These days Canada seems to be one of the hottest destinations when it comes to new wine regions.
Amongst the new Canadian wine-growing regions, Prince Edward County is one of country’s youngest but fastest-growing areas. The region is particularly famed for its mostly family-run small experimental wine farms.
Whilst some vintners started to experiment with planting vines at the end of the 1990s, local wineries only started to open at the start of the 2000s. Today there are close to 40 wineries in the area.
Prince Edward County was given VQA status in 2007 and many of the local wineries have won international awards for the elegant, cool-climate wines.
However, a combination of regulations and small batch wine production is limiting the export of Prince Edward wines outside of the area. Thus if you want to try some of the excellent local wines, you need to head to this gorgeous corner of Canada’s Ontario region.
Getting to Prince Edward County
Prince Edward County is located about two and a half hour from Toronto, three hours from Ottawa and just under four hours from and Montreal, the three nearest international airports.
Getting to and from Prince Edward County by public transport is not impossible but there is no direct connection to the next larger cities such as Toronto, Montreal or Ottawa. Thus you will have to take various interconnected services which can be time consuming.
Therefore, the best way to get to and around Prince Edward County is by car as many points of interest are scattered across the whole area, at a certain distance from each other. When you drive around Prince Edward County, be aware this is a widely agricultural area and at times there can be a fair number of slow-moving farm vehicles on the roads.
Some interesting facts about wine production in Prince Edward County
Prince Edward county is a cool-climate wine-growing region with characteristics similar to world renowned wine regions like Burgundy in France and Germany.
As a result, wines produced in Prince Edward County are typically fresh and balanced with higher acidity and less alcohol.
The area is particularly known to produce Icewine (written like this, it’s a trademark) but is increasingly recognized for excellent Chardonnay, Riesling, Cabernet Franc and Pinot Noir.
Wine making in Prince Edward County requires some very dedicated work unusual to other wine-growing areas. With winter temperatures than can dip well below the point where vines are able to survive, vintners need to burrow their vines to protect them from the freezing cold. Come spring, they need to dig out the vines again, which needs to be done manually to avoid damage to the vines.
What does VQA on Canadian wine labels mean
VQA stands for Vintners Quality Alliance, the local regulatory wine association. It guarantees the quality and authenticity of origin for wines made under that system in British Columbia and Ontario.
8 fantastic wineries in Prince Edward County you should put on your list
Even though 40 wineries might seem like a small number, and it is if compared to other wine regions where the number of wineries easily gets into the hundreds, if you are not familiar with the area it can be difficult to pick where to start exploring.
Thus check out the eight fantastic wineries I’ve put together from previous research and criss-crossing the area to check out on-site facilities and wine tasting offers.
On a general note, most wineries in Prince Edward County have their own tasting room open to visitors year-round, often on 7 days a week.
That said, make sure you check ahead before visit as there are exceptions such as major national bank holidays and wineries typically cut their opening hours during the winter.
Several of the Prince Edward County wineries also have a food option, from platters to pizza, picnic baskets and a select few even offer an a-la-carte restaurant.
Closson Chase Winery
Driving down Closson Road, the 150 year old big purple barn located at the corner of Closson and Chase roads is one you won’t be able to miss. Inside you will find not only Closson Chase Winery‘s tasting room, there is also a changing exhibition of artworks from local artists.
By the way, if you think the winery got its name from the two roads it stands on, that is only half the story. The two roads themselves were named after the two farmers who built them and that’s the origin of the name.
Wine production started at the site with a test vineyard of just one acre back in the late 1980s. It obviously worked and wine making took off in earnest about ten years later when a group of investors came in to take over. Today, Closson Chase has a total of 30 acres under vines and is widely known for its excellent wines.
The winery is focusing on production of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and they adhere to strictly sustainable production methods. Indeed, in the actual wine making facility located a bit further up the road gravity is used to move the wine through production.
Also on-site is the Swinery, a restaurant serving platters, sandwiches and salads.
Located right across the road in the adjacent vineyards is the cutest little church one can imagine. The building, moved here from a different site and carefully restored today is used to house farm workers.
During the summer there are frequent events hold in the old barn or outside in the garden including special dinners or live music. Check the winery’s website for dates.
The Grange of Prince Edward Winery
This small boutique winery came into life in 2004 when a former family working farm of some 200 years was transformed by Caroline Granger who today runs Grange of Prince Edward Winery together with her daughter Maggie.
The winery offers a large range of varietals which are grown bio-dynamically including Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and a range of excellent sparkling wine. In addition, they also produce a nice farmhouse cider.
The gorgeous tasting room is located in a former horse barn that dates back almost 200 years.
Should your visit fall into the warmer months, there is an option to buy a picnic basket at the wine store, filled with a bottle of wine and local charcuterie and cheese. You are welcome to pick your place in the vineyards to enjoy.
Karlo Estates was founded in 2005 and the impressive range of wines not only includes the typical varietals grown in Ontario but also Petit Verdot and Sangiovese. Plus the estates also produces fortified white and red wines. Indeed, locally Karlo Estates is widely known ‘the little port house’.
The winery is also said to be the world’s first vegan winery. That might sound funny since we are talking about wine. However, the wine production process at Karlo Estates excludes any animal product from egg whites to isinglass, fish oil, gelatin and others, which are common in wine production.
The old barn hosting the tasting room dates back to the early 19th century when the site was a tomato farm. To honor this, wines sold inside the barn are stored in historic tomato crates.
Karlo Estate also hosts special evening events which typically include a wine and cheese reception and a three-course dinner. Check their website for dates.
Sandbanks Estate Winery
Sandbanks is one of the oldest wineries in Prince Edward County, founded in 2001.
It is probably also one of the most crowded, in particular on weekends when visitors and locals come to enjoy a picnic in their garden or the vineyards (you can bring your own food if you like or select your choice of charcuterie and cheeses offered in the wine store). There’s also an outside pizza stove offering a selection of wood-fired pizzas.
In addition, the winery organized regular entertainment acts especially in summer which are quite popular.
Hence if you want to visit check ahead on the event calendar. Sandbanks is also one of the few (the only?) wineries in the area where you can reserve your table.
Off course, you can always visit for a wine tasting or buying wine in the wine shop.
Sandbanks offers a large range of wines including riesling, chardonnay, pinot grigio, sauvignon blanc, rose, cabernet franc and pinot noir. They also produce their own cider.
This one is a must stop for all art and design lovers. The on-site Oeno art gallery is part of the Prince Edward County Arts Trail and the sculpture garden behind the gallery building is totally awesome.
The winery itself is a modern, state-of-the-art facility which is build on top of a hill to use gravity in wine production.
Huff Estates wines span a large range including riesling, chardonnay, pinot gris and vidal for withes; merlot and cabernet franc for reds as well as rose, icewine and sparkling wine.
There is also an restaurant offering both inside and outside seating, open from May to October. Authentic Italian wood-fired pizzas are the specially here but there is also a selection of salads, platters and soups.
Huff Estates is also one of the few local wineries offering on-site accommodation. The Inn at Huff Estates offers luxury accommodation in three different room categories. All of the 21 rooms have a private outside patio and their own fireplace but if you go, check out the winemaker suite. A free wine tasting and winery and vineyard tour is included in all room rates.
Black Prince Winery
Black Prince Winery is one of the oldest wineries in the area and is well known for its award-winning wines. That said, at least during our visit the tasting room was not at all crowded, leaving time to chat with the knowledgeable staff.
Black Prince’s wine range includes chardonnay, pinot gris and riesling, merlot, cabernet franc and pinot noir, as well as a couple of hybrids.
The two co-owners of this small boutique winery are a winemaker and barrel-maker respectively, and a characteristic of Black Prince is aging their wines in barrels made directly on the property.
The winery is also known to make a large range of barrel-aged vinegars.
There is also a small restaurant in an old barn offering a selection of wood-fired pizzas during weekends.
Traynor Family Vineyards
From the outside, this small boutique winery looks a bit like a training centre for mars missions (you know these spots where people are closed in to simulate living on mars, or any other planet not being earth).
Traynor is particularly known for their natural wines including an orange wine (a white wine fermented like red wine), a vermouth, chardonnay and sauvignon blanc.
In addition, you will find also a selection of varietal wines including a rose, gamay noir, pinot gris, pinot noir and sauvignon blanc.
The winery now offers a special wine and chocolate pairing, which includes five wines with five handmade artisan chocolates from Centre & Main Chocolate Co.
There is also a small lunch offer catered by Chicos Caribbean Crisps.
With vineyards established in the early 1990s and Waupoos Winery fully opening in 2001 this is the oldest wine-growing operation in Prince Edward County. It is also the only one in the area with a direct access to Lake Ontario.
Today the winery is one of the largest in Prince Edward County with currently more than 20 acres under vine and a range of eight white and four red varieties.
The on-site Gazebo Restaurant is one of the few winery restaurants in the area that is open for lunch and dinner. Food here is nearly exclusively from the region, and lots of the produce actually comes from the winery’s own garden.
In addition to wine, Waupoos also produce their own hard cider and maple syrup. Head to the cute wine store, where you will find everything including a chocolate and candy section.
Part of the winery, located on the other side of the street is Clafeld Cider House and Marketplace. Here you can buy the winery’s own hard ciders and a range of fruit wines.
Have you been to Prince Edward County and its fabulous wineries yet? Which ones did you like most? Let me know about your experience.