Prince Edward County winemakers pick their favourite vintages

Prince Edward County, bursting with juicy grapes from 30 different wineries, is increasingly competing for tourists and taste buds with Southern Ontario’s Niagara-on-the-Lake. To figure out which County wineries to visit first — and which vintages to drink — we asked local winemakers and one distributor for recommendations. The twist: Their picks had to be from wineries other than their own.

Frédéric Picard, winemaker, Huff Estates Winery
1-2274 County Rd. 1, Bloomfield, Ont.,
Winery pick “It is not easy to name one other winery to be honest — there are now so many that produce great wines. That said, I will recommend small but excellent wineries: Lighthall, Closson Chase and The Old Third. For bigger wineries, I will say Norman Hardie, Rosehall Run, Casa Dea and Kent-He.”
Favourite wine there “I think chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot gris are very strong grapes in the county. All the wines coming from those grapes (sparkling wines, chardonnay aged in oak, pinot noir and pinot gris) are my choice in terms of county signature. From The Old Third, the pinot noir 2013 is a new release and it’s excellent! From Lighthall, The Fence 2014 sparkling rose.”
Perfect setting for consumption “My choice is a good glass of sparkling before dinner. Relaxing on a deck, enjoying a nice sunset!”

Norman Hardie, owner and winemaker, Norman Hardie Winery and Vineyard
1152 Greer Rd, Wellington, Ont.,
Winery pickHinterland Wine Company, they are Prince Edward County. Not only are the wines delicious but the people that work there are lovely. The enthusiasm, passion and expertise show all the way through. It’s very rustic and artisanal, but they are the best non-Champagne bubbles I’ve tried.”
Favourite wine there “Methode Champagnois Les Étoiles 2011. It’s so gorgeous, with such fine bubbles, an amazing minerality, and biscuit notes that one gets from great Champagne, except it comes from the soil and cellars just on our doorsteps.”
Perfect setting for consumption “A glass of Les Étoiles with a plate of freshly shucked oysters … yum. It’s the perfect way to end the day, when the sun’s going down and all the customers have gone home.”

Amy Dickinson, winemaker, Waupoos Winery
3016 County Road 8, Picton, Ont.,
Winery pick “It is very difficult to choose just one winery, they all offer great wines, properties and experiences. If I had to choose a few they would be The Grange and Rosehall Run.”
Favourite wine there “The Grange Brut is fabulous to enjoy with friends and family and the Rosehall Run Cabernet Franc Cuvée County is a delicious cab.”
Perfect setting for consumption “The Grange Brut is perfect for special occasions or everyday celebrations — and great with appetizers, while Rosehall Run Cabernet Franc Cuvée County is best enjoyed with grilled meats and vegetables. Perfect on a cool summer night around a fire.”

Jonas Newman, winemaker and co-founder, Hinterland Winery
1258 Closson Rd, RR 1, Hillier, Ont.,
Winery pickNorman Hardie Winery and Vineyard. He’s a dude and he’s fun. I enjoy hanging out with him and I love what he does. We make different wines but we have a similar philosophy.”
Favourite wine there “I really love his County Chardonnay. It’s an amazing expression of the soil and the climate and I think he’s one of the best at capturing what the county’s about in a bottle.”
Perfect setting for consumption “Probably his patio at the winery with the sun setting with a plate of oysters or a well-cooked plate of fish. I have had many a special evening there with good people, friends of the house and from other wineries all hanging out.”

John Szabo, master sommelier and partner, Wine Align
Winery pick “The ones to watch are Norman Hardie, Hinterland, The Old Third, Rosehall Run, Closson Chase, Huff Estates, Exultet and Lighthall Vineyards.”
Fave wine there “Norm Hardie’s County Chardonnay is sublime in most vintages, and the latest 2013 is no exception. The Old Third’s cabernet franc is the most surprising, a wine of exceptional depth and complexity, one of Ontario’s best, but made in minuscule quantities.”
Perfect setting for consumption “Hardie’s chardonnay on his winery patio with a pizza bianca straight out of the wood-burning oven on a warm summer’s afternoon after a long bike ride around the beautiful county.”

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