Eating & Drinking

Wine Picks: Say Cheese

The great Eastern Ontario wine-and-cheese road trip

By David Lawrason
Illustration: Li Hewitt

PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY IS ON A ROLL, having launched a stunning 17 new labels or wineries this past year to boost its total to 31. At the same time, eastern Ontario is undergoing a renaissance of cheese making, with at least four new artisanal sheep, goat, and cow’s milk producers joining the large existing community of cheddar specialists. And so the stage is set for an exciting new kind of weekend culinary excursion. On a meandering road trip from Ottawa to Picton, you could visit half a dozen cheese factories, then buy wines to match when you arrive in the County. I recently gathered over a dozen cheeses and County wines for a fascinating mix and match exploration, and I present my favourite pairings as a guide for your eastern Ontario wine and cheese excursion — and resulting party. For those who never seem able to get out of town, I have also listed Ontario-grown likely wine alternatives more easily available at the LCBO. As well, many of the cheeses can be found at speciality shops in Ottawa, including Farm Boy.

WHITE

Closson Chase 2007 Chardonnay
$29.92 • Prince Edward County • 89 points

Age matters! This Closson Chase Vineyards chardonnay is barrel-aged, intriguing, complex, and very refined, with smoky, nutty chive and green pear fruit. Lovely texture and impressive length make it a surprisingly good match with a tangy — almost salty — six-year-old white cheddar from Black River Cheese (Milford/Picton), as well as with another well-aged cheese — Fifth Town’s Lighthall Tomme (also from the County). Vintages 148866.

Lacey 2009 Gewürztraminer
$22 • Prince Edward County • 89 points

This new family winery on Closson Road makes an instant mark with its blooming, fragrant, spicy gewürz with classic County minerality and acidity. This wine offers a dynamite match to an aged gouda from Wilton Cheese Factory (Odessa/Kingston) and a firm, cave-aged, nutty Lighthall Tomme goat cheese from Fifth Town (Picton). From the LCBO, Niagara gewürztraminers from Cave Spring 2008 (Vintages 302059, $15.95) or Palatine Hills 2008 (LCBO 101493, $13.95) would also work well.

Rosehall Run 2008 Sullyzwicker White
$17.95 • Prince Edward County • 87 points

This summery blend by Dan “Sully” Sullivan features floral-scented varieties such as chardonnay musqué, ehrenfelser, and muscat ottonel. It’s fragrant, with mint, fennel, and grapefruit set in a light, fresh, slightly sweet style that works best with the semi-soft gouda-style cow’s cheese named Lankaaster from Glengarry Fine Cheese (Lancaster) and a semi-hard raw sheep’s milk called Bonnechere from Back Forty (Lanark). From Niagara, try blended whites such as Flat Rock’s 2008 Twisted (Vintages 1578, $16.95).

Casa-Dea 2008 Riesling
$16.95 • Prince Edward County • 86 points

Formerly Carmela Estates, Casa-Dea is under new ownership with Niagara-trained winemaker Paul Battilana, who has engineered a light-bodied, racy, stone-dry riesling with fresh pear and citrus flavours. It dovetails nicely with a blooming fresh soft cow’s milk cheese called Figaro from Glengarry Fine Cheese (Lancaster) and the Cape Vessey washed-rind goat cheese from Fifth Town (Picton). From the LCBO, try Vineland Dry Riesling 2008 (167551, $13.95) or Featherstone Black Sheep Riesling 2009 (Vintages 80234, $16.95).

SPARKLING PINK

Hinterland 2007 Rosé Sparkling
$37.20 • Prince Edward County • 90 points

The first pink sparkling bubbly from the County is a brilliant effort from the first winery dedicated solely to sparkling wines. Purity and brilliance from start to finish, with great colour and a generous nose of raspberry, tea biscuit, and wet stone minerality. It’s light and taut with razor acidity. The subtlety requires a mild white cheese such as Lankaaster from Glengarry (Lancaster). From the LCBO, Henry of Pelham Cuvée Catharine Rosé Brut (4051, $29.95) is a good alternative.

Photography: Marc Fowler/Metropolis Studio

RED

Huff Estates 2007 South Bay Merlot-Cabernet Sauvignon
$29.95 • Prince Edward County • 90 points

Perhaps the best bordeaux-style red yet made in the County, this mid-weight blend shows real confidence and poise. It’s elegant and long on the finish, with raspberry-cherry fruit, subtle oak spice, capers/green pepper, and coffee nuances. Also, the most versatile cheese matcher, it catches fire with Cape Vessey and even the almost liquid Operetta, both from Fifth Town (Picton), and easily handles aged gouda from Wilton (Odessa/Kingston). This is a wine that is comfortable even with Barely Blue from Glengarry (Lancaster).

The Old Third 2008 Pinot Noir
$35 • Prince Edward County  • 90 points

This debut from a brand new small, single-minded pinot producer on Closson Road immediately joins the top echelon of County pinots, with refined layering of cran-beet fruit, spice, thyme-like herbs, mineral aromas, and fine, sturdy — if youthfully tannic — texture. It easily handles the complex six-year-old cheddar from Black River (Milford/Picton) and the earthy semi-hard sheep cheese called Bonnechere from Back Forty (Lanark), as well as, surprisingly, an almost liquid sheep cheese called Operetta from Fifth Town (Picton). For comparably sturdy Niagara pinots at Vintages, look to Le Clos Jordanne (33902).

Rosehall Run 2008 Pinot Noir Cuvée County
$18.95 • Prince Edward County • 88 points

The new vintage bursts with cran-raspberry fruit, spice, and light toasty notes in a typically light County style with good tannic grip. One of the best pairings is the widely available mild cheddar from Balderson (Winchester), which softens the tannin and accentuates the fruit. It also works with a sharper extra-old cheddar from Wilton (Odessa/Kingston) but is too light for the six-year-old cheddar and strong sheep or goat cheeses. Lighter Ontario pinots at the LCBO include Trumpour’s Mill 2007 (Vintages, 122283, $19.95).

Waupoos 2008 Baco Noir
$15.95 • Prince Edward County • 86 points

The hybrid baco noir may be an ugly duckling to many wine drinkers, but it’s favoured by County growers for its winter hardiness — to which we can add its cheese hardiness. This deeply coloured, farm-scented, oaky, and smoky red worked very well with the heavy hitters like Lighthall Tomme from Fifth Town, aged gouda and extra-old cheddar from Wilton, and semi-hard roasted-rind Bonnechere from Back Forty. It even put up a fight with Barely Blue from Glengarry. From the LCBO, Prince Edward County’s Sandbanks 2008 Baco Noir (110049, $14.95) should also work.

Reprinted from the Summer 2010 issue. Prices current at that time.