My Top Ontario Wines of 2013

I tasted more than a few great Ontario wines last year… but these were my twenty favourites.

1. Creekside 2007 Lost Barrel Red
2. Pondview 2010 Bella Terra Cabernet Sauvignon
3. Exultet Estates 2011 The Blessed Chardonnay
4. The Old Third 2010 Pinot Noir
5. Hinterland 2008 Les Etoiles sparkling
6. Lighthall Vineyards 2012 Pinot Noir (barrel tasting)
7. Creekside 2007 Broken Press Shiraz
8. The Old Third 2011 Cabernet Franc
9. Flat Rock Cellars 2009 Reserve Pinot Noir
10. Norman Hardie 2011 County Pinot Noir
11. Lighthall Vineyards 2011 Muté fortified
12. Casa-Dea 2010 Adamo Appassimento Cabernet Franc
13. Lailey Vineyard 2012 Syrah (futures tasting)
14. Legends Estates 2007 Petite Verdot Reserve
15. Pillitteri Estates 2002 Cabernet Sauvignon Icewine
16. Barnyard Vineyard “3630” 2008 Bubble sparkling
17. Coyotes Run 2009 Black Paw Vineyard Pinot Noir
18. DiProfio 2011 Peppe’s Pride Appassimento Cabernet Sauvignon
19. Hidden Bench 2009 Terroir Caché Meritage
20. Huff Estates 2008 Peter F. Huff sparkling


#TGCWC: The incredible selection of Canadian wines that I sampled during week one…


#SummerSippers Spotlight event at The Grange of Prince Edward Winery - Ontario Wine Society Prince Edward County Chapter



This past weekend the newest chapter of the Ontario Wine Society held its inaugural event - County Character - in Prince Edward County. Featuring fourteen of The County’s top wineries - as well as local cheese from Black River Cheese Company and artisan bread from Humble Bread - the night was enjoyed by almost 100 wine lovers.


(County wine fans at Hillier Town Hall)

The walk-around tasting was held at the historic Hillier Town Hall on Saturday April 27. For two-and-a-half hours everyone sipped and nibbled their way around the room, chatting with winemakers and fellow wine lovers, sampling some of the best wines that The County has to offer.


(Paul Battilana of Casa Dea and Keith Tyres of Closson Chase)

The new Prince Edward County chapter of the Ontario Wine Society was formed less than a year ago under the guidance of Society president Ken Burford. Our board currently features five members - Trevor Norris (president), Paul Dearborn (me, vice-president), Kari Macknight Dearborn (marketing director), and MJ Macdonald and Angie Jewell (event directors). Richard Karlo and Sherry Martin from Karlo Estates Winery are also on hand as corporate liaisons.

(Sharon Mulholland and chapter president Trevor Norris pour some wine for Karlo Estates Winery)

While planning for our first event, we quickly decided on the theme of “County Character” - we wanted local wineries to come and showcase the best of what Prince Edward County had to offer to the Ontario wine scene. We know that there are aspects of PEC that provide distinctive attributes to the region’s wines and this is what we wanted to feature in our inaugural event.


(A selection of County wines)

We also wanted to feature 10-15 wineries from all regions of The County - Hillier, Greer Road, Milford, Wellington, Closson Road - so we drew up a list of wineries to invite to participate. And I cannot think of a single winery that declined our invitation, even though our event fell in the middle of a number of other events, including County in the City in Ottawa and in Toronto, Doors Open, and Peterborough’s Flavour Festival. In fact, once some other wineries caught wind of our upcoming event, they insisted on being a part of it…


(Wine glasses waiting to be filled)

In all, fourteen wineries set up to pour for us: Closson Chase, Casa Dea, Devil’s Wishbone, The Grange, Harwood Estates, Hubbs Creek, Karlo Estates, Keint-He, Lacey Estates, Lighthall Vineyards, Norman Hardie, Rosehall Run, Sandbanks Estates, and Stanners Vineyard. Wines ranged from Pinot Noir and Chardonnay to Pinot Gris and Riesling to Cabernet Franc and Baco Noir. There were also sparkling wines, port-style wines, dessert wines… and a cassis aperitivo.


(Glenn Symons of Lighthall Vineyards and OWS president Ken Burford)

Midway through the night saw speeches from PEC chapter president Trevor Norris, OWS president Ken Burford and PECWA representative Richard Karlo. Special guest speaker Dan Sullivan of Rosehall Run gave a purely inspired and inspiring speech on what The County has to offer to Ontario, to Canada, and to the entire world. As one of the pioneers of wine-making in Prince Edward County, Dan definitely had a lot to say about what it meant to be a fan of County wine and how difficult (but satisfying) it was to make a living off of the local limestone.


(Angie Jewell, Dan Sullivan of Rosehall Run and Mackenzie Brisbois of Norman Hardie)

Many of the wineries also generously contributed bottles of wine for our raffle. Before the night was over, tickets were drawn for these, as well as a couple of books donated by The Cellar Sisters (including a copy of Geoff Heinricks’ A Fool and Forty Acres, signed by the in-attendance author). Needless to say, some attendees went home extra happy…


(Natalie Normand and Henry Willis from Humble Bread chat with Caroline Granger from The Grange Winery)

By the end of the night we had signed up a number of new members to our chapter. By all accounts everyone had a great time at our County Character event - for many, it was a great introduction to the Ontario Wine Society and to some of the best wines of The County.

For us, the board members, it was an incredibly satisfying evening - months of planning had finally come to fruition. We had introduced ourselves to Prince Edward County, we had held a successful first event, and we had added many new members to our chapter. Everyone had tasted some amazing wines and enjoyed some County cheeses and breads.


(John Rode from Harwood Estates chats with Kari Macknight Dearborn about rosé)

We all look forward to our next event in late June. We hope that you will join us there…

Great advice - support your local brewery. Cheers!! (at Terminal Brew House)

Great advice - support your local brewery. Cheers!! (at Terminal Brew House)


Another Year, Another Chance to #IndulgePEC

This past weekend saw the second incarnation of #IndulgePEC, a social media event that took place throughout Prince Edward County. Once again, the driving force behind this event was John Squair (twitter: @JohnAtSandbanks). This year he was joined by Jeremiah MacKenzie (@JJMacKen), the CEO of Taste The County (@TasteTheCounty). Together they arranged a fantastic weekend that showcased the best of what The County had to offer…

A group of us converged on Angeline’s Inn (@AngelinesBlmfld) in Bloomfield. Those of us who had been a part of the first edition of #IndulgePEC caught up with each other and introduced ourselves to the newer participants. We were all greeted by the Inn’s proprietor Alex Fida (@AlexFida) and were shown to our rooms.

(Huff Estates Sparkling Rose; Kari and me in our room at Angeline’s; The Hubb Cocktail Bar)

Our group then made our way down the street to Agrarian Cheese Market and Speakeasy (@Agrarian_PEC) where we were served lunch and wine.

(Grilled cheese and maple-smoked bacon sandwich; maple tart)

As well as cheese, Agrarian also sells products from Humble Bread (@HumbleBread) and Seed To Sausage (@SeedToSausage).

(Keint-He Chardonnay; loaves from Humble Bread; products from Seed To Sausage)

After lunch we were all loaded into a van from Sandbanks Vacations Wine Tours (@SBVinPEC) and transported to the Indigo Yoga Centre (@IndigoYogaPEC) in Rosehall.

(Wines from Sandbanks Estate Winery)

Inside the studio we were greeted by winemakers from five of the finest wineries in Prince Edward County - Sandbanks Estate Winery (@SandbanksWinery), Rosehall Run Vineyards (@Rosehall_Run), Karlo Estates Winery (@KarloEstates), Norman Hardie Winery and Vineyard (@NormHardie) and Lighthall Vineyards (@LighthallVnyrd). Needless to say, the wine was soon flowing…

(Red wines from Karlo Estates)

(Dan Sullivan and some of his award-winning wines)

(More Humble Bread and Seed To Sausage products; Pinot Noir from Lighthall Vineyards)

(County Pinot Noir from Norman Hardie Winery)

After a few hours of chatting with the winemakers and drinking their wares, we were then taken back into Wellington to meet three local artists. Although Kari and I had to be cutting our Saturday #IndulgePEC activities short, we did get a chance to witness a glass-blowing demonstration at Armstrong Glassworks.

(Mark Armstrong works the furnace; glass strawberries and pears)

(A portion of a glass bowl; multi-coloured glasses)

At this point we had to take our leave of the group while they visited more artists before heading out to dinner at Pomodoro (@PomodoroPEC). We met up with the group again back at The Hubb at Angeline’s for a nightcap of Rosehall Run Pinot. However, it had been a long and eventful day and most of us were quickly ready to call it a night.

* * * * *

The next morning we awoke to the smell of fresh croissants and donuts, so we eventually made our way downstairs to find them (as well as some much-needed coffee and juice). Before long we were boarding the Sandbanks Vacation bus and heading toward Waupoos Estates Winery (@WaupoosWine) for a pancake breakfast and winery tour. We were also treated to tours of their “sugar shack”, petting zoo and the original estate home.

(Boxes; snow in the vineyard; Waupoos means “rabbit”)

(Jeremiah’s Maple In The County touque; fresh maple syrup)

After the winery tour, we were given a chance to sample some Waupoos wines - including their new Maple Icewine - before boarding the bus and heading back to Bloomfield and The Carriage House (@CarriageHse).

Here we were treated to some sparkling wine (Progression Sparkling Vidal from Lighthall Vineyards) and a light lunch.

(Sandbanks Estate Winery’s French Kiss; arugula and cremini mushroom salad from The Bloomfield Carriage House)

We were also invited to visit The Marshmallow Room Bakery before heading to our next stop.

(Teas; cheese; mill; jams)

Our final stop saw us heading to the local Prince Edward County distillery, 66 Gilead Distillery (@66Gilead) for a tour and tasting. Coincidentally, this was where Kari and I had spent the previous evening, enjoying cocktails during a Prohibition-themed event put on by our Slow Food chapter (@SlowFoodPEC).

(The 66 Gilead logo outside the distillery; the copper still; Loyalist Gin; the spirit flows)

(Heads or Tails - definitely do NOT guess incorrectly…)

Also on the 66 Gilead property can be found The Carriage House Cooperage, one of only two cooperages to be found in Canada.

(Tools of the cooper’s trade; outside the cooperage; Pete discusses his work)

Pete provides his custom-made barrels - produced from local wood - to County wineries, cider-makers and more. He also uses his own barrels to age his own Cooper’s Choice Red Wine Vinegar…

(Red wine vinegar)

After visiting the distillery and the cooperage, our #IndulgePEC weekend was done. We boarded the bus back to Bloomfield and Angelines. Here we all said our goodbyes. Some of us offered suggestions to John and Jeremiah for what we might like to see next year. Without a doubt, a third edition needs to happen - there is just so much more that The County has to offer.

(Signs of The County)

So, to everyone who participated and to everyone who followed along on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram I will just say… until next year…


Cheers to @benchwineguy, @vinelandestates, and the St.Urban Vineyard. #onwinechat  (at K+P)

Cheers to @benchwineguy, @vinelandestates, and the St.Urban Vineyard. #onwinechat (at K+P)

Trying a Chilean Pinot tonight. Didn’t love it but didn’t hate it either. Surprised it was unoaked however… (at K+P)

Trying a Chilean Pinot tonight. Didn’t love it but didn’t hate it either. Surprised it was unoaked however… (at K+P)

Thank you LCBO… I believe that I will. #IndulgePEC (at LCBO)

Thank you LCBO… I believe that I will. #IndulgePEC (at LCBO)

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