A trip to Prince Edward County — a Niagaran's take

Posted Jan 16th, 2011 in Beyond Niagara

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I finally went through the memory card of my Canon recently and came across these pictures of Prince Edward County. My husband and I spent a week last fall exploring Ontario's newest officially designated wine region, sampling scores of vino and food.

Overall, we were impressed. We had visited about five years ago and were underwhelmed by the number of wineries and what they offered

But Niagara's northeastern winemaking cousin — an area about two hours east of Toronto — has started coming into its own in recent years. More vintners are paying attention to grape quality and it's shining through, particularly in many chardonnays, pinot noirs, gamays and sparkling wines we sampled.

Among the standouts were old standbys: Norm Hardie Winery and Vineyard, which remains among the top wineries in the province for its premium chardonnay and pinot noir. Rosehall Run also produced some standout pinot noirs and blended reds, many for under $20.

Newcomers on the scene also impressed: Sparkling wine-focused Hinterland Wine Co. stole my heart with its stellar bubbly, particularly the rosé. We cracked that open this New Year's Eve and it was a hit. Winemaker Jonas Newman formerly worked at 13th Street Winery in Niagara, another fine sparkling wine producer. Lacey Estates Vineyard & Winery shines through with its gewurztraminer made by Kimball Lacey, who is also assistant winemaker at Closson Chase.

It isn't just wine.This region offers a sense of real agricultural roots. It's refreshing. Most of the wineries feel like working farms. It's raw and rural.

And the food is pretty fantastic. Our favourite stop was East & Main Bistro in Wellington. I loved its unpretentious casual fine dining with farm-fresh ingredients.

Other culinary winners were: Fifth Town Artisan Cheese Co. for its amazing freshly-made selection, particularly the chevre, Quinte Crest hard cheese and Lemon Fetish. Yum!

The Hagerman family offers gorgeous, colourful vegetables and fruits off their 105-year-old farm in Picton.

This thriving region is definitely worth a visit in 2011.

For more on the county go to http://www.tastetrail.ca/ and http://prince-edward-county.com/

— Monique Beech

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