Time to savour a taste of the County

Ontario’s latest wine region is the yin to Niagara’s yang

IF THE NIAGARA Peninsula can call itself Napa North, then Prince Edward County could justifiably lay claim to the title of Sonoma North. The County — as those who are not “from away” refer to it — is slightly less developed and sophisticated, but, like Sonoma to Napa, it is also more rural and bucolic.

Like Pelee Island, Prince Edward County might seem an unlikely place to grow wine — an island, formerly a peninsula, that juts out into
Lake Ontario midway between Toronto and Kingston.    The dredging of the eight- km Murray Canal between 1882 and 1889 effectively cut off the County from the mainland, creating an island of 250,000 acres with an estimated shoreline of 800 kilometres. The land here is essentially a large limestone plateau, rising to its highest point at 150 metres above sea level. The presence of upper-bedrock limestone soil has attracted wine growers who seek to produce the wine lover’s Holy Grail, Pinot Noir. At the time of writing, there are 14 wineries currently operating in

So a woman comes into the bar and orders a shot. I give her the shot, she downs it, then she looks into her pocket, kind of makes a cringy face and orders another. This happens about 10 times; it just keeps repeating. So finally, me being
the curious bartender, I ask her, “What are you looking at? What’s going on in there?” and she says, “I have a picture of my husband in my pocket….    ”
When he starts to look good, that’s when I know it’s time to go home.
Heat Wave: 100 per cent agave Tequila shaken with fresh lime and guava juices, vanilla syrup and a hint of spice, garnished with a sprig of sage.
How to: In a cocktail shaker filled with ice add 1 oz. 100 per cent agave Tequila, 1 oz. lime juice, 1 oz. guava juice, 1/2 oz. house-made vanilla
syrup and 1/4 tsp. pink peppercorns. Shake sharply and strain into a tall glass with ice. Garnish with a sprig of sage.
Master mixologist Sabrina Greer of the Martini Club in the Distillery District

Prince Edward County. The major cluster is in Hillier Township. The climate there, and in Athol, North Marysburg and Hallowel, is moderated by the large bodies of water that surround the County, but the temperature is, on average, lower than that of the Niagara Peninsula. The last spring frost can be as late as mid- May, and the first frost in mid-October, giving Prince Edward a slightly shorter growing season than Ontario’s other viticultural regions. Winter is the enemy here, and, to protect the vines against polar temperatures, the growers have to bury their vines.

But for all its marginal growing season, Prince Edward County created an agri-tourism base even before it had a critical mass of wineries. It has a winery route, a taste trail and events such as the Taste!, a celebration of regional cuisine (Crystal Palace in Picton, Sept. 26,
2009). The whole idea is to draw tourists into the area — and they will come to taste the wine and dine in restaurants that have attracted celebrity chefs from Toronto, the likes of Jamie Kennedy and Michael Potters.

What P.E.C. does best are the Burgundian varieties, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, as witnessed by the wines currently being made by Norman Hardie, Closson Chase, Long Dog, Huff Estates, Rosehall Run and the Grange of Prince Edward. Given the cooler climate, rosé and sparkling wines would be a natural here.

Riesling and Pinot Gris also flourish on the island.

Post City Magazines’ wine columnist, Tony Aspler, has written 14 books on wine and food. Tony also created the Ontario Wine Awards. He can be heard on 680News.

Article exclusive to TRNTO