With century-old barns, beautiful vistas of Lake Ontario and a serene bucolic calmness, over the past decade Prince Edward County has quickly gone from unknown to must-visit wine and culinary destination. Its rise is largely due to the dedication and passion of a few winemakers, viticulturists and winery owners who saw the region's potential for producing exciting cool-climate wines.
On a recent visit to the County, Spotlight Toronto, together with Niagara-based wine writer Rick VanSickle, sat down to talk to a group of the region's passionate winemakers about all things wine in Prince Edward County. We talked about what attracted them to start wineries in a region many considered, not too long ago, foolhardy at best. We discussed what excites them about the region's climate and mineral-rich limestone soil. We touched on the nuances that make the different corners of Prince Edward County unique. Our panelists were candid about the lessons they've learned and what they think is required for Prince Edward County's wine industry to flourish in the next ten years. We even chatted about some of the challenges of the 2011 growing season and how the wines just might surprise.
Below the podcast, is a brief bio of all of our panelists, including the wineries where you can visit them to experience their wines and passion first hand.
The Prince Edward County native found her passion for wine working a summer behind the tasting bar at a local winery while earning her Arts and Science degree at the University of Guelph. She's since explored Australia, New Zealand and South Africa's wine regions, graduated from Niagara College's Winery and Viticultural program and worked harvests in Niagara, South Africa and Prince Edward County. Since last year she's returned to Prince Edward County and you can find her amongst the vines and working in the cellars at renown Chardonnay and Pinot Noir producer Norman Hardie.
Catherine Langlois' journey into the wine world came after studying hospitality in Montreal and winning a bursary to study in Burgundy. She developed a further passion for wine during that experience and then took a sales job for Pelee Island Winery upon returning home. While working in Ottawa she began to hear rumblings about a possible wine region emerging in Prince Edward County. After visiting she purchased land there by Wellington's lakeshore and planted six acres of mostly winter-hardy hybrids in 2000. Three years later Sandbanks produced its first vintage and continues to be a popular spot for many visiting Prince Edward County.
The eloquent and knowledgable winemaker and owner of the Old Third is as passionate as Pinot-philes get—producing nothing but Pinot Noir. When he decided it was time to pursue his dream of owning a winery, Francois consulted some of the pioneers of the Prince Edward County wine region and searched for the perfect site for Pinot Noir. He believes he found it in Hillier with the combination of a warm, well-draining, south-eastern facing slope, which is rich in limestone and glacial till. Planting it with a combination of five clones to high-density, Francois and his partner Jens Korberg are committed to producing premium quality unfined and unfiltered Pinot Noir with an unmistakable sense of place unique to their corner of Hillier.
Dan Sullivan's fascination with wine started at an early age. He has fond memories of the smells and tastes of fermenting grapes via his Italian-Canadian neighbours, who shared their passion for wine through the homemade winemaking experience. He continued his love affair with wine refining his skills as an amateur winemaker for 15 years. Then in 2000, he took the next step and moved to Prince Edward County to establish a winery. Since then, Sullivan's built a reputation for growing and making top-quality cool climate Pinot Noir and Chardonnay and for being a tireless promoter and ambassador of Prince Edward County's wine and culinary scene.
Owner & Winemaker Exultet Estates
Since 2003, Gerry Spinosa along with wife Lia, have settled in the south of Prince Edward County working to restore the former late 19th century Royal Street Cheese factory into a winery. On their farm they've plated about 6.5 acres of mostly Chardonnay and Pinot Noir vines. Run as a true family-run operation you'll likely find the Spinosas tending to their vines, in their cellar or pouring samples to visitors from behind their tasting bar. Both humble and quietly passionate, Spinosa thinks hard work and a quality-first approach should be the top priority. After that it's matter of getting the consumer to taste them and letting the wines sell themselves. Earlier this year Exultet's inaugural 2009 Chardonnay was amongst those chosen to represent Ontario's best at the Seriously Cool Chardonnay tasting in New York.
(Intro image by Rick Bates)
Written by Mike Di Caro
Michael Di Caro covers all things vinous at Spotlight. His lover affair with Ontario wine began over a decade ago and he’s been in front of tasting bars trying to sweet talk staff into pouring a taste of a library wine or the latest unreleased bottle ever since. Since good wine can’t be made without great grapes, you can also catch him amongst the vines trying to persuade the winemaker into revealing his/her next big thing for you on Spotlight. His epicurean tendencies don’t just stop in the glass either. During the rest of his free time you can find him searching for the perfect bowl of Dan Dan noodles, exploring the city’s best tasting menus or baking cookies and mucking about in the kitchen.