Touring Prince Edward County’s Wine Country
The constant traveller: Prince Edward County’s Wine Country
Words— Kate Dingwall
For those who don't know, Canada is home to a vibrant, rich wine-growing culture that's on a sky-high trajectory. British Columbia is being touted to have Pinots that rival California, and Niagara's Hidden Bench, Southbrook and Stratus have earned spotlights on the world stage.
And then there's Prince Edward County. Just a short drive from Toronto, the man-made island is home to over two dozen wineries, a smattering of provincial parks to explore, and a sweet selection of shopping. It’s Canada's youngest wine region, but it’s gaining notoriety by churning out stellar Chardonnays, Pinot Noirs and of courses, Ice Wines. Whatever your wine of choice is, a trip to the County will find you sipping them at art-filled B&Bs, seafood shacks, and lakeside wine nooks.
Though the County is best enjoyed in the summer heat, stop in during November. You'll be greeted by a palette of fall colours, yes, but the area comes alive for the Wassail: an ancient holiday tradition of going from winery to winery to toast to the end of harvest. Wineries celebrate by breaking out limited releases and offering visitors butter tarts and stews.
Regardless of when your visit falls, Prince Edward County is full of wonderfully unique activities that make a strong case for booking a weekend getaway. Here, how to navigate your way around wine country.
Where to Drink
You can't come to wine country without indulging in a glass or two, and there's no shortage of great options in the area. Hinterland offers up beautifully effervescent bubblies (including a funky Charmat-method rose) that visitors can sip on their backyard garden, complete with firepits. Pair the bubbly with a juicy jerk chicken or pulled pork sandwich from Jerkabago.
Further down the road is Trail Estates: a haven for funky pet-nats and orange wines. This small-scale winery (it’s off the tourist track so a visit will be devoid of drunken bachelorette brigades) highlights natural processes, like barrel and skin fermentation.
Other must-try wines include Kient-he's rich Pinot Noirs (made in the Burgundian style), Grange's Cabernet Francs, Rosehall Run's Rose, and Closson Chase's Chardonnay; each vineyard is well worth stopping into. While you're in the area, be sure to try an ice-wine or a late-harvest wine: both have the grapes harvested past the usual season, so they boast a wonderfully fruity sweetness you’ll be hard-pressed to find anywhere else in the world.
If your palette is growing weary of wine, stop by Kinsip for excellent brandies, gins and whiskeys, alongside more innovative offerings like cassis and shochu. Be sure to pick up a bottle of whiskey barrel-aged maple syrup as a souvenir. Or, stop into the Old Third Cider Company. Housed in a beautifully refurbished barn, owners Bruno and Jens harvest Golden Russett apples and transform them into cider made in the Champenoise (Champagne) method: expect delicate ciders with wine-like mouthfeel and a gorgeous note of crisp apple.
Where to Eat
A summer afternoon is best spent at Sand and Pearl. The roadside spot just a stone's throw from Sandbanks Provincial Park, and boasts a spate of uber-fresh seafood and a vast local wine list to wash it down. Fogo Island stone crowd melts in your mouth, as does anything from the towering seafood platter (expect just-caught black tiger shrimp and smoked trout) but you can't leave without trying the caldosa: ceviche, rotating frequently based on availability, tossed with Doritos and served still in the bag.
Down in Bloomfield, sommelier Laura Borutski and Chef Elliot Reynolds have crafted up the ideal neighbourhood joint that is the Bloomfield Public House. Service is warm and welcoming, and the ever-shifting menu showcases the best produce of the region: like a house-made cultured butter or grilled oyster mushrooms. Beverage pairings come from local growers: the coolest cider makers and an underline of local breweries.
Over in Wellington, the newly-opened La Condesa serves up tacos on hand-made shells, with a respectable selection of vegan and vegetarian options to boot.
Where to Stay
The passion project of best friend-duo April Brown and Sarah Sklash, the June Motel is the stuff of Instagram fever dreams. Think retro-inflicted design with cheeky details like Millennial-pink walls and snappy neons. Bring your friends: the motel offers Saturday morning yoga classes (there are post-flow mimosas involved) and a lobby wine bar. For larger groups, check into the Rosé Suite: it sleeps 4-5 people, and comes complete with an in-room Rosé Bar and a private balcony.
If you're travelling with a furry friend, there's the newly-minted The Drake Motor Inn: the summery offshoot of the lauded Toronto art hotel The Drake. Twelve playful rooms channel the cheerful nostalgia of a 1960's motor inn, with The Drake's thoughtful details: guests can borrow a complimentary Polaroid camera or have their room fitted with a dog bed for Fido. Cross the street and head to sister property The Drake Devonshire to take in the sunset from the games room over a game or two of ping pong.
What to Do
To give your body a reprieve from wine, hit Sandbanks Provincial Park. For the leisure-lovers, spend a day reclining on the rolling white sand beaches and paddling about in the blue waters. For the more active, hike through the towering sand dunes and weaving forest paths.
The county is also home to rolling lavender fields, as made famous by the Instagram set. Stop into Prince Edward County Lavender Farm and get your requisite photo, but stop in the gift shop for carefully crafted lavender soaps and sleep masks.
The area is also a huge hub for antiquers: there are over ten antique shops around the region, carrying everything from mod furniture pieces to medieval weaponry. Stowaway Vintage is particularly excellent - their selection spans both chic vintage dresses and funkier home decore. If you stop to refuel with a cup of coffee, do so at The General in Wellington - the shop is home to a tiny record shop and local wares.