The 2012-2013 edition of Ottawa Magazine’s Eating & Drinking Guide is a food lover’s bible for everything local, with 80+ pages of restaurant, wine, food shop, and kitchen store recommendations. Look for it on newsstands or order it here.
Sneak Peek: Ottawa Magazine wine writer David Lawrason provides the Eating & Drinking Guide with the 12 Prince Edward County wineries on his summer tour list. Order the Guide to read Lawrason’s top 60 wine recommendations for this season.
In 2013, some of the pioneering wineries of Prince Edward County will be harvesting their 10th vintage. Growth in the past decade, in terms of both the number of wineries and the range and proficiency of their wines, is nothing short of astounding.
Located just three hours south of Ottawa, the area has become the national capital’s backyard wine region — lucky us! Plan to visit or revisit this season, with fair warning that a one-day jaunt just won’t cut it. Here is an opinionated look at the must-visit wineries and what makes them interesting:
Casa-Dea Estates Winery (Greer Road, Hillier)
Thanks to Niagara-trained winemaker Paul Battilana, this little red-roofed winery is now making very good well-priced, crisp, and solid County classics such as pinot noir, chardonnay, franc, and riesling, as well as a delightful pink gamay-based sparkler called Dea’s Rose. La Pergola Restaurant on-site offers an Italian lunch menu.
Closson Chase Vineyards (Closson Road, Hillier)
Very serious and seriously complex, rich, creamy, and expensive chardonnays from County and Niagara vineyards are the signature of iconoclastic winemaker Deborah Paskus. Pinot noir is also a County leader, with the Churchside 2010 a personal favourite. Small, classy tasting room and art gallery.
Exultet Estates (Royal Road, Milford)
Multiple big awards for The Blessed Chardonnay have rewarded hard-working Gerry Spinosa and his family, who toiled to plant virgin land and convert a tiny old dairy in the County’s deep south. The chardonnays are silken and complex, the pinot noirs nifty and floral. The vibrant vidal is also worth a sip.
Grange of Prince Edward (Closson Road, Hillier)
Caroline Granger and her family tend the picture-postcard property of the County, as well as one of the oldest and largest vineyards of pinot noir, chardonnay, pinot gris, gamay, riesling, and sauvignon blanc. The latter shines in oaked Fume Blanc. Sparklers are an on-site discovery. Great tasting room, lunches, and market garden.
Hinterland Wine Company (Closson Road, Hillier)
Jonas Newman and Vicki Samaras are making the County famous for bubbly. They are not the first sparkling-wine producers, but it is all they do, and they do it exceedingly well — from the classic-method champenoise Les Etoiles to delicate, dry rosé to a fruity charmat-method White Cap and a gamay called Ancestral.
Hubbs Creek Vineyard (Danforth Road, Wellington)
A new star is born as Hubbs Creek finally opens this spring across the road from Karlo Estates (see below). The Cavalieri family first planted in 2002, and vine maturity shows in their unfiltered 2010 Pinot Noir. It is reserved but very finely tuned, cleanly made, and County to its bootstraps. Pinot gris and chardonnay are also in the offing.
Huff Estates (County Rd. 1, Bloomfield)
Centrally located at Highway 62 and County Road 1, Huff is a focal point for County wine tourism, with a fine modern inn, a new restaurant, and the Oeno art gallery. Frederic Picard’s wines are bright, balanced, and authentic, with his best work in sparkling, chardonnay, and pinot gris. His merlot-based reds from the warmer South Bay site are a County rarity.
Karlo Estates (Danforth Rd., Wellington)
Richard Karlo and Sherry Martin have transformed their big red barn into the County’s most educational and interactive winery visit. Their magnanimous spirit translates into the County’s swarthiest reds, delicious off-dry Frontenac rosé, and a pair of white and red Van Alstine sweeties.
Lacey Estates (Closson Road, Hillier)
The very hospitable Lacey family have dug in on Closson Road with son Kimball crafting ever-improving, estate-grown chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot gris. One of few County wineries doing gewürztraminer and treating baco noir with rare respect.
Lighthall Vineyard (Lighthall Road, Milford)
Ottawa’s Glen Symons bought the Lighthall vineyard in 2008 and is coming on stream after a difficult 2010 vintage. The 2011 chardonnay and pinot noir are very fine. Sparkling wine is his new preoccupation, and the inexpensive vidal-based Progression is marvellous.
A breakout year!
Long Dog Vineyard & Winery (Brewers Road, Milford)
Dogged dedication to 100 percent estate-grown grapes lies at the heart of this secluded, idyllic winery, coming up on 14 years since first planting, not far from the County’s south shore. Pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot gris are the mainstays. The past couple of vintages were difficult. I look forward to trying the 2010s.
Norman Hardie Winery & Vineyard (Greer Road, Hillier)
Detailed Burgundy-inspired viticulture and winemaking endow Hardie’s edgy chardonnays and pinots with layers and great depth. And tireless marketing has made his the best known County wines among sommeliers and collectors. Don’t overlook crystalline riesling, spring-release melon de Bourgogne, and the occasional nifty cabernet franc.