Patricia Dinsmore - Wine Writer, Event Planner and Wine Consultant

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Meet Richard Charnock - Norman Hardie Winery's Jack of all Trades

Posted on May 7, 2013 at 10:20 AM Comments comments (0)


This is it folks - we are in the final countdown to Terroir Wine Festival!  Starting with today's blog we will feature three great guys who each represent a different part of the wine scene in Prince Edward County, starting with Richard Charnock who works alongside Norm Hardie doing anything and everything that Norm needs him to do.  Richard was saying to me that it is really hard to define what his role is at the winery because a lot of it depends on what time of the year it is.  He spends a lot of time on the sales side and he does cellar work but during harvest he is at the winery implementing the teams decisions and doing day to day individual jobs.  Richard did say that once harvest is complete, the wines are happily fermenting away and those that needed to move to barrels have done so, his focus switches to licensee and LCBO sales.  Once that part of the job starts to take hold for the year, Richard finds himself spending more time in Toronto and less time out in The County at the winery.

The way Richard talks it almost sounds like this comes second nature to him and since he joined Norm full time back in 2008 a lot of it is but this is not where he thought his career would be even ten years ago.  You see, Richard went to school for accounting and, after graduation, he found work in the contracting and home renovating industry but he wanted a change.  He enjoyed the concept of food and wine pairing but with no experience in this, when he tried applying for jobs in British Columbia he found it was hard to get his foot in the door.  A winemaker from that region later told him that when it came to tasting room staff a lot of the wineries in BC had staff that returned season after season so there was very little turnover and it would be hard for Richard to find work out there.  That was where a family connection came into play...but in Ontario, not in BC.  It seemed that it was Richard's cousin who designed Norm's winery so, after a conversation with his cousin, Richard contacted Norm to see if there were any opportunities there.  They gave it a trail run - Norm picked Richard up in Toronto at 6am one day, drove him out to Prince Edward County with him and that was his first introduction to Prince Edward County...bottled that years vintage of Melon du Bourgogne.   At the time, Norm had a full crew and did not really need to add anyone else but he did have a lot of smaller contracting type jobs around the winery that needed to be completed.  In between doing those contracting jobs, plus a couple of others outside the winery, Richard spent time volunteering his time at the winery learning everything he could about how the wines were made.

From the sales standpoint, Richard does say that trying to sell Prince Edward County wines in Toronto is not without its challenges.  While there are some very forward thinking restaurants in the city, there are just as many that associate Ontario wine with what was being produced thirty plus years ago and have not moved past that opinion.  The younger generations have embraced Ontario wines and the Go Local promotion that the LCBO does every year has helped but there is still a lot of headway to be made and Richard said that those who have not given Ontario wines another try need to become a little more adventurous and expand their horizons.  Richard did say that with all the different wine styles and grapes being used by Ontario wineries, even if you have a very specific kind of menu, like Asian or Portuguese or Italian, there are Ontario wines that will pair beautifully with the food you are enjoying.  In fact, even outside of work, Richard finds he is a "product" of the industry he is a part of.  Being one of our younger "characters" in this series of blogs, Richard says that where his passion and interests lie are in spending time trying new restaurants, hanging out with sommeliers and exploring what is new and happening in his city.  He feels that when he is in Toronto he is very much an ambassador for Prince Edward County and he loves to see The County get a name for itself in the big city.

When I asked Richard where he sees the region in five years he did say that he sees the region maintaining that country feel.  Unlike other wine regions, Prince Edward County has rules in place preventing sub divisions from popping up so it will maintain that rural feel to it and where you will see is expansion in the vineyards.  Also, the wineries will probably become more site driven and the wines that will be hitting the shelves will be true representations of what the individual vineyards are capable of.  In an overall sense, The County will no longer be a secret, it will be a destination.  Richard went on to say that events like Terroir Wine Festival are the perfect opportunity to get out to The County and experience everything that makes up this great region.  While Prince Edward County is great for wines it is also the beaches, the restaurants and the cheese factories.  Places like Vicki's Veggies and The Lavendar Farm are just two examples of businesses that make The County a place for everyone.  Coming out to Terroir Wine Festival gives people the opportunity to experience something that will keep them coming back for more.  Richard says that once someone has made that first visit to The County they seem to understand why this is such a unique region and why a bottle of wine from here is unique when compared to wines from any other wine region in the world.

Richard and the entire team at Norman Hardie Wines would like to invite everyone out to Prince Edward County to experience this great region.  Terroir Wine Festival takes place on the last Saturday of May from noon until 6 pm.  If you have not had the opportunity to buy your tickets yet, head on over to http://countyterroir.ca today.  Terroir Wine Festival is held at the Crystal Palace Fairgrounds in Picton on Saturday, May 25th 2013.


County in the City - Toronto's Sneak Peek to Terroir Wine Festival

Posted on May 2, 2013 at 8:50 AM Comments comments (0)

Saturday, May 25th 2013 – The Crystal Palace Fairgrounds located in the town of Picton in beautiful Prince Edward County will become home to over twenty of the regions wineries as they gather to showcase their greatest wines and newest releases at the annual Terroir Wine Festival.  This is the ninth year for Terroir and, for the past three years, the organizing committee has also put together a great preview event called County in the City to give people in Ottawa and Toronto the chance to grab a sneak peak of the wines and wineries they will find in The County at the end of May. County in the City really is the sneak peak – only a handful of wineries venture to Ottawa and Toronto making this a smaller version of the main festival. Also, some wineries do not bring all of their wines.  Some wines may not have made it down the bottling line when County in the City takes place in April and some they simply choose to hold back and preview at the main festival.  Never fear though because there are plenty of wines to try and enjoy and a lot of great people to chat with at County in the City.

 

The number of wines available at County in the city was large enough that a “game plan” was needed. Three wineries brought sparkling wines and three other wineries brought sweeter wines that could be served as after dinner drinks. Everyone brought a variety of both white and red wines and a couple ofthem brought some Rose’s.  So, my game plan became to try all three of the sparkling wines first, end with a couple of the sweeter wines and stick with the white wines leaving the reds for Terroir Wine Festival next month, plus whatever other wineries are present that did not make it out to County in the City.  So,let us start with the three bubblies…

 

Two of them were made by Charmat method and one was made by MethodeTraditionelle.  Two were made from traditional grapes while one was made from a very non-traditional grape for sparkling wine production.  Two were white sparkling and one was a rose although it was so brilliantly red it almost looked like Pomegranate juice with bubbles. All of them were amazing and one of them has the real possibility of becoming the sparkling wine I serve at my wedding later this summer.

 

Casa Dea Estates Winery 2001 Dea’s Cuvee

$18.95 a bottle; available at both the winery, online & through the LCBO

This is one of the sparkling wines that is made by Charmat method which is a process where the bubbles are injected into the wine after the first fermentation is complete.  While this may not be the traditional way of making sparkling wines it does produce a great wine.  In this particular instance, you have a sparkling wine that is fresh and fruit with apricot and peach flavours.  You can try it on its own which is how I enjoyed this wine but I think this would also be great with fresh fruit to finish off your evening as well.

 

Lighthall Vineyards 2011 Lighthall Progression Sparkling

$20 a bottle; available at the winery or through online order

There are two unique things about this wine – first is that the Charmatmethod was used to make this wine but the second is the grapes.  This sparkling wine is made from 100% Vidalgrapes which is a very non-traditional grape to use in sparkling wine production.  The aromatics on this wine were amazing – citrus, pear and apple dominated and they continued onto the palate where the lemony citrus flavours really came into play.  I really enjoyed this wine on its own and this was definitely my favourite sparkling wine of the day.

 

Huff Estates 2010 Cuvee Janine

$29.95 a bottle; available at the winery or through online order

The colour on this wine was truly captivating.  It is a rose sparkling made from 100% Pinot Noir grapes but it is such a brilliantly bright shade of raspberry red that it almost seems odd to call it a rose sparkling. As I said, the colour is captivating and you could literally spend hours sitting there watching the tiny bubbles that only come from MethodeTraditionelle sparkling wines float up through that rich red colour but then you would miss out on the amazing aromas and flavours.  Cherry, cranberry, pomegranate, raspberries,spices and a slightly toasty aroma were all there and a lot of those aromas carried over onto the palate.  They were joined there by this light cherry cola flavour but with a great weave of acidity giving this sparkling wine great balance. 

 

Each of these sparkling wines brings something different to the tableand it really depends on what you are doing with it as to which one would be good for you.  If you are just looking for something new to try, you definitely would not go wrong with any one of them though. 

 

When it comes to the white wines that I tried that day there were a lot and a lot of them fell into the Chardonnay category.  A lot of them were the same style but there were four that stood out…and there was one non Chardonnay that I am still thinking about almost a week later.

 

Rosehall Run 2012 Liberated

$15.95 a bottle; available at the winery, online or through the LCBO

This vintage is 100% Chardonnay and it is unoaked making it the only standout unoaked Chardonnay I tasted that afternoon.  The flavours and aromas are predominantly stone fruit at this point but there is just a hint of citrus in the finish which makes me think this could develop a real citrus back bone down theroad.  There is a great weave of acidity winding its way through the palate making this wine show great balance.

 

Keint-He Winery 2009 Chardonnay

$20 a bottle, available at the winery or through online order

While the wine is 90% Chardonnay that was unoaked, they also added in 10% Pinot Meunier which had been aged for two years into the final blending.  There is a lot going on in this bottle – tons of fruit, a lot of creaminess and then just a hint of nuts (cashews and hazelnuts) with just a hint of mint.  Each sip of this wine literally does bring something different forward so this is truly an evolving wine.  You are going to want to pick up a bottle or three of this one because I don’t see it being around much longer.

 

The final two Chardonnays are from the same winery.  In fact, they are the same grapes from the same soil with just a year between them in vintages.  The reason why these two stood out amongst all the other Chardonnays I tasted this day is because it literally does show how much the weather and other terroir factors can play into the end result of a wine.

 

Lighthall Vineyards 2009 Chardonnay Reserve

$25.00 per bottle, available through the winery and online order

In the 2009 vintage, Glenn (the winemaker and owner) took one quarter of the stainless steel tank and aged it in oak for 2 months.  The end result was a wine with a lot of fruit forward characteristics, in particular citrus with a bit of tropical fruit and then just a touch of vanilla bean which came from that oak aging.  It is a style that is very Chablis in nature and oh so drinkable.

 

Lighthall Vineyards 2010 Chardonnay

$25.00 a bottle; available through the winery or online order

2010 was a warmer year and it has come out in the glass.  This wine is richer, creamier and smoky and the fact that this one was barrel fermented shows this along with the higher temperatures.  Whether you choose the 2009 with the lively fruit characteristics or the 2010 for its rich, creamy texture is all a matter of personal preference. For me, the 2009 shines above the 2010 but it is because I love those kinds of flavours in what I drink.

 

As I mentioned above, there was another white wine that was not a Chardonnay that a week later is still lingering in my brain.  Exultet Estates in the south end of PrinceEdward County has made a wine in a style that is typical of sparkling wine but not of table wine.

 

Exultet Estates 2012 Mysterium

$30 a bottle; available at the winery only

This wine is 100% Pinot Noir but it is white.  All this simply means is that when the grapes were harvested they did not have any skin contact so the wine did not receive any colour.  The great thing when wineries make a wine like this is that it invariably surprises the drinker with what flavours and aromas they are sensing. The expression “we eat with our eyes” extends to what we drink as well so if you know Pinot Noir you are expecting flavours of sour cherry, some earthiness, etc but because this is a white wine and there really aren’t any white wines that have this flavour profile, when you take that first sip of this wine it gives a lot of people a little bit of a surprise as to what your taste buds are tingling with.  Mysterium does not fail in this aspect – it has all the flavours that one expects from Prince Edward County Pinot Noir but without the colour.  It is a real treat.

 

Before we proceed to the sweet wines, there was one other wine that Ifeel deserved a mention.  This is the wine for people who are just starting out in the world of wine.  This is the wine for people who like the rose wines from California but want to try something local instead.  This is the wine that will show you what a hybrid grape like Frontenac Gris is capable of.

 

Karlo Estates 2011 Frontenac Gris Rose

$16.00 per bottle; available at the winery or through online order

Richard made this wine in an off dry style so there is a bit of residual sugar to this wine.  The flavours are a lot of candied apple, rhubarb and cherry.  The candied apple almost gives that cotton candy flavour to the wine but the rhubarb and the cherry reigns that sweetness in and allows it to finish almost dry. There is just a bit of spice to this but not a harsh spice that you would associate with red wines...it is more like cinnamon or nutmeg and there is only a little bit so that it does not over power the rest of the flavours.  If you have someone you are trying to introduce to the world of wine, this is definitely one to try.  In fact, I have turned a couple of friends at my other job onto this wine because I am positive they will fall in love with it.

 

So, now it is time for our sweet wines. There were two that really stood out for me.  One is an older vintage and the other is a new spin on a favourite of mine.

 

Keint-He Winery 2008 Pineaux Sauvage

$25.00 per bottle; available through the winery or online order

People, the price on this wine has dropped because the winery needs the space for other wines.  This is not lasting at this price so get your hands on this.  Pineaux Sauvage is a Botrytis Affected Pinot Noir and now that this wine is approaching five years from harvesting, there are some very interesting flavours developing in the bottle.  There is an almost nutty component to it like Sherry from Spain has or like a slightly aged Madeira.  There are flavours of dried apricots and marmalade with a hint of Earl Grey tea and truffles to round out the palate.  This is one you want to get your hands on.

 

Karlo Estates 2010 VanAlstine White

$29.00 per bottle; available at the winery or through online order

This wine is made up of mostly Frontenac Blanc (82% worth to be precise) with 18% Gewurztraminer added in. The aromas are predominantly rose petal, lychee and apricot and they flow seamlessly onto the palate where they add in just a hint of maraschino cherry, a string of acidity and amazing balance. This is most definitely another hit for Richard and Sherry and it is one that will not last.  Be sure to get some while they still have bottles left.

 

Like I promised at the beginning of this blog, I do have a very special “sneak peek” to share with all of you. At County in the City I did try one red wine…and it took the winemaker himself convincing me to try this wine. I won’t give you too much information but I will tell you that this wine is an absolute first for any of the wineries in The County.  Even if you missed out on County in the Citylast week, you will want to make sure you make it out to Terroir Wine Festival next month.  When you get there, make sure you make your way over to Casa Dea Estates Winery’s table and ask Paul about Adamo.  It is a fascinating story and even more so a captivating wine.  Terroir Wine Festival takes place on Saturday, May 25th 2013 at the Crystal Palace Fairgrounds in Picton, ON.  For tickets and more information on the event, please go to http://countyterroir.ca

 

Meet Lia Spinosa of Exultet Estates - Looking for a change in atmosphere and a quiet way of life

Posted on April 30, 2013 at 5:50 AM Comments comments (0)


There is a recurring theme amongst a lot of the winery people in Prince Edward County.  A large number of them originally lived in the Toronto area and wanted a quieter way of life to raise their families in so when Prince Edward County came calling they made the jump, almost the leap of faith, bought land and became the latest transplants to the area.  Lia and her husband Gerard of Exultet Estates are just one example of this practice.  Lia used to teach and also worked in the travel and tourism trade but her and Gerard decided they wanted a change of scenery to raise their family in and a change in lifestyle.

Fast forward to the present day and you will find Gerard most days dealing with the wine while Lia takes care of everything administrative within the winery.  Lia said to me that she pretty much takes care of whatever Gerard asks her to take care of and that includes everything from administrative duties to sales within the winery, tasting room, the bottling line as well as sales and marketing.  Exultet Estates does have two workers during the summer months to help them out but it is basically just the four of them and it makes the job tasks wide and varied.  In fact, Lia did take a moment to share with me that although the quieter pace of life is what drew her family to move to The County, it is also one of the biggest reasons she thinks people should make a trip out to the region.  Even as a short weekend visit or a day spent travelling through the wineries, there is nothing like that slower pace and relaxed atmosphere and it is what keeps people coming back for more.  Just from my own perspective, I have to agree whole heartedly with Lia on this one.  As much as I love all of the wine regions of Ontario, there is something unique about Prince Edward County that makes all of us coming back for more.

Now, Exultet Estates is located in the southern area of Prince Edward County and like their neighbours like Lighthall Vineyards and Long Dog Winery, their biggest challenges centre around exposure and the sales and marketing stand point.  Everyone in this area has kept it small, simple and have taken a purist approach.  They do not bring in outside grapes and they do not have the funds for extra staff so they are very hands on with everything they do for the winery.  Even when it comes to marketing, their solutions have to be creative and it is something that Lia has become very skilled at.  Terroir Wine Festival does a lot to help them out in this regard because it gives them exposure to visitors to Prince Edward County that they may not receive otherwise.  Having said all of this, you can see that although bringing people through their doors is their greatest challenge, it is one that Lia has risen to and it is the source of their biggest triumph.  Combined with the medals they are winning for their wines, their loyal repeat customers keep coming back for more...and by the case instead of by the bottle.

I asked Lia what she thought the hidden gems of the region were and I love the fact that she focused on the culinary side of the region.  Over the last few years we have seen just as many people from the culinary field move from the big city out to Prince Edward County as we have seen winery people do.  There are no shortage of chefs in the region and they are now seeing an expansion in the number of artisinal cheese factories and farms making the entire region becoming a culinary and wine destination.  Events like Countylicious in both the spring and the fall as well as Vicki's Veggies and the cheese factories that are great to stop by during the summer months make for a great day of touring the southern area of The County. Even with Terroir Wine Festival, the wineries proximity to the Crystal Palace means that they are the closest group of wineries once you leave there for the afternoon making them the perfect drop in wineries as you head out of Picton.

Lia mentioned that in the next five years there may not be a lot of expansion in terms of either their vineyard or the wineries in the region but there will be growth.  In terms of their own vineyard, Exultet Estates may add a couple more acres but Lia does not see the vineyard growing any larger than 10 acres.  The expansion will be in the complexity of the wines and the expansion of their name in the wine scene.  As the vines grow deeper into the soil, there will be added complexity to their already amazing wines.  It will almost feel like a re-emergence of their great portfolio of wines as the flavour profile could change significantly over the next couple of years.  Combine this with their continued growth in the regions wine scene and they will find new customers beating a path to their doors. 

Terroir Wine Festival is a big event for Lia and her husband with Exultet Estates. It is their third year being involved and they love the opportunity they have to meet with new customers.  They would also love to see everyone come through the doors of the winery whether it be after leaving the festival or at a later point.  A trip to this little corner of Prince Edward County is well worth the trip and Lia and Gerard would be more than happy to show you around their little tasting room, tell you the story behind their wines and share their insights as to where else to visit in their area.  They hope to see everyone at Terroir Wine Festival and if you have not had the opportunity to buy your tickets yet, head on over to http://countyterroir.ca today.  Terroir Wine Festival is held at the Crystal Palace Fairgrounds in Picton on Saturday, May 25th 2013.


Please Welcome Sherry Martin - Prince Edward County's biggest cheerleader

Posted on April 23, 2013 at 11:20 AM Comments comments (4)

 


PASSIONATE – There is no other word to describe how Sherry Martin from Karlo Estates presents the winery and the Prince Edward County region she has come to call her home.  If you have ever had a conversation with Sherry, you will leave wondering “where have these wines been all my life?” Sherry is a visual story teller and when you sit down at the tasting bar at Karlo Estates, she will tell you an all encompassing tale of how these wines are made, why the region is great and why you must come to Prince Edward County.

 

Being a former “416 girl” living in downtown Toronto and now living in Prince Edward County (The County) for a number of years, Sherry commented to me there are still a number of people who think she lives in Prince Edward Island. 


Sherry said that originally the cooler climate proved challenging in the County but now with a technique called “hilling up” which is the process of burying the vines after they harvest each fall, County wineries are getting good yields and great quality grapes.

 

The focus is now on getting people to experience the wines from this region and to discover they are truly spectacular.  It is almost like people need outside validation that the wines are great and this is where the international wine media comes into play.  I have a favourite quote from Jancis Robinson that perfectly ties into this belief.

 

“The wines are truly eye opening, especially for the great majority of wine lovers who think that all Canada is good for is ice wine.”

 

Jancis is not the only one who finds the wines of Prince Edward County outstanding.  Matt Kramer from Wine Spectator magazine in California has written “It’s like discovering that Chablis had a long-lost brother who emigrated to Canada and was never heard from again until now.”  and calls Ontario  “the World's Least-Known Great Wine Zone”

 

From Sherry’s standpoint, the critics have found the County and it is time for everyone else to discover us too.  Prince Edward County is authentic – there are no big “conglomerate” wine companies here. It is all independent, family run, small ownership groups of friends who have come to live their dream in this region. While this makes it unique in the wine industry, it also means the marketing dollars are not there the way they are in Niagara or California. 

 

The wineries have to be creative in getting their name out there and this is where social media has played a huge roll.  Blogs from wine writers, small regional festivals like Terroir, Wassail and Taste, and social media including Facebook,Twitter and Instagram all help immensely in promoting the wineries.  This may seem like a lot of work but it is also half the fun because Sherry and her fellow winery owners are helping to build a place that has been touted as “Canada’s first cult wine region”.

 

Sherry is one half of the ownership team at Karlo Estates– her fiancé, Richard Karlo, being the other half of this enterprise and the man behind the wine.  They split the duties down the middle – Richard is responsible for everything in the bottle and Sherry is responsible for everything outside the bottle.  Sherry’s background is in art direction and marketing so when she and Richard decided to pursue building a winery it was Sherry who designed the logo and labels. 

 

Sherry takes care of sales, marketing, overseeing staff training, everything PR related and she does it all magnificently.  There are very few wineries in the entire province of Ontario that take such an in depth approach to showing the marriage of food and wine and in Prince Edward County, Karlo Estates is one of the best tasting experiences you will ever encounter. They tailor the experience to the individual.   Wine newbie’s will receive an overall comprehensive tasting that will include food and wine pairings teaching them everything from how to hold the glass to how to engage all five senses while enjoying the wine. Sommeliers would get a focus more on how the wine was made. 

 

So, how did Sherry get her start in the wine industry?  This is a truly great story.  Sherry was working in Toronto, as an art director at a top ad agency with a couple of big clients who were involved in the world of wine.  Novotel Hotels always had a wine promotion of one sort or another going on in their restaurants and as the art director for their account she needed to immerse herself in all things wine.  So her education began.  One of her other clients, Altamira, held an annual wine dinner which further extended her wine knowledge and then she met Richard, a master winemaker and judge with the Wine Judges in Canada.  Now, Sherry tells me that under normal circumstances their paths would have never crossed but they both signed up for Lavalife and had wine as a common interest.  As Sherry says, the rest is history. 

 

Richard introduced Sherry to the world of Ontario wine.  He had been making wine as a homewinemaker for over 25 years and had enough wine in his home in Ajax to fill every room.  Eventually, the winery became a necessity… Karlo Estates is really a hobby that got out of hand.  The vineyards have expanded since the initial planting and the styles of wine have expanded as well.  Karlo Estates is the first winery in Prince Edward County to make a Port style wine and they are the first to make a White Port as well.  To add to the mystery, Karlo Estates does not use the grapes that other wineries have used when they make Port style wines – Richard uses a new hybrid varietal, Frontenac.

 

These ports have been a great success. The VanAlstine Red was named among the top ten cutting edge wines in the World and the VanAlstineWhite got the only gold medal in the International InterVin Awards in the category of fortified wine. Incidentally, Richard's Chardonnay CHOA – a wine wild fermented in barrels make of four different County woods, Cherry, Hickory,Oak and Ash, was also named among the top ten cutting edge wines in the worldmaking Karlo Estates the only winery to make the list twice.

 

So where does Sherry see Karlo Estates and Prince EdwardCounty in the next five years?  The twenty something’s that are now expanding their horizons into the world of wine will become the back bone of what this industry will become.  The wine media are calling Prince Edward County the hidden gem of North America’s wine industry.  Combine the extra complexity of the soils with the cool climate this region offers and it will equate to exceptional food wines with higher acidity to cut the fats and creams in food, lower alcohol and greater complexity. 

 

There is absolutely nothing that beats a trip to Prince Edward County at this time of the year. The wineries are a little quieter so you can take the time to chat with the owners and winemaker's themselves. The scenery is beautiful with rolling bucolic farm land all around and an authentic wine country rural environment.

 

There are great County wine events this spring including County in the City Toronto and County in the City Ottawa, both in April.  Terroir, the annual wine festival in Prince Edward County takes place the last Saturday in May. Nothing replaces the experience of being in the place where the wine was made. 

 

Sherry's closing comment; “There is something inherently relaxing when you cross the bridge and head into Prince Edward County for a day of tasting. The stress of the city just slips off your shoulders while wine country awaits.”

 

 

Photo Credit and special thanks to Andy McCraw Photography for this amazing photo of Sherry

Sherry really does believe that there is no place in the world like Prince Edward County and that is why she wants to invite everyone out to Prince Edward County in May to experience the Terroir Wine Festival and everything the region has to offer.  For more information about Terroir Wine Festival and to order tickets, please go to http://countyterroir.ca.  Terroir Wine Festival takes place on Saturday, May 25th at the Crystal Fairgrounds in Picton, ON from 12 noon to 6pm.  Tickets are now available.


 

Meet JJ Syer - Rosehall Run's resident "grocer"

Posted on April 16, 2013 at 10:45 AM Comments comments (0)

Working in wine is a natural extension of where JJ started her career.  Her background prior to joining Rosehall Run was in the restaurant industry and included working with famed chef Michael Potter at Harvest Restaurant in Picton.  When the restaurant closed JJ had just become a mom and decided it was time to slightly shift focus in her career.  She wanted to stay closely tied to the hospitality industry but with a young daughter at home needed a better schedule than working in restaurants typically allowed for.  She found that with Rosehall Run where she has become their tasting room manager and also works on events and running their Greer Road Grocer which will have their grand re-opening on May 4th and 5th 2013.  Greer Road Grocer started out as a joint project with other local artisans offering cheeses and charcuterie from the store at the winery for people looking for lunch or snack items all in one place.  This year will see an expansion in the product line and promises to be quite a spectacular extension to the wines that Rosehall Run offers from their tasting room so be sure to check it out the next time you are in Prince Edward County.  JJ also takes care of local licensees for the winery as well as some accounting duties.


When I asked JJ what she feels the challenges and triumphs wineries in Prince Edward County face she tied it all into the consumer.  Prince Edward County is at the point Niagara was twenty years ago.  Back then, the average consumer did not think wine was possible from Niagara or even Canada in general.  Today, there is accolade after accolade, award after award to prove otherwise for the wineries of Niagara.  Prince Edward County is starting to receive this type of recognition but it is not to the point where the average consumer is willing to give a lot of the wines of the region a chance.  On the other end of that scale, those that do know that Prince Edward County is a legitimate wine region with great wines, they think of a lot of it as expensive and not for the every day kind of wine consumer.  That is where the obstacle is - getting the Ontario wine drinker to realize that not only does Prince Edward County make great wines but that they also have wines at a variety of price points.  So, if you want a bottle of wine to pair with a Wednesday night pizza dinner there is a wine for that or if you want a bottle of Chardonnay or Pinot Noir for a special dinner, you will be able to find something in that category as well.  It is starting to happen and people are starting to realize but it still needs some time.


JJ says that maybe five years down the road we will start to see that stability, start to see more and more returning and loyal customers.  There will be continuous growth and there are an expanding number of infrastructural businesses popping up throughout The County that will help in supporting the tourism industry that Prince Edward County is becoming.  Having said that JJ does say she sees wineries sticking with what they know they can do well.  Certain vineyards are suited to certain grape varieties and as much as there is experimentation still there will be a point when wineries will look at what is planted and stick with what works for their business.  The variety will still be there because of the soil differences and the climatic changes within the different pockets of The County but consumers will go to the wineries for specific wines and that is what will generate those repeat loyal customers the wineries of this region deserve.  In a sense, Terroir Wine Festival plays into this growth because it is the opportunity to try a variety of wineries from the various pockets of the region and find the wines you love the most. 


I ended my phone chat with JJ by asking her what she likes to do in her spare time and, for her, it came back to what her background is in - the hospitality industry. JJ says there is always something new to try in the region whether it is a new restaurant or a new vintage at the wineries, there is always something new.  That is why JJ wants to invite everyone out to Prince Edward County in May to experience the Terroir Wine Festival and everything the region has to offer.  For more information about Terroir Wine Festival and to order tickets, please go to http://countyterroir.ca.  Terroir Wine Festival takes place on Saturday, May 25th at the Crystal Fairgrounds in Picton, ON from 12 noon to 6pm.  Tickets are now available.


Meet Vida Zalnieriunas - one of Prince Edward County's female pioneers

Posted on April 9, 2013 at 11:45 AM Comments comments (0)


To say that Vida and her husband come from a very different background than a lot of the other winery owners in Prince Edward County may be a bit of an understatement.  Originally from Toronto, Vida is a therapist who still has a practice here in Prince Edward County while Richard spent many years in the political game with positions ranging from actual politician to related jobs within the field.  It was actually one of these positions that brought Richard out to this end of the province and planted the seed that would become their vineyard and the winery By Chadseys Cairns in the years to come.  The land where the vineyards now stand was bought but it was not originally planned to become a vineyard.  Richard came to the conclusion that the land would be a great place to plant a vineyard but it took a few years of convincing Vida before they actually went ahead and planted it.  Today, that original vineyard is the one right behind the tasting room and it is home to the first commercial vinifera vineyard planted in Prince Edward County comprised completely of Riesling vines.


Riesling was chosen partly due to its winter hardy nature but also because it is a favourite wine of Vida and Richard and in a region like Prince Edward County, surviving the winter is an all consuming concern.  In Vida's opinion, and it is one that is shared with a lot of the winery owners in the region, the climate and surviving the winter is one of the biggest challenges they face.  There is a method that has had success but it is so laborious and Vida says it would almost be beneficial to be a psychic or even a weather forecaster so that they could predict what the weather would do from year to year.  Vida shared with me a little story as to how they developed this method.  It was the second or third year after planting the Riesling vineyard when Richard noticed one day that there was some bud damage to the vines after a spring frost.  Vida and Richard had been working with Martin Gemmrich who owns a nursery in Niagara from the beginning so they worked with him further to see what could be done to save the vines.  After a bunch of experimenting, a low trained vine system was developed combined with burying the vines once harvest was completed in the fall and before the temperatures started to turn cold in November.  It does not give a lot of time because harvest can extend as late as the middle to back half of October but if you want the vines to survive the winter it is a necessary step each fall.  That is why Vida says that although the weather and the climate is one of their biggest challenges, it is also the source of one of their biggest triumphs.  Like most of the wine pioneers our province has seen, their ideas were originally scoffed at but as time proceeded and the province experienced a couple of extremely cold winters, some of the other wineries in the other wine regions came to Vida and Richard to have them show them how they trained those vines so low to the ground.  If you say the name By Chadseys Cairns or Vida and Richard's name in the wine community of Ontario, it has become synonymous with winter survival for vineyards.


Although Vida loves what she does she has said that by the time five years from now rolls around, she does see the winery sold.  When they originally bought the land and then subsequently planted the vineyards, the plan was to sell the business around the time that Richard reached retirement age.  That date has come and gone and, in fact, when Richard hit "retirement" age, they decided they were not ready to sell the business at that point. However, due to the hard work, the 24/7 nature of owning a winery and their age, they do not plan to do this forever.  When they originally opened, Vida was the winemaker and she worked in the tasting room and the vineyards - she did everything.  Today, she has a winemaker working alongside her and she is more the assistant winemaker.  She does work in the tasting room and the vineyard but she also has a small therapy practice on the side so she keeps herself busy.  When she does have a few spare moments, she does love to curl up with a good book or watch a movie with Richard - they are both big movie buffs. The book of the moment for her is a biography on Karl Marx but she loves historical based books and even textbooks on a variety of topics.


When I mentioned Terroir Wine Festival to Vida and asked her a few questions about how she feels about it, it was like I was taking her to a favourite place.  Terroir Wine Festival, and the beautiful Crystal Palace Fairgrounds in Picton feel like a relaxing way to spend a day.  It is the chance to catch up with friends, try amazing wines from all over The County, see what is new and great in the region and even meet new people who have only heard about the great things Prince Edward County is doing.  To follow it up, when you leave the Crystal Palace, there are many great businesses to check out and explore even further.  There are some great favourites, like Milford Bistro, but there are new restaurants like The Hubb at Angelines or Agrarian PEC with their cheese market, bistro, cafe and speakeasy with live entertainment, there is something new to check out in the area.  Maybe shopping is your preference - Prince Edward County is home to a lot of unique shops and some great antique markets throughout the area.  Everywhere from Carrying Place where you enter The County south of Trenton, to Bloomfield and Picton, there are lots of great businesses where you can find unique finds at great prices.  Whether you have never been to Terroir Wine Festival or you are a regular attendee, Vida invites you to Prince Edward County at the end of May to experience everything the region has to offer.  For more information about Terroir Wine Festival and to order tickets, please go to http://countyterroir.ca.  Terroir Wine Festival takes place on Saturday, May 25th at the Crystal Fairgrounds in Picton, ON from 12 noon to 6pm.  Tickets are now available.

Please Welcome Mary Macdonald - Our first female character of the series

Posted on April 2, 2013 at 10:25 AM Comments comments (0)


You may have noticed a trend in the first four blogs we have done leading up to Terroir Wine Festival- they have all been guys.  That is not to say that there are no great female characters to our story but we wanted to wait to introduce you to them further into the series.  Today we meet our first female character - Mary Macdonald of Stanners Vineyard.  Mary, along with her husband Colin and Colin's parents - Cliff and Dorothy - are the owners of Stanners Vineyard in the west end of Prince Edward County.  At the time that Colin and Mary decided to pursue their passion and open a winery they were living in the Silicon Valley of California.  Colin worked in the consumer electronics industry but something did not feel right...the spark and the passion for this career path he had chosen was just not there.  Colin's parents had gone on a bike excursion through Prince Edward County and when they were telling Colin and Mary about it Colin said what a great place it would be to have a winery there.  That is when Colin's mom piped up and said that there were already wineries opening in the region.  The hunt was on from there and, after searching the MLS website they found the property that is now Stanners Vineyard.

Colin and Mary packed up their family, moved back up to Canada and made their way out to Prince Edward County.  The adventure has not been without its challenges and, in fact, Mary equates this endeavour to being three learning curves all tied into one - grape growing, wine making and small business ownership.  All three were foreign territory to them when they bought the land but, with the help of others, they have learned a lot through the years.  Grape growing in a region like Prince Edward County has its own unique set of challenges that other wine regions do not necessarily face.  Burying the vines and hilling up does not happen in the vineyards of California but it has to happen in Prince Edward County so that the vines survive from year to year.  Stanners Vineyard is taking an organic approach to their viticultural practices so there is a new set of challenges.  The proper schedule for organic spraying, canopy development, how much to pull when leaf pulling - all have had to have been learned but, thankfully, there has been help from both family and neighbours alike.  If Colin and Cliff have any prior experience in running a winery it could be said that it starts with the winemaking.  Both have dabbled at amateur winemaking over the years so the basic foundation is there but with professional winemaking there is a lot more to learn.  Oak management is just one of many topics that amateur winemakers do not have to worry about for the most part.  So, next comes the small business side of operating a winery.  Mary pointed out that no one in the family has a background in marketing or advertising so finding marketing practices that work for Stanners Vineyard has been a learning curve for her.  Twitter and Facebook have become a part of the business and their location along the Loyalist Parkway is a big help but to access the winery itself you do have to watch for their signs because you cannot turn in off the parkway like you can with some of the other wineries.  Having said that, even with all the challenges of opening this winery, there have been some incredible triumphs over the years.  Tying into their organic practices in the vineyard, when the family turned to creating the building that would house the winery, they wanted to take a similar approach.  The building itself is of a straw bale construction which, when completed, was a triumph for the family.  The wines are great triumphs as well.  Mary says that Colin has this incredible patience tied into his passion for making amazing wines and it shows in the glass but that patience also comes with impeccable timing because as they need wines for the tasting room they are coiming to fruition in the barrels.  That in itself is an incredible triumph and last, but not least, is the fact that the Stanners have been able to remain true to their vision and retain the essence of what they hoped to create when they decided to move forward and open a winery.  When you walk through the doors at Stanners Vineyard you are greeted in a small, quaint generally quiet tasting room.  The winemaking equipment and the barrels are side by side with you as you taste the wines and enjoy the atmosphere.  The winery is simple and uncomplicated and oh so relaxing.  You could literally spend an hour enjoying the wines with Mary or Colin and sharing stories and not even realize how much time has passed.  Their passion for making great wine comes through in the glass and in having a conversation with them.

When I asked Mary how she felt about the Terroir Wine Festival and what it means to the wineries of Prince Edward County, she had a different approach with her answer.  The Terroir Wine Festival is the wineries chance to present their public face to wine consumers.  Depending on how long a wine lover has been drinking wine they may still have the perception that Ontario wine is the same as it was back in the late 1970's.  We have grown by leaps and bounds since then but there is still the perception that wines from old world regions or California are better.  The wines from those regions are great but Ontario wines have come a long way since then and this is the opportunity to change that perception.  For some people, a blind tasting may be necessary to change their minds about Ontario wines but for those who are "on the fence", Terroir Wine Festival gives them the chance to try a bunch of different wines from a bunch of different wineries all in one building.  Like everyone else, I asked Mary what she thought the "hidden gems" of Prince Edward County were.  She mentioned a variety of great restaurants and other small businesses - Milford Bistro, Jackson Falls Inn and The Acoustic Grill - but also said that whenever a new business starts up in Prince Edward County it is opened with a passion for what they do and for being a part of the great region that Prince Edward County is.  Incidentally, from my own opinion, I do think Stanners Vineyard falls into the hidden gem category largely due to the fact that although you can see them from the Loyalist Parkway, if you miss the sign pointing them down the road where you enter the property, you will find yourself wondering "how do I get there?".

While a lot of our previous "characters" have not had any extra time for hobbies or other interests (such is the life of a winemaker), Mary does confess that during the winter months she does have time to pursue her passion of art.  When you walk through the door into the tasting room, you will see a painting above the tasting bar - that is the product of an art class Mary took along with other art courses between 2006 and 2010.  She graduated in 2010 from Queens University in Kingston with a Honours Bachelor of Fine Arts degree.  Her real passion is in 3D art like sculpture but she did enjoy the painting class as it was her first experience working with oil paints.  Mary and the rest of her family would like to invite you to visit their table at Terroir Wine Festival.  You will not be disappointed and you are sure to find a wine or two to suit your tastes.  For more information about Terroir Wine Festival and to order tickets, please go to http://countyterroir.ca.  Terroir Wine Festival takes place on Saturday, May 25th at the Crystal Fairgrounds in Picton, ON from 12 noon to 6pm.  Tickets are now available.


Meet Glenn Symons - the man behind Lighthall Vineyards

Posted on March 26, 2013 at 5:25 AM Comments comments (0)


Up until now, our focus has been on the wineries in the west end of Prince Edward County. Today, we are going to shift that focus and take a look at our first winery from the south end of the region - Lighthall Vineyards.  Glenn purchased the winery from its previous owners back in 2008 who had simply been grape growers selling to some of the other wineries in The County.  When he purchased it in 2008 it was with the goal of opening as a winery himself and in 2011 he accomplished that task.  In between 2008 and the opening in 2011, Glenn worked alongside the previous owners to learn the viticultural and agricultural practices behind grape growing and, when the grapes were harvested from the vineyard that fall, he accompanied them to Huff Estates where he spent the next year learning the winemaking side of owning a winery.  He has taken a few wine courses via correspondence since then through UC Davis but everyday is a learning experience in this type of career and Glenn loves the challenges and experiences he encounters owning a winery.  At the winery, Glenn does everything!  He and his family live in Kingston so he has a daily commute to and from the winery.  Once he makes it to the winery, he is the one to accomplish everything - sales, marketing, winemaking, vineyard maintenance - anything and everything that needs to be done at a winery on any given day is done by Glenn and, in order to keep costs low, this is how he prefers to do it.  He says that, maybe, down the road, he will be able to afford to hire someone to take some of the load of his shoulders but, for now, this is how he gets everything done on a day to day basis.  Outside of the winery, he has four kids, so free time for hobbies or interests does not really happen at this point but who knows what the future holds.

Glenn says the challenges of owning a winery in the southeast region of The County are there.  Agriculturally, a lot of the practices are the same - the challenge comes in the sales and marketing side.  The wineries of the southeast do not have the drive by traffic that the west end wineries enjoy.  The lack of traffic passing their doors makes it necessary for these wineries to watch their dollars just so that they can make a profit.  As a result, advertising dollars are kept at a premium amongst these wineries and events like Terroir are one true opportunity to get their name, and their wines, out there.  So often, at events such as these, you hear people comment "I didn't know there were wineries down there" referring to the south end of Prince Edward County.  An event like Terroir Wine Festival, or the other events surrounding the festival, makes it the perfect opportunity to have people taste the wines of the south.  Agriculturally, and not so much a challenge but simply an existing situation, is the difference in soils between the west end and the south end.  As an example that Glenn pointed out to me, Chardonnay from the south end of The County is completely different from Chardonnay in other areas of Prince Edward County.  It has made their lands extremely sought after by other wineries wanting to try their hand at a different style of Chardonnay but, in reality, it really just shows the different styles that Chardonnay is capable of even within one small region like Prince Edward County.  It may turn out you enjoy both or you may prefer one type over the other - either way, it just adds to the diversity of the region and may give you cause to venture down to this area of Prince Edward County the next time you are in search of a glass of Chardonnay.

The wineries of the south east are boutique - even more so than the wineries at the other end of Prince Edward County - so their production levels are small but this makes them truly artisinal.  They do not make enough to make it into the LCBO so they have a bit of a cult following with customers returning now for those specific wines they have come to enjoy.  When venturing to wineries like Lighthall Vineyards and their neighbours you are more likely to find wines that are "purist".  It is rare to see these wineries use grapes brought in from other areas and, as a result, the customers that beat a path to their door tend to be people that enjoy the great wines of our world rather than those wanting to try something new.

This is why Terroir Wine Festival is such a big deal to these wineries.  Terroir Wine Festival draws people in wanting to visit as many of their favourites in one room but when they take a moment and look around to see who else is there, the wineries of the south east invariably fall into their sight line.  So, maybe you are attending Terroir Wine Festival again or you are a first time visitor - take a look at the wineries of the south end and you may just find a new favourite wine (or two) amongst those wineries.  Take a drive down to that area of Prince Edward County, which will be the closest wineries to the Crystal Palace Fairgrounds anyway, and see what else the region has to offer.  Aside from the few small wineries of the region, Glenn says there is one other "hidden gem" of the area - Milford Bistro.  They have been there for years and have a steady stream of return customers.  They have had numerous outstanding reviews of their food and they are packed all summer long but they still remain a hidden gem of the region because of where they are located.  Glenn is sure that the region will grow and they will become more visible but it will take time he thinks.  Maybe that will be the goal for the next five years?  Truth be told, the region is not likely to see an expansion in the number of wineries - there are no new vineyards planted waiting to come "online" but maybe there will be more visibility and more infrastructure to the region putting these "off the beaten path" wineries on the map. 

Glenn and the wineries of the south end of Prince Edward County invite you to visit Terroir Wine Festival and, afterwards, venture down to their area of The County to see everything their small little corner has to offer.  You will not be disappointed and you are sure to find a wine or two to suit your tastes.  For more information about Terroir Wine Festival and to order tickets, please go to http://countyterroir.ca.  Terroir Wine Festival takes place on Saturday, May 25th at the Crystal Fairgrounds in Picton, ON from 12 noon to 6pm.  Tickets are now available.

Introducing Brian Hanna - Huff Estates Sommelier

Posted on March 19, 2013 at 11:30 AM Comments comments (0)

Brian is not new to the wine industry having been trained as a sommelier, worked in the restaurants of Montreal and the Eastern Townships and then moving to Prince Edward County where he has spent almost 7 years working as Huff Estates Sommelier.  Brian has been in the wine industry for the last forty years and moved to Prince Edward County in 2006 after a weekend spent in Prince Edward County where he met Frederic Picard and Norm Hardie.  When he initially moved to Prince Edward County, Brian spent some time acclimatizing himself to the region and then, after a conversation with Lanny Huff, joined the team at Huff Estates and has not looked back.

When you walk through the doors at Huff Estates chances are pretty good that you will see Brian's smiling face greeting you from behind the tasting bar.  In the summer months Brian is the person conducting the three tours a day that Huff Estates holds but at any other point, he can be found behind the tasting bar interacting with customers, discussing the perfect food and wine pairing and making recommendations on which other areas of Prince Edward County to visit.  Brian says that the great thing about Prince Edward County is the truly cooperative nature between all of the businesses that make up this region.  Depending on how long you are visiting for and what your interests are, Brian is more than happy to make recommendations on what other wineries to visit, or making a trip to one of the local cheese factories.  Restaurant recommendations are always available as well and, if you are staying at the Inn at Huff Estates, you can use their shuttle service to one of the local restaurants so that you can enjoy a second glass of wine with your meal and not have to worry about driving back to the Inn at the end of the night.

Perhaps, during your tasting at Huff Estates, you sampled some of the winery's sparkling wine and want to see what other wineries in The County are trying to make this type of wine?  Well, Brian may suggest you make a trip down Closson Road to the two wineries making sparkling wines so you can see what the difference in soil makes to this style of wine.  Alternatively, maybe you want to try some of the lesser known varietals that some of the wineries are experimenting with?  There are a myriad of options made from grapes grown in a myriad of soil conditions all throughout Prince Edward County that you can try.  Or, maybe, you want to try more than just wine - there are cheese factories, a brewery, a distillery and even a barrel maker all in Prince Edward County that may peak your interest.  Brian says that the greatest thing about Prince Edward County is the diversity of industries that are making a go of it here.  First time visitors to the region will have a variety of options to explore and it is something that will keep them coming back for more several times a year.  Brian attributes this variety to the reason why Terroir Wine Festival is such a great event to attend.  It is the perfect opportunity for visitors to The County to try as many wineries as possible as well as local restaurants all under one roof.  Once you have found your favourites you go and visit the wineries themselves and meet even more people that are responsible for what you enjoyed most in that glass of wine and get to try some of their other wines that may not have been at Terroir.

As great as Prince Edward County is, this wine region is not without its challenges.  Mother Nature is, without a doubt, the number one obstacle the wineries of this region face year after year.  While there have been a few good years recently - namely 2007, 2010 and 2012 - there have been just as many years of shorter growing seasons, inclement weather and not as much sun as the wineries would hope for.  Those three years - 2007, 2010 and 2012 - were excellent growing seasons.  They had more than enough sun, rain just when it was needed and longer growing seasons than the other years which translated into wines that are, quite frankly, stellar vintages.  While Prince Edward County is not without its challenges, there have been some incredible triumphs.  First and foremost, in Brian's opinion, is the year that Prince Edward County received its official DVA status.  As great as VQA is because it is what the average consumer sees when they are buying wines in the LCBO, receiving DVA status gives Prince Edward County a sense of legitimacy and more visibility to Ontario's wine consumers.  The other major triumph Brian mentioned was when Huff Estates was selected as one of four from Prince Edward County amongst a total of thirty four wineries to travel to London, England to showcase Chardonnay for all of Europe.  For so many years, Canada was known just for Icewine but being invited to England, along with a subsequent trip to New York City, put our country on the map for a wine other than Icewine.

At the end of our conversation, I asked Brian where he sees Prince Edward County in five years.  In terms of the wineries, he sees more focus.  At the moment, Brian sees Prince Edward County where Niagara was approximately 20 years ago.  Everyone was trying everything to see what works and that is what a lot of what Prince Edward County is experiencing currently.  As the region grows, and as the vines develop, wineries will take a closer look and re-evaluate what works best for the soil and climatic conditions of the region.  Due to the cool climate of the region and the soils, there is a large belief that Prince Edward County can be an amazing region for sparkling wine production.  It is a belief that Brian shares so it will be interesting to see what the next five years brings - whether it is new wineries focusing on this wine type or existing wineries branching out with sparkling wines of their own.

Brian says he hopes that people make the venture out to Prince Edward County for Terroir Wine Festival to see all the amazing wines the region has to offer.  He invites you to stop by Huff Estates after leaving The Crystal Palace in Picton to see what other great wines the winery has to offer.  For more information about Terroir Wine Festival and to order tickets, please go to http://countyterroir.ca.  Terroir Wine Festival takes place on Saturday, May 25th at the Crystal Fairgrounds in Picton, ON from 12 noon to 6pm.  Tickets are now available.


Meet Lou Della Civita - One of Prince Edward County's original grape growers

Posted on March 12, 2013 at 9:25 AM Comments comments (0)

It all started 13 years ago when Lou's father in law bought a parcel of land with the sole intention of planting it with grapes.  Prince Edward County was just starting to create buzz about the possibility of being Ontario's next great wine region and, to continue on with family's Italian heritage, they wanted to be a part of the burgeoning wine region.  30,000 vines later on Cold Creek Road and the family's dream had been realized - they were grape growers in an up and coming wine region.

Lou's passion is in the vineyard - it is in growing and maintaining the vines and making the best possible grapes to hand over to a winemaker every fall at harvest time.  For Lou, it begins every spring when the weather turns warm enough to de-hill the vines that have been sleeping through the winter.  It then moves on to getting the vines ready for bud break, keeping the vines healthy and clean during the summer months waiting for veraison to occur.  Finally, after months of preparation, the vines are in their final few weeks where they are ripening and their Brix (sugar content) is increasing to full ripeness and waiting to be picked.  When harvest begins, it is all hands on deck racing against a clock to get the grapes picked and to the winery for the winemaking team so while this is one of the busiest times of the year in a vineyard, it is also one of the most exciting time frames for it as well.  Once harvest is completed, in Prince Edward County, it is time to put the vines to bed for their winter sleep which means it is time to start hilling up the vineyard.

 

When people started looking at Prince Edward County as a viable wine region in this province, the most obvious first stumbling block was the weather.  The winters in Prince Edward County are among the most brutal that any wine region in the province faces and in order to survive the winter with minimal damage to the vines, it was quickly realized that a new training system for the vines needed to be developed.  Other wine regions in the province use a system that has the trunks of the vines reaching up off the ground by about a foot.  In Prince Edward County, this would lead to major frost damage and loss of vine so a lower trained vine system was developed by the early grape growers - including Lou's family - to minimize the impact of the cold winters once the temperatures started to drop.  The other step to this vine training system is the need each fall, once harvest was complete, to hill up the main trunk of the vines.  So, every October and spreading into November, Lou can be found hilling up the vines for Casa Dea Estate Winery in Prince Edward County.  The vineyard has come full cycle - year in and year out, this is the process that Lou goes through with his vineyard team which Lou says is made up of the most amazing workers from Thailand.  You see, Lou likes working with these guys because of their expertise working with plants that are trained low to the ground.  That is how the majority of their plants are grown back in their native country so they are incredibly suited to working with the low trained vines of Prince Edward County.

When I asked Lou what he sees as the future of Prince Edward County as a wine region he quickly pointed out just how much of a hidden gem the entire region is as a whole.  Prince Edward County is two hours away from both Toronto and Ottawa and it is a different way of life out there.  It is laid back and an amazing long weekend escape from the city at any time of the year.  Lou describes the region as artisinal - whether it is in the premium crafted wines, the small inns or B&B's and the family run restaurants and other businesses - Prince Edward County is a weekend destination and one that people should experience over and over again.  Lou wanted me to take a moment and express something to the people who do venture out to Prince Edward County.  He is incredibly proud of what his home has accomplished in the last thirteen years.  It is now getting to the point where people are venturing out to the region every year to buy the latest vintages of their wines and to spend time exploring this little area of Ontario.  For that kind of dedication he is eternally grateful to those who have made the trek to The County and wants to invite everyone to make that first trip out to this little slice of heaven.  He also said that the Terroir Wine Festival at the end of May is a perfect opportunity to see everything that Prince Edward County has to offer under one roof.  It is the best place to see several of the regions wineries all set up in one place where you can try as many different wines as you like.  The diversity in the wines can be seen throughout the region and Terroir Wine Festival gives attendees the opportunity to find their favourites and then make individual trips to the wineries themselves after the fact to see where they are made and take a tour of the facilities.  Make sure you take a venture out to Casa Dea Winery and look for Lou tending to his vines.  If he is not there, chances are he is in a kitchen making homemade sausages, pasta or sauce...or his new hobby - making cheese.  For more information about Terroir Wine Festival and to order tickets, please go to http://countyterroir.ca.  Terroir Wine Festival takes place on Saturday, May 25th at the Crystal Fairgrounds in Picton, ON from 12 noon to 6pm.  Tickets are now available.


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