Over the recent long weekend I got to do something I’ve been meaning to do for a while – I went on a wine tour of Prince Edward County. A couple of family friends have started a new company out in the County and invited me on their ‘dry, not so dry run’.
Let me tell you – it. was. AWESOME.
Our small group got inside access to three of the best wineries in the county, complete with tastings and food pairings created just for us. And, as if that wasn’t enough, at each stop we got to meet and talk to either the winery owner or the head winemaker! We were completely welcomed an immersed into the world of each winery. It was such a cool way to go behind the scenes and really learn what each winery is all about.
Here’s where we went.
On the way to our first stop we learned that the Grange is what got Kelly (family friend/tour guide) into wine. She worked there for a summer and learned so much from the owner/winemaker, Caroline, that she realized she needed to make wine a bigger part of her life.
We started with a brut sparkling rosé while listening to Caroline tell us about the winery’s beginnings as an experiment in grape growing in Eastern Ontario’s climate. 17 years later, Grange is now one of the oldest wineries in the County. Pretty cool! I’m glad Caroline decided to experiment with her family’s farm.
We then tasted a Pinot Noir rosé that was only about 6 months old (so young!), a Gamay/Pinot Noir blend, and a Riesling with our food pairing – eggs benedict with local asparagus, bread, and sausage. It was so delicious! Every bite and sip made me so glad I was there. Seriously, if you ever get the chance to eat food by Sebastien Schwab, DO IT.
I had one final tasting – their Pinot Gris – and then it was time to head to our next location.
I had never heard of this winery before, but I’m so glad I know it now. The wines were great, the pizza was delicious, and the owner/winemaker, Tony Auciello, just exudes love and passion for what he does.
TerraCello is Tony’s way of honouring his family heritage. His grandfather had a winery in Italy and when Tony was old enough to take it over he discovered there was nothing left at the family land in Italy to take care of. Heartbroken, he came back home to Canada (where his Dad had emigrated to) and eventually found the piece of land in the County that TerraCello now sits on. Tony told us that he worked nights for years (while teaching during the day) to create his winery, a proudly small-scale operation devoted to making great wine and sharing it with visitors.
We tasted three wines: a 2013 unoaked Chardonnay, a 2015 red blend called Vecchia Volpaia, and Tony’s most prized wine called Boca Nero. All three were completely delicious and the two reds especially tasted like something you would find in the Italy section of your local wine shop. Concentrated, so delightfully red… just lovely. If you can get to this winery I’d highly recommend it.
By the time we got to Karlo Estates the weather was just gorgeous, which suited our walk through the vineyard perfectly. We were treated to a generous sample of their Niagara Riesling (made in the County with grapes grown in Niagara) and then traipsed through the vines, learning about the surprising number of varietals Karlo grows. Did you know they grow Carmenere and Malbec? I didn’t either.
After our walk we sat on their gorgeous patio (reserved solely for us!) and enjoyed two courses and three wines – their white blend called Three Witches, their 2015 Pinot Noir and their 2015 red blend called Triumverate. They were all delicious! I’m now going to have to keep an eye out for them in the LCBO.
Another interesting quirk about Karlo? It’s an entirely vegan winery. Now, if you’re like me you’re probably wondering what about wine (aka fermented grapes) isn’t vegan. Well, prepare to learn!
One of the final things a wine goes through when it’s being made is called fining. It’s part of a process of stabilize and clarify the wine to make it better for us, the consumer. Anyway, some fining agents are actually animal byproducts, making the finished wine not technically vegan. Karlo uses clay as their fining agent, which means they can actually call their wines vegan. Who knew??
Once we were fed and watered we all rolled our super-full bodies over to our 4th and final stop.
This was our only stop of the day that wasn’t wine-centric and to be honest, I was originally a little wary. But once we got there, greeted by the alpacas (alpacas!!) and horses and barn cats and homemade treats I forgot all about the wine and dove right in.
Chetwyn Farms is a hobby farm and the Shed is their shop, full of gorgeously soft alpaca-y things ranging from baby clothes to socks and mittens to shawls and throws. We also got to have afternoon tea in their barn overlooking the property, complete with homemade lemon tarts, lavender shortbread and carrot cake, all made by one of the farm’s owners. Seriously, if she sold her treats in a Toronto bakery people would go nuts. Add to that two adorable and friendly barn cats and I was in heaven.
And with that our day was over. I know four stops doesn’t seem like much but the amount of access we got, the food we enjoyed, and the wine we savoured really made it a full day.
I’m so grateful to Charlie and Kelly for creating this company and for having me along on their inaugural tour. I really hope I can scrounge enough arts-worker dollars to go on another!