It’s probably inevitable that anyone who inhabits a loud, sprawling, stinking mega-city believes at one time or another that the only antidote is some form of pastoral life. But would it truly work after a few weeks? If it was somewhere in Prince Edward County it certainly might. Until relatively recently, this large isthmus which juts into Lake Ontario was only inhabited by “Proudly Loyalist” settlers, and overlooked by much of the population of its own province, not to mention the world at large, because once upon a time people, especially Ontarians, sneered at the idea of Canadian wines. Now, however, this latest of Ontario’s appellations proves that’s no longer the case. Winemakers can safely praise such things as the “limestone purity” of their chardonnays and calcaires because over the last decade or so PEC has gained a foothold in the imagination of both connoisseurs and purveyors of enological culture.
For what was once simply a staid but sun-kissed summer land of wheat, corn and potatoes is now a booming area of blue sky thinking on vineyards and green-oriented agriculture. Wine culture has prompted food culture in general to take root as part of the county’s blissful offering, meaning artisanal cheese shops — one of which claims to be Canada’s “greenest” cheese outfit — as well as swanky little bistros, breweries and Waupoos’ County Cider Company (top four pictures), a distillery, and many more food and beverage enterprises have all added their flavour to the County experience.
However, let’s get back to the reason that prompted everyone to flock to the PEC in the first place: wine. The county is simply bursting with vineyards, wineries and tasting rooms. These vary from elegant little rustic outfits operated out of reconditioned barns to ambitious forward-thinking complexes constructed of raw concrete, to cater to the needs of high flyers from Toronto.
Huff Estates, for instance, boasts an impressive art collection, indoors and out, with installations ranging from a few hundred dollars to some which cannot be as easily carried away as a few cases of wine. It also has an inn where you can sleep off the enjoyment of one too many glasses. Sofia’s favourite experience was, however, the Hinterland Wine Company, which also raises free range chickens and has a nice little playground behind its main building for the easily bored, underage set.
Although not pictured, the adult consensus seemed to be that Norman Hardie‘s vineyard was the choice place to while away a few hours. In addition to a very welcoming tasting room Mr Hardie offers up the delights of a patio with a wood-fired pizza oven and some very drinkable glasses of wine. This is a place where they only do the things they can do very well. Which is why it was unfortunate to miss Sunday’s oyster shucking.
Winner of the most charming rustic location visited was definitely Closson Chase Vineyards. With a small air-conditioned tasting room, gallery and a beautifully landscaped garden overlooking the vineyard, you could be forgiven for wanting to take up residence.
This, unfortunately, is just a small accounting of the many delicious and satisfying enterprises taking place. The feeling of just having scratched the surface can easily leave one with a long, lingering itch to return to Prince Edward County.