Tiny wineries scattered about a region predominated by beaches and limestone makes Prince Edward County an ideal location for over 40 vineyards. Driving through the county, a sense of old-timeyness overcomes you as the slow pace elicites a sense of calm.
Dubbed the “County”, some have argued that it still very much lives in the shadow of Niagara-on-the-Lake – a likely reason it is such an attractive escape for many. Its charms are founded upon being untouched and relatively undiscovered, but as the wine quality continues to improve and impress, more enthusiasts have continued to visit and buy up the land rendering this gem not that well hidden any longer.
“The accessibility and opportunity to geek out about wine makes it a great place to be,” says Lonelle Celbo, County resident. “The wine is spectacular and world renowned – we’ve received a lot of global accolades and praise for the wines we make, but in very small quantities which is what makes it so precious. Our food is approached differently, expect a lot of outdoor festivals and chefs slinging meat over an open fire. There’s easy access to winemakers and so many of the great wine people are here, but in a different way than they are anywhere else. Any oenophile would be happy here..”
Many city dwellers opt to split their time between the metropolis of the Greater Toronto Area and the welcomed respite of the County. Wine educator and county resident, Jay Whiteley, touched on this,“It’s nice to have some time away from the hustle and bustle of the city. It’s still a burgeoning region, and there’s still exploration happening. It’s refreshing to see people taking chances that they might not have the wherewithal to do in a city and have that support of community around them. Everyone here has been so helpful and friendly.”
Winemaker Maggie Granger of The Grange of Prince Edward Winery holds a steadfast commitment to holistic practices in which she refers to as “bio-rational” and is evident throughout the winery. The idyllic setting of the tasting room perched atop a pond with farm animals puttering about gives the feeling of an English countryside farmstead with a rustic view seemingly plucked straight from a Jane Austen novel.
It’s common to see tasting rooms in the region set up in old barns, industrial production facilities, as well as in contemporary concrete and steel structures.
Granger’s wines show the defining character of the County – a natural minerality absorbed from the limestone-rich soil where the regions vineyards reside, the essence of which is highlighted in the flavour of the wine. Being on the north shore of Lake Ontario, vineyards benefit from the lake effect which regulates the temperature throughout the year shielding the County from early fall frosts. This allows the fruit to stay on the vine a little longer, developing more concentrated flavours.
There has been some controversy over the authenticity of County wine, as not all fruit is sourced from the island – many wineries import grapes from Niagara-on-the-Lake. However, the Granger family sources their fruit from their own estate, truly showcasing what county terroir is capable of.
The devotion and daily practice of supporting local really showcases the strong sense of community. You won’t find many big box stores here – neighbours support neighbours, and one degree of separation is common. The commitment to protecting this culture is palpable and fierce, and that is what makes the County so special and so delicious.