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Feeling Like a Princess in Prince Edward County
It’s been more than 20 years since I visited Prince Edward County (PEC), and it has changed immensely. On a recent trip I visited vineyards and sampled superb pinot noirs, effervescent sparkling wines, and some luscious cabernet francs. Who knew the limestone-rich terroir of the region is almost identical to that of Burgundy?
We arrived the weekend before Christmas and it was very quiet, due to the stupendous snowstorm the night before. Our little Corolla did yeoman service and got us to the lovely Waring House restaurant and inn from Toronto in just under two-and-a-half hours.
Comprising a 1820s stone farmhouse and two modern lodges, Waring House offers 49 rooms and suites that are quite green with geo-thermal heating and low-flush toilets. Our suite was fit for a princess—huge, with gas fireplace, French doors, king bed, mini fridge and dark wood furniture. Dinner, in Amelia’s Garden Restaurant in the farmhouse, was top-notch. I had Arctic Char that melted in my mouth, and a slice of velvety pumpkin ginger cheesecake for dessert. My partner had venison that was bursting with flavour, paired perfectly with a local merlot.
Next day, we hit the wine trail. Prince Edward County has been producing award-winning wine for around 12 years. There are at least 40 wineries in three distinct areas, The West, The East & South and The Northeast. We went West and explored the tasting rooms of seven wineries. Unlike the Niagara region, PEC’s wineries tend to be small and rustic. The winemaker might also be the fellow fixing the outdoor heater.
Some wineries grow their own grapes, other buy from local farmers and some mix in Niagara grapes. While sampling, it’s always good to discuss a wine’s provenance. My favorites were the Sandbanks Estate cabernet franc (Queen Elizabeth was served Sandbanks wine on her last trip to Canada), Norman Hardie pinot noir, Karlo Estates merlot, Hinterland’s champagne-style bubbly and Rosehall Run’s sparkling rose-–the lovely, pink Pixie took main stage on our Christmas morning breakfast table.
Halfway through our wine circuit, we stopped in at Tall Poppy café for amazing grilled cheese sandwiches and salad (thick slabs of bakery-fresh multi-grain bread oozing with artisanal cheese – I was full for hours). An old storefront with tin ceiling and ever changing blackboard menu, this is also a great place for a coffee break with lots of yummy-looking baked goods.
Due to the heavy grilled cheese, we decide to have a light dinner at Waring House’s Barley Room Pub that night. Also in the farmhouse, the pub was cozy, offered many local beers and wines and had great live entertainment. A popular spot with locals, it was jammed. After quaffing a few brews and downing a plate of delicious chicken wings, it was a relief not to have to get back in the car since we just had to walk across the parking lot to our suite.
As for other stuff to do, the area is dotted with interesting food producers and antique shops. We just missed the Terroir & Wassail festival, but learned that there are special promotions throughout the year along the “Taste Trail” where you can stop into restaurants, wineries, breweries and artisanal food producers. From my original visit 20 years ago, I recalled the beauty of Sandbanks Provincial Park…but I’ll have to wait for summer for a chance to loll on those gorgeous, freshwater dunes.
Yes, I’m already planning a summer return.