August 25, 2012

Wine Country – PEC Style (Part 1)

For many years now we’ve wanted to traipse around Prince Edward County and enjoy ourselves. It finally happened the August long weekend, solely by chance that a reservation happened to cancel five minutes before I called. We had tried booking something for a few weeks but there was no room anywhere. Luck was now on our side and the drive there was effortless. We stopped at the first rest-stop along the 401 for gas and a bite and found a booklet on the area. We had hoped to find something as we knew there were wineries and Sandbanks, but that was it. Quickly flipping through the booklet showed us that it would be a relaxing trip.

Hwy 49 took us straight from the 401 right into the town of Picton. It was the place to go for nice little shops and restaurants. Being a Saturday and a long weekend the place was busy. It was also very hot, possibly one of the hottest days of the summer so far, and The Honey was not a happy camper. The poor guy can’t tolerate the heat and wilts very quickly. Our first goal was to locate our inn then do a few wineries until we could check in. Going through the list in our booklet there were quite a number in the south and east of the island and probably not too far to drive.

We parked just off the main street and did a quick walk down Main St. We stopped in at The Regent Café, a quaint café with big windows to the street. They had come up in a Google search for gluten-free items and we picked up a few butter tarts. They were tasty and different than I’ve had. Their menu looked really good too with a few ‘naturally’ gf items. After a bit more grumbling from The Honey we moved on; The Honey really needed some air conditioning and it seemed like everyone in town had their doors open. We had a light lunch at Currah’s Café, a sandwich for The Honey and a delicious beet and feta salad for myself, and enjoyed the cool air while watching people go by. After lunch The Honey was cooled and refreshed and ready to venture back outside.

To the wineries!!! Our first destination was the Black Prince Winery located on Hwy 33, just west of downtown Picton. They have a mix of traditional (Chardonnay, Cabernet Franc) and lesser known (Chambourcin, Marechal Foch) grapes and wines. The three I tasted were nice and had different qualities, and found them to be much different than what I usually pick up at the LCBO. My favourite was the Melon de Bourgogne and so I left with a bottle of that.

We drove back through Picton and along the bay. There is a nice provincial park in Lake on the Mountain, but it was just so hot we couldn’t bear leaving the air conditioning of the car for a long walk. The temperature got hotter as the day wore on. We enjoyed the views along the drive: farmers’ fields, rows of grapevines, and glimpses of the bays with a sailboat here and there. We were so busy looking around us that we almost missed Devils Wishbone Winery.

Located in an old barn, this new winery officially opened in 2011 and produces some very easy drinking wines. They aren’t the complex and thought-provoking types; they are the type to enjoy sitting on the back deck with friends or with an easily prepared meal. They have a traditionally produced blush (Pinot Gris Rosé) that was just divine. Upon arrival we were quickly greeted and given a tour of their barn/store renovations. Our guide/sommelier was not only happy to show us around, but proud of their ongoing accomplishments. It was quickly translated into the wine as well. The Honey smiled when he saw my excitement on seeing the crackers. The gf CrunchMaster crackers allowed me to cleanse my palate like normal people.

After purchasing a few bottles we went on our way to The County Cider Company. Their Waupoos cider can be found in some restaurants and pubs in Ottawa and although I find it way to sweet for me, I thought we would swing by to see if they offered any others. Upon arrival we realized it was a popular spot. Not only did they have an orchard, a vineyard, and a tasting room, but also a patio-restaurant outside overlooking the vineyard and the lake. It was a beautiful sight and we would have liked to stay (I think The Honey could have used a break). Tastings at their small counter were scheduled every 15 minutes and we weren’t the only ones waiting for the next one. It would have been nice to try their other ciders (the Feral one sounded interesting) and their wine. Unlike many others who were leaving with cases and large bottles of cider, we left empty handed. We’ll try to return another time. Lunch on that patio would be heavenly.

We made our way onto Hwy 8 for some more beautiful views of the water. We kept our eyes open for any place to stop and go for a walk, but it seemed like most, if not all, of the waterfront property was claimed and private. Along the drive we came upon Waupoos Estate Winery which surprised us since it wasn’t on either one of our maps. Even more surprising is that it is one of the oldest (since 1993). It is a beautiful winery that overlooks Lake Ontario and there is something serene about it. Even though it was busy with people there for the BBQ and Elvis show, it was still relaxing. While walking past the store and restaurant, you walked by the vineyard and interestingly landscaped gardens. In their store they have tastings available for their many wines (a wide variety), a chocolatier, gelato, and wine-related goodies for purchase. The chocolate was tempting, but we knew it wouldn’t last very long in the car. Just my bottle of White Rabbit (how predictable!) and off we went.


There was one last winery on my list – Long Dog – near Milford (yes, there was a method to my madness). Not only was location key, but in choosing from so many I decided on quirky names. Why not?! Half the time I pick up a bottle it has a quirky label or name and often they become a favourite (and easier to remember).

We intended to drive along Hwy 8 along the bay, but somehow got turned around. Our first hint was that the water was behind us instead of on our left and GPS systems seem to be hit and miss (ours couldn’t locate us) in the area. Coming up to the winery we saw a pretty, bright, yellow farmhouse and across from it the sign for LongDog Winery. The small barn/outbuilding has been nicely converted into a tasting room that is warm and inviting. The Honey opted to stay in the car with the a/c blaring so I was alone in my tasting venture. While it did seem awkward at first – me, myself, and I – the co-owner made me feel at ease chatting about the area, our jobs, our experiences overseas, and of course, the name – from their wire-haired dachshunds. My sample of Chardonnay would go wonderfully with so many dishes, and even on its own, that I couldn’t resist leaving without one.

After all our driving around we were ready for a break. We ventured north back towards the inn for some a/c relief and to relax a bit. We caught up on the Olympics and enjoyed the break from the heat. Starting to feel hungry we decided to go out for dinner and a few drinks. I had read about The Acoustic Grill and it seemed like a great spot with live music and fabulous burgers. It seemed like a perfect way to spend an evening while on holiday and apparently so did a lot of other people; it was packed! There were so many people waiting that we decided to try somewhere else (we’ll return another time) and wandered down Main St. Earlier we had walked by Portabella and while it looked a little posher, many customers were in shorts and t-shirts. After a short wait we got a table and I ordered a glass of Sandbanks wine. It was nice, light and refreshing – perfect to help beat the heat. I couldn’t decide whether to have the pickerel or the pecan chicken, and the waitress’ knowledge of gluten issues put me with the chicken. It was absolutely delicious; I took my time and savoured every mouthful. After dinner we were growing weary from the heat and wine sampling and thought about just crashing and going to sleep. It hadn’t been a busy day, just an extremely hot one.


PG said...

I love PEC. Your trip looks fantastic!

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