Image courtesy of Cindy Saunders
It is a pretty bold move of a hungry man to put himself into the category of royalty for this post, but it made a good headline so why not? This is a story of how my recent journey to Prince Edward Country (PEC) went from great to outstanding with a 'must return' note pinned to my brain. One sip of Hinterland Wine Company Charmat Rosé and a platter of British Colombia and Maine oysters was all it took to change the script from an easy-breezy trip to visit friends at their cottage, to an eye-opening wine and culinary experience.
Prince Edward County, located in Southern Ontario, Canada, is receiving attention. A great deal of attention. Its recent exposure as an up and coming tourist destination has currently reached a level where the current public relations push to declare it a 'MUST SEE' spot - and yes, it is deserving of all capital letters, just cannot be ignored.
And why should it be ignored? Well, some may wonder if it's really worth the drive (and when I say 'some', I mean Torontonians) to an area recently described as Canada's version of The Hamptons. Is it really required to trek two and half hours east of the city to explore up and coming wineries and vineyards, craft breweries, artisan galleries and incredible food?
The answer to that can be summed up with one word. Yes.
Oh, the realities behind the words of a food writer or blogger. Often, writers rarely mention the lengths they go to scoop a new culinary destination, or to find out the latest food and wine trends. It's part of the job so why bore the readers with that bit of information? I do believe that it is our job to give details - even if we deem them mundane, to give a full picture of the story, especially when it involves travelling.
I already mentioned that it takes about two hours or so from Toronto to get to Prince Edward County by car. There are other modes of transportation you could use, like taking the VIA train to Belleville. Or, if you happen to have a boat handy, you can get there by water. It's not that far, but it is a trip, so be forewarned.
The other reality of being a food writer, is maintaining the ability to remember and record what you've seen, drank or tasted. If, for example, you tour three vineyards in one afternoon, things can get hazy. But, if you did forget the name of the dish, or the vintage of the wine you drank, that's often where travel and/or dinner companions can be beneficial. They can provide - if necessary, the extra eyes, ears and mouths, or brain. If you're alone, great personal diligence and a little self control needs to be procured.
I visited three very distinct vineyards while in Price Edward Country: Huff Estates vineyard and gallery, Hinterland Wine Company and Old Third Vineyard. All three vineyards are located along Closson road in Hillier County. I was very happy to have my friends there just in case any confusion as to what wine was drunk, bought or even the name of the vineyard we actually went too was immediately rectified. But it's alright dear readers, I remembered and had written it all down. But admittedly, it was - particularly towards the end of the tour, a bit touch and go as the wine tastings really started to kick in.
Each vineyard was truly unique - and absolutely packed with people. See? The public relations push/campaign is working! Huff Estate's Pinot Noir was an instant hit for me (I have a bottle at home), and the accompanying gallery featured an outdoor sculpture garden to tour and inside, the works of local artists - including a gorgeous bronze sculpture which could be yours for a measly price of $55,000. Nice work if you can get it.
Hinterland Wine Company's sparkling wine was as good as any you'd find in the LCBO. Fresh, light and bubbly, I'd even go as far as to place it along side some of the better known Cavas from Spain or even more specifically, Segura Viudas. And the accompanying charcuterie was just the icing on the cake; please see the pictures above to get a good look at the food.
The last stop was a gorgeous, reclaimed barn serving amazing brie and asparagus crepes paired with the best cider I've tasted this side of the Atlantic. Old Third Vineyards, is run by two young men, Bruno and Jens, and it's the cider they make that truly sets it apart from the other local vineyards. Fruity, not too sweet, a lingering apple aftertaste, it was just one of those beverages that's a pleasure to put in your mouth. With a crepe stand set outside the barn, along with tables for dining and drinking, it's the perfect stop to relax and enjoy an al fresco wine tasting experience. Please scroll down for for more information about all three vineyards.
I will be returning in a few weeks, so stay tuned for more vineyard tales, the addition of beer and a review of the current PEC hotspot - the Drake Devonshire.
Huff Estates Winery, www.huffestates.com, 613.393.5802.
Hinterland Wine Company, www.hinterlandwine.com, 613.399.2903.
The Old Third, www.theoldthird.com, 613.471.0471.