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Prince Edward County Wine

Food & Wine

Wine Events in Toronto – Spring Edition

March 6, 2016
Wines from Prince Edward County, Ontario.

Some of my favourite wine events in Toronto take place in the spring. Below are a few you should check out if you’re in the city this April, they’re a perfect way to shake off the winter blues and discover new and exciting wines to help you transition into the new season.

California Carnivale – April 9, 2016 – Looking for a more relaxed atmosphere than a traditional wine tasting? iYellow Wine Club’s California Carnivale at The Burroughs Building (639 Queen Street West) might be for you. A fun and festive way to sip a range of California wines, this event always sells out because it’s such a good time. Tickets are $69 and can be purchased here.

California Wines LogoCalifornia Wine Fair – April 11, 2016 – The California Wine Fair is a fantastic opportunity to taste the best California wines available in Ontario. Last year, I tasted some stunning wines I might otherwise have missed if I didn’t attend the show. And an even bigger perk is that if you purchase your tickets via Second Harvest, $40 of the ticket purchase price goes to support the charity’s many programs. The California Wine Fair takes place at The Fairmont Royal York (100 Front Street West). Tickets are $81 (including taxes) and can be purchased here.

County in the City – April 14, 2016 – I never miss County in the City and I’m looking forward to this year, when it returns to the Berkeley Church (315 Queen Street East). This event brings the wine and food of Prince Edward County to Toronto for a fun night of sipping and shopping (you can order your favourites on site). This year’s highlights include more than 70 wines available to taste, a County vs. City Chef Challenge and live music. Tickets are $49 in advance and can be purchased here.

Food & Wine

Excellent Ontario Cabernet Franc Options

September 22, 2015

* This is a cross-post that also appears on Uncork Ontario’s 30 Days of Blogging Series – check it out for a deep dive into the Ontario wine scene.

It’s quiet at Archive Wine Bar on the afternoon of André Proulx’s recent Ontario Cabernet Franc tasting. Each of us seems slightly awed by the 47 bottles of Ontario Cabernet Franc lined up across the entire length of the bar – bottles sourced from wineries in almost every region in the province.

There is sipping, swirling and spitting, then furious note-taking as we try to capture thoughts on each wine. Are there hallmarks of the grape that are unique to the region? Does Ontario Cabernet Franc differ significantly from other Cab Franc’s we’ve tried from around the world?

Discussion happens in fits and starts – someone suggests we have to try a certain bottle, noses are turned up at another, I spill wine (of course I do), winemaker styles are compared, new wineries mentioned. It’s the sort of day made for wine geeks – a chance to really, truly explore one of the best grapes grown in this region, a grape that grows well in a cold-climate and produces some top notch bottles every year.

Bottles of Ontario Cabernet Franc wine

As a student of wine, this is an incredible opportunity and one I appreciated immensely. Cabernet Franc was the grape that pulled me into the Ontario wine scene, but I had never experienced the nuances of the wine in such a strong way before. This province is making some truly great wines right now and tasting side by side was the best way to learn about them.

Cabernet Franc is a wine that works best with food and I’d highly recommend any of the wines below to accompany your meal – especially something that goes well with the wines earthy notes. Steak, mushrooms, roasted chicken? All would work well, in my opinion.

Cave Springs 2013 Dolomite Cabernet Franc

So what wines made my heart sing and should send you straight to the winery to source a bottle? Here are a few of my favourites:

Cave Springs Cellars Dolomite 2013
– A fruit-forward nose with strawberry, cherry and a bit of green pepper. Ripe berries and spice on the palate. A long finish that left me wanting more.

Chateau des Charmes 2012 Cabernet Franc

Chateau des Charmes 2012 – This one elicited much conversation about how it punches well above its weight in terms of quality for price. A very well-made wine with raspberry notes on the nose and a palate pleasing peppery fruit finish. At $13.95 it’s an absolute steal.

Dean's List Cabernet Franc wine

Niagara College Teaching Winery 2012 Dean’s List – They make some pretty amazing wines at the Niagara Teaching Winery and this Dean’s List pick is a great example of some of the winemaking talent coming from the school. There’s some real heat on this one, good tannin and lots of cherry and raspberry notes. A reminder that I need to visit again soon.

Norman Hardie Unfiltered County Cabernet Franc wine

Norman Hardie Vineyards 2013 – One of two wines that we tasted blind, this had lots of smoked meat and red fruit on the nose, great acidity and a unique smokiness on the palate. Very different than the other wines I favoured, but very good. Best with food.

Pondview Estate Bella Terra Cabernet Franc wine

Pondview Estate Winery 2012 Bella Terra – My favourite of the day, I confess to drinking a glass (or two) of this with dinner that night. It held up just as well when I went back for another glass the next day. Raspberry, licorice, smoke and pepper on the nose, this has sweet, ripe fruit on the palate alongside earthy vegetal notes. Can I just write “nomnom” and hope you’ll get how much I liked this?

Southbrook 2013 Triomphe Cabernet Franc organic wine

Southbrook Vineyards 2013 Triomphe – Cherry, raspberry, smoke and earth combined on the nose and palate into a very enjoyable, eminently drinkable wine.

Southbrook 2012 Whimsy Cabernet Franc organic wine

Southbrook Vineyards 2012 Whimsy – Dark cherry, plum and anise on the nose, well-balanced body and palate-pleasing fruit. I’m really liking what Southbrook is doing with Cabernet Franc right now (evident since they’re the only winery with two bottles on the list this time).

Tawse 2013 Growers Blend Cabernet Franc wine

Tawse Estate Winery 2011 Grower’s Blend – Earthy nose with smoked meat, tar, vanilla and smoke. Ripe fruit with hints of vanilla on the finish. A very good wine now, an even better one in a few more years.

Vineland Estates Winery 2010 Reserve Cabernet Franc wine

Vineland Estates Winery 2010 Reserve
– Smooth on the palate, good body, lots of ripe, red fruit and hints of pepper on the nose. Drinking well now, drinking better in five years.
What do you think of these choices? Do you have a favourite Ontario Cabernet Franc? How would it stand up side by side with other Ontario options?

Many thanks to André for organizing this amazing tasting experience – you can (and should) read André’s blog here.

Food & Wine

Lighthall Vineyards’ Progression Sparkling

August 5, 2015
Progression Sparkling Wine from Lighthall Vineyards in Prince Edward County - learn how it came to be!

I recently interviewed Lighthall Vineyards’ winemaker, Glenn Symons. He had a great story about the history of his Progression sparkling wine–a personal favourite–which was too long to include in the original post. I thought it would make a great story all on its own so you can find it below in Glenn’s own words:

I had planted a large number of Vidal vines in 2009, with the intention of developing a late harvest and Icewine line of products from Vidal juice, primarily as an export product.  I had an acquaintance that had been importing large volumes of these products into China, and had assured me he would find a home for as much as I could produce.  As things go, he fell out of the market in 2010, and my sales channel dried up prior to getting the first harvest off the vines, so I was left with one of the largest plantings of Vidal in PEC without a home for the product.

Around the same time, Hinterland Wine Company was setting up to offer Charmat-method production for other wineries.  As it turns out, Vidal carries a marked acidity through late periods in the growing season, which makes it ideal as a base for late harvest and Icewine production (where the acidity helps balance the sweetness of these types of wines).  Higher acidity levels also make Vidal juice ideal as a base for sparkling wines!  Through fortuitous timing, Hinterland had a spot in their busy production schedule just in time for my first Vidal harvest, so the 2011 Vidal wine (after initial fermentation at LHV) went to Hinterland for Charmat processing, yielding the first vintage of Progression.

It has become one of my most popular products for a number of reasons. First, since Vidal is a very hardy varietal, we often get higher yields when compared to the Chardonnay and Pinot Noir that we grow, and so the cost of production tends to be lower, which allows us to keep the final price of the wine lower than the other more premium products.  Second, there is a higher demand for
sparkling wines in the marketplace, with very few producers.  Third, Charmat-produced Vidal sparkling allows for the delicate floral and mineral flavors typical to PEC-grown Vidal to shine through, without being lost to bottle-aging with yeast such as with traditional method production.  Overall, the Progression is a unique, fun, refreshing, easily quaffable wine, that is available at a very reasonable price, all made from estate-grown fruit.  And it is now made from start to finish at LHV.

You can find Progression at the winery, via their website, through The Cellar Sisters agency or you can enjoy it at one of the many restaurants now serving it throughout Ontario.

Food & Wine

A Winery is Born

January 8, 2014
Dog House White Wine From Three Dog Winery

On a recent trip to Prince Edward County, Shawn and I were able to visit the new home of Three Dog Winery. As you might remember, I blogged a while back about Three Dog’s innovative Indie GoGo campaign to raise the funds needed to complete the winery. Well, that initiative was a huge success and Three Dog is now a reality.

Three Dog Winery in Prince Edward County
The new winery building
The new winery building was filled with friends and family who were there to wish John and Sacha Squair all the best with their new business – though if the first bottling is any indication, they have more than luck on their side, there’s real winemaking talent there too. We were able to sample that first wine – Dog House White – a very refreshing and drinkable white wine blend – and both Shawn and I enjoyed it enough to take home a few bottles.
These vines were planted with love – and will be lush next spring!
PEC is home to a number of new wineries these days, but I think many of us hold a special place for Three Dog in our hearts because John and Sacha have been such incredible advocates for the area for so many years. It’s also hard not to have a soft spot for a winery you had a tiny part in building.

Interested in ordering Dog House White? You can find information on the Three Dog website, or stop by for a visit on your next trip to the County.