CE&C RENOVATION EXPERIMENT: NINE – ONTARIO WINE II: PRINCE EDWARD COUNTY WINERIES

[Previous post in this Experiment: Ontario Wine: I]

The number of wineries in Prince Edward Country (PEC) is growing exponentially. This is primarily due to the soil and climate – which are strikingly similar to the conditions in the Burgundy wine region of France.

The similarity between Burgundy and PEC is reflected in the types of grapes being planted in the region. Based on a synthesis of what is being planted at 49 regional vineyards that have information on the internet, the key types of grapes being planted in PEC are as follows:

  • Pinot Noir  – 15%
  • Chardonnay  – 14%
  • Riesling  – 11%
  • Pinot Gris  – 9%
  • Cabernet Franc  – 9%
  • Gamay  – 5%
  • Merlot,Vidal, Baco Nera/Noir, Gewürztraminer  – 4% each
  • Pinot Grigio  – 3%
  • Cabernet Sauvignon, St. Laurent, Syrah, Melon de Bourgogne  – 2% each
  • Geisenheim, Marquette, Seyval Blanc, Frontenac Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Marechal Foch, Frontanac – 1% each
  • Viognier, Muscat, Chemin Blanc, Pinotage, St. Croix, Chambourcin, Leon Millot, Petit Verdot, Pinot Meunier, De Chaunac, Refosco, DeChaunac, Sov Coronation (<1% each).

My journey along the PEC wine trail started almost as a dare to myself… “I dare you to swallow Ontario swill and not make a face.” I had decided a priori to limit my tastings to Pinot Noir.

Maybe it was serendipity but my first wine tasting was at Norman Hardie and it was lovely and complex. I bought a case.

Driving though PEC, one gets the feeling that in the future it will be one of the most important wine regions in the world. While still in it’s infancy (the industry only got it’s first toehold in 2000), one can almost imagine being in Sonoma in the 1970s.

For the most part, the wineries are small sleeper cell(er)s not yet on the radar, producing tiny amounts of wine. Some are simply stunning, others are still trying to find their way, which is to be expected at this moment in time. Many are still not producing enough of their own grapes and need to import grapes from Niagara; this will ease as the local vines grow.

True to it’s unique character, the Pinot Noirs of PEC demonstrated a wide range of bouquets, flavors and textures. While the classic characteristics of Pinot Noir were expressed in all the wines I sampled – nose of various red berries and cherry – the PEC Pinot Noirs were more similar to their Burgundy counterparts than their New World siblings, with hints of barnyard.

My Pinot Noir Experience 2014

Below I have divided the Pinot Noirs I sampled into three categories:
1) Wow – I Was Wrong About Ontario Wines;
2) Meh – But Palatable (works in progress); and,
3) Sometimes These Things Happen – Maybe Next Time (and there will be a next time).

Wow – I Was Wrong About Ontario Wines

  • Norman Hardie
  • Rosehall Run
  • Stanners Vineyard
  • Hubbs Creek
  • Sandbanks Estate Winery
  • Huff Estates
  • Meh – But Palatable (works in progress)

  • Broken Stone Winery
  • By Chadseys Cairns
  • Closson Chase
  • Del Gatto Estates
  • Devils Wishbone
  • Exultet
  • Sometimes These Things Happen – Maybe Next Time (and there will be a next time)
    Many of these are simply too new to be producing in large quantities or with sufficiently old vines. Give them time, and I am sure many will scale the heights of quality.

  • Black Prince Winery
  • Casa Dea Estates
  • Hillier Creek
  • Keint-he
  • Lacey Estates Winery
  • Lift Haus Winery
  • Sugarbush Vinyards
  • Grange of Prince Edward Estate Winery
  • Regionally, there are significant barriers to entry – for example: regional social license to operate, infrastructure (roads, pipes, network), affordable labor, winery permitting, trained staff, low production volumes, poor government incentives, regional population demographics… Over time these barriers will likely be surmounted, but at this point in time production is not able to keep up with the growing demand.

    In the meantime, while these are all barriers to starting and running a winery in PEC, there appears to be no barrier to selling the product: most wineries seem to be able to sell all they can produce straight out their front doors, without even needing to involve the LCBO. Several of the wineries I visited had already sold out of the current release, and few had anything at all left from previous years.

    I am looking forward to seeing how the region evolves. It has exceptional bones.

    Overall it was an exciting adventure.

    chiceleg

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