Prince Edward County hasn’t always been known for wine and food. But that’s changing quickly. The growing season here is as long as in Niagara, but the winters are colder. The moderating affects of Lake Ontario, however, have spawned rapid growth in the industry. Starting with a single winery in 2000, the area now boasts 32 wineries and nine vineyards.
The most popular varietals in the region include Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Frontenac, Cabernet Franc, Riesling and Gamay Noir. It’s worth taking time out from the fabulous beaches to explore another side of Prince Edward County.
The County’s ‘Taste Trail’ makes it easy to experience what locals are calling an “epicurean renaissance” either by bike or car. There’s even an online guide to the county’s top restaurants and wineries.
One of the earliest wineries in the region is called the Grange of Prince Edward Vineyards & Estate Winery and is located at 990 Closson Road, Hillier.
Founder Caroline Granger, who planted her first vineyards in 2001, has set high standards for the region’s burgeoning wine industry. Her passion for producing authentic, handcrafted wines using traditional vinification methods has resulted award-winning wines of Trumpour’s Mill and The Grange of Prince Edward single-vineyard wines.
The winery features a spectacular tasting room housed in an original 1820s Loyalist barn featuring a soaring limestone fireplace and patio overlooking the millpond. Look for daily wine tastings, unique experiential tours, and even vineyard picnics. Free public tours are available daily from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Complementing the growing number of wineries are fine dining establishments and artisan food outlets, like The Marshmallow Room Bakery on Main Street in Bloomfield. Owners Scott Kapitan and Jacqui Vickers keep the parlour stocked daily with free artisan pastries, breads and desserts. You’ll also find imported cheeses, house-made preserves, cured meats and pate so you can take a little taste of Prince Edward County home with you.
In addition, you’ll want to visit 66 Gilead Distillery, located just north of Bloomfield on a historic hops farm built by Bert Cooper. Handcrafted spirits including vodkas, gin, rum and whiskey are produced on site in small batches using a custom-made copper still.
Beer lovers will want to stop by Barley Days Brewery at 13730 Loyalist Parkway in Picton, a boutique brewer that produces a variety of beers using local ingredients whenever possible. Tours are available along with sampling. The brewery’s name harkens back to a golden time in the history of Prince Edward County when the region grew and shipped barley to the U.S.
If you’d like to learn more about local foods, you can sign up for recreational cooking classes held twice weekly at The Waring House Restaurant, Inn, Conference Centre, Spa & Cookery School at Highway 33 & County Rd. 1 in Picton.
Want a great hotdog? Reader’s Digest bills Buddha Dog, located at 172 Main Street in Picton, as having Canada’s Best Hotdogs. Founded in 2005, Buddha Dog brings together the County’s best butchers, bakers, farmers, chefs and cheese makers to hand-craft award-winning dogs and sauces.
Now that you get the idea, start planning your visit with a handy guidebook available at tastetrail.ca/tastetrail-guidebook-2012/