedy’s wild rice meunière, yellow perch with soubise and pickled chanterelles. Next came grilled county lamb with sweet corn succotash by Michael Potters of Harvest Restaurant in Picton, Ont. Michael Stadtlander’s Eigensinn Farm piglet roasted with pine wood won for presentation – who else could pull off serving a meal on a chunk of tree bark? Hiro Yoshida of Toronto’s Hiro Sushi restaurant served up a trio of sushi, and then Ryan Crawford from Niagara-on-the-Lake’s Stone Road Grille whipped up savoury crepes.
For dessert, we wandered over to a terrace overlooking the vineyards for a slice of peach and honey cake prepared by Jacqui Vickers of the nearby Bloomfield Carriage House Restaurant.
Picard and Hardie poured more wine. The chefs, at that point off duty, mingled with the lingering crowd. Toasts were made in honour of the organizers, the participants, the weather. It was a fitting end to a perfect dinner party. We reluctantly said our goodbyes and headed back to our waiting car like Cinderella heading for her pumpkin carriage.
“Next time, spend the night in the County,” Picard said.
Next time, we will.
This year’s lineup
Huff Estates – 2 barrels of
Closson Chase – 1 barrel of chardonnay
Norman Hardie – 2 barrels of pinot noir
Rosehall Run Vineyards –
1 barrel of pinot noir
Bryan Steele – The Old Prune Restaurant
Ryan Crawford – The Stone Road Grille
Hiro Yoshida – Hiro Sushi
Michael Potters – Harvest
Chris McDonald – Cava
Scott Kapitan – The Bloomfield Carriage House Restaurant
Jacqui Vickers – The Bloomfield Carriage House Restaurant
To purchase tickets and to get
directions to Huff Estates, call Danielle Duguay at 613-393-5802 or e-mail the winery.
This article was published in The Globe and Mail on June 14th, 2008.
I’m thinking that Sir John A. Macdonald, who launched his law and political career in Picton, Ont., (some would say his drinking career too) would be proud of the food, wine and farming culture exploding in the surrounding countryside of Prince Edward County. Especially the wine industry. And I’m certain that he would have started his tippler’s tour of the county at the first estate to secure a winery licence here, in 1996 – which isn’t a vineyard, but an apple orchard.
Sir John A. would have more than a passing interest in the County Cider Company: He once held the mortgage on the property, which now boasts the largest selection of European cider apples in North America. But he would have stayed for the drink – three sparkling hard ciders and an astonishing ice cider inspired by icewine.
Like icewine grapes, Russet, Ida Red and Northern Spy apples are left hanging on the trees long after the harvest to be baked by Indian summer, then chilled by fall frost and winter winds. Cider master and owner Grant Howes then distills those wizened apple pies into a sweet golden elixir that is surprisingly refreshing, with a zing of raw apple – well worth the trip to sample it at the source.
The County Cider Company is housed in a lovingly restored stone barn – an area landmark – perched high atop a limestone cliff on the shores of Lake Ontario. The outdoor patio keeps lunchtime crowds happy with pizza topped with county ingredients and baked in an outdoor wood-burning oven. Shaded by apple trees and cooled by breezes off the lake, you can enjoy the view across the water. Or, with a cider or two, you can be transported back to the American Revolution, when United Empire Loyalists streamed north to settle this peninsula, which became an island when the Murray Canal was cut to connect the Bay of Quinte to Lake Ontario.
This is our first trip to the county in some years. Despite the buzz about new wineries, we discover that traditional farming remains the backbone – and beauty – of this area, about two hours east of Toronto. The county has enjoyed boom times in the past – the Barley Days of 1860 to 1890, when farmers grew wealthy selling barley to the Americans during the Civil War and reconstruction years; the first half of the 1900s, when they grew vegetables and fruit for canning factories. But after the canneries left in search of year-round harvests farther south, farmers struggled. Now they are adapting again, this time partnering with chefs, wineries and a non-profit marketing organization, Taste the County, to create a premier culinary destination.
Attracted by the burgeoning wine industry, a wave of chefs has moved here – most recently Jamie Kennedy, who bought a farm and plans to open a field-to-plate restaurant. Chef Michael Potters and his wife, Karin, opened Harvest Restaurant in 2003. And last year, Karin opened the Pinch Gourmet store in Picton, the perfect place to pick up deli meats and cheeses for a picnic at Sandbanks Provincial Park.
What the chefs discovered, in Michael’s words, was “fantastic food and farming” – fifth-generation lamb growers, naturally raised and chemical-free beef, vegetables that arrive at restaurants just hours out of the ground, fresh fish from the Bay of Quinte. “For a select group of farmers here, doing things sustainably isn’t a trend,” Michael says. “They’ve been here a long time and it’s the way they’ve always farmed. So you want to take advantage of that, cooking with the seasons and great ingredients.” He calls it county cuisine.
Oddly, there is no public farmers market. But with a Harvestin’ the County map, you’ll find plenty of vegetable stands and on-farm produce and meat stores.
A must stop is Vicki’s Vegetables, a few kilometres west of County Cider in Waupoos. Vicki Emlaw, a ninth-generation farmer, is locally famous for her organic greens, veggies and rare heritage tomatoes – she grows more than 100 varieties – which she sells each summer at her roadside stand.
Next door, her aunt, Pat York, started preserving the county’s fruits and vegetables as a way of feeding her four sons on the family’s dairy farm. Now, Pat’s Jams is a thriving cottage industry. She built an addition on the back of her house to showcase her 140 or so jams, chutneys and relishes.The new Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Company is also located in this corner of the island, but Petra Cooper’s multimillion-dollar dairy and educational facility isn’t scheduled to open until Monday, so we scoot into Picton to try a selection of her goat and sheep’s milk cheeses at Pinch Gourmet. But the cheese is sold out, the samples gobbled up. All that is left is a taste test of cheese recipes Cooper was refining.
Next door at Buddha Dog, co-owner Andrew Mackenzie found himself so swept up in island life when he first visited that he started scheming of ways to stay. He and his business partner, Andrew Hunter, invented what they call the 100-mile snack, a mini hot dog made from county beef and topped with local ingredients. It was an instant hit with the summer beach crowd.
As we down one slathered in Black River maple cheddar, Mackenzie tells us why the county is, well, the county. “Even though the mainland is just 100 yards away in some places, you have a sense of an edge to your world. Everyone’s in this together.” We tuck into another dog topped with mustard infused with maple syrup.
Yes, our visit has coincided with the first harvest of spring, from Canada’s oldest agricultural crop. In the morning, we hitched a wagon ride back to Ron Hubb’s sugar bush for his 31st annual pancake breakfast. The event is now a mainstay of the Maple in the County Festival, one of the area’s many culinary events.
What is astonishing about a county festival is that nearly every business lends its support. Even tourists feel the community’s passion to create something special here. Wineries have opened early to offer tastings of maple-infused dessert wines. Barley Days Brewery serves up Sugar Shack Ale; along with its flagship beers, the brewery adds one brew a season made from county harvests such as pumpkin and cherries. And restaurants, running their own Countylicious food festival in conjunction with the Maple weekend, serve up maple-themed dinners.
We manage to tuck back a few meals at some of the county’s top restaurants: the Waring House, which also has an inn and runs a cooking school with hundred-mile classes; and the Merrill Inn, where Sir John A. hung out in the drawing room in his day.
Once again, I sense his curious presence, but how surprising should that be? The cozy restaurant at this inn has one of the best listings of county wines – ciders included.
Margaret Webb is the author of Apples to Oysters: A Food Lover’s Tour of Canadian Farms (Penguin, Spring 2008).
Pack your bags
County Cider Company
& Estate Winery County Road 8, Picton; 613-476-1022;http://www.countycider.com. County’s tasting room and store are open 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from May to November. Lunches are served 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.
Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. 4309 County Rd. 8, Picton; 613-476-5755;http://www.fifthtown.ca. An outdoor environmental sculpture show runs all summer.
Pinch Gourmet 7 Elizabeth St., Picton; 613-476-4404. Open Sunday to Thursday 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Fridays and Saturdays until 7 p.m.
Buddha Dog 172 Main St., Picton; 613-476-3814. Open Monday to Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays until 5 p.m.
Harvest Restaurant 106 Bridge St., Picton; 613-476-6763;http://www.harvestrestaurant.ca. Dinners Wednesdays to Sundays from 5 p.m. Brunch on Sundays.
Merrill Inn 343 Main St. E., Picton; 866-567-5969;http://www.merrillinn.com. Rooms start at $179.
The Waring House Highway 33 and County Road 1, Picton; 613-476-7492;http://www.waringhouse.com. Rooms start at $145.
Vicki’s Veggies 81 Morrison Point Rd., Milford; 613-476-7241;http://www.vickisveggies.com. The roadside stand is open daily during daylight hours.
Pat’s Jam’s 113 Morrison Point Rd., Milford; 613-476-6929;http://www.pec.on.ca/patsjams. Jams are $4 to $6.
The Harvestin’ the County map gives directions to more than 80 farms.http://www.harvestin.ca.
This article was published in The Toronto Star on May 17th, 2010.
While I do not have space to extol the virtues of all 25 wineries in the still-emerging Prince Edward County (eight new ones are opening this summer alone), let me share a few of my favourite spots, based on quality of wine.
Sure, there are sleeper cells: start-up operations not yet on the public radar producing tiny batches of wine. Our focus is on the main contenders, who have wines you actually have a chance of obtaining.
Bear in mind, PEC is a marginal grape subsistence zone. It is proudly at the frontier of grape growing, suffering through harrowing bone-chilling winters. Even though last winter was record breaking for warmth, producers still have to bury their vines (and especially the canes) under heaped up soil to prevent winter slaughter. So viticulture here is a true labour of love.
Despite the challenges, winemakers are rising to the occasion, and learning new things about survival mode each year in a bitterly cold climate. What emerges, despite a lot of wines that do not quite rise to Niagara ripeness, are many winners that are triumphs over Mother Nature, not to mention those PEC raccoons, who escaped from some Jurassic Park millennia ago. They can eat half a vineyard of grapes in one evening soirée.
Here are my current fave rave wineries, all well worth visiting this summer if you wish to discover their latest tasting treasures.
Long Dog Vineyard, 104 Brewers Rd., Milford, 613-476-4140: Noted IMAX film producer James Lahti, with wife Victoria Rose and partner Steven Rapkin, have lovingly built their adventure from an old yellow farmhouse with out buildings purchased in 1997 into an artisanal winery, sculpting world class chardonnay and pinot noir.
It’s still quite rustic, quietly gloving into the surrounding trees and fields. The winery itself is a converted barn. Their Burgundy-styled wines are thoroughly modern and have a diehard fan base.
They chose “Long Dog” as a brand due to their pet dachshunds. They make pinot gris and chardonnay but their top pinot noirs, including the Otto Riserva Pinot Noir ($50), are eagerly snapped up by panting connoisseurs.
Closson Chase, 629 Closson Road, 1-888-201-2300: Winemaker par excellence Deborah Paskus shot to instant fame with her opulent, privately made Tempkin-Paskus Niagara chardonnay in the 1990s.
Her main digs now are at Closson Chase, where vines planted first in 1999 are dishing up stunning fruit from 30 acres of limestone soils benefitting from the maritime warming of Lake Ontario.
The owners, led by Seaton McLean and including actress Sonya Smits, have given Paskus a free palate to sculpt the best wines possible. The setting is very rural, with the winery and tasting bar in an ancient barn.
I have never been wowed by the pinot noir she makes, but the Paskus stable of premium-priced chardonnays show amazing prowess, especially the sun-soaked 2007 vintage. Alas, some of her richest oaked chardonnays are very limited production and vanish instantly (I never get to taste them either!). Her entry level $29.95 chardonnay was released at Vintages May 1 and is excellent.
Norman Hardie Winery and Vineyard, 1152 Greer Road, Hillier, 613-399-5297: I first met Norman Hardie when he was a sommelier at the Four Seasons in Toronto. He pursued a degree at the University of Dijon with master pinot noir makers in Burgundy, then fine tuned his knowledge at wineries in South Africa, California, Oregon and New Zealand.
Now firmly rooted in Prince Edward County, Hardie is crafting characterful, though often subtle, pinot noirs. His flagship Cuvee L 2007 Pinot Noir is $69, a blend of Niagara and County fruit. His pure PEC County Pinot Noir is $35. His three chardonnays ($25-$35) are very fine, and he makes a riesling as well ($21).
Hardie’s wines are available at his winery, online or at fine restaurants listed on his website. The winery is in modern buildings and Hardie loves to chat knowledgeably about wine and, of course, food.
Huff Estates, 2274 County Rd. 1 (at Hwy. 62), 613-393-5802: Lanny Huff, a chemical engineer, grew up in PEC, then moved south to the U.S., made his fortune in the plastics industry, and returned to his origins to found Huff Estates, which opened in its modern structure in 2004 on 150 acres.
Huff’s roots are deep, stemming from United Empire Loyalists who settled in the County in the 1820s. French winemaker Frederic Picard, who has made wine all over the globe, crafts the wines, which include fruit from the County with some Niagara sourcing.
New is their sparkling wine, 2006 Cuvee Peter Huff Blanc de Blanc ($39.95), and I also enjoy their Pinot Gris ($19.95). They sculpt various styles of riesling, chardonnay, plus merlot and cabernet sauvignon. Their Picard MacLaurin 2006 Pinot Noir disappeared too quickly.
Huff has opened a modern inn on the winery property, which makes a great overnight pause for wine lovers seriously tasting through the region’s wineries.
Rosehall Run Vineyards, 1243 Greer Road RR 1, Wellington, 1-888-399-1183: At long last, winemaker Dan Sullivan’s custom winery building is complete, with the largest gravity flow barrel cellar in PEC. I remember it when it was just a giant square hole revealing the limestone-strewn soil in perfect profile. The 24 acres of vineyards consist of fragmented limestone over an underlay of Hillier clay.
Dan’s pet grape is pinot noir, but he has a ton of fun churning out very stylish chardonnays that seldom fail to impress. Sullivan, to my mind, is an experimentalist in the vineyard. He plays with rows of odd varietals, including ehrenfelser, gewürztraminer and chardonnay musqué, always learning more about the limits of varietals in the climate-challenging County growing region. Many of the wines are on LCBO shelves, including a 2006 Rosehall Run Vineyards Chardonnay ($15.95, May 1 Vintages) that is outstanding at that price.
The Grange of Prince Edward County, 990 Closson Road, Hillier, 613-399-1048: The setting, with the winery in an original 1826 Loyalist barn lined with ancient slab stone walls, is inspiring. Bob Granger, then a Toronto lawyer, chanced across the property in 1970 on a picnic trip. He bought it and, for years, it served as a family weekend retreat.
The winery phase was launched in 2000 by Granger and his daughter, Caroline, who had been a much-in-demand model in Europe for several years. Gradually, the vineyards have grown to 60 acres, with the major focus by winemaker Jeff Innes now on riesling, chardonnay, pinot gris, gamay, cabernet franc and pinot noir.
Nearly all the grapes that go into their Trumpour Mill and Grange of Prince Edward Country Single Vineyards labels are sourced from estate grapes, grown on the property. Also welcome is the fact most are affordable, with prices ranging from $13.95 to $19.95 at the LCBO.
Waupoos Estate Winery, 3016 County Rd. 8, Picton, 613-476-8338: Rita Kaimins and Ed Neuser own the most personable winery, and one of the most scenic, in Prince Edward County.
It’s in apple country, where cideries abound. A gorgeous winery building, the octagonal Gazebo Restaurant below it, then a broad expanse of vines leading down to a dock on Prince Edward Bay of Lake Ontario (hint: they now have docking facilities for sailors).
The couple are pioneers in PEC terms, planting their first vineyard in 1993, long before the modern gold rush began to snap up vineyard land. The winery opened its doors in 2001. Felix, a frisky but very wise Jack Russell terrier, greets all visitors, but does not lead the tastings.
Waupoos offers a raft of fun wines. While the reds are now a bit pricey, the whites include some real values. Try the Geisenheim Dry White ($11.95), Pinot Gris ($15.95) and Riesling ($15.95) paired with locavore cuisine at the winery restaurant (be certain to reserve a table). They are 100-per-cent PEC, except for their gamay and cabernet. This is the kind of winery you can bring the kids to, and they will frolic all the way down to the lake.
If you wish to discover what this region is all about, a record number of Prince Edward County wineries will pour their new spring releases at the fifth annual Terroir Wine Festival, May 29, at the historic Crystal Palace in Picton. For info, go towww.thecountywines.com
This article was published in The Globe and Mail on February 16th, 2010.
The windmill is the first clue. The eight solar panels on the roof are another. A visitor to Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. in Prince Edward County, Ont., quickly realizes this is no ordinary dairy.
Fifth Town, which produces handmade goat and sheep cheeses, is North America’s first Platinum LEED-certified dairy.
Creating a sustainable dairy that meets third-party benchmarks for a high-performance green building doesn’t come cheap. Fifth Town’s sleek wood and concrete building cost $2-million in 2008. About $400,000 went toward eco-friendly elements such as Forest Stewardship Council-certified wood, non-toxic paints and low-flow faucets.
But Petra Cooper, the dairy’s CEO and founder, says her green investment is paying off in a myriad of ways, proving sustainability not only helps the planet, but can also benefit a business strategically.
Being green “put Fifth Town on the map, faster than might have happened otherwise,” she says.
The dairy, which made its first cheeses in July of 2008, doesn’t have a big advertising budget. The LEED certification peaked reporters’ curiosity, which resulted in Fifth Town being featured in magazine and newspaper articles.
“If I had to buy that media attention, I couldn’t have afforded to,” says Ms. Cooper, 48, a former publishing executive with an MBA from the University of Toronto.
Before launching Fifth Town, Ms. Cooper studied cheese-making for four years. So far, Fifth Town cheeses have won nearly 30 awards including medals at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, the British Empire Cheese Competition and the American Cheese Society.
The media coverage and awards have drawn members of the public to the eco-friendly building. In the summer, Fifth Town runs free green tours. Last summer nearly 4,000 visitors a week learned how sustainability and cheese-making complement each other like feta and olives. At the end of the tour, visitors stop by the dairy’s store where the cash is busy ringing up sales.
Running a sustainable business also helped Fifth Town attract and retain its 14 employees. The company didn’t need to advertise to recruit staff. “They all came to us,” Ms. Cooper says. And so far, none have left.
While building a green dairy required a lot of capital upfront, energy bills for the 446-square-metre building are low thanks to heat and light sensors. The dairy is “a robot underneath the walls,” Ms. Cooper says. “It micro-manages energy everywhere in the building.”
For aging cheese, conventional dairies use energy-hungry above-ground fridges, which require fog machines. Fifth Town relies on three man-made cement caves. The caves are naturally cool and humid, don’t need fog machines and consume far less energy.
While the building isn’t off the grid, some of its energy comes from on-site renewable sources. A geothermal system, consisting of 1,600 metres of coil 1.8 metres beneath the dairy, heats and cools the main building and the caves. Power also comes from the windmill and solar panels.
All of this means Fifth Town’s energy bills are significantly lower than a typical dairy’s. The windmill alone saves the dairy up to $200 a month. As an added bonus, Ontario’s Hydro One pays the dairy about $300 a month for solar energy fed into the grid.
Depending on the type of cheese being made, for every 7,000 litres of milk the dairy uses, it must dispose of up to 6,300 litres of whey, a by-product of cheese making that consists of water, ash and proteins. Some dairies pay to truck whey elsewhere – a costly, on-going expense. Fifth Town has a bio-wetland system that treats whey, transforming it into near potable water. The three-pond system cost $75,000, but it, and the dairy’s other green features, should pay for themselves within seven to 10 years, Ms. Cooper says. “Over time it will save us lots of money.”
At Fifth Town, it’s not just the building that is sustainable. The sheep and goat milk in the cheese come from nearby environmentally friendly farms. Packaging for the cheese is either biodegradable or recyclable, with labels printed on post-consumer paper.
While these green elements are good for the earth, they’re also more expensive. As a result, Fifth Town’s cheeses are a bit pricier. Eco-conscious consumers understand it costs more to create a sustainable product, Ms. Cooper says. “It’s like a hybrid car. It’s a more expensive car but people buy it. That’s a philosophical choice people make.”
Demand for the cheese, which is sold throughout Ontario at gourmet grocery stores and cheese boutiques, is growing. In response, Fifth Town plans to expand the dairy. Getting a loan for the expansion was easier thanks to the dairy’s LEED certification, Ms. Cooper says. “These days you can’t get money for things unless you can prove you aren’t going to hurt the environment.”
With all the benefits of running a sustainable business, from media attention to easier access to credit, Ms. Cooper recommends going green to other entrepreneurs. Since Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth (2006), lenders and consumers have become more focused on environmental issues. As a business owner, “I think it would be hard not to pay attention.”
She cautions that a business won’t thrive just because it’s environmentally friendly. With Fifth Town, “the cheese has to be good. Nobody would buy it just because it’s green.”
For consumers, it’s a bonus Fifth Town is eco-friendly, Ms. Cooper says. “People like the cheese – and then on top of that they can feel good about buying it. They can know they are supporting some innovative uses of green technology.”
This article was published in The Globe and Mail on July 24th, 2009.
Even whipping wind and ominous clouds threatening to burst didn’t keep eager visitors away from Prince Edward County winery tasting rooms on a recent Saturday. At Waupoos Winery, Huff Estates and the County Cider Company, staff juggled an onslaught of visitors impervious to the weather and eager to test County wares.
Prince Edward County, with its mix of family-owned wineries, creative chefs and chic art galleries, is officially on the hit list of weekenders from Toronto to Montreal: With the inclusion of 13 of its wineries in Andrew Brooks’s definitive wine-tour guide, Crush on Niagara , the rustic island will no longer be known only for its beaches and fertile farmland. Yet, with its dreamy landscape and laid-back vibe, the County can’t help but pay homage to its rural roots, making it a perfect place to escape the city in style.
Wedged in the “golden triangle,” within two to three hours’ drive from Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, Prince Edward County has an enviable position. Blink, however, and you may miss it. “I drove that stretch of the 401 from Toronto to Quebec countless times and never realized that along the way there was a bridge leading to another world,” says Henriette Labelle-Campbell, events manager at The Waring House Inn in Picton.
Two decades ago, Labelle-Campbell and her husband crossed that bridge and invested in a summer home. Eventually they decided to make a permanent move, and they haven’t looked back. “When we settled in the County in 1998, it was a rural community with very few amenities for tourists. If you hadn’t eaten dinner at a local diner by 8 p.m., then you were out of luck.”
These days, there is very little chance of going hungry after dark. The Waring House is home to Amelia’s Garden, a fine-dining restaurant that is a favourite with locals. Executive chef Luis de Sousa’s five-course tasting menu features seasonal dishes that are paired with locally produced wines. (A timely offering right now: Baby Blue pie made with in-season local blueberries and rhubarb and an oatmeal-cinnamon streusel topping.)
The Waring House is one of more than 20 designated stops on the Taste Trail, a self-guided route that links some of Prince Edward County’s finest restaurants, artisanal food producers and wineries. Consider it a delectable connect-the-dots game that introduces visitors to the island’s epicureans.
One path leads from Picton eastward along County Road 8. The scenery shifts between undulating fields rich with apple orchards and pristine vineyards on one side to stunning inlets on the other. There’s no clutter in sight, and the crisp breeze over the water adds an air of calm.
A sign points to the Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Company, an environmentally responsible producer of cheese made with fresh, local goat and sheep milk. Owner Petra Cooper, co-founder of the Ontario Cheese Society, is considered a visionary. Fifth Town’s production facility is the first in North America to earn the Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) platinum designation, and it won the 2009 Ontario Premier’s Award for Agri-Food Innovation Excellence.
Since opening two years ago, Fifth Town has revived the tradition of cheese-making in the County and Cooper has single-handedly taken charge. “It’s all about the chemistry,” she says. “I’m in the caves every day checking the cheese to make sure that everything is just right.” Her formula seems to be working. Cape Vessey, Fifth Town’s first hard cheese, won Grand Champion Goat Cheese at the 2008 Royal Winter Fair.
Cooper is not the only County up-and-comer. Torontonian Mark Bartkiw, a photographer by profession, has unveiled an organically grown pick-your-own vegetable, fruit and flower farm in Big Island. “My wife and I had always fantasized about living in the country, but we didn’t intend to farm when we moved here three years ago,” Bartkiw says. “After living here for a year, I was so inspired by the land.”
In addition to the pick-your-own product, Bartkiw has a market stand that has become a daily stop for residents and day trippers. Community kinship is a cornerstone in Prince Edward County. “There is a great deal of collaboration between businesses here. People really work together to help deliver an outstanding experience to visitors,” says Karin Potters, owner of Pinch Gourmet, a shop that sells everything from locally produced sausage to organic smoked salmon to hand-baked oat biscuits. Potters’s husband, Michael, is owner and head chef at Harvest restaurant. Of the many wines featured on the Harvest menu, locally grown labels are in abundance, including those by Frederic Picard of Huff Estates.
According to Picard, size and geography bind the County and set it apart. “Niagara has 25 years of growing experience and more than a hundred wineries,” he says. “We’re a young region and the newest Designated Viticulture Area in Ontario.” More established County estates such as Closson Chase Vineyards, founded in the late 1990s by esteemed viticulturist Deborah Paskus (a pioneer of the new County terroir), have been joined by the award-winning vintages of Huff, Waupoos and Norman Hardie Winery. One of the latest estates to make its mark is Redtail Vineyard, Canada’s first off-grid winery, which produces up to 700 cases a year.
And it’s not just food and wine producers who are chipping in. Prince Edward County’s arts scene is also emerging. Its jazz festival is expanding, it has a vibrant theatre program, and the Arts Trail – a route of more than 20 artists and galleries around the island – is gaining exposure. Visitors can stop in at a variety of exhibition spaces, from Mad Dog Gallery, in a renovated timber-framed barn, to the new Oeno Gallery, housed in a contemporary light-filled space on the grounds of Huff Estates.
Oeno co -owner Carlyn Moulton moved to the County in 2004. Like other big-city transplants, she can’t imagine living anywhere else. “It’s a real place,” she says, “not just one fabricated for tourists.”
* * *
Must-try flavours from Prince Edward County
- 2007 Closson Chase Pinot Noir
- 2007 Huff Estates Riesling Off Dry
- Cape Vessey by Fifth Town Cheese Company
- Barley Days beer by the Waring House
- Waupoos Winery’s Waupoos Maple Ice
- The County Cider Company Ice Cider
- A Buddha Dog hot dog with red pepper jelly and brie.
* * *
Pack your bags
Where to stay
Waring House Inn County Road 1 and Highway 33; 800-621-4956;www.waringhouse.com. Thirty-two new rooms housed in two new geothermally heated and air conditioned buildings. Amelia’s Garden serves breakfast, lunch and dinner.
Where to eat
Harvest Restaurant 106 Bridge St., Picton; 613-476-6763;www.harvestrestaurant.ca. Chef Michael Potters offers a six-course tasting menu ($80).
Where to go
Fifth Town Artisan Cheese 4309 County Rd. 8, Picton; 613-476-5755;www.fifthtown.ca.
Huff Estates At the northwest corner of County Road 1 and Highway 62 South; 866-484-4667; www.huffestates.com.
Red Tail Vineyard 422 Partridge Hollow Rd., near Consecon, 613-394-3243; www.redtailvineyard.com.
Mad Dog Gallery 525 County Rd. 11, Picton; 613-476-7744;www.maddoggallery.ca.
Oeno Gallery 2274 County Rd. 1, Bloomfield; 613-393-2216;www.oenogallery.com.
Special to The Globe and Mail
* * *
Prince Edward County wineries that made the cut in Andrew Brooks’s Crush on Niagara:
Bergeron Estate Winery 9656 Loyalist Pkwy, Adolphustown, 613-373-0181, www.bergeronestatewinery.com.
Black Prince Winery 13370 Loyalist Pkwy, RR1 Picton, 613-476-4888,www.blackprincewinery.com.
By Chadsey’s Cairns Winery and Vineyard 17432 Loyalist Pkwy, Wellington, 613-399-2992, www.bychadseyscairns.com.
Carmela Estates Winery (now called Casa-Dea Estates) 1186 Greer Rd., Wellington, 613-399-3939, www.casadeaestates.com.
Closson Chase Vineyards 629 Closson Rd., Hillier, 888-201-2300,www.clossonchase.com.
The Grange of Prince Edward County Vineyards and Estate Winery990 Closson Rd., Hillier, 866-792-7712, www.thegrangewines.com.
Huff Estates 2274 Country Rd. 1, Bloomfield, 866-484-4667,www.huffestates.ca.
Long Dog Winery and Vineyard 104 Brewers Rd., Milford, 613-476-4140, www.longdog.ca.
Norman Hardie Winery and Vineyard 1152 Greer Rd., RR1 Wellington, 613-399-5297, www.normanhardie.com.
Rosehall Run Vineyards 1243 Greer Rd., RR1 Wellington, 888-399-1183,www.rosehallrun.com.
Sandbanks Estate Winery 17598 Loyalist Pkwy, Wellington, 613-399-1839, www.sandbankswinery.com.
Sugarbush Vineyards 1286 Wilson Rd., RR1 Hillier, 613-399-9000.www.sugarbushvineyards.ca.
Waupoos Estates Winery 3016 County Rd. 8, Picton, 613-476-8338,www.waupooswinery.com.
This article was published in The Globe and Mail on January 29th, 2010.
I feel obliged to tell you about a fine new wine from Prince Edward County. It’s called 3630 Chardonnay 2007 and it’s from the Barnyard Wine Co., a new family venture.
I feel obliged but frustrated, because you can’t buy it. It’s already sold out. And it’s not like I’ve been slow off the mark. It disappeared in zero time, which is understandable. Just 300 bottles were produced.
I normally don’t bother covering wines made in commercially insignificant quantities. I’m making an exception here because 3630 is more evidence that Prince Edward County may have something to it as a fine-wine district. Lord knows there’s been enough ink spilled on the region’s potential.
You may have heard of “the county” or, as I prefer to call it in a cheeky reference to its deep Loyalist roots, Hype on Trent. At one point in its precocious evolution as a vineyard haven, the once-sleepy, pretty peninsula on Lake Ontario at the mouth of the Trent-Severn waterway boasted more media-savvy Torontonians in aubergine Hunter Wellies per acre than vines. “Burgundy of the North,” the wine bloggers dubbed it because of its pinot-noir-friendly limestone. Never mind that Prince Edward County lies south of central Burgundy, where the world’s fine pinots are grown. (Here’s a billboard idea for the tourism board: “Prince Edward County – Burgundy of the South.”)
The first eyebrow-raising wines from the county, for my money, have been those of Closson Chase, a top-flight operation under the wine-growing supervision of Niagara veteran Deborah Paskus. There have been other fine efforts from Norman Hardie and Huff Estates, among others.
With the debut of 3630, though, it’s hard to remain on the skeptical side of the fence. It’s a compelling chardonnay. Full-bodied and creamy, with opulent flavours of tropical fruit, butter, toast and vanilla, it’s balanced by just the right amount of crisp, mouth-cleansing acidity.
Barnyard Wine Co. is owned by Laas Turnbull and wife Nancy Tong along with Turnbull’s parents, Bill and Anu Turnbull. Full disclosure: I had already been personally acquainted with Turnbull, who once worked for The Globe and Mail and now runs the division of a global publishing business based in Toronto. I was aware he had a passion for wine, style and fine living but could not picture him ankle-deep in mud with a pair of pruning shears. It’s a good thing he also knows how to delegate; he hired the good hand of Frederic Picard, winemaker at nearby Huff Estates, to make the stuff and admits his parents do the bulk of the vineyard work.
True, it’s easier to make small quantities of good wine than vast quantities of the same. More attention to less vineyard area enables you to aggressively and carefully prune each vine to obtain optimum ripeness. It’s sort of why the best tomatoes tend to come from small organic farmers – hands-on farming. The cryptic name 3630 is a reference to the number of vines per acre, which is relatively high. High-density planting forces the root systems to compete for nutrients and reach deeper into the earth for the good stuff.
But the quality of 3630 is especially surprising given that the vines are mainly three and in some cases two years old. This is their first crop. Usually wine from such infant plants is better fit for salad dressing. The corollary is that, as these vines get older, the 3630 will almost certainly get better.
The Barnyard Wine Co. plans to double production next year (still a trickle, I know) and also produce champagne-method sparkling wines based on chardonnay and pinot noir. Ontario residents interested in getting on a future subscription list for purchase can write to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This week marks the release of another very good Prince Edward County white, which I’m happy to report actually is available – through Toronto-based agency Vinifera Wine Services. Closson Chase Aberdeen Chardonnay 2007 ($44.95 through www.vinifera.com or 416-924-4004; also available through www.clossonchase.com) is not inexpensive but it’s as good or better than many California chardonnays at the price. It’s full-bodied, rich and luxuriously buttery, with a good core of ripe tropical fruit.
So much for pricey Canadian whites. Let’s turn to a bargain white from Burgundy just released in Ontario. It’s not often one gets to compose the phrase “bargain from Burgundy.” It’s also not common to come across a sauvignon blanc from that region, where chardonnay is the dominant white variety. But in the small northern district of Saint-Bris near Chablis, they specialize in the crisp, herbaceous grape that is more famously associated with the Loire Valley and New Zealand. La Chablisienne Saint-Bris Sauvignon Blanc 2008 ($14.95, product No. 641753) has a flinty, mineral-like nose followed by flavours of ripe peach and citrus and finishing with an herbal note and crisp acidity. .
And just released through the Ontario liquor board’s online-exclusive shop is a terrific red from Spain’s Ribera del Duero region. Torre Albeniz Reserva 2004 ($39, No. 149626) from Bodegas Penalba Lopez has got lots going on, including a succulent core of plum-like fruit, sweet pipe tobacco, coffee and a smear of funky barnyard earth. It’s available, along with many other limited-supply rarities, at www.vintagesshoponline.com.