Krista Lamb is emerging as an important commentator on Ontario's growing wine industry. You will find more of her insights on her blog: Upkeep: Wine Body and Soul.
One of Canada’s emerging wine regions, Prince Edward County (PEC), Ontario boasts more than 40 wineries, beautiful beaches, an impressive arts trail and excellent, locally-sourced restaurants. For wine tourists, PEC is quickly becoming a go-to for its vibrant wine culture, full of seasoned wine veterans and up-and-coming winemakers who have all settled in the area to look at new and creative ways to make wine in Canada.
It will take at least two days to explore the County (and even more to taste through the region), so here is a two-night, three-day wine tourst’s guide to PEC’s hidden gems.
Arrive early to make the most of tasting opportunities. The County offers no public transportation system, but bike rentals, bus tours, taxi and limo services are available for those without a designated driver. Taking advantage of these are highly recommended and can easily be arranged in advance of your visit.
Start at Rosehall Run, on Greer Road just outside Hillier, to experience their excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay (the hallmark grapes of the area). Rosehall also boasts a little grocery, which is perfect for picking up gourmet snacks to munch on while you travel to your next stop.
From Rosehall Run, swing by Hubbs Creek Vineyard to visit winemaker John Battista Calvieri and sample his extraordinary Pinot Noir (you’ll want to take home a few bottles to cellar) and enjoy some of his Pinot Gris and Rosé. Stop in across the street at beautiful Karlo Estates to try the wines of hockey legend Doug Gilmour and enjoy the stunning bridge overlooking the creek that runs through their property—this is a “can’t miss” County photo opp.
From there, take a drive along lovely County roads to The Old Third to see their beautifully restored barn and taste their white Pinot Noir or dry sparkling cider. A small-batch producer, there are usually only one or two wines available, but the quality will be high and the venue stunning. If you’re lucky, they will have a selection of delicious crepes available on their outdoor patio to enjoy with your wine.
With stops to explore other wineries, local food producers and galleries along the trail, it will be time to head back to your lodgings before you know it. PEC is known for its large selection of bed and breakfasts, ranging from cute and cozy to luxurious. Angeline’s Inn in Bloomfield is the perfect mix of both—indulge in a delicious, locally-sourced dinner at their on-site restaurant, The Hubb, then walk over to Speakeasy at The Agrarian to check out live music on weekend evenings before retiring back to one of their comfy, County-chic rooms for the night.
Be sure to get a good night’s sleep so you’re ready to tackle day two in the County. Start with breakfast at The Hubb or a big County weekend brunch at The Agrarian before driving out towards Milford, at the other end of PEC.
Stop into County Cider to check out the stunning views of Lake Ontario and to sample local cider, before taking a scenic drive to Lighthall Vineyards, where local winemaker Glenn Symons has set up a small, but mighty winery featuring excellent sparkling wines and a Pinot Noir that gets better each year. Lighthall recently started selling artisanal cheese, but you can also stop into Black River Cheese, just a short drive away, for an even wider selection of local options.
Ready for a break from wine? Spend your afternoon playing in the surf at Sandbanks, where the white sand beaches are a huge draw for both tourists and locals. Or grab a copy of the Arts Trail guide and visit local painters, glass blowers, potters and more. Galleries are scattered throughout the County and there’s truly something to appeal to everyone.
Hoping to discover more wineries? Consider stopping into The Devil’s Wishbone, where owner Paul Gallagher can regale you with tales of his winemaking adventures while you taste through wines in their restored barn. Or take a drive out to Three Dog Winery to see the new winery John and Sacha Squair built through crowd-funding and incredible heart. Three Dog is a bit out of the way, but known for having some of the best events in the County year-round. It’s worth the trip.
That night, visit Wellington’s East & Main restaurant for a gourmet county meal and take a moonlit walk along the water before heading back to your inn or B&B. Be sure to make restaurant reservations well in advance to ensure you don’t miss out on the best places to eat in the county – even the hidden gems are often booked up, especially on summer weekends.
Leave yourself time to shop before you hit the road back home on your final day. Picton, Wellington and Bloomfield all offer a wealth of local shops, many of them offering local art, photographs, clothing or food stuffs.
With so many wineries, there’s always one or two you’ve missed and a stop at 66 Gilead distillery to try their renowned Loyalist Gin or Barley Days Brewery for their Loyalist Lager on your way out may be in order.
And don’t forget to stop and pick up some local, seasonal produce at one of the many roadside stands as you make your way out of the County. It can be hard to leave after a few days of laidback County living, so bringing home a few tasty reminders to pair with all the wine you’ve purchased is a great way to extend the feeling.