Monday, July 10th: Drove to Picton for a two-day getaway with our friends Suzie and Jim, who are avid cyclists. We are booked into the Manse, a boutique hotel whose website styles itself as “Hosting Intimate Stays in beautiful Prince Edward County.” Basically, it’s a winery tour, so our first stop before we drop our bags is Exultet Estates, a consistent winner of Gold medals at the Ontario Wine Awards for its Blessed Chardonnay. Ten acres of vines producing 1,000 cases of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir and some Riesling.
Here we tasted with proprietors Leah and Jerry the following wines: Exultet Chardonnay 2021, The Blessed 2021, The Blessed 2020, Riesling Knucklehead 2020 (an affectionate nickname for their son), Crux Pinot Noir 2021, Exultet Pinot 2021, Royal Road Recipe Pinot Noir 2020, The Blessed Pinot Noir 2014 and (Jerry’s favourite vintage) 2011 Pinot Noir. (We bought a couple of bottles, 2019 Chardonnay and 2021 Pinot Noir).
Next stop, Lighthall Vineyards, one of the very few wineries in Canada to produce its own cheeses (from sheep’s milk). We started off with Lighthall Vineyards Fence Sparkling Rosé 2022 (with La Luna Brie cheese), followed by Grüner Veltliner 2022 (with Red Leicester-style Belle cheese), Chardonnay 2019 (with Phillipston Road Manchego-style), South Shore Pinot Noir 2021 (with Tête Carrée – English-style Cheddar), finishing with a single-vineyard Pinot Noir 2021.
And then Morandin Wines in Wellington, where Chris Morandin poured the following wines, made by Jonas Newman, owner of Hinterland Wine Company, under the watchful eye of Babette, Morandin’s winery dog: Morandin County Pinot Gris 2021, Pinot Gris 2022, County Chardonnay 2020, County Chardonnay 2021, Pinot Noir 2020, Pinot Noir 2021, Cabernet Sauvignon 2020 (Kelly Mason Vineyard fruit from Niagara).
On the winery wall is a painting of the Rialto Bridge in Venice by Chris’s grandfather, Toni Morandi.
Purchased Pinot Gris ’20 and ’21, Pinot Noir ’20 and ’21, and the Cabernet Sauvignon 2020.
By this time, we were getting hungry, so we stopped in at Norman Hardie Wines in Wellington, where they make spectacular pizzas in a stone oven. Norm poured his single-vineyard Chardonnay Caillerets 2020, an unfiltered wine which was the best wine I had on the trip. While we devoured trays of oysters and an assortment of pizzas, we tasted Norman Hardie County Pinot Nor 2019, County Pinot 2020, Wismer Vineyard Pinot Noir 2020 and Cuvée L 2020 (a blend of 2/3rd County and 1/3 Wismer Pinot).
Over lunch, we admired the 40+ carved stone sculptures by Zimbabwean sculptor Chaka Chikodzi set around the grounds of the winery.
Tuesday, July 11th: Breakfasts at the Manse are exceptional! With your first coffee they bring freshly baked madeleines. I had a duck confit dish with a fried egg.
Our first winery today is Trail Estate in Hillier. Here we tasted Trail Estate Sauvignon Blanc 2021 and County Chardonnay 2020, Trail Estate Hedonism Cabernet Franc Wingfield Vineyard 2020 and Cabernet Franc Foxcroft Vineyard 2019 (both from Niagara) and Revival Pinot Noir Melville Road Vineyard 2020.
Next winery visit, Rosehall Run in Wellington. Here we tasted Ceremony Sparkling Blanc de Blanc Brut, Chardonnay Musqué 2021, JCR Chardonnay 2019, St. Cindy Chardonnay 2020, Sully’s Mix 2011 (60% Pinot Noir, 33% Tempranillo, 7% Chardonnay), JCR Pinot Noir 2020, St. Cindy Pinot Noir 2020.
Dinner at The Royal Hotel. Huff Estate Catharine’s Chardonnay 2020 from the County and Clos Apalta 2013 from Chile. Back at the Manse, we tasted a couple of wines I had brought along: Concha y Toro Terrunyo Carmenère Block 27 2012 from Chile, and Kosta Brown Sonoma County Pinot Noir 2016.
Wednesday, July 12th: The last winery visit of our getaway: Stanners Vineyard. Colin Stanners led us through the following wines: Pinot Gris 2020, Pinot Gris 2021 (three days on the skins), Chardonnay 2017, Chardonnay 2018, Chardonnay 2019, Pinot Noir 2019, Narrow Rows Pinot Noir 2019, Pinot Noir 2020, Pinot Noir Narrow Rows 2020 and Cabernet Franc 2020.
A very successful getaway to the County.
Other wines tasted this week:
Best’s Great Western Bin 1 Shiraz 2020 (Victoria, Australia; $21.95, Vintages #222323, to be released August 19th)
Deep purple in colour; a nose of black fruits with oak spice and a note of black pepper. Full-bodied, dry, savoury, ripe blackberry and mulberry flavours with lively acidity. Firmly structured with ripe tannins and a charred oak note on the finish. (90)
Chateau Buena Vista Cabernet Sauvignon 2019 (Napa Valley, $59.95; Vintages #5391206, to be released September 9th)
Dense purple colour; cedary, blackcurrant nose with oak spice; full-bodied, dry, richly extracted blackcurrant flavour; unctuous on the palate with dark chocolate and blackcurrant flavours. A muscular wine. (91)
Henry of Pelham Speck Family Reserve Cabernet-Merlot 2020 (Short Hills Bench, Niagara; $47.95, CSPC #6164331, winery only)
Deep purple-ruby colour; cedary, smoky, blackcurrant bouquet; medium-bodied, dry, red and blackcurrant flavours with well-integrated oak. Needs two years cellaring. (89–91)
Henry of Pelham Chardonnay 2021 (Short Hills Bench, $19.95)
Bright, straw colour; apple bouquet with oak spice; medium-bodied, dry, well-balanced apple and lemon flavours; good length. (89)
Henry of Pelham Old Vines Baco Noir 2022 ($19.95, CSPC #459966)
Deep purple colour with a crimson rim; cedary, blackberry nose with a herbal note; full-bodied, dry, blackberry and blueberry flavours with lemony acidity and ripe tannins. (90)